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

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    President Barack Obama is seen on a huge video screen as he speaks during the Ohio State University spring commencement Sunday in Columbus, Ohio. President Obama is the third sitting president to give the commencement speech at Ohio State University.

    AP Photo

    Three years after he spoke at the University of Michigan's commencement, President Barack Obama addressed Ohio State University and played up the two schools' bitter rivalry.

    He said that while, yes, he did speak at U-M, "everybody can get some redemption."


    President Barack Obama gave the keynote address at the May 1, 2010, University of Michigan commencement at Michigan Stadium.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    During the Sunday graduation speech, Obama also took a note from OSU's football coach Urban Meyer, not daring to call U-M by name, instead referring it to "that certain university up north."

    Obama's remarks engendered laughter from the crowd. Here is his comment in full:

    "It is true that I did speak at that certain university up north a few years ago. But, to be fair, you did let President Ford speak here once — and he played football for Michigan! So everybody can get some redemption."

    When Obama visited Ann Arbor on May 1, 2010, he didn't mention OSU but he did play to students' school pride.

    "It is great to be here in the Big House, and may I say 'Go Blue!' I thought I'd go for the cheap applause line to start things off," he said to a crowd of more than 80,000 that day.

    He also returned to U-M in January 2012 to talk about college affordability. When he visited then, he referred to Michigan Football, saying it "will be a team to be reckoned with."

    Twitter CEO and U-M alumnus Dick Costolo gave U-M's commencement address Saturday at Michigan Stadium

    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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    We’re coming off two great Team of the Week polls, a combined 4,500 votes cast in the past two weeks.


    High school tennis team s will be competing in regional tournaments next week.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com file

    And with the postseason fast approaching, we’re hoping you can help us finish the season strong.

    Five new teams appear in this week’s AnnArbor.com/MLive.com Team of the Week poll: Huron baseball, Greenhills girls tennis, Milan baseball, Pioneer girls soccer and Saline girls lacrosse. The poll opens today and stays open through noon Friday.

    Three Michigan high school sports -- lacrosse, tennis and track and field -- will begin their postseason play next week. The rest of our spring sports won’t be far behind.

    We spent some time getting to know the Saline girls track team last week as it competed against Huron and in its Golden Triangle Invitational.

    This week we’ll be chronicling the Lincoln softball team as it takes on Skyline and Saline.

    Next week? Well that’s up to you.

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    With the technology that's now available, the DIY movement has gone beyond Pinterest board ideas into new realms. Unfortunately, that technology can be expensive or difficult to find. But not if you live in the Ann Arbor area. Check out the Maker Works Open House on Saturday and learn about what kind of amazing projects you could be working on.


    Just one of the projects you could make with the 3D printer.

    Lisa Carolin | For AnnArbor.com

    Maker Works has four areas in their shop focused on metal, electronics, wood and craft. They house a wide range of amazing tools and machines such as a MakerBot 3-D Printer, Epilog Laser Cutters, ShopBot CNC router, Tormach personal mill, a Plasma Cutter and more. They also have computer work stations with cutting edge software programs.

    The open house will include tours, tool demonstrations, a project showcase, raffles and refreshments. This is a family event, so feel free to bring the kids.

    If this seems all over your head and out of your skill range, go to the open house to learn about their various classes that aimed at a range of people from beginners to experienced.

    Saturday, May 11, 2013. 2-6 p.m. Free. Maker Works is located at 3765 Plaza Dr. Ann Arbor. 734-222-4911.

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    A woman was in critical condition and a man in good condition Monday after a motorcycle crash Sunday on westbound M-14 on the northwest side of Ann Arbor.

    The crash occurred just after 4 p.m. Sunday, when a 70-year-old Bronson man lost control of the 2008 Victory motorcycle he was driving west on M-14 near Wagner Road in Scio Township, Michigan State Police said in a press release.

    The man and his passenger, a 65-year-old Marshall resident, were both thrown from the motorcycle, police said, and landed in the roadway.

    Police said both riders were wearing helmets, and alcohol is not believed to have been a factor in the crash.

    A preliminary investigation indicates the crash occurred as the driver was changing lanes. The driver crossed the fog line, went over the warning rumble strips and onto the gravel shoulder of the freeway before losing control of the bike, police said.

    Huron Valley Ambulance paramedics took the injured to the University of Michigan Hospital. Scio Township firefighters also assisted at the crash scene.

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    A 22-year-old Ann Arbor woman was choked and pushed by two women when she was trying to leave a party early Sunday morning, police said Monday.

    Ann Arbor police Lt. Renee Bush said the woman was getting in her car in the 500 block of Elm Street to leave a party when she noticed several people standing behind her vehicle. The woman got out of her car and asked the people to move, Bush said.

    One of the women in the group approached the victim and began yelling at her. Bush said the woman grabbed the victim around the throat with both hands and choked her, causing her to fall to the ground.

    The victim attempted to stand up, and another woman pushed her back down to the ground.

    The Ann Arbor woman reported the incident to police at 3:28 a.m. Sunday. She suffered minor injuries.

    Anyone with information on this incident is encouraged to call the Ann Arbor police anonymous tip line at 734-794-6939 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK UP (773-2587).

    View Larger Map

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

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    Isiah Medrano, 6, holds a card up against Ann Arbor resident Michael Flynn's phonograph, as he tries to hear the sound of his voice Saturday afternoon at the Free City art festival at Chevy in the Hole.

    Chuck Miller | Mlive.com

    An MLive story out of Flint puts a spotlight on the contributions of Ann Arbor inventor/artist Michael Flynn to Flint’s Free City art festival, which happened this past weekend.

    He built a phonograph that, when patrons spun a plywood disk and held a business card against its carved edges, played a recording of Flynn saying the phrase “Love is all you need,” as well as an old electric bike motor that powers a radio and a fan, and a large plastic dome used for a dance party on Friday, May 3.

    “I like to find a way to allow people to cooperate,” Flynn told MLive. “An organic sense of extended community comes from cooperative play with strangers.”

    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 Ypsilanti woman who police said was abducted by a man Monday morning escaped and is safe, police said Monday afternoon.

    Thumbnail image for farrahcook.jpg

    Farrah Cook

    Ypsilanti police released a statement about 2:15 p.m. Monday announcing Farrah Cook had escaped from her abductors and is safe. Her ex-boyfriend Jeremy Abston is wanted for questioning in the case. He is still at large and being pursued by area law enforcement, police said.

