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

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    072513_Savannah_Roberson_CS.JPG

    Savannah Roberson practices block starts with the Michigan All-Star Track & Field Club on the EMU track, Thursday, July 25.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    Lincoln High School senior-to-be Savannah Roberson may have been one of the fastest high school sprinters in Michigan this spring, and in contention for a title at the Division 1 state meet June 1.

    How she would have fared there is something she will never know after she made the difficult decision to sit out high school track and focus on the AAU season.

    But she does know that it’s a decision she doesn’t regret.

    “It’s a decision I had to make to improve a lot,” Roberson said. “I just took a chance.”

    Roberson sat out the high school season so she could be her best right now, as she gets ready to compete in the AAU Junior Olympic Games at Eastern Michigan’s Rynearson Stadium next week.

    Events get underway Monday at 8 a.m., and continue through Saturday, Aug. 3. with athletes from around the country age 8-and-under to 18 scheduled to compete.

    Roberson is one of more than 10 athletes from the Ypsilanti-based Michigan All-Stars that qualified for the national tournament, and represents the club’s best chance at taking home a national title on its own turf. Roberson has the top seed of 11.83 in the girls 17-18 100-meter dash, and the second seed in the 200 at 23.82.

    “I’m actually really excited,” Roberson said. “It’s motivation to be No. 1.”

    The fact that she owns a pair of top-two seeds is one she attributes in part to her decision to put her focus solely on club track.

    072513_Michigan_All_Star_Tr.JPG

    Savannah Roberson jumps rope a training section as part of the Michigan All-Star Track & Field Club in Ypsilanti, Thursday, July 25.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    Roberson competed for the Lincoln track as a freshman, but had to sit out her sophomore high school track season due to a stress fracture in her foot. It was during that sophomore year that she began working with the Michigan All-Stars and coach Rad Greaves, who introduced her to his program that emphasized building strength to drop time.

    Her training schedule included increased weightlifting, allowing her single-repetition squat from 180 to 300 pounds in six weeks this spring. Her time dropped simultaneously, including two seconds off of her 200-meter time.

    But the intense weight training and five-month indoor season that finished in mid-March also necessitated a recovery period immediately after the season culminated, to be able to be in top shape for the AAU outdoor season that starts in June.

    That recovery period happened to fall when high school track holds its outdoor season.

    “We’re doing a dual-peak season, one indoor and one outdoor,” Greaves said. “If you throw traditional high school track in the mix, you don’t get time to go down, and if you do go down then your high school coach isn’t happy because you’re going down on his time.”

    That presented Roberson with a difficult decision: sacrifice her recovery period and possibly her conditioning for the summer AAU circuit, or sit out high school track.

    Also contributing to the decision was the fact that high school track athletes are generally asked to compete in events outside of their specialties to help score team points. Staying exclusively with club track allows Roberson to train exclusively for the 100 and 200.

    It wasn’t easy, but Roberson said she decided to sit out high school track, and brought the plan to her mom.

    “I said ‘If this is what you want to do and you believe in your coach, then go for it,’” said Cheryl Misher, Roberson’s mother. “And I’ve been pleased. Very pleased.

    “She made the decision and had to make some sacrifices. She had to be strong and stay firm to what her decision was. It was a hard choice for her.”

    With her decision came “drama,” as Roberson puts it.

    “A lot of people at my high school didn’t really understand why I wasn’t running, they were kind of upset with me, like ‘Why are you not running?’”

    But now Roberson, her mother and her coach are all happy she made her decision. The 11.83 100-meter dash she ran at the national championship qualifier in late June is faster than any time turned in at the state meet.

    But instead of that, Roberson is focused on a national meet, and one in her hometown.

    “It’s great,” Roberson said. “I’m hoping that everybody can show up.”

    Kyle Austin covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kyleaustin@annarbor.com or 734-623-2535. Follow him on Twitter @KAustin_AA.


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    Voters in Ann Arbor’s Third and Fourth wards face an important decision on Aug. 6. They have a chance to shape the direction of the city for the next two years.

    In each ward, voters must choose between a City Council incumbent and a challenger in the Democratic primary. With no Republican candidate in the race, the winner will run unopposed in November unless independent or write-in candidates emerge.

    With the city facing tough budget decisions and important questions about the future of downtown, the outcome of the election could have a significant impact on citizens’ pocketbooks and the services they rely on from the city.

    AnnArbor.com believes all four candidates care deeply about the city and are sincere about wanting to win election or re-election in order to have a positive impact on the community. But after considering the issues and the candidates’ positions them, as well as their varied experiences, we’ve made the following endorsements.

    Ward 3

    The Third Ward race pits incumbent Stephen Kunselman against challenger Julie Grand. Though we think Grand, who chairs the city’s Park Advisory Commission, is familiar with many aspects of the city and is an effective advocate for its parks systems, we believe Kunselman’s experience, practical approach and independent streak make him a better choice in this contest.

    Stephen_Kunselman_2011_headshot.jpg

    Stephen Kunselman

    Kunselman speaks passionately about the need to focus on public safety, improve infrastructure and deal with blight in the city. We agree that these are issues the city needs to address.

    He speaks proudly of his work to keep fire stations from closing and we applaud those efforts. It’s also obvious the city needs to look at its police staffing needs and consider adding officers where needed.

    Clearly, the city has infrastructure issues that need to be addressed. The crumbling pavement on streets around town and the flooding that swamped the city at the end of June provide glaring evidence of this.

    Kunselman has also worked successfully to get abandoned houses in neighborhoods torn down. We’re glad to see these eyesores coming down and hope these efforts will continue.

    We also appreciate Kunselman’s role as an independent thinker on council. Though we don’t always agree with everything he proposes, he offers a valuable alternative perspective and a realistic approach. Grand accuses him of being combative, which we’ve seen on some issues. However, his ability to also co-sponsor legislation with Mayor John Hieftje, whom he frequently opposes, suggests that he can put citywide interests first. We encourage that approach.

    Julie_Grand_headshot_2013.jpg

    Julie Grand

    Kunselman can be creative too. It was at his urging that City Council in 2008 changed the rules that kept residents from having backyard chickens.

    As for Grand, she also mentions infrastructure as a priority and supports the city’s plan to review downtown zoning, which we applaud. But she seems to lack Kunselman’s grasp of the issues, including those of regional importance facing the city, such as AATA expansion, collaboration with Washtenaw County and the potential for increasing communication between city officials and the University of Michigan.

    She stresses communication, which is certainly important, but we don’t think she offers a compelling reason to oust the incumbent.

    Ward 4

    Marcia_Higgins_headshot_2013.jpg

    Marcia Higgins

    The Fourth Ward race pits incumbent Marcia Higgins against challenger Jack Eaton. Eaton matches Kunselman in passion and clearly wants to serve on council, having run and lost twice before. But we think Higgins’ experience and understanding of the challenges facing the city make her a better choice.

    Higgins has worked diligently behind the scenes, putting in much time on various committees, including the budget and labor committees.

    She also oversaw the A2D2 process that brought new zoning with height limits and design guidelines to downtown. Higgins has acknowledged the need to revisit those guidelines and has the knowledge and understanding to help fix them as she leads a review process already underway.

    We are concerned about Higgins' attendance record at council meetings. She has missed nearly 15 percent of council meetings since November 2011 and left early or arrived late at 12 of the meetings she attended. We think it’s important for Higgins to improve this record during this term.

