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

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    The Ypsilanti boys basketball team celebrates its district title at Skyline.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com


    In the end, two Washtenaw County boys basketball teams stood above the rest, as Ypsilanti and Milan captured district titles.

    And they didn't get there without some standout players.

    The Phoenix and Big Reds are both well represented in our 2013 AnnArbor.com All-Washtenaw County Boys Basketball teams.

    Milan has a pair of dream teamers, including C.J. Turnage, our 2013 Washtenaw County Boys Basketball Player of the Year. Ypsilanti has one dream team player and a dream team coach, plus one member of the Class A first team.

    In all, we've selected five dream teamers from all classes, five Class A first team players and five Class B-C-D first team players, plus honorable mentions.




    C.J. Turnage
    Forward, Milan

    He’s listed as a guard, but Turnage can play all over the floor, and his versatility made him plenty difficult to guard. Turnage picked up his offensive game as a senior, shooting 71 percent from the floor while averaging 19.1 points per game, 3.9 assists per game, 7.9 rebounds per game and 2.9 steals per game. He was the biggest reason for his team going 22-2 on the season and getting to a regional title game afterupsetting Jackson Lamb and Temperance Bedford in the Class A district championship. Milan is 40-5 over the last two seasons. Associated Press Class A All-State honorable mention. Turnage is the 2013 AnnArbor.com Washtenaw County Player of the Year.


    Latin Davis

    Latin Davis
    Guard, Milan

    As a sophomore true point guard on a team that finished the year 22-2, Davis shot better than 50 percent from the field in averaging 13.9 points per game, and added 4.4 assists per game. This is despite only playing in the fourth quarter of five games. Some of Davis’ biggest games came in the playoffs, as he scored 25 points in the Big Reds’ district title win over Temperance Bedford and 22 in the regional finals against eventual state champion Romulus.


    Lavonte Davis

    Lavonte Davis
    Forward, Ypsilanti

    Stats don’t do Davis justice -- he was one of five Phoenix players to average in double figures during Southeastern Conference play -- but Davis was one of the biggest reasons Ypsilanti got to within a game of the Breslin Center. Davis averaged 9.05 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.2 blocks during the regular season and 6.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game in the postseason. The Northwood-bound senior provided strong leadership to a young team that improved considerably throughout the year.



    Jason Houle
    Forward, Father Gabriel Richard

    Houle averaged more than 22 points per game to lead Washtenaw County in scoring Father Gabriel Richard’s new up-tempo system. A large chunk of that came from behind the 3-point arc as Houle averaged more than three 3-pointers per game, and shot 40 percent from deep. But he also showed an ability on the inside, grabbing 6.8 rebounds per game to lead his team.



    Jibreel Hussein
    Forward, Pioneer

    Hussein averaged 15 points per game, shooting 41 percent from the field. He also recorded more than three steals per game, as Pioneer went 15-4 in the regular season -- including a win over Class A runner-up Detroit Southeastern. And he showed the propensity to make the big play. Against Skyline in late January, he hit a 3 with seconds left that sent his team to the win. Against first-place Bedford the next month, he recorded a game-sealing steal on an inbound play.



    Steve Brooks
    Coach, Ypsilanti

    Last year was supposed to be the year of the Phoenix, with a squad featuring six seniors, five of which would go on to play college basketball. After a disappointing district loss, Ypsilanti started just two seniors this year, and one freshman. That group came together as the season went on, and swept Pioneer, Skyline and Huron in districts before winning its first regional title since 1981 and nearly knocking off Saginaw High in the state quarterfinals.



    Xavier Cochran

    Xavier Cochran, guard, Huron: The lone River Rat to start every game, Cochran averaged 12.6 points, including 25 against Ypsilanti in a district title game and 22 against Detroit Southeastern.

    Reece Dils, guard, Saline: Perhaps the area’s best pure shooter, Dils was the fourth-leading scorer in Washtenaw County at 16.8 points per game.

    Jaylen Johnson, forward, Ypsilanti: The 6-foot-9 junior improved as the year went on, culminating in a dominating district performance where he averaged 19.7 points and 15.3 rebounds in three games.

    Derek Seidl, forward, Dexter: Seidl paced Dexter with 12.6 points and six boards per game while shooting 50 percent from the field.


    Derek Seidl

    Ethan Spencer, forward, Pioneer: A unanimous All SEC Rec selection, Spencer stuffed the stat sheet with 9.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and, 1.6 steals while leading his team in assists from the center position.

    Coach: Josh Tropea, Milan: Tropea led the Big Reds to a 22-3 season, following an 18-2 season the year before for back-to-back Huron League titles. And after running through the Huron League, his team captured its first Class A district title with a win over Temperance Bedford.


    Daquanta Brown, guard, Willow Run: Brown averaged 15.7 points per game, and took off during league play by notching 20 points or more in four of six games.


    Kamari Davis

    Kamari Davis, guard, Father Gabriel Richard: Davis was good for 15.4 points per game, plus 5.9 rebounds and three assists in the high-flying FGR offense.

    Luke Hollandsworth, forward, Chelsea: Hollandsworth proved a bright spot for the Bulldogs, putting up 12.5 points and six rebounds per game to earn first-team All-SEC White honors.

    Adrian Harrison, guard, Arbor Prep: As a freshman on a second-year team, Harrison averaged 13 points, four assists and 2.6 steals per game.

    Andrew Khouri, guard, Greenhills: The Gryphons senior narrowly missed out on the county scoring title, but still averaged 21.4 points per game while shooting 40 percent from 3.

    Coach: Tim Cain, Willow Run: In his first year coaching a program in its final year, Cain decided halfway through the year that his team needed a reboot. So he took away their jerseys and made them try out again. The Flyers went 8-2 after that and and finished the year 10-11.


    Corey Allen, Ypsilanti
    Peter Bakker-Arkema, Skyline
    Nasheed Bass, Huron
    Mathias Donat, Washtenaw Christian
    Michael Hendrickson, Saline
    Janeau Joubert, Ypsilanti
    Jake Korican, Manchester
    Sherrod Motley-Dismuke, Lincoln
    Tevis Robinson, Pioneer
    Max Recknagel, Saline
    Demetrius Sims, Huron
    Koji Vroom, Rudolf Steiner
    Marquis Wesley, Skyline
    Aedan York, Pioneer


    1. Ypsilanti (20-5)
    2. Milan (22-2)
    3. Pioneer (15-5)
    4. Huron (14-6).
    5. Skyline (10-10)
    6. Saline (9-11)
    7. Dexter (11-9)
    8. Lincoln (8-13)
    9. Greenhills (19-2)
    10. Father Gabriel Richard (9-13)
    11. Willow Run (10-11)
    12. Arbor Prep (7-12)
    13. Chelsea (3-17)
    14. Washtenaw Christian (12-9)
    15. Rudolf Steiner (11-10)
    16. Whitmore Lake (6-15)
    17. Calvary Christian (3-18)
    18. Manchester (1-20)

    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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    The Ypsilanti Police Department is accepting applications for its 2013 Citizen Police Academy and is hopeful it can increase its number of volunteer service corp members, who conduct neighborhood patrols and provide assistance at events.

    "Right now we have 17 active (volunteer service corp) members and we're looking to increase that with a couple people who have the time and dedication," said Sgt. Brent Yuchasz. "It does take up your time, but we appreciate the effort."


    Ypsilanti Police Officer Anthony Schembri and K-9 German shepherd Buky have been working on the force together for five years. Volunteer police academy members will learn more about the work the K-9 unit does as well as other specialties.

    Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com

    The neighborhood patrols are particularly crucial to the department, which doesn't have the extra personnel to do them on a regular basis. Residents, and volunteers, report the patrols makes them feel safer, Yuchasz said.

    The department is currently staffed by 25 sworn officers, which represents a decrease from two years ago when the force was made up of 40 sworn officers.

    The latest SEMCOG data from 2011 show that with a population of 19,435 people, Ypsilanti has 12.8 officers per 10,000 residents, which is below the benchmark of 16.

