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Howell Receives Another Glowing AuditHowell Receives Another Glowing Audit

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By Jessica Mathews / news@whmi.com The City of Howell has again received a clean audit and earned the highest possible opinion. City Council met virtually Tuesday night and voted to accept the audit report as presented. This was the first year the Yeo & Yeo firm has performed an audit for the City for the fiscal year ending June 30th, 2020. The City again received an “unqualified” opinion, meaning the statements present fairly the financial position of the City’s activities. Audit Principal Jamie Rivette was in attendance at the meeting and said she felt it went very smooth for a first year. Rivette said she was happy to report that there were no material weaknesses or significant deficiencies related to the City’s internal controls over financial reporting, which were reviewed and analyzed. She commented further that they’re always looking at ways to help clients improve with efficiencies as well as tighten internal controls to make them more effective. For a first year audit and a new firm coming in, Rivette said they usually have at least four to five items. She said they didn’t have anything to note to help the City improve at this time and the City’s finance department did an excellent job in all of the different areas they look at. Rivette said having a new firm come in and a new set of eyes; they’re looking at different things and commended the City for a job well done. A memo states that based on the 2019/2020 fiscal year, the ending fund balance represents 34.66% of general fund expenditures and transfers out, which is higher than the 20% target. Due to some budgets amendments that were approved, the percentage will be reduced to 28.5%. It was noted the City is about 59% MERS funded, the Municipal Employees Retirement System. Mayor Nick Proctor commented that he City is very fortunate and proud to have a top notch financial department, further commending Director Catherine Stanislawski. He noted that a few months ago the City was also again recognized for excellence in financial reporting.

Livingston County's Census Response Best In MichiganLivingston County's Census Response Best In Michigan

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By Michael Kruzman / news@whmi.com Livingston County knocked the final 2020 Census count out of the park. Monday afternoon’s online meeting of the Board of Commissioners, officials recognized the Livingston County Complete Count Committee for their work throughout the 2020 Census. Board Chair Carol Griffith read a resolution recognizing several individuals from the committee and community who contributed, including committee Chair and Commissioner Doug Helzerman and Vice Chair Alison Nalepa. Griffith said that as of October 15th, the Livingston County final 2020 Census response was 82.5% - a 7.2 increase from 2010. That response rate is not only the best of all counties in Michigan, but is also the 15th highest in the entire United States. Helzerman said he was proud of the people in the Complete Count Committee and all that they accomplished. He said during the meeting, “At this point in time when there is a polarization in this country, this committee showed how it should be done. People from of a lot of different backgrounds and political interests came together for the betterment, good of the community. I want to thank each person… If I live another 20 years this is one of those highlights of your life that you say ‘that was a really good experience’ and I appreciate each person on the committee.” Helzerman said they got a late after the untimely passing of County Administrator Ken Hinton, but “things came together quite well.” He credited Nalepa as being the engine that made everything happen. Nalepa thanked fellow committee members and volunteers for their ideas and willingness to serve the community. She said they created a robust list of ideas that had to be adjusted with COVID, but then did impressive things in adapting. Helzerman also credited Oakland Livingston Humane Service Agency Program Support Coordinator Ann Robinson as being another valuable leader. With her help, OLHSA was able to provide funding to hire a couple people in the beginning of the count to get them started and on the right path. Census data is used to determine funding for schools, health care and roads over the next 10 years. Board Chairwoman Griffith said there is no doubt Livingston County will be a better community because of the committee’s hard work.

Brighton-Man Heads To Trial On 20 Counts Of Criminal Sexual ConductBrighton-Man Heads To Trial On 20 Counts Of Criminal Sexual Conduct

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By Mike Kruzman / news@whmi.com A local man facing sexual assault charges related to incidents involving children is going to trial. A 42-year-old Brighton man was bound over to circuit court last week by Judge Shauna Murphy. In February he was originally charged with 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct related to incidents that occurred in 2019. Testimony indicated that the minors were forced to perform various sexual acts. WHMI is not identifying the suspect to protect the identities of his victims. During an examination held last week, prosecutors added 10 new criminal sexual conduct charges against the suspect, including 5 in the 1st degree. If convicted, he faces a sentence of up to life in prison. The suspect remains jailed on a $250,000 bond pending future court dates.

