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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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    Livingston County has filed a lawsuit against embattled 53rd District Court Judge Theresa Brennan. County Administrator Ken Hinton says the civil lawsuit was filed Friday and that the county is suing Brennan in her individual capacity rather than as an elected official. The county is seeking in excess of $25,000 to compensate for wages that Brennan allegedly misused, saying she abused her authority for personal gain. The lawsuit claims Brennan had employees under her supervision perform personal tasks for her during working hours and that the employees' reported time worked was paid for by taxpayer funding. Brennan’s former law clerk, Jessica Yakel, previously testified that she routinely performed the services of a personal assistant while on county time, including paying the judge’s bills, having her vehicle serviced, fixing her television set and even staining her deck. The filing comes just days before the deadline for Brennan to respond to an amended complaint filed against her by the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission. The charges in the complaint allege Brennan made false statements concerning work employees did for her judicial campaign, as well as improper demeanor toward an attorney. Brennan is required to respond to the complaint by tomorrow. The initial complaint filed by the Commission stems from Brennan’s relationship with former Michigan State Police Detective Sean Furlong. He served as the chief prosecution witness during the 2013 double murder trial of Jerome Kowalski, which Brennan presided over and resulted in Kowalski’s conviction and life sentence. Brennan and Furlong admit to an affair but claim it began after the trial. Testimony and documents from Brennan’s 2017 divorce indicate the relationship began long before Kowalski’s trial. Brennan has since had her local caseload removed and re-assigned, but technically remains on the bench. She is also the subject of a separate criminal investigation by Michigan State Police. (DK)

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    Northfield Township officials are wrestling with the need for a potential multi-million dollar investment for their sewer system. For years, the Northfield Township residents and the Board of Education have discussed the possibility of an equalization basin for the waste water treatment plant. Supervisor Marlene Chockley said the township has “not been responsible” and this would be a chance to make right with several entities.She pointed at special assessment districts on Whitmore Lake Road and on 7 Mile Road, along with contracts with neighboring Green Oak Township. She said this could do right to property owners who have paid a lot of money to be able to tap into a sewer system when the time comes. Chockley said that she’s been told the township can accept around 200 more connections before reaching capacity. While development is slow right now, she believes it is coming, and that without modern technologies like low-flow toilets and washing machines, they may have already reached it. By township estimates, the project will cost around $3-million. In a letter to the Board, Township Manager Steven Aynes reported that a 20-year bond on the project would cost the Township approximately $4.4-million after interest. During the public comment period at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Board of Trustees, resident David Gordon doubted any growth in the area, sharing his opinion that the sewer system is fine and that a basin is not needed. He said the only desire he sees is the desire to grow more debt, and that the Board’s job is to not spend taxpayer money foolishly. Trustee Wayne Docket applauded this. Trustee Janet Chick said she has received emails from residents in the sewer district who are in favor of the project over the past couple days. Further discussion on the topic was tabled Tuesday night, and will appear on the next meeting’s agenda. (MK)

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    A South Lyon woman who tried to escape police custody by way of the Brighton Mill Pond has had her appeal denied. 34-year-old Lisa Finlayson was sentenced last year in Livingston County Circuit Court to two years and 10 months to eight years in prison for her conviction on one count of escape while awaiting trial for a felony. On Tuesday, the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected her attempt at a new trial, saying there was no error sufficient to overturn her conviction. Finlayson contended that because she was quickly brought back into custody, she was only guilty of attempted escape, an argument the appeals court rejected. The charge stemmed from an August 2016 incident when she and another inmate ran off as they were being escorted from the 53rd District Court in Brighton into a patrol car. Finlayson jumped into the Brighton Mill Pond, but was pulled out shortly after with a dredging device. The other inmate was arrested after breaking into a home to steal a change of clothes. Finlayson had been in custody for operating while intoxicated causing death as a result of her role in a 2015 crash that killed a motorcyclist from Howell. Finlayson’s 3-year-old son was a passenger in the vehicle at the time and testing later revealed cocaine in Finlayson’s system. She was sentenced to serve 86 months to 15 years for her guilty plea in that case. Her sentence for the escape attempt is running consecutive to that. (JK)

