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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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    Students at one local high school are taking part in a statewide program to help prepare them for their secondary education. October is Michigan College Month and students at Howell High School are participating in events promoting a variety of post-secondary education options. All Highlander seniors this year are receiving several resources to help prepare them for attending higher and alternate learning institutions after high school. School staff and volunteers are also available to help seniors complete applications, whether they are for college, technical, or trade programs. Michigan College Month is part of a larger, national initiative which aims to encourage every high school senior to submit at least one college application and complete the Free Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA, by the end of the month. October is just the first of 3 event-filled months for Howell High School students promoting a college-going culture. Students will also have a chance to take part in the College Cash Campaign which focuses on financial aid and scholarships; and a Decision Day Assembly in the spring which celebrates the decisions graduating seniors have made. (MK)

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    Bi-partisan legislation co-sponsored by Congressman Mike Bishop has been signed into law. The Synthetic Trafficking and Overdose Prevention or STOP Act of 2018 was sponsored by Republican Congressman Mike Bishop and Democratic Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. of New Jersey. It was included in the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act signed into law by President Trump. The STOP Act requires the U.S. Postal Service to transmit advance electronic data to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for at least 70% of international shipments coming into the U.S. by the end of 2018, and 100% of inbound international shipments by 2020. Bishop called the law, “an important victory for our nation and for all those suffering from the opioid epidemic” noting that almost 2,000 people died last year in Michigan from opioid overdoses. Bishop said he was astounded to learn that previous law treated packages coming in through private carriers like FedEx and UPS differently than it did shipments through the United States Postal Service (USPS), and as a result, drug traffickers could readily ship synthetic opioids into the country through the USPS. During testimony before the Senate last May, it was noted the STOP act would cost the Postal Service between $1.2 and $4.8 (B) billion over a ten year period. Further, USPS would have to pay new customs fees but would be unable to recoup costs from customers. (JK)

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    The Brighton Area School District's legal firm has informed school officials that it is legal for the teachers’ union to conduct candidate interviews in the school. The Thrun Law Firm also reaffirmed to Superintendent Greg Gray Wednesday that it was legal for the Brighton Education Association to have an office in a public school facility (in this case, Brighton High School), use the school district’s e-mail account and hold meetings there. The Thrun firm represents the majority of Michigan school districts in legal matters. At the Board of Education meeting Monday night, Trustee John Conely had requested that Gray contact Thrun for an updated opinion, focusing on whether the candidate interviews conducted this fall were, in fact, legal. Gray said he would report the results of the legal opinion to the board at its Nov. 12 meeting. Based on the selections of a screening and recommendation panel, which conducted the interviews, the BEA chose three “recommended” candidates out of the six. According to BEA President Matt Dufon, they include Angela Krebs, Laura Mitchell and incumbent Trustee Ken Stahl. Not among the recommended candidates were Sean Hickman, Andy Storm and Kara Totaro. The terms of Board Vice President David Chesney and Conely, like Stahl’s, expire at the end of the year. However, Chesney and Conely indicated some time ago that they were not running for re-election. Conely says he is satisfied that Supt. Gray “did his job” in getting the legal opinion, but continues to contend that such interviews are a violation of the law. As such, Conely says he intends to file a formal complaint with the state charging that the BEA is in violation of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act for holding its meetings at the high school and using the district’s computer for its e-mails. (TT)

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    The City of Howell held its final public information meeting in front of a critical Headlee Override vote on Election Day, November 6th. City staff and elected officials broke into separate stations to have discussions with residents on what the Headlee Override will do if it passes, or what could happen to the city, if it doesn’t. Howell, like several municipalities in the area and state, has had a rough time recuperating from the 2008 recession. Because of the Headlee Amendment and the way it works with Prop A, they are only drawing roughly 15.5 mills out of their city charter-authorized 20 from residents. If the Override passes on November 6th, the city will be able to draw the remaining 4.5 mills for 5 years. A homeowner with a house that has the average taxable value of $70,000 will pay around $315 more in city taxes each year. Roughly $250,000 of the $1.4-million it would generate would be used to offset a current operational deficit. The remainder would be used on roads and infrastructure. Howell Public Services Director Ervin Suida shared what may likely happen to the infrastructure if the vote fails. Suida said roads would be patched as they fail, as opposed to the less costly method of maintaining them before they do. He said that Howell residents expect a sense a reliability when it comes to sewer and water that he believes they currently provide. But, Suida says, Howell is an old city with an old system, and there are parts of the infrastructure that have never been replaced, or were last replaced 60 to 70 years ago. He said getting in there and fixing that is critical. Deputy Police Chief Scott Mannor said that if the Headlee Override fails, some of the police department’s services would likely be affected. That could include foot and bike patrols, vacation checks, and work with business owners and apartment complexes. Mayor Nick Proctor said, “If we let the roads deteriorate, property values will undoubtedly decline and people won’t move into the city. Business development will stop. They’ll stop coming to town to town because the infrastructure is poor, and that’s the slow death of a city, I believe. Or, do we want a community that will invest in the infrastructure, make our roads passable, livable, and foster a good sense of community. It’s a good environment for people to live, and a good environment for businesses to flourish.” If the vote fails, Proctor and City Council will have to immediately begin looking at ways to offset their quarter-million dollar deficit this current fiscal year. Proctor said tough decisions will have to be made on staff and service reductions, and that’s just for the current year. He warned that it could lead to the slow decline of the city. More information can be found through the link below. (MK)