    Two years ago, the department had 20.5 officers per 10,000 residents. The department handles about 20,000 calls per year, with 800 being handled by each officer. SEMCOG said this is far above the average of 570.

    Yuchasz said the number of volunteers has stayed the same over the past few years, but an increase would be helpful.

    "They (the volunteers) can be our eyes and ears," Yuchasz said. "It's just a way to supplement the department. ... Something we’ve been working on is increasing the presence in the community for the last five or six years. They (the volunteers) want to do what they can to make neighborhoods better."

    Volunteers can work between two and eight hours. Although the volunteers aren't sworn officers, Yuchasz said they make residents feel safe.

    The academy will take place in the late spring and classes will meet for about two hours on Thursday evenings for total of five weeks. Yuchasz said the academy has been in place for more than 10 years, but it's been a few years since the department has hosted one.

    "We just like to offer people the opportunity to see what we do on a daily basis," Yuchasz said. "... They get exposed to stuff on TV, but we want to give them a realistic perspective."

    Participants will obtain training and experience to familiarize them with the department in the following areas:

    • Community policing practices and Volunteer Service Corps
    • Patrol tactics and the detective bureau
    • Crime scene investigation
    • K-9 and narcotics investigations
    • Self defense and SWAT operations

    Officers who are trained in each area of expertise will teach courses over the five week academy and at the end, participants will be given the chance to do ride-alongs with the department.

    Those who complete the Citizens Academy may be given the opportunity to join the Volunteer Service Corps. In addition to patrols, volunteers help with special community events such as parades and festivals.

    Yuchasz said each VSC member has a uniform and is provided a radio, allowing them to communicate with dispatch or the department.

    "They assist us with traffic because some of the events are so large we don’t have the personnel to cover all street closures," Yuchasz said.

    The upcoming Color Run event, which is expected to bring more than 14,000 people to Ypsilanti in May, will result in several street closures, Yuchasz said.

    "The people that are in the corp right now will participate in that and will handle traffic and advise how to get through it," he said. "They'll work right alongside us."

    A hard deadline has not been set yet for those interested in applying, but Yuchasz said he would like to receive applications by the end of April.

    For more information or an applicaton, contact Yuchasz at Byuchasz@cityofypsilanti.com or at 734-483-9510.

    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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    Several years ago the editor of this paper invited me to write a series of columns on the facts of aging. He felt that buried in my eight-plus decades of life I had probably achieved some degree of expertise that might prove helpful to those still on the edge. I agreed with his presumption and was flattered by the offer, so for the following several years I wrote columns on aging that soon morphed into assorted reactions to some of the facts and problems of life in general.

    Time has passed and - after sixty-one years of marriage - so has my wife, Eunice. And for the same reason that I was asked to write my column to prepare some of its readers for the next phase, now submit this single piece in preparation for the phase after that.

    Unfortunately, I can find no sound preparation for that next phase. The goal in such a long and wondrous relationship, after all, is simply more of same and any variation from that is - or was - beyond my interest or comprehension.


    While moving on may seem impossible at times, sometimes it is a necessary fight to keep moving forward.

    In the same way that old age, for those fortunate enough to achieve it, is simply a late chapter in the affairs of us all, progression onward through death is equally inevitable. At the time of its occurrence, however, it is not necessarily one that is comprehensible. Despite the pain of my loss, it remains a tragedy that awaits most of us and if there is a way to reduce the suffering of the survivor - or at least to limit its longevity - then that should be examined and implemented.

    Yesterday, while seated in the lobby at the the University of Michigan’s Physical Therapy building, an elderly man of about 70 or 75 (a youngster by my current standards) hobbled in on his cane and was greeted by the receptionist with a, “Hi, Mr. So-and-so. And how are you today?” The response was an equally hearty, “Great! I’m walking and doing things - with pleasure and not much pain.” Speaking to him as he left the facility I congratulated him on his enthusiasm despite his physical problems and his response was, “Why not? I’m not going to let problems of inconvenience dictate to me what I will or will not do.” He had been crippled by some sort of painful leg and back problem about a year ago and has since been fighting back. After a year of therapy he has reduced his limitations, was now able to walk - slowly and unsteadily - for about two miles and was increasingly anxious to move on.

    And that should be an inspirational model for the rest of us. My wife’s death decimated me. I loved her and relied on her presence before she died and on those memories of her afterward. But that must not be the end of the story for the survivors. All those friends who had suffered similar such tragedies have been advising me to find new interests, to continue on. Whether I can or will is still to be determined, but what is already clear is that the fight itself must be undertaken.

    The richness of our relationship continues - looking back with pleasure and satisfaction on the friends we made, the children we have and the memories we created. Those decades of joys and love will never be repeated, but their absence should not be allowed to shape the future. And that is what that old man’s enthusiasm teaches all of us - work to embrace moments of the future rather than to rely on comparisons with the past.

    At least, that is the theory. I’m not yet sure I can buy it.

    Robert Faber has been a resident of Ann Arbor since 1954. He previously owned a fabric store and later a travel agency. He served a couple of terms on the Ann Arbor City Council. His wife of more than 60 years, Eunice, died March 20. He may be reached at rgfaber@comcast.net.

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


    Esperanza Spalding performs at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival last year.

    Jazz virtuoso Esperanza Spalding brought a big band and a big sound to the Michigan Theater on Saturday. Between her superhuman vocal control and impressive bass playing—both electric and upright—Spalding's performance was mesmerizing.

    Her 11-piece band, the Radio Music Society, was just as responsible for captivating Ann Arbor's crowd. The layers of sound created by the large horn section, drums, keyboard, guitar, and Spalding on bass diverged, converged, and went on wonderful tangents. At times it made your brain tingle. In all, the songstress and her band put on an energetic, technically sophisticated show.

    The Grammy-winning composer, vocalist, and bassist has a talent for music that parallels jazz masters much older than the 28-year-old. Already studying music at the college level by her mid-teens (she left high school with a GED when she was only 15), by age 20 she was the youngest faculty member at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

    Her years of practice are paying off. At the Michigan Theater show—sponsored by the University Musical Society—complex jazz instrumentals paired with her ability to control her voice over a large range impressed the crowd, who gave her a standing ovation. Complex music flowed out of her so naturally, itt seemed effortless.

    Lately her eclectic jazz, which also teases in some R & B, soul, and funk elements, has captivated the world. She is frequently heralded as bringing jazz to the mainstream, especially after winning the 2011 Grammy for Best New Artist after her 3rd release, "Chamber Music Society."

    With the Radio Music Society, Spalding is on tour to promote her 2012 album by that name. "Radio Music Society" won her more Grammy gold this February. She took home Best Jazz Album, and her song "City of Roses" took home Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) with her mentor Thara Memory.

    "Chamber Music Society" and "Radio Music Society" are work together. Her explanation on her website describes her musical personality well: "Originally I conceived the two albums as a double record, with intimate, subtle explorations of chamber works on one and jazz musicians exploring melodies, grooves and songs associated with what we categorize as 'pop songs.' Those are the two ways of looking at music that really interest me."

    Although influences other than jazz shine through in her performance, Saturday's show was above all a great contemporary jazz concert. It is refreshing that she has gained mainstream appeal without going too 'pop.' She is accessible without having to sacrifice compositional complexity and experimentation.

    Fans of "Radio Music Society" heard some hits from the album. In her live performance of hits such as "Crowned & Kissed" and "Radio Song," Spalding and her band really took the opportunity to play around with them, adding new layers to the recorded versions.

    A powerful moment was her duet with vocalist Chris Turner, which included her popular song "Black Gold." Their despair over the murder of teenager Trayvon Martin was expressed in a touching way. It was a great example of how much emotion comes through Spalding and her band as they perform.

    An encore featuring only Spalding and drummer Lyndon Rochelle was a unique moment in the show. Stripped of the rest of the band, her upright bass talents - fingers flying - really shone.

    "The whole performance was nothing short of remarkable," audience member Lynn L said after the concert. "I'm a huge jazz fan. For her to be so young and so talented, she can rival any of the jazz masters."