Detroit Rehab Facility COVID Outbreak Connected To Brighton-Area ChurchDetroit Rehab Facility COVID Outbreak Connected To Brighton-Area Church

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By Jessica Mathews & Jon King / news@whmi.com A residential rehab facility in Detroit has been connected to a COVID-19 outbreak at the Brighton Assembly of God in Livingston County, which reported an outbreak earlier this month. The Detroit Health Department issued a public health alert on October 23rd after residents of Life Challenge Ministries, a residential rehabilitation facility in Detroit, were confirmed to have COVID-19 after attending an October 4th service at Brighton Assembly of God in Green Oak Township. Vickie Sullen Winn is the Director of Communications for the Detroit Health Department and told WHMI that following confirmation of the outbreak , their staff worked throughout the week to investigate 24 confirmed cases among Detroit residents, who were advised to isolate per CDC guidelines. The Health Department also worked closely with church leadership with cleaning recommendations to mitigate further spread and provide education to staff. Meanwhile, Natasha Radke, the Public Information Officer for the Livingston County Health Department says while they don’t know where this cluster originated; they do know that, “COVID-19 knows no boundaries. It affects everyone regardless of age, race, or gender. COVID-19 affects cities, large and small, and all communities, rural and urban. The only way to curb this pandemic is to work together as a community and do the things that we know to work: wear a mask, wash your hands, maintain social distance, and stay home when you are sick.”

Board Rejects Teacher Grievances, Heads To ArbitrationBoard Rejects Teacher Grievances, Heads To Arbitration

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By Tom Tolen / news@whmi.com There is still no agreement on a contract dispute involving the 325 teachers in the Brighton Area School District and its Board of Education. The bargaining teams for both sides met Monday in a mediation session that was followed by a regular board meeting. According to Brighton Education Association President Barry Goode, the mediation session with state-appointed mediator Stan Dobry went well, overall, and progress was made. However, Goode added the caveat that, in his words, “We're not where we want to be.” The board went into executive session at the close of its meeting Monday evening, coming back without approving the salary reopener question with the BEA. The Board also rejected two grievances that had been filed by the BEA. Goode said the Level III grievances pertain to additional duties the teachers have been required to perform since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic such as classroom cleaning, plus the district's inability to comply with social distancing rules — things that, he said, were never negotiated and are not part of the contract. The vote to deny the grievances was 7-0 in each instance. Goode called the rejections “just a formality before we go to arbitration.” Before that happens, however, Goode said the BEA must receive an official denial from the board. As a result, an arbitration hearing has not been scheduled at this time. According to Board President Andy Burchfield, “A good portion of the community is under the false impression that the teachers don’t have a contract.” He said that is simply not the case and, in fact, they are in year two of a 3-year contract with an annual salary reopener. Burchfield said further that the district has provided teachers this year alone with $734,000 toward their steps on the salary scale, based on the contract, plus 2.3% for professional development, for a total of over $1 million in additional compensation based upon completion of advanced degrees. As such, Burchfield said, unlike what some claim, the board is not being overly cost conscious to the point of not giving teachers what they deserve. Brighton teachers have the highest average pay of any of the five K-12 Livingston County school districts, a factor due at least in part to Brighton having more veteran teachers with more years of service. In his report Monday, the auditor told the board that the district should have a fund equity of 10-15%. The fund balance is currently just under 10%, Burchfield emphasizing “That’s not liquid cash in the bank.” But despite the lack of agreement on the salary reopener, Burchfield remains optimistic, saying, “Our goal is to get a contract; it’s very important to the community.”

