Emma Hahn is crowned the 2019 Miss Farmington Cities July 17. Contestant Amari Torres is to the left, and 2018 Miss Farmington Megan Cromwell is to her right.

Emma Hahn is crowned the 2019 Miss Farmington Cities July 17. Contestant Amari Torres is to the left, and 2018 Miss Farmington Megan Cromwell is to her right.

File photo by Donna Agusti


Changing leadership, school and community landscapes mark Farmington area in 2019

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published December 27, 2019

 Principal Thomas Shelton takes a photo of Farmington and Harrison high school seniors on the first day of school as part of a unity initiative on Falcon Field Sept. 3.

Principal Thomas Shelton takes a photo of Farmington and Harrison high school seniors on the first day of school as part of a unity initiative on Falcon Field Sept. 3.

File photo by Deb Jacques

 A rating system gave Oakland Street a 2 on the scale in 2012, indicating it was a failed road then. Seven years later, the street is rated zero.

A rating system gave Oakland Street a 2 on the scale in 2012, indicating it was a failed road then. Seven years later, the street is rated zero.

File photo by Jonathan Shead

 Farmington Public Schools’ new superintendent, Robert Herrera, and Board of Education President Pamela Green welcome residents to a meet-and-greet at the Maxfield Education Center June 5.

Farmington Public Schools’ new superintendent, Robert Herrera, and Board of Education President Pamela Green welcome residents to a meet-and-greet at the Maxfield Education Center June 5.

File photo by Jonathan Shead

 Fatina Chapman, a Utica schoolwide literacy consultant, works with students through the Mcgraw Hill reading program. Local districts worked to prepare students for the new “Read by Grade 3” legislation in 2019.

Fatina Chapman, a Utica schoolwide literacy consultant, works with students through the Mcgraw Hill reading program. Local districts worked to prepare students for the new “Read by Grade 3” legislation in 2019.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Bagpiper Todd Wyber, of Farmington Hills, plays during the 18th annual Patriot Day celebration Sept. 11 at the Riley Park Sundquist Pavilion.

Bagpiper Todd Wyber, of Farmington Hills, plays during the 18th annual Patriot Day celebration Sept. 11 at the Riley Park Sundquist Pavilion.

File photo by Donna Dalziel

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FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — Last year brought new leaders, new developments, and new discussions of education and safety to the Farmington area. Take a look back at some of the highlights and indelible moments from 2019 that will shape the community’s future.

 

Developments, drive-thrus and road repairs
Major infrastructure and business developments became a large part of the Farmington area’s past year, shaping what the communities may look like in the future.

In May, after passage of a statewide proposal decriminalizing recreational marijuana in Michigan, Farmington and Farmington Hills city council members voted to temporarily prohibit marijuana establishments from opening within their city limits.

The decision passed 5-2 and 5-0 in Farmington Hills and Farmington, respectively. Council members in each city said it’s a safer option to wait for state regulations to pass before making a final decision on whether to allow marijuana establishments within their cities. The state Legislature had until Dec. 6 to put rules and regulations in place at the state level.

Farmington City Council members voted unanimously to include a sunset clause of 60 days, which legally forces them to reopen the issue after the agreed-upon time frame.

Both councils said the issue will continue to be discussed.

In June, several Farmington residents opposed the development of a new Burger King and the city received news that the Farmington Dressbarn retail store would close its doors before the end of 2019.

On June 10, Carrols Corp., the country’s largest Burger King franchisee, proposed building a new 3,065-square-foot Burger King restaurant on the corner of Grand River Avenue and Lakeway Street. The site was last home to Paramount Home Care Inc., and a bank prior to that.

Residents said it was incompatible with the current characteristics of their neighborhood behind it. A July 8 public hearing in front of the Planning Commission resulted in the development being denied.

Around the same time, news broke that Dressbarns nationwide, owned by parent company Ascena Retail, would be shutting down all 650 of its storefronts across the United States, affecting 63,000 employees nationwide.

The Farmington DressBarn employed nine associates.

The decision came from a lack of profits seen recently by the retailer as it attempts to compete in today’s retail environment, which has seen a steady decrease in consumers visiting physical storefronts and instead opting to shop online, according to a press release.

Farmington’s first one-way street was approved this year.

