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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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    The Brighton Township Planning Commission met this past Monday night and discussed general and zoning ordinances related to recreational marijuana. The township board has already held a first reading on an amendment to general ordinance allowing the municipality to “opt out” of allowing recreational marijuana. Like most local communities, the township is waiting for the state to potentially identify regulations and rules. The ordinance, which prohibits marijuana facilities and the sale or consumption of marijuana in public places, will be up for a second reading and public hearing at the board’s meeting this coming Monday, December 17th. It was suggested the board also incorporate language into zoning ordinance so proposed language was passed along to the Planning Commission for review and comment. Commission Chairman Steve Holden says the board has a proposed ordinance. He says their recommendation to the planning commission was to review both general zoning and specific zoning to see if there is some language in that, which also meets what the board would like to proceed with. Holden tells WHMI the Planning Commission with work with the township planner on crafting formal language. If approved at the Planning Commission level, it would then be sent to the township board for potential approval. Holden anticipates language to be taken up in January. (JM)

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    Police investigated a shooting threat at a school in the City of South Lyon and a bomb threat at a business in Lyon Township on the same day, though the threats appear to be unrelated. The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office says the Lyon Township School Resource Officer (SRO) was notified Thursday evening of a possible threat of a shooting at Centennial Middle School in the City of South Lyon to occur on Friday. The SRO was advised by the South Lyon Police Department of a nonspecific threat, which had been conveyed through multiple people. Detectives identified and located the 13-year-old suspect at her residence. The juvenile was interviewed in the presence of her mother and admitted to making the threat. She was found to have no access to weapons and was released pending further investigation. The school’s staff was advised, and the girl was suspended from school pending the outcome of the investigation, which is ongoing. In a separate and seemingly unrelated incident, a bomb threat was made via email against NOF Metal Coatings North America in Lyon Township. Deputies with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Lyon Township substation and detectives responded to the scene just before 3:30pm Thursday. The building had already been evacuated prior to their arrival and surrounding businesses were evacuated as well. An Explosives K9 from the Bomb Unit was brought in and conducted a search for the device with negative results. The Sheriff’s Office says the email was found to be consistent with reported incidents in other municipalities where the suspect, who remains unknown, demanded $20,000 be transferred via Bitcoin or the device would be detonated. In a Facebook post Friday, the Sheriff’s Office reminded citizens “if you see something, say something”, encouraging community members to contact 911 if they feel that something isn’t right. (DK)

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    An annual Christmas Day dinner will once again serve the community with food and fellowship; however this year’s event will also honor its founder, who passed away just last month. The yearly gathering is hosted at the American Legion Devereaux Post 141 in Howell Township and begins with the delivery of Christmas Dinner for the Senior Nutrition service, Meals on Wheels, and other shut-ins throughout Livingston County. Nearly 500 meals were served last year. After delivered meals have been sent out, a free traditional Christmas dinner is served from noon to 4pm at the American Legion Post to anyone who wishes to join. The event was founded by Dale Harter, who was a past post Commander and past club manager. He came up with the idea 37 years ago as a newly divorced man who felt there must be others in the same boat as him, alone on a holiday. That day he cooked a dinner, invited friends who otherwise would be alone to join him, and pledged to make it an annual event. Harter wanted the day to be filled with food and fellowship for those who needed a boost of Christmas spirit and a hot meal. Sadly, the dinner and Post lost Dale Harter this year, following his passing in November. Event organizers say true to his initial goal, the dinner will live on to bring cheer on Christmas Day. Community members looking for that comradery are encouraged to join the American Legion on Christmas Day, whether it is as a guest or volunteer. Organizers say gift cards or certificates are also always welcome to help support the event. Those looking to make a reservation or meal delivery request are asked to contact the Post at 517-546-2534.

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    Livingston County movie-goers can now head to Emagine in Hartland to see their favorite films after the theater held its grand opening Friday night. The 10-screen theater, located on the northeast corner of U.S. 23 and M-59 in the Hartland Towne Square Shopping Center, features heated reclining seats, a full service bar, hand-crafted pizza, specialty popcorn and cuddle chairs. The sold out grand opening on Friday brought over 400 guests to the theater, which donated all tickets proceeds to Gleaners Food Bank and LACASA. $15,000 was raised for each charity. Emagine Chairman Paul Glanz told WHMI: “The premise behind feeding Gleaners and LACASA is this: whenever we go into a community we endeavor to feed local charities as a means to demonstrate our commitment to the community. We like to do it in the form of not a soft opening, but a hard opening where we can show off the venue to potential benefactors for those charities.” Saturday was the theater’s first day open to the public. Tickets for any movie before 6 p.m. costs $6, while tickets for shows after five o’clock cost $10. Glanz told WHMI that he believes the viewing experience at the theater will be better than watching movies at home. “I think there are a number of things that will help bring people out of their homes to enjoy Emagine Hartland," Glanz said. "First and foremost among them is the beautiful, sedate and upscale décor, it’ll be the hospitality that’s exhibited by our teammates and it’s the creature comforts, the heated seats, the ability to recline fully in your seats, it’s really about combining all those things together along with some really awesome food and beverage items.” Emagine Hartland also features an EMAX auditorium, which is a floor to ceiling screen with immersive sound, and is the first theater in Michigan to have 100 percent laser projection systems. EMAX tickets cost $12 after 6 p.m. and $8 before five. In addition, the theater offers a screening room that can be rented out for parties or other events. More information and pricing can be found through the link provided. (AV)

