The year 2019 was one of change and progress for the Clarkston area, including renovation and expansion of Clarkston city hall, reconstruction of Sashabaw Road north of I-75, and a third year of bond-funded projects for Clarkston Community Schools.
Football fans fight cancer: A Mother’s Wish of Oakland County received $2,500 for its fight against breast cancer thanks to Clarkston Football for a Cure. McLaren Oakland Foundation also received a portion of funds raised during the charity football game between Clarkston and Lake Orion.
Business students advance to state contest: Twenty-two Clarkston High School Business Professionals of America members competed at the Michigan BPA Region 7 Conference in Flint. They placed in the top six in 22 different events.
Preservation Clarkston: We don’t want to be Troy: Folks making up a new group, Preservation Clarkston, in town all had one thing in common – they wanted to make sure the community’s character charm remained intact.
Global bikers trekking south of the border: Chris Haag, a 2001 Clarkston High School graduate, and his wife, Sophie George, shared some of their biking adventures down the western hemisphere.
Writer features historic Great Lakes in first novel: For author James W. Barry of Independence Township, sailing is a lifelong passion. He used his experience and knowledge in his first novel, “A Dream of Steam.”
A ‘good job’ with what they have: Clarkston added $2,839 to its General Fund savings account in fiscal year 2018, with $16,858 in parking fees playing a major role in the surplus.
New Lighthouse leadership in merger: Lighthouse of Oakland County merged with another non-profit group and would still continue to be a beacon of hope in the community, leaders said. Ryan Hertz, CEO of South Oakland Shelter, which merged with Lighthouse, assumed leadership responsibilities for both non-profits.
Friends seek community support for Depot Park playground: Clarkston Area Optimists, Friends of Depot Park, and other volunteers were looking to add a new climb-and-slide structure to the playground at Depot Park and were still seeking donations for the $40,000 cost of the new equipment.
Contract OK’d in city hall project: The city hall renovation and expansion was moving forward after City Council voted to approve a contract of up to $7,500 with Total Environmental Designs, LLC, for building design services, Jan. 14.
Teachers train for tragedy: Clarkston Community Schools staff engaged in active shooter response training facilitated by Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Deputies and SWAT team members, in collaboration with the district’s School Safety Task Force. The exercise was conducted at all of the district’s school campuses as part of the ALICE Training Institute’s organizational certification process.
Winter has come: A winter storm across the Midwest brought snow and single-digit temperatures to the Clarkston area, closing Clarkston Community Schools for several days. Wind chills dropped as low as 35 below zero, closing schools and businesses into the following week.
History teacher honored: Brian Zezula, a teacher of modern U.S. History at Clarkston Junior High School, was honored with an Excellence in Education award by the Michigan Lottery.
Top spellers: First place winner Brady Lehman; Kyler O’Melia, second place; and Stella Dougherty, third place, advanced to the Oakland Schools Scripps Regional Spelling Bee after coming out on top at the Independence Elementary Spelling Bee.
After the devastation neighbors come through for neighbors: A network of friends, neighbors and strangers came together to help the Boone family of Independence Township, who lost almost everything in a house fire.
100K renovation plan for Depot Park: A $100,000 dream was in the works for Depot Park but time was short. Friends of Depot Park had a goal to raise $50,000 in donations, pledges, and volunteer labor, then see a grant from Michigan Department of Natural Resources for the other half.
City hall plans: Designers revised the conceptual site plan for a renovated city hall, with the input from the Historic District Commission.
Miscalculation leads to $138,968 error: A $138,968 math mistake and other miscalculations meant Independence Township was short $220,000 in its Department of Public Works building renovation and expansion project.
Township to blow out e-cigs for youth: The Independence Township Board of Trustees unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance to add vapor products to its tobacco prohibition for minors.
News loses longtime leader: Former Clarkston News publisher James “Big Jim” Sherman, Sr. and founder of Sherman Publications, Inc. passed away on Feb. 16, 2019 at the age of 92. He wore many hats during the course of his lengthy career. He was a wordsmith. He was a shrewd businessman. He was a devoted community leader. He was an enthusiastic supporter of worthy causes.
Students honored for leadership: Clarkston Area Optimist Club honored Outstanding Student Citizens Keira Walker, from Andersonville Elementary, and Justin Strader, from Independence Elementary.
