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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 Ann Arbor Public Schools system is seeking a consulting firm to help with its redistricting process.

    elementary.png

    AAPS elementary attendance boundaries.

    AAPS issued a request for proposals for consultants in April. Just two firms that specialize in redistricting submitted a bid. District officials decided after reviewing the applications they would repost the request and "look for a wider response," said AAPS Communications Director Liz Margolis.

    The second posting went up last week and the bid period will close May 30.

    During the past six months, the district has started to prepare for redrawing attendance boundaries and rerouting its transportation routes at the initiative of Superintendent Patricia Green. Reports on enrollment trends, capacity trends and facility replacement costs have been given to the Board of Education.

    051511_lizmargolis2.jpg

    Liz Margolis

    Another part of the request for proposals that the district issued for consulting services on the redistricting process is for a software/geocoding system, which Margolis said is "imperative."

    "You look at a variety of factors (when you do redistricting), including where current and anticipated populations are in the district, birth rates, new housing developments, etc.," Margolis said. "A history of school attendance data and school locations is also part of the assessment."

    She said officials would use the district's student data from PowerSchool and "geocode" students based on their school and residence. A geocode is a geographic coordinate — latitude and longitude — school officials said. Scenarios for placing students and redrawing attendance boundaries can be created through the geocodes, Margolis added.

    She said the district wants and needs to hire a firm able to provide this software as well as advice and consultation on the actual redistricting.

    "It is important to have a third party look over redistricting data to give it that 'third eye' as we prepare scenarios," Margolis said.

    AAPS Executive Director of Physical Properties Randy Trent said the overall cost of redistricting services will depend on whether the district purchases the software or simply uses it. He said the consultation, software use, data setup and a written report are estimated at $20,000 to be paid out of the district's general fund.

    If AAPS purchases the software for its use during the next three years, it is estimated to cost an additional $30,000, which could come out of the $45.8 million technology bond fund, Trent said. District residents passed the technology millage in May of 2012.

    In December, Green told the board during a discussion on transportation sustainability in the Ann Arbor Public Schools that rerouting and redistricting could not be ignored. Significant cuts to transportation have been on the table for the past several years, as officials consistently have reduced educational programs, services and staff in order to slash budget deficits exceeding $10 million.

    Green recommended at the December meeting, hiring a third-party organization to conduct demographic and feasibility studies prior to redistricting. In March, she said school closures were not realistic for next year and it could take up to 18 months to properly assess and prepare for considering such closures.

    But closing a few low enrollment elementary schools and creating grade-level targeted schools for K-2 and 3-4 was among the recommendations the Ann Arbor Administrators Association made to district officials in March to help meet the $8.67 million budget shortfall.

    Principal sharing among at least six elementary schools is on the latest short list of possible cuts the board is weighing — although as presented, it would not involve closing facilities.

    Trustee Susan Baskett and Vice President Christine Stead were against principal sharing for next year, they said at the May 15 board meeting, understanding that in another year, the district will have to look at redistricting and closing schools on a broader scale. Baskett described it as "a lot of drama" for parents and students to lose their principal part-time this coming year and then to lose their building.

    Baskett also said if Trustee Glenn Nelson's principal sharing proposal was different from the building combinations that needed to occur for redistricting it would be twice the drama. So she preferred waiting for the redistricting study to be done, she said. Nelson proposed on Wednesday grouping the six smallest elementaries together to share a principal: Abbot and Northside, Angell and Pattengill and Mitchell and Pittsfield.

    The Board of Education will conduct a first reading and public hearing on the 2013-14 budget at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 22 at the downtown Ann Arbor Public Library. A second reading, another public hearing and a potential vote will be June 12.

    The board must pass a balanced budget by June 30.

    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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    speedway_construction.jpg

    The Speedway on the corner of Maple and Miller, pictured here in early May, is set to open on May 23.

    Lizzy Alfs | AnnArbor.com

    Construction work is wrapping up on Ann Arbor’s new Speedway gas station, which is set to open Thursday on the northeast corner of the Maple and Miller intersection.

    The station and convenience store will open at 10 a.m. on May 23, said Sid Barth, communications manager for Marathon Petroleum Corporation, via email.

    The 1.4-acre site at 1300 N. Maple Rd. most recently was occupied by a 1,365-square-foot former Marathon gas station. City records show the property is owned by Speedway LLC and has an assessed value of $305,600.

    During the past several months, the vacant structure on the site was demolished and a 3,968-square-foot, single-story gas station and convenience store was constructed in its place. A 28-foot-by-121-foot canopy covers the gas pumps.

    Ohio-based Speedway LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Marathon Petroleum Company, and all Speedway locations are corporately operated, Barth said.

    There are seven Speedway locations in Washtenaw County. There is a location a few miles south of the Maple and Miller intersection on West Stadium Boulevard.

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


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    Ypsilanti Township is asking a woman proposing to open a daycare along South Grove Road to develop safe parking plans before it will consider allowing her business to move forward.

    At its May 20 meeting, the Planning Commission tabled approval of a special use permit to allow the daycare to operate in a residential zone.

    Several commissioners expressed concern that the business, which would provide care for 12 children, would be a danger due to cars regularly pulling in and out of a driveway along a road where motorists regularly travel over the posted 35 mph speed limit.

    “Even since they lowered the speed limit, it’s a very dangerous road,” said commissioner Sally Richie.

    “People will pass you in left turn land. I’m not sure how it would impact it having 12 different cars backing into the street all day, but it doesn’t seem real safe.”

    Priscilla Evans, who is proposing the daycare, did not have any drawings or plans she could present to the planning commission, but said her neighbors turned their front yard into a driveway. She said she could do the same.

    Grove_Road__daycare.jpg

    A new daycare is proposed for a home at 1047 Grove Road, but officials fear it may be a danger to motorists along the busy road.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    “We have a section in front of the porch where we can put something in that can be a parking lot,” she said. “We could have two parents coming and going at the same time.”

    She added that there is parking on a nearby side street and she already discussed with parents the idea of them arriving several minutes apart to avoid having too many cars trying to pull in the driveway at once.

    Evans said she worked for a daycare that recently closed and she is pursuing the new business because some of the parents wanted her to continue to care for their kids. The business would have three employees, she said.

    But Planning Coordinator Joe Lawson said front yard driveways are generally illegal and that the neighbors’ driveway could violate township ordinance.

    Township staff also recommended against approval of the plans over traffic safety concerns, and a neighbor wrote several letters to the township voicing opposition to the business because of traffic issues and having so many kids in the house.

    Commissioner Laurence Krieg said he feared parents in a hurry would be stopping along the curb in the bike lane and partially blocking travel lanes.

    “I’m also concerned about safety issue,” he said.

    Chair John Reiser echoed those thoughts and the commission asked that Evans figure out an alternative to parking cars in her front yard or present drawings of how it could safely be done so cars can turnaround and not have to back out onto a busy road.

    “I think we need to take into account other residents,” he said. “It’s really too risky, as far as I’m concerned, with cars backing in and out on a road like that.”


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    kerrytown_place_rendering_side_view.jpg

    A rendering of the proposed Kerrytown condo project shows two of the three proposed buildings viewed from North Main Street.

    Huron Contracting LLC

    Tom Fitzsimmons' plans to build new upscale condos in Kerrytown received unanimous approval Tuesday night from the Ann Arbor Planning Commission.

    The project, which spans the block between North Main Street and Fourth Avenue at the former site of a Greek church that was demolished last year, now heads to City Council for approval.

    Fitzsimmons had been calling the $11.8 million project Kerrytown Place, but the city required him to submit two separate site plans for approval.

    kerrytown_place_overhead_whole_view.jpg

    An overhead view of the Kerrytown condo project shows the two larger buildings with a shared courtyard in the middle and the smaller Fourth Avenue building to the east. The project is surrounded by residential and commercial uses.

    Rendering by Robert Latsko

    Those are now separately identified as 414 N. Main and 401 N. Fourth Ave., though the commission considered them jointly Tuesday night.

    The commission recommended approval of both the site plans and the rezoning of the property from a Planned Unit Development designation to D2 zoning.

    Fitzsimmons, a lifelong Ann Arborite who has been building homes here for 24 years, said it's been extremely challenging coming up with a plan that works for the site.

    He said he personally met with every single neighbor, as well as surrounding business owners, to solicit feedback and it's been universally positive. The feedback from the Planning Commission was mostly positive Tuesday night as well.

    "It's really great to see a project like this being proposed for that site, which has been empty for quite a while," said Commissioner Tony Derezinski. "I think it is a very attractive project."