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    The Brighton City Council has reached a consensus regarding recommendations made by a task force that was charged with coming up with ways to create new revenue. With a new budget year coming next July, the city is being hard-pressed to meet its statutory obligations of providing services to residents while maintaining a balanced budget. According to City Manager Nate Geinzer, the City Council Fiscal Realities Task Force was given the daunting task of coming up with creative ways to fill a $2 million funding gap for investments in streets and other infrastructure. The city took a hit in August with the defeat of the Headlee Amendment millage override, which was earmarked for improving the city’s streets, by the relatively slim margin of 128 votes. The override would have totaled 4.35 mills and would have generated an estimated $1.85 million per year over 10 years. Mayor Jim Muzzin appointed council members Jim Bohn, Jon Emaus and himself to the task force, which looked at city operations, infrastructure and other capital needs, pension and retiree health care costs, cuts in city services and overtime, cuts to community groups, revenues from new and increased fees, economic development, disposing of city property, paid parking and other ways to save money. The task force came to the conclusion that the way to correct a $2 million revenue shortfall for the coming fiscal year was through a combination of service and staff reductions of one-half million dollars, another $500,000 coming from new non-street related millage revenues and a new street-related millage of 2.5 mills which would generate about $1.1 million. This would necessitate a voter-approved, 2.5-mill tax levy over 7 years in a May election. The 2.5 mills would mark a 40% reduction from the Headlee override defeat last August. The proposed reductions would include a laundry list of items totaling half a million dollars such as eliminating one police officer position through attrition, cutting senior center funding, reorganizing administration, and contract concessions by city staff totaling $350,000. In addition, the task force lists another $500,000 in new revenues, including $250,000 from economic development, $150,000 in increased DDA contributions, $60,000 in civic event reimbursements and $40,000 from increased cemetery fees. The civic event reimbursement portion, coming from increased fees charged to local businesses which sponsor the events, was a point of contention at last week’s City Council meeting, event organizers saying they can’t afford the proposed new fees. Geinzer says the long-term goal of these steps is to put Brighton on a sustainable path and allow it to continue to provide quality services, improve the infrastructure and weather the next fiscal challenge. (TT)

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    Marion Township has received a passing grade on their fiscal year-end audit review. The township received an unqualified opinion from auditors Pfeffer, Hanniford, and Palka during their regular meeting Thursday night. An unqualified opinion is the best a township can be given. Over the past year, the township brought in roughly $1.5-million in revenue, while spending approximately $2-million. Marion Township Supervisor Bob Hanvey said that a great chunk of that 2-million, around half of it, actually, went to roads for the benefit of residents. Township officials had been saving for that specifically and were prepared for the hit. The biggest area for improvement pointed out by the auditor was in the sewer fund. With an operating loss and decrease in equity, it was suggested that officials look at sewer rates so that they can prepare for handling aging infrastructure. Hanvey said that sewer rate discussions likely need to wait until funding details for improvements to the City of Howell’s treatment plant are settled. As for the general fund, it is still over $2-million, half-a-million-dollars over the state recommended level for the township. Hanvey planted seeds for other members of the Board to consider thinking of ways they might possibly use the excess for the benefit of residents. (MK)

