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  United States Conference of Mayors President and Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett welcomed over 50 mayors to the organization’s  fall leadership conference meeting Oct. 3-5.  The organization held a press conference  Oct. 4 at the Royal Park Hotel.

United States Conference of Mayors President and Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett welcomed over 50 mayors to the organization’s fall leadership conference meeting Oct. 3-5. The organization held a press conference Oct. 4 at the Royal Park Hotel.

File photo by Deb Jacques


2019: The year in review

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published December 30, 2019

  Malia Choi, 2, runs through the playground  at Gallagher Creek Park in Oakland Township  after the ribbon cutting May 23.

Malia Choi, 2, runs through the playground at Gallagher Creek Park in Oakland Township after the ribbon cutting May 23.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Interim State Superintendent Sheila Alles, right, surprised Stoney Creek High School teacher Cara Lougheed during an all-school assembly with the 2019-20 Michigan Teacher of the Year award from the Michigan Department of Education.

Interim State Superintendent Sheila Alles, right, surprised Stoney Creek High School teacher Cara Lougheed during an all-school assembly with the 2019-20 Michigan Teacher of the Year award from the Michigan Department of Education.

File photo by Rochester Community Schools

 Rochester City Clerk Lee Ann O’Connor, left, and Assistant Finance Director Marcy Moriwaki arrange pies in the Blue  Ribbon Baking Contest at the first-ever Hometown Picnic and Pies event in  Rochester Municipal Park June 15.

Rochester City Clerk Lee Ann O’Connor, left, and Assistant Finance Director Marcy Moriwaki arrange pies in the Blue Ribbon Baking Contest at the first-ever Hometown Picnic and Pies event in Rochester Municipal Park June 15.

File photo by Brandy Baker

 Kathy Vine, from Shelby Township, gets puppy kisses from Hannah, a Wag ’N Tails  client, during a rescue dog yoga class June 1 at the Rochester Avon Recreation Authority.

Kathy Vine, from Shelby Township, gets puppy kisses from Hannah, a Wag ’N Tails client, during a rescue dog yoga class June 1 at the Rochester Avon Recreation Authority.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Brock and Teigen Andren, of Beverly Hills, have a blast running through water that was accumulating in the woods next to the parking lot, where the constant spray of water from a fire truck was cooling off children during Wet and Wild Wednesday at the Rochester Hills Museum  at Van Hoosen Farm July 17.

Brock and Teigen Andren, of Beverly Hills, have a blast running through water that was accumulating in the woods next to the parking lot, where the constant spray of water from a fire truck was cooling off children during Wet and Wild Wednesday at the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm July 17.

File photo by Deb Jacques

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ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — The year 2019 was one to remember: From fire department changes and new city leaders to innovative projects and a flurry of awards, here’s a look at the top issues and trends that Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township faced in 2019.


Rochester Fire Department changes to cut response times in half
The Rochester Fire Department made some big changes in 2019. For the first time in the department’s history, the city’s firefighters are now city employees.

Rochester Fire Chief John Cieslik said the department was originally organized as an “association” in the city charter, and the firefighters have been — in essence — “contracted employees.”

During its Jan. 28 meeting, the Rochester City Council unanimously voted to change the way the department is organized, allowing the city to directly employ firefighters.

The council also approved including fire employees in its nonunion employee benefits and established a set of guidelines for the city’s fire employees.

In an effort to reduce response times, the Fire Department also made the move to become a “hybrid” department, with a combination of full-time and part-time staff.

The change in structure was made possible, in part, by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s $2.4 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant, which will allow the city to hire 15 full-time-equivalent firefighters. The grant will be paid out to the city over three years.

The new staffing model will reduce the commute time to the station to zero and the response time to seven minutes or less. It also means an additional 38 part-time firefighters will be able to help during major incidents.

The new fire staff members were sworn in as city employees during a special ceremony Feb. 13.


Stoney Creek High educator named Michigan’s Teacher of the Year
Interim State Superintendent Sheila Alles surprised Stoney Creek High School teacher Cara Lougheed with the 2019-20 Michigan Teacher of the Year award from the Michigan Department of Education May 9 during an all-school assembly.

Cheers of joy erupted from the student body as Alles applauded Lougheed’s “incredible ability to forge meaningful relationships with those around her.”

