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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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    A Pinckney woman is facing multiple charges for allegedly embezzling from her employer, a small electrical company. Tracey Lynn Sindlinger is facing ten charges in 14A-1 District Court in Ann Arbor for allegedly embezzling from Stein Electric in Manchester. The counts include embezzlement between $50,000 to $99,999, embezzlement by an agent or trustee between $1,000 and $19,999, possession of a financial transaction device, illegal sale or use of a financial transaction device, stealing or retaining a financial transaction device without consent, and five counts of uttering and publishing. Michigan State Police at the Brighton Post conducted the investigation. Assistant Post Commander/Lieutenant Mario Gonzalez tells WHMI the alleged embezzlement appears to have occurred over three years, beginning in 2015. He says it’s a small family owned business and Sindlinger was the company accountant. After she was terminated, he says the owners went through records and noticed discrepancies. An investigation commenced, which resulted in the criminal charges and an arrest warrant being issued for Sindlinger. She is scheduled to appear for a probable cause conference August 30th. (JM)

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    A local municipality will be looking for a new city manager after another hired theirs away. South Lyon City Council Thursday voted to hire Linden City Manager Paul Zelenak as their next city manager, replacing Lynne Ladner who had resigned previously due to health issues. South Lyon Police Chief Lloyd Collins had been serving as the interim city manager in her absence. Zelenak had been one of three finalists that council was planning on considering, but ended up being the only one to actually interview for the position. Thomas Skrobola, former director of management services for the city of Kalamazoo, dropped out of contention after he accepted another job offer, while Redford Township Supervisor Tracey Schultz Kobylarz was hospitalized after being critically injured in a car crash August 15th. No timeline for her recovery was available. 43 candidates submitted resumes for the position, which pays between $90,000 and $100,000. Zelenak says he plans to give the city of Linden a 30-day notice. He told the South Lyon Herald that he has a priority list once he begins his tenure in South Lyon. At the top will be meeting with staff and residents in the community so they can get to know him. Mayor Dan Pelchat said he is confident Zelenak will hit the ground running. (JK)

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    The opening ceremony for The Wall That Heals exhibit in Howell featured a guest speaker with an exciting story about his family’s escape from Vietnam and their gratitude for the United States Armed Forces. Visitation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial officially began Thursday at the Livingston County Spencer J. Hardy Airport and kicked off with a special ceremony. Guest Speaker Phillip Pham was just four months old living in Vietnam when his father, a First Lieutenant for the South Vietnamese Air Force, decided to steal a C-130 cargo plane for his family and 50 others to escape to Singapore as North Vietnamese forces converged on Saigon. On April 3rd, 1975, Phillip’s father, Khiem Pham, talked a co-pilot out of a mission in order to take his place, then informed the crew he would be commandeering the plane. The group was able to make it to Singapore and eventually the United States. Phillip says his father and the others that escaped were seeking the freedom that would’ve been taken away from them by Northern Vietnamese communists. Khiem had some objection to the idea that he “stole” the plane, joking that he actually just "borrowed" it, but expressed his gratitude for veterans and those whose names are on The Wall That Heals. Both Khiem and Phillip became emotional thanking the U.S. Armed Forces for their role in bringing them to America, the veterans in the audience for their service, and those whose names are on the Wall for their sacrifice. The ceremony included reading the names of the “sons of Livingston County”, which are the seven men from the area that lost their lives during the war, followed by laying their placards and wreaths at the wall. The Wall That Heals and other exhibits at the site will be open 24 hours a day through Sunday. First responders will be honored at the site this evening with a ceremony at 6:30pm. A schedule of the weekend’s events can be found at the link below. (DK)

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    The Handy Township Planning Commission has taken steps towards officially amending their sign ordinance. The commission put their stamp of approval on what they hope will help them better balance the ability for local businesses to advertise versus signs that could be perceived as ugly in a variety of ways at their meeting Thursday night. Handy Township Planner John Enos said they’ll never get the perfect ordinance, but this will hit a lot of what they want. The amendment sets allowances and rules for free standing signs built at reasonable heights, wall signs, and projecting signs. It also stipulates that signage must be “content neutral” as recently decided by the United States Supreme Court. Zoning Administrator Bill Call said he received no correspondences or comments from the public on the amendment. Handy Township Clerk Laura Eisele sits with the Planning Commission and suggested that after the time and efforts they’ve spent crafting it, it’s time to see if it works for the county. The amendment will now go before the Livingston County Planning Commission for possible recommendation. Following that, it will be sent to the Handy Township Board of Trustees for consideration of adoption. (MK)