The Farmington City Council and the Downtown Development Authority voted — on June 3 and 5, respectively — to approve moving forward with the reconstruction and streetscape beautification of Oakland Street and the surrounding site. City Council members passed the project in a 4-1 vote, and the DDA passed the project unanimously. Former Councilman Bill Galvin was the lone opposing vote against the project, citing inflated costs.

The project bid came in at $763,104.50, which was about 32 percent higher than city staff anticipated.

The city was able to pare that down to $675,000 — or roughly $750,000 with a 10 percent contingency on the project. Construction began after July 4, and Farmington Councilmember Maria Taylor announced that the street was open Nov. 22.

A final verdict was reached in a planned unit development project that will bring an assisted living and memory care center, and a self-storage facility to the city. The Farmington Hills City Council unanimously approved the PUD agreement proposed by the Missouri-based NorthPoint Development firm Oct. 28.

The project will sit at 32600 Northwestern Highway on an approximately 5-acre parcel, where an abandoned AT&T building has sat vacant for years. Both buildings proposed on the property will be three stories tall.

Beyond Self Storage will feature 691 climate-controlled storage units, accessed by Northwestern Highway.

The assisted living and memory care center will comprise 26,260 square feet with a total of 87 rooms. The parking lot will have space for 64 vehicles and will be accessible from 14 Mile Road.

 

Prioritizing school safety
School safety was a major point of discussion and action that filled classrooms and community centers in 2019.

The Farmington Community Library was the site of a gun violence prevention event April 15. The featured speaker at the event, which was organized by the National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan, was Jeff Kasky, a father of two boys, Cameron, 17, and Holden, 15, who survived the mass shooting at the high school in Parkland, Florida.

The shooter in the Parkland killings used an AR-15 rifle to kill 14 students and three staff members and injure 17 others during a six-minute shooting spree.

The event also honored three high school students who each created a PSA for the National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan’s “What Does Gun Violence Prevention Mean to Me?” contest.

The first-place winner was Madison Strachan, of Troy Athens High School; Sydney Stearns, of Bloomfield Hills High School, took second place; and third place went to Sarah Chynoweth, of North Farmington High School.

The Farmington Public Schools PTA and the Farmington Hills police teamed up to host an ALICE training informational session for parents and people 18 or older Dec. 3 at the Maxfield Education Center.

ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate.

The session began with a presentation covering the theory and understanding behind ALICE, how students are taught ALICE in school, and a history of mass shootings and active assailants in the United States — specifically looking at incidents like the Virginia Tech shooting.

The session concluded with breakout groups where attendees worked through active assailant scenarios and how they should respond in a crawl-walk-run format, where the scenarios became worse as groups proceeded.

Farmington High School received 85 Stop the Bleed kits and had 75 staff members trained in the program when Farmington High School student and Boy Scout Troop 45 member Matt Dresden brought the program to his school for his Eagle Scout project.

The project totaled more than 100 hours of work and $1,500 donated by local businesses, family and friends.

The national Stop the Bleed program was launched in October 2015 by the White House in an attempt to encourage bystanders to become trained to help during a bleeding emergency before professional medical services arrive.

The Farmington Hills Fire Department may bring the program to the district’s other schools.

 

Harrison High School: a new chapter
Parents and staff of Farmington Public Schools met May 6 to discuss the closing of Harrison High School as the school year came to an end.

The forum was meant to provide a space for parents to have their questions answered and voice their concerns about the transition from three high schools in the district to two.

On Sept. 23, the former Harrison High School building began a new chapter as city staff members ceremoniously broke ground for a new recreation center at the site, which will be known as “The Hawk.”

The city bought the building from Farmington Public Schools for $500,000 in May 2018. The entire project is estimated to cost $22.5 million, for which the city took out a municipal bond.

Mayor Ken Massey said that by repurposing the high school, which served the community for 49 years, the city is “going to give it another life.”

Ellen Schnackel, the director of special services for Farmington Hills, said the building will have three major components: athletic and fitness areas, an aquatic center, and a performing arts space.

On the third floor, Massey has proposed and challenged the city’s Economic Development Department to consider designating space to create a business incubator that would “assist the community’s entrepreneurs in getting businesses started.”

He believes there’s enough of a demand for that to invest in it, and the department is working on a feasibility study.

The addition of The Hawk, a 245,000-square-foot building and approximately 40-acre facility, will allow the city to expand its programming, designate space for certain activities and introduce new programs, and leave the Costick Center to be repurposed and more narrowly focused on Adults 50 and Better programming.

