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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 local nonprofit has been recognized for their commitment to welcome and accommodate individuals with autism. The Autism Alliance of Michigan has presented LACASA Center with an Alliance Seal of Approval. LACASA is the first interpersonal violence agency in the state to receive the alliance’s seal. The Livingston County-based organization provides critical services for victims of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault. The agency also spearheads community-wide education and awareness programs that help prevent abuse. According to a release from LACASA, the presentation marked the culmination of a year-long process, including a series of trainings to ensure all LACASA staff learned how to assist, counsel and safeguard individuals with autism. To qualify for the Autism Alliance Seal of Approval, organizations undergo facility inspections to prepare their environments for individuals with autism. In addition, all employees and staff are required to complete specialized training workshops. LACASA President & CEO Bobette Schrandt said they were honored to receive the designation and were, “deeply committed to meeting the needs of every individual who walks through our agency’s doors.” In addition to completing all seal of approval requirements, Schrandt said, members of LACASA’s staff developed a coloring book in story form to familiarize autistic individuals and their families with the agency’s facility design and program offerings. AAoM President & CEO Colleen Allen said, “LACASA Center joins a respected group of Michigan organizations that strive to create safe and friendly environments for all children with autism and their families.” Other historic, cultural and recreational venues across Michigan also have joined forces with AAoM to better welcome and accommodate families affected by autism, including the Detroit Zoo and the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. “We are proud to equip our members with a better understanding of this disorder,” said Allen. “Our goal is to teach organizations responsive and interactive approaches that help them to better communicate and socially connect with those who face the unique challenges that accompany autism.” To ensure every family’s questions about autism can be answered, AAoM provides organizations with printed information cards about its free MiNavigator program, which is Michigan’s only centralized autism resource staffed by autism specialists. (JK)

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    The Brighton Area Schools will be receiving a nearly $99,000 grant from the Competitive School Safety Grant program to make safety and security improvements to the nine schools in the district. The $98,948 grant will be administered by the Michigan State Police. WHMI spoke with Superintendent Greg Gray after Monday night’s Board of Education meeting, and he said the district will use the funds for making the exterior of the buildings more impervious to prevent potential safety threats. Gray also said the funds will enable Brighton to have driver’s license screenings and look for potential issues involving district volunteers. According to Gray, the district has already made great strides in the area of student and staff safety as a result of the 2012 bond issue, which resulted in visitor vestibules and a system wherein visitors must hit an outside buzzer, which triggers two-way communication with the main office before the door is unlocked remotely and the visitor can gain entry. Several other area schools also received Michigan State Police School Safety grants, with the Livingston Educational Service Agency - the county’s intermediate school district — getting $480,000, which will require matching funds. Howell - the largest K-12 district in the county — will get $245,000, most of which will be used to update the schools’ outdated access system. The remaining $50,000 for Howell will be used to put into place the Raptor Visitor Management System. Finally, the Hartland Consolidated School District and Light of the World Academy will each receive roughly $23,000 and the Charyl Stockwell Academy, $20,000. (TT)

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    New legislation from a local lawmaker would require drug manufacturers to reveal how they set their prices. State Representative Hank Vaupel of Handy Township delivered testimony, Wednesday, for a bill he introduced that would increase transparency in drug pricing. Vaupel, who chairs the House Health Policy Committee, said the goal of his measure is to reveal the true costs behind manufacturing prescription drugs and how drug prices are set, because nobody seems to know. With different tiers of how drugs are priced and lots of moving parts like insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid, this would help start to get a handle on why drugs cost what they cost. Vaupel said that under the bill, drug manufacturers would have to reveal how much of their price comes from research, marking, manufacturing costs, and getting the medications to pharmacies. He believes that seeing how prices are determined will allow them to make better inroads on making sure health care is affordable to all. The Representative also introduced a companion bill that deals with pharmacy benefit managers. These managers are the unregulated negotiators between insurance companies and pharmacies. Vaupel said the bill would require them to register and disclose how they negotiate and how much profit they make, as that goes into the end price of medication. The measures are now waiting to be considered by the House Health Policy Committee. (MK)