Marijuana Grow & Processing Facility Gets Conditional Use ApprovalMarijuana Grow & Processing Facility Gets Conditional Use Approval

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By Mike Kruzman / news@whmi.com Northfield Township officials have approved a conditional use permit for a marijuana facility. Kish Sutariya, representing Kheti-a potential marijuana operation, made a presentation to the Board of Trustees at their online meeting, Tuesday night. Kheti has approximately 130 acres on North Territorial at US-23that they are proposing to turn into the Nova Business Park. The park will have 5 parcels, including one just under 18 acres that will be home to Kheti’s grow and processing facility. Sutariya told the Board his company is established, stable, and ready to become a player in the community. He said the Kheti group has experience running retail and convenience, hi-tech manufacturing, hospitality, multi-tenant shopping, and recently, cannabis. They are also planning on investing $15-million in projects throughout the township. Trustee Janet Chick liked that they are proposing to fill 50% of their employment needs locally. Sutariya said that the grow facility will be a private and secure gated park with no public access. He pledged a quality and safe product, claiming that in 3 years of operating in Colorado they haven’t had any infractions. Northfield Township Planner Paul Lippens said that this comes to the Board with the recommendation of approval from the Planning Commission. He said Kheti’s site plan has been tabled, but he expects it come back for consideration soon. Lippens noted this was just for allowing the operation as a conditional use, not for the marijuana license. Kheti is requesting 5 of the township’s 6 recreational grow permits, 2 of their 3 medical grow permits, and 2 of their 3 processor permits. The conditional use permit approval paves the way for them to further pursue these. The Board of Trustees voted 6-1 in favor. Trustee Tawn Beliger cast the lone vote against, stating she doesn’t feel it’s good for the community to invite this type of business in.

Seven Candidates Seek Four Seats On BAS BoardSeven Candidates Seek Four Seats On BAS Board