    Sgt. Geoff Fox from the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department said Cook was located in an apartment complex off Golfside Road in Ypsilanti Township.

    "She was able to get away and she got help from another citizen that was there in the complex who took her to the main office at the apartment complex and they called the police," Fox said.

    Farrah Cook's father, Sam Cook said his daughter is now at a local hospital. Cook, speaking outside the Ypsilanti Police Department said his daughter has a sprained ankle and that was the only injury she suffered.

    "She talked briefly but she was so distraught, we just wanted her to give that information to the authorities," he said. "We will know more later as she feels free to talk to us more about it."

    The family was thrilled when they heard the news Farrah Cook had made her escape.

    "Man, my reaction was she was safe and it was just a burden lifted," Sam Cook said. "It was a burden lifted. There was just a lot of joy."

    When Cook was located, the sheriff's department was dispatched to the scene first because the apartment complex is in its jurisdiction, Fox said. Once deputies arrived and spoke with Cook, Ypsilanti police took over the investigation and began interviewing Cook.

    Fox didn't have any further details on the investigation.

    Police said Cook was forced into a black or dark blue Pontiac Bonneville about 5:45 a.m. Monday in the 500 block of South Hamilton Street. The incident was caught on security cameras and about 10 people witnessed the abduction, according to family members.

    Cook's father said an unidentified man grabbed her initially and pulled her toward the car. Her ex-boyfriend, who was in the car, then pulled her completely into the car. Cook said his daughter, who has been interviewed by the police, does not know the man and woman, who police have not identified yet.

    Dominique Graham, Cook’s brother, said a man believed to be Abston and an unidentified man watched Cook get ready for work through her apartment window. Cook exited the building and one of the men grabbed her as she unlocked her car, Graham said. The other man pulled on her and got her into the Bonneville before driving away.


    Jeremy Abston

    Courtesy of YPD

    Cook and Abston have twin 4-year-old girls and a 3-year-old boy together, according to Graham.

    Police were still searching Monday afternoon for Abston, the man and a woman believed to be an accomplice in the abduction. Investigators released Abston’s name and photo earlier Monday morning because they wanted to question him regarding Cook’s disappearance.

    Lt. Deric Gress, who released the statement about Cook’s escape, was not immediately available for comment Monday afternoon.

    Anyone who sees Abston or the other man and woman suspected in the incident is encouraged to call the Ypsilanti police at 734-483-9510 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK UP (773-2587).

    This story will be updated.

    Reporter Katrease Stafford contributed to this report.

    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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    Pizzas at Tony Sacco's are cooked in a 1,000-degree coal-burning oven.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    Tony Sacco’s franchisee Keith Gulian is preparing to open his coal oven pizza restaurant in Ann Arbor this week.

    The full-service restaurant is set to open at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the outlot building of the Cranbrook Village Shopping Center at 980 W. Eisenhower Pkwy. Whole Foods Market and REI anchor the center.


    Tony Sacco's is opening Tuesday in the outlot building of the Cranbrook Village Shopping Center.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    The Florida-based restaurant chain has more than a dozen locations in six states, including restaurants in Novi and Lansing. It serves coal oven-fired pizzas, sandwiches, wraps, salads and desserts, and Gulian said everything is prepared fresh daily. The pizza cooks in about five minutes in a 1,000-degree coal-burning oven.

    “It makes the crust very light and fluffy and keeps the original flavors there,” said Tony Sacco’s operations director John Keurajian. “We use real plum tomatoes in our sauce, and nothing is frozen and nothing is bagged.”

    Pizzas cost $9.95 for a small and $13.95 for a large. A personal pizza costs $5.95, and specialty pizzas range between $12 and $18.


    The restaurant's interior has a full bar and room for about 100 diners.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    A former Jimmy John’s franchisee, Gulian said he made the jump to Tony Sacco’s because it’s a high-quality product that he hopes fits the Ann Arbor demographic. He spent that past year renovating the 3,600-square-foot space next to Potbelly Sandwich Shop in the shopping center that also houses REI and Whole Foods.

    The restaurant has about 100 indoor seats, a full bar, five flat-screen TVs and an outdoor patio with about 20 seats.

    “It’s a higher-end pizzeria,” he said. “We want the Whole Foods demographic…we will serve seven local craft beers. We’re big on being a part of the (Ann Arbor) community.”

    Gulian hired 45 employees, but said he’s still accepting applications. (Apply online) The restaurant’s hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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

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    Milan High School's 2013 prom was held at the historic Old Mill in downtown Dundee on May 4, 2012. Senior Holly Farris took her camera along to capture these images from the night.

    About Holly: I enjoy taking pictures and have taken modeling classes a few years ago. I'm planning on studying nursing next year in college.

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    • Related: Ex-NFL player Lamanzer Williams is Ypsilanti schools 1st external hire

    The newly formed Ypsilanti Community School District is launching its athletic program by bringing back one of the area’s most prominent former players.


    Lamanzer Williams

    Lamanzer Williams, a 1993 Willow Run graduate who went on to become an All-American college football player and went on to play in the NFL, has accepted the position of athletic director and assistant principal at YCS, the district announced Monday.

    Williams has spent the last 13 years coaching football at multiple Michigan high schools and the last two as an athletic director, most recently at Holland High School in 2012.

    “It’s really a huge thing, I consider it a dream job,” Williams said. “It’s athletic director slash assistant principal, and just being able to be instrumental and being a major piece of bringing the district back to athletic dominance.”

    Williams was hired after the district reviewed several internal candidates, including both current athletic directors at Ypsilanti and Willow Run, Matt Seidl and Jon Zajac. YCS is being formed from a merger between the Ypsilanti and Willow Run school districts.

    “We had many fine candidates for the position but we felt that Mr. Williams possessed an edge with his education and experience, that spans from being a professional athlete to a high school dean,” Washtenaw Intermediate School District Superintendent Scott Menzel said in a statement. “He has many strong qualities that will make him a good fit for the type of athletic program we plan to build at Ypsilanti Community Schools.”

    One of Williams’ first task will be getting coaches hired for the fall sports, with official practices beginning in about three months. Willow Run athletic director Seidl said he and Ypsilanti High School athletic director Zajac chaired committees that interviewed internal coaching candidates last week and passed on recommendations to Menzel.

