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

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    Of the more than 112,000 people who showed up at Michigan Stadium Saturday, to see the Wolverines take on Central Michigan in the University of Michigan football home opener, only one was arrested, U-M police said.

    Police ejected 14 people from the stadium. Paramedics treated 114 people for medical issues, and nine people required hospitalization.

    Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for UMPD-patch-class-A.jpg

    In a summary sent Saturday evening, police officials reported one person in the crowd was arrested for being a minor in possession of alcohol, and three people received citations —two for having alcohol in the stadium and one for possession of fake identification. Eleven other people were removed from Michigan Stadium.

    Four of those ejections were for alcohol in the stadium, three were for minors in possession of alcohol, three were for disorderly conduct and one was for possession of a false identification, officials said.

    Police officials said 112,618 were in attendance at The Big House Saturday afternoon as the Wolverines soundly defeated the Chippewas from Central Michigan University, 59-9.

    Medical personnel treated 114 people and nine of those treated were taken to the hospital by ambulance.

    During the home opener against Air Force in 2012, U-M police arrested two people, ejected 15 people, and medical personnel treated 66 people, nine of whom needed transport to the hospital.

    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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    Devin-Gardner-TD-CMU.JPG

    Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner runs into the end zone for a touchdown during the second quarter of Michigan's 59-9 win over Central Michigan at Michigan Stadium Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. Courtney Sacco I AnnArbor.com

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    Devin Gardner had some rust with his arm.

    But his legs, and his shake, were just fine.

    Gardner danced for two first-half touchdowns on the ground Saturday, and finished 10 of 15 for 162 yards through the air -- to go along with a pair of interceptions -- as No. 17 Michigan demolished visiting Central Michigan 59-9 in the 2013 season-opener at Michigan Stadium.

    Michigan disposed of Central Michigan quite easily, and the countdown to the matchup under the lights with Notre Dame has officially begun. But before moving on to the Irish, let's look at what happened on Saturday against Central Michigan.

    Post-Game Coverage

    Matthew-Godin-michigan-football.jpg

    Michigan defensive end Matthew Godin goes head over heels against Central Michigan at Michigan Stadium on Saturday, August 31, 2013.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com


    In-Game coverage

    Pre-Game coverage

    More Scores:


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    milan-ypsilanti-football-phifer.jpg

    Milan backup quarterback Steve Phifer stepped in for an injured Robert Kanitz against Ypsilanti Community on Friday, August 30, but Kanitz returned to finish the game on Saturday, August 31.

    Patrick Record | AnnArbor.com

    by Ryan Loren

    Milan quarterback Robert Kanitz returned to the field one day after exiting against Ypsilanti with a leg injury before the game was postponed by lightning, and led the Big Reds to a 13-6 victory Saturday at Ypsilanti Community High School.

    Kanitz previously had left on the first play of the game and was replaced by backup Steven Phifer, who immediately connected on a 12-yard touchdown pass to Devin Miller. Ypsilanti responded on their next possession, but failed to complete the free kick that would have tied the game.

    More coverage: Boxscore | Friday night story: Inclement weather puts first ever Ypsilanti Community game on hold with Milan up 7-6

    Milan returned Saturday with 4:47 remaining in the third quarter and Kanitz back under center. Kanitz secured the victory in the fourth, leading a scoring drive capped by 16-yard pass to Miller.

    “Kanitz coming back and playing today after the shot he took in the knee and head yesterday was pretty remarkable,” Milan coach Jesse Hoskins said. “[Kanitz] is a returning all-state kid, not just some random quarterback, so it was a pretty shocking thing. Phifer stepped in and did an admirable job. He made some mistakes but he really did a nice job filling in.”

    Kanitz finished 4-for-8 for 42 yards and a touchdown, while Phifer went 2-for-4 for 12 yards and a touchdown.

    kanitz-hurt-milan-football.jpg

    Milan quarterback Robert Kanitz, on knees, had to leave the game on Friday, but returned Saturday to lead Milan to a 13-6 win.

    Patrick Record | AnnArbor.com

    The Grizzlies aggressively pushed the envelope from the start — finishing Friday night with 140 penalty yards —but returned Saturday hoping to find their composure.

    “We wanted to eliminate some of our mistakes, which we did, but we just didn’t execute on our plays,” Ypsilanti coach Rufus Pipkins said. “Some of their offensive fronts we didn't adjust to and we were caught sleeping.”

    Ypsilanti’s physical play resulted in two more casualties for the Big Reds, who lost one player to a shoulder injury while another absorbed a potentially season-ending concussion.

    “It was just a fiasco at Ypsilanti. It was unorganized and dirty,” Hoskins said. “There were tons of penalties, and tons of helmet to helmet contact. I told my team that I've been involved with a lot of football and this was probably the biggest victory I've been a part of. The guys were challenged and they showed their true character.”

    Pipkins refuted the notion that either team played rougher than the other.

    “For the first week, you're not used to a lot of the hitting,” he said. “It was definitely a physical contest. We were physical, they were physical. We delivered a lot of hits, and we took some. It was a physical brand of football.”

    Milan (1-0) travels to Riverview (1-0) on Friday, and Ypsilanti (0-1) travels to Saline (1-0).

    More Saturday results

    Whitmore Lake 32, Stockbridge 22

    Nine hours after their game was called delayed due to lightning, the Whitmore Lake and Stockbride football teams returned to the field on Saturday. The Trojans scored 19 points in the fourth quarter to give Todd Pennycuff a win in his coaching-debut for the Trojans. (Story | Boxscore)


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    Eastern came back from 11 points down in the second half to top Howard, 34-24 in its season opener.

    Patrick Record is a photographer for AnnArbor.com


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    The Railsplitters' Dalauren Roberson celebrates after scoring the teams first touchdown during their game against Belleville at Lincoln High School, Friday, Aug, 30.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    In the moments after Lincoln’s season-opening win over Belleville Friday night, there was little hooting and hollering, little fanfare. The Railsplitters acted as if the result was expected.

    Memories run short on Friday night.

    High school football players spend two or three years on the varsity level. Most don’t know much about what happened in the years before they got there. They exist in their brief time in the varsity uniform.

    And so it is that Lincoln, a team that won five games in nine years before 2012, now comes into every week expecting to win.

    “Very quickly, our kids don’t remember the 'Loser Lincoln,'” Railsplitters coach Chris Westfall said. “They don’t know it. I’ve had to tell them some of the stories.”