    Charlie Sharp and Vicki Graham of Lansing saw Spalding perform at the Michigan Theater once before. She played as a member of Joe Lovano's UsFive Quintet at another UMS show in 2008. "When we saw her play the first time, I was blown away by her skill then. So we knew we had to come see Esperanza," Sharp said after the Michigan Theater show.

    Of this time around, Graham says Spalding "blew me away." "It was over the top. When the band started playing, my ears just went back!" she laughed.

    "Technically it was superb, but beyond that she rocks! She had this great emotional sense. It was all of the above - a wonderful performance on all levels, I thought," Sharp concluded.

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    Workers load a pallet full of old TVs during the electronic waste recycling event in 2011 hosted by the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor Public Schools at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor. This year, the event will be April 27 for the public and April 25-26 for businesses.

    Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Has your home become a graveyard for old TVs, broken cellphones and outdated iPhone cords?

    Does your workplace have a room full of computer monitors you haven't used in the past 10 years?

    The University of Michigan and Ann Arbor Public Schools have announced the dates of their annual electronic waste recycling events for the public and for businesses.

    There is no cost to participate and no limit to the amount of electronic equipment people can bring to recycle. Workers at the events will unload the equipment from people's cars.

    The recycling event open to the general public will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 27 at Pioneer High School at 601 W. Stadium Blvd. in Ann Arbor.

    For businesses, schools, government offices and nonprofit organizations, the event will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 25 and 26 in the parking lot for U-M Tennis and Gymnastics at 2250 S. State St. in Ann Arbor.

    Businesses and other organizations planning to drop off large volumes of old electronics are encouraged to pre-register for the event online.

    Accepted materials include: CRT monitors, LCD displays, laptops, servers, wires, cables, keyboards, mice, speakers, hard drives, TVs, DVD players, VCRs, stereo systems, camcorders, cameras, radios, video game systems, cellphones, pagers, telephones, fax machines, copiers, typewriters, microwaves, printers and scanners.

    Materials that will not be accepted include smoke detectors, household appliances, hairdryers, light bulbs and CRT screens that are broken or cracked.

    All materials collected at the events will be dissembled into raw materials at facilities in the U.S. for re-use. Storage devices like hard drives will be mechanically shredded.

    In its sixth year, this recycling event hosted by U-M and AAPS has filled a total of 89 semi trucks and prevented 1,168 tons of electronic waste from entering landfills.

    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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    The Natural Area Preservation Unit of the City of Ann Arbor conducts a prescribed controlled burn in the fall of 2011 at Barton Nature Area in Ann Arbor.

    Joseph Tobianski I AnnArbor.com file photo

    Controlled burn season is underway in Washtenaw County, and the next scheduled event will be April 8-10 at Rolling Hills County Park in Ypsilanti Township.

    The burn will be conducted from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. all three days at the park at 7660 Stony Creek Road, according to an announcement Friday from the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office.

    About 28 acres of prairie and 3.95 acres of woodlands will be burned during the three-day event.

    Smoke typically is visible from the fires.

    The City of Ann Arbor's Natural Area Preservation department has started its month-long controlled burn season this April.


    The Natural Area Preservation Unit of the City of Ann Arbor conducts a prescribed controlled burn in 2011 at Barton Nature Area in Ann Arbor

    Joseph Tobianski I AnnArbor.com file photo

    The unit doesn't announce where it will be conducting its controlled burns until the day of the event.

    "It's a day-of decision because it's very weather dependent," said Renee Hytinen, outreach, communications and special events coordinator for NAP. "We have to look at the minute-to-minute weather report."

    Interested individuals can sign up to receive email notifications from NAP in the morning of the controlled burn online, or request a phone call notification. Call NAP with questions at (734) 794-6627.

    NAP has a list of its parks that are under consideration for controlled burns this month: Argo, Bandemer, Barton, Belize, Bird Hills, Bluffs, Briarcliff Raingarden, Buhr Park Children's Wet Meadow, Burns Park, Cedar Bend, Fuller, Greenview, Hunt Park, Huron Hills Golf Course Woods, Kuebler Langford, Leslie Park Golf Course, Leslie Science & Nature Center Prairie, Mary Beth Doyle, Miller, Oakwoods, Olson, Onder, Ruthven, South Pond South, Veterans Memorial Park, Wheeler Service Center and Wurster.

    Hytinen said you can see smoke from the burns, but the goal is to keep the smoke as localized as possible and to keep the quantity of the smoke as low as possible.

    The amount of smoke varies depending on whether an open prairie or wooded area is being burned.

    "You'd see more (smoke) in an open area," Hytinen said.

    At each burn, there's a person who monitors smoke at the site and watches wind and weather conditions. Should the smoke begin to affect a neighborhood or visibility on a road, the burn can be shut down, Hytinen said.

    Flames at controlled burns typically are not high, Hytinen said. When the fire hits a brush pile or clump of grass, flames can reach eight to 10 inches high, Hytinen said.

    Controlled burns typically are conducted in the spring and fall because plant growth is not as active.

    View Larger Map

    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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    Jerseys to be worn at the NHL Winter Classic hockey game are shown on display in Detroit, Sunday April 7, 2013. The Winter Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium, canceled this season due to the NHL lockout, has been rescheduled for Jan. 1, 2014, next season.

    Associated Press

    DETROIT -- All fall, the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor waited on the NHL and its lockout, to find out if the scheduled 2013 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium would go on as scheduled.

    When the highly anticipated event was eventually cancelled, plenty in Ann Arbor weren't too happy.

    But now, as the NHL restarts the planning process on what could be the biggest hockey event ever staged, commissioner Gary Bettman said cooperation with the Michigan athletic department has been critical.

    “They couldn’t have been better with us and more cooperative,” Bettman said. “And as I said, we’re grateful for how well they work with us, but it’s an indication of how well they function as an institution. We’re just thrilled to be working with them.”

    At a Sunday morning press conference at Joe Louis Arena, the NHL officially announced what had been an open secret: that the two sides have rescheduled the event for Jan. 1, 2014 between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.

    The announcement comes two weeks after Michigan's board of regents reaffirmed the facility rental contract between the two sides.

    The game will start at 1 p.m. on New Year's Day, Bettman said.

    The league also announced that the Great Lakes Invitational will be held outdoors at Comerica Park in late December, as part of the Hockeytown Winter Festival at Comerica Park. Michigan has played in every GLI since 1974. An outdoor GLI was part of the plans for the 2013 Winter Classic.


    The NHL plans to break the Michigan Stadium attendance record of 114,804 at next year's Winter Classic.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    Wolverines coach Red Berenson represented the University of Michigan at the announcement, with most of the athletic department in Atlanta for the Final Four.

    He compared the event to when Michigan and Michigan State played in The Big Chill, but said with two of hockey's fan bases converging, the crowd could be even bigger. The official attendance of The Big Chill, verified as a Guinness World Record, was 104,173. The NHL's plan all along has been to break that record and the Michigan Stadium attendance record of 114,804.

    “I’ve said this for years, if we could ever get a hockey game at the Big House it would be magical,” Berenson said. “And we had that experience playing Michigan State in 2010 and it was truly magical. And with 110,000 or more people, and I would expect you’ll break that record. I think people will come from far and wide. This will be the experience of a lifetime.”

    Despite the cancellation and the year off from what’s become a successful annual event for the league, NHL officials said they expect no dropoff in excitement for the 2014 Winter Classic.

    “We said the next Winter Classic would be between these two teams in the Big House, and that’s exactly what’s happening,” Bettman said. “This is a huge event, no matter when it would be played and under any circumstances we had nothing but great anticipation for it”

    Bettman said the original scheduling of the event at Michigan Stadium wasn't done with the possibility of a lockout in mind as the unique venue does provide a kind of insurance policy for fan excitement.

    “We have always conducted business as usual, and that as always going to be our assumption," Bettman said. "We don’t need to go back and dwell on things, but a lockout or work stoppage was the last thing we wanted, so we were planning up until the last minute to have a normal season.”

