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

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    Though weight loss programs in the workplace may seem excessive, a recent study conducted by the University of Michigan Health System and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System found that under certain conditions they can be successful, Glamour reported.

    scale.jpg

    Photo from Flickr user dsearls.

    Cash incentives and peer pressure in a group setting are the most successful combination in promoting weight loss in a workplace program, the study found.

    The pairing led to nearly three times more weight loss than in individuals that were offered cash rewards merely on individual performance, according to the report.

    The University of Michigan pays $100 to each of its employees enrolled in its health care benefits who participate in online wellness programs.

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


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    Frederick Worden

    Courtesy of WCSO

    A 64-year-old York Township man accused of inappropriately touching two elementary school-aged children had his preliminary examination rescheduled in district court Tuesday, according to court records.

    Frederick Worden's hearing is now set for April 16 in the 14A-1 District Court.

    Worden was charged with five counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

    Police said the incidents involving two girls known to Worden occurred during the past year and a half at his York Township home and involved "inappropriate touching."

    He is being held at the Washtenaw County Jail on a $250,000 cash bond, according to jail records.

    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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    Jason_Mayleben.jpg

    Jason Mayleben

    Courtesy of WCSO

    Michael_Haywood.jpg

    Michael Haywood

    Courtesy of WCSO

    The 24-year-old Ypsilanti Township man accused of firing off two rounds at a car with four small children in it had his preliminary examination rescheduled Tuesday, according to court records.

    Michael DeShawn Haywood and his co-defendant, 25-year-old Jason Mayleben of Ann Arbor, both had their preliminary hearings moved to April 23.

    The men are charged with two counts of assault with intent to murder, two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying a concealed weapon, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony and felony firearm.

    A 26-year-old Wayne man with whom Mayleben had fought a week prior to the shooting was the actual target, police said. At 9:45 p.m. on Feb. 16, Mayleben and Haywood saw the man driving in Ypsilanti Township and followed his vehicle to the area of Parkwood Avenue and South Harris Road, police said.

    Haywood is accused of shooting at the Wayne man, missing and hitting his vehicle where there were four small children inside. No one was injured in the incident.

    Mayleben is free on $25,000 bond and Haywood is free on $20,000 bond.

    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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    Jacqueline Rose Toboni, Elly Jarvis, and (standing) Regan Moro in U-M's production of "August: Osage County."

    photo by Peter Smith Photography | courtesy of the University of Michigan

    An old saying claims “You can’t go home again,” but the damaged family at the center of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play “August: Osage County” - now being staged by the University of Michigan department of theatre and drama - knows all too well that that’s a lie.

    Indeed, the three middle-aged Weston sisters understand that not only does going back to your childhood home suddenly thrust you back into the mindset of your childhood, and your “role” within a family; the journey also inevitably dredges up painful wounds long buried.

    But the sisters have no choice when their alcoholic, poetry professor father, Beverly (Matthew Provenza), goes missing for five days. His wife, pill-popping Violet (Elly Jarvis), who suffers from mouth cancer, verbally abuses her three daughters as they reunite in Oklahoma: oldest daughter Barbara (Jacqueline Rose Toboni), whose relationship with both her husband Bill (Philip Maxwell) and her 14 year old, pot-smoking daughter Jean (Meredith Starkman) is strained; middle daughter Ivy (Regan Moro), who stayed in town, unmarried; and youngest, willfully sunny daughter Karen (Elana Gantman), who brings her slimey fiancee Steve (Ben Reitemeier) in tow from Miami.

    Violet’s sister Mattie Fae (Emily Shimskey), meanwhile, picks on her husband Charlie (Neal Kelley) and her seemingly shiftless son Little Charles (Graham Techler), and the Native American housekeeper Beverly hired before his disappearance (Johnna, played by Samantha Rehr) quietly works to keep the family fed and safe.

    This was my second go-round with “August,” since I saw the touring production a few years ago, and I may have been even more absorbed, from start to finish (clocking in at a little more than three hours), this time around.

    Admittedly, this may be a function of numerous things working in tandem - I’m at a slightly different time of my life; the mind can focus on subtle flourishes when you’re not trying to take the story in for the first time; etc. - but no matter how you slice it, director John Neville-Andrews and his gutsy student cast have made this dark comedy sing with full voice.