    Derezinski said the project meets a growing need for empty nesters who want to move out of their homes and live downtown.

    "Overall I think it's a great project," agreed Commissioner Eric Mahler.

    City Planner Alexis DiLeo gave a staff report on the two different site plans at Tuesday's meeting and offered staff's recommendation for approval.

    The plans for 414 N. Main call for a 16-unit townhouse building with an underground garage, 12 carport parking spaces and 24 surface parking spaces.

    The proposed building is designed to have two short towers atop underground parking. A three-story tower is proposed on the west side, containing eight dwelling units, and a four-story tower is proposed on the east side, containing eight more units. The western units would front North Main directly, while the eastern units would front a central courtyard between the two towers.

    The existing surface parking lot on the south part of the site would be reconstructed, and a public walkway connecting North Main and the alley would be added along the north edge of the lot. The site plan for 401 N. Fourth Ave. continues the walkway to Fourth Avenue.

    Access to 12 carport spaces, located underneath the east tower, and the underground garage spaces for the townhouse units is provided from the mid-block alley.

    The site contains two landmark trees — both 18-inch honey locusts — near the North Main sidewalk. One is proposed to be replaced with six smaller trees planted on the site.

    Stormwater management for a 100-year storm volume would be provided in underground tanks for the entire development, including the townhouse building and the surface parking.

    The plan for 401 N. Fourth Ave. includes a duplex building with a two-car garage for each unit and a 21-space surface parking lot. Each unit has its front door facing Fourth Avenue.

    Overall — both site plans together — the project represents nearly 32,500 square feet of new development reaching four stories high on Main Street and three stories high on Fourth Avenue. A total of 80 parking spaces are included in the plans.

    One of the challenges of the property is an easement with neighbor McKinley Inc. for 57 parking spaces, which was agreed upon when a previous development project known as The Gallery was proposed for the site. Fitzsimmons said fitting those spaces into the plans, along with adequate parking for future residents of the buildings, was a struggle.

    Sabra Briere, who serves on both City Council and Planning Commission, said the city looked at the property last year when it entered tax foreclosure to see if it was something the city should be interested in and found the easement restrictions for 57 parking spaces "really daunting."

    "That created a real challenge for development," she said, adding she's pleasantly surprised that a solution was found for the site "without making it ugly."

    Commissioner Bonnie Bona said she understands it's a restriction on the property, but the surface parking is "really unfortunate" and not a good use of land downtown.

    The PUD zoning for the property — with a 185-foot height limit — remains in place while Fitzsimmons asks the City Council to rezone it to D2, which caps building height at 60 feet and provides for more of a transition into downtown for residential areas to the north.

    The site plans show the building height for what Fitzsimmons is proposing actually would top out at 49.45 feet along Main Street and 42 feet along Fourth Avenue.

    Commissioner Wendy Woods thanked Fitzsimmons for not asking for D1 zoning, which allows up to 180 feet and would have been controversial for that area.

    "I certainly hope the buildings look the way the (drawings) are looking, because it really is going to enhance that part of Main Street," Woods said. "It's obvious you've put a lot of thought into this, and I guess I want to say thank you so much for not asking for anything D1."

    Fitzsimmons said the condo units would measure 1,400 to 2,400 square feet and would be a mid- to high-end product. He said there's huge demand right now for "single-floor living."

    The Planning Commission considered another property owners' request Tuesday night to rezone 2.24 acres of land at 2271 S. State St. to allow for sale of automobiles. Following advice from city staff, the commission voted to recommend denial of the request.

    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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    Two of Washtenaw’s premier productions head into the home stretch this weekend, leaving just a few more chances to catch both of these much-lauded productions.

    The Purple Rose’s production of “33 Variations” has been called “an uplifting experience," and a “perfect play,” while Performance Network’s “The Mountaintop” has garnered kudos like “excellent,” “an impeccable production” and “not to be missed.”

    Both of these plays are compelling dramas about renowned historical figures with a modern-day twist, a dash of humor, and some astonishing performances by Michigan’s finest actors. No matter which one you choose, you're bound to have an experience you won’t soon forget.

    Show: “33 Variations” by Moises Kaufman, through June 1
    Company: The Purple Rose Theatre Company
    Type of Company: Professional Equity SPT
    Venue/location: The Purple Rose Theatre Company, 137 Park Street, Chelsea
    Recommended ages: 16+ (contains adult language and content)
    Description: In 19th century Austria, Ludwig van Beethoven works obsessively on a commission he cannot complete. In present day, musicologist Katherine Brandt struggles to solve the mystery behind her professional passion: Beethoven’s oft overlooked “Diabelli Variations.” As she races against time, Katherine not only discovers the true nature of Beethoven’s work, but gains insight into the other mystery in her life: her daughter. Moving between the past and the present, 33 Variations illustrates how the very passions that threaten to overwhelm us can also save us.
    Review from Lansing City Pulse
    Fun fact: There are 33 scenes in the play, each titled to correlate to a variation composed by Beethoven.
    For tickets and information: 734-433-7673, www.purplerosetheatre.org

    Show: “The Mountaintop” by Katori Hall, through June 2
    Company: Performance Network Theatre
    Type of Company: Professional Equity SPT
    Venue/location: Performance Network Theatre, 120 E. Huron, Ann Arbor
    Recommended ages: 16+ (contains adult language and content)
    Description: It's April 3, 1968 at Memphis' Lorraine Motel the night before Martin Luther King, Jr. would be assassinated there. In room 306 King prepares his speech for the coming day, as a thunderstorm rages outside. Chain-smoking Pall Malls and thundering to himself "America, you are too ARROGANT!" he is startled by the mysterious Camae, a motel maid who shows up dripping wet on his doorstep. As they strike up a conversation, sharing cigarettes and laughter, King begins to suspect that her purpose there may not be what it seems. This inspiring drama brings one of America's freshest dramatic voices to the Network stage.
    Review from Examiner.com
    Fun fact: On October 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolence. In 1965, he and the SCLC helped to organize the Selma to Montgomery marches and the following year, he took the movement north to Chicago. In the final years of his life, King expanded his focus to include poverty and the Vietnam War, alienating many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled "Beyond Vietnam". King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., called the Poor People's Campaign. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.
    For tickets and information: 734-663-0681, www.performancenetwork.org


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    When Rolling Hills Water Park in Ypsilanti Township opens for the first unofficial weekend of summer this Saturday, visitors will be greeted by brand-new facilities and a three-story water slide.

    Since the park closed last Labor Day, about $4.5 million in upgrade work has progressed rapidly.

    The former bath houses and entryway have been completely torn out and replaced with new buildings, and the parking lot has been expanded from 250 spaces to 450 spaces.

    Rolling Hills Water Park is known for its wave pool, lazy river, “Slide Mountain” water slides and a splash pad. It’s a part of the greater 365-acre Rolling Hills County Park at 7660 Stony Creek Road.

    A three-story waterslide named “Plunge Peak” has been added at the rear of the park that has three different slides. There’s a possibility for a fourth slide to be added in the future.

    The entry gates to the park have been shifted so that the new focal point of the park is the wave pool.

    The park’s administrative offices have been moved to the water park facility from the lodge at Rolling Hills, and are housed in the main building where visitors purchase admission to the park.

    New bath houses have separate showers, changing stalls and coin-operated lockers. Family changing rooms are also a part of the facility.

    A number of sustainable features are a part of the design of the new bath houses, including numerous windows near the roof line of building that allows natural light to stream in to the locker room area.

    The sinks and toilets are all equipped with infared sensors to make the facility more water efficient, said Jeff Dehring, principal planner for the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission.

    Water from the sinks and the showers in the building is re-processed in an in-site facility for use in the toilets in the bath house. The gray water system was installed as a water conservation measure, Dehring said.

    The expansion of the bath house and the upgrades to the park has increased the park’s capacity by 400 people, Dehring said.

    More outdoor amenities have been added to the park, including coin-operated lockers and outdoor showers.

    The northern boundary of the park has been expanded outward to create more grassy lawn space for visitors to sit and enjoy the sun.

    Construction on the $4.5 million park is being done by Sorenson Gross Construction Services of Flint. The project is funded through the county's parks millage.

    Admission rates to Rolling Hills Water Park have been raised by $1 this year, and been increased by 50 cents for weekdays after 5 p.m.

    Rates are now set as follows:

    • Weekdays: $7 for residents and $9 for non-residents
    • Weekdays after 5 p.m.: $4.50 for residents and $5.50 for non-residents
    • Weekends and holidays: $8 for residents and $10 for non-residents

    The park will open the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Saturday also marks the grand opening of a brand-new water park that's been under construction for the past two years.