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    A Highland Township couple is due back in court this week after their home, which served as an assisted living facility, was raided by narcotics officers. The Oakland County Narcotic Enforcement Team executed a search warrant August 2nd at the home on Essay Lane in Highland Township. 48-year-old Russell Cockerham and his wife, 45-year-old Angela Cockerham, served as the facility managers for the adult assisted living home. Authorities say a search warrant was obtained after an investigation into delivery of cocaine involving the Cockerhams. Once on the premises, officers said they found cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy and morphine, along with firearms and packaging materials associated with drug trafficking. Officials say while the residents appeared to be in good health with no obvious signs of neglect, Michigan Adult Protective Services was contacted and notified of the incident. Russell Cockerham was charged with possession with intent to deliver cocaine, possession with intent to deliver ecstasy, possession with intent to deliver marijuana, possession of morphine, being a felon in possession of a firearm and five counts of felony firearm. Angela Cockerham is charged with one count of heroin possession. The couple is scheduled for a probable cause hearing Thursday in Oakland County District Court in Novi. (JK)

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    Local students looking for inexpensive options for Homecoming dresses can take advantage of a non-profit boutique next month. High school students will have two opportunities in September to shop Cinderella’s Closet, which is held at Snedicor’s Cleaners in Brighton. The eco-friendly program, operated by LACASA, collects new or gently-used formal dresses over the course of the year and sells them for $25 apiece to teens before homecoming, and then again in the spring during prom season. All proceeds go to provide help and hope for victims and survivors of interpersonal violence at LACASA. The boutique will be open September 6th and 7th from 3 to 8 pm, and on the 8th from 11am to 4pm. The second shopping weekend will be held September 13th through the 15th with the same hours of operation. Limited dress scholarships are available by speaking with the project leader on duty. LACASA wants to remind shoppers that they must be a high school teen and will be required to present a school ID. More information about Cinderella’s Closet can be found at the link below. (DK)

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    A $2 million renovation project for State Street in the City of Howell hangs in the balance as officials hope to obtain a state grant that would cover the majority of the cost. The City last year applied for a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, but was denied. However they were later approached by the MEDC about the State Street project and received feedback encouraging them to apply again, which officials think is due in part to the downtown area winning the “Great American Main Street Award” earlier this year. The scope of the project includes complete reconstruction of State Street between Clinton and Grand River, Peanut Row Alley, and some work on a private alley that runs north and south, according to Community Development Director Tim Schmitt. The extent of the work would include burying power lines, sewer, water and sanitary improvements, and rebuilding State Street to make it a “festival street”, which is a barrier-free street that would give the downtown events more room to operate. City Council on Monday approved funds for the design portion of the project that would begin this fall in the amount of $74,000. The City would only need to cover around $300-$400,000 in design and engineering costs, as the $1.7 million grant from the state would fund the heart of the infrastructure work. The goal is to begin construction in the spring and while officials are remaining hopeful, they cannot say with certainty that the project will take place until the grant is a guarantee. Schmitt says it’s not possible without it and the project would be put on hold if they are not the recipients. (DK)

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    53rd District Court Judge Theresa Brennan says a complaint filed against her by the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission should be dismissed. The 47-page document was filed in response to the complaint filed by the Commission, stemming from Brennan's relationship with former Michigan State Police Detective Sean Furlong. He served as the chief prosecution witness during the 2013 double murder trial of Jerome Kowalski, which Brennan presided over and resulted in Kowalski’s conviction and life sentence. Brennan and Furlong admit to an affair but claim it began after the trial. Testimony and documents from Brennan’s 2017 divorce indicate the relationship began long before Kowalski’s trial. In her response, Brennan admits having contact with Furlong while the Kowalski case was assigned to her, but says the commission’s interpretation is misleading. Brennan maintains activities mentioned in the complaint, such as sporting events and dinners, were infrequent and typically group activities involving other people. Brennan admits to having phone calls and texts with Furlong during the trial but does not believe it was done routinely and says she has not been able to review phone records because they had been in possession of her husband and the JTC until August 8th. As to the charge that she should have disqualified herself from the case because of her relationship with Furlong, Brennan states it was open and obvious throughout the legal and law enforcement communities and insists it was just a friendship. As to allegations Brennan had employees under her supervision perform personal tasks for her during working hours – which is also the subject of a recently filed lawsuit against Brennan by Livingston County - Brennan denies doing so and claims she told employees that the work must be done outside county work hours. She also denies any employees spent county time working on her campaign. In closing, the document states Judge Brennan “respectfully prays that Amended Formal Complaint No.99 be dismissed with prejudice and that she be awarded such other and further relief as appropriate”. The full document may be accessed through a link on our website. An October 1st hearing is set to hear evidence in the case, after which the Judicial Tenure Commission will make a recommendation to the Michigan Supreme Court whether discipline against Brennan is warranted. (JM/JK)