    None of those hires will be of more importance than for the football program, and Williams didn’t rule himself out as a possible candidate for that job.


    Lamanzer Williams coaches at a football camp at Willow Run in 2008.

    AnnArbor.com file

    “Right now, it’s sort of up in the air,” Williams said. “I know we wanted to give all of our internal candidates the respect and the opportunity to be considered initially. I guess myself and the administrative staff would have to go through the applicants and decide if there’s someone that’s a good fit.”

    But whether or not he’s coaching the program or not, Williams said he will take a strong interest in turning around a new combined football program formed from an Ypsilanti team that went 1-8 last year and a Willow Run team that went 2-7.

    “Football is also going to be a huge breadwinner because of the amount of people it can attract,” Williams said. “I know our program has been on a steady decline, and so now we’re looking to turn that around."

    One of the reasons for the decline of not only football but other Ypsilanti and Willow Run sports is the impending uncertainty regarding the merger, which was approved by voters in November.

    Williams said the uncertainty of sports in the new Ypsilanti Community Schools has led multiple key athletes to transfer to neighboring districts for athletic reasons.

    “It’s sort of been open season on our athletes,” Williams said. “All the surrounding communities have benefitted from that. What we have to do is advertise a brand and a systematic program where we can get our top athletes back, and not only get our top athletes back but attract the top athletes in the area.”

    After graduating from Willow Run, Williams went on to become an All-American defensive lineman at Minnesota in 1997, and was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1998. He spent four seasons in the NFL and later played in Europe.

    He returned to the area following his playing career, and began helping out with his old high school program.

    After eight years helping at Willow Run, Williams spent two seasons as the head coach at Kalamazoo Central in 2008 and 2009, going 8-10 overall. After one season as an assistant in Muskegon, he spent the 2011 season as the athletic director and football coach in Inkster and the 2012 season as the dean and football coach at Holland.

    While Williams’ last five years have included four different stops, he said this job is one he plans on staying in for a long time.

    “Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve come home to Ypsilanti every single weekend of every year,” Williams said. “It was just one of those things like ‘Wow, you will finally be here helping to fortify your community.’ I can relate to the kids, they have an idea of who I am, I’ve been around for years. I just felt like it was a perfect fit.”

    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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    Brian Marable stars as Martin Luther King, Jr. in "The Mountaintop" at Performance Network.

    Photo by Sean Carter

    Bringing an icon like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. down to earth is a complicated, challenging process; and Katori Hall’s play “The Mountaintop,” now on stage at Performance Network, labors to do just that.

    Set in Memphis’ Lorraine Motel, the night before King’s assassination, “The Mountaintop” begins while a thunderstorm rages. King (Brian Marable) - uneasy and anxious, thanks to death threats - craves coffee and cigarettes while struggling to write a speech. When sassy, foul-mouthed motel maid Camae (Carollette Phillips) arrives at King’s door with coffee, as well as a private stash of cigarettes to share, the two begin an evening-long conversation that takes some surprising turns.

    It’s tempting, to the point of almost being reflexive, to extend the reverence almost universally held for Dr. King to any and all artistic depictions of the civil rights leader. And there’s value in seeing our heroes as “regular” people who simply use their gifts in productive, sometimes world-changing ways. But Hall’s script, despite a few lovely moments, left me cold.

    This is largely due to a surprise (which I won’t reveal here) regarding who Camae really is, a secret revealed nearly halfway through the Network’s intermission-less, 100-minute production. I’ll confess that the revelation set my eyes to rolling and made me wonder why Hall had relied on such a tired narrative device to achieve her ends.

    Even so, had the device effectively provided a sense of Dr. King in on-the-ground, human terms, I would have been far more forgiving. And Hall strains (quite self-consciously at times) to do this by having King urinate while trying out pronouncements for a speech; contend with foot odor; engage in a pillow fight and tickling horseplay with Camae; and more. But these moments don’t add up to a satisfying portrait of the man known as Dr. King, who still, by play’s end, feels distant and largely inscrutable.

    This is in no way, however, a reflection of Marable’s performance, which wisely steers clear of mimicry. Instead, Marable draws King as a self-possessed (but worried) man that already knows he’s caught in a fatal trap; and Marable’s final, magical moments on stage underscore precisely why he’s a good choice for the role. Phillips, meanwhile, is appealing by way of offering a very different kind of energy - irreverent, blunt, self-aware - on stage, and makes a fine foil for Marable.

    Meanwhile, scenic and media designer Justin Lang plays a larger-than-usual role in “The Mountaintop,” given that a series of projections lies at the heart of a pivotal scene, and that the images appear on the disassembled (and masterfully realized) set of King’s motel room, decked out in Charles Sutherland’s era-appropriate props. Costume designer Christianne Myers and lighting designer Craig Kidwell round out the production’s fine tech crew.

    Yet despite all that director Carla Milarch and her team brings to “The Mountaintop,” in the end, it’s a solid production of a disappointing play. Yes, the show’s strongest passages contain a hint of what the play might have been; and the show earned loads of awards and accolades when it premiered in London.

    But the New York premiere of “The Mountaintop” that followed received a much more muted, lukewarm response, and I have to wonder if the disconnect points to a larger paradox: though Hall hopes to bring King down to earth by depicting the fear and anxiety he likely felt in the face of death, Americans have now seen several artistic depictions of Jesus experiencing the same in films like “The Last Temptation of Christ” - and so the very act of making King more human just before his death inevitably brings to mind again the ways that King, in a sense, lived his own version of Christ’s story in the 20th century.

    Which makes King seem more like a god than a man, and thus brings us frustratingly back to where we were: lionizing a brilliant, brave, courageous man, and flailing hopelessly to get a bead on what it was like to spend an evening in his casual company.

    So maybe Hall's mission was ultimately an impossible one; but I would have had more respect for the attempt if the questions too easily answered in her script remained as ambiguous for King as they are for the rest of us.

    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.

    "The Mountaintop" continues through June 2. For tickets, see www.performancenetwork.org

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    This photo shows an unidentified man believed to be involved in the abduction of Farrah Cook Monday morning. The suspect vehicle, also shown here, is a Pontiac Bonneville, black or dark blue in color.

    Courtesy of YPD

    Ypsilanti police released photos of men they want to question in connection with the abduction of a 25-year-old Ypsilanti woman early Monday morning.

