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AnnArbor.com's News section covers government, crime, education, health and the environment across Washtenaw County.

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    An Ypsilanti landlord is hoping to breathe new life into the former Sunshine Grocery on Washtenaw Avenue. The building has sat vacant for around two years.

    Site plans to renovate the space at 1510 Washtenaw Ave. were unanimously approved by the Ypsilanti Planning Commission at its June 26 meeting.

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    1510 Washtenaw Avenue

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    City Planner Teresa Gillotti said the owner, Said Issa, likely will begin renovations in the next several months.

    Issa told the planning commission that he plans to parcel the 6,000-square-foot building into four units and is in talks with a proprietor of a Biggby Coffee franchise, though nothing has been confirmed. No other tenants were mentioned at the meeting, and Issa could not be reached for comment.

    The property has a taxable value of $224,000 and is zoned B1, neighborhood business, meaning that tenants must cater to the surrounding neighborhood.

    "We're excited, we think this is a good project and we're looking forward to seeing improvements to the building and having new tenants in the near future," Gillotti said.

    The building was built in 1962 by Richardson’s Pharmacy and an addition nearly doubled its size since then. Prior to Sunshine Grocery, a dollar store operated out of the location.

    Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter. Contact the AnnArbor.com news desk at news@annarbor.com.


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    While most Americans spend their Fourth of July enjoying parades and celebrating America, Sandra Bowers was packing to leave it behind for a bit.

    Bowers was learning to travel light as she prepared to leave July 5 for the Philippines, where she will spend two years as part of the Peace Corps.

    “My goal is to fit everything into one bag and one backpack,” she said. “I hear that once you’re there it can get tough to lug everything from place to place.”

    peace_corps.JPG

    Sandra Bowers poses with her children. From left: Kara, 19, Erin, 25, Sandra and Scotty, 23. Sandra is going to the Philippines with the Peace Corps to complete her masters in social work.

    Courtesy Sandra Bowers

    While the Peace Corps is not an unusual calling for an Ann Arbor resident just graduating from one of the local universities, Bowers is part of the 7 percent of corps volunteers over the age of 50.

    “Older volunteers really bring their career and life experiences to the corps in a way that’s different and so valuable,”said Jessica Mayle , regional Peace Corps coordinator.

    “You can’t overemphasize this enough. It’s really hard to commit to two years whether you’re 25 or 55 and it’s a big experience. Those volunteers who are able to do it really make a difference in such a big way.”

    President John F. Kennedy first proposed the idea for the Peace Corps on the steps of the University of Michigan's Student Union where today, a medallion on the ground marks the spot where he stood. Mayle said many of the older volunteers where first inspired into service by his words.

    “It’s often people who are stable, have grown kids, and they can pursue this dream they’ve kept in the back of their heads their whole lives,” Mayle said.

    “For a lot of people this is something they wanted to do in their 20s but weren’t able to. It’s definitely a different path from people in their 20s right now who are maybe very ideological or don’t want to start a career right away.”

    Bowers, who previously worked with special education students in the Ann Arbor Public Schools, is doing the volunteer work as part of a masters in social work program at U-M. She has gone to school for one year, will complete two years abroad and then come back to do one more year before receiving her degree.

    “I was the last person in my School of Social Work group to get placed but I was so excited when I heard I’d be going to the Philippines. I couldn’t have asked for a place I’d rather go,” she said.

    Once she arrives in the Philippines, Bowers will complete three months of training and then likely will work with youth education and development programs.

    “I have done volunteer and service work before but nothing this long-term or international,” she said.

    “I have three children, and they’re at the point in their lives where my role as their mother is changing. So I felt I had the window of opportunity to do something that wasn’t necessarily focused around them.”

    Her exact placement will not be determined until after she arrives in the country, but Bowers says she knows she could end up in a wide variety of communities. The Philippines is home to Manila, one of the most densely populated cities in the world, as well as very rural coastal communities.

    “Throughout the country, most places have pretty good technology, but I don’t know for certain how connected I’ll be,” Bowers said.

    “The closest internet connection could be in a cafe a number of miles away or down the street. I will have a phone, and I’ve also already given my contact information to friends and family to send me care packages. I’m like one of the kids going off to camp.”

    Peace Corps volunteers earn two days of vacation every month that Mayle said can be used to travel in the region where the volunteer is stationed or to make a trip back to the states if necessary.

    “I won’t be coming home unless there’s an emergency,” Bowers said. “But the goal is definitely to have all of my children come and visit me at some point.”

