A farewell to 2015

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published December 30, 2015

 Roseville High School senior Adam Dimmer and freshman Haley Harting attend a memorial ceremony for classmate Joseph Manfreda Jan. 7. Manfreda died suddenly the evening of Jan. 6 from a heart problem.

Roseville High School senior Adam Dimmer and freshman Haley Harting attend a memorial ceremony for classmate Joseph Manfreda Jan. 7. Manfreda died suddenly the evening of Jan. 6 from a heart problem.

File photo by Sean Work

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As 2015 comes to an end, we at the Eastsider have decided to look back at this year’s biggest stories in the cities of Roseville and Eastpointe, along with some photographs of events throughout the year.

Deceased newborn found in Roseville recycling facility
Workers at the ReCommunity Recycling Center Jan. 14 discovered a dead newborn baby boy amid discarded materials.

The Roseville Police Department investigated with a search that took them across the state, eventually finding that their suspect was an Eastpointe woman, Angela Alexie. Alexie was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree child abuse in the infant’s death.

According to testimony in her preliminary examination Feb. 20 in the 38th District Court, Alexie allegedly told police that she had concealed her pregnancy from her two roommates for months at their home in Eastpointe before giving birth in the garage Dec. 22, 2014. The infant was then wrapped in a towel and kept on a couch cushion, according to testimony, but the garage lacked any kind of heating elements and had an empty space where a window should have been, letting in the cold. The newborn reportedly would not feed.

Alexie allegedly told police she found the child dead when she went out to the garage at 11 p.m. Dec. 24, and, intending to bury the child in her parents’ yard in January, placed it in a plastic bag near the garbage and recycling materials; that bag was then allegedly mixed in with the recycling and thrown out. Alexie also allegedly told police that she wanted to take the newborn to the Fire Department under the state’s safe haven law, but she did not feel strong enough to make the trip.

Roseville police officers held a memorial service and funeral for the baby March 11, and they named him Henry Alexander Macomb. An autopsy concluded that the infant died of hypothermia.

Alexie’s trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 12 in Macomb County Circuit Court.

Eastpointe voters pass public safety millage
Eastpointe’s financial situation stabilized in 2015 following the passage of a joint public safety millage with Hazel Park on Feb. 24, when the two communities formed the South Macomb Oakland Regional Services Authority.

The millage raises 14 mills in each community, on top of their existing public safety millages. In Eastpointe’s case, the additional funds were estimated to bring in $5.8 million annually — enough to plug the city’s budget deficit without slashing the public safety budget.

The SMORSA group was formed to get around state limitations on how much cities can raise through a public safety millage; state law allows two communities to form an entity for that purpose as well. Prior to the election, Eastpointe City Manager Steve Duchane told residents and the City Council that since the state Legislature was refusing to address funding issues, this was the only way to keep the city from either drastically reducing public safety or going into state receivership.

The total combined vote for residents of both communities was 2,218 for the millage and 1,252 against.

“While I can never proclaim that property owners paying more taxes is a good thing, a very important and necessary historical decision was made in Eastpointe today,” Duchane said in a statement following the vote. “Our residents used the democratic process to support our local police and fire response system, which have been the core services of government since Colonial times.”

The only function SMORSA has is to collect the money and distribute each city’s respective amount to the community; all money raised in Eastpointe goes to Eastpointe, and all money raised in Hazel Park goes to Hazel Park.

Since the millage’s passage, Eastpointe has been able to pass a “structurally balanced” budget for the first time since the 2008 recession drastically reduced its incoming taxes and forced it to begin plugging holes with money from the general fund balance. The budget, as passed in June, anticipates about $21 million in general fund revenues and $19 million in expenditures, and the general fund balance itself should see net gains over the next five years.

The city also anticipated hiring an additional three firefighters, two new police officers and one full-time animal control officer thanks to the additional public safety money.

Eastpointe rocked by homicides
Two Eastpointe men are facing trials on first-degree murder charges.

The first, Curtis Hampton, is facing two charges of first-degree murder for allegedly murdering his girlfriend Monique Rakowski and their 13-month-old daughter, Carmen Rakowski, on Feb. 12. He also faces a charge of first-degree child abuse, attempted third-degree criminal sexual conduct, and an additional murder charge.

Monique’s mother, Sharon Rakowski, had grown concerned after not hearing from her daughter since the day prior, so she sent her husband, Michael Rakowski, to check on her daughter. He said during testimony at the preliminary exam April 30 that after getting inside the home, he found the bathroom locked.

He found Monique and Carmen Rakowski’s bodies in the bathroom, and a police investigation reportedly located stab wounds and indications that someone tried to have sex with Monique Rakowski. Hampton allegedly told police they had been fighting when Monique grabbed a knife and tried to stab him, accidentally hitting their daughter; he then grabbed a knife and stabbed her in self-defense, he said.

Hampton then allegedly left the house after placing Monique and Carmen Rakowski together in the bathroom; Hampton’s mother eventually convinced him to turn himself in to police. He allegedly told police the pair had been drinking before the altercation.

A pretrial conference is set for Jan. 14 in Macomb County Circuit Court.

The second man, Timothy Fradeneck, is facing multiple counts and life sentences for allegedly murdering his wife, daughter and son in their Eastpointe home April 13.

Fradeneck was arraigned April 15 on three counts of premeditated murder, two counts of child abuse leading to first-degree murder, and two counts of causing serious physical harm to a child.