    Jack_Eaton_headshot_2013.jpg

    Jack Eaton

    Her fellow representative in Ward 4, Margie Teall, also missed about 15 percent of the meetings in that timeframe and was late or left early seven times. There’s information and perspective to be gleaned from the meetings that is difficult to gain otherwise, and the city is best served when a full council table votes on issues.

    As for Eaton, he seems well intentioned and he’s come close to winning a Fourth Ward seat in previous tries - signaling that many voters do believe he can be an effective representative. But we believe he isn’t as well equipped as Higgins to handle the issues facing council. While he’s quick to point out problems, citing as an example the city’s unfunded liability in the retiree pension and health-care plans, he’s short on solutions.

    We share his concern about unfunded liabilities and agree the city needs to address concerns about public safety and infrastructure.

    But we also question whether he has the temperament for compromise, a skill that’s necessary for effective governing. We had these same concerns in 2010 and aren’t sure his approach has changed.


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    082812_BIZ_Landmark_MRM_17_display.jpg

    The 600-bed Landmark student high-rise on the corner of South University and South Forest is one of seven student apartment buildings constructed or approved in the downtown Ann Arbor area since 2009.

    Downtown Ann Arbor’s five-year student housing boom has left a permanent mark in the city’s skyline.

    It shows developers consider Ann Arbor’s student apartment market a safe investment, but it’s also causing city leaders and residents to push the brakes and ask: Is this really what we want for downtown?

    “The biggest difficulty we’re facing, I think, is the rate of change and the fact that the change has not been seen as to the benefit of the community as a whole,” said Ann Arbor City Council Member Sabra Briere.

    “Thirty years ago, one new building in five years was a thing to be talked about and occasionally mourned. The fact that we’ve had seven new buildings built or proposed and approved in (five) years makes all of the community question whether we’re doing things the right way.”

    downtownzoning.jpg

    This map shows the different zoning designation of downtown properties and highlights the areas where the city is considering redevelopment opportunities for city-owned properties as part of its Connecting William Street Plan (shown in purple).

    Ann Arbor DDA

    With a thorough review of downtown’s zoning now underway, the public has several weeks to weigh in on what works, what doesn’t work and possible changes to the zoning. The results of the review could affect the pace and scope of future development downtown.

    As those conversations continue, here are some ways the city potentially could refocus development downtown:

    Downzone certain properties?

    D1 is the core downtown zoning district that allows buildings up to 180 feet tall — or in special cases like the 400 block of East Huron Street, up to 150 feet tall. The D2 zoning district has a building height limit of 60 feet.

    The zoning was adopted in 2009 as part of the city’s Ann Arbor Discovering Downtown (A2D2) process, which also introduced design guidelines for downtown.

    norm_sketch.jpg

    A sketch by Norman Tyler, an architect and neighbor of the 413 E. Huron project, shows an interpretation of how the 14-story development would look from the historic neighborhood on North Division Street.

    Sketch by Norman Tyler

    The recently approved 413 E. Huron high-rise has been called “out-of-character” for its neighborhood. At the intersection of North Division and East Huron streets, the 14-story building will abut historic residential homes to the north and is located in the city’s East Huron Street character district.

    Neighbors of the project and other community leaders rallied for months, challenging the developers to redesign the building and reduce the height, and petitioning City Council to reject the project.

    Just before 413 E. Huron was approved, City Council asked Planning Commission to address three specific D1-zoned sites in its review of the zoning to prevent another out-of-character project. Those include:

    • The south side of East William Street between South Main and South Fourth
    07232013_BIZ_ZoningParcels_DJB_0005-1.jpg

    The DTE parking lot at South Main and East William streets has a D1 zoning designation and abuts residential homes on South Fourth.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    Occupied by the Beer Depot and the DTE parking lot on the corner of Main and William, this site has a D1 zoning designation and abuts residential properties that are located on South Fourth Avenue.

    • The north side of Huron Street between North Division and North State
    campusinnlot.jpg

    A parking lot between Campus Inn and Sloan Plaza on East Huron Street has a D1 zoning designation.

    Lizzy Alfs | AnnArbor.com

    This block is home to the 413 E. Huron site, but it has an additional area of concern, Briere said. There is a parking lot between the Campus Inn hotel and Sloan Plaza Condominiums, which is utilized by hotel guests and employees. It has a D1 zoning designation, and also backs up to several homes.

    • A parcel on the south side of Ann Street adjacent to city hall

    The University of Michigan Credit Union owns this D1-zoned parking lot. Briere said a developer could potentially come along and acquire the lot and some adjacent parcels and construct a 180-foot-tall development. It rubs up against a historic district and residential properties.

    “These areas were called out by council because they reflected the problem at 413,” Briere said. “That is, the lack of a buffer zone.”

    Ann Arbor resident Ray Detter, who was active in the efforts to block the 413 E. Huron project, pointed out other downtown areas where he thinks D1 zoning might be of concern. Among the sites: the northwest corner of North Division and East Huron, occupied by Ahmo’s Gyros & Deli; the former flagship Borders building at 612 E. Liberty St.; the Kline’s lot at South Ashley and East William streets.

    Detter said one possibility might be to look beyond D1 and D2 for certain properties.

    “I would like to take a look at that to see whether, in some areas, we might support something that wasn’t D2 or D1, but D13 that allows for 80-foot buildings,” he said.

    Re-examine floor-area-ratio premiums?

    As part of the zoning review, City Council asked the Planning Commission to consider whether the D1 residential floor-area-ratio (FAR) premiums effectively encourage a diverse downtown population.

    FAR is a development term used to describe the total square footage of floor area in a building divided by the total square feet of the lot on which the building is located. A building in downtown’s D1 zoning can have 400 percent FAR by-right, but up to 700 percent by-right if it’s for residential use, meaning the building can be taller. Developers are also awarded additional FAR premiums for things like affordability and LEED certification.

    The city wants to examine whether those by-right premiums are encouraging the right kinds of development downtown.

    “I really appreciate the inclusion of that in this recommendation of things to look at,” Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje said during an April City Council meeting.

    “As we look at things like the (Ann Arbor City Apartments) that are going up, I understand they have a lot of demand already…that’s folks who are working in the downtown area and who want to live in the downtown area. We could make an adjustment in that direction very easily to favor that type of housing in the downtown area, and I think that would be very positive.”

    aacity.jpg

    Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje has talked about encouraging projects similar to the under-construction Ann Arbor City Apartments, which is targeting young professionals as tenants.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    Ann Arbor City Apartments is under construction on the corner of West Washington and South First streets.

    Ann Arbor architect Brad Moore of J Bradley Moore & Associates said the city could create incentives in the zoning ordinance based on what the city wants to see downtown.

    “Lets say the city wanted to encourage dwellings in the downtown area that were less than 400 square feet,” Moore explained, “They could do that by creating incentives. What you could do in your zoning ordinance is say that if you have 400-square-foot apartments, (the city) won’t count those as part of your floor area ratio.”

    “Now, all of a sudden, the developer has an incentive to build 400-square-foot apartments.”

    Limit student-oriented projects?

    Ann Arbor officials have said they would like to avoid having any more apartment high-rises downtown that cater to U-M students. During the zoning review, the city is legally protected against more of those projects coming forward, Hieftje told AnnArbor.com last week.

    Hieftje said the upcoming zoning changes could, just as a possible example, restrict new projects from having anything more than two bedroom units. Another example would be to limit three-bedroom units to 10 percent of the total number of units in a development and prohibit four-, five- or six-bedroom units.

