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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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    by Tom Tolen / News@whmi.com The Brighton Area Fire Dept. responded Friday night to the Caretel Inns Assisted Living & Senior Care in Brighton when the facility experienced a problem with the furnace. That, in turn, caused the sprinkler system to go off in part of the COVID-19 wing. Fire Dept. and EMS personnel responded to the facility, located at 1014 E. Grand River, shorty after 9 p.m. The staff evacuated patients in the affected area and moved them to another part of the COVID wing. Fire Chief Michael O’Brian told WHMI that there was no contact at any point between those patients and the non-COVID part of the facility. Likewise there was never any fire, no one was injured, and no damage to the building occurred. Fire crews were on the scene about an hour and a half.

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    By Suzanne Potter - Public News Service Housing advocates predict a massive wave of evictions and foreclosures once the moratorium on evictions is lifted, unless the state puts together a comprehensive program to assist families thrown out of work by the COVID-19 crisis. Michigan is home to more than 2.5 million renters and many are suffering, according to Kirsten Elliott, vice president of development for Community Housing Network in southeastern Michigan. She says the money can't come fast enough. "The sooner we can get rental assistance for those who can't make their rent or make their mortgage payments, the better. So that we are able to avoid having this mass amount of people pushed into homelessness." The state so far has received more than $152 million in CARES Act funds. Since the money isn't earmarked for a specific use, advocates hope that the state will create a rental assistance program to mitigate a looming eviction crisis in Michigan. Jeremy DeRoo, executive director of LINC UP, a neighborhood revitalization organization in the Grand Rapids area, says his non-profit group has already given out $50,000 in rental assistance. But he says the remaining need among those out of work is immense. "They are unlikely to ever recover the money that they've lost in lost wages, and so their ability to catch up is very, very slim. And so what's going to happen, once things start to return to some sort of new normal, the rent will still be due and they will not have it and we'll see a significant number of evictions." Counties are working to hold legally-required public hearings on the best way to spend the money, but due to federal rules, local agencies will need permission to use the money to prevent homelessness, instead of solely using it for shelters and rapid rehousing without a statewide plan.

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    An online event next month will focus on disrupting the culture of silence about sexual assault. LACASA Center will host the free virtual film event and live panel discussion on Thursday, June 25th via Zoom from 3:30 to 5:30pm. Called “The Bystander Moment,” the 50-minute documentary will be shown in recognition of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Organizers say the event was originally scheduled for April, but was delayed due to COVID-19. The screening is supported by the National Crime Victim’s Rights Week (NCVRW) Community Awareness Project. According to a release from LACASA Center, the film highlights how the bystander approach helps prevent gender violence. Produced by international gender violence activist Jackson Katz and his colleagues, the documentary highlights the role bystanders can play in ending rape culture and preventing sexual assault. Following the film screening, an interactive panel discussion will be held. Local panelists include Nicole Denson from Equality MI; Matt Oliver from Cleary University and April Woods from Pinckney Community Schools; Bill Vailliencourt and Pamela Maas from the Livingston County Prosecutor’s Office; and Kristi Bell from the Brighton Police Department. The panel discussion will explore how people can disrupt the culture of silence and encourage bystander intervention through LACASA’s Mentors in Violence Prevention program and other awareness initiatives conducted at local high schools and colleges. Following the panel discussion, awards will be presented to local individuals and agencies that have gone above and beyond to “seek justice, ensure victim’s rights and inspire hope,” the NCVRW theme for this year. Award recipients include the aforementioned panelists as well as Andrea Lipscomb of Lake Trust Credit Union and Nicole Mason of Chem Trend. Advance registration for the free event is required and can be completed at https://bit.ly/lacasafilm. Registrants will receive an invitation link to the Zoom conference via email once they sign up. For more information about the event visit https://lacasacenter.org/virtual-film-event/