    Tom Wilson, the president and CEO of Olympic Entertainment, said the city of Pittsburgh saw an economic impact of around $30 million from having 80,000 people at the Winter Classic game.

    The league expects an additional 30,000 fans at The Big House -- but the total economic impact will also be divided between Ann Arbor and Detroit, which will host the multiple alumni games as well as the GLI and junior games. Ann Arbor officials have estimated the economic impact at $15 million.

    And on Sunday, the NHL was looking at the positive of the year delay: with more planning, the game can be done even better.

    “The fact is, the more time we have, the more things we can do better,” Bettman said.

    Kyle Austin covers sports for AnnArbor.com.

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    After 26 hours, close to 1,000 University of Michigan students were still on their feet Sunday afternoon. They were participating in the 16th annual Dance Marathon in a quest to raise funds for children's therapy programs at both C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and Beaumont Hospitals.

    The marathon got underway at 10 a.m. Saturday at U-M's Indoor Track Building. Participants were rejuvenated about 14 hours into the marathon when the U-M basketball team defeated Syracuse in the Final Four to advance to the championship game Monday. (Here's a video link showing dancers reacting to the game's tense final moments.)

    "It was crazy here and very stressful till they won," said sophormore Erik Peulicke, a dance marathon participant. "Hail to the Victors played and it was awesome!"

    "The win brought the energy level up and people were dancing more, until at least 2 a.m.," said sophomore Ashley Howard, who said that she learned quickly that standing still doesn't work when you need to stay on your feet for 30 hours.

    "I've been stretching constantly and hydrating," said Peulicke. "It's brutal but bearable."

    "This is not a regular dance marathon where people dance in couples," explained Izzie Osiniecka, a community outreach coordinator for the Dance Marathon. "There is actually not dancing going on most of the time. Everyone just has to be on their feet for the entire 30 hours."

    Music was playing, and dancers had the chance to learn line dancing, but they're spending a lot of their time on other activities and socializing.

    Students passed beach balls, tossed volley balls and shot basketballs. They also line up to offer assembly line-style quick massages.

    "Roll, roll, roll," shouted sophomore and volunteer masseuse Will O'Donnell to the line of students approaching on the mats. "We just keep going. It's for kids with disabilities so it feels good."

    "It's great getting to meet the families who come to the marathon who will be helped by the money we raise," said Stacy Szymczak, a sophomore.

    During the last four hours of the marathon, from noon-4 p.m. Sunday, participants were to debut "Stand With Us."

    "Stand WIth Us is an initiative we are putting on this year to encourage the community to come and stand with us in the final four hours of our marathon," said Hanna Cottrell, a community outreach co-chair of the U-M Dance Marathon.

    "Our goal is to fill the building to capacity to inspire and motivate our dancers through the end," said Jaclyn Harwood, also a community outreach co-chair.

    Parent Shenal Smith came from Novi to show support for her daughter, Eryn.

    "It's so cool to see kids doing something that's not about themselves," said Smith.

    Osiniecka says she didn't yet know how much money will be raised this year but says that more than $500,000 was raised at last year's U-M Dance Marathon. It's the largest student-run nonprofit in Michigan.

    Junior Sudeepti Rachakonda was participating in her third Dance Marathon, and looking forward to the finish.

    "You get the best sleep ever after you do this!" she said.

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    Can Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke and the rest of the Wolverines win one more?

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    The University of Michigan Wolverines just keep proving their doubters wrong.

    After Saturday's win over Syracuse in Atlanta, the team is on a roll as it heads into the championship game on Monday.

    What do you think? Can the Wolverines take that final step?

    Vote in the poll and / or comment below:

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    Two brothers from Ypsilanti will serve jail time after pleading no contest to stealing a snow blower from the home of a Garden City judge, the Observer & Eccentric reports.

    Austin and Justin Burton, ages 21 and 19, were sentenced to the maximum 93 days and 60 days, respectively, by District Court Judge Mark McConnell in Westland. Each was given credit for 21 days already served.

    District Judge Richard Hammer Jr., the victim, recused himself from the case due to a conflict of interest.

    Despite listing Ypsilanti as their home, the brothers reportedly had been sleeping in their vehicle because they couldn't find a place to stay when the theft occurred.

    Austin Burton told the judge he had two outstanding felony warrants in Ypsilanti.

    For more, read the O&E story.

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    Firefighters said they put out four separate couch fires in Ann Arbor following the University of Michigan's 61-56 defeat of Syracuse Saturday in a Final Four match at the NCAA tournament.


    University of Michigan fans rally on the Diag after U-M defeated Syracuse Saturday night in the Final Four of the NCAA basketball tournament. Firefighters said four couches were set on fire after the game.

    The Ann Arbor Fire Department largely declined to comment but confirmed a report in the Detroit Free Press about the fires, which happened around campus. Most occurred around midnight, and all couches were ignited in the street.

    Fire Chief Chuck Hubbard said he had not seen the incident reports and could not comment.

    The blazes caused no other damage or injuries, officials said.

    U-M Police made no arrests Saturday night or Sunday morning despite the estimated 1,200 to 1,500 students and revelers who gathered on the Diag to celebrate Michigan's win, spokeswoman Diane Brown said. She planned to have beefed-up staffing Monday, when the Wolverines play Louisville in the National Championship game.

    Ann Arbor police said they had no incidents to report.

    U-M will host a viewing party for the National Championship game Monday at 7:30 at Crisler Center.

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    Jan Onder had lived in Ann Arbor for years but had been unable to attend the FestiFools parade until Sunday.

    "It's everything I imagined it would be," Onder said. "I just love it."

    The seventh annual FestiFools parade flooded a stretch of Main Street with street performers and huge papier-mache puppets. Hundreds of people lined either side of the street, watching in awe as the procession circled over on itself in a jumbled chaos of sights and sounds.

    "It's the best example of sensory overload I've seen in some time," said Madeleine Baier, a woman from Ypsilanti who was also attending for the first time. "Next time, I'm gonna bring my camera!"

    The event is produced by WonderFool Productions with help from community volunteers and students of the University of Michigan.

    The street performers included stilt-walkers, a ragged Dixieland jazz band and a drum line comprised mostly of empty five-gallon buckets.

    The procession of performers and puppets was quite unconventional. There was no strict order to any of it. Things flowed and evolved unrestrained. A papier-mache dragon darted through the street, zigzagging around other puppets and performers, pretending to breathe fire at all passersby — which alarmed some of the dogs along the street.

    The theme for this year's parade was "TimeFoolery" and each puppet's artistic statement was supposed to be loosely related to it. Some puppets had a clear connection, like the multiple-piece puppet based on Salvador Dali or the dark-humored caricature of Marie Antoinette carrying her own head. Others were more loosely related, but still visually stunning, like the anglerfish that had an enormous functioning jaw and CDs for scales.

    "I thought it was very impressive," said Essie Shachar-Hill, a sophomore at U-M. "I enjoyed the puppets. It looks like a lot of hard work was put into them."

    Some of the puppets had socially conscious themes, like one that featured a black man imprisoned behind bars, with his arms desperately reaching through them. The people carrying the piece wore duct tape over their mouths.

    Carisa Bedsoe, a junior at U-M, said her group spent two weeks building their environmentally conscious papier-mache puppet called "Mother Earth."

    "We love the Earth and we think people should appreciate it more—including ourselves," she said.

    Along the side of the procession, Mayor John Hieftje led a man wearing a large papier-mache caricature of his head, introducing him to children, saying, "This is the mayor of Ann Arbor!"

    "We don't stop playing once we get old, we get old once we stop playing," Baier said.

    At the end of the parade, the puppets filed back to the alley where the parade began, but one puppet stayed behind — an enormous pinata that took two people to carry.

    Nearby children became excited, wondering aloud whether there was candy inside the pinata. The people carrying it played coy until a man carrying a toy butcher's cleaver ran up and pretended to cut open the pinata's stomach. Out tumbled papier-mache pinata organs and long thin pink balloons tied together to look like intestines.