    I say “gutsy” partly because “August” isn’t a natural choice for a college production. The characters range in age from 14 to 69, with none of them falling particularly close to the students’ ages. And yes, the visual dissonance of this is a little jarring at first. But just as your ear acclimates to Shakespeare’s English after a few minutes, you grow comfortable in the illusion and willingly go along for the ride after the production's first couple of scenes.

    “Gutsy” also describes the abandon with which the students approach these rich, complex roles. Standouts include Kelley and Shimskey, as an aging couple whose primary disagreement centers on how much respect should be afforded to their son; Moro, as the shy, dutiful daughter who's ready to move on; Rehr, who provides a strong, good-hearted presence amidst the chaos of the Weston house (and whose true, pre-ordained role becomes apparent only at play’s end); and Toboni, charismatically anchoring the show as “August”’s pivotal character, since Barbara must inevitably face the ways she resembles her venomous mother, and decide whether she has the power to deflect what appears to be her destiny.

    The ensemble as a whole is solid, and Neville-Andrews masterfully balances the production’s moments of dry, laugh-out-loud wit and searing pain by way of a crisp pace that never sacrifices clarity.

    Much credit also goes to scenic designer Eli Schlatter, who impressively managed to solve the puzzle of how depict a three story house in an intimate, thrust stage theater (and since the dilapidated house plays a key role, as a kind of character in its own right, the stakes were high). And though I questioned how “put together” Violet looked when Beverly was missing, I otherwise appreciated costume designer Leslie Bates’ choices; Charles Malott, meanwhile, designed the show’s (good, but occasionally self-conscious) lighting, and Henry Reynolds designed the sound.

    The things most likely to stay with you from “August,” however, are the small, painfully true details of family interaction, and the idea that either in spite of, or because of, the unbreakable nature of blood ties, we are sometimes the worst, nastiest version of ourselves when we return to the family nest.

    "August: Osage County" continues through April 14. Tickets are available online.

    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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    "The Animals and Children Took to the Streets"

    Michael Kondziolka, the University Musical Society’s director of programming, confessed that when he first saw “The Animals and Children Took to the Streets”—now appearing on the Performance Network Theatre’s stage, courtesy of UMS—at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, he had modest expectations.

    “I went into the performance with that mindset, and then it absolutely captivated me,” said Kondziolka. “I think one of the reasons I love it so much is the unexpected marrying of live music and theater and animation in a seamless way.”

    Indeed, the innovative, London-based performance troupe 1927 combines these elements to tell the story of an urban tenement block “where curtain-twitchers and peeping toms live side by side, where children have gone completely feral, and the wolf is always at the door.” When an idealistic mother and daughter arrive, will they bring hope to their dark environs, or get sucked into it?

    Audiences will learn the answer at a venue that’s a unique choice for UMS.

    PREVIEW

    ”The Animals and Children Took to the Streets”

    • Who: 1927, a London-based, multimedia performance company, presented by UMS.
    • What: Part Charles Dickens, part Tim Burton, the Bayou is a feared and loathed part of the city, wherein lies the infamous Bayou Mansions: a sprawling, stinking tenement block where curtain-twitchers and peeping-toms live side by side; where children have gone completely feral; and the wolf is always at the door. When the idealistic Agnes Eaves and her daughter arrive late one night, does it signal hope in this hopeless place, or has the real horror only just begun?
    • Where: Performance Network Theatre, 120 E. Huron St. in Ann Arbor.
    • When: Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m., April 10-14.
    • How much: Tickets for this event have been sold out, but ticket cancellations for all performances are being released. Call 734-764-2538, or visit the Michigan League Ticket Office (911 N. University Ave. in Ann Arbor); or www.ums.org/tickets.
    “We’ve collaborated with Performance Network before in other ways,” said Kondziolka. “We’ve done community events and held social events there, and we’ve done things with visiting theater artists there, but we’ve never actually presented in the space before. We’re excited and really happy about it. … They had to figure out how and if they could adjust their rehearsal and production schedule to fit (‘Animals’) in, but … the scale of the piece is really suited to that size frame and that audience size.”

    And while past UMS theatrical presentations (Complicite’s “A Disappearing Number” and Robert Lapage’s “The Andersen Project,” to name two) have incorporated different media elements, Kondziolka argues that the intimate relationship between them and the performers in “Animals,” along with its sense of home-spun whimsy and creativity, sets the show apart.

