FLINT TWP. — An Aerotropolis for economic development got off the ground, major flooding, a groundbreaking for a state-of-the-art Hospitality House for cancer patients, General Motors hiring and a horrific murder on Corunna Road were among top headlines in 2012.
Here is a month-by-month look back at significant news events during the past year.
°The year began with a question mark hanging over the fate of local Sears and Kmart stores after Sears Holding Corp. announced in late December 2011 that it would close 120 stores in 2012. All local stores were spared but the company later decided to close the K-mart store on Dort Highway. That leaves the Kmart at 3083 Miller Road (operating since 1964) as the company’s oldest remaining store in Genesee County.
°The board also struggled to settle the township’s firefighters contract. A tentative agreement with the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1425 was reached after 14 hours of negotiations with a mediator. But the township board rejected it because some members felt it did not contain enough concessions in light of the township’s dwindling finances. At that time, the firefighters were the only one of the township’s six unions without a settled contract. Firefighters had been without a contact since December 31, 2010 while negotiations dragged on.
°Ali and Behnaz Hekmati, a township couple, received the distressing news that their son had been tried and sentenced to death in Iran, accused of being an American spy. At last word, Amir Hekmati, 28, who for a time attended Carman- Ainsworth schools, is still imprisoned but no longer under a death sentence.
° Six people were arrested following an early afternoon shoot out on Casaloma Drive off Beecher Road that some said was in retaliation for a homicide at a Flint nightclub the night before.
Police reported that two houses were involved in the confrontation and the area was sealed off while it was determined who were the suspects and who were the victims. There were no serious injuries. Law enforcement assistance was called in from the cities of Burton, Flint, Flushing and Swartz Creek, Clayton Township, the Flint Area Narcotics Group, the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office and Michigan State Police. Later, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton charged two men involved in the shooting with felony firearm, carrying a mandatory penalty of two years in prison to be served consecutive to the sentence of other charges. The prose- cutor did not confirm a connection to the fatal shooting of a man at the Purple Moon Nightclub on Dort Highway in Flint. But the Casaloma shoot out took place at the home of the victim in the nightclub shooting.
° Serra Automotive of Grand Blanc announced the purchase and relocation of Genesee Valley Chrysler- Dodge-Jeep-Ram on Miller Road in Flint Township. The dealership moved to Grand Blanc to become Al Serra Chrysler- Dodge-Jeep-Ram.
°Police Chief George Sippert called for public assistance to help curb a rash of air-conditioner thefts by metal scrappers. Sippert reported a significant increase over a two month period in units stolen from occupied commercial buildings. Copper theft has been an ongoing problem at vacant homes and businesses. Besides AC units, metal thieves also target plumbing fixtures, manhole covers, utility company electric substations, vehicle catalytic converters and aluminum siding, gutters and roofs.
° The McLaren Foundation announced a fundraiser to raise $8 million to build hospitality house for cancer patients to stay while being treated at McLaren’s soonto open Proton Therapy Center on Beecher Road. McLaren’s $65 million Proton Therapy Center will be the first in Michigan, 10th in the nation and one of only 35 in the world. Proton Therapy is an advanced form of precision radiation treatment with fewer side effects than Ray radiation.
The Hospitality House is being built to provide a safe, convenient and affordable place for patients and their families to stay during the six to nine week treatment program. The 40,000-square-foot facility will have 30 guest rooms with amenities such as a private bathroom, flat-screen television, internet access, a small refrigerator and telephone with personalized voice mail.
° The Carman-Ainsworth Board of Education revised the district’s anti-bullying and hazing policy, enacting a tougher stance in compliance with state law.
°The long-running Old Country Buffet restaurant, 3583 Miller Rd. abruptly closed, sending some local groups scrambling to find a new meeting place. The restaurant was among 81 underperforming locations closed by Minnesota-based Buffets Inc., after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The Fire Mountain on Miller Road, owned by the same company, survived the cut but closed in the fall of last year.
° Gunner the Flint Township Police dog played a big role in a drug search at Bishop International Airport that led to recovery of a suitcase containing $75,000 related to a drug deal, Chief George Sippert reported. Gunner sniffed out a suspicious package then later that same day helped locate 86 pounds of marijuana arriving in a different shipment, Sippert said.
