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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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    Officers have been elected and new members sworn in for the Howell Public Schools Board of Education. At its annual organizational meeting Monday, board members voted to re-elect Stacy Pasini as President, Brent Earl as Vice-President, Marcus Wilcox as Secretary and Courtney Tarara as Treasurer. Christy Conn was also sworn in as a new trustee. Conn was elected to a four-year term in November. Conn and her husband Eric have three young children, all of whom are or will be attending Howell Public Schools. Conn tells WHMI she is excited to be a part of not only her children's growth, but all students in the district. She says she chose to run for the board because she believes public service is something everyone is called to do in one capacity or another. She feels being a part of the board is a good way to use her time and talent. Conn received her Bachelor of Business Administration from Western Michigan University and the Lee Honors College in 2003, and holds professional certifications in her field as well. Also sworn in was Brent Earl, who was re-elected to a four-year term in November, having first been elected in 2014. (DK/JK)

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    Hartland Township officials have begun looking at what their budget might look like over the next two years. Minimal growth in the general fund is what Hartland Township Manager James Wickman told the Board of Trustees to expect with their budget over the next 2 years. Property tax revenue and state shared revenues are expected to increase slightly, with decreases in zoning fees and cable franchise fees on the horizon. With a new democratic Governor, the manager said it will be interesting to see what happens with state shared revenue increases going forward. Wickman said there aren’t any major project planned for 2019 as of yet, as they have recently finished their parks project and the bulk of their Safer Roads plan. One area that Hartland officials need to start preparing for is changes in fire protection or how it is payed for. With it being fully funded by millage and the township’s taxable value still below 2006-levels, Wickman said this current model is unsustainable. The decision on how to proceed is still a year away, but Wickman said they are already taking a look at new options and opportunities. Whether it’s cost-sharing, a new millage, or something altogether different, he said residents can expect to hear more about it and have their voices heard as discussions proceed. The Board of Trustees has a pair of budget workshop sessions scheduled next month in anticipation of having the budget finalized and ready to adopt before it goes into effect on April 1st. (MK)

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    The proposal comes shortly after a sinking fund millage for the district failed in November by just 28 votes out of approximately 26,000. Superintendent Erin MacGregor sought community feedback regarding the millage failure and what voters would like to see in terms of district improvements. MacGregor presented some of that feedback to the Board of Education at a meeting Monday. Input from stakeholders indicated there was a lack of clarity around the concept of the millage and specific building improvements. MacGregor noted there is a desire among those who responded for a larger investment in safety and security, as well as enhanced instructional and extracurricular activities. If the new proposal were to pass, the bond would cover the addition of “makerspaces” for hands-on design purposes, STEM and robotics areas in each building and “learning stations”, which is a more creative approach to the traditional desks and chairs in classrooms. The bond would also address upgrades to the high school’s performing improvements to the baseball and softball fields. Officials are hoping to use the bond to purchase 22 school buses as well, in addition to secure vestibules/entrances at each school and the completion of phase 2 of the district’s door access system. MacGregor says the original millage that has been restructured into a bond proposal not only addresses capital needs and enhancements, but also decreasing the debt millage. The Board of Education will take action on the proposal at their January 14th meeting. If all are in agreement, officials would take next steps toward educating the community about the proposal.(DK)

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    A fraud lawsuit has been filed in Livingston County Circuit Court by several pet owners against the operators of a Genoa Township pet cemetery, alleging they have violated a promise to provide “perpetual” care of their beloved animals. Heavenly Acres Pet Cemetery on S. Kellogg Road closed after its lease expired Sept. 30. The cemetery was run by Linda Louise Williams, who leased it from Carol Street Park Ridge LLC, which is trying to sell it. Williams says she had attempted to renegotiate the lease with the owner but was denied. The plaintiffs in the suit say Williams charged them for “perpetual care and maintenance” of the sites and that they have now been wrongly denied access to the 12-acre cemetery. The suit names Williams, along with Carol Street Park Ridge, Stone Investments, First Pet Care Services and Heavenly Acres Pet Cremation Services. Williams previously said the cemetery went to her ex-husband as part of a 2000 divorce settlement. But by 2002, she says the bank had sold the property as part of an eviction proceeding against her ex, forcing her to step back in and assume a lease on the land. She insists that if she hadn’t, the cemetery would have closed back then. But the suit alleges Williams held a burial and funeral services on her day of eviction, Sept. 30, and continued selling lots and collecting fees until last November. Williams has so far not commented on the lawsuit, which seeks a temporary restraining order against any reuse of the Heavenly Acres Pet Cemetery property, dollar damages for the pet owners and a ruling that it remain a pet cemetery because many of the animals have been there more than 15 years and have established legal occupancy. A status conference in the suit is set for May 8th in front of Circuit Court Judge David Reader. (JK)