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By Tom Tolen / news@whmi.com The Brighton Area Schools has a robust race taking place for the Board of Education in next Tuesday's general election, with seven candidates vying for four, 4-year seats. Three of the seven candidates are incumbents: Board Vice President Alicia Reid, Board Secretary Roger Myers, and Treasurer Bill Trombley. The other four candidates include former board member John Conely, along with newcomers Caitlin Perry Dial, Patti Dunbar, and Catherine Tilles. Current Board President Andy Burchfield, whose term expires on Dec. 31st, is not running for reelection. In order to give voters a better idea of who the candidates are and where they stand on the issues, WHMI posed a series of nine questions to each of the candidates. Their responses have been condensed here for the sake of brevity. The complete answers are available through the download below. Dunbar did not respond to our questionnaire. The questions are: 1) Why are you running? 2) What do you think is the biggest need in the school district? 3) If elected, what are your goals and priorities for the next four years? 4) Do you believe Brighton teachers should get a pay raise? 5) If so, how much would be a fair and reasonable raise? 6) What special skill set/s do you possess that you believe would make you valuable to the board and district? 7) Are you a district parent with children in the Brighton Area Schools? 8) How many children do you have, and what school/s do they attend? 9) How can Brighton best retain and build on the excellent academic reputation it has gained in the state (and even nation)? WHY ARE YOU RUNNING? To the first question, Alicia Reid replied that she’s running for reelection because “the board and district have a lot of work left to do…to provide all students with an education that enables them to succeed in life.” Myers responded that he is running because “there is much more work to do, particularly given the new and unforeseen challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.” Trombley said he is running again “to maintain the momentum the district has gained by me being on the board for the last 8 years.” Perry Dial said she is running because, in her words, “I love this district and everything it offers for kids, (and want) to envision its future.” Conely said, “(The) Brighton Area Schools needs oversight and guidance from its community," and Tilles said, “to institute global education.” WHAT IS THE BIGGEST NEED IN THE DISTRICT? In the matter of what the candidate regards as the biggest need in the school district, Conely said, “Get rid of Common Core education; confirmation that basic skills — reading, writing, and arithmetic — are being accomplished.” Trombley responded with, “a contract that every employee and everyone else is happy with;” Perry Dial said, ”navigating our way through the pandemic and addressing inequalities uncovered in the in-person vs. virtual programs,” while Reid responded, “building safety, communication, and learning from our mistakes.” And Myers said, “an unwavering commitment to successfully and safely educate our children during the pandemic.” Tilles gave the succinct answer of “multidisciplinary studies.” WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS/PRIORITIES FOR THE NEXT 4 YEARS IF ELECTED? To the question of what their goals and priorities would be for the next four years, Myers said, "promotion of STEAM programs, expansion of career technical programs, enhancing social-emotional support systems, continued growth of the Shared Services program, adoption of a new strategic plan, properly manage our Schools of Choice program, and successful completion of bond work.” Tilles said to “place as one of the top 25 districts in the USA, crime and drug-free schools, and scholarships and grants for all students.” Reid said to “learn from the strengths and weaknesses of our pandemic response and build better lines of communication…” Trombley said “to keep our fund balance over 15% and to keep our district academically in the top 3%…” Perry Dial said, “to continue to innovate and strive for better” and improve in “diversity, equity and inclusion,” and Conely stated, “Programming that makes sense for the student’s future and job opportunities — (that) includes trades, business, engineering, and academics.” DO YOU BELIEVE BRIGHTON TEACHERS SHOULD GET A PAY RAISE? IF SO, HOW MUCH? To the issue of whether teachers should get a pay raise, Reid replied that teachers should be better compensated, but declined to give a specific amount of pay increase she feels they are warranted. Like Reid, Myers said he has voted for every pay hike that has been recommended by administration. However, both lamented the fact that Brighton is one of the lowest-funded districts in the state, at 718th or 719th, and that state funding needs to be increased, as Reid put it, “to pay our teachers what they are worth.” Conely said, quoting, “In the past, I have supported raises when progress was being made.” However, he wouldn’t commit to a specific pay raise. Perry Dial said, “a reasonable raise is the original 2.3% salary increase negotiated in the union contract.” Tilles responded that teachers should get a pay raise that is equal to the cost of living increase, while Trombley replied that he couldn’t comment because he is part of the administration’s negotiating team. WHAT SPECIAL SKILL SET/S DO YOU POSSESS THAT WOULD MAKE YOU VALUABLE TO THE BOARD AND DISTRICT? To the topic of special skill sets they possess that would be useful, Perry Dial replied that she sees “clarity in the face of great uncertainty,” calling herself a “problem solver.” Reid, employed as a bank compliance officer and regulatory attorney, said she has great experience in “analyzing risks and matching resources to those risks." She said those skills are needed “to continue meeting the financial pressures of running a school (district) in uncertain times while still preparing our kids to succeed…” Trombley stated, “The same skills I have used for the last 8 years to keep BAS out of deficit, build fund equity, complete all bond work as promised, and uphold academic standards.” Myers, like Reid an attorney, said his professional experience has instilled in him “the value of being a good listener, distilling large volumes of information to recognize what is most important, understanding and respecting the opinions and concerns of all parties, and taking a measured, informed approach to all decisions.” Tilles says her “special skills” are "technology, grant writing, gifted and talented education, entrepreneurship, and combatting race and sexual stereotypes.” Conely stated he has been, “self-employed for 35 years in Brighton (with) multiple successful businesses." He also served two, 4-year terms on the board and “was part of balancing the budget, growing fund equity, allowing BAS to add many new programs to benefit the students.” ARE YOU A DISTRICT PARENT WITH CHILDREN IN THE BRIGHTON AREA SCHOOLS? IF SO, HOW MANY CHILDREN DO YOU HAVE, AND WHAT SCHOOL/S DO THEY ATTEND? Myers has four children in the district: a son attending Brighton High School, a daughter at Maltby and two daughters who have already graduated from BHS and are in college. Trombley has two children, both of whom attend BHS. Perry Dial has a first grader at Hornung, currently attending the Brighton Virtual Academy, and a preschooler. Reid has a daughter in 6th grade at Maltby and a son in 10th grade at BHS. Conely’s youngest child graduated from BHS in 2009 while he graduated from BHS in 1980; he added that his 2 daughters and 1 son are all college graduates. Tilles does not have any children in the district. HOW CAN BRIGHTON BEST RETAIN AND BUILD ON THE EXCELLENT ACADEMIC REPUTATION IT HAS GAINED IN THE STATE AND, IN THE CASE OF BRIGHTON HIGH SCHOOL), EVEN NATION)? Reid replied the way to accomplish that is to “prioritize supports for students that learn differently or have challenges in learning…create more opportunities for hands-on learning at all grade levels…(and) continuing to expand counseling services.” Myers said “to constantly reinvest in our employees, such as maintaining competitive wages…having more STEAM and CTE offerings and properly maintain the infrastructure…to support academic success.” Conely said “by maintaining a vision for programs that are on the cutting edge for students, invest in programming and high-quality staff.” Tilles and Perry Dial both said the best way is to continue to be innovative. Finally, Trombley says, in his words, “by re-electing Me* to the board.” (*Capitalization his)