    For Westfall, the difference between what his players remember and what they don’t is vast.

    “We don’t have a single kid in our program that’s had a losing season,” Westfall said. “When we first got here, there wasn’t a single kid in here that had won a high school game, freshman, JV, varsity.”

    That amnesia can work as both a positive and a negative. Lincoln plays without the weight of losing expectations, without the memories of blowout losses and winless seasons. What this group of players remembers is the 11 wins in the past two years, not the zero the year before that.

    But they also might not know how much that success means for longtime Lincoln followers, who vividly remember the excruciating years. So Westfall tells them about the “Loser Lincoln” moniker. He tells them how long it’s been since Lincoln has won a league title (not since1987), or beaten Chelsea (not since 1997).

    lincoln-football-win-the-day.jpeg

    The current group of Lincoln players has never experienced a losing season on any level.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    That’s where this Lincoln team wants to exist: with the knowledge of the “Loser Lincoln” days, but not the memory of it.

    So when you ask a player what it would mean to beat Chelsea, they know the history, but also believe they’re part of the group that can change it.

    “We haven’t beat them in 20 years,” senior linebacker E.J. Shaah said. “So that’s a big key for this year, beating Chelsea and teams like Adrian, the teams that are competing for SEC titles every year.”

    It’s actually 16 years, but the point is taken. It’s been a while.

    But more than just beating Chelsea, Lincoln’s sights this year are set on something it hasn’t won in 26 years: a league title.

    It’s a realistic goal. Lincoln looked far from perfect Friday night: it fumbled three times and threw an interception. It struggled to establish the run, as multiple backs played hurt.

    But the talent is there -- a young talented quarterback, big receivers, a talented offensive line and defenders who can get to the ball.

    We’ll find out in the next seven weeks if this team has what it takes to take home the long-awaited SEC title.

    And if that day does come, Lincoln will appreciate how far it’s come -- even if the memories of the nadir have left the field.

    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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    Arf! Bring your best canine friends to the 2013 Dog Swim at Buhr Park Outdoor Pool on Wednesday and Thursday.

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    A dog frolics at the Buhr Pool Dog Swim in 2010.

    AnnArbor.com file photo

    This annual event is a chance to allow your four-footed friends to enjoy a day at the pool (no humans allowed in the water) after it close to the public for the season. The pool is not chlorinated for this event.

    A raffle will occur every half hour with prizes, as well as a complimentary hot dog stand for the dogs. Sponsors are Arbor Dog Day Care, Green Pawz Pet Supply, Washtenaw Veterinary Hospital, Groom N Go, The Groomer and A2 Doggy Adventures.

    This event is popular and fills up quickly, so register your now so your pet won’t put you in the doghouse!

    The 2013 annual dog swim at Buhr Park Outdoor Pool, 2751 Packard Rd., will be Wednesday, Sept. 4 and Thursday, Sept. 5 from 3 to 8 p.m. The cost for the first dog is $6 resident/$7.50 non-resident, and for the second dog, $3 resident/$3.75 non resident. Call 734-794-6234 to register.


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    Sheridan was awarded the AnnArbor.com Deals of the Year Executive of the Year award in November, 2012.

    Courtney Sacco I AnnAarbor.com

    Menlo Innovations CEO Rich Sheridan has been spreading the gospel of the “business value of joy” for years -- and now he's putting it on paper.

    Sheridan regularly leads tours of the Menlo software “factory,” located on East Liberty Street in downtown Ann Arbor, and is now in the final editing stages of his book, called Joy, Inc., which will publish later this year.

    “It’s been quite a labor,” Sheridan said.

    “I’ve never worked on something this hard… I now fully understand why authors in the acknowledgements apologize to their families in the first one or two sentences.”

    As the company’s name suggests, Sheridan has drawn inspiration from Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park lab, which sits less than an hour away in Greenfield Village.

    The book is intended to mimic the experience of the factory tours that show off Menlo’s open and collaborative working environment. The office space in the basement of Liberty Square is light on walls and heavy on movable furniture.

    “It’s is largely experiential storytelling with the lessons that come out of the story,” Sheridan said.

    “For the same reason we’ll do 300 tours here this year for close to 3,000 people who come from around the planet to see us. The book will draw the same kind of attention.”

    The book is available for pre-order on Amazon, but will not publish until December 26. Despite the fact that the release is timed for just after peak “gift giving season,” Sheridan said he’s not worried about missing the Black Friday and Christmas sales.

    “My guess is not many people give others a business book for Christmas, but they probably give them Amazon and Barnes & Noble gift cards,” he said.

    “So I think people who are looking to reinvent themselves in 2014 might buy themselves a book like this.”

    rich_sheridan_unconference.jpg

    Rich Sheridan facilitates an "unconference" hosted by the University of Michigan Office of Technology Transfer.

    AnnArbor.com file photo

    Joy, Inc. is a step in Sheridan’s own reinvention story that started when he and Menlo Innovations co-founders Robert Simms and James Goebel decided to build a software company in the wreck of the dot-com bubble in 2001. Since then, as the company’s “chief storyteller,” he has been featured on the cover of Forbes magazine and in articles from the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, visited the White House, and was named AnnArbor.com’s Executive of the Year in 2012.

    Sheridan’s public persona and his frequent speaking engagements attracted the attention of a literary agent who pitched the idea of a book that would tell the company’s story.

    “He [the agent] worked with me to create a proposal that he brought forth to the publisher and it was accepted I think pretty quickly,” he said.

    “I’m guessing my experience was much easier than most because it was a lot of work but I hear stories of people trying to get published and it takes a long time. It didn’t take me a long time.”

    Sheridan is nearly done writing the book, but in today’s world that’s just the first part of being an author. A meeting is already planned with representatives from Penguin Random House, the book’s publisher, in mid-September to discuss plans for marketing the book nationally.

    “All they’ve told me is don’t book anything in the month of January,” he said. “They haven’t told me what I will be doing but they’ve advised me I should leave the month wide open.”

    Joy, Inc. was made available for pre-order last week and is currently ranked the No. 148,306 best-selling book on Amazon. Sheridan said he has been busy finishing his final draft and hasn’t had much time to pay attention to the numbers.

    “If there’s a way to see how many pre-orders there have been, I haven’t discovered it yet,” he said. “I know my daughters have all pre-ordered copies so there are at least three that have been placed so far.”