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    Christmas has passed, but the Salvation Army of Livingston County still needs help reaching their goal. The Christmas Campaign is the Salvation Army of Livingston County’s largest fundraiser each year. With roughly 3 weeks left in the drive, however, the local Corps is still more than $100,000 short of their $385,000 goal. Money donated between November 1st and January 31st helps the Salvation Army fund services like shelter and utility assistance for those in need. It also benefits the Pathway to Hope program that mentors, councils, and educates families while providing them connections and resources that will help them become self-sufficient. Due to national agreements, the annual bell-ringing that occurs outside of businesses during the Christmas season was delayed 2 and half weeks this past year. Major Prezza Morrison said that delayed start cost them between $30,000 to $40,000 and has made a “huge impact” on their overall budget. If their goal isn’t hit, Morrison said they may not have the funds to be able to help people as far as they’d like. Monetary donations can be brought in to the Corps office at 503 Lake Street in Howell, or mailed to P.O. Box 647, Howell, MI 48844. They can also be made online at www.SalvationArmyLivingston.org, or by texting HopeLC to 41444. (MK)

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    The man whose double-murder conviction is at the heart of the criminal charges against Livingston County Judge Theresa Brennan is now back in the Livingston County Jail with a chance for a new trial. Shiawassee County Circuit Judge Matthew Stewart signed an order Tuesday vacating the convictions for Jerome Kowalski tied to the 2008 slayings of his brother and sister-in-law in their Oceola Township home. Brennan’s 2017 divorce case first brought to light allegations that she had been having an affair with a now-retired State Police detective, who served as the chief prosecution witness during Kowalski’s trial. Testimony last fall during a Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission hearing further detailed that relationship and resulted in the Michigan Attorney General’s Office issuing three felony charges against Brennan last month for destroying evidence in the divorce case related to her relationship with the detective and then lying about it under oath. Kowalski has been serving a life sentence in the deaths. Immediately after the order, he was transferred from a state prison in Lapeer County to Livingston County jail. That’s according to Peter Van Hoek, the appellate lawyer who had been representing him. Van Hoek told the Detroit News, “The family is very happy,” and “This has been a long time coming.” After the Judicial Tenure Commission concluded Brennan violated the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct by failing to disqualify herself from the Kowalski double-homicide trial, Livingston County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Valliencourt announced he would vacate the convictions and grant a new trial. (JK)

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    For the second time in less than a year, a handgun was left inside a bathroom, this time at the Meijer store in Howell. According to Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy, a Meijer employee found the gun in the men's bathroom Tuesday afternoon. The employee turned it over to the store’s director, who then called police. Murphy said the gun is legally registered and they don’t believe it was left behind maliciously. However, a report will be forwarded to the Livingston County Prosecutor, who will decide if any charges will be filed. Last April. Hamburg Township Police recovered a loaded handgun that was found in a portable bathroom during a soccer game. That gun’s owner, a 64-year-old Farmington resident, was later convicted of a firearms misdemeanor and sentenced to community service and a $500 fine. (JK)

