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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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    Interviews were held this week for the finalists vying to land the South Lyon city manager’s position. On Tuesday, South Lyon City Council held public interviews for the five people in the running for the city’s top job. They were Garden City Treasurer and Clerk Allyson Bettis, Redford Township Supervisor Tracey Kobylarz, former Kalamazoo Director of Management Services Thomas Skrobola, Westland Building and Planning Department Director Bruce Thompson and Linden City Manager Paul Zelenak. They were selected out of 43 people that applied for the position to replace Lynne Ladner, who resigned in March for medical reasons. The search for her replacement began in April. The city manager's base salary will range from $95,000 to $105,000 annually, with the appointee responsible for preparing and administering the city's budget and managing finances among other duties. Interim City Manager, and South Lyon police chief, Lloyd Collins said city council is expected to name a new city manager by late August. (JK)

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    The Fowlerville District Library is already seeing a jump in success at its new location, despite only having occupied the site for about a month and a half. The library’s Board of Trustees purchased the building at the old site of the Curtis Grocery Store on Grand Street in Fowlerville in May of 2017. It officially opened June 15th and took the library that was once housed in a building of 4,225 square-feet to a total of 17,000 square-feet. Board member Marion Cornett says the 11-member staff loves their new home and is proud it was purchased for $625,000 with money the board had already saved, instead of having to go to taxpayers for money. Since opening, Library Director Beth Lowe says they have already issued three times as many library cards compared to this time last year and have library patrons visiting two to three times more often. Lowe says that’s just one piece of proof that libraries are not becoming obsolete. In addition to more space, the library’s new location allows for the presence of therapy and reading dogs, and can be utilized as a warming or cooling center on days with extreme weather temperatures. Once the library’s former building is sold, the money will be used to fund phase two of the library’s transformation, which will include fencing and exterior work. (DK)

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    A Fowlerville man has been bound over for trial on charges connected to an incident that left him and a State Police trooper injured. 35-year-old Robert McKee was bound over to Livingston County Circuit Court Wednesday, after a judge determined there was enough evidence to send his case to trial. Mckee, who is facing charges of assault with a dangerous weapon and assaulting/resisting/obstructing a police officer, had been ordered to undergo a competency evaluation in June. He was found competent to stand trial last month. McKee is charged in connection with the April 29th incident, which began when a trooper from the Michigan State Police Brighton Post and an officer from the Fowlerville Police Department responded to a call involving a suicidal subject in Handy Township. When they arrived on scene, police say McKee had already injured himself with a knife and was hiding in the basement of the residence. Police say officers were able to make contact with him and call for an ambulance, but when they attempted to render aid he became combative and moved towards them with the knife, prompting the Fowlerville officer to shoot McKee to stop the threat. One bullet ricocheted and struck the MSP trooper in the leg. The trooper was reported to be in good condition the day after the incident, while McKee was taken to the hospital to be treated for his injuries and was later released. McKee is currently free on a $100,000 cash/surety bond.

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    The trial date for a lawsuit against Hartland Consolidated Schools by a former administrator spanning six years has again been pushed back. Tracey Sahouri sued the district in 2012, alleging it violated the Whistleblower Protection Act when it removed her as principal from Creekside Elementary School. Sahouri claims her removal as principal and re-assignment to a teaching position was in retaliation for reporting “irregularities” in how the district administered state-mandated student achievement tests. The district had sought to dismiss the lawsuit, taking the case to the Michigan Supreme Court, which declined to hear the appeal, allowing the lawsuit to go forward. The district contends Sahouri’s re-assignment was based on the conclusions of a state report that determined teachers at Creekside improperly gained access to material from the tests. Sahouri’s attorney alleges Hartland administration led a (quote)“out-of-control lynch mob” that “trashed” her career in part due to a ticket she received in the summer of 2011 for allowing a minor to consume alcohol at her Argentine Township home during a graduation party. The ticket was later dismissed and Sahouri settled a lawsuit over the matter with Argentine Township for $150,000. The district has contended that incident had nothing to do with its decision regarding Sahouri. Discussions over a possible settlement in the case have failed and a new trial date of August 28th was scheduled in Genesee County Circuit Court. The Tom Pabst Law Firm is representing Sahouri and Attorney Mike Kowalko tells WHMI a motion was granted to adjourn the August 28th trial date, in part because the date coincides with the beginning of a new school year and could be disruptive since the suit involves teachers and administrators. Kowalko says the district’s most recent motion to dismiss the case was denied and the judge will be issuing an order on that. He says a new trial date will be worked out and likely take place during the school year, although not until sometime after March 1st. Hartland Superintendent Chuck Hughes told WHMI there are also still some unresolved issues pertaining to discovery and the court has moved the trial date out to the spring to allow time for work on resolving those issues. (JM)