    The images, taken from security cameras at the Hamilton Crossing apartment complex, show a man in a hooded sweatshirt believed to be Farrah Cook's ex-boyfriend Jeremy Abston, 27. Police are also looking for a second man, wearing a red and white checked shirt, who they want to question in connection with the abduction.

    Cook was getting in her car about 5:45 a.m. Monday in the 500 block of South Hamilton Street when she was grabbed by a man and pulled toward a car, family members said. A second man grabbed her and pulled her into the car, they said.


    This photo shows a man police say is Jeremy Abston. Police want to question Abston in connection with Farrah Cook's abduction.

    Courtesy of YPD

    Approximately 10 people witnessed the abduction and heard her screams, said her brother, Dominique Graham. After speaking with family members and co-workers, police determined Cook was missing.

    About 2:15 p.m., police reported Cook had escaped her abductors and was safe. She's been interviewed by police and taken to a local hospital to be treated for a sprained ankle, family members said.

    Cook and Abston have three children together, twin 4-year-old girls and a 3-year-old boy.

    Police are still looking for the suspects involved. Abston is 5-feet-11 inches tall and weighs 240 to 250 pounds. Beyond the photographs released Monday afternoon, no descriptions have been released for the unidentified man and a woman, both of whom have been called accomplices by police.

    Anyone with information on Abston's whereabouts or who recognizes the individuals in these photos is encouraged to call the Ypsilanti Police Department at 734-483-9510 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK UP (773-2587).

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

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    Editor's note: This story has been updated to indicate Superior Township is a part of the box alarm agreement.

    As a method of continued collaboration between five Ann Arbor area fire departments, fire chiefs are pursuing a new model for mutual aid dispatch.

    The new system would transfer the responsibility of calling for mutual aid from the firefighter to the dispatcher. Officials say it would provide for faster response times and safer conditions for firefighters.


    The Ann Arbor Fire Department, as well as fire departments in Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township and Pittsfield Township are pursuing a new method for dispatching mutual aid to the scene of a fire.

    Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com file photo

    The idea was aired Monday morning at a meeting of the Washtenaw Metro Alliance - a group that had met only once in the past four years.

    Formed in 2003 by Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje, the group focuses on regional collaboration for services, including among fire departments.

    Hieftje said the group meets based on the interest of the Chairman of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners.

    This term, Chairman Yousef Rabhi has been more engaged and wanted to pursue the meeting of the group, Hieftje said.

    “We serve our residents better when we work together,” Rabhi said. “I think we’re getting some great work done together on a regional basis.”

    Monday, fire chiefs and officials from Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township and Pittsfield Township attended the meeting, as well as County Administrator Verna McDaniel, Ann Arbor City Administrator Steve Powers, Ann Arbor Police Chief John Seto and officials from Ann Arbor and Superior townships.

    Through an agreement that’s been in place since 2008, firefighters from Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Superior Township, Ypsilanti Township and Pittsfield Township can call for mutual aid through a box alarm once they arrive on scene and assess the situation.

    The box alarm alerts dispatch that mutual aid is needed, and dispatchers notify each of the three other departments that their units need to respond.

    “A department will pull up at an incident and call for a box, and dispatch will know which department’s trucks to dispatch (for mutual aid),” said Ann Arbor Fire Chief Chuck Hubbard.

    The aid that the box alarm provides to departments with fewer firefighters has made a big difference, said Ypsilanti Fire Chief Max Anthouard.

    “Now we have extra crew to go in and start salvaging people’s belongings,” Anthouard said, explaining that it also provides a measure of relief for his firefighters when they’re on the job.

    Hubbard said he believes the box alarm method has been working well, as the mutual aid has shortened the amount of time his department has been on scene for major fires.

    “We’ve been doing that now and I think it’s going pretty good. Now the question becomes: What’s the next step?” Hubbard said.

    Hubbard and the other fire chiefs at the meeting said they’re interested starting a new local division of a Mutual Aid Box Alarm System - or MABAS.

    MABAS is a user-driven system intended to streamline the process for providing mutual aid during large-scale emergency situations including fires, train derailments, tornadoes, hazardous materials spills and terrorism events.

    A number of Midwestern states have joined the program and in Michigan, there are 12 divisions.

    On the local level, the system automatically triggers mutual aid to respond to a scene at the time the incident is reported to dispatch, instead of waiting for a department to call for aid once they arrive on scene as it happens now.

    Under MABAS, dispatchers must make the determination if an incident requires the mutual aid response.

    Should the firefighters arrive on scene and not be needed, Hubbard said they would be canceled from responding and return to service.

    “As a line officer, the biggest advantage is I don’t have to think about what I want (in terms of mutual aid),” Anthouard said, noting many of his line officers support the move to MABAS. “(MABAS) allows that inbound officer to think about what he’s supposed to be thinking about.”

    Pittsfield Township Fire Chief Sean Gleason said he attended a recent MABAS board meeting and intends to bring the idea to area fire chiefs at a meeting Tuesday.

    The local fire chiefs would be responsible for getting approval from their municipal boards and councils, Gleason said.

    A minimum of four fire departments in the county are required to start MABAS, Gleason said.

    “It’s good for the public for safety arriving at the scene and it’s more safe for our firefighters,” said Ypsilanti Township Supervisor Brenda Stumbo.

    Ypsilanti Township Fire Chief Eric Copeland said his department was previously a part of the Wayne-Westland Fire Authority that used MABAS. The township was not able to remain in the authority because of demographics and finances, Copeland said.

    Copeland also expressed his interest in standardizing the incident reporting software across every fire department in the county.

    “I think it’s imperative for all of us, as we come closer together and interact and respond in packages together that it’s representative of our fire codes, policies, standards and procedures,” Copeland said.

    During the meeting, Mayor Hieftje asked the fire chiefs if there were any issues standing in the way of implementing the MABAS system.

    Chief Hubbard said that contracts that each department has with their union employees may contain a clause about overtime hours.

    If mutual aid from other departments is called in to assist on a fire in Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Fire Department automatically has to call the firefighters on its two shifts that are off-duty to come in to work.

    Those firefighters would all have to be paid for a minimum of four hours of overtime.

    “I think this is an obstacle in the contract that we can remove,” Hieftje said.

    Hieftje later stated that the overtime issue in the union contracts has been on the table in previous negotiations.

    However, if the Ann Arbor Fire Department assists another department on a fire, off-duty shifts are not called in to work, Hubbard said.