 

Galloway case moves forward, shootings remain unresolved
On Sept. 9 and 10, Berkley man Floyd Galloway, who is charged in the 2016 disappearance and murder of Farmington Hills resident Danielle Stislicki, appeared before Farmington Hills 47th District Court Judge James Brady for a preliminary hearing.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the murder charge against Galloway during a March 5 press conference in Lansing.

In December, Galloway was sentenced to 16-35 years in prison for the Sept. 4, 2016, attempted rape of a Hines Park jogger in Livonia. Prior to that arrest, in June 2017, Galloway was considered a person of interest in the disappearance of Stislicki, who has not been found.

Galloway is a former security guard at MetLife in Southfield, where Stislicki worked.

Stislicki was last seen Dec. 2, 2016, leaving MetLife, according to Farmington Hills police, but her vehicle was found at her home at the Independence Green Apartments in Farmington Hills.

Galloway is charged with one count of first-degree premeditated murder, a felony that could carry a life sentence without parole.

Two shootings remain unresolved in Farmington Hills.

Just after midnight Aug. 26, Farmington Hills police were tipped off to a shooting at a shopping plaza at Orchard Lake and 14 Mile roads.

Officers who were at the scene of a fatal double pedestrian car accident at 12 Mile and Orchard Lake roads — killing a mother and a young child — were waved down by a person who told police their vehicle had been hit by gunfire. The driver reported seeing a dark-colored vehicle, possibly a pickup truck, with tinted windows.

The driver was not hit by any bullets, but suffered minor injuries from shattered glass.

Assistant Chief Daniel Rodriguez said two businesses, DSW — 30867 Orchard Lake Road — and Bath & Body Works — 30991 Orchard Lake Road — also took damage from gunfire, with broken storefront windows.

An early morning shooting in the parking lot of Lush Hookah Lounge left one person hospitalized Nov. 10.

Approximately five other closed businesses nearby were damaged by gunfire.

An early investigation of the incident indicates that the shooting occurred after a dispute between a group of people escalated. Police believe this was not a random incident.

Rodriguez does not believe the two shooting incidents this year are connected, and he said the public should not be concerned by them.

Most violent crimes in Farmington Hills occur between people who know each other, Rodriguez said, which strikes less cause for concern than if they were random acts of violence.

 

New faces take helm in Farmington, Hills
With the transition to a new Farmington Public Schools Board of Education president and superintendent, new mayors in Farmington and Farmington Hills, and a new library director at the Farmington Community Library, the area has seen several new faces.

On the heels of community rumblings over trust issues with the board and the selection of a superintendent, former Farmington Public Schools Board of Education President Terri Weems was ousted from her position in a 4-2 vote and now serves as a board trustee.

Pam Green was named the new board president. Green — whose term ends in 2024 — was elected to the school board in December 2018.

In a unanimous vote June 4, the Board of Education approved a three-year contract for the district’s new superintendent, Robert Herrera, who began his term July 1, replacing retired Superintendent George Heitsch.

Herrera holds a doctorate and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Western Michigan University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in biological science from Michigan State University. Prior to his appointment, he worked as the CEO of Benton Harbor Area Schools.

The area also turned the page with each community’s city council, appointing new mayors to each chamber.

Vicki Barnett beat out former City Council member Richard Lerner for the position of Farmington Hills mayor and will serve a two-year term.

Barnett held a council seat between 1995 and 2003 and the mayor’s seat from 2003-07.

In Farmington, the City Council unanimously approved former Mayor Pro Tem Sara Bowman to serve as the city’s mayor for a two-year term Nov. 14. She will serve until 2021, at which time she will be eligible for re-appointment or to finish serving the last two years of her four-year council term.

Atop Bowman’s personal priorities list is looking at how the city can invest in its parks, streets and sidewalks.

Months after former Farmington Community Library Director Elyse Streit resigned in May, the library board appointed a new director, Riti Grover, expected to begin in her new role Jan. 2.

Grover served as the director of the Kanawha County Public Library in West Virginia, and as the director of the Ramsey Free Library and the Norwood Public Library, both in New Jersey.

She worked her way up the library ladder from page to director at the Norwood Public Library after earning a master’s degree in library science from Wayne State University.

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