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

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    Previous stories:

    The National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced a second round of college-sponsored scholarship winners.

    merit-scholar-thumb-350x108-143467.jpg
    The first batch of award recipients was notified in May.

    There were 44 more students from Michigan who received scholarships from colleges and universities to obtain a post-secondary education. This is in addition to the 68 Michigan students announced earlier in the year, of which three were from Ann Arbor.

    Another four high-schoolers from Ann Arbor and one from Dexter, Saline and Ypsilanti were announced as winners Tuesday in the second round of scholarship awards. The students are:

    Ruby An — Rudolf Steiner School, Ann Arbor
    Scholarship from: University of Chicago
    Probable career field: science/research

    Eric Armbruster — Ypsilanti High School
    Scholarship from: Valparaiso University
    Probable career field: mechanical engineering

    Samuel Blackburn — Pioneer High School, Ann Arbor
    Scholarship from: Carleton College
    Probable career field: undecided

    Jillianne Hook — Dexter High School
    Scholarship from: Liberty University
    Probably career field: education

    Molly Kraus-Steinmetz — Community High School, Ann Arbor
    Scholarship from: Grinnell College
    Probably career field: activism

    Reid McCallister — Huron High School, Ann Arbor
    Scholarship from: Vanderbilt University
    Probably career field: biomedical engineering

    Patrick Zetterholm — Saline High School
    Scholarship from: University of Alabama
    Probable career field: finance

    Recipients annually receive between $500 and $2,000 for up to four years of undergraduate study at the institution financing their scholarship.

    The National Merit Scholarship Corporation offers three categories of scholarships annually: college sponsored, corporate sponsored and a $2,500 National Merit scholarship. The award winners are announced starting in April and concluding in July.

    Students enter the National Merit Scholarship Corporation contest by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test in the fall of their junior year. Over the past 58 years, more than 300,000 high school girls and boys have won National Merit Scholarships totaling more than $1 billion, according to a news release announcing the winners.

    Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at daniellearndt@annarbor.com.


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    Related: University of Michigan student group to host forum and vigil on race Tuesday in response to Zimmerman verdict

    The verdict that declared George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin sparked a small demonstration inside Ann Arbor's city hall Monday night.

    Three people — joined by a handful of other supporters — spoke out before City Council, asking council members to pass a resolution expressing "revulsion" over what happened to the Florida teenager and the verdict handed down by a jury over the weekend.

    They also asked that City Council take formal action to urge state lawmakers to repeal Michigan's "stand your ground" self-defense law that has some similarities to Florida's law.

    Lefiest_Galimore_071513_RJS.jpg

    Lefiest Galimore, flanked by a group of supporters, speaks out against Michigan's "stand your ground" law at Monday's Ann Arbor City Council meeting.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Ann Arbor resident Lefiest Galimore said he's concerned Michigan's "stand your ground" law basically allows anyone to have different interpretations of what a threat means.

    "Anybody in this room, as we walk out of here, can see me as a threat simply because I am an African American male and decide that I pose a danger to them, and can cause me great bodily harm — even though I can be completely innocent of wrongdoing whatsoever," he said.

    Even though the Michigan version of "stand your ground" is not as harsh as Florida's version, Galimore believes it still allows too much room for interpretation. He said he'd hate to see what happened to Martin happen to another young man in Ann Arbor.

    One of the supporters in the group, Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, held up a sign that read: "Justice for Trayvon. Justice for the People"

    Three council members — Mike Anglin, D-5th Ward; Sumi Kailasapathy, D-1st Ward; and Chuck Warpehoski, D-5th Ward — stated publicly Monday night that they'd work on a resolution addressing the issues raised by those who spoke out about the Trayvon Martin case.

    Kailasapathy said she has two sons and when they saw the news that Zimmerman was acquitted, they asked why he wasn't guilty.

    "I didn't know what to say," she said. "For them it was just unbelievable."

    Warpehoski recalled many years ago the City Council was considering local gun regulations, but that ended up coming to a halt when the state decided local governments couldn't have more stringent gun regulations than the state. But the city still could pass a resolution encouraging the state to repeal the "stand your ground" law, and he thinks that could be helpful.

    "I hope that soon ... we may have the ability to have full local control to set strong and smart guns laws here in our community," he said.

    Chuck_Warpehoski_111912_RJS_005.jpg

    Council Member Chuck Warpehoski, D-5th Ward, said the city could pass a resolution encouraging the state to repeal Michigan's "stand your ground" law.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Blaine Coleman, one of the demonstrators, said the Trayvon Martin case is about racial injustice and the nation needs to rid itself of the mindset that "black life is worth nothing."

    "The City Council should say black life is worth something, and this nation ought to say the same thing," he told council members.

    The Rev. Jeffery Harrold of New Beginnings Community Church said Martin's death might have occurred in Florida, "but there is nothing to say that could not happen here in our own community."

    Given the way blacks have been portrayed in the media and throughout history, he said, "it is all too easy for a young black man to be seen as threatening."

    Harrold urged council to join those encouraging U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to seriously consider federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman for the death of Martin.

    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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    With a heat advisory in effect from noon Tuesday to midnight Wednesday, Washtenaw County Public Health has announced areas where the public can cool off in air-conditioned spaces.

    Temperatures are expected to top out at 91 degrees Tuesday and 90 degrees Wednesday, while the heat index, a measure of how hot it feels, is expected to reach 100 or above both days.

    061912_NEWS_HEAT_JMS06.JPG

    A shady spot and a cool treat can help beat the heat when temperatures soar. Here, Ann Arbor residents Richard Gu, right, and Anthony Yu laugh while they talk and enjoy ice cream in the shade at Washtenaw Dairy, 602 S. Ashley St., in this file photo.

    Jeffrey Smith | AnnArbor.com

    “Cooling off — even briefly — may help prevent heat-related illness,” said Cindra James, the county’s Emergency Preparedness Administrator for Public Health.

    Health officials are encouraging people to stay hydrated, to know the warning signs of heat-related illness and to take steps to cool off whenever possible.

    The Michigan Department of Community Health lists three stages of heat-related illness:

    1. Dehydration: Symptoms include dry mouth, thirst, headache, dizziness, cramps, excessive fatigue and irritability
    2. Heat exhaustion: Occurs when people exercise heavily or work hard in a warm, humid place, causing a lot of bodily fluids to be lost through sweating. This can reduce blood flow to vital organs and can result in shock.
    3. Heat stroke (sunstroke): This is the most severe stage and can be deadly. Symptoms include vomiting, decreased alertness or loss of consciousness, high body temperature and red, hot and dry skin with a rapid, weak pulse.