    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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    Michael Smith (Javert) and Anthony Provenzola (Jean ValJean) in A2CT's production of "Les Miserables."

    Photo by Mark Stein

    The timing of last year’s Oscar-nominated film adaptation of the beloved musical “Les Miserables” - now being staged by Ann Arbor Civic Theater - coincided with the release (finally!) of the show’s rights, so that companies across the country could present their own productions.

    Coincidence? Not hardly.

    “For a certain generation that grew up singing these songs, this show defined musicals in the 80s,” said director Rachel Francisco. “ … There’s this whole group of 40 year olds on up who’ve known the show for 30 years but have never been able to do it.”

    So more than 100 people, young and old, came out for A2CT’s auditions, and about half were cast.

    “I did choose to go big,” said Francisco. “Obviously, you can do it with a much smaller cast than I have, but I felt like the show needed volume. So it’s logistically challenging - a matter of strategically using what we have.”

    PREVIEW

    ”Les Miserables”

    • Who: Ann Arbor Civic Theatre.
    • What: Based on Victor Hugo’s epic novel, “Les Miserables” follows the 19th century life of Jean Valjean, who breaks parole and tries to re-build a life from scratch after serving 19 years in prison for stealing bread. Always on his trail, though, is dogged police inspector Javert.
    • Where: Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre, 911 N. University in Ann Arbor.
    • When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. on Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday, September 5-8.
    • How much: $19 on Thursday ($13 for students), or $25 for all other performances ($22 for seniors, $13 for students). Call 734-971-2228 or visit www.a2ct.org.
    With music by Claude-Michel Schonberg, original French lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, and an English-language libretto by Herbert Kretzmer, “Les Mis” began life as a 1980 concept album. (A full production didn’t appear on Broadway until 1987.)

    Set in the 19th century, “Les Mis” chronicles the life of Jean Valjean, a man who’s served 19 years in prison for stealing bread for his starving relations. After he’s freed, he breaks parole in an attempt to build a new life for himself, but police inspector Javert stays relentlessly on his trail, determined to catch him.

    “On the surface, it seems like a simple show, but it’s challenging, in that it’s an 800-page book that’s crammed into a 3-hour show,” said Francisco. “The book is huge, so a lot of the characters (in the musical) are written kind of flat. We’ve had to work to add dimension to them, and that’s been a lot of fun. To delve into these characters and realize them more fully. It’s been fascinating to see the show become more 3D over the course of rehearsals, in a way.”

    Francisco directed A2CT’s production of “Sweeney Todd” last season, and though that provided a greater technical challenge, musically, the hard part of “Les Mis” is performers’ familiarity with the original Broadway cast recording.

    “People have to unlearn what they know,” said Francisco. “They want to sing along with the parts and solos they’ve always sung, and you have to say, ‘No, you’re supposed to sing this line.’” Meanwhile, the film adaptation will likely both hurt and help Francisco’s show. “It brought the show back to people’s consciousness, … but the movie also turned a lot of people off. Not every stage show is appropriate for a film adaptation.”

    Even so, “Les Mis” - which on paper didn’t exactly scream “blockbuster” - struck a chord that continues to peal madly among theatergoers.

    “People definitely gravitate toward tragedy,” said Francisco. “ … The love triangle and the struggles and the characters transcend the show so that it’s almost timeless.”

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


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    Patrick Doyle gives a presentation on Domino's Pizza to four Michigan Congressmen.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    Domino’s Pizza CEO Patrick Doyle sometimes quotes legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler.

    “Every day, you either get better, or you get worse. You never stay the same.”

    Doyle said continuous improvements are the key behind the 53-year-old company’s growing profits — from introducing a new core pizza recipe to growing the company’s technology department.

    “We have to wake up every day and figure out how to get better,” he said. “Otherwise, eventually the brand starts to fade.”

    Domino’s hosted a tour of its 220,000-square-foot Ann Arbor Township-based headquarters this month. Doyle took time to outline for attendees — which included four Michigan Congressmen — the company’s recent triumphs.

    Domino’s reported a net income of $112.4 million in 2012, up from $54 million in 2008, and the company's stock value has shown steady gains for three years.

    AnnArbor.com sat down with Doyle after the tour to ask the question: What’s next for Domino’s? Here are some goals Doyle mentioned:

    Store redesigns

    Earlier this year, Domino’s Pizza rolled out a new look for stores in certain markets. The stores feature open kitchens so customers can see employees spinning dough in the air and prepping pizzas. It also includes interactive features, such as a chalkboard for customers to write comments.

    dominos_pizza_dough.jpg

    The Domino's Pizza store on Ann Arbor's Plymouth Road features the company's redesigned look.

    AnnArbor.com file photo

    Doyle said every Domino’s store built now has the new design, and the company is working through a plan for renovating old stores.

    “We’re getting really positive feedback,” he said. “It’s still early enough — we have over 100 of them total — that we can’t quantify what kinds of sales lift it’s generating yet, but we do know from the feedback we’re getting that it’s definitely a big step forward.”

    “That’s clearly going to be part of what we’re doing with the brand moving forward. We have to have all of our stores looking great,” he continued.

    Technology developments

    As much as Domino’s Pizza is a food company, it’s also a technology company.

    At the Ann Arbor Township headquarters, Doyle said the largest department is technology, which accounts for about 170 jobs out of the 550-person workforce.

    From designing phone applications to tracking Domino’s website analytics, Doyle said the company has heavily shifted focus to its still-growing technology department. He said talented web developers and statisticians are in high demand.

    “We have laid out years of advancement from a technology front,” he said.

    After developing applications for the iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 8, Domino’s plans to introduce an iPad application.

    dominos_hq.jpg

    The IT department at Domino's Pizza's headquarters accounts for about 170 jobs out of the 550-person workforce.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    The company is also introducing a feature called profiles, where the website can save a customers’ order history and favorites for easier ordering.

    “We want to make the ordering experience as efficient as we can for the customers, because we know that generates happier customers who will come back more. And frankly, in just the near term, it will generate more sales,” he said.

    Marketing innovation

    As part of the pizza recipe relaunch in 2009, Domino’s Pizza spent $75 million on a marketing campaign to tell the world its former pizza recipe was subpar.

    Although risky, Doyle said the campaign paid off.

