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WHMI 93.5 FM Radio Station for Livingston County Michigan with News, Traffic, and Weather Service for Howell and Brighton

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    The son of the man who was convicted in the case at the center of the Judge Theresa Brennan maelstrom says it’s well past time for his father to be granted a retrial. In 2013, Jerome Kowalski was sentenced to life in prison by 53rd District Court Judge Brennan for an Oceola Township double murder. The prosecution’s chief witness was former Michigan State Police detective Sean Furlong. Last year, during Brennan’s divorce hearing, testimony indicated she and Furlong had been having an affair before, during, and after the trial. The two have acknowledged the relationship, but claim it started after the Kowalski case. With county legislators calling for Brennan’s resignation, her case load being removed, and the Judicial Tenure Commission submitting a complaint against her this week, Kowalski’s family is hopeful for a chance to prove Jerome’s innocence. Jerome’s son Jared said that since the allegations against Brennan and Furlong came out in February 2017, the family has been both fired up and frustrated while waiting to see what will happen with his father. With no DNA or murder weapon found or presented in court, Jared says the only evidence they had against his father was a false confession obtained by Furlong. According to Jared, his father, who suffers from substance abuse addiction, was questioned while under the influence for hours by Furlong. He said they began badgering his dad, telling him that his sons were in the next room over giving details. Jared said that was a lie and that they weren’t there. He said he father “basically said, ‘If you are going after my sons and you say I did this, then leave them be and I guess I did this.’” Kowalski says the family had an expert in coerced confessions lined up to educate the jury on why somebody who didn’t commit a crime would confess, but he was not allowed to testify. Kowalski said it is clear that his father was not given a fair trial and was denied his constitutional rights for one. He said he believes that if his father is granted a retrial in a non-biased courtroom, he will be exonerated. He is calling upon Livingston County Prosecutor Bill Vailliencourt to do what he says is the “honorable and right thing” and grant his father that retrial. Jared Kowalski told WHMI that he just wants his dad free. He said the whole process has put his family through hell and that it’s not just Brennan, but multiple people. He continued, saying, his family was taught forgiveness, and that whatever happens to her, they hope she gets the help she needs. WHMI has reached out to Vailliencourt’s office for comment. He sent us the following statement; “As in every homicide case, there was a thorough investigation that included a determination of whether there was any scientific or forensic evidence. Unlike what you see on TV, sometimes there’s something of evidentiary significance at a crime scene, but sometimes there’s not. Even Mr. Kowalski’s attorney said during his argument to the jury that police did “every possible test imaginable.” He even observed that “to their credit they were trying to solve the case” and that the State Police went to the scene and took “every possible thing they can think of to take.” As his attorney summarized for the jury: “They tried every scientific method they could.” I suspect that the defendant’s son has not reviewed all of the reports from the crime lab that were provided to the defendant and his attorney, but all of the investigative reports and laboratory reports from both the State Police and the FBI were provided to the defendant and his attorney. And they had the full opportunity to have any of those experts testify at trial.” (MK/JK)

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    Handy Township officials have decided to hold off on increasing water and sewer rates for the next six months, though acknowledge an increase can’t be avoided forever. The township expanded its system in the early 2000s’, but the Great Recession contributed to a lack of funding when it was constructed. The municipality has been making its way out of debt since, but still faces a deficit. The township’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday discussed potentially increasing water and sewer rates from their current standing of $31 and $57 per month respectively. But Supervisor Ed Alverson says rates that could bring the water and sewer fund completely out of debt would likely be “too oppressive for residents”. The board voted to hold off on an increase and reevaluate in January. An article from the Lansing State Journal found Handy Township to have the third highest rates currently in the greater Lansing Area. Alverson says it’s not unusual for a newer system to have growing pains and that township officials are treading carefully when it comes to an increase because they already know their rates are “significant”. Still, he says the municipality can’t stay in the red forever, hence the decision to consider an increase at a later date. Alverson says the board will take the township’s financial standing and any developments that have since come along into consideration when revisiting the issue in six months. (DK)