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    8th District Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin says if President Trump truly wants to address border security, Congressional Democrats are ready to have that conversation. The Democrat from Holly says the President’s address to the nation last night was essentially a restating of his case for a border wall and hasn’t really “moved the needle” when it comes to crafting a compromise that will end the partial government shutdown. Slotkin says she and other Democrats are just as focused on border security as President Trump, but the conversation cannot solely be about a wall. "From my point of view we do need to have a conversation about border security. I'm extremely open to the fact that we need to put more investment down there. I'm open to fencing where we need fencing. Where we need technology, let's bring in technology. More border agents? Let's bring in more border agents." Slotkin believes that as the effects of the shutdown become more pronounced in the coming days, the willingness for a compromise will equally increase and a deal can be struck. "I think the people are going to start feeling the daily effects, right? I know that the President has said that he's going to make sure people get their tax returns. But to be honest, he's going to do that by calling back in a bunch of IRS officers who aren't going to be paid while they're doing that. People are going to start to see that their National Parks are closing...People are not going to be able to get access to job training. So many TSA agents are going to call in sick as they go and look for other work that we are going to have longer and longer lines at the airport. People are going to start to feel it." She is hoping that funding bills which mirror those passed by Senate Republicans before Christmas will attract more House Republicans looking to find a compromise. Meanwhile, Slotkin says she has already been contacted by 8th District constituents who are being affected by the shutdown, including a woman from Brighton who is on contract with the U.S. Census Bureau and was unsure about her situation. Slotkin says her office was able to provide the woman with the information she needed, but that the financial strain on federal employees will soon reach a breaking point as mortgages and other bills come due. (JK)

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    An employee had to be airlifted to a hospital following a morning crash in which a vehicle struck a garbage truck. Deputies with the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched around 7:30am to Bennett Lake Road near Crosby Road in Deerfield Township for a serious injury crash. Preliminary investigation revealed a garbage truck operated by a 25-year-old Pontiac resident was stopped on Bennett Lake while his co-worker, a 42-year-old Troy resident was loading trash into the back of the garbage truck. The Troy resident and garbage truck were struck from behind by a 2016 Chevrolet Malibu operated by an 86-year-old Fenton man. The Troy man was transported by Survival Flight to Hurley Medical Center with life threatening injuries. He was last listed in critical but stable condition and was undergoing surgery. The Pontiac and Fenton men were not injured. The Sheriff’s Office says speed and alcohol do not appear to be factors in the crash, while seatbelt use remains under investigation. Deputies were assisted at the scene by personnel from the Hartland/Deerfield Fire Authority and Livingston County EMS. The crash remains under investigation by the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Safety Bureau. The Office says no tickets were issued, which will depend on the extent of the victim’s injuries and completion of the investigation. (JM)

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    A trial date has been set for a Fenton Township man charged in the sexual assault of a child. 54-year-old Michael Sackrider is charged in two separate cases involving minors in Genesee County Circuit Court, with both set to go to trial April 17th. Sackrider was arrested in March of 2018 and charged with five counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct. The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office says they were initially contacted about the incidents in January of 2018. The alleged victim told investigators Sackrider, who was her mother’s ex-boyfriend, sexually assaulted her several times at his Linden Road home from 2006 through 2015. Two new charges were filed last April against Sackrider for a felony count of third-degree CSC and fourth-degree CSC, both with an incapacitated victim. Officials say the incident prompting those charges took place in July 2017. Sackrider’s defense had sought to prevent evidence of past incidents from being used at his trial, but withdrew that motion at a hearing last week. (JK)

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    The owner of a yet-to-be-opened Mexican restaurant is working to get a liquor license secured for the new venture. During Monday night’s meeting, the Genoa Township Board again approved a second application for a Class C liquor license to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission for the former owner of Mexicali Allies. A vote from the township board is required by the state, which makes all of the ultimate recommendations in whether a license is granted or not. The board originally granted the needed approval last July and sent it on to the Commission. However, at Monday’s meeting owner Sandra Blake expressed that she has not heard anything and then learned the application expired in November. She detailed longstanding issues with her standard mailing address and requested action for a second time, and the board obliged. Mexicali Allies shut down in May of 2017 due to a landlord dispute and a lawsuit resulted, which has since been settled. Blake is continuing work towards opening a restaurant in the new Howell Town Center at 2608 East Grand River, although the name is expected to change. Blake indicated that construction work should take 6 to 8 weeks and the goal is to have it done by April 1st. (JM)