    Ben Freed covers business for AnnArbor.com. You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Get in touch with Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at benfreed@annarbor.com. Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2


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    Flickr photo by picto:graphic

    The vast majority of animals that I care for are fairly easygoing about my giving medication to them, and if they're not, they tend to not fuss too much and have attitudes toward me that are pretty forgiving.

    Medications aren't limited to pills — liquids, injections and even transdermal preparations are all used in veterinary applications, so depending on the type of prescription, technique and speed are often the truck in making the task easy and comfortable.

    One species of companion animal can be a little tricky when it comes to administering meds to — rabbits — and that is true for a few reasons.

    First, bunnies are skittish. As prey animals, by instinct they have a strong flight response when frightened or unsettled, so because of that, they do try to fight and get away.

    This reaction can present a problem when they are picked up — an action that can cause them to be frightened. The fact that bunnies have delicate bones in their back is a cause for concern when the need to handle them in a way that they may not care for (in this case, to administer medication) arises.

    Pet rabbits tend to kick their powerful legs in an effort to get away. This action can jar the spine, causing it to break.

    Because of this, taking special care to support their weight in a way that their legs would when lifting and carrying them, and employing a swaddling technique so to speak when medicating them can help avoid any injury to your pet.

    Referred to as "burritoing the bunny", swaddling the animal in a large towel is an easy way to comfortably and safely restrain them while performing the task.

    It's easy enough to do: take a large bath towel (larger than your pet), fold it in half, then fold a far corner in slightly. Put the rabbit's head where the corner is, fold the bottom half of the towel up over the animal's back and then wrap each side of the towel snugly over his body, just like you would an infant.

    This allows better control and keeps the rabbit from kicking and thrashing about.

    For added control, consider sitting down with the animal in your lap while medicating it.

    To see a demonstration on how to swaddle your rabbit, click here. Dr.Jeffery R. Jenkins, DVM, DABVP offers this tip and others on how to properly handle your bunny whether picking him up, or transferring him in or out of a pet carrier.

    Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for AnnArbor.com. Catch her daily dog walking and pet sitting adventures or email her directly and subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.


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    A 24-year-old Ypsilanti woman was taken into custody after she was accused of stabbing another woman early Friday morning, police said.

    Officers were called to the 100 block of Bell Street at 3:10 a.m. after receiving reports of a stabbing, Ypsilanti police said. The suspect and the victim were no longer at the location, but interviews with witnesses revealed the two women were in an argument.

    The stabbing victim, a 21-year-old Ypsilanti Township woman, and the 24-year-old got into a fight earlier in the day when they ran into each other at a store, said Ypsilanti police Sgt. Thomas Eberts.

    When the tires on the 21-year-old's vehicle were slashed later in the day, she believed the 24-year-old was responsible, Eberts said.

    In the early morning hours, the 21-year-old learned the 24-year-old was at the Bell Street residence and went over to confront and eventually attack the other woman, police said.

    The 24-year-old somehow obtained a double-edged knife, which hasn't been recovered by police.

    "The (24-year-old) stabbed the (21-year-old) once in the ribcage," Eberts said.

    When police arrived, both had already been taken to a local hospital where officers later met with them.The 24-year-old woman had cut her hand in the fight. She was treated and taken into custody upon her release, Eberts said.

    The 21-year-old remains in the hospital after undergoing surgery Friday morning.

    The 24-year-old remains in custody. Felonious assault charges will be submitted to the prosecutor's office for authorization.


    View Larger Map

    John Counts covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at johncounts@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    George Bedard plays at the final night of Top of the Park in 2012.

    Jeffrey M. Smith | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Ann Arbor rockabilly / blues master George Bedard, backed by his long-time band The Kingpins, will close the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Top of the Park series with a show Sunday night, the first of three upcoming high-profile local gigs.

    He’s been TOP’s closing act for so long it’s become something of a tradition. Sunday's gig, however, also has another purpose: Bedard has a new album out called “Further On,” and the performance will mark its official release.

    No one is exactly sure what year the band first started performing at the festival. Bedard thinks it was 1991 (the group formed in 1989). However, Bedard, who recently turned 60, is excited about the new CD and about the future.

    The new disc—recorded over a year’s worth of sessions at Callahan’s Music Hall, a live blues music venue in Auburn Hills—is a mix of blues originals and covers. It comes a scant few years after Bedard released “Pickin’ Apart the Past,” an all-instrumental CD of guitar versions of jazz, swing, and blues material from a variety of composers.

    “Two years between CDs is a record short period of time (for me),” Bedard said.

    The disc’s title is based on the tune "Further On Up the Road," a blues song first recorded in 1957 by Bobby "Blue" Bland. Among other artists covered—some with additional lyrics by Bedard—are T-Bone Walker (Party Girl”), Little Richard (“Slippin’ and Slidin’”), Elmore James (“Stranger Blues”) and Big Joe Turner (“Flip, Flop, Fly”).

