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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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    More than 100 business and community leaders gathered in Howell, Thursday for an event highlighting the work a pair of non-profit organizations have done for the community. Crystal Gardens in Genoa Township was the site for the annual meeting between Ann Arbor SPARK and the Economic Development Council of Livingston County. The event highlighted successes from the partnership between the two that have resulted in 1,200 new job commitments and nearly $290 million of investments made by businesses in Livingston County. The partnership has also resulted in over 500 referrals connecting local companies to resources and funding since 2012. Ann Arbor SPARK President and CEO Paul Krutko addressed the crowd, emphasizing the importance of using regional economic development to improve the county’s quality of life by attracting and retaining companies that pay well, provide opportunity, and reinvest in the community. SPARK Senior Vice President Phil Santer highlighted key economic indicators, such as Livingston County having the lowest poverty rate and highest median household income in the state. The county’s tax base has also increased 4% over the past year. EDCLC Chairman Ron Long said that because of their relationship with SPARK , Livingston County is now on the map for site selectors from all over the world. (MK)

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    A woman charged with supplying the dose of heroin that killed a Gregory man has entered a plea. 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. She was originally charged with delivery of a controlled substance causing death, which is punishable by up to life in prison. Shears was said to have provided 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. MLive.com reports that 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. Shears remains held in the Washtenaw County Jail without bond pending her sentencing on October 18th. (JM)

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    The Brighton City Council has approved the site plan for a building which will become the permanent home of Bountiful Harvest. Bountiful Harvest is a 501 ©(3) non-profit organization that provides food and personal hygiene products to families and individuals in Livingston County. Bountiful Harvest, begun in 2011, has been housed in the Brighton Community Center for several months since the organization was told by a local church that it could no longer use its basement, which was needed for other things. The new building will be located behind the First Presbyterian Church at 300 E. Grand River in Brighton. Currently, there is a garage behind the church, but it will be torn down to make room for the new center. According to spokesman Terry Simpson the 3,300-square-foot building will allow Bountiful Harvest to expand its services and increase its hours. He tells WHMI that in 2016 the organization served 4,311 families, nearly 12,000 individuals, over 3,000 children and almost 2,500 seniors, and distributed nearly 250,000 pounds of food. First Presbyterian Church Pastor Scott Phillips says the church is happy to assist Bountiful Harvest in any way it can, in order to fulfill its goal of helping the less fortunate in Livingston County. Simpson says Bountiful Harvest receives absolutely no money from the federal, state or local governments, and there is no paid staff; all are volunteers. Groundbreaking for the new home for Bountiful Harvest will take place on Oct. 9th at 3 p.m. (TT) Photo: Bountiful Harvest food pantry

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    The investigation continues into an accident yesterday in South Lyon that left a woman in critical condition after being hit by a train. The 31-year-old was reportedly walking over the tracks at Ten Mile Road and Reynold Sweet Boulevard at about 1:15pm when she was hit by the train. The woman was taken to Providence Park Hospital in Novi and was last listed in critical condition. The intersection was closed for about two hours before reopening to traffic. It's unknown if the gates were down as she crossed over the tracks, but South Lyon Police Lt. Chris Sovik says there is no evidence of suicide or foul play and that they will view camera from the train on Monday to see if it can provide any more details. There is a trail system in the area and a witness told investigators it was raining heavily when the accident occurred and that she may have not seen the train. (JK)

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    53rd District Court Judge Suzanne Geddis is being accused of violating Michigan law by misrepresenting herself on campaign materials. Local activist Vicki Fyke alleges Geddis, who is running for the 44th Circuit Court bench in November, misrepresented herself on campaign literature, signs and online. Fyke maintains Geddis violated MCL 168.944 by including the word “judge”, making it appear as though she was an incumbent. Geddis later allegedly started putting stickers that read “District” in from of the word judge on some signs. Fyke said it’s very disturbing that a sitting judge would have such blatant disregard for the law at a time when people are trying to restore the integrity of the judicial system in the county. Fyke recently requested Livingston County Prosecutor Bill Vailliencourt investigate the matter, which was actually done two months ago when he received a separate complaint. Vailliencourt told WHMI he immediately referred the matter to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office due to different conflicts of interest, which referred it to the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office. His disqualification with the Attorney General is dated July 18th and the Ingham County Prosecutor was appointed by the Attorney General on August 13th. That office will handle the review and determine if charges are appropriate or not. As for the conflicts, Vailliencourt supported a different candidate in the judicial race so he says any potential decision from him could be misconstrued. Further if he was involved in the review, Vailliencourt says Geddis would have to disqualify herself from hearing all cases in Livingston County, which Vailliencourt says would create chaos for the court and other judges. Judge Geddis has not responded to requests for comment. (JM)