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    Tree trimming work will be starting up next month ahead of a construction project along M-59 in Highland Township. The Michigan Department of Transportation will be performing the work on M-59 between Milford Road and Tipsico Lake Road. The tree cutting will start before work really gets underway in April and construction is expected to continue through the end of October. The project is expected to be completed with single lane closures along M-59. The westbound condition is considered fair but the eastbound direction is poor. Crossovers will be temporarily closed with side roads detoured. M-DOT Senior Project Manager Jeff Pitt tells WHMI the reconstruction/resurfacing project involves all of the old, original M-59 concrete pavement that was covered up, which has been down there since the early 50’s or 60s’s. He says the work is much needed and they’ll be reconstructing the old eastbound direction, which was the original M-59 before it widened to a boulevard, and then resurface the westbound direction. Pitt says they’ll also be replacing all of the signs and guardrails, along with some culvert replacement so at the end of the project, everything will look brand new. In addition resurfacing and reconstruction, there will also be pathway and drainage upgrades. The total project cost is $16.6 (m) million. It’s primarily federally funded but M-DOT will contribute a portion and then the township must match a portion of a pathway grant. Pitt says there are some existing pathways between Milford Road and Hickory Ridge Road but M-DOT is filling in the gaps and making it complete to Hickory Ridge. Pitt says in partnership, the township received a grant to complete the pathway from Hickory Ridge to Tipsico Lake Roads, which is the west county line. The upcoming tree clearing will be done in the M-DOT right-of-way where they are putting in the pathway. There are no official detours associated with the project. Pitt says they don’t expect big delays but there will be some primarily through the pm peak time for traffic headed westbound and then the am peak heading eastbound. Pitt says crews will be maintaining one lane in each direction at all times and maintaining access to businesses and driveways along the corridor. He asks that people be careful during the project as they want both workers and the motoring public to get home safely. A project map is attached. Photo: Google Street View. (JM)

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    One of the major innovations being demonstrated this week at CES in Las Vegas involves technology being tested in Livingston County. Formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show, the annual trade show is organized by the Consumer Technology Association and held every January at the Las Vegas Convention Center with presentations of new products and technologies in the consumer electronics industry. Brian Schneble of Brighton is the Director of Sales Development and Marketing for Aisin Group of North America, which operates the Fowlerville Proving Ground. Recently that facility constructed a test track for autonomous vehicles. Schneble tells WHMI that one of the new systems they are demonstrating is driver emotion analysis that utilizes facial recognition technology and can tell if a driver is distracted and vibrate the seat to get their attention. The system can also detect if a driver has fallen asleep and if vibrating the seat or sounding an alarm doesn't prompt them to resume control of the vehicle, can slowly pull it over and bring it to a stop as well as call for emergency assistance. Schneble says another version of the same technology can pinpoint where everyone is inside the vehicle at the precise moment of a crash and deploy the airbags accordingly. Schneble says the reaction to the new systems at CES has been very positive and the challenge now will be to begin factoring in the human element as they continue testing at the Fowlerville Proving Ground. (JK)

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    PFAS chemicals in the Huron River, as well as steps being taken toward addressing the contamination, was the topic of a public health seminar held in South Lyon. Per- and polyfluroalkyl substances, known as PFAS and PFOS, are a class of man-made chemicals that are said to be nearly indestructible. Because an effective method for destroying the chemicals has yet to be discovered, efforts are being made to remove them from the affected bodies of water. Wednesday’s presentation, held at South Lyon City Hall, was led by Laura Rubin, the Executive Director of the Huron River Watershed Council. Rubin spoke about Tribar Manufacturing, which is a Howell-based company whose Wixom location was previously identified as a major source of PFAS that were being discharged into Norton Creek. She says they’ve seen improvements since Tribar in October implemented treatment technology that’s proven to be effective in removing PFAS, adding that officials have seen the contamination levels decrease in Norton Creek. She says they hope to see a downward trend in the Huron River, noting that the Council is working with the state to potentially identify other contributing sources they may not know about. Rubin says the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Livingston County have also increased residential well testing in areas near sources of contamination. Though a number of residents have inquired about testing their own wells themselves, Rubin says it’s not necessarily encouraged as the samples can be extremely easy to contaminate and the cost of doing so is pretty expensive. Rubin reiterates that drinking contaminated water or eating fish from contaminated bodies of water is the major threat, not skin contact, adding that residents can and should still participate in recreational activities on the river. However the “Do Not Eat Fish Advisory” for the Huron River that was issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in early August remains in effect and likely will for quite a while. Rubin expects it might be a couple of years or even a decade before the advisory is lifted. Rubin says the goal of the public information sessions is to be transparent about what officials know and to help the community understand what kind of chemicals PFAS are, as well as the threats they present. More information about the state's response to the contamination can be found at the link below. (DK)