    Doyle said Domino’s has since tried to remain innovative in the marketing world. The company rented an electronic billboard in New York's Times Square to highlight customer feedback, whether it was positive or negative. Domino’s also ran its “Show us your pizza” campaign, where it asked customers to take pictures of their Domino’s products at home and post the photos online.

    “All of these things are about showing (customers) that we’re truly listening, taking feedback and making changes,” Doyle said. “What it means is customers have some ownership of the brand perceptions that they didn’t have in the past.”

    dominos_pan_pizza.jpg

    Domino's introduced its pan pizza in in Sept. 2012.

    Courtesy photo

    He added: “You’re going to continue to see that.”

    He said Domino’s has replaced a lot of its mailbox coupons with digital advertising.

    “We still do some of that, but we continue to see the efficiency and effectiveness of digital advertising being terrific and so we keep shifting dollars that way.”

    International growth

    In 2012, for the first time in Domino’s history, the company’s international store count exceeded its domestic store count. As of March 2013, the company had 5,407 international stores and 4,923 domestic stores.

    Doyle said there is plenty of opportunity for expansion overseas — from India, the company’s fastest growing market, to certain markets in Africa.

    “Most of our store growth is still going to come from existing markets,” he said. “So, growing bigger in India, growing bigger in Brazil, growing bigger in Russia. Opportunity for us is largely now driven by sheer scale of population. The bigger the country, the bigger the opportunity.”

    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 homicide investigation into Paul DeWolf’s death continues as University of Michigan students return to campus last week and Ann Arbor police are still asking for the public’s help.

    Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for DeWolf_Psm.jpg

    Paul DeWolf

    DeWolf, 25, was shot once in the neck and killed last month in his basement room in the Phi Rho Sigma medical fraternity, 220 N. Ingalls St. A colleague found him dead in his room on the morning of July 24 after DeWolf didn’t show up for a scheduled shift at the VA Ann Arbor Health System.

    Ann Arbor police Lt. Detective Robert Pfannes said police don’t have any new information to release on the case, but detectives continue to investigate.

    “It’s an active ongoing investigation and we’re still seeking tips from the public,” Pfannes said.

    There’s a combined $10,000 reward offered by the Ann Arbor Police Department and University of Michigan Police Department — $5,000 each — for anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the case. Pfannes declined to comment on how many tips the department has received in the case.

    It’s unknown at this point when forensic tests being done in the investigation will be ready.

    DeWolf was entering his fourth year at the medical school before his death. The Portage, Mich., native was a reservist second lieutenant in the United States Air Force and was planning to enter the service after he graduated.

    Police have said DeWolf’s room in the fraternity did not appear to be in disarray and nothing valuable was reported stolen. No suspect description has been released in the case.

    The ongoing homicide investigation — with a crime scene just a few blocks from campus — was on the minds of many parents who were dropping their students off at university dorms last week.

    But, at least one family isn’t letting the investigation change their view of Ann Arbor.

    Rita Jones was helping her daughter Kepriah Davis, a sophomore biology major at U-M, move into the North Quadrangle dormitory Friday morning. Standing just a few blocks from the place where DeWolf died, Jones said she’s not concerned about her daughter coming back to school.

    “This is her sophomore year, I think she’s going to be fine. She was fine then (last year),” Jones said. “But, this is unfortunate.”

    Still, she said there's a slight feeling of concern though. She added, “You would, as a parent, feel better if they had someone in custody. … If the person is still running around and you’re leaving your kid, some people live out of state and they’re leaving their kids here.”

    Davis said she was looking back on her freshman year at Michigan for comfort and relying what she learned about Ann Arbor to keep her safe.

    “I never feel threatened, but I know where not to be at night,” she said.

    University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said he wasn’t aware of any specific concerns brought to the central office about the investigation into DeWolf’s death. Many parents are aware of the case, but Fitzgerald said he’s not sure if it’s raised “any additional or heightened concerns.”

    Fitzgearld said programs like Beyond The Diag, which brought out top police officials from Ann Arbor and U-M to meet students living in off-campus neighborhoods Thursday, help to make sure students feel safe.

    “It’s a part of a broader effort to take the safety messaging, not just to our on-campus community, but to our off-campus community,” he said, adding the programs were helping students know “that both Ann Arbor and U-M officials are genuinely concerned about their safety and see them, not as enforcers, but as people who can help them stay safe.”

    Anyone with any information about DeWolf's death is encouraged to call the Ann Arbor police anonymous tip line at 734-794-6939, U-M Police at 734-763-1131 and Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK UP (773-2587).

    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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    Pall_Gelman_plume_map_2013.jpg

    This map produced by the Environmental Health Division of the Washtenaw County Department of Public Health shows the latest estimation of the footprint of the Pall-Gelman 1,4-dioxane plume. Local officials say the contamination is spreading through a system of underground streams, contaminating the groundwater in those areas. Download larger version.

    Courtesy of Washtenaw County Department of Public Health

    The footprint of the Pall-Gelman 1,4-dioxane plume continues to expand further into Ann Arbor, city officials say, posing risks to human health and the environment.

    Two members of the Ann Arbor City Council who are particularly concerned about the problem — Sabra Briere and Chuck Warpehoski — are bringing forward a resolution Tuesday night, urging the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to establish stricter cleanup criteria.

    If necessary, they said, they're willing to have the city petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to aid in setting appropriate cleanup criteria for 1,4-dioxane in Michigan.

    "This is an ongoing problem — it's not new," Briere said. "We don't have a new emergency. We have a problem, and we would like the state to help us solve this problem."

    Sabra_Briere_Sept_19_2011.jpg

    Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, is co-sponsoring a resolution with Chuck Warpehoski, D-5th Ward, that will be on Tuesday night's City Council agenda.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    She added, "I don't want people exposed to cancer-causing agents we can avoid, and I don't particularly want this sticking around for the next 40 years."

    Gelman Sciences, which later became Pall Life Sciences, used the industrial solvent 1,4-dioxane in its processes for the manufacture of medical filters on Wagner Road in Scio Township many years ago.

    Between 1966 and 1986, wastewater containing the toxic chemical was sprayed on its lawns and stored in unlined lagoons. The dioxane seeped through soil and rock layers into the groundwater and began to spread, leaving parts of the city and Scio and Ann Arbor townships contaminated.