    The next meeting of the Washtenaw Metro Alliance has been set for July 16.

    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 former NFL player and Willow Run and Eastern Michigan University graduate is the first external candidate to receive a job offer from the Ypsilanti Community Schools.

    Lamanzer Williams will return to the Ypsilanti area to help build the new athletic tradition at the consolidated district as YCS athletic director and high school assistant principal.

    The move surprised current athletic directors, they said.


    Lamanzer Williams

    Ypsilanti Community Schools will formally hire Williams on July 1, the official launch date of the consolidated district. Legally, employee contracts for the new district cannot be entered into until that date. Voters authorized merging the existing Willow Run Community Schools and Ypsilanti Public Schools in the November general election.

    Intent-to-hire letters also were extended to 171 Ypsilanti and Willow Run teachers Friday. Williams is the first external candidate the new district has offered a position to.

    Four internal candidates, including current Ypsilanti High School Co-principal Aaron Rose, YHS Athletic Director Jon Zajac and Willow Run High School Athletic Director Matt Seidl, applied for the position and were interviewed by a two-member team before being turned down for the job.

    Washtenaw Intermediate School District Superintendent Scott Menzel, who also will serve as the YCS superintendent until July 30, 2015, and current Ypsilanti Superintendent Dedrick Martin both interviewed the internal candidates.

    "We decided to do a targeted recruitment for an external search," Menzel said.

    "We had many fine candidates for the position, but we felt Mr. Williams possessed an edge with his education and experience, that spans from being a professional athlete to a high school dean," Menzel said in a statement.

    "He has many strong qualities that will make him a good fit for the type of athletic program we plan to build at Ypsilanti Community Schools."

    Menzel said a salary for Williams has not been finalized yet, but it will be similar to the base salary the Board of Education set for assistant principals in the new district: $83,000.

    When asked about the reasons the internal candidates were not selected, Menzel told AnnArbor.com he would not speak to the individual strengths and weaknesses of the internal candidates, but said the decision was made based on a set of criteria established for the position.

    He said among the criteria were evaluating how the candidates would carry out the strategic plan and vision for co-curricular activities and athletics that was developed by the various advisory committees for the new district.

    Menzel and Martin also looked at things such as processes for evaluating coaches and measuring coach effectiveness, reaching cultural diversity among the athletics program and engaging the community in partnerships to make the athletics program strong.

    Menzel said there was no rubric or hiring guidelines created for the athletic director/assistant principal position like there was for the teachers and principals positions for the new district.

    "It wasn't as structured as that," Menzel said of the AD/AP position compared to the teachers and principals. "The volume was really small. It was only a handful of interviews so it was a more conventional interview process… It was a formal process. The questions were the same for each candidate."

    He explained that Martin, who will serve as one of YCS' two associate superintendents under Menzel, was included on the interview team because organizationally, Menzel anticipates the athletic director will report to Martin in the consolidated district.

    Menzel said he is close to being able to release details on how YCS' central administration will be structured, including the roles Martin and current Willow Run Superintendent Laura Lisiscki will play as associate administrators. Menzel said officials are waiting on confirmation from school attorneys on contract language. He said he expects to be able to reduce expenses in central administration by about $500,000 under the soon-to-be announced organizational structure.

    Current Ypsilanti and Willow Run athletic directors Zajac and Seidl were surprised by the decision to hire Williams. Zajac said about 10 days after he and the other internal candidates interviewed, they were told they did not meet the new district's qualifications and officials would be doing a targeted search.

    "I was kind of shocked," Seidl said. "When I went into the office, I kind of expected to get that position, to be honest. And I'm sure the other three did, too. But I was pretty confident that it was going to fall my way.

    "Not to be cocky, I just did, and then I didn't get it, and I didn't ask a lot of questions. I just respectfully said OK, and kept doing what I'm doing."

    Mezel said Williams and one other external candidate, whom he declined to name, had submitted a resume and other application materials to Ypsilanti Community Schools earlier this year, even though a formal job posting was never advertised. Menzel said these candidates were interviewed and Williams stood out due to his experience at the high school level and his commitment to being a life-long learner.

    Zajac and Seidl both have been actively involved in the planning process for the new district's co-curricular activities and athletics programs. They served on the advisory committees that developed the strategic plans for both of these areas, as well as served on the mascot and naming advisory committee.

    "It's frustrating and disappointing for sure," Zajac said. "There's not much you can really say about it. I thought between myself, Matt and Aaron, they had three really solid, good candidates."

    Zajac has worked for Ypsilanti Public Schools for 10 years, primarily as an elementary physical education teacher. He also applied to be a teacher in the Ypsilanti Community Schools district, but received a "no" letter. So he will be job-hunting, he said.

    Zajac and Seidl have been interviewing candidates for various coaching positions throughout the past couple of weeks, despite knowing they would not be hired as the athletic director for the new district.

    "We've kind of gone above and beyond in that regard. It hasn't been easy," Zajac said.

    The coach recommendations will be given to Williams, and Williams will have one last interview with the finalists to make sure that working relationship will be a good fit for the district, Menzel said.

    "If what they're trying to do is trying to find the best person, maybe going externally is OK. You want to find the best person. If it's not one of us four, then all the power to you," Seidl said.

    Sports reporter Kyle Austin contributed to this report.

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

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    U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speaks as Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder looks on during a panel discussion at Perry Child Development Center in Ypsilanti Monday.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan promoted both the human and financial value of a high-quality preschool education Monday in Ypsilanti.

    The secretary's stop at the Perry Child Development Center helped kicked off the federal government's push to provide incentives for early childhood education nationwide.

    Duncan was accompanied by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to the Ypsilanti public elementary school. The two served on a panel comprised of mostly board members from the HighScope Educational Research Foundation, which launched the landmark Perry Preschool Study in 1962.


    Beth Berglin kisses her son Miles, 5 months old, as they listen to Gov. Rick Snyder and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speak at Perry Child Development Center in Ypsilanti Monday

    Daniel J. Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    HighScope is an international, nonprofit research, development, training and public outreach organization headquartered in Ypsilanti. In the Perry Preschool Study, HighScope's researchers have followed two groups of then-3- and 4-year-olds from their preschool experience into adulthood.

    The study, which was last updated in 2005, found that children who attended a high-quality preschool had higher earnings 40 years later and had committed fewer crimes than those who did not attend preschool.