    “ … The actor on stage has an impact on the animation, and it’s just so fun and magical, in that sense,” said Kondziolka. “It’s fun because you understand the trick, but it’s still really, really fun to see it happen. It’s also a very sophisticated visual experience, referencing many different things in different ways. In one moment, you think of silent films; then you feel like you’re looking at Edward Gorey book; then another scene seems to be screaming Russian constructionism, like you’re looking at a Soviet-era propaganda poster.”

    Needless to say, the show creates a darkly sinister atmosphere, with a generous dash of mirth, as suggested by the title. (“You just hear the title and think, ‘I kind of want to go to that,’” said Kondziolka.)

    But watching video clips of “Animals” both mesmerizes you and makes you wonder why we don’t see more live shows that integrate various media in a similar way.

    “When you experience it in a live performance, you think, ‘Of course,’” said Kondziolka. “But it’s something that not a lot of people have gotten to experience. (1927’s) work in general will continue to have an impact, I think. … It gets the brain going about what’s possible.”

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


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    Debris from a trailer that collapsed in a rollover accident on U.S. 23 north of Ann Arbor Friday is strewn across the ground near the freeway.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    A single-vehicle crash injured one person and shut down the right lane of northbound U.S. 23 north of Ann Arbor for a while Friday.

    The crash occurred about 10:30 a.m. on northbound U.S. 23 north of Joy Road in Northfield Township. It involved an SUV hauling a trailer, which rolled over, a dispatcher with the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office said.

    The trailer was destroyed in the crash and debris from it littered the side of the roadway.

    One person was transported to the University of Michigan Hospital in critical condition said Huron Valley Ambulance spokeswoman Karen Gabrys.

    Further information was not immediately available.

    04052013_NEWS_Rollover_23_DJB_0086.jpg

    Firefighters and police survey the damage after a trailer overturned and collapsed on U.S. 23 north of Ann Arbor Friday.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com


    View Crash 040513 in a larger map


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    One of the 17-year-old Pioneer High School students facing assault charges after last fall's high school football brawl rejected a plea offer Friday that could have eventually removed the case from his record.

    Thumbnail image for huron-pioneer-footbrawlphoto-thumb-646x445-124495.jpg

    One of the teenagers involved in last fall's football fight rejected a plea deal in court Friday morning.

    Assistant Washtenaw County Prosecutor Julie Sisson said if the boy admitted responsibility or pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor assault and battery charge, the prosecution wouldn't object to a sentencing agreement or a deferred sentencing.

    A deferred sentencing allows the defendant to have the charges wiped from his or her record if the defendant fulfills certain obligations, usually involving probation and fines.

    The boy's attorney, Brooke Williams, told Judge Donald Shelton she informed her client of his choices in the plea deal, but that he declined.

    "He has decided he wants to proceed to trial," she said.

    A jury trial was scheduled for June 24. There will be a chance at a plea deal before then, however. A final pretrial hearing was scheduled for June 7. A resolution in the case could come anytime between now and then.

    June 7 is also the deadline for both the defense and prosecution to share evidence in the case. Sisson said she was still waiting for evidence from a Twitter account, but did not elaborate in court about what the content from the account might reveal.

    After the hearing let out, the boy hugged his mother in the hallway of the courthouse and greeted some of the many supporters from the Ann Arbor Concerned Citizens for Justice group who were on hand to protest. The group alleges the charges are racially motivated. All three students charged in the incident are black.

    The brawl started when coaches from Huron High School and Pioneer met after the game Oct. 12 and began a verbal altercation that turned physical when assistant coach Vince Wortmann shoved Huron head coach Cory Gildersleeve.

    Wortmann was not charged because prosecutors ruled he believed he was defending Pioneer head coach Paul Test.

    Wortmann was fired after the incident. Both head coaches have since resigned.

    The Ann Arbor Board of Education passed a resolution last month asking the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office to "re-evaluate the degree of criminalization" of the three students' actions during the brawl.

    The boy — whom AnnArbor.com is not naming because he is a juvenile — is charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, aggravated assault and assault and battery.

    A second 17-year-old Pioneer student was found responsible on one count of misdemeanor assault and battery on Feb. 6. He is awaiting disposition, the equivalent of a sentencing in juvenile court, which is scheduled for April 30. The juveniles are both accused of kicking a Huron High School player in the face.

    A jury trial for 18-year-old Bashir Garain, the third Pioneer student charged in the melee, is set to begin Monday. Police said Garain swung his crutch at a group of players during the brawl. Garain is accused of using his crutch as a dangerous weapon during the fight. He faces two felony counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and two misdemeanor counts of assault and battery.