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    A lame-duck bill that would make it harder to organize ballot drives is advancing in the Republican-controlled Legislature, with many groups, including the League of Women Voters, standing in opposition. The Michigan House approved the legislation late last Wednesday on a 60-49 mostly party-line vote, as hundreds of activists (pictured) rallied at the Capitol for different causes. Among those voting in favor were State Representatives Hank Vaupel of Handy Township and Lana Theis of Brighton Township. HB 6595 would impose a geographic threshold for groups proposing constitutional amendments, initiated bills and referendums. They would be limited to collecting no more than 15% of their signatures from a single congressional district - a change from a 10% threshold passed earlier by a House committee. Critics say it’s another unconstitutional, lame-duck power grab that would burden the Secretary of State’s office and hamper the ability to pursue ballot drives. Proponents maintain it would bring transparency and accountability to the process. The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. President Judy Karandjeff of the Brighton/Howell Area Unit attended the Committee hearing, saying the League opposes the bill and will be opposing the bill in the Senate. She tells WHMI there were more questions raised than answers but thinks the intent is definitely to decrease the power of the people to initiate legislation or constitutional amendments. Karandjeff says she’s not sure how it would all work; noting the language is unclear and there would be increased costs involved for SOS staff as well as verification issues. She doesn’t feel the bill is the will of the people or what’s written in the constitution. This past November, all three ballot initiatives were approved by voters. The League supported Proposals 2 and 3. Proposal 2 aims to end gerrymandering and create a nonpartisan commission to be in charge of redrawing district lines while Proposal 3 aims to expand voter options and make it easier to vote. Karandjeff says they had a lot of members who collected signatures in both campaigns and the bill could really hinder volunteers from participating. She cited requirements for everyone who circulates a petition to file an affidavit with SOS, which could be cumbersome for volunteers. Karandjeff added it’s important that people follow what’s going on in lame duck and remember the impact that bills will have for the well-being of the state. House Bill 6595 will be up for consideration in the GOP-controlled Senate this week, which is expected to vote before adjourning the Legislature's two-year session. Picture courtesy of Progress Michigan. (JM/JK)

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    Following a criminal investigation and months of allegations surrounding misappropriated donations, the embattled chair of a county veterans committee has withdrawn his name from consideration for reappointment. Livingston County Administrator Ken Hinton has confirmed for WHMI that Hansel Keene formally informed officials that he will no longer seek another term on the Livingston County Veterans Services Committee. The terms of both he and fellow member Joe Riker expire at the end of the month. The County Board of Commissioners is expected to decide on the two appointments at their meeting Monday. Also in the running are former County Commissioner Steve Williams, along with Michael Reeve and Jim Pratt. The board will now presumably fill the two spots from the four remaining candidates. Keene’s tenure as chair of the committee came into the spotlight beginning in August following a complaint filed by a donor who said she had been instructed by Keene to make out a $400 check in his name as well as that of Livingston County Veterans Services for a plaque to honor members of the county sheriff's department who had served in the military. The donor said she had also given Keene a vacuum cleaner, a floor cleaner and a riding lawnmower and had been assured by him that they had been given to local veterans in need. But after repeated attempts to obtain a receipt for the donations from Keene, she emailed the then-director of the veterans services department, Adam Smiddy. Smiddy says he immediately began to look into what happened to the cash and other donations, but was fired several days later by the committee, with Keene one of those voting to oust him. Smiddy has since filed a Whistleblower Protection lawsuit against Keene and the county alleging his firing was in retaliation for trying to get to the bottom of the donation dispute. A copy of the State Police report obtained by WHMI indicated that Keene admitted to the investigator that he was aware of the county's policy in which donations are supposed to be brought to the Treasurer's office for deposit into the proper account and then spent from that account. But he said that, "in his mind, a $400 donation was made for this plaque, he accepted the donation and the money was spent on its intended purpose, the plaque." While Livingston County Prosecutor Bill Vailliencourt determined earlier this month that there was "insufficient evidence to justify any criminal charges,” questions remained about Keene’s ability to lead a committee entrusted with handling more than a million dollars of taxpayer funds generated each year following the passage of a 2016 county-wide millage. (JK)

