Clawson High School students walk around the  building during the National School Walkout, a  national demonstration against gun violence March 14.

Clawson High School students walk around the building during the National School Walkout, a national demonstration against gun violence March 14.

File photo by Deb Jacques


Take a look back at 2018 in Royal Oak and Clawson

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published December 28, 2018

 Grosse Pointe Farms resident Hudson Brown, 5, who underwent  surgery on a brain tumor, rings the  end-of-treatment bell with his mom, Megan Brown, at the Beaumont Proton Therapy Center in Royal Oak April 13. His father, Patrick Brown, and sisters Cecilia, 2, and Emmy, 7, watch from behind.

Grosse Pointe Farms resident Hudson Brown, 5, who underwent surgery on a brain tumor, rings the end-of-treatment bell with his mom, Megan Brown, at the Beaumont Proton Therapy Center in Royal Oak April 13. His father, Patrick Brown, and sisters Cecilia, 2, and Emmy, 7, watch from behind.

File photo by Donna Agusti

 Ashley Moritz, of Royal Oak,  poses with a chunk of meteorite,  estimated to be approximately 4.5 billion years old, that she found on a frozen lake in Hamburg Township Jan. 23, 2018. NASA confirmed that a space rock allegedly 6 feet in diameter and possibly as big as  the size of a small SUV entered the Earth’s atmosphere Jan. 16.

Ashley Moritz, of Royal Oak, poses with a chunk of meteorite, estimated to be approximately 4.5 billion years old, that she found on a frozen lake in Hamburg Township Jan. 23, 2018. NASA confirmed that a space rock allegedly 6 feet in diameter and possibly as big as the size of a small SUV entered the Earth’s atmosphere Jan. 16.

File photo by Deb Jacques

 John Newman, of Royal Oak,  unearthed a gold Royal Oak High School class of 1951 ring with the initials “R.F.B.” while using his metal detector at a  Birmingham school late in 2016.  Owner Ronald Birou, of Florida,  was found in February.

John Newman, of Royal Oak, unearthed a gold Royal Oak High School class of 1951 ring with the initials “R.F.B.” while using his metal detector at a Birmingham school late in 2016. Owner Ronald Birou, of Florida, was found in February.

File photo provided by John Newman

 The Smith family, of Clawson, and  Grand Knight Adam Rada gather around 17-year-old Madyson Smith in her new  bicycle cart, donated by the Clawson Knights of Columbus, Aug. 28. Madyson was recently diagnosed with a rare  syndrome through new genetic testing.

The Smith family, of Clawson, and Grand Knight Adam Rada gather around 17-year-old Madyson Smith in her new bicycle cart, donated by the Clawson Knights of Columbus, Aug. 28. Madyson was recently diagnosed with a rare syndrome through new genetic testing.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Bennett Bowers, 4, of Troy, and Gabby McCleary, 4, of Clawson, participate in Clawson’s annual Kiddie Parade June 30.

Bennett Bowers, 4, of Troy, and Gabby McCleary, 4, of Clawson, participate in Clawson’s annual Kiddie Parade June 30.

File photo by Donna Dalziel

ROYAL OAK/CLAWSON — Some of the biggest news out of Royal Oak and Clawson in 2018 included progress on the Royal Oak civic center project, the opening of a new athletic facility at Royal Oak High School, fatal shootings by Royal Oak police officers, and the sudden departure of Clawson’s longtime city manager.

Civic center progress

In 2018, Royal Oak’s $110 million civic center project, which includes a six-story office building, a 581-space parking deck, a new City Hall, a new Police Department and a 2-acre public park, made significant progress.

On Dec. 6, construction began on the $12.2 million City Hall, which effectively closed the Royal Oak Farmers Market’s southern parking lot.

Construction on the new parking garage is underway, and it is slated to open in June 2019.

On Sept. 19, Henry Ford Health System announced that it would be the sole tenant of the 145,000-square-foot office building currently being developed by the Lansing-based Boji Group. The outpatient medical center is expected to open in mid-2020.

The Police Department and City Hall are slated to both be completed in 2020, and the downtown park is projected to be opened in 2021.

The project was delayed for approximately a year due to litigation brought forth by a group of property owners and businesses. The suit was originally dismissed in Oakland County Circuit Court and recently was dismissed in appellate court.

In a prior interview, Ethan Holz, counsel representing the approximately 10 plaintiffs, said the suit challenged the legality of the project in terms of giving the Boji Group $5.5 million, violating the city’s charter in regard to the selling of bonds, and awarding the contract without soliciting bids.

Business owners cited concerns with losing customers due to reduced surface parking near their establishments.

 

New athletic plaza at Royal Oak High School

On Sept. 14, Royal Oak Schools held a grand opening event for the new athletic plaza at Royal Oak High School.

Work began in April on the $5.5 million athletic plaza, which includes a concession stand, a ticket booth, locker rooms for the home team and visitors, restrooms and a picnic area.

The high school will also receive eight new tennis courts, a redeveloped soccer field and a new track that will be expanded from six to eight lanes. The changes will allow the school to have the opportunity to host tennis and track tournaments.

The district also plans to replace the turf football field, which is 12 years old, within the next two years.

All of the work is covered through a five-year, $59.9 million bond passed by Royal Oak voters in the Nov. 7, 2017, election. The proposal passed with a 72.26 percent to 27.74 percent margin.