    Should a person progress to the heat stroke stage, MDCH advises calling 911 and cooling the individual down by putting him or her in a tub of cool water or rinsing the person with a garden hose.

    People who may be more vulnerable to the heat include the elderly, infants, children and people with underlying health conditions or whose medication makes them more sensitive to heat.

    The following area organizations are offering their air-conditioned spaces as cooling centers during regular business hours during the heat advisory:

    Ann Arbor

    • Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave.; (734) 327-4241
    • Bryant Community Center, 3 W. Eden Ct.; (734-477-0292
    • Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw County; 4925 Packard Road; (734-) 971-9781
    • Child Care Network, 2385 S. Huron Parkway, Suite 2N; (734) 975-1840
    • City of Ann Arbor Housing Commission, 727 Miller Ave. and Baker Commons, 106 Packard; (734) 994-2828
    • First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor; 4001 Ann Arbor-Saline Rd.; (734) 665-6158
    • Office of Community and Economic Development, 110 N. Fourth Ave., Ste 300; (734) 622-9005
    • The Salvation Army, 100 Arbana Drive; (734) 668-8353
    • Zion Lutheran Church, 1501 W. Liberty St.; (734) 994-4455

    Chelsea

    • Chelsea Retirement Community, 805 W. Middle; (734) 475-8633

    Pittsfield Township

    • Whitehall Healthcare Center of Ann Arbor, 3370 E. Morgan Road; (734) 971-3230

    Ypsilanti

    • Hope Medical Clinic, 518 Harriet St.; (734) 481-0111
    • Washtenaw County Human Services building, 555 Towner St., from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    Washtenaw County has a special Heatwave Community Response Plan in place to respond to severe heat events, but it has not been activated at this time.

    That plan, which calls for opening public cooling centers for extended hours and offering emergency transportation, will only be put in to effect if a heat advisory from the National Weather Service is in effect for multiple days, if an excessive heat warning is issued or if there is a widespread loss of power.

    The health department continues to monitor reports of heat-related illness. For updates on the latest advisories, the department advises visiting its website or calling 211.

    For updated forecasts and conditions anytime, check AnnArbor.com's weather page.

    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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    A 52-year-old Ann Arbor man faces a sexual assault charge for inappropriately grabbing a nurse at University of Michigan Hospital while he was being treated in May.

    According to court records, Jon Wallace was arraigned on a charge of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct Monday. The 52-year-old man was arrested on May 5 at U-M Hospital.

    University of Michigan police reported Wallace inappropriately grabbed a nurse while he was a patient at the hospital. The incident was reported at 3:24 p.m. May 5 and police responded to 1500 E. Medical Center Drive.

    Wallace was arrested, processed and released pending charges on May 5 and was officially charged on Monday.

    Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct is a high-court misdemeanor. In this cause, the charge was brought because police accuse Wallace of having sexual contact on another person through force or coercion.

    He was given a $10,000 personal recognizance bond. Wallace is scheduled to return to court at 8:30 a.m. July 25 for a preliminary exam, records show

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    Related story: Halal Mexican restaurant to open on Ann Arbor's Plymouth Road in August

    The Boulevard Plaza shopping center on the west side of Ann Arbor has a new tenant: Don Juan Mexican Bar & Grill.

    Juan Hernandez — owner of the Los Amigos Mexican restaurants on Hilton Boulevard in Ann Arbor and East Michigan Avenue in Ypsilanti Township — signed a lease for a 2,500-square-foot space at 2135 W. Stadium Blvd., in the shopping center anchored by Ace Barnes Hardware and Arbor Farms Market.

    don_juan_restaurant.jpg

    Don Juan Mexican Bar & Grill plans to open on West Stadium Boulevard this summer.

    Lizzy Alfs | AnnArbor.com

    The space, formerly occupied by Senor Lopez Taqueria, is situated between Mattress & Futon Shop and H&R Block, fronting West Stadium Boulevard. It was listed for lease with Max Goldman and Lou Frango of Ludwig & Seeley.

    David Corona, general manager of the Los Amigos restaurants, said the new restaurant will be similar to Los Amigos with the same Mexican fare and margaritas.

    “We’re using the same menu and it’s the same concept as Los Amigos, it just has a different name,” he said.

    Hernandez took ownership of the former El Camino Real restaurant near Briarwood Mall several years ago, changing the name to Los Amigos. He also owns a Los Amigos restaurant in Westland, Mich.

    Corona said steady business at the Ann Arbor Los Amigos restaurant prompted them to start looking at expanding in the area.

    “We already have one store in Ann Arbor, and how customers reacted to the first location, that’s one of the reasons we wanted to get another store in Ann Arbor,” he said.

    Corona said renovations are underway at the space on West Stadium Boulevard, where a "coming soon" sign is hanging in the window. He said they hope to open the restaurant in August, and he's hiring about 15 employees.

    Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at lizzyalfs@annarbor.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lizzyalfs.


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    The City of Ypsilanti will limit the number of medical marijuana dispensaries and grow facilities allowed to operate in the city.

    At its Tuesday night meeting, the Ypsilanti City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance capping the number of facilities at nine

    That leaves space for two more grow operations and one more dispensary, and three facilities already have their paperwork in with the city.

    Ypsilanti currently has one dispensary in Ward 1; one dispensary in Ward 2; and three dispensaries and in Ward 3. Two grow facilities have been proposed for Ward 1 and another in Ward 3.

    Mayor Paul Schreiber, Council Member Ricky Jefferson, Council Member Dan Vogt and Council Member Pete Murdock voted in favor of the cap. Council member Brian Robb voted against it.

    Mayor Pro Tem Lois Richardson and Council Member Susan Moeller were absent.

    “Eighty-three-percent voted for medical marijuana - that’s in the neighborhood I live in,” said Ward 1 representative Jefferson. “But now they’re saying ‘We’ve had enough.’ They didn’t vote on dispensaries and it’s still in the air with the state.”

    Ward 1 representatives Jefferson and Richardson proposed the legislation after they said they heard complaints from residents about the number of dispensaries and grow operations, especially in Ward 1 on Ypsilanti’s south side.

    Herbal_Solutions.jpg

    The Herbal Solutions dispensary in downtown Ypsilanti.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act passed overwhelmingly in Ypsilanti. In the 2008 vote on whether or not to legalize medical marijuana, Ward 1 voted 1,672 to 359 in favor of it. Ward 2 voted 2,278 to 577 in favor, and Ward 3 voted 1,833 to 441 in favor.

    But the act doesn't include any language on the legality of dispensaries and grow operations, which has been a point of contention between supporters and opponents.

    The new ordinance comes after an emergency moratorium failed by a 3-3 vote in early June. That would have immediately prohibited any new medical marijuana facilities from opening, including those that have begun the process of opening.