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    Professionals will be working to scare residents out of their wits this weekend in Howell. The annual Scary Storytelling Festival will return to Downtown Howell this Saturday evening, featuring the professionals of the Ann Arbor Storyteller Guild. Two different spooky events are being offered. At 7pm, a Children’s Scary Story will take place on the first floor of the Howell Opera House. Admission is free. That will be followed by a scary story adult concert at 9pm in the 2nd floor theater, which is deemed appropriate for ages 14 and older. A donation of $20 includes dessert and coffee for the adult event. Seating is limited and organizers caution that there is no heat so if the weather is cold outside, it could be chilly in the Opera House. You’ll find registration details through the link. (JM)

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    The Salvation Army of Livingston County is getting ready to kick off the Red Kettle season with its annual Blessing of the Bells. The Salvation Army will host a breakfast and ceremony to bless the bells that will be used through the upcoming Christmas season. Each year, the Salvation Army of Livingston County says a blessing over the bells that the men, women and children use to help raise awareness and much needed monetary donations. This year, the Salvation Army is collaborating with The Brighton, Hartland, and Howell Chambers of Commerce and their members making it a community wide event. The Red Kettle Campaign is the Salvation Army’s largest fundraiser of the year. Corps Officer Major Prezza Morrison will join with others in praying over the bells for those who will ring them, those who will hear them and those who will donate. Morison tells WHMI it's how they kick off Christmas time but also tell people where the funds are going so they know what their donations are supporting. She says it's a way to thank the community for all of its support. The event is free and Morrison says everyone is invited, adding it can also serve as networking opportunity. She reminds that those looking to give back this Christmas season can go online to www.registertoring.com to sign up for bell ringing. The link is provided. The Blessing of the Bells is on Thursday, November 8th at 7:30am at the Salvation Army’s 3600 East Grand River address. The Parker Middle School choir will be performing. RSVP’s are appreciated from those looking to attend. An event flyer is attached. (JM)

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    One local legislator is looking to curb the use of minors using tanning beds in an effort to help prevent skin cancer. State Representative Hank Vaupel of Handy Township introduced a measure this week that would protect minors from the dangers of artificial tanning. The proposed bill would block tanning salon owners from allowing people under 18 from using their beds regardless of parental or legal guardian consent. The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that people who use tanning beds before the age of 35 are at a 75% increased risk for melanoma. Vaupel, who chairs the House Health Policy Committee, said that whether you get a tan from a bed or the sun, that continual UV radiation exposure is proven to lead to premature skin aging and various forms of cancer. The Representative said that while trillions are being spent on treating debilitating diseases, only 4% of health care costs are spent on preventing them. He believes that by eliminating what he calls some of the common sense causative factors, like, tanning beds, fairly dramatic cuts in health care costs could be achieved. Vaupel said that dermatologists and oncologists are sensitive to the fact that this might slow down the use of beds a little bit. The representative said that people looking at tanning options should consider spray tanning options that are safer than beds. House Bill 6450 now moves to the House Regulatory Reform Committee for further consideration. (MK)

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    A woman charged with supplying the dose of heroin that killed a Gregory man has been sentenced. 37-year-old Lisa Mae Shears pleaded guilty to one felony count of delivery of less than 50 grams of a controlled substance in Washtenaw County Trial Court last month. She was originally charged with delivery of a controlled substance causing death, which is punishable by up to life in prison. Last week, she was sentenced to one year in the Washtenaw County Jail, with credit for 79 days already served, and five years of probation. However, her remaining jail time may be served in a residential treatment program. Shears admitted to providing the fentanyl-laced heroin that killed a 32-year-old Gregory man on November 29th, 2016. Washtenaw County Sheriff's Deputies responded to the 7000 block of Parklawn Drive in Dexter Township, where it was determined the man died of an apparent drug overdose involving fentanyl. Shears and other people had been discussing drug interactions with the man via social media and while police were executing a search warrant, Shears was implicated in providing the drugs that led to the man's death. (JK)