Other bond work to be done at the high school will begin in 2019 and will focus on the inside of the school. The school will receive a brand-new cafeteria and food service area that will allow for two lunch periods instead of three, and it will renovate its art, science and music classrooms.

All schools in the district will receive technology updates — such as updated audio and visual equipment, updated security and phone systems, and updated wireless network and access control systems — and site updates, such as new doors and locks, updated heating and cooling systems, new roofing, and new flooring.

Superintendent Mary Beth Fitzpatrick said the district opted to push up the installation of new playground equipment, also covered under the bond, at Oak Ridge, Northwood and Adams elementary schools this past summer so students could enjoy it sooner.

In 2018, the district sold the first $26.9 million in bonds; the second series of approximately $33 million in bonds will be sold in May 2020 to facilitate improvements through 2022.

The bond does not increase the district’s current millage rate of 3.25 mills.

 

Royal Oak officer-involved shootings

After nearly two decades of the Royal Oak police not being involved in a fatal shooting, the Police Department saw two such incidents occur approximately one month apart.

The first officer-involved shooting took place at approximately 5:55 p.m. April 10 when Officer Keith Bierenga observed a black BMW driving erratically in rush-hour traffic and attempted to enact a traffic stop after a short pursuit.

The vehicle took off as Bierenga walked up to it, fled through the White Castle parking lot near 13 Mile Road and Coolidge Highway, and the officer lost track of it until he spotted it in the White Castle drive-thru approximately 15 minutes later.

Bierenga attempted to box the BMW into the drive-thru and exited his patrol vehicle with his gun drawn, while the driver of the BMW, later identified as 28-year-old Antonino Gordon, rapidly reversed into a vehicle behind him in line and then rapidly pulled forward, forcing Bierenga to jump out of the way to avoid being struck, according to police.

Bierenga fired four shots into the open window of the BMW, three of which hit Gordon. 

Gordon exited the parking lot heading eastbound on 13 Mile Road, where he crossed over the center line and struck another vehicle near Shenandoah Drive. First responders transported him to Beaumont Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, police said.

According to the toxicology report, Gordon’s blood alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit, and he also tested positive for cannabinoids.

At the time of the incident, Gordon had a warrant out for drunken driving-second offense, and police said he had numerous contacts with law enforcement in the past.

On Aug. 1, the Royal Oak Police Department held a press conference to announce that Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton cleared Bierenga of all criminal wrongdoing and that he was justified to use deadly force for self-defense, as well as under the fleeing felon rule.

The Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office took over the case from the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office because Bierenga had a personal relationship with someone in the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, police said.

The second officer-involved shooting took place at approximately 3:11 a.m. May 14, when Officer Ryan Addis fatally shot 20-year-old Cody Reynolds, of Royal Oak.

Reynolds’ mother called 911 to report that her son had stabbed her and hit his father in the head with a guitar at the family’s residence on Hoffman Avenue. She reportedly said he had woken up his parents and appeared to be on some kind of drug.

According to the toxicology report, Reynolds’ blood contained psilocin, a hallucinogen found in several species of mushrooms.

Minutes after the call, Addis encountered Reynolds walking barefoot down Hudson Avenue, stopped his patrol car and exited the vehicle. He ordered Reynolds, who was slowly walking toward him, to stop and asked if he was the one who had stabbed somebody, to which Reynolds said, “Yes,” police said.

Once Reynolds closed the distance, he abruptly went to the ground, then suddenly sprang up and lunged at Addis. Addis backed up, “expecting that Reynolds was going to stab him in the neck,” and fired his weapon, striking Reynolds four times, according to a report dated Aug. 15 from the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office.

Reynolds was not armed.

Officers administered first aid and Reynolds was transported to Beaumont Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

In the report, the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office concluded that the incident was a “justifiable homicide” and it would authorize no criminal charges against Addis because he was “acting in lawful self-defense.”

 

Sudden change in Clawson leadership

On Nov. 20, the Clawson City Council approved a separation agreement between itself and City Manager Mark Pollock, who worked for more than 18 years as the city’s finance director, as well as the city manager for the last nine years.

The split happened abruptly, and, according to reports, Pollock was cleaning out his office Nov. 8.

City officials declined to comment on the circumstances of the departure.

City Attorney John Kingsepp said Pollock requested that Kingsepp prepare the separation agreement, they had negotiations over a 24-hour period and that Pollock signed it four days later.

“The City Council has accepted Mr. Pollock’s request to enter into a separation agreement, thereby ending his employment contract as city manager,” Mayor Deborah Wooley read from a prepared statement at the Nov. 20 meeting. “Having reached agreement on the terms of that agreement, each party wishes each other the best in the future.”

Several residents expressed concern about the loss of Pollock and were critical of the separation.

Clawson Police Chief Harry Anderson served as acting city manager until the City Council appointed Richard Haberman as the city’s interim manager in a 3-2 vote Dec. 4.

Haberman will serve as interim city manager for three months while the city searches for a permanent replacement.

Haberman served as Clawson’s city manager for almost four years before leaving, citing personal reasons, in 2009. During the Dec. 4 meeting, he said he would rather not discuss the reasons, but that he and the city were able to reach a settlement.

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.