°The Michigan Economic Development Corporation approved an inter-local agreement for the I-69 International Trade Corridor to become the state’s largest Next Michigan Development Corporation (NMDC), AKA aerotropolis. It established an I-69 trade corridor covering four counties – Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair and Shiawassee and 33 municipalities including Flint Township. Centered around Bishop International Airport as its hub, the trade corridor is aimed at attracting new businesses and bringing more jobs to the region.
°The Township Fire Department spearheaded a countywide effort to purchase a Mobile Fire Training Facility. A $159,000 federal grant picked up 80 percent of the cost for the training units but local fire units and corporate donors contributed $39,800 of a required 20 percent match. The unit arrived in the summer and has since been moved around the county for training exercises. It eliminated the need to burn down buildings to get realistic fire training experience.
°Kevin Spencer, a nationally known illusionist, visited Randels Elementary students to teach magic tricks as a learning tool. His Hocus Focus program is an interactive curriculum developed for special education students.
° With the election year ramping up, Rick Santorum, a Republican candidate for the presidential nomination, made a campaign stop at Applebees on Miller Road.
°A Grand Blanc woman was shot to death in a horrific carjacking at a gas station on Corunna Road at about 9 p.m. Leslie Marie Mills, 55, died a short time later en route to Hurley Medical Center. Her stolen car was recovered at a nearby motel and five people were arrested. Four people – a Davison woman and three Flint Township men – were subsequently charged by the county prosecutor. Police reports said that two of those charged approached the victim when she stopped for gas. They were allegedly following orders to steal a car in exchange for drugs, for which two others were charged in connection with the homicide. One is believed to have supplied the gun used in the crime.
°An unorthodox church established in a shopping center garnered worldwide attention for allowing a tattoo parlor to operate on its premises. The storefront Bridge Church in the Carman Plaza on Corunna Road was shut down later in the year due to construction permit violations.
° Three new police officers reported for duty after being hired to fill positions vacated by retirements. They are Troy Allen White, Glen Aric Hill and Daniel Joseph Ray.
°Facing looming budget constrains, the C-A board announced the closing of Woodland Elementary School at the end of the school year. Woodland had served the district since 1957. It is now being used to house the Atlantis Alternative High School. Woodland’s closing drew a strong protest from parents in the community. Woodland students were reassigned to the district’s remaining four elementary schools.
°General Motors announced plans to invest $.175 million in Flint Engine Operations to build permanent offices for the plant. A groundbreaking took place in December for two office units, including a 20,000- square-foot building at the northwest corner of the plant and a 17,500-square-foot unit at the southwest corner of the facility. They will replace trailers used as offices for more than a decade, according to a company spokesperson.
°Flint Assembly hired about 235 full-time workers, marking the first time since 2003 that GM permanently hired hourly workers. Most were temporary workers promoted to full time status. At the same, time, 82 workers were added to the temporary staff pool.
°About a week after passage of controversial state law allowing motorcyclists to ride without helmets, a 34-year-old Flint Township man was killed April 19 when the motorcycle he was driving collided with a semi-truck on I-69 east of I-75. It was determined that he was wearing a helmet but the helmet-wearing question became the first question asked about cycling deaths during the year.
°A proposal to change the township’s name drew state-wide interest. Flint Township Supervisor Karyn Miller formed a committee to study the feasibility of the township changing its name or becoming a city. The move was suggested to distance the township from crime and other perceived negative factors associated with the City of Flint.
The committee met several times before the issue returned to the backburner. It was not the first time that the name-change issue was considered. Miller said a name change effort has been attempted unsuccessfully at least twice in the past – once in the 1950s and once in the 1970s.
°Major flooding shut down the freeways and caused widespread damages to homes and businesses as a result of a major rainstorm that officials said occurs about once every 500 years. Subsequent efforts failed to get state or federal aid to assist residents whose homes were badly damaged.
°All seven township board seats were up for reelections and candidates filing for office included a former township supervisor. Longtime township treasurer Sandra Wright was the only board member who did not seek re-election.
° A Flint-built Chevrolet Silverado owned by a Delton, Michigan couple returned to tow for a special ceremony after hitting the million-mile mark on its odometer. A special celebration was held at the Flint Assembly Plant where the truck was built six years ago. The owners racked up the miles traveling coast to coast in their trailer-hauling business.