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    The Salvation Army of Livingston County is requesting the gift of time this weekend. The Red Kettle season is the Salvation Army’s largest fund raiser bringing in 1/3 of the non-profit’s budget to provide programs and services for the next year. Officials say the red kettles are a crucial part of fundraising efforts and if they don’t have enough volunteers to man the kettles, then they hire bell ringers, because an unmanned kettle brings no funds at all. During this Giving Week, the Salvation Army is asking for the gift of time to help meet a goal that has never been accomplished before - a day with 100% volunteers. Officials say they are very close to making that happen this Saturday and need just a handful of people to help meet that goal. If that happens, they say there will be over 400 volunteers helping the Salvation Army provide hope. Those interested in ringing a bell this weekend can sign up online through the link provided. (JM)

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    The head of the local Democratic Party is calling for an independent prosecutor to determine whether charges should be filed involving a disputed donation. Judy Daubenmier is the Chair of the Livingston County Democratic Party and issued a press release today calling on Livingston County Prosecutor Bill Vailliencourt to bow out of the decision on whether to file criminal charges against the head of the Livingston County Veterans Services Committee Hansel Keene. Daubenmier says now that the former head of the Veterans Services Department has filed a whistleblower protection lawsuit against the county for his firing, there is a potential conflict of interest. “Vailliencourt might well be tempted to pass on pursuing charges against Hansel Keene for failing to turn over to the county a donation made by a member of the public. The filing of charges would lend credence to the argument that the director of Veterans Services was fired for blowing the whistle on Keene’s activity.” The former director, Adam Smiddy, filed the lawsuit earlier this month against the county and Keene, alleging he was fired after trying to determine exactly what happened to donations, including a check for $400, that were given to Keene. Daubenmier says that under the circumstances, it would be better for Vailliencourt to let the Michigan Attorney General appoint another prosecutor so that the people of Livingston County can have confidence in the result. “The county pays Vailliencourt’s salary and funds his office. It might be tempting for the county prosecutor to help out his fellow Republicans on the county commission and undermine the lawsuit against the county.” In response to the release, Vailliencourt provided this statement to WHMI; “The State Police conducted a lengthy investigation that is being reviewed by this office. In the course of that review, if it becomes evident that there is a conflict of interest, we will address it at that time, as we do in every case.” Michigan State Police recently turned over to Vailliencourt the results of its investigation into the handling of the donation by Keene. A member of the public had complained she was unable to obtain a receipt from Keene for the donation of $400, some vacuum cleaners, and a lawnmower, made nine months earlier. She complained August 22nd to Smiddy, who was then the director of Veterans Services. Smiddy says when confronted about the donation, Keene admitted cashing the check, spending $125 on a plaque, and keeping the balance. Smiddy was fired by the committee headed by Keene four days later. Issues with the county’s Veterans Services agency first came to light in early September when Keene told county commissioners there was just $80,000 in available funds. Livingston County Democrats countered that budget records showed there was actually more than a million dollars in unspent funds from a voter-approved millage and publicly complained that the millage money was not being spent for the services that were promised during the millage campaign. (JK)

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    The Pinckney Village Council is looking to annex the parcel of land where its water treatment plant is located. Council earlier approved a resolution to petition for ownership and control of the property, which is located in Putnam Township. The vote was unanimous. Annexation allows property to become part of a neighboring city or village. The property must be contiguous to the existing city or village boundary lines to qualify for annexation, which the parcel does. Pinckney Village Council President Linda Lavey says it’s where pumps bring freshwater out of the ground and then the treatment plant. She tells WHMI they actually own the property but it’s technically not in the Village so Council is looking at expanding the Village limits to include the property they already own. Lavey says they’ve been thinking about it for years and the parcel is around 400 feet by 600 feet but has a pump house in the middle of it. She noted the parcel is tax exempt, so there’s really no controversy. The annexation process is continuing and must proceed through Putnam Township and the Livingston County Board of Commissioners before anything can be finalized. (JM)