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    Brighton’s city manager is trying to clear up misunderstandings about a proposed civic event fee structure. In a contentious Brighton City Council meeting on Dec. 6th that included concerns by local event organizers over proposed fees, council ended up tabling action on a new fee schedule for civic events to reimburse the city for what it costs to host the events. Since then there has been criticism of the proposal from several groups that use the Mill Pond amphitheater concerned that the fees will prevent them from holding events in the coming year. But City Manager Nate Geinzer says emphatically that the city does not intend to make any changes for the coming year in the current fee schedule. The new fees are being reviewed as part of next year’s city budget, following August’s unsuccessful Headlee Override request. Given the fact that the fee schedule will remain the same for 2019, Geinzer says city staff will be sending out civic event applications in late January or early February. Several officials from local organizations, including Pam McConeghy of the Greater Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce, Rick Bailey of the Livingston County Concert Band and Dennis Dimoff of the Brighton Kiwanis Club, told council at the last meeting that they couldn’t afford the proposed fee increases. In addition they said they have to know what their costs will be months in advance. Dimoff said he starts booking the bands for the Kiwanis Mill Pond summer gazebo concerts in early January and has to know what his costs will be. Otherwise, he told council, there won't be any Sunday Mill Pond concerts in the coming season. Likewise, Bailey said what he called the “low budget” county concert band couldn’t afford a proposed fee of $300 for its Tuesday summer concerts. Geinzer said the $94,000 in city costs cited in a WHMI article on Dec. 7th, that were contained in the Dec 6th meeting packet, was an error due to a computation mistake by staff, and the actual costs of civic events borne by the city is about $73,000. The Civic events include Ladies’ Night Out, Flower Day, the Memorial Day Parade, St. Patrick’s 5-K Run, Optimists Club Fishing Derby, July 4th Parade and related events, Kiwanis Gazebo Concerts, A Taste of Brighton, the Fine Art and Acoustic Music Festival, Smokin’ Jazz & Barbecue Blues Festival, Harvest Fest, Alzheimer’s Walk, BHS Homecoming Parade, Veteran’s Day Parade, and Holiday Glow. Civic event costs to the City range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on the event. Had the cost structure passed as proposed, the fee for use of the new Mill Pond amphitheater and adjacent new band shell would have been $300 per half-day and $500 for a full day. For a civic/special event performance series, it would have been $1,000 per 4, one-half days. The reimbursement costs for city DPW services would have been $31.36 per hour and $44.15 per hour for police dept. personnel, with 1.5 times the rate for overtime for both. Reimbursed electrician services would cost the organizer of the event $67.50 per hour. For 2019, the organizer would have paid 50% of all fees incurred for it plus 100% of supplies and contractor fees, as recommended by the City Council’s Fiscal Realities Task Force. Geinzer notes that civic event reimbursement fees are also common in other communities. He says the proposed civic event reimbursement fee is part of a larger recommendation by the Council Task Force to fill an annual $2 million funding gap for investments in streets and related infrastructure totaling $1.85 million and other costs amounting to $150,000. Geinzer said members of council will continue to discuss the recommendations of the Task Force in the coming months. (TT/JK)

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    The operator of a closed Livingston County pet cemetery is hoping to form a nonprofit group that could avoid a sale of the property. Heavenly Acres pet cemetery in Genoa Township closed after its lease expired Sept. 30. The 12-acre cemetery, which contains the remains of as many of 74,000 pets, had been operated by Linda Williams of First Pet Care Services, LLC which had attempted to renegotiate the lease with the property's owner but was denied. In a video posted over the weekend to Facebook, Williams tried to answer criticism about why a cemetery would be located on leased land. She said that she had originally owned the property but had to turn it over 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. Williams says the property’s owner, Carol Street Park Ridge LLC, has since refused to negotiate with her on renewing the lease, forcing the closure and sparking concern among those with pets buried there that they would be forced to exhume the remains and move them or lose future access. The investment firm that owns the land, Carol Street Park Ridge LLC, says the company is "sensitive to the concerns" of those with pets buried at the property and is hoping to find a buyer "willing to continue to maintain the pet cemetery." But Williams says she is hoping that a group of cemetery patrons can come together and form a 501c3 nonprofit group that would assume control of the cemetery and that Carol Street Park Ridge LLC would then donate the land to the group. She says the property isn’t worth much more than $75,000, while it would cost about $55,000 to demolish the aging structures located there and another $20,000 to replace the roof on a still-functioning pole barn. Shari Pollesch, an attorney representing Carol Street Park Ridge LLC, previously said pet owners could retrieve grave markers or pet remains after making arrangements through her firm. But Williams says that process is much more difficult and dangerous than one might think, with the likelihood of remains being damaged or destroyed in the process along with concerns of air and blood-borne pathogens being released. (JK)

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    Christmas came a little early for a lucky Michigan Lottery player who bought a winning multi-million dollar ticket in Livingston County. The winning Lotto 47 ticket was bought at the Sunoco gas station at 763 South Michigan Avenue in Howell, and is worth $3.73 million jackpot. It matched all six numbers drawn Saturday: 01-02-07-08-11-26 and marks the seventh time the game’s jackpot has been won in 2018 for a total of more than $21 million. The lucky ticket holder from Saturday’s drawing is asked to contact the Lottery’s Public Relations Division at (517) 373-1237 to make an appointment to claim the prize at the Lottery headquarters in Lansing. Lotto 47 tickets are valid for one year from the drawing date. Lotto 47 drawings take place on Wednesday and Saturday evenings. (JK)

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    A weekend holdup of a Hartland store has Michigan State Police searching for three suspects. Troopers from the Brighton Post responded to a report of armed robbery at the Sprint Store on Highland Road, just west of US-23, at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. A preliminary investigation indicates that three African American males, each wearing gloves and hooded sweatshirts which covered their heads and lower faces, entered the store and immediately threatened the employee, pointing a long gun at him. The trio took an undetermined amount of money and new cell phones and then left the store. The incident remains under investigation. State Police ask anyone who may information about this crime to contact the Brighton Post at 810-227-1051. (JK)