° The township board allocated Community Development Block Grant funds to tear down the remaining buildings at Brookstone Valley Apartments, which had become an eyesore and troublespot since they were condemned and evacuated in November 2011.
°The township announced plans to hold its first-ever July 4 fireworks show in conjunction with the annual Flint Community Days when a carnival is brought in at Genesee Valley Center mall. The annual festival is the primary fundraiser for the township’s Heroes Plaza that will recognize those who served honorably in the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Michigan National Guard and Flint Township police and fire departments. It will be located in the Flint Township Park off Norko Drive.
°New voting places were announced for township residents beginning with the August. Some trustees were concerned about confusing voters in an important presidential year but no major glitches were reported. Polling places were reduced from six to four.
°Steve Tunnicliff was named superintendent of Carman-Ainsworth Schools following the resignation of Bill Haley, who left for a new executive job with Catholic Schools, after serving the district for 11 years. Tunnicliff, has been with the district eight years, starting as high school principal.
°Southbound lanes on I-75 were closed off and on for about two weeks during repairs to the Miller Road bridge over I-75 after it was struck and damaged by an oversized truck.
°Funeral services were held for U.S. Army Sgt. Joseph M. Lilly, 25, the third former C-A student casualty in Afghanistan. He died June 14 from injuries caused by an improvised explosive device while on active duty in Operation Enduring Freedom in Panjway, Afghanistan. He was a 2005 graduate of Carman-Ainsworth High School.
°A ribbon-cutting at Patsy Lou Williamson Buick/GMC marked completed renovations to covert the building to the General Motors nationally uniform image. The project started in June 2011 with renovations of the adjacent Patsy Lou Chevrolet dealership which was completed in October.
°A rash of resignations by disgruntled on-call firefighters raised concerns about sufficient staffing to fight fire and led to an all-out recruitment of new hires. The township board heard ongoing complaints about management and morale in the fire department for most of the year.
° A Flint man, 41, was the victim of a shooting in a parking lot on Ballenger Highway this morning, according to police. From an eyewitness description of their vehicle, two suspects were subsequently located and arrested nearby by Michigan State Police troopers.
°A sizable crowd turned out to watch the township’s first-ever fireworks show visible from the grounds of Genesee Valley Mall. At the time, the township board discussed stricter ordinances in the wake of a new state law that allows residents use of a broader arsenal of legal fireworks and permission to detonate them for a 72-hour period before and after all legal holidays. That led to many complaints about inconsiderate neighbors shooting off fireworks late at night disturbing others who had to go to school or work the next day.
°A expansion and other renovations set up a move by the Flint Community Players, now in its 84th season, to its former rehearsal hall on Ballenger Highway. Renovations includes marquee signage to announce new stage productions and conversion of the rehearsal hall into a full-fledged performance venue. New dressings rooms, a ticket booth and concessions completed the move which ended a 40-year run of shows staged at Bower Theater in downtown Flint.
°An errant cigarette butt was determined as the cause of a fire at Don Pablos restaurant on Miller Road. It remains closed for renovations.
°Tentative plans by the C-A School District to outsource its bus driver and custodial service drew standing-room-only attendance at board meetings by affected workers pleading to keep their jobs. They were successful after concessions were negotiated with unions.
°The second annual Back to the Bricks Tune-up Party drew thousands of classic cars to the parking lots at Genesee Valley Center and Duke’s Car & Stereo, which hosted the event, a precursor to the main event in downtown Flint.
Construction work began on Linden Road between Calkins and Beecher Road just in time for back-to-school traffic, creating major headaches for school buses and others trying to get to CAHS. The work was not completed until the end of October.
°Former C-A superintendent Thomas Svitkovich name was embroiled in a scandal in which Beverly Knox-Pipes, a top administrator for 16 years at the Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD), was fired for alleged misuse of public funds totaling about $87,521.35 and other misconduct allegedly connected with a 10- year extra-marital affair with Svitkovich, her former supervisor. Svitkovich served as the GISD superintendent for many years, after leaving C-A. Knox-PIpes was fired based on an extensive forensic audit conducted by Plante Moran, a leading certified public accounting firm retained by the current GISD Superintendent Lisa A. Hagel.