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    By Jessica Mathews / news@whmi.com A grant-funded project will bring a new whimsical park element to downtown Howell. Conceptual designs were presented during a recent virtual Howell City Council meeting and the project is designed to provide a charming spot for people of all ages to gather and enjoy the beauty and of Howell. City staff has been working with Allie Pearson of Grissim Metz and Associates (GMA) on the conceptual design of the Kaboom Grant / Thai Summit funded public gathering project. It would be located behind the Depot Lot and Michigan Avenue. Pearson told Council she felt the plans captured what the City is looking for. The site will feature passive areas, as then more engaging areas. Initial ideas were whimsical fairy gardens, hobbit houses and space for an amphitheater and performance area with a wooden stage. The amphitheater seating will be incorporated into a hillside area, along with some potential slides. Game tables are proposed including four-way ping-pong and concrete chess tables with fun horse pieces for the stands. To add to the whimsical piece of the site, Pearson said they’re looking at different bird houses, some gateway features and creative fencing to add to the overall vibe of the project. Pearson said they’re looking at incorporating some kind of maze or labyrinth to the site, as well additional fun seating and shelter areas. As for landscaping, Pearson said they’re looking to bring in fun whimsical plant materials such as weeping spruce trees and will incorporate the idea of hobbits or genomes and bring in some color with mass planting of flowers on mounds. There will be different access points and hand sanitizing stations scatted through the site. Some concerns were raised about kids playing and traffic on Michigan Avenue and it was determined some type of low fence would be a good solution. There will also be plantings along the hillside to discourage children from coming up the hill. Interim City Manager Erv Suida commented it’s a nice project to lift spirits during this time of doom and gloom and hopefully one day create a space where everyone can gather and have some fun again. He noted that Thai Summit is a big contributor and something of this magnitude couldn’t have happened without them, adding Thai Summit is equally excited about the project going forward. Council gave consensus to the plans moving forward and naming ideas for the unique space are still being bounced around. The goal is to get the project going this summer and be completed by November.

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    By Tom Tolen / news@whmi.com At a special meeting last Wednesday evening, the Brighton Board of Education interviewed representatives of three companies which are in the running to conduct a formal search for a new Brighton Area Schools Superintendent.  Originally, six search firms applied to perform the search, but at a meeting last week that figure was pared down to three. The companies include the Michigan Leadership Institute, the Michigan Association of School Boards, and Ray and Associates.  Representatives from each search firm were given 10 minutes to state their case as to why they should be selected, and board members were then given 20 minutes to pose questions.  Mike Collins and Ryan Ray of Ray and Associates described their company as the “oldest national search firm in the US.” Ray told the board, “There are a ton of people across the country who will be interested,” citing the district’s financial and academic success as reasons why Brighton would be desirable. He said the opening would be posted on the company’s national list, adding that his firm would ask people in the local community if they would recommend anyone for the position.  Rod Green of the Michigan Association of School Boards, who, coincidentally, makes his home in Brighton, said, “Brighton has some big shoes to fill in terms of the job (the superintendent) has been doing the last 11 years.” He said further that the board would likely prefer a superintendent with a personality like outgoing Superintendent Greg Gray’s, calling his style “personable and approachable.”  Gray, who has been Brighton’s superintendent for the past 11 years, announced at the April 30th meeting that he would be retiring as superintendent, effective June 30th, the end of the district’s fiscal year.  Also interviewed was John Silveri of the Michigan Leadership Institute, which calls itself “a leadership consulting organization committed to serving K-12 school districts and public institutions throughout Michigan.” It was pointed out that MLI was the search firm used in the successful hiring this week of Steven Archibald as the new superintendent in the South Lyon Community School District.  Board President Andy Burchfield told WHMI after the meeting the selection of a search firm would be difficult, saying the three firms all have different perspectives and approaches and calling the selection “a challenging decision.”  Burchfield said he has no preferences at this time as to which firm he favors.  “The decision,” Burchfield said, “will be made in the best interests of the district.”  The MASB’s Green said that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder to find good candidates and finding superintendents a longer process. Given the lengthy search process, the board was told that it may have to hire an interim superintendent to handle the reins until a permanent district head is found. Burchfield said it’s too early to know whether Brighton will have a new superintendent in place by the start of the fall term, but stressed the board is in no rush. “We’re going to take plenty of time” he said, “ because this is an incredibly important decision.”   The board will decide which of the three finalists to hire as the search firm at its next meeting on Tuesday. The meeting, which will be online, will be at 7 p.m. 