    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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    Debris from a destroyed trailer lies scattered along the side of U.S. 23 after a rollover crash Friday morning.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    A woman was critically injured Friday morning in a rollover crash on U.S. 23 north of Ann Arbor. A camping trailer she was hauling was destroyed in the crash.

    04052013_NEWS_Rollover_23_DJB_0024.jpg.jpg

    The crash caused a lengthy backup on U.S. 23 Friday.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    The crash blocked one lane of U.S. 23 for hours and caused a miles-long backup on the freeway.

    The crash occurred about 10:30 a.m. Friday as the woman was driving a Ford Excursion north on U.S. 23 near Joy Road in Northfield Township. Somehow she lost control of the vehicle, said William Wagner, Northfield Township fire Chief.

    A trailer she was pulling behind the SUV began to swerve, and firefighters believe the SUV and the trailer rolled over. The SUV was upright when firefighters arrived, but the trailer overturned and essentially disintegrated, Wagner said.

    Huron Valley Ambulance paramedics took the woman, who was in critical condition, to the University of Michigan Hospital, said spokeswoman Karen Gabrys. The woman was the only occupant of the vehicle. Four dogs in the SUV appeared uninjured, except for possibly a minor bump, Wagner said.

    As of 12:30 p.m. crews were still at the accident site cleaning it up, Wagner said. He expected them to be there for another hour or two.

    The trailer contained gasoline cans and propane, Wagner said, but very little was spilled and winds whisked away any fumes, preventing the risk of explosion, he said. Ann Arbor Township firefighters also responded to the crash.


    View Crash 040513 in a larger map


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    Skyline's Dan Lee carries the ball in a game last year against Cranbrook

    Courtesy of Ron Hirschl

    Students across the state are finishing up spring break, and high school sports will be back in full swing starting Monday.

    And when that happens, our focus will be on the Skyline High School boys lacrosse team.

    Skyline won our first AnnArbor.com Team of the Week poll, which ended Friday at noon. The Eagles garnered 241 total votes, more than half of the total cast since our poll opened Sunday.

    That means Skyline boys lacrosse will be the focus of our coverage next week -- similar to our football and basketball Game of the Week.

    Skyline will face off against rival Pioneer, 7 p.m. Friday at Pioneer. It also has a likely home game Tuesday against Okemos and a Saturday road game at Dewitt.

    Disappointed your team didn’t win? We’ll have a new poll opening Monday morning with five new teams to choose from.


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    Thriving despite naysayers, embracing one's own timeline for success and exploring how moments and individuals are the building blocks of the movements that shape history— those are just a few of the lessons that the 20 speakers at the day-long TedXUofM conference imparted Friday.

    More than 1,350 people are attending Friday's conference at the University of Michigan Power Center. The event lasts until 5 p.m. and is being live-streamed online.

    This is the fourth year U-M has put on the event.

    Speakers ranged from professors to local artists to business owners to U-M students. Each had their own tidbit of wisdom to pass on to the eager crowd.

    tedx.JPG

    The fourth-annual TEDxUofM conference is taking place today.

    Ananeti Usoro, a medical student who attended the event, said the speakers were helping students, who are still learning who they are, expand their horizons.

    "In my generation a lot of people miss out on life lessons, especially being young" she said. "At a university like this, people are thriving and need to hear that."

    In the morning session, Kathryn Clark, a U-M professor who worked for NASA and lived at the International Space Station, spoke to the crowd about the importance of continuing to learn and research.

    "What we really lose when we stop reaching for the stars, when we stop trying to accomplish things that are really beyond our current ability, is the idea that we can," she said. "And that's the greatest tragedy of all."

    U-M Business professor Robert Quinn encouraged people to see things from new perspectives and commit to "a higher purpose," rather than simply looking for personal success.

    "When we embrace a higher purpose, meaning increases in our lives," he said. "Your perspective will be radically changed for a long time."

    U-M professor and author Sharon Pomerantz told the story of her first job working as a reporter out of college. She said she was unfulfilled in her work and had a boss that dismissed her as untalented.

    "The world is full of unhappy, miserable people who are going to tell you that you will never succeed and you have no talent," she said, "they are all wrong. Only you can determine your future."

    For U-M senior Katie Brown, who attended the event with her roommates, Pomerantz' message hit home.