    Schreiber and Vogt opposed the emergency moratorium, and Murdock abstained from that vote, but all supported the new ordinance.

    Vogt, however, supported the ban after saying that the volume of medical marijuana bought or consumed will not be impacted by a limit on facilities. Because of its zoning laws, the city previously could have had a maximum of nine dispensaries and five grow operations.

    Vogt called that a small difference and contended that people who want medical marijuana can simply go to the dispensaries and grow operations already open.

    “I don’t see it as either helpful or particularly harmful to change (the ordinance) either way,” Vogt said. “I think it has no effect when you think about it in purely logical and objective terms … all of this has been much ado about nothing, logically speaking.”

    Schreiber said he preferred a a solid cap not determined by zoning.

    “Alcohol has license limits and I don’t see why we should not have them for medical marijuana,” he said. “I think it’s good that we know how many licenses are available instead of relying on zoning where medical marijuana is located.”

    Prior to Tuesday night’s vote, Murdock said he didn’t feel strongly one way or the other on the issue. He passed on the moratorium vote to wait and see how other council members voted and ultimately supported the ordinance.

    Robb, the lone "no" vote, said the ordinance amounted to prohibition and an attempt to stop a grow operation trying to open in Ward 1 on South Huron Street.

    "This is the wrong tool to accomplish what people seem to want to accomplish," he said.

    During a public hearing, Ypsilanti Planning Commission member Mark Bullard contended that the act was overwhelmingly approved and he felt that the city hadn't given dispensaries enough time to prove whether they're an asset or a problem.

    “The vote was clearly in favor of medical marijuana, and from my experience to date with those doing business in the city, it would seem that they would be doing it in a thoughtful way,” he said

    Third Coast dispensary owner Jamie Lowell noted that the city’s dispensaries have operated without incident and argued market demand and current zoning laws already act as a cap.

    He said the' argument that a high number people seen entering and leaving the city’s dispensaries indicates saturation is not valid.

    “If anything it speaks to the need for more dispensaries, not saturation,” he said.

    Several residents gave impassioned pleas for council to pass the ordinance and characterized the dispensaries as “drug houses” and their operators as “drug dealers”.

    Ypsilanti resident Brian Foley said medical marijuana continues to impact his neighborhood.

    “When you put "medicinal" in front of marijuana, there’s no difference than street marijuana whatsoever,” Foley said.

    Jefferson underscored that his constituents see the dispensaries as a problem.

    "What happens in our community defies all logic," he said, responding to Vogt's comment that the ordinance would have no impact, logically speaking. "Being a part of my neighborhood for over 54 years, it doesn’t matter whether it’s legal drugs or drug solicited in the streets, it finds a way to be sold in the street and it finds a way to get into families' homes and destroy homes."

    Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter for AnnArbor.com. Contact the news desk at news@annarbor.com or 734-623-2530.


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    Property owners in Ypsilanti are another step closer to footing most of the city’s streetlight bill and costs for installing new lights.

    By a vote of 4-1, the City Council Tuesday night approved a “resolution of necessity” for a special assessment streetlight district that would impose a flat fee on residents and businesses to pay the city’s DTE bill and pay for new LED street lighting.

    But officials stressed the fee is not a new tax — it’s a fee residents will pay the city in return for a service, they said.

    As the city struggles to balance its budget over the long term, the fee would bring in an additional $400,000 annually to pay for lighting.

    Mayor Paul Schreiber, Council Member Ricky Jefferson, Council Member Pete Murdock and Council Member Dan Vogt voted in favor of it. Council member Brian Robb voted against.

    If the new fee gets final approval as proposed, a parcel owner will pay an estimated $98 in fiscal year 2014 and $92 in fiscal year 2015. That figure will drop to $84 through fiscal year 2020 and $67.51 through fiscal year 2031.

    “There is a big demand on us to do this. We will be the first in the state to convert all our lights from sodium vapor to LED,” said City Manager Ralph Lange.

    Those estimates do not include projected increases in the cost of electricity, though Lange noted that the city will be using much less electricity.

    Switching to LED lights will cut the city’s electric bill from $515,000 annually to an estimated $400,000 annually. The conversion from current lighting to LED will take place over the next two years and will cost approximately $555,000, which will be amortized over seven years.

    Costs for conversion to LED along with operation and maintenance will be divided equally and assessed among 4,812 of the city’s 4,951 parcels. The city will pay for 23 percent of all capital costs and operating and maintenance costs in the first year and 20 percent after.

    Lange said the tax runs through 2031 because that is when Water Street debt should be retired and the city will be in a better financial position.

    “We’re not taking it one second more than we need it,” Lange said.

    Water Street refers to property the district bought up hoping to attract mixed-use development. The plans never materialized, and the city has been saddled with debt from the property.

    Officials previously thought Eastern Michigan University’s parcels couldn’t be exempt, but City Attorney John Barr determined they are actually exempt.

    Brian_Robb.jpg

    Brian Robb

    The city also will not charge its own properties, and is considering exempting Highland Cemetery’s two parcels.

    Council Member Brian Robb raised concerns that "arbitrarily" exempting Highland because they use very few lights will open the door for other residents to challenge the fee based on the same reason.

    “Doesn’t it make it easier for people to ask if we are assessing this in a fair manner?” he asked. He and Council Member Pete Murdock also asked about the methodology for assessing and whether a flat tax was the fairest way to charge residents.

    Murdock said he has already heard residents with two streetlights on their street breaking down their cost of operating the lighting with the new fee.

    Alternate suggestions to a flat fee have included billing by lot size or charging a higher fee for businesses in commercial zones that use more streetlights.

    “This is the fairest, cleanest way to do it and not overburden anybody. If you do the division, it keeps it under $100 for everyone," Lange said.

    City Planner Teresa Gillotti said it would be easy to charge higher fees for businesses that benefit from large amounts of lights in Depot Town, for example, but it would be more difficult in areas where a residential property is near a commercial property. That would lead to questions over whether or not an adjacent residential propery really benefited from the lights.

    “It was hard to make it clean outside of downtown and depot town areas,” she said.

    Residents will have a chance to weigh in on the fee. If property owners representing more than 50 percent of the expected cost of the assessment file objections, the project may not proceed without the affirmative vote of four-fifths of all of the council members.

    The timeline for approving the proposed district is as follows:

    • Aug. 6: A first public presentation on the plan.
    • Aug, 20: A public hearing regarding objections and review by the council.
    • Sept. 3: A second public hearing regarding objections and confirmation by City Council.

    Officials are also touting the environmental benefits of LED lights. The switch will save 500 metric tons of carbon emissions annually and is in line with the city’s climate action plan.