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    Hundreds of volunteers came out in support of the Livingston County’s largest community service event. Wednesday marked the date for the 17th Annual Livingston County United Way Day of Caring event. More than 1,200 volunteers visited 130 sites, in the name of giving a little help to those who are less fortunate. Many of these workplaces were located at the homes of senior citizens, disabled residents, or on the site of non-profit organizations. Volunteers performed projects like painting, cleaning yard waste, and trimming hedges. Day of Caring Co-Chairman Piet Lindhout led a team of 10 members from the Brighton Rotary Club. The crew pulled out on old, steep, un-safe ramp and built a new, safe one from scratch for a woman who’s been struggling with a walker and scooter. Lindhout said the response from all the people they’ve helped so far has been warm and fuzzy. He said “They can’t believe that we’re doing it and not asking for anything but a ‘thank you.’ I think it’s great to see Livingston County Step up and be good neighbors, because that’s what we ought to be- good neighbors, helping each other out. And you see that today.” Lindhout took a moment to thank everybody who dedicated their time and talents for the event, saying that the volunteers’ efforts are not unappreciated. He said that while the United Way’s name is on it, it couldn’t be done without the outpouring of support they have received from the community. (MK)

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    Two of the three bargaining units representing employees in the Brighton Area Schools have ratified contract re-openers for the 2018-19 year. BESPA, representing about 100 hourly employees, and BASAA, which represents about 20 administrators, both ratified salary and wage reopeners last week. BESPA is the Brighton Educational Support Personnel Association and represents secretaries, para-professionals, maintenance workers, food service and ancillary service personnel. The Brighton Area Schools Administrators Association represents about 20 principals, assistant principals and department directors. Both bargaining groups will receive 2% pay hikes, and will be required to attend professional development classes that are directly associated with their positions. Superintendent Greg Gray tells WHMI the contract talks were cordial and the vote to ratify was unanimous on the part of both bargaining units. The district is also currently involved in discussions on a contract re-opener with the Brighton Education Association, representing 318 district teachers. After a couple of preliminary meetings, the two sides will be meeting regularly as the start of school draws near, according to Gray, the chief negotiator for the district. (JK)

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    Green Oak Township residents will soon be able to view an outline of future and ongoing projects in the municipality, as well as each one’s cost, funding source and objectives. A Capital Improvement Plan is mandated by the state and aims to secure project planning in local communities. Green Oak Township currently has a master plan, but it’s over 100 pages long and is considered to be not as user-friendly as a CIP. The township’s Board of Trustees met Wednesday and approved a resolution to comply with the state’s planning requirement, after reviewing a basic outline of what will be the municipality’s first CIP. A CIP functions as a financing tool for the township’s Board of Trustees and residents by offering a snapshot of improvement projects scheduled within the next six years and sometimes beyond. Officials will update the plan annually around budget-planning time. The plan was developed by Chuck Fellows, a member of the Planning Commission, Treasurer Susan Daugherty and Supervisor Mark St. Charles. St. Charles says the board has been “dragging their feet” when it comes to the CIP as they tried to determine the best way to approach it. The goal was to make it accurate, but also easy-to-read and understand. Township officials are still finalizing the document but hope to have it posted on the township’s website within the next 30 days. The CIP lists each project by priority, cost, funding source, and start and end dates. St. Charles says though the plan is still being edited, he’s certain that Green Oak’s new police station will be listed as the first priority, and likely followed by additional parking spaces at township hall. (DK)