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    Ignorance is bliss - or at least hopefully for the person who failed to claim a $250,000 Powerball prize from the Michigan Lottery. The official hours are 7:45am to 4:45pm at Michigan Lottery Headquarters. As of 4:46 Thursday afternoon, the winner of a ticket sold on January 10th of 2018 at Cleary’s Pub on Grand River in downtown Howell did not come forward to claim their big prize. It matched four white balls and the Powerball for a $50,000 prize. But thanks to the Powerplay, the prize was multiplied by five for a total prize of $250,000. The winning numbers were 7, 24, 33, 49 and 50 with a Powerball of 4. However, the prize had to be claimed at the Lottery’s headquarters in Lansing by 4:45pm. Because it was not, the money will go to the state School Aid Fund. Michigan Lottery Spokesman Jeff Holyfield tells WHMI the vast majority of players are very diligent in checking their tickets and winners usually come in to claim the big prizes. He says with big prizes, people tend to pay attention and they do try to give players as much time as possible. For draw games, tickets are good for one year while instant game winnings expire after two years. Holyfield says roughly 99% of prizes are claimed by players every year. In fiscal year 2018, there was $27 (M) million in unclaimed prizes - compared to $2.2 (B) billion that players won and claimed. The largest unclaimed prize in Michigan Lottery history was $34 (m) million, with the ticket being sold out of a Meijer store in East Lansing in 1997. Holyfield noted that 2018 was the fourth record year for the Michigan Lottery, providing $941 (m) million for the school aid fund. Since the lottery began in 1972, Holyfield says more than $22 (B) billion has gone to support schools and kids across the state. (JM)

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    A pair of Livingston County high schools will be participating in a program to help keep teens safe on the road. Brighton High School and Hartland High School are 2 of the 62 different high schools from across Michigan that are taking part in the Strive For a Safer Drive, or S4SD, program. S4SD comes from a public-private partnership between Ford Driving Skills for Life and the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. The goal of this peer-led safety campaign is to reduce traffic crashes which are the leading cause of death for teenagers. OHSP Director Michael Prince said that inexperience and risk-taking behavior are factors that increase the risk of accidents for young drivers, and that they are aiming to increase safety and raise awareness about teen driving in a way that is relatable to the students. Both Brighton and Hartland High Schools will receive $1,000 from the program for students to kick start their peer-led campaigns educating fellow classmates about distracted driving, seat belt use, speeding, underaged drinking and impaired driving, and/or winter driving. The students will also create and submit a video or Power Point presentation, and if they are in the top 5 from across the state, will win their school a cash prize ranging from $500 to $1,500. Near the completion of the program, schools will have the opportunity to send their students to a free, hands-on driving clinic sponsored by Ford Driving Skills for Life in the spring. For more information on the program, visit www.Michigan.gov/s4sd.(MK)

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    A seasonal illness is making the rounds throughout Livingston County, the state and the nation. Norovirus is a highly infectious disease and the Livingston County Health Department says activity has been on the rise with winter here and people spending a lot more time indoors. Norovirus is not a required reportable disease for individual cases, unless there is an outbreak of some sort according to Medical Director Dr. Don Lawrenchuk. It’s commonly referred to as the stomach flu and he tells WHMI they are seeing a lot of cases locally. Norovirus is easily spread through food, by person to person contact or through contaminated surfaces. Symptoms usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, muscle aches fever, headache and weakness but usually pass within 72 hours. Norovirus is highly contagious and therefore, can stay on things like doorknobs, toilets, phones and keyboards for a long time so surfaces should be thoroughly sanitized. Lawrenchuk says disinfectants should stay on surfaces for at least minutes to be effective – adding the biggest mistake people make is not leaving disinfectants on long enough and giving them time to work. Lawrenchuk says the vast majority of people typically recover without medical attention but cautions that dehydration can be a concern with norovirus due to the loss of bodily fluids so he advises those who do contract it drink plenty of fluids, preferably non-caffeinated. More information is available through the provided link. While there has been an uptick in norovirus activity, Lawrenchuk reminds that cases of Influenza are also on the rise, which is more deadly for certain age populations or those considered at risk. He says the good news is that there is still a safe and effective vaccine available through local healthcare providers, pharmacies or the local health department. (JM)