    PREVIEW

    George Bedard & the Kingpins

    • Who: Well-loved, well-respected local roots rock band.
    • What: Popular local act closes this year’s Top of the Park series with a show of swinging blues that will also serve as a CD release party.
    • Where: Top of the Park, East Washington Street at Ingalls Mall, Rackham stage.
    • When: 8 p.m. Sunday, July 7. Bedard also plays The Ark on Aug. 23 (with a different band) and Sonic Lunch on Aug. 29 (with the Kingpins).
    • How much: Free. Info: www.annarborsummerfestival.org.
    The disc also includes several of Bedard’s original blues compositions, including “The Only Thing,” “You Put the Hurt on Me,” “King-O-Ling,” and Bedard's rousing slide guitar tribute to Elmore James, “Laid Across My Bed.”

    Besides Bedard and the Kingpins (longtime bandmates Randy Tessier on bass and Rich Dishman, drums), upright bass player Pat Prouty and keyboardist Chris Codish also play on the new album.

    “I get to do something that’s not suited for the trio,” he added.

    Six of the disc’s 13 tunes—released on Bedard’s own Bossitistic Music Label—come from a session in May where Bedard, plus Codish and Prouty, hit all the right notes despite never having played together before.

    “When playing a tribute concert to the late Johnnie Bassett last year, I was struck by the depth of Chris’ playing and the way we meshed so effortlessly,” explained Bedard. "I realized the ability to add a whole new dimension to the project by including these guys, and we scheduled a final recording session with Chris, Pat and Rich to round out the album’s sound. The result was one of the greatest musical experiences of my career.”

    The T-Bone Walker track “Cold Cold Feeling,” on which Prouty and Bedard solo, is a disc highlight. “Chris and I are sympatico,” Bedard said. “We really mesh stylistically.”

    Born in Mount Clemens, Bedard spent most of his life in Ann Arbor. He has been playing around town for more than 40 years, starting in the basement of the Blind Pig when he was 17. A self-taught musician, he has also played in The Bonnevilles, The Silvertones, Tracy Lee and the Leonards, and Drivin’ Sideways.

    Bedard has also earned his share of recognition on the national level, sharing the stage with such blues luminaries as Eddie Taylor, Joe Turner, Big Walter Horton, Bonnie Raitt, Johnnie Johnson, Kim Wilson and many others.

    “The blues was my first love,” said Bedard, “and though I’ve explored other genres I’ve always wanted to do an all-blues recording. The many requests to release a live performance album were finally able to be answered while allowing me to return home to the music which inspired me to become a musician in the first place.”

    He said he plans be on hand after the Top of the Park show for an autograph session before heading on the road for a series of blues festival performances. He’ll also be back at The Ark Aug. 23 for his “Ragtime to Rock-n-Roll” show, with a new band, and he’s been booked to close the downtown Sonic Lunch series Aug. 29.


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    Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in "Dirty Dancing"

    If the movie line “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” means anything at all to you, then you might want to head over to the Michigan Theater for screenings Sunday and Tuesday of “Dirty Dancing,” the latest in the Michigan’s Summer Classic film series.

    The 1987 coming-of-age movie, set in 1963 at a Catskills resort, stars Patrick Swayze, who plays handsome dance instructor Johnny Castle, and Jennifer Grey as the 17-year-old “Baby” Houseman, who falls head-over-heels in love with the older Castle during summer vacation.

    As the action heats up on screen, Baby’s father, Dr. Jake Houseman (a pre-“Law & Order” Jerry Orbach), will have none of it, convinced that Johnny is a lowlife and that his daughter is too young to understand her own feelings.

    Originally a low-budget film by a new studio and with no major stars, it was one of the highest-grossing films of 1987. Interestingly, the closing song, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" has been listed as the third most popular song played at funerals in the United Kingdom.

    “Dirty Dancing” screens at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty St., Sunday at 1:30 p.m. and Tuesday at 7 p.m. Admission is $10; discounts for seniors, students & members. Details at www.michtheater.org or 734-668-8397. Running time is100 minutes and the rating is PG-13.


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    When it comes to drivers in the state, Michigan State University fans are either more plentiful or showing more pride than their University of Michigan counterparts, the Lansing State Journal reports.

    Since September 2000 the Michigan Secretary of State has sold 501,725 Spartan license plates, bringing in $6.2 million in revenue split between the state and the school, the newspaper reported. Meanwhile during that time, the state has sold 361,909 University of Michigan plates, generating $4.5 million in revenue.

    platemich.jpeg

    University of Michigan license plate.