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    07162013_EDU_SwiftQandA_DJB-1.JPG

    Superintendent finalist Jeanice Kerr Swift of Colorado Springs speaks during a pubic Q-&-A session at Skyline High School on Tuesday, July 16. She is one of two candidates being considered by the board as Ann Arbor's next leader.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    Related coverage:

    Transparency, an open door and frequent communication — that's what superintendent finalist Jeanice Kerr Swift says Ann Arbor would get if the Board of Education picks her as the district's next leader.

    The Ann Arbor school board is hosting both Swift and fellow superintendent finalist Brian Osborne in the district this week for a final round of interviews and opportunities to meet with Ann Arbor schools employees and community members.

    Swift had her turn in the hot seat Tuesday, whereas Osborne will have his site visit and interviews Wednesday.

    During two public meetings, Swift outlined her leadership philosophies and experiences in her current position as assistant superintendent of instruction, curriculum and student services that have prepared her for a role in Ann Arbor.

    An important topic of discussion during the board's final interview portion of Tuesday brought out a difference between Swift's philosophies and the current direction of the district. Vice President Christine Stead asked about Swift's budget practices and financial controls that Swift would implement, if the need arose.

    The discussion revealed Swift has experience with both zero-based budgeting, which the district is transitioning to, and department-driven cuts, which the district has, in part, been using. Swift said her preference, and what has worked best for her current district, is the latter method of asking each division or department in the district to "generate a top-3 to -5 list of ideas for both generating revenues and reducing expenditures so you form a menu of options."

    "Then you take that menu and vet it through staff, through the board and through the community," Swift explained. "The important component is to get the menu of options out into the community. That's when you begin to understand what the ideas would do on the ground and begin to analyze what are opportunities, what are the threats, what are the potential problems and likely solutions. ... As you move through that process, you'll begin to dismiss some ideas and some will rise as being worthy of pursuing."

    It is a process that is similar to the one now-retired Superintendent Patricia Green has been warning the district against. Swift said she is not opposed to zero-based budgeting, but sees the menu approach as being more efficient and as taking less staff time.

    She said if she is hired as Ann Arbor's superintendent, she would move forward with implementing zero-based budgeting if it were the will of the board and the community.

    Board President Deb Mexicotte said after Tuesday afternoon's meeting, that it's the district's intention to continue progressing with zero-based budgeting, no matter who the new superintendent is.

    "The idea that we are moving in that direction to understand our budget better is not mutually exclusive with many of the other pieces that may be brought to us by new (superintendent) candidates," Meixcotte said. "That's the great thing about interviews and bringing in a new superintendent is that they are going to bring their experience, their ideas, but that doesn't mean we aren't still on a path to moving toward line-item (accountability) and ZBB."

    At Tuesday's Q-and-A session with the community, Swift impressed many of the nearly 40 attendees with her kind demeanor, passion and heart.

    "I thought that she was very bright and on task with what she was covering," said Carolyn Grawi, the director of advocacy and education for the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living. "I would have loved to have had more detail though."

    Grawi said she felt like Swift's heart is in the right place and that she wants to do the right thing.

    "She wants to keep the school district (exceptional) and wants to bring the community together … so if this is who we pick, and I don't know the other guy yet ... great," Grawi said. "We have a very diverse community. We need to find a way to use our diversity to build inclusion, not divisiveness and to make ourselves stronger."

    Grawi felt Swift could accomplish this.

    A few parents and teachers were concerned that Swift may not fully understand or appreciate the situation she is walking into, however.

    Lawton Elementary School teacher Laurie Moore said the leadership displayed by both the board and Green, who retired July 9, during the past two years has been "less than exceptional."

    Moore said staff morale is incredibly low; Ann Arbor is in a state where the sitting governor doesn't value public education; the current board and former administration seemed to operate the district by enlisting fear, rather than respecting the professional opinions of all employees; and the board also, about a year ago, identified a lack of trust as being an issue among trustees, leading to inefficiencies and long meetings.

    "I'm excited because I really think she (Swift) did a nice job," Moore said, adding she is just worried because she doesn't get a sense that Swift is fully aware of the unstable environment she would face when entering the district, especially if the district continues to pursue redistricting for the 2014-15 school year, which is the plan.

    07162013_EDU_SwiftQandA_DJB-3.JPG

    Superintendent candidate Jeanice Kerr Swift responds to a question from an audience member at a public forum Tuesday in Ann Arbor. The Board of Education will select a new superintendent for the district Friday.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    But Swift has extensive experience with taking the heat from the public and with taking the heat for redistricting, especially. In her final interview with the board Tuesday afternoon, she talked about how closing school buildings is incredibly difficult and brings out an ugliness in people, but only because people are deeply connected to the history of their schools and want what's best for their children. She says she has handled this before and could handle it again.

    Her district in Colorado Springs closed eight elementary schools in 2008-09 and just recently closed a comprehensive high school.

    As for building trust on the board, she said in an interview after the evening Q-&-A session that it's a balancing act because she would be the board's employee. However, she said she still believes that together, "the great process of improvement can be continued."

    "It's in all of our best interests to be as efficient in every way that we possibly can. I understand the long meetings when long meetings are getting to the bottom of issues. … But I believe in setting an example of communication, particularly from the superintendent side," Swift said.

    Swift acknowledged that moving from a No. 2 position to the No. 1 position would require more board interaction than she has had previously, she but did stress that she has worked closely with her board in Colorado Springs, especially during the school building reutilization process the district recently completed. Swift said there are three things she would do right away to try to learn more about the district, it's strengths and weaknesses, accomplishments and struggles.

    "The first is to lead by listening. That is my leadership approach. I will provide transparent and open and frequent communication," she said. "I've always been that way. I'm someone who likes to engage with the community in forums and the schools. I have to be engaging with folks on a regular basis. And you can rely on me to follow up if you ask me a question."

    The other aspects of Swift's process for successfully getting acclimated with the district are outlined in the 90-day entry plan that she presented Tuesday to the board and public.

    The second finalist, Osborne, current superintendent of South Orange-Maplewood School District in New Jersey, will have his second interview with the board at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday at Skyline High School. He also will present a 90-day entry plan to trustees. At 7 p.m. Wednesday at Skyline, he also will engage in a community Q-&-A session, where members of the public can ask him about key issues related to AAPS and his experiences.

    AnnArbor.com will be live blogging from both events.

    Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at daniellearndt@annarbor.com.


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    If there was any doubt that Washtenaw County is the center of the theater universe (at least here in Michigan), this week’s listings should erase all uncertainty. Consider:

    • The July installment of the Fireside New Play Festival will bring in playwright Brooke Berman for a reading of her new play “1300 Lafayette East” set in the Detroit building circa 1967. Brooke's “Hunting and Gathering” was named one of the Top Ten Plays of 2008 by New York Magazine.