    "So that's really going to mean future development in the downtown area will be more focused on young adults, empty-nesters and young families who might want to live there," he said.

    Hieftje said the city’s zoning changes in 2009 didn't spur the student housing boom — it started on its own.

    "(Landmark, 411 Lofts and Zaragon Place) came in under the old zoning. It was a recognition by developers nationwide that they could sell housing in campus towns with a large university, so we didn't start the student housing boom. That started all on its own.”

    McKinley CEO Albert Berriz said for developers, returns are higher on student high-rise buildings and that’s a much safer bet. Many of the units in the new buildings are four-, five- or six-bedroom units, and rental rates often exceed $1,000 per bedroom.

    Moore said a main factor behind the student housing boom is simple: financing availability.

    “For the past five years, what you could get financed is student high-rises,” he said. “That’s changing now. With the economy slowly coming back, money is becoming available to build other things now. That’s why you’ll see, for example, projects like the Ann Arbor City Apartments, Georgetown Mall, 618 South Main.” (618 S. Main is an approved housing project just south of downtown)

    Mandatory — or stricter — design guidelines?

    Developers hoping to build projects in downtown Ann Arbor have to go through a required design review process, but the design guidelines the city sets forth aren’t mandatory.

    The 413 E. Huron project received some criticism for its design from Ann Arbor’s Design Review Board, but the project still complied with the zoning.

    413_latest.jpg

    The 413 E. Huron project was approved by Ann Arbor City Council in a 6-5 vote in May.

    Humphreys & Partners Architects

    When the design guidelines were developed in 2009, some city leaders and residents wanted to elevate the guidelines from voluntary to mandatory, and those discussions continue today.

    Moore, who has worked on recent high-rise projects such as The Varsity and 624 Church St., worries that making the design guidelines mandatory could limit architects’ creativity. He was also involved in the process of creating the design guidelines, and said major design elements — like varying the massing of buildings — already are incorporated in the city’s zoning ordinance.

    “But the other things, like what’s the best color for a building or how big should the windows be or what are the best materials for a building, there was no consensus on that,” Moore said. “I think those things are much harder to regulate. It would be like asking, what’s proper art or good music?”

    Another option would be to strengthen the impact of the Design Review Board’s comments by requiring developers to go before the board twice, Detter said.

    “I think that by giving the design guidelines process more teeth, or strength, and making the process perhaps a little lengthier, but asking people to consider everything the Design Review Board wants them to do, we can make our projects better,” Detter said.

    Briere said it's important to remember these buildings will be here 100 years from now, and encouraging good designs is crucial.

    "If we’re not caring what the outside of the building looks like and trying to control how that affects outside properties adjacent to it, then I think we’re really making a mistake,” she said.

    “What have we done, not just to encourage residential, but what have we done to encourage or demand the best possible design? Right now, I don’t think we’ve done enough.”

    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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    Ypsilanti will purchase 505 new LED streetlight as it continues an effort to replace all high-pressure sodium and mercury-vapor streetlights in the city.

    The Ypsilanti City Council voted unanimously to approve the purchase at its Tuesday, July 23 meeting.

    The move also was the next step in the city’s effort to establish a special assessment streetlight district that would impose a flat fee on residents and businesses to pay the city’s DTE bill and conversion to LED lighting.

    The city is anxious to convert the lighting in the coming months because it is one of the first cities in the state to complete a full conversion. Because of that, DTE is offering the bulbs and installation at a reduced rate.

    Ypsi_LED_Light.jpg

    A new LED streetlight in Ypsilanti.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    The 505 bulbs will cost around $192,000, which includes a $22,000 rebate from DTE. The cost of running those 505 lights is around $121,000 annually, and that figure will be reduced to $81,000, giving the city an annual savings of $40,000.

    That means the city will get its return on the investment in 4.8 years.

    “In a period of less than five years, you get 100 percent of your investment, then you make a $40,000 dividend for the rest of time. That’s an extraordinary advantage,” said City Manager Ralph Lange. “This is a case where city being innovative is really paying off."

    Lange also highlighted that while electricity costs will go up in coming years, the city will be using much less power, so its bill will increase less.

    Officials also say the LED lighting is “cleaner” and a better quality light than the current streetlights, and it helps reduce the city's carbon footprint, which is part of Ypsilanti's climate action plan.

    “This is a win in a lot of different circumstances,” Lange said.

    The city has already replaced 294 lights.

    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.

    If the new streetlight 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.

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


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    QVC's camera crew set up equipment in Haab's, Ypsilanti's historic restaurant, on Thursday to film "In the Kitchen with David" host David Venable, and Associate Producer Mary DeAngelis's lunch with Ypsilanti resident Dwight Burdette.

    Footage from the lunch will be aired on Sunday along with an announcement that the show will be hosted from Ypsilanti some time in late August.

    Haab's appearance on one of QVC's most popular shows is a part of the June Road Trip Contest, sponsored by "In the Kitchen with David."

    The restaurant, an Ypsilanti staple since 1934, was selected as the contest winner earlier this month after being nominated by Burdette, a frequent visitor of the establishment.

    "I've lived in Ypsilanti for 30 years and I often come to Haab's,” Burdette said. “It is by far my favorite restaurant. I just really like the food, the atmosphere and the historical aspect. I like it so much that I even authored the restaurant's Wikipedia page.”

    Burdette said he regularly watches "In the Kitchen with David" and when Venable asked viewers to submit their favorite hometown restaurants for the contest, Burdette immediately thought of Haab’s, he said.

    He submitted a photo of the dining room and wrote a brief description of his personal experience with the restaurant, as well as its long history with the community.

    "Well of course when I made the nomination I thought it was very unlikely that it would even be a finalist,” Burdette said. “And then I got an email saying Haab’s was a finalist, but it didn’t quite hit me until I actually saw them announce it on the show."

    Venable said Haab’s was selected from more than 500 entries sent in from across the U.S.

    “From a pool of several hundred, we narrowed down to five finalists,” Venable said. “It was just really exciting to read the stories and learn more about local places because we really wanted to key in on a place that was a little off the beat and path, that was not a chain restaurant, was not a franchise, but something that had a history and a connection to the local town and Haab’s certainly was a great example of that.”

    The restaurant’s rich tradition is what tipped the scale for Haab’s, Venable said.

    “It was their long history and their anniversary celebration when they go back to their original prices for one day,” Venable said. “It just let us know that there was a rich history with this restaurant and a strong local tie with strong local support."

    Taking "In the Kitchen with David" on the road is a new effort for the show, Venable said.

    “We’re all about celebrating great food and a passion for great food,” he said. “And we felt what better way is there to do that then let folks in their local communities really tell us about places that they feel passionate about; places that they love and have become a tradition for them.”

    "In the Kitchen with David" airs at noon on Sundays and at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays.


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    Calvin_myfab5_techarb_TechBeat.jpg

    Calvin Schemanski shows off the MyFab5 website to onlookers at an open house at the TechArb student startup incubator in downtown Ann Arbor.

    Ben Freed | AnnArbor.com

    University of Michigan student startup MyFab5 is based in the TechArb student startup incubator on East Liberty Street in downtown Ann Arbor, but its co-founders are eying pastures that only some would consider “greener.”

    “Ann Arbor has a lot of talent, and we love it here, but Detroit has a lot of heart and a lot of space to grow,” co-founder Calvin Schemanski said. “It’s tough to think of a 1,000-person company setting up shop in Ann Arbor, but Detroit has the space for that sort of thing.”