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    Livingston County residents are being encouraged to get prepared ahead of the November General Election. That means checking voter registration status, polling locations, and studying sample ballots to review offices up for election as well as state and local proposals according to Livingston County Clerk Elizabeth Hundley. She tells WHMI voters should expect high turnout on November 6th and it would be beneficial if they’re prepared. Hundley further reminds voters that there will be no straight party ticket option this November. In the past, she says voters could fill out a single mark to cast votes for all partisan positions within a particular political party but that is no longer the case under Michigan law. There is also still time for Livingston County voters to obtain their absentee ballots before Election Day. With the high turnout anticipated, those who are registered and qualify are encouraged to vote absentee. Voters can request to have an absent voter ballot mailed to them, but should take into consideration how long the standard mailing process takes to ensure it will arrive and can be returned on time. The county and all city and township clerk offices will be open until 2pm on the Saturday before Election Day to issue absentee ballots. Voters can also arrive in person up until 4pm on Monday, November 5th to request a ballot. All absentee voter ballots must be received by 8pm on Election Day, which is when polls close. Livingston County Elections Coordinator Joe Bridgman says contrary to what some people might think, every single vote counts and absentee ballots are absolutely counted. He says they get questions all the time and some people believe absentee ballots are only counted if there is a tie but that is incorrect. Bridgman tells WHMI all absentee ballots are processed starting Election Day morning and counted, and those results are added to the Election Day results for every single ballot that comes in. Sample ballots are available for viewing on the Livingston County Clerk’s webpage, and that link is provided. There is also a QR scan code that can be used to locate a voter’s precinct and polling location. Additional voter education stories will be featured by WHMI as the November General Election draws near. Both Hundley and Elections Coordinator Joe Bridgman will be featured guests on WHMI’s Viewpoint program, which airs this Sunday morning at 8:30. (JM)

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    Two Marine reserves camping in a local recreation area claim they may have a had a run in with a legendary beast. 23-year-old Wil Neill of Utica and 20-year- old Tyler Kroetsch of Livonia were camping at Waterloo State Recreation Area last month, near the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail. In a message posted on the discussion website Reddit, one of the two Marine reserves wrote that they may have had an encounter with Bigfoot. According to MLive, around 2am one morning, they wrote they were awoken by footsteps that sounded as though they were 20 to 25 feet away. The duo heard what they could only describe as the most “loud, freakiest, inhuman yell, scream” or “roar” shouted at them twice. The creature then took off running in what sounded like a two-footed run. When it was suggested that it may have a been a cougar, the Marine reserve wrote that the sounds of the impact made by the feet of the creature crashing through the woods weren’t made by something running on four feet. The screams from the animal, he said, weren’t at ground level, either, but instead coming from 5 to 7 feet above ground. The growling filled the entire forest. The Department of Natural Resources has confirmed 35 cougar sightings in the Upper Peninsula since 2008, but not one has been confirmed in that time in the Lower Peninsula. The poster said he and his friend are both avid outdoorsmen, and that they grew up in camping families. He claimed that they are no strangers to wildlife or the wilderness, but that this was unlike anything either of them have ever heard.(MK)

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    A number of local police agencies are taking part in another National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this weekend. Local agencies are partnering with the Drug Enforcement Administration to provide a venue for citizens to dispose of unwanted, unused or expired prescription drugs. The drop off service is free and anonymous, with no questions asked. However no liquids, inhalers, patches, or syringes will be accepted at the sites. Drugs can be dropped off from 10am to 2pm this Saturday at a variety of area agencies. Among them include the Michigan State Police Brighton Post, the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office, and the Brighton, South Lyon, Wixom and Fenton Police Departments. MSP Colonel Kriste Kibbey Etue says troopers see daily the devastation caused by opioid and prescription drug abuse, accidental poisonings and overdoses and ask people check their homes and get rid of any medications no longer needed. Further, disposing of unused medicines by flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash can pose safety and health hazards. National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day is held twice a year, in April and October. During the April 2018 effort, MSP posts collected roughly 966 pounds of prescription drugs. A complete list of drop-off locations this Saturday and other information is available through the provided link. (JM)