    "She's talking about not having a direct life path and how do you go about that," she said. "That's what every college student, or at least me as a senior, is going through right now. She was there once too, and look, she's successful now."

    Local author and U-M instructor John Bacon emphasized the ability of a single moment and a single person to change the course of history. "Individuals and moments matter," he said. "The future is truly yours, grab it."

    Dan Morse, co-creator and owner of the Beet Box food cart, which operates in Mark's Carts, drew on the struggles he had while launching his food cart to illustrate that entrepreneurism should't be driven by hero worship, which he said creates a "false, crippling standard of perfection."

    "While the rest of the world may see us for our public personas, we ourselves can harbor an untold story of doubt," he said.

    Oliver Uberti, a former National Geographic designer and U-M alum, told the crowd that everyone's timeline for success is unique. He created a chart of famous artists and creators and found that most composed their masterpieces in their 30s and 40s.

    "[Do you] occasionally ask yourself 'Am I past my prime?'" he asked the audience. "We each have a unique timeline in which we plot a unique set of life experiences. So when it comes time to tap into yours, do things the way you, and you alone, do them."

    U-M senior Meline Topouzian said she found the messages powerful because the speakers tied their own stories to overarching life lessons.

    "People are using their life experiences, making a very personal relay of information to us," she said. "It's great to hear."

    Brown added that the conference offered U-M students a new perspective on their professors.

    "Everybody is U-M affiliated. It's cool to see them in a different light from teaching... to see these other life experiences," she said.

    It's also cool, Topouzian offered, to take a day off from the stressful semester.

    "It's nice not to be in class, where grades matter," she said.

    The TEDxUofM event takes place until 5 p.m. You can watch a live stream here. Videos of the talks will be uploaded online afterward.

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


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    ATLANTA -- Trey Burke continues to pile up the national player of the year awards. On Friday morning in Atlanta, Burke accepted the Oscar Robertson trophy, given to the United States Basketball Writers Association's national player of the year. Later in the day, Burke won the Wooden Award, and on Thursday was named Associated Press National Player of the Year.

    Melanie Maxwell is a photographer for AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at melaniemaxwell@annarbor.com.


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    The Ann Arbor area added approximately 3,000 jobs in the month of February. Most of the gains were the result of seasonal hiring at public universities in the region, according to a report from the state's Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives.

    AP_jobs_board.jpg

    AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

    Despite the hirings, the unemployment rate remained at 5.3 percent as the labor force also grew at about the same rate. Many of the new jobs are support staff and student workers at University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University who do not stay in the labor force when their positions disappear in between school terms.

    The temporary status of employees at the area’s universities create large dips and rises in the number of jobs in the area as school goes into and out of session, but does not generally effect the unemployment rate.

    Year over year, the area’s job total is up 6,300, in large part thanks to gains in the professional and business services sector, which added 2,300 jobs since February 2012. The sector led a strong month of job growth for several private sector industries, posting a 4.3 percent increase in jobs in February alone.

    In fact, nine of the 10 sectors measured by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and the Budget added jobs in the past year. The only sector to see a decrease in the Ann Arbor area was leisure and hospitality.

    Once again, Washtenaw County’s jobless rate led the state by a wide margin. Kent and Barry counties came in a full percentage point behind Washtenaw with 6.3 percent rates. Mackinac County continues to lag well behind with an unemployment rate of 24.6 percent.

    Since February 2012, Michigan’s seasonally unadjusted rate has dropped from 9.8 percent to 9.3 percent. The Ann Arbor area lowered its rate by a similar margin, dropping from 5.7 to its current rate of 5.3 percent.

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


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    Corey Amison

    Courtesy of WCSO

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    Delrico Perkins

    Courtesy of WCSO

    Two men accused of pulling a handgun on a 7-11 clerk and demanding a pack of cigarettes Wednesday were arraigned on armed robbery charges Thursday, police said.

    Corey Amison, 23, of Superior Township, and Delrico Perkins, 18, of Ypsilanti Township, were charged with armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery, according to Sgt. Geoff Fox of the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office.

    Police said the incident happened at the 7-11 located at 2200 East Ellsworth Road in Ypsilanti Township around 2:20 a.m. Wednesday.

    The two men went to the store because they were dissatisfied with the price of an item previously purchased. Amison is accused of going into the 7-11, brandishing a handgun and demanding a pack of cigarettes. Police arrested the two men a short time later as they walked down Ellsworth.