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    An arraignment in circuit court has been set for a Detroit man charged with attempting to carjack two vehicles in Milford. 21-year old Kamil Gillette of Detroit was arrested March 14th following the incident in the parking lot of the Prospect Hill shopping plaza. Gillette had reportedly stolen a vehicle from the Royal Oak area the night before and made his way to Milford where the car became disabled. Attempting to carjack a new vehicle, Gillette allegedly approached a car with an elderly female, which bystanders saw and called 9-1-1. As he made an attempt at a second car, officers pulled onto the scene and say Gillette began walking towards the Kroger store in the plaza. Officers drew their guns after noticing he had an unknown object in his hand and asked him to show his hands. Police say Gillette repeatedly told the officers to shoot him and that he didn’t want to live. Once officers saw the object in his hand was a pair of scissors, they used a Taser to get him into custody. After a previously ordered competency evaluation came back that he was able to stand trial, he waived his pre-exam in district court and his case was bound over to Oakland County Circuit Court, where he will be arraigned June 26th. (JK)

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    A local township is renewing its police and fire assessment, and the public is encouraged to weigh in. Tyrone Township residents received a notice in the mail regarding the township’s hearing on police and fire protection. Currently Tyrone Township contracts with the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office and area fire departments. The City of Fenton’s fire department serves residents on the east side of US-23, and the Fenton Township Fire Department serves the west side of US-23. Within the last year the City of Fenton responded to 151 calls, Hartland Township responded to 97 calls, and Fenton Township responded to 71 calls last year. The current assessment is set to expire and the township is renewing the current measure, although residents aren’t going to see a change in what they pay. Since 2010 owners of vacant land have been paying $75 per parcel, residential property owners pay $150 per year, and commercial/ business property owners pay $250. A public hearing is being held Tuesday, June 19th at 7:00pm at the Tyrone Township Hall. (EO)

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    The driver of a semi-tractor trailer whose vehicle crashed and killed three people on US-23 in Green Oak Township has withdrawn his plea. 63-year-old Gary Bryce Erard had earlier pleaded no contest to three misdemeanor counts of moving violation causing death. But in court on Thursday, he withdrew that plea after hearing that Judge Suzanne Geddis would sentence him to six months in jail and two years of probation. His plea deal had called for 30 days in jail and at least six months of probation. Defendants can withdraw their plea if a judge exceeds plea terms. Jury selection for a trial is now set to start July 13th. Erard was charged as a result of the April 2017 incident on southbound US-23, south of Lee Road, which involved multiple vehicles and ended in three fatalities. Green Oak Township Police say Erard failed to stop as he approached other vehicles stopped in a construction zone, striking six of them. One of the vehicles, a 1997 Ford Escort, was completely destroyed in the crash after the truck rolled over on top of it. The driver of the Escort, 51-year-old Robin Brown of Milford, was pronounced dead at the scene. His 25-year-old fiancé, Sarah Miller of Milford, later died from her injuries at the University of Michigan Hospital where she was taken after being removed from the wreckage by members of the Green Oak Township Fire Department. 52-year-old Roby Steele of Davison, who was driving a 2016 Chevy Sonic that was also hit by the semi, was also pronounced dead at the scene after being removed from his vehicle. Erard remains free on bond. (JK)

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    A committee is being developed in Handy Township as officials look toward further discussions with an energy company interested in building a power plant there. Competitive Power Ventures, or CPV, has expressed an interest in constructing a natural, gas-fueled electrical power plant on a parcel north of Mason and Truhn Roads. CPV has an option on the property, which gives them a two-year due diligence period to decide whether it’s a good location for their project. Township Supervisor Ed Alverson says a committee is being established and will meet as needed with company representatives as conversations regarding the project’s potential and likelihood go forward. Committee members will include Handy Township Clerk Laura Eisele and Treasurer Connie Shear. Alverson believes including the two officials in project discussions will be most beneficial to the township’s Board of Trustees. Fred Dillingham, Executive Director of the Economic Development Council of Livingston County, will be asked to join the committee as well. Alverson also hopes to have representation from Ann Arbor SPARK and legal counsel from Foster Swift included in the group. A number of residents have responded to news of the proposed power plant, with a fairly equal divide of some supporting and others opposing the project. The township’s Board of Trustees in April voted to amend their zoning ordinance to allow for the operation and regulation of fuel power generation facilities. (DK)