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    Livingston County’s unemployment rate held mostly steady from August to September. Livingston County’s September jobless rate stood at 2.9%, marking a slight improvement of one-tenth of a percentage point from August. Livingston ranks 11th among Michigan’s 83 counties, after dropping one spot. The Detroit-Warren-Dearborn statistical area, which encompasses Livingston County, was among those with the most pronounced over-the-month reductions recorded. The Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget says unemployment declines were largely influenced by usual September reductions in the labor force, coupled with seasonal recalls in area schools as the academic year commenced. Workforce levels moved down in a majority of areas, while total employment trends were mixed across the state. Overall, officials say labor market trends exhibited typical movement for September. (JM)

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    The Red Cross is in need of healthy blood donors as flu season picks up. With influenza activity coming into full swing and hurricanes down south , the American Red Cross is in urgent need of blood to ensure a strong supply for patients-in-need. Donors of all blood types are needed, especially type O, after hurricanes Florence and Michael forced 200 blood drives to be cancelled. This resulted in the loss of approximately 7,000 units of blood and platelets that went uncollected. Blood and platelets can only be given by donors who are feeling well. If a donor has had a flu shot this season and is both symptom and fever-free, there is no waiting period to give. There are four opportunities to give blood in Brighton and Howell in the first two weeks of November. They are: Brighton: 11/3/18; 9:45am – 3:15pm, Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran Church Howell: 11/5/18; 1pm – 6:45pm, Oak Grove United Methodist Church Howell: 11/9/18; 11am – 3:45pm, St. Joseph Mercy Livingston Hospital Brighton: 11/13/18; 12pm – 5:45pm, First Presbyterian Church For more information on donating, download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. (MK)

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    The Brighton Board of Education voted at its meeting Monday to allow just one school board member to participate in, and vote, remotely at board meetings. The issue came up at a previous meeting when the question was posed whether it is even legal to have board members voting on a motion “in absentia” – a Latin legal term meaning in the absence of the person involved. However, the board decided not to allow a member who is not present - but in communication by phone or some other means – to participate in a closed session. The board also decided to continue using Robert’s Rules of Order in its bylaws as the parliamentary procedure to use at all board meetings. In fact, the board agreed to strengthen it by substituting the term “governed” by Robert’s Rules of Order for “guided” by Robert’s Rules of Order. (TT)

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    The Hartland Township Planning Commission made a use determination on a business that sells utility farm and landscaping equipment. Ryan Wurtzel helps run a chain of family-owned Kubota-Bobcat dealers across the state. He was in Hartland Township Thursday night as the Planning Commission discussed the possibilities of a new location opening up on Highland Road across from Target. The parcel, which is zoned General Commercial, formerly housed a used car dealership (pictured) owned by LaFontaine Used Cars of Hartland. LaFontaine has relocated and the property is currently unoccupied. Earlier in the day, Planning Commission Chairman Larry Fox had driven by the Wurtzel’s Saginaw location, took pictures, and had some concerns. The Saginaw store had attachments, pallets, and tire stacks outside, which Fox sad would not be allowed in General Commercial. Wurtzel said their Jackson store was a better model for what Hartland would be. A street view of that location showed a more traditional tractor sales store that many Planning Commissioners said they would be okay with it. The Planning Commission made the decision that the Wurtzel’s business would be considered similar to that of an auto sales and repair business. Under General Commercial zoning, this requires a special use permit. In that process, the township can establish criteria and limitations of what will be allowed. Other concerns voiced included the sizes of the vehicles, and the worry that they may begin creeping off of paved areas and onto the grass, which is not allowed. Public hearings will be a mandatory part of the special use permit process, which Wurtzel will now begin to work on. Picture courtesy of Google Street View. (MK/JK)

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    Plans for the redevelopment of a historic building in downtown Howell are moving forward again now that a tax assessment settlement has been reached. The owners of the historic Pearl building disputed the city assessment for the two parcels that make up the property on Grand River for the 2017 and 2018 tax years. The building is referred to as “The Pearl Building” as a nod to its art deco features that the owners feel capture the opulence of the Roaring Twenties. Howell Auto Parts occupied the building until 1962. More recently it was an Advance Auto Parts branded store, but that closed in April 2017. Owners Jeff and Colleen Doyle purchased the building in 2017 and have plans to completely renovate the building but the tax dispute has held things up. Doyle appealed the city’s assessment of the property to the Michigan Tax Tribunal, although it was settled before that body took up the case. The Howell City Council held a closed session during Monday night’s meeting and unanimously approved a settlement agreement. The true cash value of the parcels was reduced by more than half and the City will refund the owners $16,000 for taxes paid in 2017 and 2018. The first parcel was originally $487,000 and now has a $240,000 true cash value while the second parcel was originally $128,800 and was reduced to $60,000. With the settlement reached, Doyle now plans to pursue different grant opportunities through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. (JM)