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    Howell Planning Commissioners, happy with the current mix of businesses, have shut down the idea of changing a downtown ordinance. “If it ain’t broke…” began Chairman Paul Streng, who let the familiar idiom trail off before finishing it. That was opinion of most Howell Planning Commissioners when faced with question of potentially changing an ordinance that dealt with first floor uses in the downtown area. Community Development Director Tim Schmitt said this was part of the city’s 2017 ordinance update that the planning commission didn’t want to go through with last year. Schmitt recently had the planning firm Carlisle Wortman look through the downtown zoning and offer options that could successfully promote a healthy downtown, if the planning commission wanted to attack it at this time. One of the goals is to create a walkable downtown that doesn’t have too many businesses that are closed at night. The idea is to get a mix of retail and office, but if there are too many dentists, real estate offices, or the like that close at 5pm, that can kill foot traffic and change the dynamic of the area. One possible ordinance change would be to put future offices on the second floor, leaving the first open for retail. Many Commissioners felt they already have a good mix, and that opening this ordinance is unnecessary. Mayor Nick Proctor agreed, saying he didn’t view the city as having a problem now, but cautioned that there may be a tipping point somewhere down the line. Unknowing how future Commissions may handle the change if it should come, he set the question of whether they should be proactive now or reactive later. Pleased with the current mix, the Commission decided to do nothing on the matter until a time when they deem it more necessary. (MK)

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    A ceremony next week will mark the beginning of construction for the expansion of the Salem-South Lyon District Library. Community members approved a millage increase of .49 mills in 2014, with the generated revenue supporting library repairs and additions. Library Director Donna Olson says the proposed $1.2 million project came with a promise to enhance library facilities and make timely capital improvements. Four years later, Olson says they are finally getting to fulfill that promise. The library’s HVAC system has since been upgraded and public restrooms renovated, and work on the largest component of the project will soon begin. A survey of the community found that many residents wanted to see the library grow its children’s services. Olson tells WHMI the current children’s area will be renovated and will double in size by adding another 2,800 sq. ft. The children’s addition will allow for more room for materials, dedicated space for tweens, additional casual seating and a programming room. The project is expected to take about nine months, with a rough completion date in May of 2019. The groundbreaking ceremony will be held at the library, located on Pontiac Trail in South Lyon, and will take place this coming Tuesday, August 21st, at 6pm. Olson encourages residents to attend, saying that the ceremony is really about thanking the community for their support and involvement. Olson says it has truly taken a village to bring the project to fruition, but knows it’ll be worth it as she feels the community will be very happy with the end result. (DK)

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    A Genoa Township man has been bound over for trial on charges connected to an incident involving gasoline and a gun. 50-year-old Michael Troy Mapes was bound over to Livingston County Circuit Court Wednesday, after District Court Judge Suzanne Geddis determined there was enough evidence to send the case to trial. Judge Geddis also denied a motion from Mapes’ attorney requesting to allow parenting time. Mapes is facing multiple felony charges including assault with intent to murder, attempted murder, arson-preparing to burn a building, and resisting/assaulting a police officer among others. The charges stem from the April 10th incident that began with a call to the Livingston County Sheriff's Office around 8:45pm regarding a suicidal subject that was possibly armed at a residence off of Brighton Road in Genoa Township. The subject, later identified as Mapes, had already fled the area when a unit responded. Early the next morning, the Sheriff's Office received a second call from the residence indicating Mapes had returned. The 41-year-old female caller indicated that she had awoke to Mapes pouring gasoline on her and around her bed. The caller explained she observed a lighter in his hand and that Mapes had a rifle slung over his shoulder. The victim and her two children ages 12 and 14 were able to flee the residence, and while doing so heard a gunshot and Mapes yelling. Deputies formed a perimeter and attempted to negotiate with Mapes for several hours. He eventually tried to leave the area in his vehicle, but was taken into custody after a short vehicle pursuit and physical altercation with deputies on scene. If convicted, Mapes could be sentenced to life in prison. He is being held in the county jail on a $1 million bond and future court dates have not been set at this time. (DK)