    Both men are being held in the Washtenaw County Jail on $25,000 cash bonds, police said.

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


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    A motorist traveling behind a trailer that rolled over on U.S. 23 Friday morning shared video footage of the accident with AnnArbor.com Friday afternoon.

    A woman was critically injured in the crash that destroyed the camping trailer she was hauling with a Ford Excursion.

    The motorist who shared the video, Hideki Scion, was traveling northbound on U.S. 23 at some distance behind the trailer in the left lane. The trailer is traveling in the right lane ahead of a semi truck.

    "We were just a few cars behind the SUV with a camper which started swerving and later rolled over ...," Scion wrote in an email to AnnArbor.com.

    In the video, the trailer is visible going in and out of both lanes and toppling onto the right shoulder of the expressway near Joy Road. The crash caused significant traffic back-ups.

    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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    ATLANTA -- The Michigan basketball team had an open practice at the Final Four in Atlanta on Friday. After nearly a week of talk, the Wolverines are ready to play the Orange on Saturday.

    Melanie Maxwell is a photographer for AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at melaniemaxwell@annarbor.com.


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    With the seventh annual FestiFools around the corner, University of Michigan students worked diligently to finish their larger-than-life paper mache creations.

    Creative Director and Founder Mark Tucker met with about 22 Lloyd Hall Scholars Program students at the "creation headquarters" on campus to coordinate schedules, rehearse the parade, and assist with projects.

    An additional 170 School of Art and Design students and other community contributions will be showcased during the event on Sunday. Students have been working for the last two months and most of the materials were donated through local organizations or benefactors.

    This year, the students selected the theme "time foolery" and were inspired by what representation of time means to them.

    "It has grown conceptually better and better every year," Tucker says.

    The parade will start at 4 p.m. on Sunday on Main Street in between William and Washington. FestiFools and FoolMoon are produced by WonderFool Productions. FoolMoon runs from dusk Friday to midnight on Ann Arbor's Washington Street.

    Daniel Brenner is an intern photographer.


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    What did you think of the play? Leave a comment and / or vote in the poll at the end of this post:

    MountainMcWilliams.jpg

    photo by Sean Carter Photography | courtesy of the Purple Rose Theatre Co.

    In Moises Kaufman’s drama “33 Variations,” now playing at the Purple Rose Theatre, a nurse explains that one of the few benefits of a degenerative disease like ALS is that physical intimacy with others is necessitated by the illness’ progression.

    So when the patient is an emotionally distant, work-obsessed musicologist like “Variations”’ Dr. Katherine Brandt (Michelle Mountain), who struggles to relate to her grown daughter, Clara (Lauren Knox), a degenerative illness can actually work to break down walls within a family.

    But the clock is ticking for Brandt, who’s frantic to solve the mystery of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations - namely, find out why the composer (play by Richard McWilliams), in the last years of his life, dedicated so much time and effort to “riffing” on a lesser composer’s pedestrian, commonplace waltz.

    Kaufman’s play jumps between the present - focusing on Brandt, Clara, and Clara’s boyfriend Mike (the above-mentioned nurse, played by Michael Brian Ogden) - and Beethoven’s time, so that we see Beethoven composing the variations as his health (and ability to hear) declines.

    “Variations” features moments both moving and funny, yet there’s a self-conscious quality to some of its dialogue, as well as a few contrivances in the script. Mike and Clara’s courtship scenes often feel sitcom-cute instead of authentic; and when Clara decides to join her mother in Bonn, Mike drops everything to move there with her, though the couple has been together a short time.

    In addition, a German archivist (and walking cultural stereotype) named Gertrude (Rhiannon Ragland) quickly grows close to Katherine and steps in to help take care of her, despite Katherine’s apparent difficulty making and maintaining relationships; Beethoven has a now-all-too-predictable scene of unfettered, effusive creativity while composing one of the variations; and a scene in which Gertrude suggests hiring a male prostitute for Brandt doesn’t really earn its place in the two hour show. (Funny? Yes. Necessary? No.)

    Yet in spite of the script’s problems, the Rose’s production is beautifully executed, for the most part. Because the script calls for numerous locales, existing in different time periods, Tom Whalen’s sound and Dana White’s lighting often work in tandem to efficiently establish scene changes (a dance club, a concert hall, a hospital, etc.). Vincent Mountain’s set design, meanwhile, features colorless, institutional shelves full of archived materials, which gives the audience a sense of being “in the stacks”; and Suzanne Young’s costume design helps to further define each character’s sense of him/herself in the world.