According to Eastpointe police, the sister of victim Christie Fradeneck contacted police asking for a welfare check, as she had not heard from her sister and feared for her safety. When police arrived, Fradeneck allegedly answered the door and told police his wife and kids were “sleeping.”

When pressed, Fradeneck allegedly admitted to strangling each of them in their beds overnight with a USB cord, and police found them all still in their respective beds. He was arrested without incident, though he allegedly told police that he killed them because the “opportunity presented itself.” Police said Fradeneck also planned to kill himself, but failed.

Fradeneck’s defense attorney argued that his client is mentally ill, but Fradeneck was still bound over to circuit court. A trial in Macomb County Circuit Court is scheduled for Jan. 26.

Roseville revives signature event with RoseFest
After having no signature city event for decades, Roseville successfully kicked off its RoseFest June 18 with a four-day festival over Father’s Day weekend.

RoseFest was the successor event to the city’s old Rose Festivals, which ran until the 1970s. City Manager Scott Adkins said during the event’s announcement in November 2014 that several organizations in the city wanted to work together to make a community festival a reality, and so they all began coordinating.

“We’ve been working on it for several months and brought together various leaders from various activities, like the Gratiot Cruise, the fireworks committee, the chamber of commerce. We started talking seriously about forming a summer event, and as a result, the thought of RoseFest has come forth,” Adkins said in November 2014.

The event featured the city’s summer fireworks display, car shows, and brought back the Rose Parade, an event from the former Rose Festival. It also coincided with the Roseville Gratiot Cruise June 20, and the two events tried to coordinate their plans.

Eastpointe’s Cruisin’ Gratiot took place the same weekend as both Roseville events, though the organizers were opposed to working to cross-promote Roseville’s festival and cruise due to Roseville’s cruise taking place the same day. Ultimately, both cruises saw depressed turnout due to rain, but Adkins said RoseFest was still a strong destination.

RoseFest also had musical acts, a midway with rides and games, vendor booths, and nondenominational worship services June 21.

Ultimately, Adkins said about 40,000 people attended the event over the weekend, with around 20,000 on Saturday, June 20, alone — more than originally expected.

RoseFest 2016 is already in the planning stages to run June 16-19.

Vacant Colonial Dodge site sold
Though it took years of legal wrangling, Eastpointe was able to get clearance to sell the vacant Colonial Dodge sites on the east and west sides of the Gratiot and Stephens intersection over the summer.

The site finally was sold Sept. 15 to developer J.B. Donaldson Co., which had been interested in purchasing it in 2013 before the sale was blocked. City Attorney Richard Albright said Glendale Riverview Associates claimed a lien on the property, forcing the city to go to court to determine ownership.

Albright said the city won the legal proceedings and the appeal, after which Glendale declined to take further action. The property had been purchased by the city as a tax reversion following Colonial Dodge’s closure in 2008.

“It’s unfortunate the city had to wait this long in order to sell that property, and it’s unfortunate they had to incur costs because of this person filing an invalid lien, but the city was successful in all these things,” Albright said in August.

J.B. Donaldson paid the city $600,000 for the property, slightly more than Eastpointe paid for it initially. City Manager Steve Duchane said that in 2013 the company had planned on turning it into a mixed-use property, with commercial structures along Gratiot and other rental areas farther into the property.

The city’s zoning ordinance makes the property eligible for general business use, but nothing “too radical,” Duchane said in October. A charrette, or planning meeting, arranged by George Brown College last winter proposed turning the Colonial Dodge site into an “Eastpointe Village” with smaller storefronts and eateries. Behind those would be unsubsidized townhomes.

Duchane said that as of Dec. 22, no formal plans had been filed for the property with the city.

Roseville approves formation of DDA
Roseville officially formed a downtown development authority centered on the Utica Junction area, from Martin Road to around 12 Mile Road on Gratiot and Utica, during an Oct. 13 City Council meeting.

City officials have been interested in turning that section into a traditional downtown, a walkable area with numerous businesses and restaurants that visitors can see as a destination, much like downtowns in cities like Royal Oak. In 2015 the city took steps to make that happen, holding public hearings for the affected property owners, getting clearance from the state and having a 60-day comment period.

“We did receive some in-office visits and phone calls supporting it,” City Manager Scott Adkins said in October. “We did not receive anything in opposition, and nothing from the taxing authorities, so (we heard) no opposition.”

The DDA will set the amount of tax money the state receives at its current level, and any additional funds captured due to property values increasing will be held in a special fund that can only be used to improve the downtown district.

The funding plan, known as tax increment financing, could be used for projects ranging from street and sidewalk repairs — and other kinds of infrastructure projects — to setting up a grant program for local businesses to beautify their properties.

While the initial plan was to have the DDA board set up and the funding plan approved by the end of the year, Adkins said the deadlines were pushed back to get additional applicants for the board. The board requires that the majority be people who own businesses or live within the DDA boundaries.

Adkins said they are now hoping to have the members appointed in January, who can then move forward on approving the DDA board’s by-laws and the financing plan.

The city is also looking at reducing Utica Road in that area to one lane in each direction with a dedicated left-turn lane. Adkins told the Eastsider in October that the city is seeing if that configuration will make the road safer for motorists and pedestrians alike.

He added that this proposal would also be helpful to move forward with before future development moves into the area and makes it harder to adjust; Adkins expects that it could take up to 10 years to get all the pieces in place and see the downtown become a bustling place.

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