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    As the partial federal government shutdown gets close to setting a record, help is being made available for affected federal employees who live in Livingston County. The Gleaners Shared Harvest Pantry on Sterling Drive in Genoa Township will have food boxes available starting on Monday for any federal employee. Bridget Brown is the Director of Food Secure Livingston and tells WHMI that affected employees can come to receive a box Monday-Friday 9am-5pm and Saturdays 9am-12pm. Each box contains 25 pounds of food (the equivalent of about 20 meals) and no appointment is needed. To receive the box, federal employees must; Identify themselves at the pantry as a federal employee picking up a pantry box designated for federal employees and present their federal employee identification and their driver’s license or state-issued photo ID. Brown says if there is greater need, the federal employee is welcome to schedule an appointment to shop in Shared Harvest Pantry or can pick up another box the following week by calling (517) 548-3710. Shared Harvest is the only location providing the food boxes in Livingston County and the surrounding area. If people have more questions, have other needs, or would like to know other locations, they are encouraged to call United Way's 2-1-1 for guidance. Some 800,000 workers, more than half of them still on the job, will miss their first paycheck today, as Washington is close to setting the record for the longest government shutdown in the nation's history. (JK)

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    An investigation is underway after a teenage girl was found passed out in the home of South Lyon Police Chief Lloyd Collins on New Year’s Eve. Collins, who is set to retire February 1st as South Lyon’s police chief after more than 20 years, said his daughter was chaperoning a party hosted by her son when he and his wife returned to the residence. Collins said everything looked fine with the kids watching TV, playing video games or listening to music in the basement of the three-floor home. But about three hours later, sometime between 11:30 and 11:45 that evening, the girl was found passed out on the floor. According to Fox 2, the girl had texted her mother that she needed help shortly before passing out. The mother then called 911. When first-responders arrived at the home, Collins said he and his wife were asleep on the third floor after going to bed around 11 p.m. The Oakland Press reports that Collins said he was told that the girl had a medical condition that caused her to pass out “frequently” in school, but that Collins couldn’t say for sure that she didn’t drink while in his home. But he says if she did, it was without the knowledge or consent of himself, his wife or their daughter. Collins says his daughter did turn away three kids who came to the door as one of them was carrying alcohol. South Lyon Police Lt. Chris Sovik says the girl is out of the hospital and the investigation will continue. Collins has recused himself from taking part. (JK)

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    It may seem that winter has not arrived with the unseasonable temperatures but eventually the white stuff will show up and the City of Brighton says it’s prepared. The City received two new plow/salt trucks and officials say they’re prepared for when the snow decides to make a bolder appearance. The vehicles are loaded with new technology to help save money, especially when it comes to salt usage. Officials say with systems that are designed to spread salt on a more even basis, usage should go down and save the City money over the course of winter. The City’s other two salt trucks have also been calibrated in an effort to help reduce usage with those trucks as well. Officials say the efforts not only reduce cost but result in environmental benefits as well. Meanwhile, the City is offering some reminders for residents and neighbors to help plow trucks keep streets clear. When clearing a driveway or sidewalk, snow must be shoveled back in your yard or away from the road. Officials say splitting a driveway down the middle makes it easier to move the snow into the yard instead of pushing it into the street, which is against the law. Finally, the City says many kids find fun in building snow forts in the piles of snow that plow trucks push up but it can be dangerous since some like to play inside of the piles and hide when the plow trucks come by. Officials ask that parents remind kids to be safe and play out of the street or cul-de-sac areas, and encourage them to wave to the drivers instead. (JM)

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