    McWilliams is compelling as the larger-than-life, ultimately inscrutable composer, though David Bendena, playing Beethoven’s assistant Anton Schindler, manages to steal a few scenes in his own right. And Ragland locates both the humor and the heart in Gertrude. But the show is primarily a showcase for Mountain, who depicts her character’s physical deterioration, and emotional evolution, with skill and care. When Brandt finally arrives at the answer to the mystery she set out to solve, the moment feels genuine, and the truth hard-won.

    Yes, director Guy Sanville's soft spot for sentimentality creeps into the production at times - the last scene, for one, feels over-long and overwrought, even though its pacing appears to be a direct outgrowth of the mystery’s “answer” - but overall, Sanville’s vision, cast, and design team for “Variations” manages to take a flawed script and turn it into a pretty satisfying show.

    "33 Variations" continues through June 1. For background information, see the preview article. For tickets, go to www.purplerosetheatre.org.


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    The future of municipalities in eastern Washtenaw County and how that impacts the economic vitality of the entire county will be the forefront of discussion at the fourth annual Eastern Leaders Group summit Monday.

    The event, entitled The Future of this Place, will feature several county leaders.

    042010-AJC-Ypsilanti-neighb.JPG

    The Eastern Leaders Group's Spring Summit will focus on the future of eastern Washtenaw County, including Ypsilanti.

    AnnArbor.com file photo

    "It's not exactly tied to the Shape Ypsilanti initiative, but it kind of takes a cue from that, that we’re looking into our future and we want to be as inclusive as possible," said Melissa Milton-Pung, the ELG Project Manager. "What are we doing for economic vitality? We're going to have a number of people that are going to be talking about that."

    ELG is a partnership between Washtenaw County, Eastern Michigan University, and civic and private sector leaders. The members include business, education and government leaders from across the county.

    Several Washtenaw County leaders, including U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, and State Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, will share information about several initiatives affecting the Ypsilanti area. State Rep. David Rutledge, D-Superior Township, also is slated to attend.

    Updates will be provided on on local and state level trends and the future of several initiatives serving the Ypsilanti area will be discussed.

    Some of the presentation highlights include:

    • Pittsfield Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal will speak and provide an update on the Washtenaw ReImagine Project.
    • WISD Superintendent Scott Menzel will discuss the future of the newly established Ypsilanti Community Schools district and how it will impact the quality of life in eastern Washtenaw County.
    • Ann Arbor SPARK CEO Paul Krutko will speak about the former GM Willow Run Plant and the Willow Run Airport Aertropolis idea. Krutko also is expected to speak about what SPARK is doing to attract and retain employees.

    Milton-Pung said the ELG is focused on eastern Washtenaw County, predominantly the area east of U.S. 23 and portions of Pittsfield Township, Augusta Township, Superior Township and Ann Arbor Township.

    "It's nice to see that we as a county are starting to recover more quickly than anticipated from the recession," Milton-Pung said. "It is occurring because one we're lucky and two, we work hard together. We continue to work in a collaborative manner."

    Some of the other expected attendees include:

    • Washtenaw County Administrator Verna McDaniel
    • Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners Chair Yousef Rabhi
    • EMU Government and Community Affairs Executive Director Leigh Greden
    • Washtenaw County Parks & Rec Director Robert Tetens
    • ELG Executive Director Tony VanDerworp

    The event is free and open to the public, but those interested in attending must register online. The event will be held at the EMU Student Center at 900 Oakwood on Monday, April 8 from 8:30 to 11:00 a.m.

    Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for AnnArbor.com.Reach her at katreasestafford@annarbor.com or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.


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    The city of Ypsilanti has received word from DTE Energy that the proposed $4 million solar array project on a former landfill is moving on to the final round.

    DTE is asking the city to approve a lease and agreement for the project in advance of DTE's final selection.

    landfill.jpg

    The solar array may encompass 4.5 acres of the 7-acre property.

    Courtesy city of Ypsilanti

    On Dec. 4, the Ypsilanti City Council approved a letter of intent with SunDurance Energy for the development of a solar array on the city’s former landfill as part of a request for proposals issued by DTE for sites and solar power generating systems.

    DTE's initial request for proposals indicated that developers of the project should select sites that have high visibility and be within the DTE service area, with an emphasis on locations in Detroit.