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    Police continue to search for a second suspect in the hit and run death of a Whitmore Lake man on Wednesday. The Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office says 62-year-old Michael Lachance was pulling out of a diner onto Ecorse Road in Ypsilanti Township just before 11am Wednesday, when his Ford Fusion was hit by two speeding vehicles. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Witnesses say the Audi and Chrysler 300 were speeding to pass each other at the time on the road. Sheriff's spokesman Derrick Jackson said that after colliding with Lachance’s car, both motorists kept going but crashed, with one of the vehicles hitting three parked cars at a gas station on the north side of the road. Both drivers fled on foot. Investigators apprehended the driver of the Chrysler 300, a 31-year-old Ypsilanti resident, a short time later. The Audi driver remains on the run. Police believe he is 25-year-old Duane Che Cochran, and are seeking the public’s help to locate him. Anyone with information regarding the crash is asked to contact the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office at 734-973-7711 or 1-800-SPEAK UP. (JK)

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    Several events are scheduled this weekend to coincide with The Wall That Heals exhibit, including panel discussions on Agent Orange and a prayer service. The Wall That Heals is a three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., and is currently on display at the Livingston County Spencer J. Hardy Airport in Howell. The Wall and other exhibits on site will be open to the public 24 hours a day until 3pm Sunday. Two panel discussions on Agent Orange, a defoliant chemical used by the United States in the Vietnam War, will be held at the John E. LaBelle Public Safety Complex, which is located on Tooley Road off of M-59, behind the airport. The first panel will take place at 10am Saturday and a second will occur at 2pm. Dale Brewer, a member of The Wall That Heals committee, says the panel discussions will focus on the extensive effects of Agent Orange on veterans and their families. Then at 9pm, a brief prayer service will be held at the Wall to honor Livingston County veterans, those who were killed in action, nurses, and clergymen that were involved in the Vietnam War. You can find a schedule of this weekend's events at the link below. (DK)

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    The man charged with causing a crash last year in Oceola Township that killed five people entered a plea in court today. 22-year-old Matthew Jordan Carrier of Fenton pleaded no contest to 19 counts, including five counts each of second-degree murder and operating while intoxicated causing death. The charges arise out of a traffic crash at M-59 and Argentine Road on May 9th, 2017 that resulted in the deaths of five individuals and serious injury to two others. Investigators say Carrier ignored a stop sign as he traveled south on Argentine Road and smashed into a vehicle as it traveled eastbound on M-59. Two people in Carrier's car died. Three people in the other vehicle died, including a probation agent who had been honored at a Corrections Department banquet earlier that night. Livingston County Prosecutor Bill Vailliencourt says the court made the decision to accept a no contest plea, which is treated the same as a guilty plea, because Carrier claimed a lack of memory due to his intoxication. He added that Carrier’s conduct “was outrageous and has caused unspeakable harm that will be felt for years. And it could have all been avoided by making the simple decision not to drink and drive.” Vailliencourt says his office did not offer any plea or sentencing agreement in exchange for the plea and that when Carrier is sentenced on September 12th, “the victims and their families will have the opportunity to explain to the court how this tragic and senseless act has affected them.” State sentencing guidelines recommend a minimum prison sentence between 225 months (18.75 years) to 375 months (31.25 years) or potentially a life sentence. Vailliencourt says a final decision by Judge Hatty will await the preparation of a pre-sentence investigation and victim impact statements. (JK)