    • This week’s shows are staged in venues such as a band shell, a converted carriage house, and the back of an antique store, among others. The place is literally bursting with theater!

    • The upcoming show “My Name is Asher Lev” is being produced at Performance Network concurrently with its successful New York run.

    • Hollywood and Broadway regulars Jeff Daniels and Dan Cooney both have theaters here. Alongside Michigan performers like Naz Edwards, and Madison Deadman, it’s a county of a thousand stars!

    • Washtenaw County received a whopping 20 nominations in Michigan’s statewide “Wilde Awards” for theater, with Ann Arbor’s professional theatre, Performance Network, as this year’s top nominee. (for a full listing: www.annarbor.com/entertainment/local-theater-artists-and-shows-earn-20-wilde-award-nominations/)

    Show: Fireside Festival of New Works: “Petty Harbour” by Martyna Majok, one-time event, July 21, 7 p.m.
    Company: Performance Network Theatre
    Type of Company: Professional Equity (SPT)
    Venue/location: Performance Network Theatre, 120 East Huron, Ann Arbor
    Recommended ages: 16+
    Description: On the rocky shores of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland, a house stands against an approaching storm. One by one, three banished sons return home to discover their fisherman father has turned the house into a church. With the roads flooding, the men are sealed in and the subtle war of sermons, songs, and drinking games begins. Two living ghosts from their past arrive, and salvation takes an unlikely form.
    Fun fact: “Petty Harbour” was a finalist for the 2012 Princess Grace Award in Playwriting, and will also be workshopped at New York Stage and Film’s Powerhouse Festival.
    For tickets and information: 734-663-0696, www.performancenetwork.org/

    Show: Fireside Festival of New Works: “The Bold Blend” by Kirsten Knisely, one-time event, July 22, 7 p.m.
    Company: Performance Network Theatre
    Type of Company: Professional Equity (SPT)
    Venue/location: Performance Network Theatre, 120 East Huron, Ann Arbor
    Recommended ages: 12+
    Description: This delightful blend of kookiness is brightened by fruity topnotes and balanced with a hint of sweetness. Best friends Madeline and Alice are trapped in the undergraduate’s nightmare. Their day jobs as barista’s come complete with the control-freak boss from hell, leering regulars, and a never-ending line of demanding customers. When their plot to escape goes terribly awry, it threatens both their sanity and their friendship.
    Fun fact: Performance Network Theatre is a member of The National New Play Network, an alliance of not-for-profit professional theaters that champions the development, production and continued life of new plays for the American theater. PNT has been a member since 2001 and is Michigan’s only constituent member.
    For tickets and information: 734-663-0696, www.performancenetwork.org/

    Show: Fireside Festival of New Works: “Sis” by Sean Christopher Lewis, one-time event, July 23, 7 p.m.
    Company: Performance Network Theatre
    Type of Company: Professional Equity
    Venue/location: Performance Network Theatre, 120 East Huron, Ann Arbor
    Recommended ages: 16+
    Description: A sister is your first friend in life... or your first enemy! When two wildly different sisters, Maia - a staunch conservative, and Church - a zealous feminist, reunite for Maia's wedding, the fur flies as they use each other's disparate values for target practice. From Feminazis to family values, everything is fair game, as old hostilities bubble to the surface in this hilarious battle of the sisters.
    Fun fact: The Fireside Festival is generously underwritten by Joseph C. Walters and Linda Sprankle
    For tickets and information: 734-663-0696, www.performancenetwork.org/

    Show: Fireside Festival of New Works: “1300 Lafayette East” by Brooke Berman, one-time event, July 24, 7 p.m.
    Company: Performance Network Theatre
    Type of Company: Professional Equity (SPT)
    Venue/location: Performance Network Theatre, 120 East Huron, Ann Arbor
    Recommended ages: 16+
    Description: Detroit, 1967: In the gleaming lobby of the Lafayette Towers, The Supremes are fighting, a young housewife is pining for something new, and Reena Walker - an aspiring Motown singer - is locked out of her apartment in a peignoir set paid for by a married man. As the Motor City streets rumble with pre-riot tension, the two women struggle to understand their individual differences and forge a lasting friendship.
    Fun fact: Playwright Brooke Berman is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and memoirist whose work has been produced and published across the US. Her play “Hunting and Gathering,” which premiered at Primary Stages, directed by Leigh Silverman, was named one of the Ten Best of 2008 by New York Magazine.
    For tickets and information: 734-663-0696, www.performancenetwork.org/

    Show: “Andronicus Bound” by John Vesbit, through July 28
    Company: Threefold Productions
    Type of Company: Pre-professional
    Venue/location: MIX Studio Theatre, 8 N. Washington, Ypsilanti
    Recommended ages: 16+
    Description: William Shakespeare’s bloodiest and most violent work, “Titus Andronicus” is set during the latter days of the Roman Empire and tells the fictional story of Titus, a general in the Roman army, who is engaged in a cycle of revenge with Tamora, Queen of the Goths. In this unique reimagining, Threefold Productions redirects the focus of the play away from the rampant corruption of Rome and instead, to the deterioration of the Andronicus family.
    Fun fact: Although it was extremely popular in its day, “Titus Andronicus” fell out of favor during the Victorian era, primarily because of what was considered to be a distasteful use of graphic violence. From around the middle of the twentieth century, its reputation began to improve.
    For tickets and information: www.threefoldproductions.org, 734-968-8717

    Show: “Rounding Third” by Richard Dresser, through July 27
    Company: Carriage House Theatre
    Type of Company: Pre-professional
    Venue/location: Carriage House Theatre, 541 Third St, Ann Arbor
    Recommended ages: 12+
    Description: In a small town, coaching little league is no walk in the park. Michael joins on as assistant coach to Don, who's been coaching baseball for years, and whose philosophy is simple: Win. Don’s son is the star pitcher on the team, while Michael’s son, like Michael himself, is new in town and very inexperienced in baseball. The two coaches struggle to employ their differing philosophies on winning the game and enjoying the game. Can the two philosophies coexist? And what changes when the men's personal lives are drawn into the game?
    More information
    Fun fact: Richard Dresser's most popular play, "Rounding Third" was produced by Williamston Theatre in 2006.
    For tickets and information: carriagehousetheatre.org

    Show: “Little Me,” book by Neil Simon, music by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh, through July 27
    Company: The Penny Seats
    Type of Company: Professional Non-Equity
    Venue/location: The West Park Band Shell
    Recommended ages: All ages, though please note, there is some burlesque-type humor and innuendo
    Description: The Penny Seats’ third annual West Park Summer offering is the farcical autobiography of Belle Poitrine, supposed star of stage, screen, and sinking ship. From her humble origins as Belle Schlumpfert on Drifter's Row, to her adventures (and misadventures) in achieving wealth, culture, and social position, to her many mates and her one true love, all are here. Neil Simon's script is a scream and the music sparkles. Better still, the Penny Seats’ Roy Sexton will attempt a comic tour de force originated by Sid Caesar and designed just for this show: he will play no fewer than 7 characters.
    More information
    Fun fact: Quick-fire costume changes are essential to this show. One character has no fewer than 15 costume changes, and another changes costumes multiple times during a single scene, each change lasting only about five seconds.
    For tickets and information: www.pennyseats.org, 800-838-3006.