    In order to protect the public, the Washtenaw County Circuit Court issued an order to prevent exposure to groundwater in certain areas, but local officials say the plume is spreading.

    "When you look through the maps, you can see how the plume has changed size and how it's grown since this all began," Warpehoski said.

    "The fact that Pall has been doing this very minimalist treatment protocol that does not appear to be containing this plume really puts the health, safety and welfare of the community at risk."

    Environmental monitoring and remediation efforts are ongoing and are being tracked by the DEQ, even as Pall announced this year it is closing its Ann Arbor business operations.

    Pall's official position has been that it's in full compliance with a consent judgment the company entered with the DEQ, which serves as the legal framework for the cleanup, and the ozone-oxidation treatment technology it's using has been approved by the state.

    But local officials are concerned they still see the plume spreading, and they don't believe the most effective cleanup methods are being used.

    Chuck_Warpehoski_2012.jpg

    Chuck Warpehoski

    "There's a very slow cleanup process," Warpehoski said. "They're pumping water out from the ground, treating it to remove dioxane, and then discharging the treated water into Honey Creek. They're doing the least amount possible to stop the plume from spreading."

    The real concern, Warpehoski said, is what happens if the contamination spreads to the Huron River.

    About 85 percent of the city's drinking water comes from an intake pipe at Barton Pond on the Huron River, while 15 percent comes from wells located at the city's airport. The city already has had to shut off other wells on the western side of the city because of the plume.

    "We've had drinking water wells that are now in the prohibition zone, so we've already lost access to drinking water sources because of this plume," Warpehoski said.

    Pall officials and DEQ officials couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

    The DEQ's 1,4-dioxane residential drinking water cleanup standard was set a number of years ago at 85 parts per billion for a 1 in 100,000 residual cancer risk.

    In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a toxicological review of 1,4-dioxane, recommending a steeper cancer slope factor. Briere and Warpehoski said that effectively set the drinking water residual cancer risk level at 3.5 parts per billion for 1 in 100,000.

    "The current EPA standards would be something like 3.5 ppb and we're cleaning to an 85 ppb standard and not even that in some cases, so it's a real interesting problem," Briere said.

    When the Pall-Gelman plume was first discovered in the 1980s, the acceptable level of 1,4-dioxane in Michigan was just 3 parts per billion.

    051313_Pall-Life-Sciences.JPG

    Pall Life Sciences at 600 S. Wagner Road in Scio Township.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com file photo

    The resolution from Briere and Warpehoski states, "The EPA has categorized 1,4-dioxane as a non-threshold carcinogen. California and Illinois lowered their drinking water guidance levels to 1 part per billion, while Massachusetts set its guidance at 0.3 parts per billion."

    Briere and Warpehoski are now calling on the DEQ to set new standards that are in line with the EPA's more recent findings about dioxane, in hopes that the dioxane making its way through underground streams in Ann Arbor will become less of a threat over time.

    Briere and Warpehoski said it's clear from looking at mapped data of dioxane readings that the plume is expanding, but it's hard to tell which way it will head next and if or when it will reach the river.

    At this point, Briere said, the city has no way to be confident the plume won't eventually contaminate the city's primary drinking water source.

    "One of the concerns people have is the plume might go to Barton Pond and that's not an irrational concern," Briere said. "But we don't have any evidence on those plume maps that indicate that's the way it's headed. That doesn't mean it's not. It simply means we can't tell."

    Mike Gebhard, an environmental analyst with Washtenaw County, said in 2011 he calculated it could take 10 to 15 years or less for the dioxane to reach the river, though he said there aren't enough monitoring wells in place to get an accurate picture of where the flow is headed and how fast.

    Briere and Warpehoski argue additional data and modeling are needed to help define and predict the areas, direction and rate of expansion of the plume.

    The city has been unsuccessful in its efforts to be considered by the Washtenaw County Circuit Court as an interested party in a lawsuit brought by the Michigan attorney general on behalf of the DEQ against Pall regarding the dioxane plume and its cleanup.

    Briere and Warpehoski argue Pall hasn't been required by the DEQ and the Circuit Court to predict with sufficient accuracy the areas, direction and rate of expansion of the plume.

    Their resolution urges the DEQ to "act responsibly and protect the public health and environment of Michigan" and "use the best science now available." They want the state to acknowledge that no level of exposure to 1,4-dioxane is safe.

    "Dioxane is a really hideous material," Warpehoski said. "The goal is getting this cleaned up and I'm not satisfied with the current level of cleanup."

    Chuck Gelman, the founder of Gelman Sciences, couldn't be reached for comment for this story. He still lives in Sloan Plaza in downtown 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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    082713_SuperIntendent_Swift.JPG

    Ann Arbor Public Schools Superintendent Jeanice Kerr Swift speaks in her first day on the job Tuesday, Aug. 27 at Pioneer High School.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    Ann Arbor will be seeing a lot of Ann Arbor Public Schools' new Superintendent Jeanice Kerr Swift over the next several months.

    Swift, 55, whose five-year-long contract began Aug. 27 with AAPS, is planning to visit the staff at every school and the community for each building in her first months on the job. On the first day of school Tuesday, Sept. 3, she'll spend her whole day visiting 11 schools.

    She comes to Ann Arbor from Colorado Springs District 11, where she's been a part of an administration that's seen eight straight years of budget reductions.

    Swift said her recent focus has been on wrapping up business at her former job and making new connections in Ann Arbor throughout the weeks since she was hired by the Board of Education—leaving no time for her to search for a place to live.

    “Once the board gave the vote, my full focus has been on wrapping up the work in Colorado Springs and launching the work in Ann Arbor—and it was just not the right time to be distracted by those things,” Swift said.

    Until she can find an apartment in the downtown corridor to rent, Swift said she’ll be living in an extended stay hotel. Eventually, Swift said she wants to buy a house in Ann Arbor.

    Swift’s husband, John Swift, will join her in Ann Arbor once he is able to wrap up their life in Colorado Springs and retire from his job as a registered nurse. Swift said her husband is looking forward to being a hospice volunteer in Ann Arbor.

    The couple does not have any children, but does have two cats and a multitude of nieces and nephews—and of course, Swift noted, about 16,000 children in Ann Arbor to care for.

    Swift took about 40 minutes out of her day traveling from Colorado to Michigan Friday to speak with AnnArbor.com:

    AnnArbor.com: How did you select Ann Arbor? Did you apply for many other jobs?