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    Two Democratic candidates for Congress squared off for the final time before voters decide who will win the nomination. Democrat Elissa Slotkin has worked a career in national security. Her opponent in this coming Tuesday’s primary, Chris Smith, has taught public policy for the past quarter-century at Michigan State University. The two, both hoping to unseat Republican Mike Bishop for 8th District Congress, met in Okemos, Wednesday night, for one last campaign forum in front of approximately 100 attendees. They took turns sharing opinions on many platform ideas like keeping kids safe at school, income inequality, and immigration. Slotkin said the immigration process in America needs a total overhaul. She called it fundamentally broken, and the fix needs to be comprehensive, and not a nickle-and-dime job. She said she sees immigration as a national security issue, an economic issue, and a moral issue.She said that DACA children need to have a path to citizenship. Smith focused on the harm that separating children from their parents at the border is causing. He said it needs to be treated as one of our foremost crises, and that “History is going to judge us harshly, and we deserve it, for what we’ve done to these kids.” With Michigan being a large union-state, Smith, when asked, said that Democrats need to step up, whether they hold the House, the Senate, neither, or both. He called for Democrats seeing injustices with unions to get onto the picket lines and into the board rooms to reverse the imbalance of influence that corporations have over their employees. Slotkin said that the unions in Michigan have come under attack, and that it is important to remember what they do for us personally, locally, and nationally, even if you aren’t part of one. The two shared ideas on helping marginalized communities. Slotkin said, if elected, she would have a staff working within minority communities, so whether she was in Lansing or Washington, she could keep in touch with community happenings and needs. She stressed this “ear to the ground” strategy throughout the night, pledging to hold regular town hall meetings. Smith stressed a strategy of using a research and evidence-based approach to creating public policy. He called for stronger anti-discrimination laws, free community college, and increases in housing and daycare assistance. (MK)

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    The Le Concours de Livingston is returning this weekend. This is the eighth year the fundraiser is returning to Livingston County to benefit Love INC, which networks together local churches, church volunteers and community organizations to help people who lack resources. The fundraiser is being held this Sunday, August 5th and features a classic car show. The show will also feature live music, appetizers, adult beverages, and a live and silent auction. The live auction will include a signed Guitar by Bruce Springsteen. The fundraiser and car show are being held at the Waldenwoods Resort and Conference Center in Hartland Township from 2-6pm. The cost is $50 per person. A link to purchase tickets can be found below. (EO/JK)

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    The one-time Director of Livingston County Animal Control who was suspended in a neighboring county has since departed from the role amid ongoing controversy. At a meeting Tuesday night, the Ingham County Board of Commissioners voted to terminate Animal Control Director John Dinon. He was previously placed on suspension, along with Deputy Director Anne Burns following multiple investigations about poor care of animals at the shelter. Burns was the Director of Livingston County Animal Control until 2010, when she left the job after persistent complaints about her policies on so-called bully breeds and euthanization. Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Burns informed Ingham County she would be retiring. The investigation in Ingham County began after the abuse of five dogs came to light following their seizure from a dog-fighting ring last year. A report by the Michigan Humane Society found neglect of the dogs while in the shelter’s care, leading to two of them being euthanized. The Ingham County Controller conducted an investigation and a report revealed that nearly all persons interviewed acknowledged “deep organizational dysfunction” in the department. Employees conveyed the opinion that Dinon and Burns were not responsive to their suggestions or reported issues and further agreed uniform training is needed. Complaints about non-medical staff handling medical issues were said to be common and various tensions between animal control officers and animal care officer were emphasized. The full report is attached. (JM)