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    A federal plea has been withdrawn by a Howell man in connection with three bank robberies. 35-year-old Kenneth Kniivila had been set to enter a plea today in U.S. District Court in Detroit to a single count of bank robbery after reaching a deal earlier this year to drop a second count in exchange for a plea. But court records indicate he withdrew his plea in court instead. Authorities say Kniivila admitted that he robbed the Bank of America on Grand River in Genoa Township on January 11th, followed by two more bank robberies on January 16th in Toledo and Monroe. After surveillance photos went public, law enforcement was able to identify Kniivila as the primary suspect. The Livingston County Sheriff’s Office took him into custody without incident and a vehicle search turned up various items including four grams of suspected cocaine, two black semi-automatic pellet guns, money and green canvas bags. The Sheriff’s Office and the FBI interviewed Kniivila, who waived his Miranda rights and admitted to the three robberies. He told authorities he “lost his marbles” on the 16th and drove around Toledo looking for a bank to rob. Under the plea deal, Kniivila had faced a maximum of just under six years in prison and restitution of $6,799, the total amount he made from the robberies. Without a plea deal, he could face up to 25 years in prison. New court dates have yet to be set. (JK)

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    An out-of-county judge has denied a motion to disqualify himself from presiding over the case involving 53rd District Court Judge Theresa Brennan. Eaton County Circuit Judge John Maurer presided over a hearing in regard to an appeal filed by former 44th Circuit Court Judge Daniel Burress, earlier today. Burress sought to have Maurer disqualify himself from the Brennan case, as he believes Chief Judge Miriam Cavanaugh acted improperly by asking the State Court Administrative Office to appoint a justice from outside the county before giving the local judges the opportunity to accept it. Burress said his issues were largely jurisdictional, and that Maurer should never have been put in this spot. Burress said of Maurer, that by disqualifying himself, the case could come back to Judge Cavanaugh for the opportunity to do the right thing. Failing to do so could create what he called repeated a “golden parachute” that allows those who did wrong here to just walk away. Burress and Howell attorney Tom Kizer, who was previously appointed Special Prosecutor for the grand jury, accused Cavanaugh and the state of trying to “protect the bench” and not the citizens of Livingston County. Judge Maurer said he was assigned to this case by a blind draw and that he knew very little about it. He argued that while Burress presented some interesting arguments on jurisdiction, his case should really be with the Court of Appeals or Michigan Supreme Court. Having been assigned the bench by the Supreme Court, Judge Maurer said he would deny the motion to disqualify himself. He offered Burress a stay if the former judge would like to appeal. Burress accepted that offer. (MK)

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    Six area college students have been named recipients of the Margaret Starkey Scholarship Award. The Howell Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation announced the winners of the $1,500 scholarship this week. Recipients attending Cleary University receive a scholarship match up to $1,000 for tuition re-imbursement from the university. The scholarship honors the memory of Margaret Starkey who served as executive assistant at the chamber for 31 years, from 1956 to 1987. Starkey was known for being a dedicated and enthusiastic woman who had a great attention to detail and love for serving the community. Nominations for the award are made by employers for non-traditional students that work for them. This year, the Howell Area Chamber Foundation committee received over 25 qualified submissions. Winners of the 2018 awards are: Brittany Bannow (pictured) who attends and works at Cleary University. Rachael Ferraiuolo of Chem-Trend Limited Partnership. She attends Lansing Community College. Jenna Niemi of LOC Credit Union. Neimi is also a student at LCC. Kelsey St. Charles of Vista Springs. St. Charles is a student at Madonna University. Erin Miller (pictured) of Hanover Insurance. Miller attends Cleary University. Indigo Lee of Moo to You Dairy. Lee is a student of Eastern Michigan University. (MK)