Howell City Clerk's Office Busy Ahead Of Election DayHowell City Clerk's Office Busy Ahead Of Election Day

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By Jessica Mathews / news@whmi.com With less than one week left to go before next Tuesday’s General Election, most municipal clerks across Livingston County are not only busy preparing but aiding individuals with early voting. At Monday night’s virtual Howell City Council meeting, Clerk Jane Cartwright noted the Livingston County clerk was anticipating around 90% voter turnout on Election Day. Cartwright said they’ve been very busy with people coming in with absentee ballots and voting early – noting they anticipate Election Day being just as busy. Cartwright told Council 2,895 ballots had been issued as of Monday. 76% had been returned or 2,193 – which was said to be triple the last General Election. Cartwright said they issued 73 ballots on Monday alone – which was open door all-day long. She said they had to put up a couple more voting booths – noting the office is not set up for that but they’re making it work and will do the best they can. Mayor Nick Proctor and other Council members commended Cartwright and staff for all of their hard work thus far, saying everyone is doing an excellent job under the circumstances. Meanwhile, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says citizens can cast their ballots safely and with confidence this election. She says all election workers are required to wear masks and all voters are strongly encouraged to do so. Voters who already have absentee ballots can drop them off at their city or township clerk’s office or ballot drop box, as use of the United States Postal Service is now discouraged. All registered voters may vote early by visiting their city or township clerk’s office through Monday, November 2nd. There they can request, fill out and submit an absentee ballot all in one trip or take their ballot home to fill out and sign the envelope before returning it to one of their jurisdiction’s ballot drop boxes by 8pm on November 3rd. More information can be found through the link.

HPS Identifies One Positive, One Probable COVID-19 CaseHPS Identifies One Positive, One Probable COVID-19 Case

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By Jessica Mathews / news@whmi.com A Howell High School student has tested positive for COVID-19 while a probable, positive case was identified in a middle school student. The two cases are said to be unrelated. A 12th grade student at Howell High School tested positive and is currently quarantining. An 8th grade student at Highlander Way Middle School student who rode Bus 47 is being considered as a probable, positive COVID case. Correspondence was sent out about each case, stating the district is in direct contact with the Livingston County Health Department and following all guidance. In the case of the middle school student, the letter states the probable, positive student shared at least one class or rode the bus with someone’s child, but clarifies that it does not mean that person’s child is a close contact of the student. As a precautionary measure; the student’s classrooms, bus and common areas of the building will receive additional cleaning. The letter states the district remains transparent about how it addresses COVID-19 situations. HPS Spokesman Tom Gould tells WHMI the district sends out emails and notifications to everyone who is possibly exposed to probable or positive cases that are not considered close contacts. Close contacts of probable and positive cases are notified individually. Gould noted that virtual students and their families also receive all district correspondence related to COVID-19.