    The city might be undergoing bankruptcy, but Detroit’s startup hubs such as the M@dison Building, D:hive and TechTown are continuing to capture the imagination of young Midwestern entrepreneurs.

    It might seem like a big leap for a company operating with three co-founders and five interns to be talking about needing space and resources for 1,000 employees, but that’s all part of MyFab5’s founders’ mindset.

    “Our competitors are that big — Yelp! is a 1,200-person operation,” Schemanski said.

    “Our goal isn’t to remain small, we definitely have our eyes set on going all the way. When we talk about our future, it’s not really anyone’s intention to become a company that gets up to 20 people and then sells to Google in a year.”

    The idea behind MyFab5 is that review-based websites like Yelp! do not actually help people make the ever crucial “where do I want to eat” decision. Co-founders Schemanski and Omeid Seirafi-Pour felt that long-form reviews and stars presented with too many options and not enough of the right data.

    MyFab5_Screenshot.png

    MyFab5 believes that by compiling user rankings, it can tell you what the most popular (and best) restaurants are in a wide variety of categories.

    Screenshot

    The company’s website allows users to log in with their Facebook information and rank their favorite locations in categories ranging from “quick lunch” to “first date.” Consumers who are then looking for a place to eat simply choose a category and are presented with a compilation of users’ rankings.

    Schmanski and Seirafi-Pour added John Gulbronson as a technical founder in January, but knew that they would need more help to grow their product beyond a novelty website to help Ann Arborites find the best place for a piece of pizza.

    “This summer, we were able to get some internship funding through Michigan Works! so that let us bring on five interns,” Schemanski said. “We have two working on the product side, three on the marketing side. We’ve been pretty busy now managing a team, which is a new and different challenge, but they’re all really helpful. We have been getting a lot of updates done on the website and the app, and on the marketing side we’ve been able to cover a lot more ground.”

    MyFab5 recently won the DTX Showcase pitch competition, which came with a grand prize of a $15,000 branding package that will include a video, a brand book and website design assistance.

    With the help of its expanded workforce and new branding initiative, MyFab5 launched in Detroit the night of the showcase. Schemanski said that he and the rest of the team have found that expanding into the new territory has opened their eyes to the potential that the website has in more urban areas.

    “What we’re finding is that Detroit is an interesting environment because there’s a lot of really good food but it’s often hidden,” he said.

    “In Ann Arbor it’s very possible to walk down Liberty or Main or State and walk into a restaurant and it will be good. In Detroit just walking down a street and picking a random place… no one is willing to do that.”

    The company has yet to raise a significant round of capital - though Schemanski said that they are open to raising a seed round if the opportunity presented itself - and has relied on grassroots efforts and “power users” to spread their website.

    Once it has a foothold, Schemanski sees the website growing to include a wide range of “favorites.”

    “We have a vision to expand beyond restaurants into pretty much anything that can be ranked, and be a platform for people to share their opinions on things that are important to them,” he said.

    “It could be salons, it could be entertainment, people’s favorite books, favorite movies, favorite games. It’s easy to imagine a world where people are sharing their favorites with each other and they can do that in ranking form.”

    Schemanski said that later in the summer, the website will officially open up to users across the United States, but that the company will only be focusing its efforts on Ann Arbor and Detroit for the foreseeable future. The company hopes to gain national traction slowly by word of mouth, while using Southeast Michigan as its primary testing zone.

    “I would just ask that people in the community would try us out and give us feedback,” he said. “

    “The only way we’ll get better is if people in Michigan tell us what they like and what they don’t like.”

    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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    trees_071113_RJS_011.jpg

    A leafless tree in the Virginia Park neighborhood on Ann Arbor's west side reaches into the sky on a recent afternoon. The city has a backlog of roughly 1,400 dead and dying trees on a removal list right now.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Ann Arbor might be affectionately called Tree Town, but many residents and city officials agree the city has fallen behind on taking care of its dense green canopy.

    The city's forestry department has been cut back over the years as budgets have tightened, and it's been years since the city proactively trimmed trees that line city streets.

    Hundreds of dead and dying trees — their branches absent leaves even in the summertime — can be found along streets in neighborhoods throughout Ann Arbor.

    "It's pretty much an epidemic," said Nick Sochacki, who lives near Virginia Park on Ann Arbor's west side and has noticed a large number of dead and dying maple trees.

    trees_071113_RJS_013.jpg

    Nick Sochacki, who lives near Virginia Park on Ann Arbor's west side, stands near a dying tree in front of his house. He said limbs from the tree have fallen and damaged cars on multiple occasions.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    There's a backlog of roughly 1,400 street trees that are on the city's removal list right now, said Kerry Gray, the city's urban forestry and natural resource planner.

    "We're trying to get a better handle on that," she said. "There's definitely more work to be done than we have the staff resources to accomplish."

    Gray said about 800 of the trees on the removal list are considered lower priority because they're smaller or were planted in recent years, but many others are decades old and tower above neighborhood streets and sidewalks.

    Sochacki said it seems the city marks some of the same dead trees year after year and doesn't follow through with removing them. He considers it a dangerous situation.

    "There are so many of these trees that are dropping branches all over," he said, noting limbs from a dying tree in front of his house have fallen and damaged cars.

    The city's removal list includes more than 3 percent of the 41,000 street trees the city manages. The city also manages about 6,600 park trees and tens of thousands of trees in natural areas.

    Gray said the city is losing about 1 percent of its street tree population each year — or roughly 400 to 500 trees per year. She said the city has been able to remove about 500 trees each of the last couple years, and that's the plan this year as well, so the backlog isn't going away soon.

    Multiple storms this year have caused hundreds of weak and dead limbs to break free from trees the city is responsible for maintaining.

    In some cases, branches have fallen and damaged cars parked on city streets. And more recently, a 61-year-old woman was hospitalized with a mild concussion and a knee injury after dodging a falling tree branch on Glendale Drive in the Virginia Park neighborhood.

    A man who lives on the block said the tree had been dead for some time and was reported to the city about two months before the July 9 incident.

    Gray confirmed the tree was reported at the end of April and was evaluated two weeks later. The tree was marked for removal then, she said, but it wasn't deemed an immediate hazard. The city finally had the tree reduced to a stump within a day or two after the woman was injured.

    trees_071113_RJS_009.jpg

    Once the city has determined a tree needs to be removed, it often will be marked with a large green dot. The city is trying to get newly dotted trees removed within three months, but there are trees with dots from years past that remain standing.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    The city tries to get out to evaluate trees reported by residents within two weeks, Gray said, but that depends on the workload.

    Once the city has determined a tree needs to be removed, it often will be marked with a large green dot. The city is trying to get newly dotted trees removed within three months, Gray said, but there are dead trees with dots from years past that remain standing.

    City Council Member Mike Anglin, D-5th Ward, said dead and dying trees are a big concern for him, and he alerts city staff when he sees them.

    "It is an emergency," he said. "I think the community expects the trees to be better taken care of — period."

    Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, said he has noticed a number of dead and dying trees as he's been out campaigning this summer.

    "There's a need for the city's forestry department to step up a little bit," he said. "As a former intern of the city forestry department, it's very sad to see how it has been cut."

    Matt Warba, the city's field operations manager, said the city had 15 full-time forestry employees in 1999 and now it has 10. Park operations went from 25 to 10 FTEs in that same time.