    Proposals will be compared to each other for final selection based on various factors including location and price.

    According to an information packet written by City Planner Teresa Gillotti, SunDurance has been refining its proposal based on feedback from DTE. The initial proposal submitted was for a 1.3 MW installation, but DTE has indicated to SunDurance that they are interested in a smaller installation on the site of around 750 watts.

    SunDurance asked Ypsilanti to approve two different sized installations as options DTE can consider in weighing the proposal. Both options are included in the attached easement and lease agreement with slightly varying rental rates.

    The options are as follows:

    • A 750 kW system to be located west of existing access road. If this were to be chosen, the annual payment to the city would be $40,000/
    • A 1000 kW system located on both sides of existing access road. If this were to be chosen, the annual payment to the city would be $44,000.

    The proposed project would cover about 4.5 acres of the 7-acre property near Spring Street and just north of the westbound Interstate 94 Huron Street exit.

    A one-time construction payment of $20,000 must be made within 30 days of the execution of the lease. A large digital billboard is currently on the property and the city receives $35,000 per year for that lease.

    As per the terms of the letter of intent, the city received $2,000 from SunDurance for continuing to hold the property for the potential development.

    The proposed array will be a ground-mounted, fixed-tilt system, requiring minimal or no penetration of the surface of the site.

    If the proposal is selected, SunDurance would then submit site plans and a Planned Unit Development application for approval with the city. The PUD process would first go to planning commission for a recommendation and then to city council for a public hearing and approval.

    Gillotti noted that DTE is interested in a project going into service by the end of the calendar year.

    City ownership of the former landfill occurred prior to 1949 and the estimated closure date of the landfill is between 1957 and 1967. A formal sealing or capping of the landfill was not completed when it closed and the property is known to have environmental contamination, although it is not known to what extent.

    Initial testing was undertaken by the Traverse Group in 1998.

    Since the letter of intent was adopted by the city, two grants have been received from the Downriver Community Conference as part of the city's membership in the Washtenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment, Gillotti wrote.

    The first grant covered costs of a Phase I environmental assessment and the second grant, under way now, will involve sampling of the landfill site, and should provide information regarding the extent of the landfill area, as well as a more detailed picture of existing contaminants on-site.

    The city will consider the lease and easement at its April 9 meeting at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.

    Mayor Paul Schreiber said the project has been well-received by the public.

    "The project has gotten positive responses all the way around," Schreiber. "It would be another project that puts Ypsilanti on the solar power map."

    Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for AnnArbor.com.Reach her at katreasestafford@annarbor.com or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.


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    04012013_NEWS_YpsiTimHortons_DJB_0017.jpg

    Tim Hortons plans to open two Ypsilanti Township locations this year. The site at 2220 Washtenaw Ave., pictured here on April 1, is in its final permit approval stages.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    Plans to open two Tim Hortons Cafe and Bake Shops in Ypsilanti Township are moving forward, with one slated to open by July and the other in its final permit approval phase, township officials said.

    The cafe slated to open in July is being built on the corner of James L. Hart Parkway and Huron Street, just south of Interstate 94.

    Township Planner Joe Lawson said workers just broke ground on the property March 28, and should be finished within 90 days.

    The other location is planned for a vacant lot at 2220 Washtenaw, on the corner of Hewitt Road.

    "They have final approval, they're just waiting for final permits from MDOT," Lawson said.

    Township Supervisor Brenda Stumbo said the national chain investing in two locations within the township is indicative of a turning economy. Stumbo said the township is still averaging a 35 percent reduction in its taxable value, but new development, especially on vacant lots, is promising.

    "It's a sign of hope for us that it's coming," Stumbo said. "They're not high-paying jobs, but by adding new jobs, we have a lot of young people that need jobs. ... There's a lot of things happening, we just need to keep it going. We're seeing some positive activity."

    The Canada-based Tim Hortons launched its cafe and bake shops in New York City in 2009 and began franchising them in 2010. Stumbo said the two locations will be similar to the company's other new locations and will have fireplaces, couches and soft chairs.

    Each of the new locations will be about 1,950 square feet and include a drive-thru.

    A Kroger gas station also is set to be built at the intersection of James L. Hart Parkway and Huron Street. Tim Hortons and Kroger agreed to split the 1.1 acre site.

    Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for AnnArbor.com.Reach her at katreasestafford@annarbor.com or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.


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