    Swift: I wanted to go to a community that valued education at its very core. That’s just so essential to providing a quality product. Ann Arbor certainly checks all of those boxes.

    Everybody knows, because it was in the media, that I interviewed with Charles County (in Maryland). I had actually only interviewed there a couple of times. Period. I had not done a lot of interviewing, contrary to what some folks believed. Charles County, I was a finalist there, and Ann Arbor, I was a finalist there.

    So really, there weren’t many. I didn’t apply for very many jobs. As I said, we kind of had a rubric my husband and I used for some period of years as we were preparing for this next chapter in our lives, and we wanted to select wisely, because it’s the one that we’ll probably live in for the rest of our lives. So I was very particular about where I applied and where I didn’t apply."

    Where did you get your start as a teacher?

    I began teaching in 1984 in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford School District right outside Fort Worth, Texas. I graduated from the University of Texas-Arlington and that district was nearby the university and I had done my student teaching there, and then got a job and started teaching high school English. And then later, middle school English and Spanish at both middle and high schools.

    What was your motivation for getting into education?

    I think most of us that choose education choose it for that magic that happens in the classroom—that passion for kids and for that spark when learning occurs. There’s just nothing like that—and for those of us that are wired that way … that’s why I made the choice, and really wanting at the end of the day to feel like you’ve made a difference—even in the life of one child, that you’ve made a difference.

    How long had you been teaching before you realized you wanted to move from the classroom to more of an administrator role for public schools?

    I felt that I didn’t ever want to be an administrator, and then about 10 years in, I began to realize that there was an opportunity there to have a wider sphere of influence. Administrators that did their administrative work really well were able to impact communities, and at the same time those who did not do that work well—that’s kind of devastating to a community. I became inspired to take that step and to see what it would be like to work as an administrator in that leadership role.

    This is your first official superintendent position. What is a superintendent’s role, in your opinion?

    At it’s core it’s not different—a teacher is in charge of a classroom, and a principal is in charge of a school, and a superintendent has a collection of schools, and yet it is very different that connection with community, that desire and that commitment to serve.

    The way that it’s similar with all those other roles in the district is that we’re here to serve, to lead, to advocate for the work that we’re doing in this district. Really, leading from this position is a wonderful opportunity to impact change in the same way that everyone else in the organization hope to impact change in a positive way.

    What kind of superintendent do you want to be?

    It’s my purpose to serve, and really to extend and enhance the quality for which Ann Arbor is already known. I want to be known as someone who rolls up their sleeves and works as hard or harder than anybody on the team.

    It’s my desire to fall in alongside community members and Ann Arbor Public Schools team members. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 25 years, is that it’s about team. Our success is about team. And that’s the thing that gets me so excited. Not coming to say, ‘Oh, Super Swift, what are you going to do?’ I don’t think that’s the way to look at it. It’s, how are we going to join together and put our heads together, and then, I am a courageous leader; I will make courageous decisions. But figuring those out is the job of the collective.

    And that’s why the tour of every single school building is to determine what are the collective needs … what are those opportunities, what are the challenges, and where are people in terms of how they’re being served and how well we’re doing in Ann Arbor.

    During your interview process, you asked what the culture and climate of Ann Arbor is like. Have you gotten a sense for what that is yet?

    It’s still really early, but I’ll tell you, I’ve just received the warmest welcome from the folks in Ann Arbor. Cards, emails, people coming up to me at restaurants. So far, I appreciate that the culture seems to be very warm and open, but also very honest, and I’m really excited about that. I know I’ve got a whole lot more to learn about the culture and Ann Arbor.

    What are some of your key goals in your first several months on the job?

    There are really two primary goals. I’ll be conducting two parallel processes—one is to extend outreach into every school community, every neighborhood, to listen and learn directly from parents and stakeholders what we’re doing well as a district, and what needs our attention, and what do our stakeholders believe are the immediate next steps.

    Process number two is that I’ll be conducting a thorough analysis of what I call the back of the house operations to really become deeply knowledgeable in the district, the system and all those components—and I’m not saying I can learn it in six weeks, I know it takes a long time, but certainly get a full status from every department, every division, every area in the district. So, between now and Thanksgiving, that’s our primary focus: those two parallel processes.

    When will the engagement schedule with the community be announced?

    We’re working right now with the details, but hoping to get the full entry schedule and plan out to the community in a very short time. We’re just finalizing the details now.

    From your first impressions of the district, have you seen any issues that you know will come up in your first year of being the superintendent?

    I think the main thing that I’m hearing and seeing is a real desire, a real hunger in the community to have those open forums, to be able to have what I call that public dialogue around the current state of our schools and what the needs are. There are issues out there that need to be wrapped in to this idea of having a two-way conversation and open communication and making sure that we’re fully engaged in the community process.

    Zero-based budgeting. You’ve said previously it’s not your first choice as a budget approach, though the Board of Education has stated that it will still be pursuing the switch to zero-based budgeting. How do you plan to work through this point of contention in budget approaches?

    I know that right away, as would be expected, the board and I will be in deep discussions over early fall as to how this budgeting process for next year will roll out. So, as a result of those conversations, we’ll get a refined and more specific process. I’m a veteran of many years of budget challenges. I’m very well-versed in a number of pathways for that—including zero-based budgeting—so there won’t be any problem. We’ll have discussion, and the board will provide direction, and we’ll move forward aggressively to get our budget process underway at the right time.

    The specifics of that, I’m sure, will unfold as we move forward. I can promise that … budget process will include full community engagement process as part and parcel of that unfolding of the budget. … It’s a little early yet to speak to the specifics of it, but we will come to an understanding of what the process is and we’ll get about that business right away.

    Have you had a chance to review the district’s budget process last year? Did you have any comments on how the district achieved its savings?

    I really don’t have a comment. … I know that people do the very best in the situation that they’re in.

    Ann Arbor Public Schools will be seeking a continuation of its sinking fund millage for physical property repair, upkeep and investment on the ballot this November. Do you have an opinion as to whether this is the best idea for the schools to pursue right now?

    We will absolutely be 100 percent supportive of continuing to provide a quality product for our children, which includes maintaining facilities. Often times those are things that people may not notice until they’re not there. It’s very important to take care of our facilities. The average age of our schools in our district are getting up there in years and so I absolutely will support those efforts.

    How does AAPS compare to the school district you’re coming from in Colorado, in your opinion?