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    The two candidates vying for the 8th District Congressional seat in November have both now issued debate challenges to one another. On Friday, Republican Congressman Mike Bishop challenged Democrat Elissa Slotkin to agree to three debates in the 8th Congressional District. Bishop accepted a debate invitation from WDIV’s Flashpoint. The Mike Bishop for Congress campaign has received inquiries and details to two other debates will be forthcoming. Bishop said “Our economy in Michigan and across America is roaring with record low unemployment and economic growth that was 4.1% in the second quarter. I believe it is vital for 8th District voters to understand the differences between the candidates and how to keep our economy growing and moving Michigan forward. As someone who has lived here my entire life and has been given the honor to serve the people of my community, I believe I have a duty to share my vision with the voters in a fair, open, and professional setting that treats all with respect. I hope Ms. Slotkin agrees.” This is not the first call for a debate. Slotkin issued a public challenge to Bishop on August 7th to join her for at least three public, in-person debates. Slotkin says she followed up on the challenge with a certified letter dated August 17th. Instead of responding directly to her request, her campaign says Bishop -- who is feeling the pressure of the first real competition he has faced in his career -- issued his own challenge to Slotkin to attend three debates. To that, Bishop spokesperson Stu Sandler responded: “If Elissa Slotkin were in Michigan for previous elections, she would know that Mike Bishop has always debated his opponents. Elissa Slotkin on the other hand has only voted once in Michigan and that was for herself a few weeks ago in the primary. As far as her letters, we never received them. My guess is if Elissa Slotkin did send them that they were returned to her house in Washington DC. Mike Bishop is proud to have committed to the WDIV Flashpoint debate and will discuss additional debates in the future”. Slotkin says she has already confirmed her appearance on WDIV’s “Flashpoint” for a debate against Rep. Bishop. Slotkin says “Rep. Bishop is insulting the intelligence of the voter by attempting to look like a leader by saying he will appear in public forums, something he has been dodging over the last 22 months. I issued the challenge to Rep. Bishop for three, public debates on my primary night on August 7th, and when I didn’t hear back, I wrote him a certified letter dated August 17th. Rep. Bishop is playing games with the voter and using tactics that people have come to hate from career politicians in Washington. A real leader answers a challenge when issued, clearly, quickly, and with seriousness. I look forward to publicly debating Rep. Bishop now that he appears willing to do so”. (JM)

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    The majority of public school students in Livingston County will be heading back to class on Monday. Due to a change in law, school districts across the state are eligible to receive waivers from the Michigan Department of Education that release them from the requirement to start school after the Labor Day holiday. The Livingston Educational Service Agency or LESA was awarded a waiver for all five public districts in the county, which allows them to start before Labor Day if they choose. The early start date helps local districts align more closely with community college calendars for their early college and dual enrollment programs. The start date is part of the calendar that’s worked out during teacher contract negotiations. Brighton Area Schools is the only district starting after Labor Day this year. Superintendent Greg Gray told WHMI they are currently in the last year of a five-year teacher contract, thus they will begin class after the holiday. Although local superintendents told WHMI they informed parents in their respective districts very early on for planning purposes, the pre-Labor Day start still seemed to come as a surprise to some. Howell Public Schools Superintendent Erin MacGregor tells WHMI a few years ago, the state changed the number of required instructional days from 75 to 180 days. He says that shift prompted HPS to start looking at the change in start date so a survey was sent out about a year and a half ago. MacGregor says feedback was 50/50, with no indications strongly either way. Once the decision was made to start early, he says they worked to really communicate heavily with parents and hasn’t really received any negative feedback heading into the new school year. Educationally, he says the early start provided opportunities for them to better align to dual enrollment and early college programs students are involved in, and they’ll also end the school year about a week earlier. He noted they also had one full year to prepare the community that they would be starting before Labor Day. MacGregor says change is always difficult and just anecdotally from conversations he’s had around the community, he has heard some concerns about the change. However, MacGregor feels once he talks things through – the fact they have the fact they have increased days which is pushing the end date later into June and they can align with college programming - he thinks families begin to understand the rationale. MacGregor further said he likes the way they’re easing into the change by starting with a four day week, since students and staff are off next Friday and Monday for the holiday, allowing for a long holiday weekend. He thinks staff can look at it as an opportunity next week to ease into routines and procedures of the classroom, and then start to get into instruction. LESA Superintendent Mike Hubert told WHMI that all districts starting on the same day throughout the county, and even holding school during the year on the same days, would certainly be ideal from his perspective because the Agency provides so many services throughout the county and that would make their efforts much more efficient. However, Hubert says as a matter of process the school calendar is established locally and he believes the local priorities and preferences should be respected. Below are further comments provided to WHMI by local superintendents. Hartland Superintendent Chuck Hughes: “We made the decision in January and shared with the community in Community Life and through the schools. We feel that all students deserve an opportunity to participate in programming that starts before Labor Day and many activities start before Labor Day. Next year we plan on starting August 21 and will be done with first semester by Holiday Break and done the first week of June. “ Pinckney Superintendent Rick Todd: “I sent a letter to parents last year (Aug. 1, 2017) about the change. Honestly, I have not gotten any negative feedback from parents and I think one of the reasons is that I let our community know a year in advance so they could plan their vacations accordingly. I know many parents appreciated this. So far this year, things seem to be moving along as normal as kids and families are excited to be starting school next week and I have yet to talk with a parent who was negative about the change.” Fowlerville Superintendent Wayne Roedel: “Students begin on the 27th or August this year and attend for four days and then have a four day weekend for the holiday before the grind starts. There are multiple reasons why we are choosing to do this. 1. The schedule more closely resembles that of the community colleges and we have many students who participate in dual enrollment. 2. It gives students and staff four days to get into the routine of school and to develop norms and expectations in each classroom. 3. High School sports teams have been practicing since the first week of August. It makes sense that students would be in session during their competitions. We will still play one football game prior to students even being on campus. 4. Our schools do not have air conditioning and it is easier to work hard in the heat when school is fresh rather than the end of the year in June. I have not received much negative feedback from parents or students." (JM)