    Duncan said early childhood education is a "game-changer" and changes the trajectory of children's lives and success. The federal government, through President Barack Obama's Preschool for All proposal, intends to invest $75 billion in states that demonstrate a commitment to early childhood education. Michigan would be eligible for $160 million, Duncan said Monday.

    "Taxpayer money we need to take very seriously, these are tough economic times," Duncan said. "The fact that we have a 40-year, almost 50-year longitudinal study of kids coming from Perry Preschool here that demonstrates a 7-to-1 return on investment, that's not something you can ignore. ... So the work done here with the children, with the control group, the longterm study, demonstrates, I think, beyond a shadow of a doubt how important this investment is."

    Duncan said there are many examples of high-quality early childhood education programs that exist, and while HighScope certainly is a champion and has done "fantastic work," the federal government does not intend to promote one methodology over the others.

    HighScope's preschool program and curriculum take a participatory learning approach. And while Duncan said the federal government would not be supporting or endorsing one method over the others, HighScope President and lead researcher Larry Schweinhart said, "If you want to get what we got, you've got to do what we did.

    "You can't say let's do family day care. ... All early childhood development programs are not created equal."

    Schweinhart said moving toward quality early childhood programs through regular and ongoing preschool teacher evaluations, assessing effective program implementation and children's progress in preschool programs is something both Snyder and Duncan are committed to. Schweinhart said that's encouraging.

    Schweinhart said the foundation is working on another round of the Perry Preschool Study for year 50, collecting further data and taking a much stronger look at health, as the preschool study participants get older.

    "This is one of the earliest places that started the whole preschool movement. ... We should be proud it's in Ypsilanti and in Michigan," Snyder said. "The evidence continues to build up about the importance of preschool, so we look forward to really putting it as a positive initiative at the state level. We've got it in the budget this year and want to get rid of our waiting lists (for Michigan's Great Start Readiness Program) for people in need over the next two years.

    "It's great to have a partner, such as the federal government and Arne Duncan, looking at how to do programs at the federal level that match what we want to do here as a state."

    Duncan's appearance in Ypsilanti was one of three stops he and Snyder made in the Detroit area Monday. They also visited a fifth-grade class at Thirkell Elementary School in Detroit and Brenda Scott Elementary/Middle School, which the state Education Achievement Authority manages. The authority was created to run schools the state classifies as failing.

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

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    Lincoln junior Emily Eickhoff, pictured above, gave up no hits and only two walks in a 13-0 win over Skyline.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    With three outs to go and her team up big over Skyline, Lincoln pitcher Emily Eickhoff was given a choice by her coach, Wes Strickland:

    Pitch the fifth inning, or start the second game of the doubleheader.

    Eickhoff went with the former, and her reasoning was simple.

    “I’d rather get a no-hitter,” Eickhoff said.

    The junior pitcher went out and struck out the side to cap off her first no-hitter of the season in a 13-0 win for the Railsplitters, the AnnArbor.com Team of the Week.

    Lincoln went on to a 12-0 win in the nightcap to snap a three-game losing streak with a convincing sweep and 25-run offensive output in two games.

    More Coverage: Game 1 Boxscore | Game 2 Boxscore

    “I’m very proud of my team, we’ve come a long way with our bats,” senior third baseman Arielle Matthews said.

    Lincoln is now 9-6 overall and 4-2 in the Southeastern Conference, with doubleheaders against Dexter and Saline on Wednesday and Thursday. The Dreadnaughts and Hornets are a combined 27-3 on the year.

    Eickhoff was dominant in the first game, striking out eight while giving up only two walks, both in the first two innings. She has now given up just three earned runs in her last six starts and is doing some of her best pitching as the Railsplitters close in on the playoffs.

    “She was just hitting her spots,” Strickland said. “She’s pitching very well right now. She’s hitting her stride right on time is what she’s doing.”

    And she did it all throwing a few miles per hour slower than she has this season.

    “She’s doing very very well with movement and location,” Strickland said.

    Matthews, the Railsplitters’ leadoff hitter, finished 4-for-6 from the plate with five RBIs and was a double short of a cycle in the two games combined.

    Three of those RBIs came on a home run in the second-game that just cleared the left-field fence, to Matthews’ surprise.

    “I didn’t know, I thought it was going to be short, and then I was like ‘Oh!” Matthews said.

    Eickhoff had four hits on the day, as did Kaylor Fosdick. Jessica Sanchez hit a home run in the first game.

    For Skyline, Biz Dokas had two of her team’s three hits in the second game.

    In the second game, Lincoln freshman Brooke Snyder also threw a five-inning shutout, giving up just three hits with four strikeouts.

    Snyder is far from the only young player on this year’s team. The team starts only two seniors and two juniors. The remainder of the roster is comprised of sophomores and freshmen.

    But that group has managed to improve on a down year last season has Lincoln competing in the SEC White.

    “We’re fielding a young team right now and being successful,” Strickland said.

    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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    Police believe this unidentified man helped abduct Farrah Cook outside her apartment in Ypsilanti on Monday. The suspect vehicle is a dark blue or black Pontiac Bonneville.

    Courtesy of YPD

    Ypsilanti police continue to search for the man they believe abducted his ex-girlfriend outside her apartment Monday morning.


    Jeremy Abston

    Courtesy of YPD

    Investigators who spoke to AnnArbor.com Tuesday morning said they’ve made contact with Jeremy Abston, 27, who is believed to have abducted Farrah Cook, 25, with another man Monday morning. Cook eventually escaped from an Ypsilanti Township apartment Monday afternoon and is secure.

    Lt. Deric Gress and Detective Sgt. Thomas Eberts confirmed police have spoken with Abston, but they are still searching for him.

    “We searched three or four different places he may be in and we have had a conversation with him, but right now, he is still at large,” Gress said. “He knows we’re looking for him so it’s a matter of convincing him to come in or find him.”

    Cook was getting into her car about 5:45 a.m. Monday morning in the 500 block of South Hamilton Street in the Hamilton Crossing apartment complex. She was grabbed by an unidentified man and pulled toward a dark Pontiac Bonneville. A second man, believed to be Abston, pulled her into the vehicle, which then drove away.

    In the early afternoon, Cook escaped her abductors in The Villas apartment complex in Ypsilanti Township. She was treated for a sprained ankle at a local hospital, but suffered no major injuries.

    Eberts said the two dated for four years and have three children together, 4-year-old twin girls and a 3-year-old boy.