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    A woman who threatened acts of violence against a local family has entered a plea. 20-year-old Karen Lockwood of Richmond, Michigan is charged in two separate cases, each of which is connected to threats she made earlier this year against a family from the Hartland area. Lockwood appeared in 53rd District Court in Howell Thursday for what was originally scheduled to be a competency hearing. However Lockwood’s attorney, Steven Heisler, informed the court Lockwood had already had an independent competency evaluation and was prepared to enter a plea. Lockwood pleaded guilty as charged to both cases, which includes counts of false report or threat of terrorism, using a computer to commit a felony and communicating with another via computer/internet to commit a crime. Lockwood waived her preliminary exam and was bound over to Livingston County Circuit Court for sentencing. At the hearing, Heisler requested placement of his client in an in-house facility to begin mental health treatment. Judge Michael P. Hatty denied the request, suggesting instead that it be brought before the judge at Lockwood’s sentencing on November 8th. She is seeking sentencing under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, which will expunge her record if she successfully completes probation. Lockwood was charged this past March in connection with the February 12th and February 25th incidents. The Livingston County Sheriff’s Office responded to a social media threats complaint that involved Village Elementary School in Hartland Township. The initial report revealed a suspect was threatening a family from the Hartland area through Facebook messenger and by sending text messages to a family member's phone. Lockwood reportedly threatened “shooting up the school" where members of the family were students and burning the family's house down. During the investigation, detectives learned that Lockwood had established numerous fictitious social media accounts, email accounts and internet based phone numbers to communicate the threats and conceal her identity. It was later determined Lockwood had no means to carry out the threats.

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    Green Oak Township has received a glowing audit report, earning the highest opinion that can be issued. The township’s Board of Trustees on Wednesday heard the results of the audit, which was conducted by the Pfeffer, Hanniford and Palka consulting firm. The township received an unmodified opinion, which is the highest opinion an independent auditor can issue. The opinion is important in order to keep state-shared revenues coming and assists in achieving a high rating for bonding. CPA John Pfeffer says the township stayed within budget while still making contributions to a significant community project, this being the new Green Oak Township police station, and still was able to maintain a healthy fund balance. Township Supervisor Mark St. Charles says he’s proud that they were able to put about $1.5 million toward the beginning of the police station project and keep a $4 million fund balance. St. Charles says maintaining a healthy fund balance gives officials the opportunity to put the money toward community benefit projects, like building trails, pathways and sidewalks, and continuation of the police station. Pfeffer reported the fire and police department funds both stayed within budget, while the township was still able to contribute to those as well. St. Charles says the latest audit and those from the past are proof that township officials are good fiscal managers of the funds, having built the fund balance up every single year, even during the recession. St. Charles credits the successful audit to the whole board, department heads and individual employees, stating that they all "took part in making sure the township had a good audit and fiscal policy." (DK)

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    The Secretary of State office in Genoa Township is gaining an additional staff member as the branch and others prepare for a large increase in customer volume when tens of thousands of people become eligible to get their driver’s license back. There are more than 300,000 motorists that have their license suspended due to outstanding state driver "responsibility" fees for certain traffic infractions. They will see their debt forgiven under bipartisan bills approved by the Legislature this year. Beginning October 1st, Michigan residents who had the driver responsibility fee debt will have that wiped away. Secretary of State Spokesman Fred Woodhams says it’s great news and they’re pleased that after years of work, the fees are finally going away and will be fully repealed as of October 1st. Woodhams referred to the fees as burdensome and an unfair double penalty to hardworking families and people who already have to pay the normal tickets and court fines and fees. Woodhams says the fees were a double penalty because judges could not set them aside or work with a person to create a payment plan for them. Woodhams says they are hiring dozens of additional staff across the state to help alleviate expected lines and wait times due to the anticipated increase in customer volume and the wave of applicants who have had suspensions lifted. One staff person will be added at the Genoa Township branch. Woodhams tells WHMI this summer was already very busy at Secretary of State offices, which he attributed to an improving economy and increased sales of not only vehicles but watercraft and ORV’s resulting in increased transactions. He says they’ll be sending letters out to people to let them know if they have other issues to take care of. While the driver responsibility debt is wiped clean, he notes individuals with other issues such as outstanding tickets to pay off or licensing sanctions need to take care of those before they can get their license back. People can call 1-888-767-6424 to check their driving record and determine if they’re eligible to get their license back. Those who are eligible will not have to pay the license reinstatement fee before December 31st. Full details are provided in the link. (JM)

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    A middle school student has entered a plea to a felony charge after threatening to shoot up his school. The 12-year-old South Lyon resident attends classes at Centennial Middle School and reportedly threatened to shoot up the school with an AK-47 on Tuesday. The threat was said to be made during a fifth-hour class, and two students reported it to a teacher. The student was arrested on Monday and entered a guilty plea to a felony charge of false report of terrorism the following day. The South Lyon Herald reports the Lyon Township school resource officer responded to the school and interviewed those involved. A referee from Oakland County Juvenile intake was contacted and authorized detention of the student at Oakland County Children's Village. The student entered a guilty plea before an Oakland County judge. A disposition hearing is expected to take place in October. (JM)