    The man who had opened the pinata's stomach grabbed the pinata's heart and asked the children, "Do you wanna pretend to eat the bloody beating heard of a pinata?"

    They declined.

    "This is what Ann Arbor needs—events to make people come to town and think it's a really fun and happening place," Onder said.

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    Kody Klein is an intern for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at kklein@mlive.com

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    "Choir of Birches; St. Gaudens Home, Cornish, New Hampshire" by Nina Hauser

    Nina Hauser’s exhibit “With My iPhone and Eye” marvelously illustrates the principle that the human element remains paramount in art, irrespective of technology.

    There’s an imaginative richness to the 22 black-and-white and color photographs in this local photographer’s WSG Gallery display, along with technique and skill.

    “I love my iPhone camera,” says Hauser of her art form. “It’s so simple… no dials, no lenses, no distractions. It allows me to stop the action in the business of my life. It’s not just getting the shot in focus, but choosing what to focus on.

    “My iPhone is a little portable darkroom, and with the multitude of apps I have found in iTunes, I can get creative with filters and post-processing because I can do it quickly, and all on one device.”

    Simply said, but certainly not simply done. For what Hauser is doing is actually a modified throwback to one of the earliest forms of photography, the pinhole photographic process, gussied up 21st century style.

    Pinhole photography is an art whose roots go all the way back to antiquity, but whose heyday is more closely recognized as flourishing at mid-19th century. Using a light-proof container with a lens opening, light passes from this single point and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the container. The resulting images can be sharp or ghostly.

    Hauser achieves roughly this same effect with her use of iPhone apps.

    “Some (aaps) are useless,” she says, “most are fun, and a large number are wonderful. With a wide range of apps installed on my iPhone, I can create moody color images, atmospheric landscapes, painterly portraits, vintage looking architecture, images in black and white—whatever my mind can conceive or find by chance.”

    The result is a series of photographs whose moody textures heighten the already dramatic visage of her compositions. And like much earlier pinhole photographs, the larger part of Hauser’s effort is a mixture of initial inspiration and hard follow-up.

    As she recently told WSG’s Valerie Mann in an interview in conjunction with her WSG exhibit, Hauser’s use of her iPhone has accelerated the use of her equipment.

    “When I take pictures with my iPhone,” Hauser told Mann, “I do it using various apps and it is great fun, challenging, creative. I can play with filters, light, colors, format; so I can see what I’m creating right at the moment of conception and I can keep redoing them and saving them until one strikes the right chord.”

    Accomplished photographer that she is, each of Hauser’s images reflect a keen eye nuanced to the formal structure of art photography. And Hauser fine-tunes her art to her emotional state.

    A first among equals, her “Choir of Birches; St. Gaudens Home, Cornish, New Hampshire” is a fitting example of Hauser’s current art. This accomplished landscape photo finds Hauser melding her innate sensibility to her expertise. And what might have been overwrought in another medium is instead inspired as a series of technological and aesthetic choices.

    “Choir of Birches” focuses on two-near parallel stands of birch trees flanking each other on a dirt country road. A serene photograph, the work is supplemented by chromatic accents whose palette subtly heightens the appearance of the trees and surrounding vegetation with a slightly sharper than average complementary contrast between lights and darks.

    The work is an imaginative countryside whose swaying trees indeed seem to have an unusually inspired spiritedness. “Choir of Birches” is also a superior example of what human and machine can accomplish in harmony.

    For each image in this superlative display reflects this contemporary technical blending. But real wonder is ultimately simple — what the eye sees always comes first.

    “Nina Hauser: With My iPhone and Eye” will continue through May 4 at WSG Gallery, 306 S. Main St. Gallery hours are noon-6 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday; noon-9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. For information, call 734-761-2287.

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    The new book by National Book Award-winning author Andrew Solomon, "Far From the Tree," landed a pretty glowing critique on the front page of The New York Times Book Review recently - and now he's coming to the Michigan League Ballroom, at 530 S. State St. in Ann Arbor, on Friday, April 12, for a fundraiser book signing and discussion.

    The signing is scheduled when doors open at 4 p.m., and the author's talk begins at 5 p.m. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the U-M Depression Center, which is hosting the event. (Solomon's National Book Award winning book was 2001's "The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression.")

    A press release includes more detailed information:

    "Far from the Tree" weaves together a richly detailed narrative about families with children affected by a range of cognitive, physical, or psychological characteristics that make them distinctly different from their parents. Solomon describes families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, and multiple severe disabilities. He also writes about parents whose children are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, and who are transgender.

    Solomon serves as a member of the U-M Depression Center’s National Advisory Board and is also a Lecturer in Psychiatry at Weill-Cornell Medical College. In 2008, he was awarded the Humanitarian Award of the Society of Biological Psychiatry for his contributions to the field of mental health.

    "Far from the Tree" won the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for general nonfiction, and The New York Times Book Review selected it as one of its “10 Best Books of 2012.” The book has garnered widespread critical acclaim since its release in November, making the lists of best nonfiction books of 2012 from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, The Economist, and many others.

    Books and discounted tickets can be purchased online ahead of the event at www.depressioncenter.org/solomon. Tickets purchased at the event on April 12 will be $10 for students and $20 for adults, and books will be available for $40, space and quantities permitting. Sign language interpreters will be available at the event.

    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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    One of Shape Ypsilanti's ideas: Extend River Street into Water Works Park to connect an isolated corner with the rest of the city.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    What do Ypsilanti's residents, business owners and stakeholders like about their city?

    According to feedback provided to a team of planners helping rewrite the city’s master plan, the historic character, historic buildings, affordable housing, strong sense of community, small business base and park system are among its assets.

    But residents and stakeholders also were asked what they didn’t like about Ypsilanti.

    Downtown strip club Déjà Vu made the list of concerns, as did safety, cleanliness of some areas, vacant buildings and the lack of development on Water Street.

    And what are some specific additions residents want to see? Among the ideas floated were a dog park, an increased variety of stores, a grocery store, more urban farming and increased pedestrian and bicycle access.

    For a week in March, participants in the Shape Ypsilanti discover charette gave their input on what they like and dislike about Ypsilanti as a first step in the master plan rewrite. But the discover charette also yielded bigger ideas, like citywide changes that can be worked into the master plan, changes that are needed in different districts and ideas on where and how to further develop a largely built-out city.

    The next phase of the master plan rewrite - the design charette - will include an intensive series of meetings and discussions from April 15 to April 18 in which planners will present ideas and plans for making large-scale improvements in Ypsilanti.

    After that, planners will begin working on the first draft of of the city's master plan.

    One consideration is future growth in the Depot Town area. Ypsilanti planning officials are confident that, some day, a commuter train will stop as much as 12 times daily in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town.

    That would mean an increased interest in the Thompson Block, Ypsilanti’ vacant Boys and Girls Club and housing in the adjacent neighborhoods, City Planner Teresa Gillotti said.

    “If we get that level of service, we’re expecting development pressure, which has been the case across county,” she said, adding that the city needs to be deliberate about where there’s development to avoid “chasing its tail” when the trains start rolling.

    Gillotti said that could help spur development down River Street to the Water Street site. One of the ideas Shape Ypsilanti is playing with is extending River Street through the Water Street site, over the Huron River and into Water Works Park.

    The idea was one Ypsilanti planners first floated in the 1980s.

    “It’s a way to connect to Water Works Park because it is separated from the rest of the community, and it would provide another north-south connection through the heart of the city,” Gillotti said.

    Shape Ypsilanti also is proposing making extending Lincoln Street to the south onto Water Street and extending Parsons and Park streets to the west to form a grid on Water Street.

    That would provide developers considering Water Street with an idea of the property’s form and make it more attractive by providing a degree of certainty. Right now, the city has draw up new infrastructure arrangements for any developer who shows interest in the site.

    “Developers will know what the grid will be, they will know what to expect, they will know over here will be utilities, over there will be street access,; we would be providing more certainty to developers,” Gillotti said.