    Every community is unique—and that’s why we’re pursuing that listening and learning approach to discover those unique dimensions of Ann Arbor. And certainly, I already see that—the uniqueness of the community. And yet, there are challenges and opportunities that are similar across the two systems.

    Colorado Springs is a larger system, but organizations in this day and age, it’s not unusual for systems to have challenges. It doesn’t mean that their solutions will be the same at all because as we say, every community is unique and Ann Arbor has a lot of family community support for public schooling. So discovering those assets and leveraging them is an important part of that process. But there certainly are similarities across districts.

    You’ll be walking into a district with relatively low staff morale among teachers: 233 of them received layoff notices at the end of last school year; Michigan’s governor has cut funding to public schools. How important is it to you to approach the morale issue within the organization?

    I appreciate you asking the question—and you asked before about similarities. This certainly is a similarity across Michigan and across many states. The priority will be to honor teachers and staff, and to honor the quality work that’s going on in Ann Arbor Public Schools.

    And if that quality work continues, even in a setting of declining resources—and to maintain visibility, not only in the Ann Arbor community, but at the state level to advocate and provide that communication so that we are constantly lobbying and advocating. We have to do better by our children and we have to better to fund professionals to educate them. The discouragement that comes with year after year of funding issues and that discouragement and that overall sense of being overwhelmed: addressing that will be a top priority for me.

    Now, please understand: I absolutely am not coming in to town with a magic wand; I don’t have a magic wand. But, what I do know, is that if we pull together, and I’ve done it with the people in my former system and I know the people in Ann Arbor have done it - we have to work together and we have to realize that this economic downturn will not last forever, but that it does give us an opportunity to refine our priorities and to determine what is most important and to stick with those priorities and to be more innovative and more creative in a way that’s more efficient.

    My focus with teachers will be: we will be in this together. We will ride this storm out together. We are looking ahead to a time, still, I hope, where things are turning better for all of us. In the mean time, I’ll be listening, learning and honoring the staff and the community in the work that we’re doing on behalf of the children.

    Amy Biolchini is the K-12 education reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at (734) 623-2552, amybiolchini@annarbor.com or on Twitter.


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    Ypsilanti police are investigating an armed robbery in which the suspects fired a gunshot Saturday night. No one was injured in the incident.

    Police responded around 8:20 p.m. to a report of a robbery with a shot fired on the 600 block of Armstrong Drive, according to a news release from the Ypsilanti Police Department.

    The victim, a 34 year-old Ypsilanti Township man, told officers he was attempting to leave in his vehicle when a man he was familiar with appeared standing in the road, blocking his path. While stopped and distracted on one side of the vehicle, an unknown suspect appeared with a semi-automatic handgun on the other side, demanding that he give up his property.

    The shot was fired after the victim gave up his wallet and cell phone from his pockets.

    Police said the victim then exited his vehicle and ran away. He told officers the suspects were unable to drive away in his vehicle and fled in a dark-colored Dodge Magnum.

    The victim described the suspects as being in their mid-30's and 40's, the latter weighing about 250 pounds and wearing a khaki-colored shirt.

    Anyone who has information about the incident is asked to call (734) 482-9878 or Crime Stoppers at (800) SPEAK-UP (773-2587).


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    The family of a Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office sergeant is putting on a golf outing to purchase iPads for families with autistic children, and is looking for more participants, the Tecumseh Herald reported.

    Melissa Archer, wife of Sgt. David Archer of the WCSO, is holding the second annual Tee Off for Technology outing on Sept. 15 at Wolf Creek Golf Club in Adrian. The outing will raise money to purchase iPads for families with autistic children to help families communicate, the newspaper reported.

    Jasmynn, the Archers’ 11-year-old daughter, is autistic, and Melissa Archer told the Herald that getting an iPad was a breakthrough in the family’s ability to communicate. The family is trying to raise enough money to buy 28 iPads to donate.

    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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    Democrats from throughout Michigan, including gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer, are planning to unite in Ann Arbor on Labor Day for an event called "Laborpalooza."

    Mark_Schauer_September_2010.jpg

    Mark Schauer at a campaign event in Ann Arbor in 2010 when he was seeking re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    The Ann Arbor Democratic Party is hosting the rally featuring several elected officials and political candidates from 3-7 p.m. Monday at Gallup Park on the Huron River.

    The event is a celebration of labor solidarity and progressive values and is expected to have a rally-type atmosphere, organizers said.

    In addition to Schauer, who is running against Gov. Rick Snyder in 2014, other speakers include U.S. Senate candidate Gary Peters, congressional candidate Pam Byrnes, U.S. Rep. John Dingell, state Sen. Rebekah Warren, and state Reps. David Rutledge, Jeff Irwin and Gretchen Driskell.

    Also speaking will be former Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney, who is serving as the honorary chairman, and Debbie Dingell, wife of John Dingell and chairwoman of the Wayne State University Board of Governors.

    Admission is $15 for the general public and $10 for students.

    Organizers said the event will feature several attractions, including live music, cornhole, root-beer pong, volleyball and super-soakers.

    Fresh fish from Lake Huron, chicken and ribs will be served, in addition to dishes brought by attendees.

    All attendees are encouraged to bring campaign paraphernalia. There's a $1 discount on the admission fee for wearing a campaign shirt of any Democratic campaign, past or present.

    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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    In case you didn’t notice, the students are back, and with them the annual concert offered to let them know about The Ark, Ann Arbor’s internationally known acoustic music and more venue. This year’s student welcome show, Thursday night, features New York pop trio Pearl and the Beard.

    Pearl_and_the_Beard_3.jpg

    Pearl and the Beard

    Courtesy photo

    All are welcome, but students with ID get in free.

    Pearl and the Beard - Jocelyn Mackenzie, Emily Hope Price and Jeremy Styles - employ three voices, one cello, one guitar, one glockenspiel, one melodica, several drums and one accordion to make their brightly melodic songs that have helped propel the trio out of the confines of the New York music scene.

    Their live show is known to be energetic. From subway platform to park to field to a stage like The Ark’s, Pearl and the Beard take over whatever space they occupy, including the people occupying it with them.

    Even celebrity gossip maven Perez Hilton loves them. “Sweetness indeed! Sweet, indie, folk pop! We love it!” he gushed recently, and who are we to argue?