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    Sunday is the last day for community members to visit The Wall That Heals before it’s packed up for the next leg of its journey to Wisconsin. The Wall That Heals is a three-quarter scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., and is currently on display at the Livingston County Spencer J. Hardy Airport in Howell. The Wall arrived at the airport Tuesday and is open to the public 24 hours a day until Sunday afternoon. The Wall’s last day in Howell will be marked with a ceremony at 2pm, which will honor women in the military, nurses, and Blue and Gold Star families. A Blue Star family has a family member who is currently serving in the Armed Forces, while a Gold Star represents a family that has lost a family member in the service. Carol Johnson has been volunteering at The Wall That Heals exhibit and is a Gold Star mother herself. Her son, Staff Sgt. Gregory McCoy, was killed in action November 9th, 2006, while serving in Baghdad, Iraq. Johnson's husband and brother are both Vietnam veterans and her father was a WWII veteran. She is grateful they were all able to come home safely, despite bearing the scars of their service. She believes, "...as long as you say the name and come here to honor anyone on the wall, then they're not forgotten." Johnson says a female veteran chaplain will lead the tribute, which will also serve as the Wall’s official closing ceremony. The Wall will then be dismantled at approximately 3pm to prepare for the trip to its next stop in Wisconsin. More information about this weekend’s events can be found at the link below. (DK)

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    The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has issued an updated “Do Not Eat” fish advisory for all fish in the Huron River in Livingston, Oakland, and Washtenaw Counties. Friday’s advisory updates a previous advisory issued in early August relating to PFOS for fish from the Huron River. This clarifies the waterbodies for the ‘Do Not Eat’ fish advisory on Huron River at North Wixom Road, including Norton Creek, and downstream to the Huron River at the Livingston/Washtenaw County line. The Livingston County waterbodies included in the advisory are Ore, Strawberry, Zukey, Gallagher, Loon, Whitewood, Base Line and Portage Lakes. Fish tested from Kent Lake were found to have high PFOS levels, and the update is to account for recent surface water data showing that fish in an additional area should also be included in the advisory. Fish filets were tested as a result of the state’s PFAS effort. The advisory relates to the state’s work to address PFAS and PFOS chemicals. Health officials say touching the fish or water and swimming in these water bodies is not considered a health concern as PFAS, which includes PFOS, do not move easily through the skin. An occasional swallow of river or lake water is also not considered a health concern. The Department of Health and Human Services’ full advisory is attached below.

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    A Mason man is dead and a Webberville man hospitalized following a Friday crash. The Ingham County Sheriff’s Office says deputies responded around 2pm Friday to Okemos Road and Howell Road in Alaiedon Township for a two car crash that resulted in a fatality. The Office reports a vehicle traveling southbound on Okemos Road was being driven by a 76-year-old Mason man. He was struck by a vehicle traveling westbound on Howell Road being driven by a 30-year-old Webberville man. There is a stop sign for both directions of traffic on Howell Road. Authorities say the Mason man died at the scene while the Webberville man was transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The Sheriff's Office is investigating the cause and says the intersection was closed for a few hours. (JM)