    The $4 million Blue Heron Bay splash park at Independence Lake County Park at 3200 Jennings Road in Webster Township will open to the public Saturday.

    The park features a new splash pad with separate areas and special water features for toddlers, families and tweens, as well as a two-story water slide.

    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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    042413_Ann_Arbor_Public_Schools_Board_of_Ed_meeting_CS-15.jpg

    Ann Arbor school board members reluctantly voted Wednesday night to send layoff notices to 233 members of the Ann Arbor Education Association.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Previous stories:

    The Ann Arbor Board of Education voted unanimously to issue pink slips to 233 teachers at Wednesday's board meeting to prepare for a possible reduction of about 50 teaching positions in next year's budget.

    The Ann Arbor Public Schools district is facing a projected shortfall of $8.67 million for the 2013-14 academic year. That's on top of a current-year deficit of $3.8 million and a depleted fund balance, or primary savings account, of just $6.8 million.

    Cuts to fix the financial situation at AAPS are accelerating, with every cut carrying weight and significant pain to those affected. And especially to the teachers, who gave $3.4 million in concessions less than two months ago, said union president Linda Carter during the meeting, expressing members' "anger and frustration" with the process.

    She said the union was notified Wednesday morning that the layoff vote would be taking place later that night. However, Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources and Legal Services David Comsa said district administrators have been working with the AAEA to come up with the final list of staff to receive pink slips.

    Contractually, the district is obligated to notify teachers prior to the last day of school, which is June 14. The next regular Board of Education meeting is not until June 12, so school officials said they did not feel that was sufficient time for informing people.

    "We hope that this is a resolution that would not impact 233 people, but in order to be able to have the appropriate notification, we have to cast a wider net than we would like to in order to make sure we have the appropriate coverage of all those that might possibly be affected," said Superintendent Patricia Green.

    carter-linda.JPG

    Linda Carter

    Carter said the union is committed to preserving positions that help maintain the quality education that Ann Arbor has been known for. She said in 2010, the Ann Arbor Education Association took a 2.2 percent pay cut to avoid laying off 191 teachers and in March, the union took another 3 percent cut.

    "The math is yelling in our ears that we have given 5.2 percent over the last three years," she said.

    "We believed that the salary concessions we made in March would have been enough to take care of our part and that the drastic number of layoffs — 233 — would not be necessary. We also believed that other bargaining units and employees in the district were going to participate in the salary concessions so that others could maintain employment."

    The non-union affiliated employees, mostly cabinet members and central administrators, took a 3 percent pay cut for a total cost savings of $114,290. There has been no word yet on whether the 48 members of the Ann Arbor Administrators Association will take the same cut. Negotiations with this union — comprised of principals, assistant principals and some department directors — have been ongoing, officials said.

    There are 1,158 members of the AAEA, so about 20 percent of them will be receiving layoff notices.

    The list of 233 staff was compiled based on seniority. Officials said building principals will be notified immediately of those staff members in their schools that will be receiving pink slips. The layoffs will be effective June 30, 2013.

    If the board goes through with cutting the approximately 50 teaching positions in the proposed budget, this would be the first time in the history of the Ann Arbor Public Schools that the district has laid off teachers. In the past, instructional staff reductions all have been able to be achieved through attrition, either retirements or resignations.

    "It is not lost on us the emotional impact of that — and any other layoff that might happen as a result of this budget," said Vice President Christine Stead. "We all know. This is exactly what we're trying to avoid. We're working as hard as we can to reduce operations, and we'll continue to do that until the very last second."

    This year, AAPS only has had about 15 teachers submit retirement notices so far. Typically, the district sees 40 to 50 retirements a summer. Comsa said this could be the result of AAPS eliminating its early notification incentive, which rewarded people for submitting their retirements at the beginning of the spring.

    Whatever number of the 233 staff is not needed to balance the budget will be called back prior to the start of school in September.

    Board President Deb Mexicotte said previously that the process of laying off staff is "astonishingly complicated." More teachers must be issued layoff notices than actually are needed to be reduced in order to appropriately staff the buildings for enrollment and the correct number of grades or course sections, based on teachers' certifications and the grade levels and classes they can legally teach.

    "I agree this is a piece that we hope we will not have to implement either fully or at all," Mexicotte said Wednesday. "And we have indeed passed a resolution like this in the past and did not need to implement any part of it at that time, and it is hopeful that will be the case at this time as well."

    On the chopping block for the 2013-14 academic year are 32 undesignated full-time teachers, 5 FTE for eliminating the seventh-hour option at Huron and Pioneer high schools, 3 FTE for moving Skyline from a trimester to a semester schedule, 3 FTE for fine arts and physical education across the district and 5 FTE for reading intervention specialists in grades 1 and 2.

    There also are one grounds employee, 15 custodial staff, one crew chief, the Pioneer High School theater technician and six central office positions slated to be cut for next year.

    School board members also sought additional information Wednesday night about possibly reducing office personnel or secretary positions, as well as special education and pupil support services staff.

    Thumbnail image for Glenn_Nelson.JPG

    Glenn Nelson

    It was Stead who initially advocated for looking at office professionals for some cost savings, while Treasurer Glenn Nelson suggested special education and pupil support services.

    District administrators said at each comprehensive high school (Huron, Pioneer and Skyline) there are 11 office professionals. The elementary schools have one office professional each and the middle schools have three, one secretary to the principal and two class secretaries. Green said the Ann Arbor Preschool and Family Center also has 0.5 FTE for records.

    She said she could not recommend any reductions to the elementary or middle school office personnel due to the workload each person has and the small number of them already at each school. She said if the board were to reduce the preschool secretary and two at each comprehensive high school, it would be a cost savings of approximately $300,000.

    However, Green said she and her team could not support this action with their recommendation without further vetting at the building level and getting significant feedback from principals on the possible side effects this reduction could have on the overall operations of the school.

    For Stead, the suggestion was made to try to preserve classroom teachers. She said her No. 1 priority is keeping what makes the district distinct and competitive, which she believes is teachers and the courses and programs AAPS is able to offer.

    Nelson said he targeted special education and pupil support services for some potential savings because in looking back at the district's budget information from 2006-07, AAPS employed fewer staff in these categories than it does today.

    According to documents, in 2006, there were about 475 FTE in the district in the areas of special education and pupil support, which includes: special education teachers; teacher consultants, who help with Individualized Education Plans; health services staff; psychologists; speech and language pathologists; guidance counselors; school social workers; teacher assistants; and career and technical education instructors. Also in 2006, there were 853 FTE general education or instructional staff members.

    Today, the number of general education teaching staff has declined, while the number of special education and pupil support services staff has increased. There are about 810 general education FTE employed in the district currently, compared to about 534 FTE in special education and student support positions, documents show.

    Upon Nelson asking the district administration to look into this, school officials said a reduction of 8 to 8.5 teacher consultant FTEs, 4 to 4.5 teacher assistant FTEs and 2 speech and language pathologist FTEs could be reduced, for a savings of $250,000.

    There was no formal action taken Wednesday to make these reductions part of the budget proposal for next year. The board decided to continue to weigh the possibility.

    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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    I have spent most every summer of my life on or near a lake. I love the water, but I have always had a very deep respect for it as well. It is with that respect I offer advice and safety tips.

    First and foremost — learn to swim! Two-thirds of our planet is covered by water. In Michigan we have 11,000 inland lakes, more shoreline beaches than any other state in the continental United States, and our two “pleasant peninsulas” are surrounded by the Great Lakes.

    It is said that you can not travel five miles in a straight-line in Michigan without running into a body of water. Therefore even it you are careful, chances are at some point in your life you will fall into the water— so learn to swim. Parents, teach your children how to swim early in their lives.

    Zukey Lake.JPG

    Zukey Lake, pictured here, is one of the many bodies of water Michigan offers residents to enjoy during the warm summer months.

    File photo

    It's never too late in life to learn and it's incredible how early children can be taught to swim. The American Red Cross, the YMCA, Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation and other health clubs and private facilities provide swimming lessons for the young and old alike. If you are embarrassed by your age, private lessons can be procured, but please, I can't say it enough, learn to swim.

    Whether you can swim or not, Personal Flotation Devices, or PFDs, save lives. PFDs or life jackets, buoyancy vest and life preservers are a must-have around the water. Whether we are talking about pools, ponds, lakes, rivers, beaches or oceans PFDs should be available — especially when children are around the water or when boating, canoeing, sailing, fishing or kayaking take us away from shore.