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    By Jessica Mathews/News@whmi.com A new residential project in the City of Brighton has been given the green light. The Bluffs at Springhill will feature 70 single-family units on 28.94 acres of wooded land located south of Flint Road between the Spring Hill condo association and I-96 to the east. The entrance will be off Spring Mountain Drive. City Council met virtually Thursday night and unanimously approved motion to rezone the parcel from A-1 single family residential to PUD or Planned Unit Development, along with the accompanying site plan. The PUD contract agreement was removed from Thursday’s agenda. It will be reviewed by Planning Commission next month and then tentatively before Council for the June 18th meeting. A public hearing was held prior to approval and three residents voiced concerns. The project has gone through an extensive review process since receiving preliminary approval about a year and half ago. Council members commented it was a very comprehensive plan and all requirements have been met. Neighbors have raised various concerns about drainage and soil erosion controls, buffering, construction methods, the structural integrity of homes in close proximity and the large amount of earthwork. Lead Project Engineer Mike Noles representing Pulte Homes delivered a presentation on the project and changes made to address resident concerns. Noles said developers held several public meetings with surrounding residents who wanted perimeter buffers, and a 30 foot natural buffer has now been included with additional landscaping. There will be 9.6 acres of open space preserved on site and developers identified 205 “saved” trees along the perimeter, which residents requested. 229 new trees will be added of a variety of species. He noted the density went down and they made more room along buffers to create a 30-foot buffer strip, added landscaping and are solving a major drainage problem in the area. Noles told Council developers have modified plans to accommodate residents and the storm water system is one of the main benefits that will greatly improve drainage issues. He said a detention basin will be built to capture runoff going into the nearby Spring Hill development that will discharge to an existing wetland - effectively removing 12 acres of water from draining through the existing neighborhood. He said they have an extensive soil erosion control plan that meets all city, county, state and federal regulations. Noles said several studies have also been completed to look at several issues as recommended by staff, planning commission and members of the public. He said they’ve completed a traffic study, environmental study, sound study, a geo-tech report, a tree survey and offsite survey among others. Councilman Kristoffer Tobbe commented that the resident concerns were valid and they’ve lived through a tough situation with their development. He said his concern was that the project would get started but not be finished due to economic factors and then they’ll be left with even bigger problems and a bigger mess. Noles said requirements and securities are written into the PUD agreement for developers, which guarantee they will complete the improvements. He said those improvements have to be done prior to the start of any homes and bonds will be in place for a significant sum of money. Noles further assured the development will be built properly and said there will be extensive monitoring by engineers, third party inspectors and others over the course of construction with written reports and soil erosion control inspections. The project has received unanimous approvals from all required agencies. Noles stated final engineering has been submitted and developers are seeking EGLE permits and then applying for soil erosion control permits.

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    By Mike Kruzman / news@whmi.com Livingston County Veterans’ Services is pursuing a lease that would provide them much needed additional space. The Veteran Services Committee held their May meeting this past week, over Zoom. During it, they unanimously voted in favor of pursuing a lease at the old Art Van PureSleep building, across the street from the larger Art Van Furniture and Outlet Center in Genoa Township. Veterans’ Services has recently been awarded a $108,000 grant from the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency. That grant money must be spent by the end of September, or be lost. In a release, Veterans’ Services Director Mary Durst said her goal is to use 100% of the grant, in addition to a small portion of unused millage money, towards the lease build out. Currently the department is working out of a 1,900 square foot room, with no room for expansion. Durst said her hope is to negotiate around 3,500 square feet of space. This would allow Veterans’ Services to provide larger counselor rooms, a large reception area with more amenities, their own bathrooms, and a multi-purpose room to hold meetings, counseling, and veteran classes. Durst said that location would also help them provide a spare office to host guest services such as OLHSA’s Supportive Services for Veterans Families counselors, tele-health appointments, and more. (Photo - Google)