Lougheed teaches English and history at Stoney Creek High School — where she and her husband, Aaron, were among the first teachers to instruct students when the school opened in 2001.

Stoney Creek High School Principal Cathryn Skedel said Lougheed’s “passion, confidence, work ethic and advocacy for public schools, teachers and students” are what make her an excellent educator.

As MDE Teacher of the Year, Lougheed represented more than 90,000 Michigan teachers and served on the Michigan Teacher Leadership Advisory Council, where she advocated for students and influenced education policies and initiatives statewide.


Oakland Township board chooses new manager
The township Board of Trustees chose a candidate with extensive history as a police chief to be the new Oakland Township manager.

Adam Kline was previously the police chief in Lansing Township, and before that he served as the police chief in White Lake Township.

Dale Stuart had been the township manager since October 2015, managing the day-to-day operations of the township and overseeing the various departments that serve 16,000 Oakland Township residents. Stuart retired last spring.

The township is governed by a seven-member elected Board of Trustees, but an appointed township manager runs the day-to-day operations. The agreement was for three years.


New park follows township vision
A pavilion, a playground, a scenic overlook, trails and a native plant garden combine in Gallagher Creek Park to create a sense of community for Oakland Township residents. The new park was dedicated May 23.

The 15-acre park, located on Silverbell Road, east of Adams Road, began with a vision to preserve a natural area while also providing a children’s playground in the most populous area of the township. The park is located at the headwaters of Gallagher Creek and includes parking, picnic tables, a rain garden and portable restrooms in a wooden enclosure.

A volunteer community build added playground equipment over the summer.

According to Oakland Township Parks and Recreation Director Mindy Milos-Dale, using a volunteer playground installation saved the township more than $11,000. Township residents have also donated benches, tables, native plants and more.

Gallagher Creek Park improvement costs were funded through the township’s parks millage. Last year, the Oakland Township Board of Trustees approved $150,000 for the construction of the park playground, pavilion, restrooms, parking lot and more.

A connecting walking path was built along the north side of Silverbell Road, linking the park to existing pathways along Adams Road.


Rochester police chief wins state award
Rochester Police Chief Steve Schettenhelm was named the Administrator of the Year by the Police Officers Association of Michigan. Schettenhelm, who began his tenure in Rochester as chief in 2007, said that it was an honor to receive the award and be nominated by his staff.

Officer Amy Drehmer and Sgt. Michael Mancini co-authored the nomination letter, which explained how Schettenhelm transformed the department when he took over as chief. The nomination states that Schettenhelm allows officers and dispatchers to work 12-hour shifts by their request, introduced comp time and never reduced manpower, even during the recession. He added a dispatcher position, two ordinance officers and a narcotics officer, and expanded the command structure. Schettenhelm, also worked tirelessly to introduce a K-9 unit, created an evidence technician unit and expanded the size of the honor guard. He introduced station tours for schools, Scout groups, churches and children’s birthdays; initiated a department open house; created e-commerce parking; provided a place for residents to drop off unwanted medications; and continues to host a holiday food drive every year for those in need.

Schettenhelm also instituted a Citizens Police Academy to encourage citizen involvement, and a Paw Patrol Program, which Drehmer said encourages and trains people out walking their pets to report suspicious activity.


Federal grant adds 8 firefighters in Rochester Hills
On Sept. 20, Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett announced that the city’s Fire Department had received the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant, to be paid out to the city over three years. Barnett said the almost $1.58 million grant will be used to hire eight additional firefighters, improving the level of public safety for the city’s nearly 75,000 residents. FEMA’s SAFER grant will pay for 75% of the salary and benefits for each of the eight full-time-equivalent firefighters in the first and second years of the grant, and 35% of the salary and benefits for the third year.

The Fire Department — which currently operates five fire stations throughout the city — operates off a dedicated fire millage, which Fire Chief Sean Canto said is currently set at 2.7 mills. He said the 2020 budget for the Fire Department is approximately $12 million.


Rochester Hills completes phase one of Innovation Hills
The city of Rochester Hills completed phase one of Innovation Hills Park in the fall.

City officials broke ground on the city’s first new park in 25 years in September 2018, and crews had been constructing the first phase of the multiyear project — which included the construction of lakes, glow-in-the-dark sidewalks, boardwalks and trails  — ever since.

Work on phase two, which includes construction of a large, nature-themed, universal design play area — with inclusive features that are accessible to all children — along with a pavilion facility, will begin in the spring.