    “They’ve had a long and tumultuous relationship,” he said.

    Abston is described as 5-feet-11 inches tall and between 240 and 250 pounds. He was last seen wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, white undershirt, dark pants and white shoes. The unidentified man was wearing a red-checkered shirt.

    Anyone with information about Abston’s whereabouts or who might have information about the incident is encouraged to call Eberts at 734-482-9878 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK UP (773-2587).

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

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    The Saline softball team improved to 17-1 on the year Monday.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com file


    Saline 5, Dexter 3; Saline 7, Dexter 0
    Story | Boxscore

    Junior Laura Vaccaro led Saline with six hits, including a double and two home runs in Game 2, and six RBIs, as the Hornets softball team swept host Dexter 5-3, 7-0 on Monday.

    “Laura’s on fire right now,” Saline coach Alicia Seegert said. “She’s coming on right now, she’s one of our top hitters.”

    Chelsea Leathers, Sam Bruely and Katie Alexander each added two hits, including a two-run home run by Alexander.

    Saline scored two runs in the top of the eighth inning to win Game 1, after Dexter tied it 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth.

    Brooke Lupi and Savannah Krull each had two hits.


    FGR 5, Macomb Lutheran North 4; FGR 6, MLN 2
    Story | Boxscore

    Gabriel Richard scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning of Game 1 to take the lead and grab the win, en route to a sweep of host Macomb Lutheran North 5-4 and 6-2 on Monday in a non-conference doubleheader.

    Joel Parker led Gabriel Richard with three hits, including a double, while Gail Thor, Jon Barroso and Carsten Dembeck contributed two hits apiece.

    Pitchers Joe Kendzicky and Jacob McCulloch each earned a win, as McCulloch struck out five, and allowed three hits and four walks. Kendzicky struck out nine and hit a triple offensively.

    Huron 10, Ypsilanti 0; Huron 16, Ypsilanti 9
    Story | Boxscore

    Huron's Domenic DiGiovine drove in two runs, had three hits, allowed no earned runs, and struck out seven in five innings to help the visiting River Rats baseball team sweep Ypsilanti 10-0 and 16-9 on Monday. Demetrius Sims and Nasheed Bass each had four hits and three RBIs.

    Ypsilanti's Michael Blackburn had four hits, including a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth.

    Boys Golf

    Huron 156, Temperance Bedford 171
    Story | Boxscore

    Huron's Danny Langa shot a 1-under-par 35 to lead the River Rats to a 156-171 win over Temperance Bedford on Monday at The Legacy Golf Course.

    Reid McCallister shot a 39 to contribute to Huron's lowest total of the season. Will Hanselman and Guy Frydenlund rounded out Huron's top four with scores of 40 and 42, respectively.

    Girls Tennis

    Chelsea 7, Dexter 1
    Story | Boxscore

    In a Southeastern Conference White Division battle, Chelsea picked up wins in seven flights as the Bulldogs beat Dexter 7-1 win Monday.

    "The girls played well," Chelsea coach Matt Pedlow said. "They are a big rival of ours and they have beaten us the last couple years. But tonight, the girls played great."

    Amelia Sadler (Dexter) scored a 6-1, 6-1 win over Laurel Hall for Dexter's only win of the dual match.

    Otherwise, Chelsea had seven wins, including a 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 win by Sarah Oberholtzer and Rachel Katz over Dexter's Shea Holman and Hannah Kimball.

    Kyle Austin covers sports for AnnArbor.com.

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    Leon Redbone

    When Leon Redbone first came along in the mid-1970s, his laconic performances of vintage blues, jazz, ragtime, country and vaudeville songs struck some folks as campy—at least when viewed through the prism of '70s-era pop music.

    But given that those vintage styles have enjoyed a big surge in popularity over the last 15 or 20 years—and given the direction that much pop music has gone in during that time—not many are so quick to affix the "camp" imprint to Redbone's music these days.

    Indeed, his affinity for the music of Irving Berlin, Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Waller, Hoagy Carmichael, Jimmie Rodgers, etc., is a tonic for those who are weary of the synthetic, mechanized, computerized and / or pre-fabricated nature of so much modern-day pop music.

    That's certainly true for Redbone himself. "Those older styles, from those eras, are what really captured my attention when I was young, and, to me, they're still the most valid," says Redbone, who comes to The Ark on Sunday.

    "I was fortunate to be of age, and out and about, when some of those blues performers from those eras were still around and performing, and I saw many of them—Rev. Gary Davis, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, the one and only Lonnie Johnson, Mance Lipscomb—as often as I could. So, that give me a pretty good insight into that style," says Redbone during a recent phone interview from the office of his manager / producer, Beryl Handler, in New Hope, Penn.

    And Redbone still doesn't have much enthusiasm for contemporary music. "There is this general sense, among the mass population, that, because of technology, everything that is new is better that what came before it," he muses. "I don't agree with that at all. And if most people thought about it for a while, they might come to the same conclusion," he adds, in his usual wry manner.

    "Most modern music doesn't really speak to me at all—there doesn't seem to be much heart, or much sincerity, in it. And so much of it seems so contrived. But when you go back and look at the work of someone like Irving Berlin, every one of his tunes are gems."


    Leon Redbone

    • Who: Eccentric preservationist / performer known for his deadpan, laconic delivery of vintage songs.
    • What: A mix of old-time blues, jazz, ragtime, vaudeville and country songs, mostly drawn from the first 30 - 40 years of the 20th century.
    • Where: The Ark, 316 South Main Street.
    • When: Sunday, May 12, 7:30 p.m.
    • How much: $25. Tickets available from The Ark box office (with no service charge); Michigan Union Ticket Office, 530 S. State St. or online from MUTO.
    And here's some good news for Redbone fans: He's in the midst of recording a new album, which will be his first studio effort since 2001. "I've been thinking about making another album for a while, but I mostly just never got around to it," says Redbone. "I'm primarily a live performer, anyway. Sitting in a studio just almost seems too calculated for me now. I know it's supposed to be, so I try to mess that up as much as possible," he adds with a laugh.

    The album will be his usual mix of vintage songs from the prewar years, but the particular song that inspired Redbone to want to get back into the studio and make a new album was Berlin's "But Where Are You?"