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    By Jon King / jking@whmi.com With changes set to take place this summer in Michigan’s automotive insurance system, a local lawmaker plans an online event this week to discuss the issue. State Rep. Ann Bollin will host a tele-town hall meeting on Wednesday, May 27 at 6 p.m. on the upcoming changes in Michigan’s car insurance system. The Brighton Township Republican will be joined by Rep. Jason Wentworth, of Farwell, who served as chairman of the House Select Committee on Reducing Car Insurance Rates. Bollin said Wentworth was, “a leading voice in delivering this historic reform. I’m thankful for the opportunity to discuss these changes with my constituents, and I look forward to answering any questions you may have.” Under a deal negotiated last year between the GOP-led legislature and Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the annual fee for the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association, which all drivers must pay, will drop by at least $120 per car. Starting July 2nd, drivers can select from a number of different options for personal injury protection, or PIP. Most drivers will choose from three levels of PIP coverage; $250,000, $500,000 or unlimited. However, capping PIP coverage means drivers may also be responsible for paying medical costs that exceed these caps. Those wishing to participate in the tele-town hall can dial (855)-756-7520 Ext.60653#. Residents unable to participate may contact Rep. Bollin’s office by calling (517) 373-1784 or by email at AnnBollin@house.mi.gov

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    By Jessica Mathews/News@whmi.com More than 100,000 meals have been distributed by Huron Valley Schools personnel since schools closed in response to COVID-19 in March. The Grab & Go Student Meals program was implemented March 16th immediately following Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s initial order to close schools. HVS Superintendent Dr. Paul Salah said they know families are hurting with record-high unemployment and the overall uncertainties created by the pandemic. He says HVS staff members have stepped up in many different ways to help ease the impact of COVID-19 - whether through teaching and learning, handing out Chromebooks or distributing meals. The Grab & Go Student Meals program is funded through grants from the Michigan Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Assistant Superintendent of Business & Operations Geoffrey VanGoethem said they know many students in the district, about 30%, rely on the free and reduced-cost meals they receive at school each day so it was important to get the program off the ground quickly. He further thanked all of the food service and transportation employees who worked hard to make the effort such a success. Meals are distributed at eight sites around the Huron Valley community each Monday and Friday from 11am to 2pm and on Wednesdays from 3 to 6pm. Distribution will continue through June 29th. A link to an informational flyer is provided.

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    By Mike Kruzman / news@whmi.com The Livingston County Board of Commissioners has approved an agreement with a camp that could house first responders as they recover should the need or a difficult second wave of COVID-19 infections hit. Livingston County Emergency Manager Therese Cremonte shared details with Commissioners during their latest online Finance Committee meeting. First responders are among the most susceptible to coming into contact with the coronavirus. Cremonte said at the onset of the COVID-19 response they began looking for someplace safe they could send them to quarantine or recover, to protect them from infecting their families or other members of the public. The North Star Reach Campground in Putnam Township was their ultimate choice. Cremonte said it’s, in fact, owned by a Washtenaw County first responder and has everything they need. She said the North Star Reach Camp is a special needs campground for young adults and children, with some medical capacity. Residents would have separate sleeping areas and bathrooms. The camp also provides sheets, toilet paper, garbage service, and laundry facilities. Livingston County and the campground agreed to a flat rate of $250 per month for facility use, and $60 per day per person lodging. No cost will be incurred until somebody actually needs to use the camp. Cremonte said that while they’ve had infections among county first responders, this isn’t something they have needed yet, and may not need as the situation winds down. But it could be needed if a second wave hits at some point. The county and participating municipalities and agencies will be responsible for the cost. Cremonte said this agreement has the approval of FEMA and is possibly reimbursable for up to 75% of funds spent. She said they’ve done all the steps required of FEMA, but warned that sometimes FEMA can be fickle with their reimbursements. The agreement was approved unanimously by the Board.