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    A charity softball triple-header Saturday in Highland included a memorial tribute to Darian Locklear, a Brighton High School student-athlete, and teammate Julianna Ward-Brown of Howell High School, who were both 16 when they were killed in a car crash last Feb. on I-96 near Williamston. The two young women, who were members of the Meijer AAA hockey team, were headed to practice in Lansing at the time. According to Regina Locklear, Darian’s mother, the softball games are part of the Joe Kocur Foundation Celebrity Softball Series at Duck Lake Pines Park in Highland, with all the funds raised going to local kids charities. The moving tribute took place at 4:15 p.m. — just before the last of the three games. Regina Locklear says it’s not too late to donate, and those wanting to contribute should go to the foundation’s website, www.joekocurfoundation.org. On Sept 15th, Locklear’s supporters will field a team called “Darian’s Kindness Warriors” for the Gilda’s Family Walk & 5K Run in Royal Oak, with proceeds going to Gilda’s Club of Detroit, which provides support for families dealing with cancer. Darian’s family and friends have already raised over $4,000, and so far, 71 people have signed up to be on the team. Their goal is $5,000 and 91 team members, because 91 was Darian’s hockey number. ˇThose wishing to volunteer or to donate can go to gildasclubdetroit.org. Earlier this month, Darian’s support family participated in the “Play with Purpose” Fundraiser organized by Steve Kiefer, whose son was killed by a distracted driver just two miles from where Darian and Julianna died. That event was held on Aug 11th at the USA Arena in Plymouth and the local group sold “Live Like Darian” t-shirts and bracelets to support the Kiefer Foundation. Darian’s supporters also created a hockey grant program called the Darian Locklear Memorial Fund of up to $5,000 for local female hockey players to be awarded annually to two or three young women and managed through USA Hockey. The first grant will be awarded around the holidays this year, and prospective young women can apply for the grant by going to the USA hockey website. A playground was also built in Darian’s honor this year at The Haven, a shelter in Pontiac for women and children who have been victims of domestic violence and abuse. The playground, called “Darian’s Playground”, was constructed this spring at the shelter with the $40,000 donated by Darian’s supporters, which was matched 100% by Regina Locklear’s employer through its Cooper Foundation. Some 75 volunteers helped the Michigan Recreational Construction Co. of Howell build the playground in just one day. Regina Locklear says establishing the Darian Locklear Memorial Fund, and participating in the charity fundraisers, has been a positive way for her and her family to deal with the grief that has resulted from the tragedy, saying, “I want to keep her memory alive and do good things for her.” She says everyone who knew Darian was struck by her outgoing attitude, her kindness, and her compassion. (TT)

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    Two local forces dedicated to the arts are teaming up for a grant opportunity in Howell. The Livingston Art Council has requested that the Howell Downtown Development Authority be their local governmental partner as they apply for a National Endowment for the Arts placemaking grant. DDA Director Cathleen Edgerly said with the DDA’s focus on bringing art and culture downtown, this partnership is a natural fit. This new “Our Town” grant is for helping place-based projects, like the Opera House, and other areas of Howell that could use art to improve the quality of life. Matching grants range from between $25,000 and $200,000. The Livingston Art Council will be responsible for all of the funding, which places no burden on the DDA or the City of Howell. Mayor Nick Proctor said that City Council discussed the grant opportunity at a recent meeting and supported the two entities joining forces to pursue it. The Downtown Development Authority approved the partnership by unanimous vote. (MK)

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    Michigan seismologists, with the help of scientists, are studying a meteor that exploded in the air on January 17th and showered small fragments in Livingston County's Hamburg Township. The Detroit Free Press reports that University of Michigan seismologists and scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego will publish their combined data in an upcoming research paper. The findings could help researchers understand how often bolides occur outside the view of witnesses. Bolides are meteors that explode in the atmosphere. It's rare for such large meteor events to occur in a heavily populated area within the recording capability of several scientific instruments. People in Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Missouri also reported seeing the meteor.(AP/TT)

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    The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has issued an updated “Do Not Eat” fish advisory for all fish in the Huron River in Livingston, Oakland, and Washtenaw Counties. Friday’s advisory updates a previous advisory issued in early August relating to PFOS for fish from the Huron River. This clarifies the waterbodies for the ‘Do Not Eat’ fish advisory on Huron River at North Wixom Road, including Norton Creek, and downstream to the Huron River at the Livingston/Washtenaw County line. The Livingston County waterbodies included in the advisory are Ore, Strawberry, Zukey, Gallagher, Loon, Whitewood, Base Line and Portage Lakes. Fish tested from Kent Lake were found to have high PFOS levels, and the update is to account for recent surface water data showing that fish in an additional area should also be included in the advisory. Fish filets were tested as a result of the state’s PFAS effort. The advisory relates to the state’s work to address PFAS and PFOS chemicals. Health officials say touching the fish or water and swimming in these water bodies is not considered a health concern as PFAS, which includes PFOS, do not move easily through the skin. An occasional swallow of river or lake water is also not considered a health concern. The Department of Health and Human Services’ full advisory is attached below.