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    A meeting to discuss the future of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline through Michigan will be held later this month in Brighton. The League of Women Voters is hosting a meeting on the support of closing the controversial Line 5 oil pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac. The gathering will show a documentary called “Beneath the Surface” which takes a look at the pipelines route through Michigan. The documentary was narrated and co-produced by Mary Ellen Geist of Detroit Public TV. She will also be there to answer any questions on the documentary. Teri Wilkerson is the Chair of the Great Lakes Committee and tells WHMI a study on the effects to the Great Lakes from Line 5 forecasted 843 spill scenarios and what would happen in each and that three counties would see drastic effects including up to 700 miles of coastline.Enbridge officials have repeatedly insisted the lines are safe and point to an independent review by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of the company's inspection data on Line 5, which, "concluded that the Line 5 Straits crossing is safe and fit for purpose." But Wilkerson says that Canadian-based Enbridge is the same company responsible for the 2010 spill which resulted in 35 miles of the Kalamazoo River being closed for two years and that Line 5 is 24 years older than that one. The informational gathering is taking place Monday, June 25th from 6:30 to 8:30pm at the Brighton District Library. There will be a discussion on the preventable and real threat to the Great Lakes at the meeting. Wilkerson will also be in attendance for the event. The meeting is free and open to the public. (EO/JK)

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    The House has passed bi-partisan legislation to stop the Flow of Synthetic Opioids through the International Mail System co-sponsored by Livingston County’s congressman. The House of Representatives passed the Synthetic Trafficking and Overdose Prevention or STOP Act of 2018 on Thursday. It’s sponsored by Republican Congressman Mike Bishop and Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. of New Jersey. Specifically, the bill would require the U.S. Postal Service to transmit advance electronic data to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for at least 70% of international shipments coming into the U.S. by the end of 2018, and 100% of inbound international shipments by 2020. The STOP Act passed by a bi-partisan vote of 353 to 52. Congressman Bishop says countless lives have been cut short in Michigan as a result of the devastating epidemic. In 2016 alone, opioids claimed the lives of more than 2,000 Michiganders. Bishop said he was astounded to learn that current law treats packages coming in through private carriers like FedEx and UPS differently than it does shipments through the United States Postal Service (USPS), and as a result, drug traffickers can readily ship synthetic opioids into the country through the USPS. He says making matters worse is that synthetic opioids can be 50 to 500 times more potent than the typical street dose of heroin. The Senate will take up the STOP Act next. A USPS representative earlier stated 40 to 50% of mail entering the U.S. contains advance electronic data. During testimony before the Senate last May, it was noted the STOP act would cost the Postal Service between $1.2 to $4.8 (B) billion over a ten year period. Further, USPS would have to pay new customs fees but would be unable to recoup costs from customers. (JM)

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    A stretch of freeway in Livingston and Ingham counties will again see a lane closure this weekend. The Michigan Department of Transportation is in the midst of resurfacing 11 miles of freeway as part of a $14 million project that will close the left lane of eastbound I-96 from M-52 near Webberville to M-59 in Howell Township. It will also shut down the Fowlerville entrance ramp to eastbound I-96. This is expected to be the final of four planned weekend lane closures on that stretch of I-96, which began in the spring. MDOT has been conducting the paving operations on select weekends to try and avoid hitting holidays and major events. They advise drivers to seek alternate routes during the closure, which is scheduled to wrap up at 5am Monday. (JM)

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    The Linden City Council tabled an issue with tents in resident’s yards. The city’s planning commission recommended that city council council adopt ordinance changes that would prohibit storage tents in front yards and side yards. It would require temporary accessory structures to follow the same requirements as permanent accessory structures. The Tri-County Times reports that the decision went before the council on June 11th and was later tabled pending an opinion from the council’s lawyer. Currently if there is an existing structure, it would have a legal nonconforming status. Temporary structures weren’t in the ordinance before either and residents would be allowed to keep them up. Currently the city has no control over the structures; with the new ordinance the city would have control. The council voted to table the discussion until their next meeting on Monday, June 25th. (EO/JK)