    According to the United States Coast Guard, 90 percent of those who drown, in boating and water accidents, would have survived if they had been wearing a PFD. PFD’s assist those who can not swim to keep their head above the water. For those who can swim PFD’s provide precious time for a person to be rescued.

    My youngest son, who is a mariner and currently “up-bound” on Lake Huron on a 770-foot iron ore carrier, taught me the rule of thumb for surviving a fall into cold water. Great Lakes mariners call it the “1-10-1 Rule” which he told me meant: “You have one minute to control your breathing, 10 minutes that your body can actually function and swim and one hour to survive if you are supported by a PFD.”

    Not to be outdone, I gave my son some interesting and perhaps lifesaving advice for his vocation. I learned in a death investigation seminar that clothing and autopsy evidence of recovered drown sailors indicated almost half of them fell or were swept overboard while trying to urinate “over the rail.”

    In my own experience, I recall two individuals who drown in the Huron River after sliding down slick riverbanks and one who fell off the third floor roof of a building on North Main Street who appeared to have died attending the same call of nature. Using a bathroom — or for those nautically inclined “the head” — is a much safer and socially acceptable alternative

    Boating season is just getting underway so it is a good time to review some of the laws about PFD’s. It also is a good time to remember that this is a dangerous time of the year to fall overboard because although the air temperatures are in the 70s or soon, the 80s, water temperatures are in the 50s. Water robs a human body of heat up to 32 times faster than the air, therefore falling overboard, even in an inland lake right now, can be life-threatening even for strong swimmers.

    According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Coast Guard Approved PFDs come in four types.

    A Type I PFD provides the most protection and is an off-shore life jacket. These are the best and can turn and maintain most unconscious victims faces out of the water even in choppy water.

    Type II is a near-shore buoyancy vest, which can turn and hold some unconscious person’s faces out of the water. These are the common orange “horse collar” life jackets.

    Type III PFD’s are floatation aids and are designed for conscious persons. These also include most ski vests.

    Type IV PFD’s are “throwables”, such as life-rings or buoyant seat cushions. Approved and allowable PFD’s do not include plastic toys like water wings, pool noodles or inner tubes.

    According to the DNR If you are on a boat less than 16 feet long, you must have a Type I, II, III or IV U.S. Coast Guard Approved PFD for every person on board the vessel. For boats larger than 16 feet long — excluding canoes — each person on board must have a Type I, II or III PFD available and one extra Type IV PFD or throwable for rescue. Children less than 6 years old must be wearing a Type I or II PFD if riding on the open deck of a boat.

    From personal experience with small children on boats, I suggest a PFD with the easy-to-grab handle. This handle on the life jacket makes your child really easy to scoop out of the water when —not if— they fall in and the crotch strap keeps them in the life jacket as you are fishing them out. Careful mom and dad, this can become a fun “game” for toddlers who like the water and will jump in on purpose … like my sons.

    Michigan affords us some great opportunities in our water wonderland, so please be safe and wear PFD’s on the water — especially if you can't swim.

    Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbors.

    Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for AnnArbor.com.


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    wall-street-parking-rendering.jpg

    A rendering of the soon-to-be-built Wall Street Parking Structure.

    Photo courtesy of University of Michigan

    After five years of planning and receiving complaints from Lower Town residents, the University of Michigan will break ground on a 725-space parking structure on Wall Street next month.

    Crews are expected to finish the garage by spring 2014. The garage will be located between Maiden Lane and Wall Street in Ann Arbor, near the Kellogg Eye Center.

    On Wednesday U-M officials met with roughly a dozen nearby residents to discuss the structure and the school's construction plans. The residents in attendance have spent years protesting the garage, criticizing it at a handful of meetings and even submitting a formal petition five years ago.

    The structure was initiated in 2008, then dropped in favor of the Fuller Road Project, a proposed parking structure and transit area that would have been funded jointly by the City of Ann Arbor and U-M. Yet when that project didn't gain traction as quickly as U-M wanted, it abandoned the partnership and in April 2012 revisited plans for a garage along Wall Street.

    Jim_Kosteva_Jan_11_2011.jpg

    Jim Kosteva, University of Michigan's director of community relations, says the school is prepared to fire construction workers who are inconsiderate of Wall Street residents.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Residents worry the garage will bog down the flow of traffic in the area and create noise and pollution. For residents who live in the Riverside Park Place Condominium Complex on Wall Street, the new six-story garage will essentially be in their front yard— an eyesore, many say.

    But university planners contend that building the garage is necessary to ease a growing and pressing parking shortage on campus. Many of the school's 14,700 commuters with 'blue' parking passes complain of having to arrive early to work and hunt for a parking spot. Some jokingly refer to their parking permit as a 'hunting license.'

    U-M officials say that the university, by seeking resident feedback and tweaking certain aspects of the construction process to produce less dust and noise, has tried to be considerate of neighbors who are outspoken against the garage.

    "Hopefully we've been able to demonstrate a really responsive and sensitive design, and now a construction plan that's equally sensitive with a lot of mitigation of noise, mitigation of vibration and added efforts to minimize disruption in the neighborhood," said Sue Gott, U-M's lead planner.

    Yet residents remain resentful of the garage and many are concerned that, despite promises otherwise, the construction process will be disruptive to their daily lives.

    "One thing I want to reiterate and reemphasize is that putting a garage here is really a bad idea. It's the worst of both worlds... With a parking structure here, you're basically requiring single occupancy vehicles to come almost all the way to their destination and then, on top of that, most of them will still have to take bus transportation [to their workplace]," said Tim Mortimer, president of the Riverside Condo Association. "This should have been placed on the periphery of the university."

    He added:

    "The university has done a few good things [in working with the community on the garage], but it's mostly lipstick on a pig.... Around the edges they've done a good job and they've tried to be responsive, but not in terms of their major decisions."

    During the Wednesday meeting, residents expressed concern that construction crews would begin earlier than their official 7 a.m. start time and worry that construction vehicles would idle along Wall Street. Similar infractions, residents said, have occurred in previous construction projects.

    erwall.jpg

    Eliana Moya Raggio during a May 22 meeting where the University of Michigan's imminent Wall Street parking structure was discussed.

    Riverside resident Eliana Moya Raggio said that during a previous U-M construction project along Wall Street she was awakened at 5 a.m. by construction crews.

    "We are finding that there is a tremendous difference between what is said here and what really happens," she said, adding that she is concerned about traffic congestion along Maiden Lane and Wall Street both during the construction process and after the structure is operational. "The traffic is and will be a problem. You might say that the parking structure will only have a small impact...but this is going to be quite difficult."

    A traffic study commissioned by U-M found the garage would likely increase area traffic by 1,500 trips per day, amounting to an overall traffic increase of less than five percent.

    Jim Kosteva, U-M's community relations director, said U-M will be considerate of neighbors during construction. If construction workers break rules, there will be consequences.

    "We're prepared to fire people," he said. "We're expecting that there will be people fired and released in the early goings of construction activity until they get the message," he said. "When it says 7 a.m. is the start time, 7 a.m. is the start time."

    In the school's master plan are drafts for another parking garage to go alongside the soon-to-be-built $34 million parking garage on Wall Street, which regents approved in April 2012; however, Gott says the school has no imminent plans to build a second garage on Wall Street.

    wall-street-rending-side.jpg

    A side rendering of the soon-to-be-built Wall Street Parking Structure

    University of Michigan rendering

    Construction timetable:

    • June: Construction crews arrive and prepare the site for construction throughout the summer. Utility and engineering work will take place during this time. The drilling that takes place during this phase makes it the noisiest time of construction.
    • Fall: The foundation will be laid and pre-cast material erected.
    • Winter and Early Spring 2014: Construction will continue as the garage is finished.
    • Spring 2014: The garage will open and U-M will begin landscaping the area.

    Construction logistics:

    • Construction will take place Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., with building also occurring during some Saturdays and one Sunday.
    • As the construction site sits low geographically, crews will monitor ground water and remove excess water.
    • Crews will spray water around the construction site to control dust. There will be a full-time street sweeper on the construction crew.
    • There will be up to 50 construction workers working the site during peak building months in the winter and early spring of 2014.
    • Construction trucks and vehicles will arrive on the site from Maiden Lane and exit via Wall Street.
    • U-M is trying to avoid loud noises by using certain construction techniques, such as drilling land and not pounding it and using an electric water pump instead of one fueled by diesel.