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    By Jessica Mathews/News@whmi.com While the coronavirus pandemic might be overshadowing it, big changes are coming for auto insurance in Michigan. An overhaul of Michigan’s auto insurance system has finally happened, meaning more choice for consumers. AAA’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Life/Field Operations Dan Schrock Jr. says now is the time to be pro-active and they want the general consumer to understand that it’s important to get educated and look into what you have or don’t have. Since the early 1970’s, Michigan has had lifetime un-limited medical personal injury protection or PIP. He says it’s been one choice only and anyone who had auto insurance in the state had unlimited PIP. Schrock says the change is that Michigan drivers no longer have to have unlimited coverage and can choose different levels of PIP, which some people will be attracted to because it will also save them money. The new law also included a 10% rate rollback on PIP coverage, assuming someone has no changes to their policy. As for what will happen July 2nd and after – Schrock says if a consumer does nothing when their policy renews, it will renew into the unlimited feature and their bodily injury limits will be raised because the consumer didn’t make any choice. If someone chooses a lower option than unlimited, then there are required documents that need to be signed acknowledging someone is choosing a lower limit. That’s where the potential savings come in. Effective July 2nd and after, he says people also have to have a required bodily injury property damage limit. It can be lowered but similar to taking a lower PIP option, someone would need to sign documents to lower it. However, Schrock cautions that people need to make sure they fully understand what they’re choosing and the tradeoffs of their choices to make sure they have adequate protection. The new also law included a 10% rate rollback on PIP. Assuming someone has no changes, Schrock says then there will be a reduction on the PIP part of a policy. He says anyone who renews July 2nd or after will get at least a 10% reduction for that coverage. He cautions that only applies to renewals though. If a policy renews prior to the new law July 2nd, then the policy would renew in its current state because the law isn’t in effect. People always have the option to contact their insurance agent and request changes for a new policy. Once July 2nd arrives, Schrock says consumers in Michigan are eligible to change their policy based on the new law regardless of when their renewal was, although carriers will handle it different ways. Schrock strongly recommends, regardless of carrier, that people get educated and find out what their options are. He says AAA’s strategy is that they’re contacting every member proactively on their renewal date so they don’t leave anything to chance. He says AAA is already reaching out to members to educate them and explain options because even though the law is effective July 2nd, renewals for July 2nd and beyond are already being processed. Schrock stressed that it can be overwhelming but consumers really need to be reaching out to a licensed professional to be able to explain the options and understand the trade-off of how the options will impact coverages for them and their families. Meanwhile, unrelated to the upcoming auto insurance reform is that some drivers will be seeing refunds or savings from their carriers due to COVID-19. Because of decreased driving and reduced claims, some insurance companies are providing refunds. For March and April, AAA is refunding 20% of monthly premiums to insured customers. More information about the upcoming auto insurance reforms is available through the provided link.

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    By Jessica Mathews/News@whmi.com The Livingston County Health Department is releasing public health guidance to be used as a planning tool for various businesses and community operations when sectors of the economy re-open. The tool will assist industries as they consider what they need to do to re-open safely when allowed under Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Orders. As Livingston County residents continue to do their part in helping to slow the spread of COVID-19, a press release states businesses and organizations can do the same by implementing the re-open workforce guidance. Officials say that will help to ensure the health and safety of employees, customers, and visitors. The re-open workforce guidance provides specific information for industry leaders and is categorized by industry type. Included in the guidance is the MI Safe Start Plan, which outlines the Governor’s plan to re-engage the Michigan economy. Also included are additional resources, handouts, and signage for the workplace. The guidance may change based on the Governor's Executive Orders and will be updated as necessary. The reopen workforce guidance can be found on the LCHD website. A link is provided.