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    A new publication focuses on positive youth development and recognizes the value of community in helping young people thrive. The Livingston Council for Youth grew out of a grassroots effort and now represents various community groups that offer services for youth including schools, the faith-based community, non-profit governmental entities and the Livingston County United Way. It works collaboratively to develop community-level strategies that promote positive change and empower kids to thrive. The Council earlier administered a survey to all 7th, 9th and 11th grade students in all five public schools districts in Livingston County to gather baseline data to analyze. Council Co-Chair Sam Larioza says they’re essentially taking what’s already happening that’s great for youth in Livingston County, helping coordinate it and give it some data based focus. He says the Council has been working the last four years, which culminated in the magazine, and the bulk is topics for parenting and helping parents raise great kids. He says the goal is also to expand on current topics and use articles and issues that are really current to parents today, such as doing better in school, vaping, or technology. Larioza says it’s not that there is any crisis or a need to fix local youth but rather a desire to celebrate and acknowledge kids. He says things are good but there is still room to improve and do better because kids are the future of the county. Larioza says reviews and feedback have been beyond expectation for the magazine but it’s really just the first step. He says they must now follow through and really reach out to all parents, organizations and everyone in the community - not just adults with children. Larioza says they wanted to make sure circulation goes well beyond parents and students in the local public schools and want to be fully inclusive no matter where a student goes to school or how parents raise their children. He says they’re working to access home school and private schools parents but also providing copies at local doctor and dentist offices. The inaugural electronic edition of the Youth Connections Magazine is available through the link provided. Pictured are Youth Council Co-Chairs Scott VanEpps and Sam Larioza with YC Magazine. (JM)

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    The Howell City Council recently approved cost sharing amendments to the civic event policy. Faced with pressing budget issues and an earlier decision to vote down a public safety assessment, members reiterated the decision was not taken lightly but is a compromise, compared to recouping 100% of the cost of services provided during festivals and events. The changes won’t kick in until January 2019, so this year’s events and festivals won’t be impacted. Council had quite a bit of conversation both last night and previously but felt it was the appropriate time to move forward. Charging fees for City services has been a recurring discussion item amongst Council, given what officials say is a broken state funding model plagued by years of cuts to municipalities everywhere. Prior to approval, leaders from the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce, Howell Area Parks and Recreation Authority and the Howell Main Street all expressed concerns with how the policy would impact their budgets and potentially force them to discontinue events. Ashley Prew spoke on behalf of the Howell Chamber Board of Directors to say they understand the budget issues and appreciate a strong partnership with the City and have no intention of skirting their financial responsibility to the community or city. However, she noted the Chamber and the Foundation have never petitioned for relief from substantial property taxes, despite being a non-profit, and further providing hundreds of volunteers for events. As a non-profit, Prew said the policy forces the Chamber to re-examine their budgets and seriously reconsider involvement in putting on the events, stressing it might not be financially possible to continue both the Balloonfest and Fantasy of Lights events in the long term. The Chamber further requested Council eliminate the cost share for Fantasy of Lights and/or Balloonfest in total or that it be reduced or be implanted on a gradual basis to address budgetary issues in years to come. Mayor Nick Proctor commented it’s not easy but given the current fiscal environment and recent failure of a proposed public safety assessment, the City cannot sustain footing the bill for civic event services. He says Council is at the point where they have to provide some modest relief to the general fund and crafted a policy that is in-between doing nothing and 100% immediately. He noted the City does receive certain benefits and there is an economic impact that can’t be measured, as well as other intangibles for good will and reputation. However, Proctor says the City is getting stuck with the bill and paying a good chunk of money for people coming in from out of town, and they cannot continue to ask residents to foot the bill entirely. City Manager Shea Charles tells WHMI the City should be able to recover around $40,000 in actual direct event costs, as in-direct costs are part of what they do. He says those include public works and police costs along with the cost for City staff to set-up, put out barricades, pick-up, and all of the other things to host events. The policy changes were approved unanimously. Council members Jan Lobur and Scott Niblock were absent. (JM)