    Closings:

    • The eastbound lane of Maiden Lane, from Nielson Lane to Maiden Lane Court, will be closed and the current center lane, which is now used for turning, will be used as an eastbound lane.
    • During one yet-undetermined weekend during the fall Wall Street will be closed as the university dismantles a crane. Riverside Park Place Condominium residents will maintain access to their building.
    • Street parking along sections of the north side of Wall Street that abut the project area will be eliminated during the construction.
    • Island Drive, from Maiden Lane to Wall Street, will be a two-way road during construction. It's normally one way.
    • Sidewalks along the north side of Wall Street and the west side of Maiden Lane Court will be closed during construction.
    • The 200-plus cars that park in the surface lot where the garage is being erected have been redirected to other lots for 'blue' permit holders.

    Parking structure details:

    • U-M regents have approved the project budget at $34 million.
    • 'Blue' U-M permit holders should be able to park in the structure.
    • With roughly 725 spaces, the structure adds 530 net vehicle spaces to U-M's parking portfolio, which currently includes more than 23,000 spaces in Ann Arbor.
    • Vehicle spaces will be 16.5 feet by 8.5 feet, smaller than most parking structure vehicle slots.
    • At six floors, the structure will be elevated roughly 70 feet above ground-level.
    • Exterior wall openings will be high enough to avoid headlights shining through the structure and bothering residents.
    • New lighting will be installed around the structure. All lighting in the structure will be motion activated.
    • A rain garden will be planted on the east side of the structure to collect surface stormwater runoff.
    • The university is creating a public walkway along the north end of the parking structure, where the side of the structure abuts Maiden Lane. This sidewalk will go through the garage.
    • There will be two ways to exit and enter the structure, one off of Maiden Lane and another off of Wall Street.
    • The university is extending Neilson Court, which currently ends at Maiden Lane, to Wall Street.

    Screen Shot 2013-05-23 at 11.47.09 AM.png

    U-M display

    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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    Greg Lobdell, Chet Czaplicka and Jon Carlson are opening the Old German in the basement of downtown Ann Arbor's Grizzly Peak.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    Related coverage: Grizzly Peak owners plan to revive the Old German in restaurant's basement

    The owners of more than a dozen Michigan restaurants and bars are hoping to revive a long-lost piece of Ann Arbor when they open the Old German on West Washington Street this summer.

    052013_BIZ_Old_German_MRM_01A.jpg

    The owners of Grizzly Peak doubled the restaurant's brewing capacity to prepare for the Old German. Pictured here: Assistant brewer Mike Bardallis.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    Jon Carlson, Chet Czaplicka and Greg Lobdell plan to open their version of the Old German bar, which closed in downtown 18 years ago, in the basement of their Grizzly Peak Brewing Company by early July. The three partners, along with a number of other investors, own several downtown Ann Arbor restaurants, including Lena, Blue Tractor and Jolly Pumpkin.

    Renovations are underway on the roughly 2,400-square-foot basement space below Grizzly Peak, where crews started installing lighting and trim work this week. Grizzly Peak’s brewing capacity was doubled to prepare for the new bar.

    The Old German will have a bar and lounge atmosphere that emphasizes German beer culture, Carlson said. It will have about 14 beers on draft.

    “This is a tribute back to the Old German and that heritage of Ann Arbor,” Czaplicka said. “Bud (Metzger) was a really nice guy.”

    the_old_german_grizzly_peak.jpg

    The Old German, pictured from South Ashley Street, closed in 1995 when it was sold to Carlson and Czaplicka.

    Ann Arbor District Library archives

    The Old German first opened downtown in 1928, according to an Ann Arbor Observer article from 1995. Bud’s father, Fritz Metzger, purchased the Old German in 1946 — years after his brother opened a similar German restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor called Metzger’s, which is now located on Zeeb Road.

    Carlson and Czaplicka replaced the Old German at 120 W. Washington St. with Grizzly Peak in 1995.

    “(Bud Metzger) and I shook hands. I was only 24-years-old and it was my first real business deal,” Carlson recalled. “(Bud) gave us the price of the building and the business and we didn’t negotiate. It was fair.”

    The new Old German bar will pay homage to the original, and Carlson said they have been working to collect pictures of the original restaurant and of Bud Metzger to hang on the wall. A wrought iron Old German sign will mimic the old one, and stones from the original restaurant are being used to build booth areas.

    stones_old_german_basement.jpg

    Stones from the original Old German are being used to build booth areas in the new bar.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    “We are kind of pack rats and we do save everything,” Carlson said. “Although, when (Grizzly Peak) opened up, we never thought we were going to do a basement concept. As Ann Arbor continued to grow, we realized basement concepts do well.”

    In addition to reviving the Old German, Carlson and his partners recently opened two basement concepts: mash below Blue Tractor, and the new Cafe Habana underneath Lena.

    Carlson said the Old German’s food menu will be limited, although it will include the potato salad recipe from the original restaurant. The bar will have its own entrance off South Ashley Street.

    The goal is to open the Old German before July 4, Carlson said.

    See also: For more information on the Old German, check out this 1995 article from the Ann Arbor Observer.

    There are some copies of an Old German cookbook collection, made by a former server and the chef, available on Amazon.

    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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    From left to right, Circuit Judge Carol Kuhnke, District Judge Elizabeth Hines, City Attorney Stephen Postema and Senior Assistant City Attorney Kristen Larcom listen during speeches at the National Drug Court Month rally on Wednesday.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    When he entered Ann Arbor's sobriety court program, Jon G. viewed it as "two years of hell" he would have to fight through and maybe he'd be lucky enough to survive.

    Now sober thanks to that same program, which forced him to confront his underlying drinking problem, his outlook has changed.

    sobriety_court_052213_RJS_003.jpg

    Jon G. is one of three graduates of the sobriety court who shared their personal stories of getting clean and sober Wednesday at a rally as part of National Drug Court Month.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    As he looked out over a crowd of dozens of people — including judges and law enforcement officials — outside Ann Arbor's Justice Center on Wednesday, he couldn't help but think what might have run through his mind two years ago. The words "disdain" and "disregard" came to mind.

    "Now I look out at the smiling faces around me, and I see God's creation," he said. "The ability to look at life like that is something sobriety court gave me. I cannot thank sobriety court enough. I owe my life to the team that was patient with me and beat me over the head when necessary."

    Jon G. is one of three graduates of the sobriety court in Ann Arbor's 15th District Court who shared their personal stories of getting clean and sober Wednesday at a rally as part of National Drug Court Month.

    "I do know that without sobriety court, I wouldn't be here today — certainly not like this," he told the crowd. "Sobriety court provided me with a fresh start in life."

    The National Association of Drug Court Professionals has decided to celebrate National Drug Court Month with a 3,500-mile tour from California to New York City — with 26 stops along the way — and the rally in front of the 15th District Court served as one of those stops.

    The event highlighted both the sobriety court Judge Joe Burke oversees, and the new veterans treatment court Judge Chris Easthope oversees.

    Court officials said the two specialized courts, which they call "problem-solving courts," were selected because of their success at transforming the lives of seriously addicted individuals.

    sobriety_court_052213_RJS_004.jpg

    Molly W. appeared alongside her daughter Grace and fiance Paul. "When I entered sobriety court, I'm not entirely sure I wanted to get sober, but sobriety court basically made me get sober, and I couldn't be more grateful for that," she said.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Val C., who graduated from sobriety court on her birthday in April, joked it felt strange being surrounded by judges and police at the rally and not having to look over her shoulder.

    "Sobriety court has been a blessing for me," she said. "I'm clean and sober today. It's been two years and six months, so it's a blessing, and I like being clean and sober.

    "It's something that I needed — I wanted the help," she added. "My family really appreciates it because I'm not laying in the gutter dead somewhere."

    Molly W., a new mother and graduate of the University of Michigan, appeared alongside her daughter Grace and fiance Paul. She spoke about her life before sobriety court when she admittedly was "a mean, miserable person."

    "I had pretty much been on probation for 10 years — in and out of jail, in and out of rehab, and it had absolutely no impact on my behavior," she said.

    Every program she went through before sobriety court involved drug testing and suggested going to meetings, she said, but it wasn't the kind of structure she needed. She wasn't effectively instilled in the AA community before, but sobriety court facilitated that — and that's been crucial.

    "When I entered sobriety court, I'm not entirely sure I wanted to get sober, but sobriety court basically made me get sober, and I couldn't be more grateful for that," she said.