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    Michigan seismologists, with the help of scientists, are studying a meteor that exploded in the air on January 17th and showered small fragments in Livingston County's Hamburg Township. The Detroit Free Press reports that University of Michigan seismologists and scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego will publish their combined data in an upcoming research paper. The findings could help researchers understand how often bolides occur outside the view of witnesses. Bolides are meteors that explode in the atmosphere. It's rare for such large meteor events to occur in a heavily populated area within the recording capability of several scientific instruments. People in Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Missouri also reported seeing the meteor.(AP/TT)

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    The largest free preparedness event in Michigan is coming back to Howell next month. The Family Readiness Expo is set for Saturday, September 8th at the Livingston County EMS Building beginning at 9:30am. Organizers say it has become increasingly important for residents to be prepared in the event of a weather event or other disaster in which first responders from the county, state or federal level may be delayed in providing assistance. 16 speakers will give presentations over the 8 hour day in 2 different classrooms. Sheriff Mike Murphy will host in one classroom, with Retired U.S. Army Ranger Jim Rutherford in the other. While parents are participating in the discussions, kids can take free tours of the U of M Survival Flight helicopter and jet, along with ambulances, firetrucks and a sheriff’s tactical vehicle. The event is free with free shuttle service to and from the event. More information can be found online through the link below, (JK)

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    A meeting this week will give residents in the City of Howell an opportunity to learn about a Headlee Override request on the November ballot. City officials are preparing for the November 6th General Election by developing a public education effort regarding the request. If approved, a Headlee Override would allow the City of Howell to increase its authorized millage rate for five years by an additional 4.5003 mills. The request would restore the authorized millage amount, which has been reduced by the Headlee Amendment. The proposal would generate approximately $1.4 (m) million per year, beginning in July of 2019. Officials say the revenue would allow the city to maintain continued levels of service, in addition to infrastructure improvements such as roads. In order to communicate the entirety of the request and its outcome should it receive voter approval, city officials will hold several public education sessions prior to the election. The first informational meeting is set for this Wednesday, August 29th at 7pm at Howell City Hall. A follow-up meeting is set for Wednesday, September 12th, with two meetings also scheduled for October. A similar effort to pass a Headlee Override recently failed in the City of Brighton by a slim margin. (JK)

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    Michigan children will be missing out on almost $1 billion in funding this school year, and a new report blames what it calls "state budgeting gimmicks." Voters approved the School Aid Fund more than two decades ago to support K-through-12 education. But research from the Michigan League for Public Policy shows over the past nine years, $4.5 billion from the fund was shifted to universities and community colleges. Report co-author Peter Ruark says it's a tactic to prevent General Fund dollars from being used on higher education. "This is just a shell game to help legislators avoid the difficult decisions about revenue enhancements, which mean raising some taxes. We've cut taxes so much that now we have to take them from public schools." The report says School Aid Fund money was shifted for the first time in 2010 as a one-time fix to help balance the budget after the recession. Gov. Rick Snyder has continued to use fund dollars for higher education in every budget, starting with $400 million in 2012. Ruark adds the same year, lawmakers slashed per-student spending by $470 while approving a $1.6 billion tax cut for businesses. Community college operations have been entirely funded by the School Aid Fund in three of the past five state budgets. And one-third of university funding in the most recent budget comes from the School Aid Fund. Ruark says K-12 schools and higher education are both important, and shouldn't have to compete for dollars. "Universities and community colleges need students to come through sound and solid public school systems, and public schools are dependent on a good higher education system to produce good teachers, produce jobs." The report says more than $900 million from the School Aid Fund is set to go to higher education in the 2019 budget. Ruark says it's money that could be used in K-12 classrooms to improve early literacy, expand preschool and increase per-pupil spending. Public News Service contributed to this report. (JK)

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