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    A playground has been constructed outside an Oakland County shelter for victims of domestic violence and assault in honor of a Brighton girl who was killed in a traffic accident that also took the life of another area girl. 16-year-old Brighton High School student Darian Locklear, a hockey player on the Meijer AAA Hockey Team, was killed in the February crash when the vehicle she was riding in went off I-96 in Ingham County and hit a tree. The crash also resulted in the death of fellow hockey player and close friend Julieanna Ward-Brown, a student at Howell High School. The playground, at HAVEN in Pontiac, was constructed by volunteer groups that included Darian’s mom’s employer, Cooper Standard Automotive. According to her mom, Regina Locklear, Darian had a reputation for kindness to fellow students, and even talked one girl out of committing suicide. Funds donated by Darian’s friends and family and HAVEN made the playground a reality, along with a grant from the Cooper Standard Foundation. In dealing with the loss, Regina Locklear had bracelets made with the expression “Kindness Is Beautiful” on them which were passed around at school by friends. Locklear is hoping the playground, named after Darian, and the bracelets, will serve as a reminder to people about her life and her legacy of being kind and compassionate to all. (TT) Pictured: Darian Locklear (R) and Julieanna Ward-Brown (L)

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    The conviction and sentence of a man in an aggravated stalking case has been upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals. 33-year-old Raymond Trestik is serving a 40 to 60 month prison sentence for aggravated stalking after being convicted by a jury. Trestik is an Arizona native and met the victim while the two were in college there. The stalking, threatening and harassing behavior was said to have started in 2007 after the victim ended their nine month relationship and during local court proceedings, prosecutors said Trestik was on a path to kill the victim. She testified that she cut off contact with Trestik after he severely beat her in May of 2007. The victim obtained restraining orders in Arizona, which Trestik violated. The victim moved back to Michigan in 2009 and didn’t hear from Trestik for a few years but her fears of harm came to fruition in July of 2015 when he unexpectedly showed up at her parents’ home with what was said to be a knife attached to brass knuckles in his hand. Trestik was hospitalized for mental health issues in New York. He left that hospital, rode a bus to Livingston County and then walked for miles until he located her parents’ home in the Brighton area. He then set up a camp in a wooded area behind Mt. Brighton, about a mile away from the home, to watch the family. Trestik tried to invite himself in but was denied on one occasion and on another, he left an unsigned card in the mailbox for the victim’s father. The victim testified Trestik tracked her family like prey and she believed he intended to kill her and/or her family to torture her. In his appeal, Trestik argued he was denied a fair trial by the trial court’s refusal to allow appointed counsel to withdraw from the case, and by that counsel’s alleged ineffective performance. Trestik also challenged his sentence on the grounds the trial court misscored two of the offense variables under the sentencing guidelines and imposed a minimum sentence that violates the principle of proportionality. The appeals court disagreed with those claims in a recent opinion and affirmed his sentence. The recommended range for the minimum sentence was 7 to 23 months under guidelines but Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hatty departed from that and imposed a minimum of 40 months. In doing so, he noted the defendant had several opportunities in other jurisdictions to take guidance from other judges and leave the victim alone but he failed to do so – adding he never heard a word of remorse from Trestik toward the victim or her family. (JM)

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    A community discussion luncheon will focus on the use of an alternative energy source and how local government can effectively regulate it. The Brown Bag Lunch Series is a quarterly event held by the County Planning Department. For the event, planning professionals, local government officials, and community leaders come together in an informal setting to share ideas. Hartland Township will host the series’ next event on Wednesday, June 27th, at Township Hall from 12 to 1pm. This session will feature guest speaker Stephen A. Delie, who will provide a presentation on solar energy ordinances, specifically in regards to their key components and benefits. Delie, an associate attorney for a law firm based in Okemos, has authored a variety of solar energy ordinances and related publications. Utilizing solar power as an alternative energy source is gaining popularity and event organizers say Delie will offer guidance to officials crafting associated regulations as they navigate an issue that may be unprecedented for some. Participants will also take away ideas and information on how to incorporate reported best practices into local zoning ordinances. Those attending the event are asked to bring their own lunch and RSVP is appreciated. You can RSVP by emailing Kathleen Kline-Hudson at kathleenk@co.livingston.mi.us or Scott Barb at sbarb@co.livingston.mi.us

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    The session will be hosted by Be Our Guest Adult Day Services at 2020 East Grand River in Howell on Tuesday, July 10th, from 4:30 to 5:30pm. The program comes from the Alzheimer’s Association and aims to help families reconnect with a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and currently is without a cure. Because the condition worsens with time, the Alzheimer’s Association is offering strategies to help families better communicate with someone affected by it at every stage of the disease. The program will explore how communication takes place when someone has Alzheimer’s, and how to decode their verbal and behavioral messages. Advanced registration is required for the event and can be done by calling the Alzheimer’s Association at 800-272-3900 or Be Our Guest Adult Day Services at 517-546-9910.