    The Journal reported that MSU plates are the most popular specialty license plates in Michigan, followed by a patriotic plate that debuted Sept. 11, 2001, and then by U-M plates.

    “We pride ourselves on being the university for the state, so it’s definitely refreshing to hear we have the most popular one,” MSU spokesman Jason Cody told the newspaper.

    Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at kelliewoodhouse@annarbor.com or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.


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    A homeowner who heard the garage door go up scared off a would-be thief and contacted police, who were able to find and arrest a suspect, Washtenaw County sheriff's deputies said.

    The homeowner in the 7000 block of Wellington Lane in Ypsilanti Township heard the garage door open about 1 a.m. Tuesday and yelled, which caused the suspect to flee the area, police said.

    Deputies arrived and searched the area and saw a man leaving on a bike. He was detained and identified as a suspect.

    Deputies said the 21-year-old Ypsilanti Township resident is suspected of breaking into several unlocked vehicles in the area and stealing multiple items, including a garage door opener, which he used to try to gain entry to the house on Wellington Lane.

    All stolen items were recovered and returned.

    The suspect was arrested and was expected to be arraigned on charges of first degree home invasion, breaking and entering with intent to commit larceny, two counts of larceny from an automobile and larceny less than $200.

    Anyone with any information regarding this incident is asked to call the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office confidential tip line at (734) 973-7711.


    View Home Invasion in a larger map

    Chelsea Hoedl is an intern reporter for AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at choedl@mlive.com.


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    Editor's note: The 21-year-old Ypsilanti man is not a student as initially reported.

    A 21-year-old Ypsilanti man who was seen urinating in public was taken into custody after leading an officer on a foot chase through the University of Michigan central campus early Friday morning.

    Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for UMpolice.jpg

    A Housing Security officer saw three people urinating at 2:29 a.m. near the Helen Newberry Dormitory at 432 S. State St. in Ann Arbor, U-M police said in a crime summary.

    The 21-year-old shoved the officer and fled on foot, leading officers on a foot chase around central campus, police said.

    The man was ultimately nabbed, processed and released from custody pending authorization of charges of non-aggravated assault, resisting a police officer and urinating in public.

    Police said the man was not a student.


    View Larger Map

    John Counts covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at johncounts@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    Authorities reported no major incidents from Fourth of July celebrations.

    Jeffrey Smith | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Police and fire agencies throughout Washtenaw County said Friday there were no major incidents resulting from Fourth of July celebrations Thursday.

    Joyce Williams of Huron Valley Ambulance said only one minor injury was reported in the county. That was a child who suffered minor burns from a sparkler at 7:06 p.m. She was transported to a hospital by her parents, so authorities don't have record of where it occurred, Williams said.

    Despite an ordinance that was passed in Ann Arbor to fireworks between midnight and 8 a.m. on July 3, July 4 and July 5, there were no more complaints than usual Sgt. Mike Scherba said.

    “You have your residents who enjoy the holiday and you have those who don’t,” Scherba said.

    There were, however, three firework complaints in parking lots on the University of Michigan campus, according to a U-M police crime summary. Police were called to the 2700 block of Hubbard at 10:36 p.m., to the 600 block of Thompson Street at 11:07 p.m. and to the 500 block of Liberty Street at 11:12 p.m. In all three incidents, people who were lighting off fireworks in the parking lots were told to move along, according to the summary.

    Ypsilanti Township passed an ordinance similar to the one passed in Ann Arbor after receiving complaints during last year's celebrations, which was the first Fourth of July during which aerial fireworks were legal in Michigan.

    The Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office didn't report any major incidents in Ypsilanti Township or anywhere else in its coverage area, according to Sgt. Geoff Fox.

    "The calls for service were comparable to years past," he said, adding that data about citations was not immediately available.

    There were also no major incidents reported in Ypsilanti, said Sgt. Thomas Eberts.

    The Ypsilanti Fire Department said it dealt with a dumpster fire that was unrelated to holiday activities, but that it was an otherwise uneventful evening.

    Fire departments in Pittsfield Township, Scio Township, Ypsilanti Township, Dexter and Chelsea also reported no major firework-related incidents.

    “It sounds like it was relatively quiet in the county,” said Pittsfield Township Fire Chief Sean Gleason.

    John Counts covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at johncounts@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    Manchester Township Firefighter Mike Riesterer helped bring a Northville man back to life at a Lyon Township golf course last week, the Observer and Eccentric reported.