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    A new survey is up for community input on ideas to be developed within the Livingston County Transit Master Plan. The Livingston County transportation planning project has taken feedback from area residents and developed a dozen options for new or better transportation services throughout the county. Now, the Livingston County Transportation Coalition, stakeholders, and analysts are asking residents to help them further zero in on what’s important to them. They can do so by taking the new online survey. The 12 proposed ideas are laid out in the survey in the fashion of a restaurant menu, with “appetizers,” or ideas that can be more easily implemented, and “entrees” for the ones which provide a bigger challenge. Transportation Coalition Chairperson Dr. Leo Hanifin said what people are looking for in the Master Plan really depends on each individual’s own situation. He said that people in the rural areas, as well as seniors, find the dollar rides very important. With the ¾ of residents working outside the county, and 60% of county workers coming from elsewhere, moving people in and out is also a priority. Hanifin also said that 57% of residents who they’ve heard from aren’t happy with the biking and walking paths. Other proposed ideas on the list are services running between Brighton and Howell, and commuter services to hospitals, Ann Arbor, and Oakland County. Hanifin said the results from this survey will be used to help determine priority on which options will be further developed. Following this, the involved parties will develop a financial analysis, have a governance discussion, then present a full plan later this year, or early next year, for final response from citizens. Hanifin said the final report should be ready sometime around February. Take the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/livcotransitpriorities. (MK)

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    A Howell man will serve jail time and probation for sexually assaulting a teenage girl and using extortion against her by way of nude photographs. 18-year-old Scott William Minton learned his sentence Thursday from Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hatty. Court records indicate Minton was sentenced to five years of probation with the first year to be served in the county jail. He pleaded guilty as charged last month to a count of assault with intent to commit sexual penetration and an added count of attempt to commit sexual penetration. In exchange for Minton’s plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the eight remaining felonies Minton originally faced, which included 1st degree criminal sexual conduct and extortion. Minton, who was 16-years-old at the time of the incident, agreed to be sentenced as an adult and to not attend the same school as the victim. Minton is also required to register as a sex offender for life. Charges were filed last year after Minton was accused of using extortion to force a 16-year-old girl he went to school with to perform sexual acts multiple times between April and May of 2017. He is said to have demanded sex from the victim and threatened to share explicit photos of her if she did not comply. The incidents are said to have occurred on property adjacent to Howell High School. Though Minton was a minor at the time of the incidents, he was charged as an adult. Livingston County Prosecutor Bill Vailliencourt previously told WHMI while it isn’t common practice to charge a juvenile as an adult, his office will do so when the circumstances are appropriate. (DK)

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    An embattled member of the South Lyon City Council has refused a request to resign in the midst of an ongoing controversy involving another council member. The Oakland Press reports that South Lyon Mayor Dan Pelchat asked Councilman Carl Richards to resign during a meeting Thursday afternoon, but that Richards declined to do so. The request came three days after an Oakland County Circuit Court judge issued a personal protection order against the 72-year-old Richards. The request for the PPO came from fellow council member Mary Parisien, who told council Monday that Richards had bragged at a local business to peeping into her home, describing the interior in details and then making comments about her sexuality, insinuating she was a "topless dancer at a gay bar." Pelchat also reportedly asked Richards to make a "heartfelt" apology at the December 10th council meeting. Richards said he would read a letter of apology. A criminal investigation by South Lyon Police concluded with no criminal charges being filed against Richards. However, the council referred the incident to the city’s Ethics Board, which meets December 6th, to determine if Richards conduct violated the city’s ethics ordinance. (JK)