    She said she finally has graduated from the University of Michigan after nine years, and she now enjoys a "beautiful life" for which she thanks the court.

    sobriety_court_052213_RJS_002.jpg

    "Sobriety court has been a blessing for me," said Val C. "I'm clean and sober today. It's been two years and six months, so it's a blessing, and I like being clean and sober.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    "I wouldn't be the happy, constructive person that I am," she said. "It's a life change."

    According to information provided by organizers of the rally, there are more than 2,700 drug courts in the United States, and more than 75 percent of people who go through drug court are never arrested again. They estimate that saves $13,000 for every individual served.

    Burke argued drug courts demonstrate how society can reduce drug use, crime and save money at the same time by offering treatment instead of incarceration for those suffering with addiction.

    For a long time, Burke said, the country has engaged in a war on drugs. And if the drugs weren't winning the war, he said, they were at least doing a good job of fighting.

    "So what do you do in a war when normal means don't work? You find different tactics," he said, suggesting drug courts address both the crime and the individual.

    "They hold people accountable, but they also battle the addiction," he said. "They fight crime, they save money, they save jail beds for people who truly have earned them."

    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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    Saline High School senior Natalie Wysocki competes in the girls 300 meter hurdles during the Division 1 Regional Track and Field Meet at Saline High School Friday, May 17, 2013.

    Andrew Kuhn | AnnArbor.com file

    Washtenaw County boys track and field teams went to three different regional sites to compete last weekend. And they came away with a clean sweep.

    Saline, Chelsea and Father Gabriel Richard all won regional titles, with Saline taking a title at home, Chelsea winning at Livonia Ladywood and Gabriel Richard winning at Erie-Mason.

    All three teams appear in this week’s AnnArbor.com spring rankings. While Saline keeps its spot up top, Chelsea moves up after proving how well it stacks up in its Division 2 regional and taking its first regional title in more than four decades. Gabriel Richard enters this week at No. 5.

    “We’ve come close to winning a couple of times since I took over and we found a way to screw it up,” Chelsea coach Eric Swager said Friday. “This year, we came in with the goal of doing what we could across the board. There were no downsides from our boys today.”

    The girls side had a strong showing as well, with the Hornets girls taking a regional title, the Chelsea girls finishing runner-up and the Gabriel Richard girls coming in third.

    Boys Track

    1. Saline: The Hornets took a regional title Friday at home. Their 3,200-meter relay won a regional title by more than 17 seconds.

    2. Chelsea: The drought’s over, Chelsea won a regional title for the first time since 1969.

    3. Pioneer: The Pioneers were regional runner-up in Saline with a pair of individual regional champions.

    4. Lincoln: The Railsplitters came in 5th at the regional behind some good jumpers.

    5. Gabriel Richard: Sean Donnellon won both throwing events as Gabriel Richard won a regional title.

    Girls Track

    1. Saline: It’s tough to get more convincing than a 201-76 margin for a regional title.

    2. Pioneer: The Pioneers finished runner-up and took the last regional title of the day: the 1,600-meter relay.

    3. Ypsilanti: Endia Francois took home an impressive three regional titles to help the Phoenix finish in third at Saline.

    4. Chelsea: Laura McGrath won the 100-meter dash and Talia Dyerly won the pole vault as the Bulldogs finished as runner-up.

    5. Skyline: Anita Vandermeulen was top three in three events: long jump, 400 and 200 to help the Eagles girls finish fourth at regionals.

    Baseball

    05202013_SPT_PioneerSaline_Baseball_DJB_0356_fullsize-1.jpeg

    The Saline High School team in between games against Pioneer on Monday, May 20.

    Daniel Brenner I AnnArbor.com

    1. Saline: It took a long bus ride and two innings of play, but the Hornets are SEC Red champions after winning a Bedford make up Tuesday.

    2. Skyline: The Eagles are 3-3 in their last six before a Wednesday matchup with Huron.

    3. Dexter: The Dreadnaughts wrapped up a second-place finish in the SEC White by sweeping Chelsea Monday.

    4. Father Gabriel Richard: The Fighting Irish split with Skyline Monday after finishing out its Catholic League slate.

    5. Huron: The River Rats had lost three of four going into Wednesday, but still have doubleheaders against Skyline and Milan on the books for this week.

    Softball

    1. Saline: The Hornets went 4-1 in the University of Michigan tournament over the weekend, and stayed unbeaten in SEC play Monday against Pioneer.

    2. Chelsea: The Bulldogs have won seven of eight in league play.

    3. Dexter: A chance to move up: Bulldogs and Dreadnaughts faced each other on Wednesday.

    4. Manchester: At 20-3, the Lady Dutch have topped everyone on their schedule except Grass Lake.

    5. Lincoln: The Splitters have won four straight over the last week.

    Girls Soccer

    1. Skyline: The AnnArbor.com Team of the Week topped Monroe Tuesday and can win the SEC Red outright against Huron Thursday.

    2. Huron: A 2-1 Tuesday win over Saline moves the Rats up in this week’s rankings.

    3. Saline: The Hornets were on a roll before falling to Huron.

    4. Dexter: A Thursday showdown with Chelsea will decide the SEC White title.

    5. Pioneer: The Pioneers are 7-0-1 since losing to Skyline last month.

    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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    Michigan Stadium, across from Pioneer High School, as seen from downtown Ann Arbor as the Wolverines played their first night game under newly installed lights in 2011 against Notre Dame. The Big House billboard could have some competing lights this fall if a digital billboard is installed at Pioneer for some additional revenue for the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

    Steve Pepple | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Digital billboards similar to one along Interstate 94 outside Ypsilanti could be erected at Wines Elementary and Huron and Pioneer high schools come fall.

    The Ann Arbor Board of Education voted Wednesday to place the digital billboards onto the revenue side of the budget proposal for the 2013-14 academic year.

    The plan for the billboards would not be official until the budget is approved in June. However, despite their initial concerns about the light emission and ugliness of the structures, board members agreed in these tough financial times, the extra $100,000 in annual revenue that the boards would bring in was worth it.

    "When I first thought of putting billboards up ... it just didn't feel right," said Treasurer Glenn Nelson. "It felt like selling our souls, to use the phrase."

    But, he said, now the tradeoffs are worse, and the district is struggling to maintain excellence in its schools.

    "We have just gotten to the point where there are going to be some costs in the community in order to take care of our children," Nelson said.

    The Ann Arbor Public Schools is facing an $8.67 million budget shortfall for the 2013-14 academic year and considering drastic cuts, such as eliminating the seventh-hour option at Huron and Pioneer; cutting busing for high school students; reducing the number of staff by 80 employees, including 50 teachers; and closing middle school pools.

    Adams Outdoor, the same company that erected the billboard off I-94, approached the Ann Arbor Public Schools a few years ago about these three locations, hoping to work with the district to install the signs. The school board members turned down the advertising revenue last year when district Communications Director Liz Margolis brought the proposal to them. Adams Outdoor also currently has two digital billboards on Whitmore Lake Public Schools property. The one most notable is located at the high school and can be seen going north on U.S. 23.

    The Pioneer High School digital billboard would be erected near the spot where the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority park-and-ride lot is, but closer to Main Street and Stadium Boulevard, Margolis said. This sign would be 10 feet by 30 feet, two-sided and on a monopole structure.

    The Huron High School billboard would also be two-sided (digital on both sides) and 10 feet by 30 feet. However, it would be lower to the ground and installed in a brick enclosure to be more aesthetically appealing for the area. It would be installed on Huron Parkway west of Geddes Road.

    The Wines Elementary digital billboard would on the highway ring on M-14, west of Newport Road, Margolis said. She said this one would be most similar to the billboard at Whitmore Lake High School off U.S. 23. This billboard right now is expected to be just one-sided, but larger: 14 feet by 48 feet. Logistically, Adams Outdoor engineers are not sure they could have two sides on the sign. If they could, the extra side would bring in an extra $17,000 per year in revenue for AAPS.

    An Adams Outdoor official attended Wednesday's regular Board of Education meeting to answer questions from trustees. Vice President Christine Stead asked about the brightness of the billboards and whether they could be dimmed at all at night. She also asked about safety risks.

    The Adams Outdoor representative said the digital billboards have 256 dimming levels and an automatic dimming device, so the signs are the brightest during the day and are at their lowest levels at night.

    He also said the company recently conducted a safety study on all three digital billboards it has in Washtenaw County using Southeast Michigan Council of Governments traffic data. He said Adams Outdoor compared traffic crashes near the signs from three years before they were erected to data from three years after. There were no increases in accidents around the boards, the representative said. One area stayed virtually the same, while the other two saw a decrease in the number of accidents.