    “He was clinically dead,” Riesterer told the paper about Richard Wilkins, the 65-year-old man who collapsed as he was taking a last putt at the Tanglewood Golf Course on 10 Mile in Lyon Township June 27. “He definitely wasn’t breathing."

    Riesterer just happened to be golfing at the same course with a number of other current or retired first responders. They helped Wilkins until Lyon Township fire crews and on-duty paramedics arrived, according to the report.

    Read the Observer and Eccentric article.

    John Counts covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at johncounts@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    A viewing and funeral will take place Monday and Tuesday for Donovan Gerard Hyter, the 21-year-old who downed in the Huron River Sunday.

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    Donovan Hyter

    Courtesy photo

    Hyter died after jumping from a railroad trestle east of Superior Road with four friends at 4:52 a.m. Sunday morning. His body was recovered about 5:15 p.m. the next day.

    Hyter lived in Pittsfield Township, had been involved in the Ann Arbor Neutral Zone and was a rapper and yo-yo enthusiast. His family and friends called him a Renaissance man because of his varied interests.

    He is survived by his two siblings, Mike and Ashlei; his mother, Danah Greer; his niece, Donatella; his father, Mike Sr.; stepmother, Letitia; and step-siblings Ten and Ace.

    The viewing will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, July 8, at the C & H Community Home for Funerals at 411 South Adams St. in Ypsilanti. The funeral will be held Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Second Baptist Church of Ypsilanti at 301 S. Hamilton St.

    The family has asked that in lieu of giving flowers, people make donations to the Ann Arbor Neutral Zone. Mary Moffet, community relations director for the Neutral Zone, said the non-profit will use the gifts to memorialize Hyter.

    Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at kelliewoodhouse@annarbor.com or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.


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    During a discussion on funding beat cops in downtown Ann Arbor, Downtown Development Authority leaders jokingly suggested this week they'd consider hiring RoboCop.

    While fictional robotic law enforcement officers might have been cool in 1987, they probably don't make much sense in modern-day, real-world Ann Arbor.

    But just for fun, if you could have your way, which fictional police officer would you want to see patrolling downtown Ann Arbor?

    Take the poll below and let us know.

    Is your favorite not on the list? Leave your answer in the comment section.

    You have 20 seconds to comply.

    Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at ryanstanton@annarbor.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.


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    DelhiBridge.jpg

    Photo courtesy of Andrew Jameson

    A young woman who was tubing on the Huron River needed to be rescued from an island near Delhi Bridge Wednesday evening, officials said.

    Scio Township Fire Chief Carl Ferch said the woman and others in a group were drifting down the river on tubes when she ran into some trouble near the bridge, located between Huron River Drive and Railroad Street.

    "They lost their tubes," he said. "The river gets pretty nasty there right by the bridge."

    The woman suffered a minor injury and was stranded on an island, unable to get to the mainland about 75 feet away.

    Ferch said the Ann Arbor Township Fire Department sent a ladder truck to the scene and parked it on the bridge. Crews extended the ladder down to the island and walked the woman and a man who was trying to help her over the water to safety.


    View Delhi Bridge in a larger map

    John Counts covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at johncounts@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    Eastbound Interstate 94 at Jackson Road in Ann Arbor was closed Friday evening due to a motorcycle crash on the on-ramp to the highway.

    The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office responded to the call, which came in at about 5:30 p.m.

    Traffic is being routed around the accident until the road is cleaned up and investigation is complete.

    Only one vehicle was involved in the accident, according to initial reports. The motorcyclist was transported to an area hospital by Huron Valley Ambulance.

    The cause of the accident still was under investigation, officials said, but rescue crews cleared the scene at about 6 p.m.

    crash_jackson_I94.jpg

    Pittsfield Township

    Chelsea Hoedl is an intern reporter for AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at choedl@mlive.com.


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    A man was found critically injured on West Liberty early Friday morning.

    Daniel Brenner I AnnArbor.com

    A man found critically injured by a passing motorcyclist on West Liberty near Ann Arbor early Friday morning was pronounced dead shortly after rescuers arrived.

    The motorcyclist called Washtenaw County Central Dispatch at 2:08 a.m. Friday, and moments later the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department, the Scio Township Fire Department and Huron Valley Ambulance were dispatched to the 4400 block of West Liberty in Scio Township.

    The man was pronounced dead at 2:17 a.m. on the scene, according to Huron Valley Ambulance spokeswoman Joyce Williams.

    Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department PIO commander Derrick Jackson said alcohol may have been a factor and detectives believe the victim may have been lying in the roadway prior to being hit by the vehicle.

    “We have responded to several calls reporting that this particular individual was lying in the roadway because he was intoxicated,” Jackson said. “The last one was just a few weeks ago.”