    On the north side of town, the LeForge housing district and patchwork of homes, commercial businesses and light industrial businesses on Railroad Street are disconnected from the rest of the city by the railroad tracks and Huron River.

    Shape Ypsilanti is also presenting ideas on how to bring those districts back from orbit and connect them to the rest of the town. One idea Shape Ypsilanti will present is the creation of a commercial corridor on Lowell Street that will serve Railroad Street and LeForge

    “There are not many services or amenities for residents in that area, and there are a decent number of people who take the car, take the bus, ride their bikes, and it seems like there's potential on that corridor,” Gillotti said. “There’s not a ton of room but there’s is a little bit we haven’t thought about how to best use. Those are the kind of conversations we want to have.”

    Three different light industrial buildings at the intersection of Lowell and Huron River Drive have signs advertising space for sale or lease. The prospect of eliminating one-way streets is being examined in an effort to make Ypsilanti more navigable and connect the university, West Cross business district, downtown and Depot Town.

    Gillotti said one-way roads are intended to get a high capacity of people through community as quickly and efficiently as possible.

    “But you don’t always want that,” she added. “In revisiting this, we’re asking ‘Is it the best thing for downtown? Is it best for pedestrians?’

    “And maybe people need more than one way to get to a destination, EMU, a restaurant, or someone’s house.”

    The biggest challenge, Gillotti said, would be dealing with the area where Cross Street and Washtenaw Avenue intersect, and Huron Street and Hamilton Streets intersection at the Interstate 94 interchange would also require some creativity.

    The ideas will be sketched out and presented to residents during the design charette. It starts Monday, April 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Eagle’s Nest in the Convocation Center. That will include a recap of the discover charette and discussions about housing in Ypsilanti.

    The Shape Ypsilanti office at 206 W. Michigan Ave will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., during which time residents can stop in to see and discuss ideas with planners. During that time, Ypsilanti officials are meeting with the Michigan Department of Transportation to discuss the feasibility of eliminating one way streets.

    On Wednesday, there will be a special joint meeting between the Ypsilanti City Council and the Ypsilanti Planning Commission. And on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Spark East there will be a closing session at which the week will be recapped.

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

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    Overgrowth at Liberty Square pictured in April 2013.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    The five-year legal saga over the fate of Ypsilanti Township’s Liberty Square reached its likely conclusion on March 25 when the Michigan State Court of Appeals upheld a Washtenaw County Circuit Court order to demolish the complex.

    Officials are hopeful that the decaying 17-building, 151-unit townhouse complex will largely be cleared by the end of May.

    The township’s efforts to get the now-abandoned 23-acre property brought up to code or, when complex leadership failed to do that, demolished, began in early 2008 when notices of violation for upkeep issues were posted on 68 units.

    Attorney Don Darnell represented a small group of property homeowners who appealed Washtenaw County Judge Donald Shelton’s August 2011 ruling that the property was a public nuisance and had to be vacated.

    A three-judge panel at the Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the lower court’s decision on the case.

    Ypsilanti Township Attorney Dennis McLain called it a “complete and total victory”.

    “We felt the township had a very strong case in the beginning,” McLain said. “Staff performed a yeoman’s effort in collecting evidence and providing documentation that the legal counsel needed to organize and present to the court.”

    Mike Radzik, director of the township's office of community standards, said the sheer size of the property, volume of code violations and complexity of the legal case made it the largest nuisance abatement project the township has faced.

    "We had to file suit against 46 different defendants. Just finding them and properly serving them all was a challenge," he said. "In the end we accomplished all of this not just adequately, but superbly, and the results speak for themselves."

    Central to Darnell’s appeal was the argument that the issues at Liberty Square were “mere building code violations that did amount to a public nuisance,” according the opinion written by the Court of Appeals judges.

    The opinion stated that the Circuit Court, through township testimony, independent expert testimony, photographic evidence and a visit by Shelton to the property, found enough issues for Liberty Square to be considered a public nuisance.


    Experts say the townhomes at Liberty Square are tied together and individual units cannot stand alone.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    Among the issues cited:

    • None of the units were weather tight.
    • The majority of roofs needed to be replaced.
    • Fascia throughout the complex had decayed.
    • There was extensive damage from vandalism.
    • More than 50 percent of the windows were broken.
    • Vermin, rodents, and birds had infiltrated many vacant units.
    • Improper crawl space construction with lack of ventilation had caused wood rot at the thresholds.
    • Foundations at the front and rear entrances of the units appeared to be water damaged and failing.
    • There was extensive water damage in the interior of many units.
    • Most units were stripped by previous owners and vandals.
    • Wood in the buildings was rotting and “like butter”, according to an independent architect.

    In the lower court's ruling, Shelton wrote that the complex was “dilapidated and crumbling”.

    The Court of Appeals agreed that the code violations constituted a public nuisance.

    “The testimonial and photographic evidence, expert testimony, and the court’s own view of the premises support the court’s finding of a public nuisance,” wrote the Court of Appeals judges in their opinion.

    Darnell also argued that there was insufficient evidence to support the Circuit Court’s findings because Building Inspector Ron Fulton didn’t inspect all his clients’ units.

    The Court of Appeals also rejected that argument, stating that Fulton had inspected a vast majority of the units at Liberty Square, and there was enough evidence from Shelton’s visit to the complex, photographic evidence and expert testimony to support the case.

    The appeal also contended that the general public was not affected by the conditions at Liberty Square, therefore the property couldn’t be considered a public nuisance. But the court noted that the properties were mostly rentals offered to the general public and those residing in the units were a part of the public.

    Darnell further argued that no evidence was presented that his clients’ homes contributed to the issues, therefore they shouldn’t be forced from their homes.

    “This is a matter of guilt by association,” Darnell previously stated.

    But the appellate court upheld the lower court’s view that the units were tied to together, supported by expert testimony that said “the way the buildings were constructed, it was impossible for a single pristine unit to stand alone.”

    Essentially, the owners were saying that their units were in good shape and they didn't mind if the rest of the complex was torn down around them.

    McLain said that would be physically impossible, and also financially impossible.

    “Frankly, I thought it was a very shortsighted arguments that they were trying to make with regard to leaving their units only,” he said.

    Prior to the notices of violations issued at the complex in 2008, Washtenaw County had commissioned an independent study that found that the complex was riddled with structural and crime issues, and demolition was the best remedy. Flagstar Bank had foreclosed on 58 units prior to that, and McLain said the county was receiving complaints about conditions there.

    In spring of 2010, the the Grove Park Homeowners Association, which was charged with the property’s upkeep and all homeowners were automatically a part of, was issued a notice of violation for all the units it owned.

    A lawyer for the homeowners association responded that the notice was vague. In response, the township mailed notices to all the property owners and condemned the units in June 2010.

    Around that time, the Washtenaw County Treasurer’s Office foreclosed on 63 units, bringing the total of foreclosed units up to 121.

    After the township gathered more evidence, an addendum to the previous notice of violation was posted on each resident’s door in August of 2010, and the township filed a suit in Circuit Court in December of 2010 asking the property to be declared a public nuisance.

    That trial stretched over seven months, and a decision was reached in August of 2011.

    Although the appeal process took months, there was no stay placed on the lower court's order to demolish Liberty Square, and the township had already begun looking for funding and prepping the site for demolition.

    The township recently learned it would be awarded a $653,000 grant through the state to fund the property's demolition. Once it receives those funds, the township Board of Trustees must approve the bid for the project, and officials are hopeful to have the project started by Memorial Day.

    Radzik said he is most pleased for the residents and businesses and the surrounding area.

    "More than anything, it's the principal of having the elementary school across the street with teachers and students looking at it all day; people in the nearby neighborhoods having to look at; and it’s having the business owners along Grove Road and Rawsonville Road looking at it. I can only imagine the impact it will have on their lives once this is gone. Having closure for those folks makes the project worth it."

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

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    A building at Woodcreek Apartments in Ypsilanti Township remains abandoned as the management and insurance company settle a dispute over the insurance settlement.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    An eight-unit, burned-out apartment building in the Woodcreek Apartments off East Forest Avenue continues sitting vacant after a Molotov cocktail attack damaged it in a July 10 arson.