    "It was beautifully sung in a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie ("Follow the Fleet"), by Harriet Hilliard—who went on to become Harriet Nelson, of 'Ozzie & Harriet,'" notes Redbone. "She was only 19 years old at the time. It's a wonderful song, and seeing her and hearing her do that again in that film gave me an urge to record it. I think it was one of those that Irving wrote for his departed wife."

    Another notable song on the album, says his producer / manager Handler, is "Baby Won't You Please Come Home," a blues classic recorded by Bessie Smith in 1923. Redbone recorded it for an episode of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" last season, but "we wanted to re-record it," she says.

    Other songs on the disc, says Handler, include "a couple of Lee Morse tunes that have turned out very nicely so far," Jelly Roll Morton's "Mr. Jelly Lord," Isham Jones / Gus Kahn's oft-covered "I'll See You in My Dreams" and "I Wanna Go Back Again Blues," for which Redbone was backed by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks. The recording should be completed by the end of May, but no release date has been set.

    Most people over, say, 50 years old were first introduced to Redbone when he appeared on "Saturday Night Live," in 1976. Between his laconic baritone voice, droll onstage demeanor and signature look—Panama hat, dark glasses and full mustache—Redbone was an immediate hit among the college crowd.

    "Yeah, that show was a catalyst for me, among a certain audience," recalls Redbone. "The audience for that show, at that time, had eccentric tastes in comedy. That show was a mini-adventure in anarchy, and I was deemed eccentric enough to fit in with what they were doing, so that did resonate with a lot of people."

    And even though he has usually played relatively intimate rooms like The Ark for most of his career, Redbone continued to connect with the mass audience over the years via his pop-culture endeavors, like singing in TV ads for Chevy, Budweiser and All detergent. Not to mention his presence in several TV shows, like singing the title tunes for sitcoms like "Mr. Belvedere" and "Harry and the Hendersons," and also appearing in the "Life Goes On" TV series.

    Then, in 2003, Redbone was showcased in another pop-culture project. He appeared as an animated snowman in the Will Farrell comedy, "Elf," and also sang a duet with Zooey Daschenel on the Christmas favorite, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" for that film.

    "That wasn't my idea—someone associated with the film asked me to do it," says Redbone. "It was definitely a bizarre combination. I sang my part, then she came in and overdubbed her vocals. I couldn't really get a read on her. She seemed very blank. It was like she was wearing a veil. She didn't seem to have a lot of social skills."

    Kevin Ransom is a freelance writer who covers music for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at KevinRansom10@aol.com.

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    The Ypsilanti City Council will hold its first budget session Tuesday for the 2013-2014 fiscal year and while officials have said the budget is balanced, pensions and health care costs for police and fire retirees continue to rise.

    Officials also are saying personnel costs continue to exceed 80 percent of the city's total costs.


    The Ypsilanti City Council will have a budget session Tuesday to discuss the 2013-14 fiscal year.

    AnnArbor.com file photo

    The city is scheduled to have three budget sessions during May and several key city officials will present information about their respective departments.

    In a letter to Mayor Paul Schreiber, council members and Ypsilanti residents, City Manager Ralph Lange said the proposed 2013-14 budget is balanced.

    However, Lange noted that pensions and health care costs for police and fire retirees are expected to increase in the new fiscal year because of an unusually large number of new retirees within the last year. Six individuals retired from the police department and four from the fire department.

    The proposed budget is consistent with the council’s budget priorities, which were intended to eliminate a projected deficit for FY2012-2013, according to Lange.

    "City council determined that a financial strategy, which makes the necessary reductions in the proposed budget, was more prudent than waiting another year to address them," Lange wrote. "While the reductions in personnel primarily impact the fire department, the city has very few options."

    According to Lange, personnel costs continue to be the city's largest expense, exceeding 80 percent of its total costs.

    "The centerpiece of my recovery plan has been my proposed consolidation of the police and fire functions into a hybrid police and fire department," Lange wrote. "...I understand this is not the preferred option for delivering police and fire services for some individuals who work for and live in the city.

    "This being said, in my professional view, and that of the police department, it is the best model for delivering police and fire services the city can afford at this time."

    A few highlights from the budget:

    • No Water Street debt appropriation is budgeted. Instead a combined fund balance appropriation of $549,345 was budgeted.
    • The police services budget includes the hiring of three additional officers at Tier 2 wages and benefits and two part-time officers with no benefits.
    • The fire services budget includes hiring two firefighters at Tier 2 wages and benefits, replacing the retirement of four firefighters.
    • Vacation and sick time cashout is expected to decrease.

    The city will also realize a small decline in the city's taxable value and reductions in general fund expenses.

    "The proposed fiscal year 2013-2014 budget is based upon the 2013 taxable value of $289,614,595, which is .38 percent lower than the fiscal year 2012-2013 taxable value," Lange wrote. "This decline is much less than that experienced each of the last five years and reflects the reported stabilization of the real estate market locally."

    According to Lange, property tax revenues for FY 2013-2014 are projected to be about $308,046 higher than originally projected due to an increase in the fire and police retirement millage from 7.403 mills in 2012-2013 to 8.9229 mills in 2013-2014.

    The schedule for the budget presentations are as follows:

    Thursday, May 7

    City Manager Ralph Lange will give an update regarding the general fund revenues for fiscal year 2012-13 and fiscal year 2013-14. Lange will also discuss the street lighting fund and the city manager administration.

    City Clerk Frances McMullan will review the city council budget, as well as the clerk’s office and treasurer budget.

    Human Resources Manager Judi Smith will discuss the workers compensation fund.

    City Planner Teresa Gillotti will provide information regarding the building department and ordinance enforcement, as well as the planning and development offices.

    Director of Public Services Stan Kirton is expected to present about energy efficiency, DPS parks, parking lots and the Rutherford Pool renovation grant.

    Finance DirectorMarilou Uy will share information about the city's finance and general accounting department, as well as vacation and sick time

    Tuesday, May 14

    Police Chief Amy Walker will present the department's budget and discuss a series of grants officials have applied for to go toward police services.

    Police Chief Max Anthouard will discuss the fire department's budget.

    Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority Tim Colbeck is slated to present the DDA Depot Town Fund and the DDA Downtown Fund

    Marilou Uy will again present with information regarding the city's bonds, capital improvement fund and the retirees' benefits fund.

    Tuesday, May 21

    A continuation presentation of general fund expenditures and budget review, if necessary.

    The city council meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Ypsilanti City Hall.

    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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