    "Currently we have three people who are very well suited and capable of doing large tree removal or whatever tree issues come up," Warba said, adding the city also relies on the help of field operations technicians, temporary employees and private contractors to carry the workload.

    Gray said the forestry department's budget amounts to about $1.8 million this year, which is down slightly from last year.

    John Bassett, a retired University of Michigan forestry professor, said he's been in Ann Arbor since 1967 and he remembers when the forestry department was much more robust.

    "I think what the forestry department has lost is a lot of experience and bodies, so they simply don't have the personnel to do all the work," he said.

    Stephen_Kunselman_dead_tree_071313_RJS.jpg

    Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, said he has noticed a number of dead and dying trees as he's been out campaigning this summer. Here he snaps a photo of one so he can report it to city staff.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Bassett said the city could be a lot more proactive about trimming trees and preventing rotten limbs from posing risks.

    "If they had adequate money and personnel, you'd have people out there looking at these things and getting to them more quickly," he said. "Sometimes it's difficult to tell if a limb has internal rot. I just don't think they've got the personnel to spend the time checking."

    The city acknowledges its forestry program is best described as reactive these days, with field activities driven by citizen service requests and emergencies. And city officials know having a reactive program can negatively impact the overall condition and sustainability of the urban forest.

    Gray said there always are gong to be challenges when managing as many trees as the city does, but the invasion of the emerald ash borer in recent years really set the city back. She said basic maintenance was deferred while the city tackled the removal of thousands of ash trees.

    The city still is working to make up for that loss, planting thousands of new street trees. The city recently signed a $509,125 contract with Margolis Companies Inc. to have another 1,750 trees planted along city streets over the next two years.

    Trees_planted.jpg

    The city of Ann Arbor has ramped up tree plantings after losing thousands of ash trees to the emerald ash borer, a green beetle native to Asia that invaded the region a number of years ago.

    City of Ann Arbor

    The city also has been working for more than three years on developing an Urban Forest Management Plan to provide a framework for effective management of city trees. A 22-page draft report containing several recommendations is now available on the city's website.

    The first recommendation is to implement a proactive tree maintenance program, emphasizing routine pruning, removals and care to improve the health and sustainability of the canopy.

    The plan states current funds don't support all of the work that needs to be completed and the maintenance backlog increases every year.

    It notes more trees are added to the priority prune list each year than the city is able to prune, and that's causing a gradual decline in the quality and condition of the city's tree canopy.

    The plan, which recommends more funding to support increased forestry services, is expected go to the City Council in January after being reviewed by various city commissions.

    Mayor John Hieftje agreed the city needs to start putting more resources into forestry and do a better job of both routine trimming and removal of dead and dying trees.

    "I'll be pushing for that and discussing it closely with staff," he said. "Because it seems to me that we don't have the handle on it that we should."

    trees_071113_RJS_003.jpg

    New trees are being planted throughout the city by the hundreds. City officials say the mortality rate for new trees is about 5-10 percent, though mortality last year was closer to 10 percent with the drought. The city's contractors are required to water the trees as part of the contract.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Gray, who came to the city in 2008, said 2004 was the last year city trees were on a routine, 10-year pruning cycle, and then the city got sidetracked with the emerald ash borer.

    Routine pruning makes trees less prone to storm damage, which city officials believe will be important with future forecasts anticipating increased frequency and intensity of storms.

    The city estimates its trees provide millions of dollars worth of benefits each year, helping to manage stormwater, improve air and water quality, lower energy costs and increase property values.

    Two years ago, the city reallocated expenses for street tree operations to the city's stormwater utility fund, which freed up room in the city's general fund. That was partly a recognition that the city's publicly managed trees intercept an estimated 65 million gallons of stormwater each year.

    Sue Perry, who lives near Virginia Park and helped organize the Ann Arbor Tree Conservancy about four years ago, said she can't help but think if the city still cared for trees like it used to before budget cutbacks, it wouldn't have so many dead and dying trees to worry about.

    She called it "shameful" that Ann Arbor still touts its Tree City USA designation, which it first earned 32 years ago. Cities earn the designation from the Arbor Day Foundation for sound urban forestry management, and Perry doesn't think Ann Arbor can claim that anymore.

    "We used to have a real forestry department with longtime people who practically knew every tree in this city, and they did preventative maintenance," she said. "Everything is done on a crisis basis now and they can't even get to the trees that are marked for removal."

    Ann Arbor residents with concerns about a city-managed tree are encouraged to contact the forestry department at 734-794-6364 or submit an online service request.

    2013-14_tree_planting_plan.jpg

    The city plans to plant 750 new street trees in the following areas starting this fall and continuing in the spring. Another 1,000 trees are being planted in fiscal year 2014-15. The project also includes the removal of 100 dead/dying city street trees and their resulting stumps. Download the plan.

    City of Ann Arbor

    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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    EraPhernalia Vintage dog kitchen.jpg

    Flickr photo by EraPhernalia Village

    “I can’t believe that as someone who knows as much as you do about the pet food industry, that you don’t feed a homemade diet,” an acquaintance of mine asserted a few months ago.

    “Doing otherwise is so risky…”

    I think it’s safe to say that the topic of the diet of companion animals evokes a lot of emotion with people.

    It’s no surprise really.

    Although the pet food industry was branching out into areas to embrace a holistic, natural approach a few years ago, the largest pet food recall in history surely propelled the movement to consider what pets are eating everyday a bit more closely. Then, a far-reaching recall involving Diamond Pet Foods seemed to be the tipping point for a lot of people.

    It’s one thing for quality control tests to occasionally find salmonella contamination in a batch of food, but as many of you have noted in your emails and phone calls to me, for one company to overlook such huge lapses in the safety and quality during production is alarming.

    Months and months later, I am still getting telephone calls from people regarding the Diamond recall. Several of these calls involved pets that were believed to have died as a result of consuming food produced by the company.

    People want to feel empowered that the choices that they are making on behalf of their dogs and cats are the right ones, so it seems natural that they’ll be willing to choose what they deem to be wholesome and healthy - and if they are controlling the ingredients, they feel, ‘so much the better’. Nothing wrong with that, certainly.

    Enter the popularity of feeding raw diets (especially with the availability of formulas that are now commercially available) or at the very least offering food that is made at home.

    It seems that one can’t pick up a magazine geared toward pets or be surfing the web without finding at least one article or blog post touting the benefits of homemade pet diets, right along with recipes.

    This prompted researchers University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine to do a study on recipes for home cooked pet diets, and the results were released in the June issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

    Jennifer Larsen, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at UC Davis and Jonathan Stockman, a veterinary doctor and second-year resident in clinical nutrition at UC Davis selected 200 recipes from over 30 sources, including pet care books, web sites - even veterinary textbooks.

    The findings are bound to set off some fireworks.

    "The results of this study, however, indicate that most available recipes for healthy dogs, even those published in books by veterinarians, do not provide essential nutrients in the quantities required by the dog," Larsen noted.

    "It is extremely difficult for the average pet owner—or even veterinarians—to come up with balanced recipes to create appropriate meals that are safe for long-term use."

    Citing just one conclusion, out of 200 recipes -- only nine provided all essential nutrients in concentrations that met the minimum standards established for adult dogs by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Eight of those were written by veterinarians.

    Only four of the 200 recipes could pass muster when it came to meeting acceptable nutrient profiles of the AAFCO and the National Research Council's Minimum Requirements.