    Jackson said the injuries sustained by the victim and the amount of debris left behind by the vehicle indicates that the victim may have been lying in the road before the accident.

    Upon investigation, it was determined that the 911 caller was not the person who hit the victim, Jackson said.

    The extent of the injuries sustained will be determined after autopsy results come in. Detectives are continuing the investigation.

    “Detectives will be looking for distances and speeds to piece together what exactly happened,” Jackson said. “At this point we do not know who the driver of the vehicle is, but they are now a person of interest.”


    View West Liberty locator in a larger map

    Chelsea Hoedl is an intern reporter for AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at choedl@mlive.com.


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    Here's the schedule for tonight's Top of the Park, the free (donations welcome), outdoor component of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival. Descriptions provided by the festival. Top of the Park takes place in the area around East Washington Street at Ingalls Mall, except as noted. Subject to weather cancellations.

    5 p.m.: KidZone: Rocks & Robots - KidZone Tent
    Come see LEGO robot lions roar, LEGO bayblades compete, and LEGO sumo robots battle to be king of the mountain when Rocks and Robots takes over the KidZone Tent.

    5 p.m.: Retreat: Hula Hoop Fitness - Power Center Lawn
    Learn foundational moves, increase your balance, open your upper back and torso, and get a great cardio workout with hula hooper Tonji Zimmerman of Diva Hoops.

    5 p.m.: Derek Fawcett - Grove Stage
    (DELAYED DUE TO WEATHER) Come hear Fawcett’s songs and piano arrangements, influenced by Tom Petty, John Mayer, Bon Iver, and Fountains of Wayne.

    abigail-stauffer.jpg

    Abigail Stauffer

    6 p.m.: Abigail Stauffer - Grove Stage
    Capturing a sweet, folksy style, Abigail Stauffer exudes confidence and vulnerability, bringing charm and wit to original songs about pain, hope, and joy.

    7 p.m.: Elliot Street Lunatic - Rackham Stage
    With lush guitar tones and etheric four-part harmonies, this Lansing indie rock band is a Top must see debut.

    8 p.m.: One Radio Host, Two Dancers - Power Center
    Joni American Life host Ira Glass and Monica Bill Barnes & Company for a funny, lively, and very talky evening of dance and stories.

    8 p.m.: Theo Katzman - Rackham Stage
    Come celebrate the return of Ann Arbor favorite Theo Katzman, known for his melodic rock, great hooks, and edgy soul.

    9:30 p.m.: Funkadesi - Rackham Stage
    The rhythms of Indian Ragas and reggae meld together, while the Latin, African and contemporary funk that’s spicing this one-sound, many-voices stew fits Funkadesi’s all-world melange to a tee.

    11 p.m.: After Dark w/ DJ Ross Federman of Tally Hall - Grove Stage
    Come hear a seamless and eclectic mix of Motown, rock, soul funk, indie, and hip-hop by DJ Ross Federman of Ann Arbor’s Tally Hall.


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    The Neutral Zone, downtown Ann Arbor’s teen center, will hold the 12th Annual Neutral Zone Golf Classic charity tournament on Thursday, July 25 at the University of Michigan Golf Course.

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    The Neutral Zone, located at 310 E Washington Street in Ann Arbor.

    Pete Cunningham | AnnArbor.com

    The golf tournament is a four-person scramble format with a 9 a.m. shotgun start. Participants can sign up as individuals to be added or with a team. Along with 18 holes of golf, door prizes and raffle tickets, breakfast, lunch and dinner with unlimited beverages throughout the day are provided. All benefits from the outing go toward sponsoring programs at the Neutral Zone, which has 2,000 teen visits each month.

    The Neutral Zone aims to provide teens with facilities and resources to pursue interests in music, literary arts, visual arts, education and leadership as well as space for tutoring, recreation and other programs.

    Registration information can be found at at www.Neutral-Zone.org or by calling 734-769-1427.

    Ypsilanti Community Schools joins Scholar-Baller program

    The newly formed Ypsilanti Community Schools district will participate in the Scholar-Baller program during the 2013-14 school year, the district announced earlier this week. The Scholar-Baller program aims to recognize scholar athletes who excel in academics.

    The mission of Scholar-Baller is to implement incentive-based programs at the middle school, high school and college levels to help bridge the gap between education, sport and popular culture.

    “This is one of the programs that we plan to take advantage of to showcase our scholar athletes,” newly hired YCS athletic director Lamanzer Williams said in a release. “When our athletes take the field or court we want the community to see the visual recognition that our athletes are striving to be exceptional on and off the field.”