Lake Fenton Navy Veteran Named Military Engineer Of The YearLake Fenton Navy Veteran Named Military Engineer Of The Year

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By Mike Kruzman / news@whmi.com A Navy-veteran from Lake Fenton has been named Military Engineer of the Year for 2021. Lt. Commander Thomas Dill was selected for the honor by Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Washington, earlier this month. Dill has been with NAVFAC Washington for 2 years and leads more than 80 civilian and military personnel who deliver utility engineering, facility sustainment and maintenance, and special construction services according to a release from the Navy Office of Community Outreach. Among his accomplishments, the Lake Fenton-graduate has ensured the operations of 3 steam plants, 2 chilled water plants, multiple transmission systems, and potable water and sewer systems in the National Capital Region. Dill said he wanted to be a pilot, but he also was interested in how science and math come together to make systems work, like in airplanes, hence becoming an engineer was a natural choice for him. He added that life as an engineer has not disappointed, and that he enjoys working with teams to solve practical problems. Believing it provides a foundation to understand how things work and that it gives the opportunity to utilize all the knowledge we’ve acquired to continue solving problems and push humanity forward, Dill is encouraging the younger generations to consider engineering as a career path. Captain Gregory Vinci of NAVFAC Washington congratulated Dill, commending him on his service, dedication, professionalism, and contributions.

New Brighton Economic Development Coordinator HiredNew Brighton Economic Development Coordinator Hired

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By Jessica Mathews / news@whmi.com The City of Brighton’s Economic Development Team has a new member. Denise Murray has joined Ann Arbor SPARK as the Economic Development Coordinator contracted by the City of Brighton. In her new role, Murray will be working closely with City Staff and the Downtown Development Authority Board to engage directly with Brighton businesses; assessing their needs and offering business support services when requested. A press release states Murray hopes to act as a bridge between the City and DDA and the community’s diverse businesses, noting her extensive experience in business development and collaborative mindset. DDA Chair Tim Corrigan said Murray brings a level of expertise that will be very helpful in assisting their local restaurants and merchants. City Manager Nate Geinzer commented that adding Murray to their Economic Development Team allows for an expanded full service approach to economic development including businesses recruitment, retention, and development services. He noted she’ll work closely with Community Development Manager Mike Caruso and Management/DDA Assistant Henry Outlaw to build a robust economic ecosystem. More information about Murray’s background and contact information for businesses is available in the attached release.
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Carbon Monoxide Safety & Awareness Week UnderwayCarbon Monoxide Safety & Awareness Week Underway

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By Jessica Mathews / news@whmi.com Carbon Monoxide Safety and Awareness Week is underway across Livingston County and the state of Michigan. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has proclaimed October 26th through November 1st as Carbon Monoxide Safety and Awareness Week in Michigan and Consumers Energy is again working to educate people about CO signs and symptoms. Carbon monoxide is referred to as “the invisible killer” because it is an odorless, colorless, tasteless and poisonous gas produced by the improper operation or ventilation of fuel-burning appliances. That can include furnaces, water heaters, ovens, fireplaces, fuel space heaters, generators, charcoal grills and vehicles. Each year, more than 140 people are hospitalized in Michigan due to CO poisoning, with more than 400 dying each year across the United States. Consumers Energy Public Information Director Debra McIntyre-Dodd tells WHMI generally the whole winter season is a big carbon monoxide safety and awareness time for Michiganders. She says they recommend having furnaces are inspected by a qualified technician to get things tuned up and ready for winter to make sure everything is in good working order as carbon monoxide poisoning can occur almost anywhere and signs of CO poisoning often mimic the flu. Symptoms can include headache, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, fatigue, shortness of breath, confusion and stinging/burning of the eyes. McIntyre-Dodd stressed the importance of having at least one working audible CO alarm in a home, business, cabin, boat and even deer blinds or ice shanties. She says now is a good time to get furnaces inspected by a licensed technician and it’s recommended that furnace air filters be changed at least once a month during the winter season – but more if someone has pets to make sure it runs at peak efficiency and operates correctly. McIntyre-Dodd said it’s also good idea to have chimneys or vent pipes inspected to make sure there are no obstructions like leaves or bird nests that could cause a CO problem. McIntyre-Dodd says they recommend purchasing a UL-listed audible CO alarm - meaning Underwriter Laboratory listed indicating they have been tested and approved. She says it’s important to make sure the alarm is audible that way if a CO problem occurs, it will alert via a loud alarm like a smoke detector. If an alarm ever does sound, McIntyre-Dodd says they recommend people get out of the area, call 911 and do not re-enter the home or business until it has been checked and declared safe. More information on carbon monoxide safety is available in the attachment and web link.