    Those four recipes were written by board-certified veterinary nutritionists.

    Commonly found nutrient deficiencies were linked to choline, vitamin D, zinc and vitamin E and possibly result in profound health issues like immune dysfunction.

    Many stick to the idea that as long as recipes are rotated, any deficiencies that might occur with one specific recipe can be avoided with the 'balance over time concept’.

    Larsen, who is lead author on the study, says that’s hard to achieve, since most of the recipes share many of the same nutrient deficiencies.

    So how can pet owners be empowered and equally mindful?

    Larsen makes clear that "homemade food is a great option for many pets, but we recommend that owners avoid general recipes from books and the Internet and instead consult with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist.”

    "These specialists have advanced training in nutrition to help formulate customized and nutritionally appropriate recipes."

    Click here to read more on the findings of the study.

    Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for AnnArbor.com and is owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.


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    Thumbnail image for AABankRobbery.jpg

    Police released these images of a man robbing the Fifth Third Bank on West Stadium Boulevard Wednesday. The man was arrested Saturday night in Lansing Township.

    The man suspected of robbing an Ann Arbor bank Wednesday was arrested Saturday night near Lansing following a brief standoff, police said Sunday.

    Ann Arbor police Detective Lt. Robert Pfannes confirmed the man was arrested late Saturday night. Police tracked him to a Courtyard Marriott hotel in Lansing Township.

    “Investigation identified a suspect, who was traced to the Lansing Township area,” Pfannes said.

    Ann Arbor police detectives worked with Ingham County Sheriff’s Office deputies, Lansing Township police and other area departments to negotiate with the man. Pfannes said a SWAT team and a negotiator were both called in to get the man to surrender peacefully.

    Pfannes said it took about 15 minutes for negotiators to talk the man into surrendering. He said much of what was seen around the hotel was police set-up and no one was in danger.

    Ann Arbor police Detective Jack Foster was instrumental in solving the case, tracking the suspect's last known whereabouts from Mount Pleasant to Kalkaska to finally the Lansing Township hotel.

    The man was considered armed and dangerous after the Wednesday robbery.

    Police said the man walked into the Fifth Third Bank, 2090 W. Stadium Blvd. at 3:52 p.m. Wednesday. The man showed a semiautomatic handgun and demanded large bills from two tellers at the bank.

    The man then left the bank and fled in a vehicle parked nearby in the parking lot of the Grotto, 2070 W. Stadium Blvd.

    Pfannes said the man is in custody at the Ann Arbor Police Department Sunday morning and is expected to be arraigned Monday.

    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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    Previous coverage:

    Editor's note: This story has been updated with comments from Deb Mexicotte and Glenn Nelson.

    Brian Osborne has turned down the Ann Arbor school board's offer to become the next superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools, the district announced in an email Sunday.

    In declining the job, Osborne cited "a developing family issue," concerns about moving his family from the East Coast and a desire to finish what he had started at his district in New Jersey, school board President Deb Mexicotte said in a statement.

    Osborne-Brian.JPG

    Brian Osborne

    Some members of the community began to grow anxious last week when the district had not received a definitive response from Osborne about the job offer. Many suggested that meant he did not intend to accept the superintendency and criticized Osborne for what they interpreted as a lack of forethought — making it to the final round of interviews without being prepared to commit.

    Mexicotte told AnnArbor.com Sunday she was disappointed that the district would not be able to work with Osborne because she thought he "had a lot to offer Ann Arbor." But she was not disappointed by how the process unfolded, she said.

    "Searches by their nature are fluid and ... I've been through a lot of searches and the thing that people often forget is that it needs to be a match on both sides," she said. "Everybody enters the process with the best of intentions in looking for that right fit, but all the right pieces have to come together in order for the fit to be mutually beneficial."

    Trustee Glenn Nelson admitted to being disappointed with the way the process turned out. However, Nelson said, if Osborne doesn't think he is a good fit for the district, "then it's better to know today than to have plunged in and have learned 18 to 24 months from now that it's not working out."

    Read the text of the email, sent by district spokeswoman Liz Margolis, below:

    The President of the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education, Deb Mexicotte, was informed on Saturday by Dr. Brian Osborne that he has decided to decline the offer to become the district's next Superintendent.

    "Dr. Osborne shared with me that due to a developing family issue, concerns about moving his family from the East coast and his desire to continue the work he has started in his current district, he has declined our offer," said Mexicotte. "While this is disappointing, the entire Board of Education was prepared for this possible outcome and will meet as soon as possible to plan the next steps in this process. Whatever those steps might be, the leadership in place in our district continues to have our support and confidence. Staff will be welcomed back in August, prepared and ready for the new school year. Students and families can be assured that the district leadership team, principals and teachers will be well prepared to welcome them back on September 3rd," Mexicotte continued. "I also want to wish Dr. Osborne, his family and his district all the best in the future."

    Dr. Osborne issued a prepared statement that is being shared with both the Ann Arbor community and the South Orange/Maplewood community. He talks about the "thorough, professional, and transparent selection process" led by the AAPS Board of Education and that his decision was not an "easy" one.

    The Ann Arbor community will be informed of the Board of Education if a meeting is able to be scheduled prior to the next posted Regular Meeting of the Board on August 14.

    Statement from Dr. Osborne to the Ann Arbor Community:

    "The Ann Arbor Board of Education conducted a thorough, professional, and transparent selection process. The entire school community is fortunate to have such dedicated public servants who are clearly committed to providing a great education to every child. I am humbled and honored by the confidence the Board and community have expressed, and appreciative of the learning opportunity that such a rigorous process provided. After deep reflection and deliberation, I have decided to decline Ann Arbor's offer and recommit to the unfinished work in my current district.

    This was not an easy decision. When approached about the superintendency of Ann Arbor, I responded because Ann Arbor embodies the qualities and values that originally drew me to the South Orange Maplewood School District (SOMSD), and have made the work there so meaningful. They are both communities that cherish public education, value diversity, and are willing to address issues of race, class, and student outcomes. For our nation to make good on its promise of equal opportunity, all children must be fully challenged and supported, and leadership must ensure that diverse districts like these achieve equity and excellence for all kids.

    For the past few weeks, I have been touched and inspired by the numerous and meaningful demonstrations of support for the work we are doing in SOMSD. I feel that the biggest contribution to public education that I can make at this time is to harness the momentum we have created in SOMSD and accelerate the progress we are making toward truly preparing all students for the myriad challenges they will face in college and career. We have a strong beginning to that journey in SOMSD, and much unfinished work in motion.

    There are also family considerations that influence my decision to stay in SOMSD. While Ann Arbor is a place we would be happy to make our home, the timing of this move would have a major impact on my family, including two young children whose upbringing is my highest priority. In addition, over the past few weeks, the medical condition of an ailing family member has intensified, compelling us to stay on the East Coast.

    I have appreciated getting to know the Ann Arbor community. Ann Arbor itself is clearly a wonderful and supportive place to live and raise a family. The district has enormous strengths that will help it overcome the formidable challenges that lie ahead. These characteristics reminded me of my commitment to overcoming similar challenges in SOMSD. I appreciate your consideration and offer. I wish you well in finding the best possible person to help move your district forward."

    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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    Ekklesia Fellowship Ministries, 123 N. Adams St. in Ypsilanti, will host a two-day conference for the spiritual and intellectual development of young men in the Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and Detroit communities on Aug. 2-3.

    Makeman_Conference.jpg

    Courtesy of the Let Us Make Man Conference.