    A building left vacant with no timetable for demolition or repair is rare in Ypsilanti Township, where officials are tenacious in their efforts to quickly address blight.

    But this time, the township is caught in the middle of a settlement dispute between an insurance adjuster, Woodcreek management and the building's insurer.

    Also at stake is $120,000 in insurance money.

    The insurance adjuster, Craig Trombley of American Adjusters, was hired by Woodreek's owner, Ken Sharrock. Trombley is paid a percentage of the $120,000.

    The two accuse an Ypsilanti Township building official of putting residents at risk by not requiring the building to be updated to meet the newest fire codes when it’s repaired.

    Building Inspector Ron Fulton says the renovations he is ordering at the Woodcreek Apartments meet applicable state and local fire codes.

    At the heart of the dispute is which set of building codes must be met when a building is renovated after a fire and how much of the building is damaged.

    Fulton says he can’t demand the rehab meet modern codes, while the adjuster says the modern codes must be followed.

    Trombley's job as adjuster is to assess the damage and determine what sort of insurance settlement will cover the repairs — which in this case is more than what the insurance company offered to pay out.

    Trombley hired an architect to perform a code review of the property. Based on the findings of that review, Trombley claims Woodcreek deserves a higher insurance settlement than what the insurance company, Hastings Mutual, determined. The difference is Trombley's assertion that the fire suppression system needs updating.

    Fulton said Trombley is wrong in his determination that additional work is needed.

    “Unfortunately Mr. Trombley is not a code official and is not empowered to make those interpretations,” Fulton said.

    Trombley argued that current Michigan residential building code requires fire doors, fire suppressant walls, fire stops, smoke control, draft control, sprinklers and more. “They wanted no part of making this building a safer building, as is required by law,” Trombley said.

    But Fulton said Trombley is going by code for new buildings, and Michigan Building Rehabilitation Code regarding fire safety only requires the installation of hard-wired smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in this case. He said he cannot order the rehabilitation to meet new building standards. The insurance company agreed with Fulton’s assessment, not Trombley’s.

    That dispute led to arbitration between Hastings Mutual and Woodcreek. Based partly on Fulton’s assessment, the arbitrator ruled in Hasting Mutual’s favor. Trombley said he will appeal the decision to the township and State of Michigan Bureau of Building Codes, if needed.

    “I just cannot understand how Ron Fulton would want to ignore any logical reason to bring the building up to code and make it a more efficient and safe building,” Trombley said.

    The property's owner, Ken Sharrock, claims the building is more than 50 percent damaged, which means it must be brought up to modern codes. Of the building's eight units, four will be stripped down to the studs. Like Trombley, Sharrock is dismayed that Fulton isn't requiring the building be brought up to current codes.

    He said bringing the building up to a higher standard increases its value and tax revenue for the township.

    "I just want the safest building possible that I can have," he said.

    The day after the fire, Fulton and the fire marshal walked the grounds of the fire to assess the damage, as they do with every fire. They found that the building had no structural damage, Fulton said, but determined much of the interior must be stripped down to the studs during renovations to remove smoke- and water-damaged materials.

    Additionally, around six to eight trusses were damaged and have to be reconstructed to current code.

    But Fulton said it is clear in the Michigan rehabilitation code for existing buildings — a different set of codes from what Trombley is working from — that Woodcreek's damage is considered minimal. If more than 50 percent of the building is damaged, then the newest building codes would apply because the renovation would be considered major.

    Because there are no major renovations or structural issues per that code, Woodcreek’s management is only legally held to codes that were in place when the building was constructed around 1974, Fulton contends.

    Fire doors, sprinkler systems and other fire suppression systems were required only in later building codes, so there is no legal basis for ordering the insurance company to include installation of those safety measures in the settlement, he said.

    “What (Trombley) says the building needs is based on code for new construction,” Fulton said. “I’m not opposed to it. If code permitted me, I wouldn’t object to asking everyone in town to put in fire suppression systems, but I can only go as far as code permits me to go. And it’s very clear here; code does not require a fire suppression system within that building.”

    “I pride myself in knowing the code and there’s a fine line to walk between economically oppressive construction requirements and the minimum of the code. And the minimum of the code is designed to keep people as safe as possible," Fulton added.

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    The MichCon site along the Huron River in Ann Arbor as viewed from the Broadway bridges last May. It's now being eyed by developers for a potential redevelopment project.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    DTE Energy says it's gotten a strong response from developers interested in building a mixed-use project on the riverfront MichCon site it owns in Ann Arbor.

    "We've received several responses to our request for information regarding development of the site," said Randi Berris, a DTE spokeswoman.

    "It's an interesting mix of proposals. They all include some sort of mixed use, as well as green space," she said. "Restaurants and office space and retail are in some of them."

    A proposal from Ann Arbor developer Peter Allen is among those under consideration. Allen said he's reserving comment on the specifics of his team's proposal at this point, but he called it a "very ambitious plan" that is both environmentally sensitive and market sensitive.


    The MichCon site encompasses about 14.2 acres along the Huron River at 841 Broadway St., just south of the Argo Dam and Argo Cascades. The site is located in a mixed-use area and is zoned for light industrial use.

    Courtesy of city of Ann Arbor

    "We followed the specs of the RFI very carefully and went beyond," Allen said, acknowledging it includes everything DTE asked for — restaurant, retail, office and residential uses, along with open space.

    DTE recently completed an environmental cleanup on the site along the Huron River, and it has indicated a willingness to set aside a portion of the land for public open space.

    A city task force is starting to form a conceptual plan for a new riverside park there, possibly including a new canoe livery.

    DTE also has asked interested developers to submit ideas for developing part of the site, so it's possible a mix of uses could share the property — some public, some private.

    DTE isn't giving details at this point on the exact number of responses it received or specifics about what's being proposed. However, it has expressed interest in a development that could include restaurant, retail, residential, commercial office space and medical office uses.

    Its stated goal is to bring about a first-class, mixed-use development capitalizing on the unique features of the riverside property, and incorporating significant green space open to the public.

    If his vision comes to fruition, Allen said, it would connect the city and neighborhoods to the riverfront in a "glorious fashion." He said he doesn't see the additional environmental cleanup work that's still needed as any kind of financial or logistical hurdle, but rather an opportunity.

    "We want to create a wonderful riverfront front door that's as significant as the Diag is to campus," he said of the site, which is a stone's throw from properties he owns on North Main.

    "I've been in love with the property for 25 years, passionate about seeing something grand happen on it," Allen added.

    Berris said DTE still is reviewing the responses that came in from developers. She said she expects to have more information to share in the coming months.

    At this point, they're not formal proposals — only initial responses from developers regarding what they could do with the site if given the opportunity, Berris said.

    Ronald Mucha, a senior vice president and principal of Morningside Equities Group, which has offices in Ann Arbor, said his firm submitted a proposal, but it's too early to comment.

    Another firm rumored to have submitted a proposal to DTE is Farmington Hills-based Grand Sakwa Properties LLC, though company officials couldn't be reached for comment.


    A subcommittee of the city's citizen-led North Main-Huron River Corridor Vision Task Force came up with this working draft plan for a riverfront park on the MichCon site along the Huron River near the Broadway bridges. It's only a rough sketch of the amenities some would like to see — those could be rearranged or changed to fit with whatever private development might happen on the site.

    City of Ann Arbor

    John Drain, a commercial real estate analyst at the REDICO real estate firm in Southfield, said his firm submitted a proposal with Ann Arbor-based architecture firm Hobbs & Black.

    Drain didn't give specific details, but he said their proposal envisions the kind of mixed-use development DTE asked for in its request.

    "We hope DTE takes it into consideration and we can keep talking," he said. "We really tried to consider the context and do something the market will support, so we tried to be realistic and be considerate of the ecology of the site and the amenity value of it."

    Allen's team includes several local names, including landscape architecture firm Johnson Hill, engineering firm Nederveld Associates Inc., and ASTI Environmental.