    The Ypsilanti Community Schools district was formed from the combination of Ypsilanti and Willow Run districts. For information on the Scholar-Baller program, visit www.ScholarBaller.org.

    Girls basketball camp begins Monday at Pioneer High School

    There will be a basketball camp for girls at Pioneer High School July 8-18. The camp’s focus will be on teaching fundamental skills with a focus on offensive shooting skills and defensive skills through individual and team drills. The camps will be held Monday through Thursday with sessions for grades 3-5 from 8:30-10 a.m., grades 6-8 from 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and grades 9-12 from 12:30-3:30 p.m. For registration information visit reced.aaps.k12.mi.us.

    Have a local sports brief to tell us about? Contact us at sports@annarbor.com.

    Pete Cunningham covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at petercunningham@annarbor.com. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.


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    “Les Miserables,” the long-running Broadway musical hit that premiered in New York in 1987 (and didn’t close until 2003), is enjoying a renaissance in a big way recently, thanks to last year’s celebrated, Oscar-nominated film adaptation, and the show’s rights finally becoming widely available to regional theaters.

    In fact, local theatergoers will have opportunities to see three different “Les Miserables” productions in the coming year: one at Dexter’s Encore Theatre; one via Ann Arbor Civic Theatre; and one presented by U-M’s department of musical theater.

    First up, though, is Encore, and co-founder Dan Cooney is taking a month’s leave from the Broadway production of “Mamma Mia” (he plays Bill Austin) to direct “Les Miserables.”

    PREVIEW

    ”Les Miserables”

    • Who: Encore Musical Theatre Company
    • What: The classic hit musical - inspired by Victor Hugo’s sweeping novel about early 19th century France - about a man, Jean Valjean, who seeks redemption after serving 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving sister’s child. He breaks parole, but police inspector Javert works relentlessly to track him down.
    • Where: Encore Theatre, 3126 Broad St. in Dexter.
    • When: Thursday at 7 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 3 p.m., July 11-August 18. (The first performance, on July 11, is a preview, with opening night slated for July 12.)
    • How much: $26-$32, with student and senior discounts available. 734-268-6200 and www.theencoretheatre.org.
    “When we were first opening that space, (‘Les Miserables’ was) dancing around in my mind because I have so much history with the show,” said Cooney. “I was 21 when I was part of the first national tour, and then later, I joined the Broadway company, and I’ll be auditioning soon for the revival, to play Valjean. It just continues on and on, and I absolutely love the show. So when we were building Encore, with this idea of presenting Broadway shows unplugged, I kept thinking, ‘When “Les Mis” becomes available, we’ve got to find a way to do it.’”

    The Tony Award-winning show—inspired by Victor Hugo’s epic novel of the same name, with music by Claude-Michel Schonberg, French lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, and an English libretto by Herbert Kretzmer—began life as a 1980 French language concept album.

    Three years after its short-lived premiere in Paris, the album caught the ear of British producer Cameron Mackintosh, who worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company to put together a team that would adapt the material into a stage musical for British audiences. The curtain first rose on “Les Mis” in England in 1985.

    The story, set in early 19th century France, focuses primarily on Jean Valjean, who’s violates his parole after serving 19 years in prison for stealing bread for his starving sister’s daughter. Police inspector Javert tracks Valjean relentlessly, while Valjean struggles to make a new life for himself, getting swept up in a political revolt in the process.

    The Broadway production of “Les Mis” became one of the longest-running shows in history (running for 16 years), though on paper, one might not have guessed that the show would strike a chord with so many people.

    “I think part of its appeal is the central message of, ‘I just want to be the best I can be while here in this form,’” said Cooney. “And the fight against all that the world exposes us to while still trying to be a good, kind person. … Valjean’s journey speaks to that.”

    With a three hours-plus running time, generally, “Les Mis” presents theater artists with a ton of material to prepare, and it presents a director, specifically, with a lot of choices - especially when trying to contain this epic, big show into a small blackbox space.

    Cooney had a vision inspired by “Les Mis”’ original production, but “when I tried it with the actors, it didn’t work,” said Cooney. “So we unplugged for a while, and we’re now doing a more Brechtian thing. … And now, it’s all suddenly coming through in a simple, authentic, intimate way. My eyes are filled with tears every 8 minutes.”

    Cooney noted that while Encore auditions often draw just a handful of performers, "Les Mis" attracted more than 80 people to try out, and the final cast list includes U-M professor (and star of Encore's "Fiddler on the Roof" last year) Stephen West as Javert, Utah Shakespeare Festival star J. Michael Bailey as Valjean, a few U-M musical theater students, and performers drawn from the community.