    He did not suggest the decline in accidents was due to the billboards, but said the company did look to see whether traffic volumes were down. But he said there was a margin of about a 3-percent swing when executives looked at the volumes in those areas, so nothing significant traffic-wise appeared to have changed.

    The district would sign a 20-year lease with Adams Outdoor, and the $100,000 to $117,000 in annual revenue is expected for each year of the lease.

    AAPS also will be permitted to place district advertising and information on the signs.

    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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    Students traverse the University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus.

    Joe Tobianski | AnnArbor.com

    Correction: The figuring representing U-M's acceptance rate has been fixed. U-M accepted approximately 1/3 of applicants.

    The University of Michigan received more than 46,730 applications for entry to its 2013 freshman class- and 33 percent of applicants were admitted.

    UofMCampus_JT_09.jpg

    University of Michigan's campus

    Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com

    Of the 15,430 applicants offered admission, roughly 6,450 paid an enrollment deposit, a 42 percent yield rate. U-M expects some who paid the deposit to nonetheless go elsewhere, and is predicting a freshman class with about 6,000 students.

    The uptick in applications marks a 10 percent increase over last year, when the school received 42,480 submissions. The year before, in 2011, U-M received 39,570 applications.

    The increase is due in part to U-M's growing international profile and also its switch to the Common Application in 2010. The Common Application allows students streamline their college application process and submit near-identical applications to participating schools, provided applicants tailor personal essays for each school.

    U-M said this year is the seventh consecutive year the number of applications has broken the previous record.

    Final enrollment figures will be available in October.

    020613_NEWS_Aerial_Downtown_MRM_01.jpg

    University of Michigan's downtown Ann Arbor campus.

    Melanie Maxwell I AnnArbor.com

    U-M enrolled about 6,170 freshmen this year, down from roughly 6,250 in 2011 and 6,500 in 2010.

    The school's sweet-spot for freshmen enrollment is just under 6,000 students.

    "Most of our applicants are qualified to be U-M students. Our job in admissions is to select from this amazing applicant pool the best possible freshman class — students who will flourish at the university and also complement the community as a whole during their years here," Ted Spencer, associate vice provost and executive director of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, said in a release.

    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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    Saline golfers on the course at the University of Michigan earlier this season.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com file photo

    Boys Golf

    SEC Conference Tournament
    Story | Boxscore

    The Skyline boys golf team edged Saline by three strokes, 311-314, to take top honors at the SEC conference tournament at Eagle Crest Golf Course on Wednesday. The win clinched Skyline's first SEC conference championship in the program's history, after trailing Saline in the standings for most of the season.

    Connor Lang and Josh Bourque each shot three-over-par 75 to lead Skyline, while Arthur Denys (79) and Ian Marshall (82) rounded out the scores for the Eagles.

    "I was happy with our performance today, and everyone seemed to stay consistent throughout the tournament," Skyline coach Ashley Mantha said. "Arthur shot the lowest score of his career, and that really helped our team score. Connor, Josh, and Shane Anderson all made the All-Conference team too; it was a big day for us.

    "We were motivated to get past Saline at the end, and we were able to do it at the most important meet of the year. We are hoping this momentum carries over to the post-season."

    Saline's Caleb Wittig took medalist honors with a 74, while Alex Derksen (79), Ian Martin (80), and James Alcock (81) rounded out the scores for the Hornets.

    "We are disappointed with the finish, especially after leading for most of the season," Saline coach Debbie Williams-Hoak said. "The conference meet is worth twice as many points in the standings, and Skyline leap-frogged us by winning today."

    Track and Field

    Catholic League Championships
    Boys Recap | Boxscore

    The Father Gabriel Richard boys track team won 8 of 16 events to capture the Catholic League Class C and D Championship on Wednesday at Livionia Ladywood.

    The win is the fifth in eight years for Gabriel Richard, which finished with 183.5 points. Royal Oak Shrine took second place with 81.5 points and Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes was third with 57.

    "We lost here last year, so we were motivated to have a better performance this time around," Gabriel Richard coach Don Canham Jr. said.

    Colin McNally was a three-time winner for Gabriel Richard, taking first in the 1,600-meter run (4:52.90), the 3,200 run (10:50.30) and the 3,200 relay (8:58.80).

    Teammate Sean Donnellon won two field events, taking first place in the discus (142-feet-6) and the shot put (50-3.5), and Matt Mackey won the 300 hurdles (41.60) and the 800 relay (1:33.30).

    Girls Recap | Boxscore

    The Father Gabriel Richard girls track and field team beat out Royal Oak Shrine 138-137 for the Catholic League championship title on Wednesday.

    First place medalists for the Fighting Irish were: Kelly Bindon in the 100 hurdles (17.1), Grace Glagola in the 800 run (2:26.3), and Kora Dreffs at shot put (3’8”). Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard teams won the 3,200 relay (10:49.5) and 1,600 relay (4:21.7).

    Huron League Championships
    Boys Recap | Boxscore

    Kalif Kelsey notched three of Milan's seven victories in his team's first place finish at the Huron League championship meet on Tuesday at Milan.

    Milan scored 150 points, followed by Carleton Airport with 117, Riverview (110), Monroe Jefferson (96), and New Boston Huron (47).

    Kelsey won the long jump, clearing 20-feet-3.5, the 100-meter dash (10.9 seconds), and the 200 dash (22.85). Milan won the 800 relay (1:32.5) and the 3,200 relay (8:21.89).

    Girls Recap | Boxscore

    Nicole Lange notched four of Milan's eight victories as the Big Reds finished first on Tuesday at the Huron League girls track and field championships hosted by Milan.

    Milan scored 185.5 points, followed by Grosse Ile (116), Monroe Jefferson (80) and Carleton Airport (74). Lange won the long jump, clearing 16-feet-1, the 100-meter dash (12.9 seconds), the 400 (1:01), and the 200 (26.7).

    Kyle Austin covers sports for AnnArbor.com.


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    The Yankee Air Museum will be open to the public on Monday to honor those veterans who put their life on the line for our country. The event will include a pancake breakfast, which is free for veterans. There will also be a memorial ceremony and blood drive.

    Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for yankee_air_museum.jpg
    The YAM museum and exhibits will be open and free to the public to take in the history of wartime aviation. Flights in the WWII B-25 can be arranged for a cost.

    Willow Run Airport was built by the Ford Motor Company in 1941 to serve as an airfield for their B-24 Bomber Plant. Ford Motor Company built 8,685 B-24s from 1942 until the end of World War II.

    Monday, May 27, 2013. Breakfast 9-10:30 a.m., Memorial Day ceremony 11 a.m.-noon; blood drive 8 a.m.-2 p.m. $6 for breakfast (for non-veterans). 47884 D St., Belleville. 734-483-4030.


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    Susan_Chuck_Craves.jpg

    Susan and Chuck Craves were among the first to share their love story on film at the Purple Rose Theatre.

    Photo courtesy of The Purple Rose Theatre

    Like snowflakes, every couple's love story is unique - and the Purple Rose Theatre wants to hear yours.

    Yes, the theater company is now seeking local couples' love stories for a community engagement project that will work in conjunction with the Rose's upcoming production of Don Zolidis' comedy "Miles & Ellie."

    More details are contained in the press release.

    The Miles & Ellie Project will showcase real life love stories on video and in written anecdotes. The short videos will be released on the PRTC YouTube channel, web site (www.purplerosetheatre.org), and social media platforms beginning Monday, June 17. Couples are invited to share their stories in short video interviews, filmed at the PRTC by appointment through June 14. For those who prefer not to appear on camera, written submissions will be accepted throughout the summer online at www.purplerosetheatre.org/onstage/lovestories. For more information, visit www.purplerosetheatre.org.

    The world premiere production of Don Zolidis’ "Miles & Ellie" will take place at the Purple Rose Theatre Company Thursday, June 20 through Saturday, August 31, 2013. The story follows Miles and Ellie, two teenagers in love when a youthful misunderstanding breaks them apart. Flash forward 20 years and a disenchanted Ellie has come home for what she expects to be a typical dysfunctional family Thanksgiving. Not long into the family shenanigans, however, Ellie learns that Miles is still in town and carrying a torch for her.

    Tickets are now on sale for Miles & Ellie by phone at 734-433-7673 or online at www.purplerosetheatre.org.

    Founded in 1991 by acclaimed actor and Chelsea native Jeff Daniels, The Purple Rose Theatre Company is a leading American theatre dedicated to producing the new American play and creating opportunities for Midwest theatre professionals. The PRTC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit professional theatre operating under a Small Professional Theatre agreement with the Actors’ Equity Association.