    The Let Us Make Man Conference, open to men 12 years old and up, will focus on topics like spiritual growth, college readiness, foundations of entrepreneurship, community service and leadership, event organizer DeVaughn Swanson said.

    “This conference is an idea that I came up with about three years ago,” Swanson said. “I was born and raised in Ypsilanti and had access to mentors within the area throughout my childhood. The community had a village mentality and offered me a great deal of support. Now we just want to make sure that that same mentality is still going on.”

    A committee of emerging young leaders interested in the development of the community has put together the Let Us Make Man event, which will feature workshops throughout the day and spiritual services starting at 7 p.m.

    Ten speakers including community activists, business owners, lawyers and local clergy as well as educators and representatives from colleges in the area will lead panel discussions, give motivational speeches and engage in discussion with event attendees.

    An additional five to 10 men from the community, including counselors and local leaders, will be available to talk one on one with attendees and provide additional support throughout the conference.

    “Individuals who have a thirst for more; special people in the community who have a will to succeed and want to make the best of life, but need a little bit of guidance along the way - those are the men who will benefit from this conference,” Swanson said. “And those people who are not motivated and have no one to look up to should benefit greatly. It’s meant to be motivational and inspiring.”

    The event, funded by Ekklesia Fellowship Ministries and individual sponsors, will provide attendees with meals throughout the day.

    On Friday, Aug. 2, participants will register at 3 p.m. and workshops will begin at 3:30 p.m., which will be followed by a night service at 7 p.m.

    “On Friday, we will be focusing on learning the foundations of business,” Swanson said. “They will learn how to write a business plan and what goes into founding a business. It’s important that young people in the community see what success looks like in the real world so they learn from more than just the media’s interpretation.”

    On Saturday, Aug. 3, attendees will register at 10:30 a.m. followed by daily workshops and panel discussions starting at 11 a.m. A second night service will be held at 7 p.m.

    “The event committee’s goal is to make this a signature event for the Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and Detroit area,” Swanson said. “We’re definitely confident that in a matter of years we will have people traveling to speak and attend this empowerment conference. This is our pilot year, but we’re hoping to expand and attract people from around the country.”

    To register for the Let Us Make Man conference or to learn how you can help out, email the event committee at makemanmi@gmail.com.

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


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    The Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office says all lanes of northbound U.S.-23 have been re-opened following a rollover crash near Washtenaw Avenue.

    Police issued an advisory time-stamped 3:06 p.m. They earlier had issued an statement advising motorists to avoid the northbound lanes of the freeway and were routing traffic off the freeway at Washtenaw Avenue.

    A 911 dispatcher said the accident involved a rollover crash into the median and that several other motorists stopped to try and assist. There was no immediate information on injuries.

    The incident also temporarily forced the shutdown of one of the southbound lanes of the freeway.

    AnnArbor.com left a message with sheriff's office spokesman Derrick Jackson.


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    A group of Ann Arbor-area women who call themselves Team Buttercup were part of more than 900 people who woke up early Saturday morning in Big Rapids to begin the second leg of their three-day, 300-mile bicycle journey from Traverse City to the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

    They are among 1,200 participants in this year's Make-A-Wish's annual Wish-A-Mile Bicycle Tour fundraiser on track to raise more than $2 million.

    Bike_tour-4.jpg

    Ella Dover, 7, the wish hero for Team Buttercup, is pictured with her dad, Brian, and Team Buttercup members Marci Fishman, left, and Amy Yamasaki.

    Team Buttercup members Marci Fishman, Amy Yamasaki, Barb Smith, Nancy Franke, Kim Para and Eileen Chevre are riding all 300 miles, while the other team members — Carrie Turner, Roxanne Shetler, Erin Trame, Cindy Winiarski and Cathy Carter — planned to ride 50 miles Sunday at MIS.

    Their inspiration, also known as their Wish Hero, is 7-year-old Ella Dover who has a medical condition called subcortical band heterotopia. She was born with two cortices, which is extremely rare and causes developmental delays and treatment-resistant epilepsy.

    Ella and her parents, Lisa and Brian Dover, will be at MIS Sunday to welcome back Team Buttercup with medals as they cross the finish line.

    "It's such a celebration," said Yamasaki, the Team Buttercup captain who has participated in the previous three races. "This is just 300 miles for three days. Look at what these kids have to go through every day."

    For Ella and her parents, the challenge is Ella's medical condition.

    "Ella has seizures every single day of her life," said her mother, Lisa.

    Ella received her wish in March of 2012 — a trip to Disney World. She and her parents stayed at a resort called Give Kids the World, where Make-A-Wish families stay during their weeklong vacation.

    Franke said, "I am a health care administrator and know firsthand the struggles one can face in dealing with health issues, as well as what the caregivers go through physically and emotionally in caring for someone with life-changing illnesses. I want our team to cross into the MIS together to see the huge smile on our Wish Hero Ella's face and all of the wish heroes and their families and friends."

    It was being at the finish line last year that inspired Fishman to participate in the ride this year.

    "I got caught up in the energy of the event and was so moved by the efforts and compassion of the riders and the families and volunteers," said Fishman. "Ella is certainly an inspiration to me."

    Team Buttercup's members are all friends, and many do a variety of volunteer work in the Ann Arbor community. They raised $15,000 for Make-A-Wish, some of it at a fundraiser at the Scio Township Culver's on Jackson Road June 26. Co-owner Karen Richard contributed a percentage of that day's earnings to the team whose members volunteered as servers that day.

    Richard and co-owner Barb Smith learned that one of their employees was once a child granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

    "You just never know what programs touch what people," said Smith, who is riding in her fifth 300-mile bike tour. "It is unbelievable how a group comes together for three days to cover 300 miles to raise funds for kids battling illnesses I cannot even pronounce."

    "It's just a small thing we can do in a big, challenging world to make a difference in the lives of a few," said Fishman.

    Leah Borst, communications manager for Make-A-Wish Michigan, said last year Make-A-Wish Michigan granted 368 wishes, including 15 for children from Washtenaw County.

    "The Wish-A-Mile Bicycle Tour is the second largest Make-A-Wish fundraiser in the country and is our biggest contributor to raising funds for the wishes of Michigan children," said Borst.

    "We couldn't be prouder to be part of something that will help bring a morale boost to families who have a child with a life-threatening illness," said Lisa Dover.


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    A 43 year-old Grand Rapids woman was killed Sunday after rolling her vehicle several times while traveling on U.S.-23 in Ann Arbor, the Michigan State Police said.

    Bonnie Brush was pronounced dead at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ypsilanti, police said in a release.

    The accident took place at approximately 12:20 p.m. while Brush was driving her red 2001 Honda CRV northbound just north of the Washtenaw Avenue exit.

    Police said she was traveling in the left lane and went onto the left shoulder as she entered a curve. It's believed Brush overcorrected and swerved to the right, losing control and rolling several times in the center median.

    Brush was wearing a seatbelt, and neither alcohol nor drugs are believed responsible.

    The crash tied up traffic on the busy freeway in both directions for several hours. Motorists who saw the incident reportedly tried to assist on the scene.


    View Larger Map Approximate location of the crash Sunday


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    One woman suffered burns while another man leaped from his second-floor window to escape harm as firefighters in Ypsilanti Township battled two separate blazes Saturday evening. Both fires were sparked after the inhabitants fell asleep.