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    A local lawmaker is taking steps to potentially impeach embattled 53rd District Court Judge Theresa Brennan, who is accused of corruption in office and perjury. State Representative Lana Theis says the investigation by the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission began over 18 months ago but it wasn’t up until roughly two months ago that Brennan finally had her caseload removed and re-assigned to a visiting judge. She says Brennan is now getting paid to sit at home and do nothing while taxpayers are now paying a visiting judge to hear all of her cases. Theis feels there have been extended delays of justice and says she’s heard from numerous people wanting to know when action will be taken to hold Judge Brennan accountable. Theis says there is another alternative should the JTC not act appropriately or timely in this case and the legislature has a constitutional authority to remove Brennan from office. Theis believes that authority exists for situations such as this, where justice in her opinion is not being served adequately through the JTC. She says rules require the JTC to be as expeditious as possible, which Theis feels is lacking for not only Brennan but others, and speed is not typically there when looking at a judge acting inappropriately. The legislature will be back in session in September and in the meantime, Theis says she will be drafting a resolution with impeachment language to bring forward at that time. The JTC complaint stems from Brennan’s relationship with former Michigan State Police Detective Sean Furlong, who served as the chief prosecution witness during the 2013 double murder trial of Jerome Kowalski. Brennan presided over the trial that resulted in Kowalski’s conviction and life sentence. Brennan and Furlong maintain they had a friendship that morphed into an affair but claim it began after the trial. Testimony and documents from Brennan’s 2017 divorce indicate the relationship began long before Kowalski’s trial. Brennan just filed her response yesterday to the amended complaint filed by the JTC and a hearing will commence October 1st. The case will be heard at the 16th District Court in Livonia, a decision made to ensure there is no conflict of interest. A Michigan State Police criminal investigation also remains active. (JM)

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    Aircraft wreckage discovered in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is confirmed to be that of a Livingston County couple missing since 1997. Mackinac County Sheriff Scott Strait said Thursday the remains have been positively identified as those of missing couple Mark and Janet Davies. The single-engine Piper PA-28 that 45-year-old Mark Davies was piloting took off September 14th, 1997 from Drummond Island in Lake Huron and was headed to Howell. A four-day search at the time failed to find the remains of the couple or the plane. The NTSB at the time concluded the airplane was presumed to have been destroyed and the pilot and passenger were presumed to have sustained fatal injuries. It was a huge mystery to everyone in the local community, including Davies family and staff at Scranton Middle School in Brighton where Janet worked as an art teacher. The wreckage was discovered on July 11th in the Hiawatha National Forest near St. Ignace in what was describe as a very remote and wooded area, which made it difficult for investigators to inspect the site. Strait says the National Transportation Safety Board has completed its on-site investigation. (JM)

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    A local art show is being presented this weekend at the Howell Opera House. The Livingston Arts Council is inviting everyone to come and view the 13th annual Fine Arts Show being held through Sunday in conjunction with the Howell Melon Festival. Held on the first floor of the Opera House, there will be art for sale and showcased, including paintings, jewelry, digital prints, photography and more. Artists will be present to discuss their work and answer questions. There will also be a “make and take” art table and two community murals for families to contribute to. The show runs from 3 to 9pm today, Saturday 10am to 10pm, and Sunday 10am to 4pm. Admission is free and open to the public. (EO/JK)

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    If anyone lost their bag of pot, they can call a local police department and claim it. The Argentine Township Police Department received a report Wednesday morning from a caller who spotted what they believed to be a bag of marijuana on McCaslin Lake Road. Police responded and confirmed that the bag was indeed full of marijuana. Police Chief Dan Allen said there were about 10 to 12 individual bags found inside a larger bag that weighed between 10 grams to 30 grams each. According to Allen the total weight is 190 grams, and is worth about $2,600 on the street. The chief posted it on the police departments Facebook page and people were jokingly commenting on the post. Chief Allen hasn’t received any calls from people claiming it as theirs. (EO/JK)