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    The dreaded winter driving season has arrived once again, and while we’ll get a bit of a reprieve for the next few days with above-freezing temperatures, local officials say just because there might not be any snow, doesn’t mean that roads aren’t slippery. Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy says they want people to make it to their destinations safely but also recognize that there will inevitably be accidents and crashes. He says it’s important to be prepared, avoid distractions and pay attention to driving. He says while most Michiganders might be familiar with black ice, they often times forget about it too. Murphy advises that motorists use extra care and caution this winter season, leave extra room for vehicles in front of you and allow plenty of time to stop when approaching stop signs and traffic lights. In the event of an accident or crash, Murphy suggests motorists keep some things in their vehicle such as a flashlight, fresh batteries, a blanket or jacket, granola bars, kitty litter and a shovel. He further advises keeping the gas tank at least half full. Murphy says it’s not uncommon if they have a crash that people could be sitting and waiting awhile for a tow truck - especially if no one is injured or only minor injuries are involved. (JM)

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    After serving the City of South Lyon for over two decades, Police Chief Lloyd Collins will soon be retiring. Collins recently announced his plans and told WHMI that it “works out economically” for him to retire at this time. He also noted that he’s had “a pretty good career”, with over 50 years spent in law enforcement with three separate agencies. Collins first worked with the Oakland University Department of Public Safety, before moving on to the Southfield Police Department, where he worked for almost 26 years. He then came to South Lyon, which he will have served for approximately 21 and a half years by the time he leaves. When asked about his favorite memories as South Lyon’s Police Chief, Collins says there’s too many to list, but that he did enjoy leading the city’s parades. This year’s Cool Yule parade, set to be held this Saturday, will be the 64th parade he’s led as the city’s police chief. While he says some may think it’s because the police chief wants to be at the head of the parade, it’s more about the privilege of looking out for others’ safety. Collins says the city’s parades need to have a police car at the front of the lineup to protect the rest of the parade’s participants. He feels that role of protector is an honor. Collins’ retirement will be effective February 1st. While he plans to “dial it back”, he won’t be leaving the workforce or a busy life behind any time soon. Collins is in consideration for a federal investigator position and plans to continue his consulting work with a firm called EMPCO. He notes that his four grandchildren that live in the area will also get a significant chunk of his time. Collins’ successor is expected to be in place before the chief moves on. (DK)

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    A Livingston County native has completed his command of one of the U.S. Navy’s most advanced warships. A change of command ceremony was held Tuesday aboard the USS Zumwalt at the San Diego naval base. Capt. Andrew Carlson relieved Capt. Scott Tait and assumed duties as the third commanding officer of USS Zumwalt in a ceremony attended by distinguished visitors, family, friends and crew. Tait, a native of Brighton and a 1992 graduate of the University of Michigan, assumed command in December 2016 and led Zumwalt through many of the ship's "firsts." During his nearly two-year tour, Tait led the Navy's newest and most advanced warship through numerous certifications, evaluations, and operational testing that officials say, “brought a tremendous amount of knowledge to the Zumwalt-class program.” During the ceremony, Tait credited his crew, along with the Zumwalt program office, waterfront maintenance and training teams, warfighting development centers, and industry partners, for overcoming many challenges and finding solutions to increase their support to the fleet. "The teamwork, resilience, technical excellence and extraordinary professionalism of this team are the foundation of everything we have accomplished,” said Tait of USS Zumwalt’s crew. “And Admiral Zumwalt’s spirit of innovation and meritocracy is alive and well here.” The guest speaker for the change of command was Rear Adm. Dan Dwyer, commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 9. Dwyer spoke of what Tait and Zumwalt’s crew accomplished over the last two years. “Your crew is making history,” said Dwyer. “By working through unique, first-in-class challenges, you set the bar high, not only for the future Zumwalt-class destroyers, but for the next generation of surface combatants.” Tait was awarded the Legion of Merit Medal during the ceremony. Tait will retire after more than 26 years of distinguished service. Zumwalt is a guided missile destroyer of the United States Navy. She is the lead ship of the Zumwalt class and the first ship to be named for Admiral Elmo Zumwalt , who was the Chief of Naval Operations during the Vietnam War. Pictured: Rear Adm. Daniel Dwyer, left, commander Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 9, Capt. Scott A. Tait, middle, commanding officer of the Zumwalt-class destroyer the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), Capt. Andrew Carlson, right, walk to a change of command ceremony for the USS Zumwalt. (U.S. Navy photo)