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    A Roman Catholic priest’s trial for embezzling from his church has been delayed after police say they discovered $63,000 hidden above ceiling tiles in his Williamston home. The search was conducted in mid-July at the Rev. Jonathan Wehrle's luxury home on Noble Road, south of I-96. State police say money was in $2,000 bundles secured with cash bands that said, "For Deposit Only-St. Martha Parish." Wehrle's defense attorney said shortly after the discovery that he was withdrawing from the case. Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Joyce Draganchuk has rescheduled this month's planned trial to January to give new legal counsel time to prepare. Wehrle is charged with six counts of embezzling $100,000 or more from St. Martha Church in Okemos. Auditors say more than $5 million is missing. (JK)

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    Absentee ballots seem to be falling into a “black hole” in the postal system, as local clerks note a significant number of voters that have requested absentee ballots have not received them. At a recent Clerk’s meeting, Green Oak Township Clerk Michael Sedlak learned this is a problem affecting many municipalities. Sedlak says there appears to be mailing problems with the distribution center in Pontiac and, based on the way the mailing system has been responding, clerks are taking a proactive approach to ensure absentee voters are not left out of the upcoming elections. Sedlak says anyone that has submitted an absentee voter request and has not received their ballot yet is encouraged to contact their municipality’s clerk. He tells WHMI this was also an issue leading up to the 2016 election, with ballots becoming “lost” for over a month. Sedlak says at that time the postal system told township officials the problem had been resolved and even gave them special labels to go along with the ballots, but that hasn’t helped. Instead, Sedlak says what has helped is taking the ballots directly to each post office to be processed in- house and sent out to residents the following day. While some have not received their ballots at all, others are experiencing a noticeable delay between the times of their request and actually receiving the ballot. One Green Oak Township official says it took over three weeks for theirs to arrive. Once received, Sedlak encourages residents to either bring their completed ballot into township hall, or leave it in the drop box out front. In addition to contacting the township, Sedlak says residents who have yet to receive their absentee ballot can come to township offices where they will be issued one immediately. (DK)

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    A couple has formed a ballot proposal committee to encourage support for a plan to fix streets in the City of Brighton. On Tuesday, voters will head to the polls to decide a Headlee Override request. The Headlee Amendment limits annual tax increases to 5% or the rate of inflation – whichever is the lower of the two. The city is asking for approval to override that limitation and levy the charter limit of 20 mills for a period of 10 years in order to fix the city’s streets. Because of reductions triggered by the Headlee Amendment, the City currently only collects around 15.65-mills from taxpayers. The 4.35-mill difference, if re-instated, would generate roughly $1.85 (m) million dollars per year and be used exclusively on roads. The override proposal would generate approximately $18.5 (m) million during the 10-year time period. Resident Jordan Genso and his wife Lesa Doa have formed “The Committee To Be Right On Roads” to advocate a yes vote on the proposal. It allows them to purchase yard signs advocating a “yes’ vote and provide them to neighbors and supporters. Genso says if proposal doesn’t pass, the problem will still exist and residents will likely end up voting on it again. He says they want people make an informed decision and vote with a solution in mind. He says streets are gradually getting worse over time and will continue to decline until something is done. Genso says tells WHMI he wants the City to be on a sustainable path and gradually improve overall conditions of streets. He feels the ballot proposal is the best option, or perhaps the least bad option, for the City in deciding how to fix infrastructure and streets. Genso says after hearing opposition, they wanted to show support and demonstrate people are out there who will be voting yes. He says they’re doing so because the proposal offers a solution, versus those who don’t have any solutions and just want to vote no because they are opposed to anything. Genso contends the expense of $40 a month is less than potential car repairs if streets continue to deteriorate further. He feels if someone can’t figure out how to better solve the problem, then a yes vote is the only rational option. The City has held several informational meetings to educate voters ahead of the August Primary Election. A recent review from the city’s engineer of the roughly 30 miles of roads in the City of Brighton showed that approximately 75% are in poor condition. While the proposal would not fix everything at once, it will provide the City with the funding needed to institute a new comprehensive streets program. In that program, the city would break the 10-year override into a series of smaller 2-year plans. Officials have said that having a lump sum of revenue to repair and, in some cases, repave the city’s streets will save them from having to use a band-aid approach when problems occur. Details about Tuesday’s ballot proposal are available on the City of Brighton’s website. The link is provided. (JM)