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    Three unsafe buildings in downtown Howell are slated for demolition. The City’s building official declared the structures at 102, 106, and 108 Elm Street as unsafe in September. A formal appeal hearing was held during Monday night’s Howell City Council meeting, in which city building official, community development director and property owner Eric Myers were all sworn in and provided testimony. Council voted unanimously to demolish the buildings and proceedings will now commence through the local court system. City Manager Shea Charles tells WHMI inspections over the summer found a number of life/safety issues and some of those were addressed but more importantly long term is that they noted several potential structural deficiencies. One request of Myers was to provide a structural analysis. Charles says the property owner noted that based on his conversations with assorted architects that it was probably more financially appropriate for him to look at demolition and reconstruction so they’ll see what happens as they move forward. There was lengthy discussion before the decision to demolish was voted on. Some of the major life and safety violations identified were addressed by Myers but a myriad of other issues were not by given timelines. Both Myers and council concurred that the structure would basically need to be completely rebuilt to meet current codes. However should Myers decide to rebuild, there would be challenges since the building doesn’t meet setbacks and it’s considered a non-conforming use. The property is also zoned commercial but does not have a commercial use. There are three structures on the property in question, which also contains a house and garage. Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Manor had concerns about giving the property owner time to address issues and said if construction of a house at 734 East Grand River is any indication, it likely wouldn’t happen as past projects give a good indication of how things play out in the future. That house was under construction for seven years and the building official noted it took a lot of time to get the project completed but they finally got through it. It was actually during that inspection that staff noticed the condition of the structure to be demolished, which contains the three rental units. The timing for demolition has yet to be determined but Charles said they’ll be moving forward over the next few weeks. Council requested that Myers work with the tenants to help them find them new housing options. (JM)

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    Governor Rick Snyder has appointed a pair of local men to two different state commissions. Appointments and reappointments to 29 boards and commissions have been announced this month by Governor Snyder. One among those is William Wooster of Milford, who was appointed to the State Teacher Tenure Commission. Wooster is a middle school teacher at Plymouth-Canton Community Schools and coaches cross country, basketball, and track. He is currently the treasurer of the Michigan Educational Credit Union Board of Directors. He will represent classroom instructors on the commission and serve the remainder of a five-year term which expires on August 31, 2020. Appointed to the Natural Resources Commission was Kevin Creagh of Williamston. Creagh is currently the director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. He previously served as the director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Creagh will represent Independents on the commission and serve a 4-year term that expires on December 31, 2022. His appointment is subject to the consent of the senate. (MK)

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    35-year-old James Witgen of Fowlerville recently appeared in 53rd District Court in Howell and was bound over to Livingston County Circuit Court, after District Court Judge Suzanne Geddis determined there was enough evidence to send his case to trial. Witgen is charged with three counts each of child sexually abusive activity and possession of child sexually abusive material, and six counts of using a computer to commit a crime. He was arrested on October 15th by Michigan State Police (MSP) troopers from the Brighton Post, following an investigation conducted by the MSP Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. The investigation stemmed from a cyber tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Further investigation led to locating a residence in Fowlerville, where a search of the home netted multiple internet capable devices and evidence. Court records show the charges against Witgen stem from an incident that occurred August 13th. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison for each count of child sexually abusive activity, four years in prison for each count of possession of child sexually abusive material and seven years in prison for each count of using of a computer to commit a crime. Witgen is also charged in Livingston County in a separate case in which he is facing one count of 2nd degree criminal sexual conduct stemming from an incident said to have occurred this past February. Future court dates for Witgen have not been set at this time. (DK)

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    There’s an opening on the Northfield Township Parks & Recreation Board. Residents who love their community and want to do more to help the township prosper are being sought as a member of the Parks & Recreation Board recently moved out of the area. Candidates are being sought to fill the remainder of the term that ends July 1st, 2019. The board is described as a dedicated group of residents and business owners working to establish a vision for future parks and recreation opportunities in Northfield Township, and developing projects that provide a tangible benefit to the community. Officials say two of the most recent and most noticeable projects resulting from the hard work of the board are the Bark Park and the Community Garden. The Parks & Rec Board has also been given the task of planning for future park amenities at the North Village. Upcoming projects will be done in accordance with the Parks & Recreation Master Plan. The board meets on the third Thursday of each month at 7pm. Interested individuals should submit an application and letter of interest by November 8th. The board will then review all interested candidates, and select their final candidate for recommendation to the Board of Trustees at the November 15th meeting. applications can be found through the provided link. (JM)

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