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    A man who rolled his van in Tyrone Township, attempted to flee the scene and got into a scuffle with a Livingston County Sheriff’s deputy has been arraigned. 36-year-old Albert Montez Smith IV of Flint was arraigned in 53rd District Court this afternoon on seven felony charges. Those include carjacking, 3rd degree fleeing a police officer, assaulting/resisting/obstructing an officer causing injury, resisting/obstructing a police officer, assault with a dangerous weapon, attempting to disarm a police officer and attempted unlawful driving away of a motor vehicle. The charges are tied to a Monday incident in which a deputy was dispatched to the area of northbound US-23 near Clyde Road in Hartland Township just after 3:30pm for a report of a minivan ramming another vehicle. Both vehicles were reported to have continued north on US-23 toward White Lake Road. A short time later the deputy spotted the minivan and attempted to stop the vehicle. However, the driver fled eastbound on White Lake Road to try and elude the deputy, but then ran off the roadway, drove through several yards and mailboxes, before striking a DTE power pole and overturning in the front yard of a residence near Carmer Road. The suspect resisted the deputy’s attempts to arrest him, including using a Taser to no effect, but was finally taken into custody with the assistance of Michigan State Police. The suspect and deputy were both hospitalized for non-life threatening injuries and have since been released. Smith is being held on a $1 (m) million cash/surety bond. Court dates are pending. (JM)

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    A local credit union has helped a local shelter with care packages for those using their services. With the wrapping up of November and Homeless Awareness Month with it, the Lake Trust Foundation has received nearly 2,800 personal care packs for distribution around the area and state. These packs include items like deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, body wash, razors, and other toiletries. Supplies were donated from several area dentists, big box retail stores, drug stores, and more. One of this year’s eight recipients of the packages is the LACASA Center of Livingston County. LACASA protects and advocates for victims of child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault. This year’s response to the collection drive was so successful, that the Lake Trust Foundation extended it for an additional week. Senior Vice President of Culture and Community Engagement, Brandalynn Winchester-Middlebrook, said the drive is a core part of their identity and that they hope to extend its reach out beyond where Lake Trust currently operates. She continued, saying that with 63,000 homeless people in the state, including more than 10,000 households with children, that this drive shows the team’s commitment to taking action for those in-need.(MK)

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    One local school district is showing marked improvement in teaching elementary school students in core subjects. Each meeting, the Pinckney Community Schools Board of Education invites representatives from select schools in the district to give a presentation on all that’s going on throughout the year. Thursday night’s meeting was a joint presentation from the principals of the two elementary schools. Principal Les Sharon of Country Elementary and Principal Yvonne Taylor of Farley Hill shared what was mostly good news to the Board. The focus early on was math and reading skills from their 2nd and 3rd graders. Using RIT scores, which measures student’s learning growth, both schools were above the national norm in math, and very comparable to each other. This was big success to Sharon, who saw a 26-point increase in students meeting or exceeding standards in Country Elementary. He attributed much of that to the settling down of staff after consolidating elementary schools a couple of years ago, as well as getting everybody on the same page academically across the district. He said if you don’t teach the entire curriculum, it creates gaps, and that the next grade level needs to be able to take advantage of what you’ve done in the previous grade level. PCS Superintendent Rick Todd said this is confirming the data they have, saying this shows that when schools commit to doing something and working together within themselves to achieve it, it very clearly works. In reading skills, second graders at both schools are slightly above the national average, but third graders dip slightly under. Both principals stated in their improvement plan to further work on their reading model, which uses the Journeys system. (MK)