    He also is partnering with Fred Kent of Project for Public Spaces, and restaurateurs Jon Carlson and Greg Lobdell.

    Carlson and Lobdell are the faces behind a half dozen restaurant and bar establishments in downtown Ann Arbor, including Blue Tractor, Cafe Habana, Lena, Jolly Pumpkin, Grizzly Peak and Mash. They also own a handful of restaurants in Royal Oak and Traverse City.

    Allen said Peter Pollack, an accomplished landscape architect from Ann Arbor who passed away in 2010, was instrumental in helping him understand the site's potential. Some have suggested naming a future riverfront park on the MichCon site in Pollack's honor.

    Drain, who went to the University of Michigan and lived in the Kerrytown neighborhood, said he's walked by the MichCon site many times and also sees its potential.

    "I like the Argo Pond and the trails down there," he said. "It's a really nice area. Whoever builds something at the site needs to be sensitive to the character of the place."

    The MichCon site encompasses about 14.2 acres along the Huron River at 841 Broadway St. The site is located in a mixed-use area and is zoned for light industrial use.

    The site includes a western parcel that is generally grassy and undeveloped, while a large portion of the eastern parcel is paved. The eastern parcel was used until 2009 as a service dispatching center for DTE Gas and was historically used as a manufactured gas plant.


    Peter Allen giving a presentation at a Downtown Development Authority meeting in 2011.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    The Huron River bounds the site to the north/northeast, an Amtrak train station is located south/southwest of the site, and Broadway Street is located to the east.

    Berris said DTE remains committed to having "significant green space" on the site, and all of the initial submittals did include "a good amount of green space."

    Whether that space is created through a private development effort or some other means is still being discussed. DTE has asked for creative financing strategies using public and private funding.

    The remediation work recently done along the river's edge didn't address contamination elsewhere on the property. For instance, there are cyanide-contaminated soils on the western portion of the property. That might require additional cleanup depending on the future use of that area.

    DTE officials have said the additional remediation work likely would be performed as part of the redevelopment phase during site preparation activities.

    Allen said DTE did a great job of tapping the private sector to spend time and money analyzing the site to understand the problems and opportunities associated with it.

    As for what happens next, "It's up to them. They own the land. They're in control."

    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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    Road and bridge projects in Washtenaw County that could be completed in two years should Gov. Rick Snyder's $1.6 billion increase to local road projects in Michigan pass the legislature. Bridges are marked with orange dots, culverts are marked with blue dots and roads are indicated in green.

    Courtesy of the Washtenaw County Road Commission

    Encouraged by Gov. Rick Snyder's commitment to find a way to increase road funding, the Washtenaw County Road Commission has drafted a list of road and bridge projects it could complete if given more money under the governor's plan.

    Should the Michigan legislature increase road funding by $1.6 billion, Washtenaw County would be able to reconstruct 67 miles of 20 roads, replace five bridges, fix 30 culverts and seal 100 miles of roads in a two-year span.

    Roy Townsend, managing director of the Road Commission, assembled the list of potential projects at the request of the County Road Association of Michigan.


    Roy Townsend

    AnnArbor.com file photo

    The organization is compiling plans from road commissions across the state to present to lawmakers.

    Monica Ware, communications director for the County Road Association of Michigan, said the plans would be shared with legislators individually.

    “Our goal is to be able to show legislators how this funding could be used in their communities,” Ware said.

    Less than half of Michigan’s Road Commissions have submitted plans with the projects they can complete with additional state funding, Ware said.

    The issue of finding ways to fund local road projects has also garnered the attention of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners recently, as several members have publicly expressed interest in a countywide road tax.

    A recent public opinion survey released by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments found that 51 percent of respondents its seven-county area incorrectly think that most road funding comes from local property taxes.

    About 63 percent of the respondents to the survey said spending on the road system in Southeast Michigan was not enough, and that roads are the biggest infrastructure concern for the area.

    Road repairs in Washtenaw County are funded by state and federal dollars. State funding comes from the gas tax and from vehicle registration fees.

    The Washtenaw County Road Commission receives about $16.5 million per year in state funding.

    Should the legislature choose to implement a $1.6 billion increase that’s been floated this year, Washtenaw County would see its annual state funding double, Townsend said.

    The 20 roads on Townsend’s list need to have their pavement torn-up, pulverized and re-paved, as they have the lowest rating on the scale used to evaluate road conditions.

    “These are the worst roads in the county,” Townsend said.

    Chairman of the Road Commission Doug Fuller said he thought it looked increasingly unlikely that state would pass an increase in road funding.

    Townsend's list of projects totals $32.5 million in work over two years.

    “That’s wishful thinking on the part of our director,” said Road Commissioner Fred Veigel.

    Though the Road Commission has all 20 of the roads listed on projects it would like to be able to complete, its budget has prevented the development of a plan to do so, Townsend said.

    Townsend’s list includes these 20 roads that he says need to be completely re-done:

    • 2 miles of Huron River Drive and Newport in Ann Arbor Township
    • 6 miles of Willis Road in Augusta Township
    • 2 miles of Austin Road in Bridgewater Township
    • 3 miles of Dexter Townhall Road in Dexter Township
    • 3.5 miles of Fletcher and Scio Church roads in Freedom Township
    • 5 miles of Scio Church Road in Lima Township
    • 2 miles of Textile Road in Lodi Township
    • 5 miles of Waterloo Road in Lyndon Township
    • 3 miles of Sharon Valley Road in Manchester Township
    • 2.5 miles of North Territorial Road in Northfield Township
    • 4.5 miles of Bemis, Platt and Oak Valley Drive in Pittsfield Township
    • 5 miles of North Territorial and Gotfredson roads in Salem Township
    • 3 miles of Austin and Macon roads in Saline Township
    • 4 miles of Scio Church, Parker and Zeeb roads in Scio Township
    • 3 miles of Pleasant Lake Road in Sharon Township
    • 2 miles of Superior and Prospect roads in Superior Township
    • 2.5 miles of Old U.S. 12 and Scio Church Road in Sylvan Township
    • 2 miles of North Territorial Road in Webster Township
    • 3 miles of Willis and Bemis roads in York Township
    • 4 miles of Huron River Drive, Stoney Creek Drive and Prospect in Ypsilanti Township

    The following bridges could be replaced with double the funding from the state, Townsend said:

    • McGregor over Portage Canal in Dexter Township
    • Liberty over Mill Creek in Lima Township
    • Austin over Bauer Drain in Saline Township
    • Sharon Valley over River Raisin in Sharon Township
    • Removal of the Tyler/Wiard overpass in Ypsilanti Township

    Ware said that should an increase in road funding pass the state Legislature, the final distribution to local counties may be different from what they’re anticipating.

    Should the distribution formulas for road funding remain the same, Ware said Washtenaw County would likely be able to complete the list of projects that it drafted.

    However, should the Legislature change the funding formulas to allocate more money to work by the Michigan Department of Transportation on state-owned roadways, then less money would be available for local road projects.

    A number of different plans are being discussed at the moment, but Ware said the County Road Association of Michigan would support only those that include constitutional protections for the funding.

    “(The County Road Association of Michigan) traditionally advocates for fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees because those two revenue streams are constitutionally protected. Whatever the option the legislature does select, it’s important that they be protected (constitutionally),” Ware said.

    Ware said the County Road Association of Michigan is asking people to contact their legislators directly on the issue of road funding. A sample letter to send to legislators in support of road funding is available online.

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

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    A child playing with matches accidentally lit a fire that caused thousands of dollars in damage to a mobile home in Saline Township Sunday evening.

    Saline Area Fire Department Fire Chief Craig Hoeft said firefighters were sent at 7:48 p.m. Sunday to the 200 block of Dundee for a report of a structure fire. A neighbor extinguished the fire before crews arrived, Hoeft said.

    A child was playing with matches outside the home and something caught on fire before spreading to the siding, Hoeft said. He said some of the siding was burned off and will have to be replaced.

    No one was injured in the fire.

    View Larger Map

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

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