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    The fire protection rating for the Howell Area Fire Authority could potentially yield insurance savings for residents and businesses. The Howell Area Fire Authority has received the Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating of Class 3/5. Chief Andy Pless says the ISO currently evaluates over 50,000 Fire Departments Nationwide with very few earning the Class 3/5 Rating. Although different insurance companies use a variety of factors to set rates, the lower rating can lead to a reduction in fire insurance costs. ISO evaluates municipal fire-protection efforts in communities using credit points and various formulas, before calculating a fire protection rating from 1, being the best, to 10 being the worst. Pless says the rating reflects the hard work and dedication of all the Howell Area Firefighters and their commitment to save lives and property. Areas within 5 road miles of a fire station and within 1000 feet of a fire hydrant will receive a class 3 and areas without hydrants but within 5 miles of a fire station even if it is from another neighboring fire department will receive a class 5 rating. Pless says the ISO Class 3/5 rating will save residents significant money on homeowners insurance but result in an even greater savings for commercial businesses and industries. The new rating will become effective September 1st. Further information detailing the new rating is attached. (JM)

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    The Howell City Council will meet for a work session later today to talk finances and next steps as it grapples with a gloomy budget picture. Council recently adopted the 2018/2019 budget, although with reduced road and capital projects. The City has been facing budget pressures for years but is now at the point where revenues need to increase or services need to be reduced. Council has since indicated intent to pursue a Headlee Override election, possible in November, after a surprising 4-3 vote against instituting a city-wide public safety special assessment after hearing from dozens of residents during two packed meetings. Today’s work session is what City Manager Shea Charles suspects will be the first of several to lay out next steps after the vote not to proceed with the public safety assessment. He says it will involve talking about next steps, how a Headlee Override works and the potential ask as well as start charting out the public participation process in regard to the overall budget and fiscal structure for the City. Council has agreed the current financial path the City is on is not sustainable, due to a broken state funding model and years of making different budget efficiencies. A number of outside factors have been at play to impact the City’s budget including a reduction in state shared revenue, the impact of the 2008 recession and loss of 27.6% of taxable value, limitations of Proposal A and the Headlee Amendment. Council and staff have repeatedly stated the fiscal stress is not unique to the City and similar communities are looking at either enhanced revenue or reduced services. Tonight’s work session starts at 5pm on the second floor of Howell City Hall and is open to the public. Information and an agenda are available on the City of Howell website. That link is provided. (JM)

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    An elementary school in Brighton could receive a therapy dog and additions to its playground under two proposed donations. At a recent Brighton Area Schools Board of Education meeting, members discussed separate donations that would be made to Hilton Elementary School. The first is a $1,500 donation from Pro-Motion Physical Therapy to help fund the purchase of a therapy dog for the school. The second is a $12,000 donation from Hilton’s PTO to purchase shade structures for the school’s playground. Any gifts, grants or bequests valued at over $1,000 must be accepted by the board. Superintendent Greg Gray says they’ll take action on that issue at their next meeting, adding school officials appreciate both entities' investment into district students. If approved, the PTO’s donation would pay for three “umbrella fabric shade” structures to be placed throughout the playground, covering a sandbox, picnic table and a bench. Pro-Motion Therapy’s donation will contribute to the cost of a therapy dog, which averages about $8,000. Gray previously told WHMI the goal is to have a service dog at all schools in the district. Hilton Elementary would become the sixth building to acquire one. (DK)

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    Local firefighters saved some ducklings from a storm drain this morning. The South Lyon Fire Department saved seven ducklings from a storm drain. The department says it began receiving calls around 11am from concerned citizens regarding a mother duck who lost her ducklings down a storm drain. The storm drain is located on East Liberty Street by the post office. Officials say firefighters were able to save all seven ducklings and reunited them with their mother. Photos: Facebook - South Lyon Fire Dept. (JM)

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