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    An opportunity is approaching for area residents to greatly increase the impact of their holiday generosity. The Livingston County United Way’s Matching Money Monday is set for Monday, December 10th to help the organization that helps strengthen the community. Contributions from generous donors will be matched up to total funds available, thanks to big-hearted local sponsors. Officials say the money that is raised will stay in Livingston County to help a variety of families in multiple ways including crucial programs like nutritious food in local pantries, utility and shelter assistance and an eviction diversion program. Those looking to make a donation on Matching Money Monday can do so in person at the Livingston County United Way office on Dorr Road in Genoa Township, which will be open from 7am to 7pm that day. The Brighton, Howell, and Hartland Area Chambers of Commerce will also be open during business hours along with many other businesses across the county. Giving can also be done online or by phone. More information and a complete list of locations can be found through the provided link. (JM)

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    A local man involved in an alleged drunk driving crash involving a utility pole has been charged. The 49-year-old Handy Township man is charged with operating with a BAC of .17% or more, operating while intoxicated, carrying concealed weapons under the influence (pistols), and possession of firearms while under the influence. His name is being withheld pending arraignment, which is scheduled December 6th in 53rd District Court. The charges stem from an incident that happened shortly after 11pm last Monday in which a single vehicle had crashed into a utility pole on westbound Grand River near Owosso Road in Howell Township. The Livingston County Sheriff’s Office says investigation showed speed and alcohol were involved and the man was traveling westbound on Grand River when his pick-up truck slid off the road and hit a utility pole, snapping it off at the base. The man, who was wearing a seatbelt, was unharmed and removed from the truck. The incident caused a power outage in the area and the intersection was closed for hours while DTE crews made repairs. (JM)

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    Motorists are being advised of complete closures of the ramps at the I-96/ Latson Road interchange in Genoa Township. Both the eastbound and westbound I-96 ramps at Latson Road are completely closed. That includes the westbound I-96 entrance and exit ramps and the eastbound I-96 entrance and exit ramps. The Michigan Department of Transportation advises that the ramps will remain closed until 3pm Sunday. The closures have been intermittent all week, leading to much frustration among motorists for the lack of notice. The closures are part of a concrete pavement repair project and warranty work is being performed. Crews are removing and replacing the concrete pavement on the ramps where cracks are present. All work is weather dependent. (JM)

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    A local nonprofit is partnering with students from Brighton High School to raise funds to purchase Christmas presents for young students at a Title I school in Washtenaw County. The GoFundMe campaign “Operation: Christmas Wishes” is a collaboration between the Knuth Family Foundation and Mrs. Grills’ Advanced Algebra class at Brighton High School. The Knuth Family Foundation was founded by Brighton High School graduate Ashley Knuth. Together, with Mrs. Grills’ Advanced Algebra students, they hope to grant the Christmas wishes of 349 preschool, kindergarten, and first graders at a Title I school in Washtenaw County. A Title I designation is given to schools with a student base where at least 40% come from low-income families. According to the campaign page, $30 has been budgeted for each child to grant a wish off of their Christmas wish list. The group says while $30 sounds small, it’s not such a small amount when multiplied by 349 students, which means they’ll need to raise $10,470. The group is asking for donations to be made by December 14th so they know how much they have to spend per child. Santa's elves will be delivering gifts to the kids on December 17th. A link to the GoFundMe page can be found below.

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    An open house and blessing ceremony will be held Monday for a new Livingston County Habitat for Humanity home. The ceremony will take place from 10am to 12pm at 909 North Street in Howell. The new home is for Becky Gremore and her two children, and may also be home to foster children one day, as Gremore previously told WHMI that is something she’d like to do. Gremore had a tough childhood and was in and out of foster homes, but managed to graduate with honors from Howell High School and has held steady employment. After getting divorced, Gremore and her two children lived in her friend’s basement while trying to find something she could actually afford in the area as a working mom. She has said that it was no easy feat, but applied for a Habitat for Humanity home after seeing an ad in the ReStore. Livingston County Habitat for Humanity first broke ground in July of 2017 and, with the help of volunteers and donors, the once-empty lot has transformed into a two-story ADA compliant home. Photo courtesy of Livingston County Habitat for Humanity Facebook page.

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