°Long-anticipated plans for a proposed casino to be built at Dutcher and Lennon Roads picked up steam after a court of appeals ruling supporting the Bay Mills Community in a lawsuit seeking to block its intent to build casinos on any land it owns outside of the reservation. A court temporarily shut down a casino in Vanderbilt which Bay Mills opened on land purchased there which also stalled plans for similar casinos in Flint and Port Huron. The latest court ruling
Bay Mills Tribal leader Kurt Perron canceled a scheduled appearance at a West Flint Business Association meeting to talk about the tribe’s casino plans for Flint Township.
The higher court ruling did not give the green light to Bay Mills but questioned the state’s authority to sue the tribe because of its federally-granted sovereign immunity. The court did not rule out a federal challenge to Bay Mills casino plans. The case has been returned to the lower court for findings consistent with federal law.
°Plans by the Genesee County Road Commission to build a traffic roundabout at the corner of Dye and Court streets drew considerable negative reactions from residents but the plans are moving forward anyway. Based on a outpouring of objections from residents at a public hearing, the township board decided not to participate in the project.
But road commission director John Daly said the project will move forward without the township’s financial contributions because it has been determined that the roundabout is the best solution to remedy a long history of accidents, including one fatality, at that intersection. Based on the fatality, the road commission was able to secure a federal grant to pay for 90 percent of the project. Plans are moving forward to begin construction in the spring.
°The board heard results of a stud it commissioned to consider joint services with Mundy Township and Swartz Creek to find ways to reduce operating costs. The township paid one-third of the $39,000 cost for the study that looked at combined services in the police, fire and building and assessing departments. Finding did not support joint fire or police operations but suggested consolidations ideas for the building and assessing departments.
°The township made conditional job offers to eight new on-call firefighters which helped to rebuilt the ranks following several resignations this year.
°A slight decline in enrollment for Carman- Ainsworth schools amounted to a loss of about $108,626 less in state aid revenue, CA receives $7,759 per pupil in state aid which is down from past years and coupled with other revenue declines has led to serious budget shortfalls in the year ahead.
°No serious problems resulted after the township’s waste collection agency filed for bankruptcy. Richfield Management LLC and affiliates filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and has since been sold. The new owners have pledged to honor terms of the Richfield contract. Problems with monthly dumping privileges, called for in the contract, have been resolved.
°New owners also took over at Genesee Valley Center mall. The mall is now owned and operated by the Spinoso Real Estate Group. It was formerly owned by Genesee Valley Partners Limited Partnership and managed by Jones Lang LaSalle. No significant changes were made in on-site personnel or operations.
°The November general election resulted in no changes in the township board or C-A School board but Democrat Daniel T. Kildee won the U.S. 5th Congressional seat held since 1977 by his retiring uncle, Dale Kildee.
°Bishop Airport unveiled its new $18 million passenger terminal, the final phase of an expansion plan established 22 years ago. The project added four new jetways to the airport.
°Among many local relief efforts to help victims of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast was work by DRAW (Disaster Relief at Work) a non-profit organization based in Clarkston. Greg Martin, DRAW director, spoke to students at Carman Ainsworth Middle School about his visit to storm-ravaged sites in New Jersey and solicited donations to pay for supplies DRAW delivers to disaster-relief sites.
°The C-A board of trustees heard a sobering audit report projecting financial shortfalls in the year ahead that may lead to layoffs and other budget tightening efforts. It was also forecast the health care and retirement costs will add to the financial burden the district already faces. It is expected to end the school year with about $630,00 fund balance after several years of using the fund balance to make up for the revenue shortage.
°The township held a farewell for Treasurer Sandra Wright who retired after the five-terms in office, the longest serving treasurer ever.
°A Code of Conduct for meeting room behavior approved by the township board included an effort to ban weapons (especially guns) from the room but had to be revised to comply with state opencarry laws that prohibit local governments from making outright gun control bans.
°CA Schools will ask voters to renew two millages and an increase in the May 7, 2012 general election.
°The township board approved employment offers to one police officer and six on-call firefighters.
°CA Schools were among a countywide closure of all schools in the wake of the shooting death of 20 elementary school students and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut. Area superintendents decided to close schools on Dec. 20 and 21, two days before the Christmas break, in n response to rumors began circulating about guns being brought to school on Dec. 21 because of the alleged doomsday predictions associated with the ending of the Mayan calendar.