    The Pearl and the Beard Student Welcome Show is at The Ark, 316 S. Main St., at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5. Admission is free with student ID (non-students, $12). Details at www.theark.org or 734-761-1800.


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    Here are images from Ann Arbor's Dancing in the Streets.

    The annual event returned to portions of Main Street and Washington Street on Sunday from 2 to 6:30 p.m.

    Dances included swing and ballroom, international folk styles, contra, waltz, English country dance and the Charleston.

    It was organized by the Ann Arbor Community of Traditional Music and Dance.


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    Canada’s The Duhks (pronounced Ducks) migrate back to The Ark in Ann Arbor for a show Friday.

    Duhks_full_band_2013.jpg

    The Duhks

    Courtesy photo

    From the beginning, The Duhks, featuring original lead vocalist Jessee Havey, a band of five high-energy musicians from Winnipeg, Manitoba, have pleased audiences with an organic blend of soul, gospel, folk, samba, bluegrass, zydeco and Celtic music.

    They've been a southeast Michigan favorite since they appeared as unknowns at the Saline Celtic Festival several years back, and they’ve also been leaders among musicians in promoting sustainable lifestyles.

    The Dukhs have been on semi-hiatus since 2010, so it is especially nice to be welcoming them back. This show features Havey, fiddler Tania Elizabeth, Jordan McConnell on guitar, Scott Senior on percussion, and Leonard Podolak on banjo.

    The Duhks have also been at work on a new album, so Ann Arbor fans will likely be treated to some new tunes as well. And that’s something to quack about.

    The Duhks play at The Ark, 316 S. Main St., at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $21. Details at www.theark.org or 734-761-1800.


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    Ypsilanti Township residents will soon see their water and sewer rates increase.

    Ypsilanti Community Utility Authority executive director Jeff Castro said the rate increases are a result of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department passing on increases to the YCUA.

    A minimum user will see a 4.77-percent increase on their bi-monthly bill, or approximately $2.23. The average user - which Castro said is typically a family of four - will see a 4.75-percent increase, or approximately $4.43 per bi-monthly bill.

    A minimum user uses under 600 cubic feet bi-monthly while an average household uses between 1600 and 2000 cubic feet bi-monthly.

    The Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees unanimously approved a first reading of the increases, which would go into effect in October.

    Jeff_Castro.jpg

    Jeff Castro

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    The DWSD passed on a 6.3-percent increase in operating costs and a 6-percent increase in its fixed rate. No matter how little a consumer uses, they are automatically charged a minimum, or fixed, rate.

    Castro said water usage in Michigan is dropping in general and the DWSD needs to make up for those lost revenues by increasing the fixed rate.

    Ypsilanti Township Treasurer Larry Doe noted that the YCUA was able to pass on a much smaller increase to its customers than what the DWSD passed on to it.

    “That’s due to the containment of other operating costs,” Castro said.

    Ypsilanti Township’s water consumption has dropped by 24-percent over the past five years, which is largely attributed to its loss of industry. At one time the GM Willow Run Plant was the largest water user of its kind in the country.

    Despite that, Castro said the township’s levels have been stabilizing and the YCUA is projecting that usage will continue to stay at current levels.

    “We’ve seen the worst,” Castro said. “We’ve hit bottom and, projecting out, we see the future looking bright.”

    The Ypsilanti City Council and Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees must approve rate increases. YCUA Customers last saw a rate increase in late 2012.

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


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    tomatoes_lizzy_alfs_garden.jpg

    I planted seven different tomato plants in my garden, including several heirloom varieties.

    Lizzy Alfs | AnnArbor.com

    I’ve never eaten so many tomatoes in my life.

    What were once six-inch tall tomato plants in my first-ever vegetable garden have grown to five feet tall, and are producing more tomatoes than I know what to do with. I roast them; I eat them plain for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I give tomatoes to neighbors.

    Three months after I decided to start a garden outside my Old West Side apartment, I’ve come to love the hobby. The $50 I spent in the beginning of the season on gardening supplies and plants has paid off, and then some.

    I’ve made salads with my lettuce, batches of pesto with my basil and roasted potatoes using rosemary from the garden. I cut up chives on my eggs, and when I am feeling stressed out, I smell my lavender.

    lizzy_alfs_tomatoes.jpg

    Gardening has been a rewarding hobby for me this year.

    For someone who, three months ago, was unfamiliar with a spade gardening tool, this season has also been a learning experience. Here are 5 things I’ve learned from gardening:

    Appreciate the smaller things

    Sure, I only have two pepper plants — one green pepper plant and one hot pepper plant — so I have to appreciate the few peppers those will produce.

    I have a newfound respect for vendors at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, with their gorgeous flower bouquets, overflowing tomato supply and delicious blueberries. Every week, I buy fresh flowers at the market to put in vases around my apartment.

    I’m also noticing other peoples’ yards now, and I take inspiration for my own garden. One thing I want to look into for next year: the upside down hanging tomato plants.

    It’s a relatable hobby

    I’m pretty certain I have talked about gardening with anyone who gardens. Gardening helped me make new friends, meet neighbors and connect with people in my family.

    lizzy_alfs_garden_june.jpg

    My garden, pictured here in late July.

    Lizzy Alfs | AnnArbor.com

    Since the National Gardening Association reports more than a third of American households grow food, it’s not hard to find people who share the interest.

    Bugs…they’re just bugs

    To say I was disturbed when I found tomatoes covered in slugs in early July is an understatement. I was also disappointed and I was nervous for the rest of my plants.

    After talking to gardeners, I realized there are methods to control bug infestations. First, I had to make sure all my plants were tied up and tomatoes weren’t grazing the ground. For about a week, I also sprinkled coffee grounds around the plants to deter the slugs and other pests. I never saw them again!

    There’s no such thing as normal

    When I first started gardening, I wanted my plants to grow at the same pace as everyone else’s. If a neighbor had tiny green tomatoes sprouting on her plants, I wanted some on mine, too.

    But as time went on, I realized that there’s no such thing as “normal” in a garden. Plants take on a life of their own. The soil, the climate, how often you water, how much sun the plants get — it all affects how the plants will grow.

    Tomatoes taste good plain!

    My favorite lesson: a fresh tomato is best on its own.

    For the first time in my life, I'm eating heaping bowls of just plain, diced up cherry tomatoes, or sliced-up purple heirloom tomatoes.

    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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