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    A woman is dead following a motorcycle crash Wednesday in Howell Township. Deputies with the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to westbound I-96 and Highland Road at approximately 3:40pm on the report of an accident involving a motorcycle. The preliminary investigation indicated a 44-year-old Hartland resident was operating a 1994 Honda Gold Wing with a 46-year-old female passenger also from Hartland. The motorcyclist lost control in the rain merging onto westbound I-96 from Highland Road, crossed three lanes of traffic and then came to rest in the median. The driver was transported to the University of Michigan Hospital by Livingston County Ambulance with life threatening injuries while the passenger was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver and passenger were both wearing helmets at the time of the crash. Alcohol and speed do not appear to be factors in the crash. Deputies were assisted at the scene by Hamburg Township Police, Michigan State Police and the Howell Area Fire Department. The freeway remained closed for approximately three hours after the accident, which remains under investigation by the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Safety Bureau. (JK)

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    The head of the local Democrats says a recent political ad featuring the county’s top cop violates the state’s campaign finance laws. Judy Daubenmier, chair of the Livingston County Democratic Party, says Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy’s use of a county patrol car in an ad for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette violates Michigan campaign finance law. In the ad, which promotes Schuette’s stance on illegal immigration, Murphy is in uniform and standing next to a Livingston County Sheriff’s Department vehicle. Later in the ad, Murphy is walking and talking with Schuette and the vehicle comes into focus with the words “Sheriff” and “Livingston County” clearly visible. Daubenmier said Schuette, who is currently the state’s Attorney General, showed his “shady” side by using a taxpayer-funded vehicle in ad to “advance his political fortunes.” Daubenmier said she is preparing a campaign finance complaint. When asked about the use of the vehicle, Sheriff Murphy told WHMI that he disagrees with Daubenmier’s interpretation of the law, adding, “I welcome an investigation, and will cooperate fully. If it is determined that I did do something wrong, I will certainly follow the recommendations to make amends.” While the rules for using public resources in a campaign listed online by the Michigan Secretary of State say a public official can campaign in his or her uniform because there is no “monetary value in connection with a public official wearing a uniform,” it does prohibit the use of publicly funded vehicles. Daubenmier called for the ad to be taken down and for Murphy to reimburse the county for any expenses incurred in the use of the vehicle, such as fuel costs. (JK)

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    In light of Tuesday’s primary election, the city halls in Brighton and Howell and several area townships will be open Saturday for people who want to pick up an absentee ballot – or who have an absentee ballot and want to hand the completed ballot in. Brighton City Clerk Tara Brown tells WHMI that city hall will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday for the convenience of voters. All registered voters in the city of Brighton are eligible to vote in the primary election. Among the items on the ballot will be a proposal by the city to override, or negate, the Headlee Amendment to allow the city to levy up to the charter limit of 20 mills. The extra funds would go to repair and improve the city’s streets. Historically, primaries have resulted in low turnouts at the polls. Brown says in the last several Brighton primary elections, the turnout ranged from 13% to 18%. The high of 18% was registered when there was a city proposal on the ballot. (TT/JK)

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    State Police have arrested an out-of-state parole absconder and his wife who allegedly have ties to crime in Hamburg Township. Early last month, the Hamburg Township Police Department took a report tying Roger Carter and Dana Royal, a married couple from North Carolina to the theft of a motorhome valued at $60,000. An anonymous tip to the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office stated that the couple and her two daughters were on Sugar Island, which is located near Sault Saint Marie. The family was said to be living on the island in the stolen RV, using the pseudonyms “Lee and Marie Carter,” according to UpperMichiganSource.com. Chippewa County detectives obtained warrants and during the investigation process, learned that that Carter and Royal had fled the area. Last week, the Michigan State Police Tri-City Post was contacted and was able to locate and arrest the suspects. Carter was transported back to Chippewa County in the Upper Peninsula where he was charged with Larceny by Conversion. He has since been arraigned and is being held on $5,000 bond and on warrants out of North Carolina. Through the process, Hamburg Police learned that the couple had been using a fake RV rental business operated out of Owosso. Authorities are asking that anyone who may have suffered financial loss while conducting business with RV NOW Rentals, contact the Hamburg Police Department and Detective Sargent Gary Harpe at (810) 222-1174, or Michigan State Police Flint Post and Detective Sargent James Moore at (810) 733-5869. (MK)