    Show: “Becky Shaw” by Gina Gionfriddo, through July 28
    Company: Performance Network Theatre
    Type of Company: Professional Equity SPT
    Venue/location: Performance Network Theatre, 120 E. Huron, Ann Arbor
    Recommended ages: 16+ (contains adult language and content)
    Description: The New York Times called it “a tangled tale of love, sex and ethics…as engrossing as it is ferociously funny, like a big box of fireworks fizzing and crackling across the stage.” Step-siblings Suzanna and Max couldn’t be more different. When the shy sister fixes the cocky brother up with her husband’s sexy and sweet co-worker, the blind date takes a dark turn and crisis and comedy ensue. Mixing sharp wit and humor with the taut suspense of a psychological thriller, this comedy of romantic errors keeps audiences on the edge of their seats.
    Fun fact: “Becky Shaw” marks PNT Artistic Director David Wolber’s return to the stage, after a seven-year hiatus. Wolber is not slated to perform in PNT’s 2013-2014 season, so this may be viewers last chance to catch him on the boards for a while!
    For tickets and information: 734-663-0681, www.performancenetwork.org

    Show: “Les Miserables,” based on the novel by Victor Hugo, music by Claude-Michel Schonberg, and English libretto by Herbert Kretzmer, through August 18th
    Company: The Encore Musical Theatre Company
    Type of Company: Professional Equity Special Appearance Contract
    Venue/location: The Encore Musical Theatre Company, 3126 Broad Street, Dexter
    Recommended ages: 12 +
    Description: Set in early 19th-century France, it is the story of Jean Valjean and his quest for redemption after serving nineteen years in jail for having stolen a loaf of bread for his starving sister's child. Valjean decides to break his parole and start his life anew after a kindly bishop inspires him to, but is relentlessly tracked down by a police inspector named Javert. Along the way, Valjean and a slew of characters are swept into a revolutionary period in France, where a group of young idealists make their last stand at a street barricade. Songs include "I Dreamed a Dream", "On My Own", "Bring Him Home", "Master of the House", "Castle on a Cloud", and many more!
    Review from AnnArbor.com
    Fun fact: The Encore's Artistic Director, Dan Cooney, was a part of the Broadway production of Les Miserables over 20 years ago!
    For tickets and information: 734-268-6200, www.theencoretheatre.org.

    Show: “Miles and Ellie” by Don Zolidis, through August 31
    Company: The Purple Rose Theatre Company
    Type of Company: Professional Equity SPT
    Venue/location: The Purple Rose Theatre Company, 137 Park Street, Chelsea
    Recommended ages: 17+ (contains adult language and content)
    Description: Miles and Ellie are two teenagers in love when a youthful misunderstanding breaks them apart. Flash forward 20 years and a disenchanted Ellie has come home for what she expects to be a typical dysfunctional family Thanksgiving. Not long into the family shenanigans, however, Ellie learns that Miles is still in town and carrying a torch for her. Is it possible to get a second chance at your first love? This charming romantic comedy will make you wonder “what if?”
    Fun fact: The highest grossing movie for 1991, the year the play is set, was “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”
    For tickets and information: purplerosetheatre.org, 734-433-7673.


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    The Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority Board will vote July 18 on the approval of up to three standard multi-bike corrals as a part of an overall strategy to support increased non-motorized transportation.

    The board previously approved adding $2,700 to the board's 2013-14 fiscal budget for the purchase and installation of bike racks throughout the district in May.

    If approved, the cost of each corral will be paid for from the appropriate tax increment financing revenue source.

    The board, in partnership with the city of Ypsilanti’s Non-Motorized Advisory Committee, previously determined the need to provide more bike storage options for citizens in each of the downtown development authority districts.

    Locations for installation of the multi-bike corrals will be based off of recommendations by the committee.

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


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    Esperion Theraputics executives Tim Mayleben and Roger Newton rang the bell to open trading on the Nasdaq exchange Wednesday morning.

    Esperion returned to the exchange June 26 through a second “initial” public offering. Pfizer purchased the original Esperion for $1.3 billion in 2000.

    043013_BIZ_Esperion_MRM_01.JPG

    Esperion President and CEO Tim Mayleben (left) and Chief Science Officer Roger Newton in the company's labs at the Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Newton, a co-inventor of Lipitor and founder of the first Esperion, raised more than $22 million to buy the intellectual property from the original company back from Pfizer when the company closed its Ann Arbor offices in 2007.

    Nasdaq-listed companies are often invited to ring an opening or closing bell when they have product launches, earning reports, initial public offerings or other newsworthy developments. Esperion is listed on the exchange under the letters ESPR. As of Wednesday morning, the company was trading at $17.31 per share, up from its initial offering price of $14.50.

    The opening bell ceremonies at Nasdaq began at roughly 9:15 a.m. according to the exchange’s website. The ringing can be viewed on Nasdaq’s webcam and on a number of business-focused television networks.

    According to Nasdaq’s website, the ringing is choreographed by a professional event planner, and can include remarks from a company’s CEO or chairman lasting no longer than two minutes.

    Since its re-founding, Esperion has focused on the development of ETC-1002, a drug that could lower “bad” LDL cholesterol without the use of statins which can cause negative reactions in some patients. The company closed a $33 million funding round in April that brought the total amount of capital invested in the company to just more than $57 million.

    According to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Esperion had a $70 million goal for the IPO in June. In a release published July 11, the company said that net proceeds from the offering are expected to be $72.8 million.

    Mayleben previously told AnnArbor.com that the drug being developed by the company, which is housed at the Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center in Plymouth Township, is undergoing the second round of “phase two” clinical tests. Most drugs go through three phases of testing before the results are submitted to the Food and Drug Administration. Mayleben said he does not expect the company to submit ETC-1002 to the FDA for approval for at least another three years.

    Esperion Theraputics was unable to comment for this story because the company is in the midst of an SEC-mandated 25 day quiet period following its initial public offering. During the three and a half weeks following and IPO, companies are not allowed to engage in any activities that could be perceived as promotional, including speaking with the press.