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    A scale model of a national memorial honoring veterans will be making a hero’s entrance as it makes its way into Howell for a four-day residency. The Wall That Heals is a ¾ scale replication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that stands in the nation’s capital. Stretching roughly a football field’s length, it is made from the same synthetic material, has the same reflective quality, carries all the names, and shares the same 120-degree angle as the original in Washington D.C. Visitors can even feel the names and take home rubbings if they please. The Wall is currently a on a 38-state tour and will be set up at the Livingston County Airport, in Howell from this coming Thursday the 23rd, through Sunday the 26th. Tim Tetz, Director of Outreach for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund said that veterans and supporters should also target this Tuesday afternoon for a special event as it arrives into town. The last hour of the Wall’s journey to its next destination is traditionally done with a motorcycle escort. Tetz said he hopes they are joined by 100s of motorcycles that will take the 51-foot trailer transporting the Wall down the final stretch. Tetz said this escort parade is a way to give Vietnam Veterans the celebration experience they didn’t get, that veterans from World Wars 1 and 2 received upon returning home. He’s hoping that residents and supporters will line Grand River Avenue for the last stretch of the journey between Brighton and Howell. The Wall’s escort is estimated to be in Brighton around 2:45pm, and Howell at 3pm. Once set up, the wall will be available for free public viewing 24 hours per day. Several events are scheduled to take place throughout the weekend. An Opening Day Ceremony will happen at 6:30pm on Thursday. On Friday the 24th, First Responders will be recognized at 6:30pm. Agent Orange awareness discussions will take place on Saturday the 25th at 10am and 2pm. On Sunday, beginning at 2pm, there will be a Women in the Military Tribute, followed by the closing ceremony. The Mobile Education Center will also be set up. There will be display cases with artifacts from the Vietnam War and two 6-foot screens. One will show the names of all the Vietnam Veterans from Livingston County and 6 others surrounding it, the other will display the names of veterans from Michigan who returned from Vietnam, but later died of injuries from their time of service. This event is being hosted locally by the Livingston County Chapter of Disabled Veterans 125. (MK)

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    A Handy Township crash Thursday seriously injured a motorcyclist. The Livingston County Sheriff’s Office says deputies were dispatched around 7:20pm to the intersection of Grand River and Stow Road for a crash involving a motorcycle and Jeep Wrangler. The preliminary investigation indicates a 40-year-old resident of Sidney Township in Montcalm County was operating a 2013 Harley Davidson motorcycle eastbound on Grand River when he rear ended a 2013 Jeep Wrangler pulling a trailer. The Jeep was operated by a 31 year old, also a Sidney Township resident, who was stopping for traffic in front of her. Both were reportedly on their way to the Easy Rider Festival taking place this weekend at the Fowlerville Fairgrounds. The motorcycle operator suffered life-threatening injuries and was transported to Sparrow Hospital by Livingston County EMS while the operator of the Jeep was not injured. Grand River was closed for approximately 3 hours during the investigation. The motorcycle operator was not wearing a helmet while speed and alcohol do not appear to be factors in the crash. The crash remains under investigation by the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Safety Division. Deputies were assisted at the scene by personnel from the Fowlerville Area Fire Department and Livingston County EMS. (JK)

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    At its meeting this week, the Brighton Board of Education voted to approve the promotion of BHS counselor Jennifer Sprys-Tellner to the position of grade-level principal at Brighton High School. Her appointment marks the addition of one co-principal for a total of 4 starting this fall at the 2,100-student school. Sprys-Tellner will be a grade principal, but was elevated to her new position in part to help students with counseling needs and emotional issues. Superintendent Greg Gray tells WHMI that with her counseling expertise Sprys-Tellner will be a valuable addition to the high school administrative staff. Sprys-Tellner has been employed by the Brighton Area Schools since 1991. She was an elementary teacher for 12 years and became a school guidance counselor in 2003. In 2014, she was also named executive board advisor, and most recently, she was named coordinator of counseling services at the high school. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in counseling from Eastern Michigan University. Her annual salary will be $101,665. (TT)

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