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    The owner of the shuttered Barnstormers Entertainment Complex in Green Oak Township wants to re-open. Rob Cortis still owns the facility and property on M-36 near US-23, which was shut down in 2012 following years of code violations. Multiple safety and code violations led to occupancy being reduced and portions of the building were ordered closed until the conditions deemed dangerous could be rectified. A lengthy lawsuit with the township was settled in June. Cortis tells WHMI he wants to clean everything up, make improvements and give the building a facelift with curb appeal so he can re-open as a nice family, community dining restaurant with banquets, special events, dancing and entertainment. Cortis says he hopes to clean up the building and now that the lawsuit is finished, there’s no more guessing – adding he and the township are adults and got past everything. Cortis says he knows what he has to do to fix it up and will work on getting plans submitted to the township within 30 to 60 days. He did comment that if someone wants to buy it, “everything is always for sale”. Cortis anticipates he’ll need to invest roughly $300-$500,000 to get the facility up and running again but feels the cost of repairs are manageable and he’s working to secure financing to fix what the township was worried about and make everybody happy. If any demolition needs to be done, he says it will be included in the budget but feels that would only involve parts of the building. Cortis says the anticipated costs would include the monetary awards determined by the court settlement, which will remain in the form of a lien against the property until paid. The court awarded sanctions against Barnstormers for filing a frivolous lawsuit in the amount of $85,000, and affirmed the award of the township’s costs related to the litigation in the amount of $27,078. Green Oak Township Supervisor Mark St. Charles told WHMI if Cortis plans to rebuild, then all of it must meet codes.(JM)

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    A local man claiming to be defending his wife with a BB gun has been cited for disturbing the peace. Milford Police responded to a call last week for a man waving around a gun in the Childs Lake Estates manufactured home community. Officers arrived at the area near White and McDivitt Roads around 6:30pm on July 21st to find the 36 year-old suspect sitting on a picnic table, with the gun approximately 25 feet away. The weapon was discovered to be a BB handgun that had the plastic slide cover removed. The man admitted to bringing the gun to the area after initially denying it to officers. He appeared to be intoxicated to officers and was reported to have been belligerent with them. His blood alcohol level was 0.22% based on a portable Breathalyzer test. The suspect said another man had been arguing with his wife and that he was only trying to protect her. The suspect’s brother-in-law was at scene and told officers that he and the suspect had been fishing in the area, before the suspect and the other man got into an altercation near the picnic table. The suspect eventually pointed the BB gun at the other man, who tried next to walk away. The brother-in-law said that the suspect tried to start another fight with the man, who eventually left, leaving behind some of his fishing gear. The suspect’s identification listed a Redford address, but he told police he has recently been living in a tent near Lyon Township. Police arrested the suspect, cited him for disturbing the peace, and released him on $100 bond once he sobered up. (MK)

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    Fenton Township’s Fire Chief went in front of township board members Thursday evening to discuss allegations over sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. The special meeting at Fenton Township’s civic center started with an open session. After the public’s input and questions regarding issues with the chief were handled, the board went into a closed session to discuss whether Chief Ryan Volz will be disciplined for allegations stemming from a lawsuit filed by Firefighter Kristy Polidan and Captain Kirk Stephens. In the suit, filed July 24th in Genesee County Circuit Court, Polidan alleges she was subject to sexual harassment since she was hired in January 2015, specifically that a rumor had circulated she was having oral sex with Chief Volz. Polidan says when she complained to him about it, he instead subjected her to pervasive retaliatory harassment by suggesting her to go under his desk and give him oral sex. Volz is accused of further harassing Polidan and engaging in retaliatory behavior after she complained to a captain at another station, whom suspended two firefighters for harassment. Attorney Jeffery Donahue who represents Chief Volz says that the lawsuit is misconstruing facts and that it’s making something that just isn’t there. Donahue says that the chief denies that there is any pervasive, sexual harassment, or any discrimination towards female fire fighters. The session was reopened four hours later and township officials stated they need more time to investigate the lawsuit. Volz is still on paid administrative leave, and a new meeting has been scheduled for Monday August 13th at 8:00am. There the township will discuss what sanctions, if any, they may impose on Volz. (EO/JK)