    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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    jeffersonfire.jpg

    Ann Arbor firefighters work to extinguish a blaze in a second-floor apartment Tuesday night.

    Courtesy of AAFD

    Ann Arbor firefighters extinguished a kitchen fire Tuesday night that started under a sink and spread to the outside of an apartment building, a fire official said.

    Firefighters went at 10:12 p.m. Tuesday to the 800 block of West Jefferson Street for a report of smoke coming from under a sink, Ann Arbor Fire Department Battalion Chief Steven Lowe said in a statement. The building is a two-story apartment building with two apartments in it.

    Lowe said the occupants of the apartment building were outside when firefighters arrived. Fire started in the wall behind the kitchen sink and extended to the outside of the building.

    The fire also burned in the floor space between the first and second floors, Lowe said.

    “Fire crews worked hard and were able to contain the fire damage to a small portion of the building,” he said.

    There were no reported injuries, but Huron Valley Ambulance still responded to the fire.

    There was no damage estimate immediately available Wednesday morning and it’s unknown if the occupants were displaced from the building.


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    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    Ypsilanti police engaged in a short car chase Wednesday morning after a man fled officers who stopped him for a traffic violation, according to a police sergeant.

    Sgt. Dennis Szymankiewicz said a white Ford Taurus was stopped at 7:10 a.m. Wednesday at Washtenaw Avenue and Ballard Street for a traffic violation. Once police approached the car, the man driving the Taurus drove away, Szymankiewicz said

    He was followed for a short time, but Szymankiewicz said the chase was stopped before it got dangerous.

    “We terminated it when he was going too fast, for the public’s safety,” he said.

    Szymankiewicz said the vehicle was a white Ford Taurus with a paper plate in the upper left of the rear window. A detailed suspect description was not available.

    Police continue to search for the vehicle. Anyone with information on this incident or who recognizes the vehicle description is encouraged to call the Ypsilanti police at 734-483-9510 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK UP (773-2587).


    View Larger Map

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    Related story: Don Juan Mexican Bar & Grill to open on Ann Arbor's West Stadium

    A restaurant serving halal Mexican food is preparing to open in the Plymouth Road Mall in Ann Arbor, Concentrate Media reports.

    Hola, owned by Ali Hijazi, is opening in a 2,200-square-foot former office space between Songbird Cafe and Curry Up restaurants in the mall at 2709 Plymouth Road. Renovations are underway and Hijazi hopes to open Hola in August.

    plymouth_mall_sign.jpg

    Hola restaurant is preparing to open in Ann Arbor's Plymouth Road mall.

    loopnet

    Concentrate reports the restaurant’s menu will consist of halal Mexican food, or items that are prepared in accordance with Islamic guidelines. Hijazi is working with a Mexican business partner who will oversee the food operations.

    Hola is the latest addition to the shopping center on Plymouth Road, which has seen a number of changes in recent years. Among them: Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop closed, Songbird Cafe and Curry Up opened, Domino’s Pizza vacated the center, and a 21,000-square-foot mixed-use building was constructed in front of the mall.

    Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at lizzyalfs@annarbor.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lizzyalfs.


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    The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office is investigating multiple vehicle break-ins during the past few days on the east side of the county.

    According to Nixle alerts sent out by the sheriff’s office, larcenies from automobiles have been reported in Ypsilanti, Lodi, Superior and Scio townships since Sunday.

    The sheriff’s office reported on Sunday that property was stolen from an automobile in the 1500 block of Wismer Street. Property left behind at the scene of that larceny was tracked to a resident who lives in the 1100 block of Shirley Drive, according to deputies.

    A separate larceny from a vehicle was reported by the sheriff’s office on Sunday in the 2100 block of Lakeview Drive. Deputies stated unknown subjects entered an unlocked vehicle and stole items.

    In Lodi Township, multiple vehicles were reported broken into between 5 and 6 p.m. Sunday in the 6400 block of Ann Arbor Saline Road. The vehicles were locked and unknown suspects smashed out windows in order to get inside.

    Handbags containing personal identification, cash and credit cards were stolen from the vehicles.

    Deputies reported someone broke into an unlocked vehicle between 8 p.m. Sunday and 5:30 a.m. Monday in the 9200 block of Abbey Lane in Superior Township. Kids toys and clothes were stolen from the vehicle, according to deputies.

    Sometime between 8 p.m. Monday and 7 a.m. Tuesday, a larceny from a vehicle occurred in the 600 block of Forsythia Avenue in Scio Township. An unlocked vehicle was accessed and personal identification and cash were stolen.

    Then, at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, deputies received a report of numerous men going through vehicles in the 1500 block of Ridge Road in Superior Township. Deputies only said “we are currently investigating several larcenies from automobiles” in the Nixle alert.

    No detailed suspect descriptions were released in any of the incidents and deputies continue to investigate. Sheriff’s office officials did not immediately return a call seeking more information on these larcenies.

    Anyone with information on these incidents is encouraged to call the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office anonymous tip line at 734-973-7711 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK UP (773-2587).


    View Vehicle break-ins in a larger map

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    The 44-year-old Pittsfield Township man who admitted to stabbing his wife to death with multiple knives will serve between 30 and 36 years in prison, according to court records.

    Jean_Pierre_Trias1.jpg

    Jean-Pierre Trias

    Courtesy of the WCSO

    Jean-Pierre Trias was sentenced by Washtenaw County Trial Court Judge Donald Shelton Tuesday, records show. Trias pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a plea agreement announced in June that required him to spend at least 30 years in prison.

    Trias will serve between 30 and 36 years in prison for murdering Katherine Porter, his 53-year-old wife, on Jan. 10 in their Pittsfield Township home in the 4700 block of Hickory Pointe Boulevard.

    At a court hearing on June 18, Trias admitted to the grisly crime. He told Shelton he stabbed Porter multiple times with two different knives — one of which was still in Porter when officers responded to the home to check on Trias the next day — and left her body in the bathroom of the home.

    Her body was bruised, had numerous superficial cuts and three or four injuries that appeared to be bite marks, according to Washtenaw County medical examiners. Trias also suffered injuries that night — medical examiners said he had wounds on his face that appeared to be consistent with fingernail scratches.

    The couple married in August 1995 and Trias once filed for divorce, but the couple reconciled.

    Trias is a former Eastern Michigan University employee, where he was worked off and on from September 2003 until Dec. 31, 2012. He worked in the mathematics department as a part-time coordinator of math tutoring and testing services, while also serving as a graduate assistant.

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.


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    black-lab

    Lorrie Shaw / Contributor

    With the advances in veterinary medicine these days, pets are living a lot healthier -- and longer.