    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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    Charles_Hobbs.jpg

    Christopher Hobbs

    Courtesy of Washtenaw County Jail

    A 35-year-old Ypsilanti man faces federal charges after police recovered a gun he allegedly pointed at his girlfriend and found drugs in his vehicle earlier this month, authorities said.

    The state charges against Charles Curtis Hobbs will be dropped and he will instead be arraigned on federal counts of felon in possession of a firearm, possession with intent to deliver marijuana and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, according to court records.

    Hobbs was taken into custody Tuesday by agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (ATF) at the 14A-1 District Court, where his preliminary hearing on state charges of carrying a concealed weapon, assault with a dangerous weapon and domestic violence, third offense, was scheduled.

    The district court hearing was adjourned and records show Hobbs appeared in federal court for a detention hearing Wednesday.

    Ypsilanti police Sgt. Thomas Eberts said Hobbs was arrested the night of May 12 after officers were called to a residence in the 10 block of North Normal Street for a domestic dispute involving a gun.

    A 31-year-old woman called 911 around 11:20 p.m. and told dispatchers Hobbs threatened her with a gun, according to an affidavit signed by ATF Special Agent Scott Toth.

    The woman called back a few minutes later saying Hobbs left and asked police not to respond. Eberts said Hobbs and the woman lived at the residence together, had been together for about a year and a half and had a child together.

    Ypsilanti police continued to the residence where Hobbs was loading property into a purple sport utility vehicle parked in the driveway, according to the affidavit. He was detained and asked if he had pointed a gun at the woman, who fled from the residence in her bathrobe, court records indicate.

    “Hobbs denied any firearm being involved and said that he was moving out of the house,” the affidavit states.

    Hobbs also denied having a gun in the vehicle. Police, who smelled marijuana smoke as they approached the vehicle, asked for and obtained permission from Hobbs to search it, according to the affidavit.

    A loaded 9mm Glock with nine rounds of ammunition was found in a large plastic storage container, along with digital scales, prescription medication bottles and six glass Mason jars containing 85 grams of marijuana, according to authorities.

    A bag of clear plastic sandwich baggies, “which are frequently used to package narcotics for sale or distribution were also found in the container in Hobbs’ vehicle,” the affidavit states.

    The woman told police Hobbs sold marijuana, according to court records.

    Hobbs was placed under arrest and arraigned the next day on the state charges. Magistrate Thomas Truesdell set his bond at 10 percent of $5,000, or $500, which he posted a few days later and was released from jail, court records indicate.

    A person’s criminal history is one factor when federal authorities decide to take on a case, as are variables such as having guns manufactured outside the state or country and drugs found at the same time, said Donald Dawkins, of the ATF’s Detroit office.

    A check of Hobbs’ criminal history turned up at least two felony convictions, both in Washtenaw County: one for criminal sexual conduct in 2000 and the second for domestic violence, third offense, in 2001, according to the affidavit.

    At a detention hearing Wednesday, a federal magistrate ruled Hobbs was to remain in custody until at least his next court date, which was not specified in court records, but will likely be his arraignment, which has to take place within 10 days.


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


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    Celebrate 40 years of Dawn Farm at its Anniversary Celebration on Tuesday. The event will be held at the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Education Center.

    Dawn Farm
    The event will be open to the public and will have food, beverages and the opportunity to socialize with staff, alumni, families, clients and supporters. There will be a presentation titles “From Fear to Faith,” by James Balmer, Dawn Farm president, and Jason Schwartz, Dawn Farm clinical director.

    The presentation will "describe the evolution of the treatment field over the past 40 years, discuss what can be learned from Dawn Farm's successes and failures, illustrate how mission-driven choices have allowed Dawn Farm to survive and thrive, and explain the power of rejecting fear-based program management," according to the press release.

    Dawn Farm is a non-profit organization that provides services for men and women with drug and alcohol problems.

    Tuesday, May 28, 2013. Reception: 6:30-7:30 p.m. Presentation: 7:30-9 p.m. Free. is located at 5305 Elliott Drive, Ypsilanti. 734-712-3456. For more information about Dawn Farm, call 734-485-8725 or visit www.dawnfarm.org.


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    Twenty-five students within the Ann Arbor Public Schools have confirmed cases of whooping cough, according to a Washtenaw County Health Department official, and more are expected before the end of the school year.

    AAPS spokesperson Liz Margolis said the whooping cough cases. also known as pertussis, have occurred during a month-long period. The cases have been reported at Pioneer High School, Slauson Middle School and Skyline High School.

    103012_WHOOPING-COUGH-VACCINE-thumb-400x273-125986.jpg

    File photo showing a young man receiving a whooping cough vaccination.

    Jae C. Hong | The Associated Press

    "Public health is working very closely with us on that," Margolis said. "Most of the students have gone through their rounds of medication."

    AnnArbor.com reported Saturday five students at Pioneer High School were diagnosed with pertussis.

    Margolis said the county has told AAPS not to do anything out of the ordinary or in addition to their normal cleaning procedures.

    "Most of the kids had some kind of connection where they had been near each other," Margolis said. "One of the large frustration for public health is that doctors haven’t been testing for this... They’re encouraging doctors to test for it. Our school nurses are really working and we're doing a lot of communicating to families. At this point, we're taking all of our leads from public health. We're sending information sheets home as we continue to hear cases."

    Laura Bauman, epidemiologist at the Washtenaw County Public Health Department, said countywide including the AAPS cases, 32 have been confirmed. Bauman said that number is from a period between January 1 up until May 23.

    In all of 2012, there were 28 cases, and in 2011 there were 26. Bauman said the county is expecting more cases before the end of the year. However, Bauman said it's too early to tell whether the numbers will reach the height of 2010 when the county had 232 confirmed cases.

    "Once pertussis gets circulating, it gets going for awhile," Bauman said. "We certainly expect more cases during this school year, but we may see a dropoff during summer."

    Bauman said pertussis can still spread during the summer due to a large number of children attending summer camps and other activities. Bauman said the numbers could spike again when children return to school in the fall.

    Skyline principal Sulura W. Jackson sent an email out to parents Tuesday, informing them a student was diagnosed with pertussis and that can spread easily in schools.

    Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that can be severe, particularly in young children, Bauman said.

    Bauman said since 2009, the county has seen an uptick in cases.

    "In 2009 there were 89 cases and we had no idea that the next year was going to be four times that," Bauman said. "It seems to go in waves. Part of what's going on is 10 to 15 years ago, we switched over to a new vaccine called acellular pertussis. It's a good vaccine, but it doesn't look like it's as protective as the old vaccine."

    Bauman said the old vaccine caused a lot of reactions in patients who received it.

    Bauman, said the new vaccine is 80 percent effective, leaving room for 20 percent of people to still get sick despite receiving it. Some of the students diagnosed had received the vaccine.

    "We definitely are seeing fully-vaccinated kids," Bauman said. "That's certainly frustrating for families who have done the right thing and vaccinated their kids and for us in public health. What we saw in 2010 is that once it gets a foothold, it can affect a lot of different people."

    Bauman said having a well-vaccinated population will help curb the spread, but an occasional breakthrough will occur.

    Bauman said those who are diagnosed with pertussis should stay home for the five days they're on antibiotics and often, family members are prescribed medicine as well to prevent a further spread.

    Pertussis can affect anyone, ranging from infants to the elderly, Bauman said.

    People of all ages are advised by the health department to call their physician if they are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

    • Unusual cough lasting 7 days or more (with or without the signature "whooping" sound)
    • Sporadic bursts of coughing
    • Coughing-induced vomitting

    The health department also is suggesting antibiotics for individuals exposed to the disease in the following categories:

    • All children sharing a childcare classroom with a preschool child who has pertussis
    • Anyone sharing a classroom or work space with someone with the disease
    • Infants less than 1 year old exposed to pertussis
    • Pregnant women exposed to the disease
    • People living with or working with infants and pregnant women who have been exposed to the disease
    • Immune-compromised people (those on chemotherapy or other drugs that affect one's immune system) who have been exposed
    • Anyone with a chronic respiratory disease, including asthma, who have been exposed
    • Anyone experiencing cold-like respiratory symptoms and that have been exposed to a person with pertussis are advised to stay home from school and work until they have completed at least five days of antibiotics.

    The Washtenaw County Health Department's website has more information on pertussis and its symptoms. Bauman said the website likely will be updated once a week with new diagnosed cases.

    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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