    The first, a small kitchen fire, broke out around 9:15 p.m. in a three-story apartment building at 150 Stevens Drive. Ypsilanti Township Fire Capt. Larry James said the male resident was cooking in his kitchen, went into his bedroom to read and fell asleep.


    View Larger Map

    The man told investigators he woke up when his nose started tingling. When he opened his bedroom door, smoke flooded his bedroom, and the man jumped from his window to safety and was uninjured, James said.

    The fire, which was contained to the man's unit, caused an estimated $20,000 in damage.

    Firefighters were dispatched to the second blaze at 10:55 p.m. at 714 Forest Court at the site of a ranch-style apartment building.


    View Larger Map

    There, a woman who was on medical oxygen fell asleep while smoking, James said. Her burning cigarette started a flame, which reacted violently with the oxygen generator, he said.

    Firefighters reported that the woman suffered burns to 5 percent of her body.

    The blaze caused heavy damage to two units, a storage unit and a roof. Four units were ordered unlivable, with an estimated $100,000 worth of damage.

    Ypsilanti Township crews were aided by firefighters from Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Superior Township and Pittsfield Township.


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    Ann Arbor school board President Deb Mexicotte joined local radio talk show host Lucy Ann Lance on air Monday morning to talk about the top candidate for the district's new superintendent declining the job offer.

    Mexicotte-Deb.jpg

    Deb Mexicotte

    The Board of Education unanimously voted July 19 to extend the superintendency to Brian Osborne, the superintendent of South Orange-Maplewood School District in New Jersey.

    Over the weekend, Osborne turned down the job offer citing an ailing family member, concerns about moving his family of four with two young children from the East Coast and a desire to finish what he had started at his current district.

    Mexicotte joined Lance via phone from a conference she is attending out of state. Lance asked the board president about a number of topics including: next steps in the superintendent search process; whether the board should have been more aggressive this past week, trying to pressure Osborne to come to Ann Arbor; and about how well the search firm, Ray & Associates, has performed for the district.

    Mexicotte told Lance she personally is reconsidering whether the runner-up candidate, Jeanice Kerr Swift of Colorado Springs School District 11, would be a good fit for the district as well. She also told Lance the Ann Arbor Public Schools has a strong interim superintendent and central administrative team in place, so if the board chooses to wait a while to conduct another national search, she thinks "we're in good shape either way."

    On the topic of the search firm, the two discussed whether Ray & Associates should have known that Osborne had some personal and family issues that would weigh heavily on his willingness and ability to take the job out of state. Mexicotte told Lance she knows the search firm asked those questions and was comfortable bringing Osborne's name forward to the district when it did.

    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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    A 38-year-old Ypsilanti Township man was arrested Sunday on accusations of child abuse after his 6-month-old son was taken to the hospital in critical condition Sunday, police said.

    Deputies from the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office were called at 3:30 a.m. to the University of Michigan Hospital for a report of suspected child abuse on Sunday, said Sgt. Geoff Fox.

    The abuse is believed to have occurred Saturday night at a residence in the 8700 block of Trillium Drive in Ypsilanti Township.

    Fox said the 38-year-old was the lone caregiver of his 6-month-old son and a 2-year-old child.

    "The investigation has revealed that the child ... received significant head trauma," Fox stated in a release.

    The 38-year-old was expected to be arraigned Tuesday, Fox said. He remains in custody.


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    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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    Horses, proteges and dogs kicked off the start of the Washtenaw County 4-H Youth Show at the Saline Fairgrounds on Sunday. The showcase of animals and their owners will continue through the week and will conclude on Friday,A full schedule of events can be found here.

    AnnArbor.com photographer Daniel Brenner captured these images.


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    Something has to be pretty special to make the career highlight reel for former Michigan swimmer Andy Potts. As a six-time All-American swimmer and former Olympic triathlete, Potts has plenty of feats to choose from for that list.

    Potts won the Ironman Lake Placid in New York on Sunday and said the win is among his top career accomplishments.

    "To come back to Lake Placid and be able to defend a title, that's a highlight of not just my year, but my career," Potts told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise after his win on Sunday. Potts also won the race last year.

    Potts won the 140.6 mile race (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) in eight hours, 43 minutes, 29 seconds, which was five minutes faster than the second place finisher. Potts swam for Michigan from 1996-99. He finished 22nd in the triathlon in the 2004 Olympics in Greece.

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


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    Quenee' Dale of Saline High School is the No. 3 seed in the girls 17-18 100-meter hurdles.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com file photo

    More than 1,000 athletes from all over the country will be coming to Washtenaw County this week to compete in the 2013 AAU Junior Olympic Games.

    But some won’t have to go very far at all.

    Several participants from Washtenaw County high schools will be among those competing in the weeklong national championship event. Detroit is the official host-city, but track and field events are at Eastern Michigan University's Rynearson Stadium, the swimming is at the University of Michigan’s Canham Natatorium, and the field hockey tournament will be played at Ocker Field in Ann Arbor. The "Celebration of Athletes" is at 7 p.m. at Rynearson on Monday.

    Complete event schedules are available at the event's web site.

    Lincoln High School incoming senior Savannah Roberson has the best chance at bringing home a local national championship in track and field, as the top seed in the girls 17-18 100-meter dash and the second seed in the 200-meter dash.

    In the 200, she is the second seed to Kendall Baisden, the state champion from Detroit Country Day who will run at UCLA next year. The 200-meter final will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday at Rynearson.

    Other area female athletes scheduled to compete include Quenee’ Dale of Saline, who is the No. 3 seed in the 100-meter dash, the event in which she won a Division 1 high school state title in June.

    Charde Madoula-Bey of Skyline High School will compete in two events: she is the No. 11 seed in the 15-16 discus and the No. 17 seed in the shot put. Two of her Skyline teammates will also be competing in the 400: Anita Vandermeulen and Sophie Steinberg.

    Taylor Withrow of Manchester will compete in the high jump, while Courtney Freeman of Ypsilanti will compete in the heptathalon.

    On the boys side, Charles Spratt of Ypsilanti has the highest seed, No. 10 in the steeplechase. He is also scheduled to compete in the 1,500-meter run.

    Brandon Morgan, a freshman at Willow Run High School last year, will also compete in two events: the 200-meter dash, where he is the No. 16 seed, and the 100-meter dash, where he is the No. 23 seed.

    Other high school-aged male athletes competing include Robie Webster of Lincoln in the 110 hurdles, Duane Boyd of Huron High School in the 200-mteter dash, Kyle Sowell-Peeples of Ann Arbor in the 400-meter hurdles and Joseph Codrington of Ann Arbor in the 800-meter run.

    Several local athletes will also be competing in the 14-and-under divisions, and local teams will also be sending several relays to the meet. Complete entries and results are available on the AAU’s track web site.

    maggie-cole-field-hockey.jpg

    Maggie Cole.

    Photo courtesy of Leslie Fry

    Field hockey

    The AAU Junior Olympics field hockey tournament begins on Wednesday at Michigan's Ocker Field with games scheduled every day through Saturday, August 3. Chelsea High School sophomore-to-be Maggie Cole will be playing for the Gold team. Cole plays for the Washtenaw Whippets.

    Swimming

    Competition for swimming began on Saturday at Canham Natatorium and will wrap up on Monday. Three sessions are scheduled on Monday, the first began at 8:30 a.m., the second will begin at 1 p.m. and the third and final session will begin at 6 p.m. Full swimming results and a schedule are available at the AAU Junior Olympics website.


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