    This comes at no small cost: with the money, research and work that goes into the technology, drugs and developing techniques that are at their core, it's no wonder that some of the treatment is so expensive.

    As those who share life with pets can surely attest, the desire to get treatment for them is there, but it can be a challenge to come up with the funds to pay for it should a pet need it. Pet health insurance is an option, it is one that is growing in popularity to help offset the cost.

    It's a topic that can be up for debate with many, as was discovered in a piece that I wrote in 2011. It's not an issue that's as straightforward as one would think. There can be a fair amount of strife when it comes to thinking about how we care for pets.

    Some commenters made the point that affording their own health insurance (or their own health care for that matter) is challenging enough, and that they have either had to make the choice to drop pet health insurance coverage or as in the case of a lot of pet owners, to forgo treatment for a pet altogether or perhaps work with their veterinarian to find a way modify a treatment as a more affordable option.

    Lets face it, in the tough financial climate that we've been experiencing the last several years in Michigan, there area lot of families in that boat.

    Pet health insurance can run just a few dollars per month, to according to Pet Insurance Review, to about $75 per month, depending on the policy that one chooses. There is a deductible, just as with health insurance meant for humans.

    For many people, they feel that spending the money that would go toward insurance and instead putting it into vaccinations, high-quality food and such is a wiser idea.

    But employees of some companies in the United States are able to take advantage of pet health insurance as part of a benefits package offered by their employer, making it more affordable,

    MGM Resorts International and Chipotle Mexican Grill are just two companies that have taken the lead to offer this perk.

    “Like any kind of health care offering, (pet insurance) is viewed as an employee enticement and retention tool,” notes Charles J. Sebaski. He's an insurance analyst for BMO Capital Markets in New York.

    As we are well aware, pets are part of the family for many. This strategy could give some companies an overall edge, but that remains to be seen. With the trend of households having fewer children and including more pets, that little extra perk could help sway a decision to take a job -- or not.

    The nation’s oldest and largest pet insurer, Veterinary Pet Insurance, offers policies through about 3,400 companies and associations across the country, according to VPI president Scott Liles.

    Read more here on the topic from a recent piece on Courier-Journal.com.

    Does your employer offer this perk, and do you find it valuable?


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    Previous coverage:

    The Ann Arbor Board of Education is interviewing the second of two finalists for the district's vacant superintendent position Wednesday afternoon, and AnnArbor.com is covering it live.

    Osborne-Brian.JPG

    Brian Osborne

    Brian Osborne, a superintendent from New Jersey, is presenting his 90-day plan to the school board, which then plans to decide between him and fellow finalist Jeanice Kerr Swift, of Colorado Springs, at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

    Swift had her site visit Tuesday.

    At 1:15 p.m. in the Skyline High School Media Center, Osborne will lay out his plan for his first three months as superintendent, if hired. He'll also answer questions from the school board. The meeting is open to the public.

    At 7 p.m. Wednesday, members of the public will get a chance to question Osborne in a second public meeting. AnnArbor.com also will be live blogging from this event at Skyline High School.

    The school board interview will be underway shortly. Follow along with the live blog below.

    Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at daniellearndt@annarbor.com.


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    Editor's note: An attribution error has been corrected in this article.

    Ypsilanti City Council has granted the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission six additional months to complete plans for a proposed recreation center on Water Street.

    That means the eight acres of Water Street designated for the facility will remain off the market for that time frame.

    The property has not been on the market for the past 18 months after the city signed a letter of intent to hand the land over to the county. Council's intentions are for the county to construct a multi-level recreation center that would provide indoor and outdoor recreation activities and serve the county's east side.

    Officials see the $12 million facility as a potential “anchor” development on the 38-acre Water Street property that will attract more development.

    Rec_Center_Lot.jpg

    A dirt parking lot in the northwest corner of the Water Street property could someday hold a recreation center.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    The council unanimously approved the extension, though Council Member Pete Murdock expressed his displeasure with the pace of progress.

    When the letter of intent was signed in January 2012, the goal was to have a development agreement and several details — such as location, scale, style, terms of infrastructure construction, Brownfield remediation and price — worked out, but city and county officials have yet to do so.

    “I’m getting a little bit tired and aggravated with the Washtenaw Parks and Recreation people,” Murdock told City Planner Teresa Gillotti as she gave a presentation on the center. “It’s been 18 months or more and and we’re still at the same place we were in the beginning with design, infrastructure and site layout. We’re no closer than when we started."

    Gillotti said she would pass the message along.

    During the last 18 months, the Parks and Recreation Commission has partnered with a University of Michigan design team to develop a series of conceptual plans and worked with the Ann Arbor YMCA to develop a market a study, which will be available soon.

    Murdock said he recalled the project's proponents asserting there was demand when they pitched it and questioned the need for a market study this far along.

    Gillotti said the next step is for the Parks and Recreation Commission to work out an operating agreement with the YMCA.

    Location has been a sticking point so far, with Parks and Recreation Commission officials only wanting to build on the site’s northwest corner. Several months ago there was some discussion as to whether or not the project was dead over a disagreement on location, but, in May, Ypsilanti City Manager Ralph Lange and Mayor Paul Schreiber reaffirmed their support to move forward on the northwest parcels.

    At Tuesday's meeting, Schreiber still put his support behind the project.

    “I’m not quite as frustrated. There are a lot of things involved and it’s a complicated endeavor for both the city and county parks and rec,” he said. “I think it's good to go at a deliberate pace.”

    Council Member Ricky Jefferson said he was pleased to see some information about the county working toward developing infrastructure, which was a first.

    “The the most important thing to me is the infrastructure,” he said.

    The Parks and Recreation Commission will vote on the extension at their August 13 meeting. The city council unanimously approved the extension, though Murdock loudly grumbled before casting his “yes” vote.

    Construction is expected to begin in 2015, after the commission’s 10-year millage expires in 2014 is renewed.

    The center would be nearly 60,000 square feet and would be much like Ann Arbor's Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center, which opened in 1991.

    So far, only a Family Dollar has been approved for the Water Street property.


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    Military Cyberdefense_Wood.jpg

    The New York Times reports that research universities are receiving an increasing amount of hacking attempts.

    AP photo

    The New York Times reports that America's research universities get millions of hacking attempts each week, many from China.

    Such universities — the University of Michigan among them — are especially prone to cyber attacks because of the varied research they conduct. The Times reports schools sometimes don't know when they've been hacked or what has been stolen, and they're reluctant to report a hacking unless personal data has been stolen.

    “The attacks are increasing exponentially, and so is the sophistication, and I think it’s outpaced our ability to respond,” Rodney J. Petersen, leader of the cybersecurity program at Educause, told the Times.

    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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