    And while Cooney believes Tim Burton’s bloody film adaptation of “Sweeney Todd” may have kept audiences away from Encore’s critically acclaimed production of the Sondheim musical, he thinks the film version of “Les Mis” will likely help sell tickets, since it seemed to introduce the show's ear-catching melodies to a broader audience.

    “There’s brilliant branding and marketing behind the show,” said Cooney. “It’s incredible how they’ve kept it alive. It’s like Madonna, where it’s not just about her anymore. (‘Les Mis’) isn’t just a show anymore. It’s come to be about so many other things.”

    Jenn McKee is an entertainment reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at jennmckee@annarbor.com or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.


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    Citing still-unanswered questions and uncertain requirements from the state, Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners Chairman Yousef Rabhi announced this week that a vote on a major bond issue the county is considering has been postponed for the second time.

    The bond issue could be up to $345 million to cover long-term retiree benefit costs that the county estimates it will shoulder throughout the next 25 years.

    040313_YOUSEF-RABHI.JPG

    Yousef Rabhi

    Andrew Kuhn | File photo for AnnArbor.com

    The county would be responsible for paying off the bond with interest out of its general fund. The bond proceeds would fulfill the county’s required contribution to its pension and health care trust funds for retirees.

    Those trust fund payments have been increasing year over year for the county. In 2012, that payment was about $20.6 million. Estimates for this year project the payment to be $22.3 million.

    The board was slated to vote July 10 to issue a formal “Notice of Intent” to issue the bond at both its Ways and Means Committee meeting and regular meeting that follows.

    A passing vote would have initiated a 45-day referendum period. Should residents collect 15,000 signatures on a petition, the bond issue would have to be placed on a ballot for voter approval.

    Rabhi said that the commissioners still have questions about other alternatives to issuing the bonds to cover the county’s debts — and so he wasn’t comfortable having the board vote on the matter July 10.

    Rabhi learned Wednesday from county Finance Director Kelly Belknap that the Michigan State Department of Treasury has not developed a list of items that a local government must submit for approval when considering a bond issue — which also prompted his decision to postpone the vote.

    The ability of local governments to issue bonds to cover long-term retiree benefit debts was made possible by a state law — Public Act 329 — signed in October.

    Several other municipalities in Michigan are pursuing such a bond issue, including Saginaw County and Bloomfield Township.

    It’s not the first time Rabhi has announced a decision to push back a vote on the bond issue. Just two weeks after the bond issue was made public May 2, the board was facing a vote to initiate the bond issue process — though an updated actuary report had not yet been delivered.

    Rabhi stated at that May 15 meeting that he would be pushing back the vote on the bond issue.

    At the request of several commissioners, including Rabhi, county administration set a schedule of public hearings, a press conference and presentation sessions and created an informational website.

    The major point of contention for most on the bond issue is that no alternatives have been discussed or presented by the administrative staff.

    Additionally, the potential bias of the bond counsel team of John Axe of Axe & Ecklund and his daughter, Meredith Shanle of Municipal Financial Consultants Incorporated, has been called into question as they will only get paid should the county decide to issue the bonds.

    Administrator Verna McDaniel presented the bond issue proposal to the Board of Commissioners as a way to manage the payment schedule of the increasing contribution demands to pension and retiree health care trust funds.

    Though the county has been paying out its required amount to both trust funds, the funds’ under performance has contributed to the increasing amount the county must allocate to paying them off.

    Based on a 25-year payment schedule, the county is planning to issue up to a $345 million bond to cover both the pension and retiree health care trust fund debts, based on an actuarial report of the employees covered by those plans.

    After Jan. 1, 2014, employees will no longer be admitted to either of those plans.

    New estimates show that the amount needed to cover the projected debt will be substantially less than $345 million.

    McDaniel continues to present the bond issue as the only way for the board to continue to provide a number of services without having to make drastic cuts necessary in order for the county to conform to a new four-year budget process that McDaniel asked the board to approve.

    Commissioners have asked questions about other options than issuing bonds for the debt.

    McDaniel’s budget presentation states $6.99 million must be cut from the county’s operations to have a break-even budget in 2014-17. About $2.4 million of that has been accounted for in higher-than-anticipated property tax revenue.

    Her plan proposes finding the cuts by reducing the county’s pension and health care obligations by $5.06 million, cutting operating costs by $1.83 million and eliminating $100,000 in funding to outside agencies.

    A public hearing on the bond issue remains on the July 10 agenda. The hearing is slated to begin after the close of the 6:30 p.m. Ways and Means meeting during the regular board meeting at the Washtenaw County Administration Building, 220 N. Main St., Ann Arbor.

    Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, amybiolchini@annarbor.com or on Twitter.


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