The overall budget for the park is about $8 million, and Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said the city has raised over $2.5 million of the cost to date.

To become an Innovation Hills Park sponsor, call (248) 656-4664. For more information, visit www.rochesterhills.org/innovationhills.


Paint Creek Cider Mill earns state historical marker
On Oct. 7, state and local leaders, along with township residents, came together to dedicate the Paint Creek Cider Mill building’s state historical marker.

Oakland Township Historic Preservation Planner Barbara Barber said it took her about a year and a half to gather the necessary information, only because she had already done much of the research for a National Register of Historic Places nomination that the township’s Historic District Commission has been working on for several years. Heather Lehman, a graduate student from the Michigan Historical Commission, worked on verifying all of the research and helped formulate the marker text.

The Paint Creek Cider Mill, 4480 Orion Road in Oakland Township, has been a longtime landmark and historical site in the township.

The historical marker states that, “Paint Creek Cider Mill was built in stages between 1958 and 1968. … The wheel room, which was built first, contained an 1890s Edison bipolar dynamo generator and a Fitz water-wheel that lit the room with water-powered electricity. … The mill opened as a tourist attraction in the 1960s, selling fresh cider and donuts to large weekend crowds. ... Oakland Township acquired the building by donation in 2005 and began using the second floor as office space.”


Rochester Hills voters renew road millage Nov. 5
Voters in Rochester Hills cast their ballots in favor of renewing a local road millage Nov. 5. Yes votes for the proposal totaled 11,935, and 2,655 people voted against the ballot question. The passage of the local road millage renewal means Rochester Hills can roll the city’s three local street millages — which all expire in 2020 — into one combined local street millage at the same rate of 1.0965 mills beginning in 2021 and for the next 10 years.

Rochester Hills Department of Public Services Director Allan Schneck said the renewed local street millage will dedicate over $4 million each year for the maintenance, repair and reconstruction of the local street system.


Head of Rochester Community Schools named state’s Superintendent of the Year
Robert Shaner, the superintendent of Rochester Community Schools, was named the 2020 Michigan Superintendent of the Year by the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators.

The Michigan Superintendent of the Year Award, according to association Executive Director Chris Wigent, is presented to a member who has shown “tremendous effort and dedication to enriching the lives of children and the community as a whole.”

Shaner said he is particularly proud of the implementation of the district’s orchestra program, the new Caring Steps Children’s Center, the global education experiences for students, and the district’s focus on equity and inclusion, as well as social and emotional health.

The association will recognize Shaner at its 2020 Midwinter Conference in January in Detroit. He is now in the running for the National Superintendent of the Year Award.


Voters pass Rochester Community Schools sinking fund proposal
Voters in the Rochester Community Schools district passed a 1.5-mill, 10-year sinking fund proposal Nov. 5. Approximately 11,677 people voted for the building and site sinking fund, while 5,821 voted against it. District officials said the investment in the school district will generate approximately $7.8 million per year for 10 years to repair, replace or buy new facility and infrastructure items, enhance security, and upgrade technology.

A building and site sinking fund is a pay-as-you-go mechanism that does not require the school district to borrow money or pay interest. The fund is audited annually by the Michigan Department of Treasury to ensure the revenue is spent only as the law allows.


Rochester Hills opens redesigned Auburn Road
After three months of construction, a fully redesigned Auburn Road officially reopened to the public Nov. 27.

The majority of the $12 million Auburn Road corridor project, which city officials said improves safety while creating a downtown district atmosphere, is now complete.

Residents are encountering a completely reconstructed Auburn Road, with a center median and two roundabouts, on-street parking, improved pedestrian facilities, sidewalks, streetscape enhancements, landscaping and lighting, as well as new rain gardens, improved parallel alleyways north and south of Auburn Road, and the city’s first public parking lot.

The city plans to add branding and placemaking along Auburn Road this spring, including the addition of artwork features, and entry and road signage within the medians and the roundabout islands, as well as the development of the Emmons Plaza, a splash pad and a restroom building adjacent to the new streetscape. Crews will also install permanent fencing around the rain gardens.

The Rochester Hills City Council recently adopted a zoning code amendment to replace the CI-commercial improvement district with a BD-Brooklands district to allow for a mixture of uses to help incentivize development in that area.

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