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    The Pleasant Valley Road bridge over eastbound I-96 in Brighton Township has re-opened to traffic, well ahead of schedule. Projected completion was in November but the bridge re-opened late Thursday afternoon. Four of the six bridge beams were significantly damaged last September by a flatbed semi that was hauling several boom lifts. The structure over eastbound I-96 had to be removed so the freeway could safely reopen. The resulting gap created issues for residents and commuters, as well as nearby businesses that had much reduced foot traffic. After the project went out to bid, steel bridge beams had to be fabricated, which are made on demand and take time. Assistant Construction Engineer Craig Heidelberg with M-DOT’s Brighton Transportation Service Center tells WHMI the bridge is now open and the detour is done. He says crews have replaced the span of the bridge that was hit last year but also raised up the deck and beams by about 20 inches so the bridge will sit up higher than it used to. Heidelberg says there is still some minor work left to finish up, which could involve shoulder closures or lane closures with flag control, but the major detour is complete. At the start of the project, M-DOT officials stressed that it was a priority to get the work done as quickly as possible but noted there are also standards and safety criteria to abide by. Heidelberg says M-DOT realizes that closing Pleasant Valley Road caused issues for motorists but it obviously had to be done following the bridge hit. He says although it had to close, all of the work was expedited and they’re happy they got it completed and open as soon as they did. (JM)

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    A Stockbridge man and Williamston man charged with sexual assault case have been sentenced. 27-year-old Vincent Albert Gentilozzi of Williamston and 34-year-old Jon McClain Martin of Stockbridge were originally charged with 1st degree criminal sexual assault and furnishing alcohol to a minor for an incident in 2015 involving a teenage girl. But in June the pair entered a no contest plea to a single count of felonious assault in exchange for the other counts being dropped. On Wednesday, they were sentenced in Ingham County Circuit Court to one year in the county jail, with credit for one day served. They were also ordered to serve five years of probation. Authorities originally received a report in March of 2015 that a 17-year-old female had been sexually assaulted by two men in Stockbridge Township. The case had languished for nearly two years with various motions, delays and adjournments. (JK)

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    A ballot proposal to fix streets in the City of Brighton has created a lot of opinions, not all of them in favor. On Tuesday, voters will decide a Headlee Override request to allow the city to levy the charter limit of 20 mills for a period of 10 years. Officials say the money would be used exclusively to fix the city’s streets. One resident who is adamantly opposed to the measure is Lynn Rosen, who works as a realtor. Rosen says that the tax burden the override will place on many area residents would be unreasonable. "I understand about needing to fix the roads, but I am finding it a little unconscionable that it's on the backs of so many people who are on fixed incomes. I'm all for progress, but it seems like we are moving ahead in leaps and bounds without consideration of the people that live here." Rosen worries that it could have negative impact on the housing market. She says that two of her potential home sales have fallen through when buyers learn about the tax rate they would be paying if the measure passes. Rosen is concerned that if the measure passes, it could trigger a broader negative reaction in the local housing market. Ironically, that is the opposite argument being advanced by fellow Brighton Realtor Jordan Genso, who is heading up The Committee To Be Right On Roads, which is in support of the override. He says if the city roads continue to fall into disrepair, that will prove to be a disincentive for people looking to buy homes in Brighton. "Choosing to not raise taxes now allows for us to coast a little longer without negative effect, but it doesn't actually avoid the consequences Lynn is basing her argument on -- it only delays them." Because of reductions triggered by the Headlee Amendment, Brighton only collects around 15.65-mills from taxpayers. If approved on Tuesday, the 4.35-mill difference would generate roughly $1.85 (m) million dollars per year. City officials say that further reductions to the budget will mean cutting core services and that finding additional revenue is the only way to generate the money needed in order to properly maintain the city’s roads. Rosen is skeptical that is true and says greater efficiency in how money is being spent combined with a smaller tax increase could better solve the issue. (JK)

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