School bond work: Clarkston Community Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to ratify $22,069,957.30 for Series II of the school building and site bond work. It was part of the $76 million bond approved by voters Aug. 2016.
Student count down, school snow days up: After a delay due to snow, Clarkston Community Schools had its Student Count day a bit later. The official numbers weren’t in yet, but preliminary numbers were consistent with the fall 2018 count – down five students to 7,227.
Bowling for kids: Clarkston Area Youth Assistance’s annual charity Bowl-A-Thon at Cherry Hill Lanes included athletes more used to wearing track shoes – the Clarkston Wolfpack Running Club.
Musical talent: Clarkston High School students took to the stage for the annual C-Factor Talent Show to share their talent and also raise money for the Jen Phyle Scholarship Fund, the Mikayla Ferer Scholarship Fund, and the Chad Tough Foundation.
ALICE safety training for students: Clarkston Community Schools introduced ALICE – Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate – training to its staff in February. Starting the week of March 11, the program was brought to the students as part of a district-wide school safety plan.
Poetry Slam showcases fifth graders’ voices: The fifth-grade poets came out in full force at Bailey Lake Elementary for the annual Poetry Slam in Carol Barber’s and Anne Martinez’s classrooms.
With a passion for art, student wins regional awards: Michaela Mueller, a student at Clarkston High School, was honored with two Gold Keys and a Silver Key through the Scholastic Art Awards program. She won the Gold Key awards for photographs taken at Yellowstone National Park and Grand Tetons National Park. The Silver Key was for a digital art piece created with Photoshop.
$103,845 in Depot Park donations: Friends of Depot Park asked the community for $50,000 in pledges to help them get a matching grant from the state. The community came through with a total of $103,845.
Honored for human resources: Deborah Clement always goes above and beyond and received recognition from the Michigan Association of School Personnel Administrators at its 2019 Outstanding Human Resources Support Staff Person of the Year.
Country singer has hometown roots: Country music’s newest star Shantel was born in Clarkston and made her name in sports before making the move to Nashville.
$2 million for fresh fire trucks: Three new fire engines were planned to hit the streets hopefully by the end of the year as the Independence Township Fire Department spent nearly $2 million on two new fire engines and a quint.
City hall project budget vote delayed: Plans for an expanded and renovated city hall continued, but Clarkston City Council declined to approve a resolution to set a budget for it.
Teachers learn how to keep kids calm: A team from North Sashabaw Elementary spent mid-winter break in Washington D.C. to learn more about trauma-informed education at the 2019 Creating Trauma-Sensitive Schools Conference.
Reminiscing with Mel: Mel Vaara may not be able to see or walk as well as he used to but he remembers everything about the decades he spent serving Clarkston as an educator, administrator, and community leader.
Township calls on city for sewer fees: Errors in sewer billing looked to cost the City of the Village of Clarkston Sewer Fund about $43,000. About a third of it was in industrial waste charges, which was the fault of Independence Township, said Dave McKee, Independence DPW Director.
RUSH awarded for Quality: It was another solid meet for Clarkston High School Robotics Team RUSH 27 as they competed in the FIRST in Michigan District at East Kentwood. They finished at 18th out of 542 teams and won the Quality Award sponsored by Motorola Solutions Foundation.
Spring break rescue from ocean riptide: Clarkston High School students Alex Byrd and Tyler Brueck were in the right place at the right time when they saved two children in a rip tide current during spring break in Florida.
Tax scam thwarted: Quick thinking by postal clerk Richard Edwards saved a local resident from a $1,500 scam, earning him a commendation from Washington D.C.
Emotional night at Sparkle Awards: Teachers, para educators, student peers, custodians, board members, school administrators, bus drivers and counselors were recognized and received awards at the Sparkle Awards, a Special Education Appreciation Evening Ceremony.
Potholes irk readers, spur construction: Residents shared on The Clarkston News’ Facebook page which roads where the worst with potholes. Snow Apple Drive and Parview Drive in Independence Township remained at the top of the list for readers.
$243,852 for school security: A quarter million dollar state grant would pay for new school public address and door security systems as Clarkston Community Schools was awarded $243,852 from the Michigan State Police Competitive School Safety Grant Program.
City hall, DPW budget set at $300,000: The City Council voted 5-0 to approve a budget of up to $300,000 for the city hall expansion and renovation.
Phones’ allure hard for schools to break: Cell phones are a permanent attachment for many people, which could be a problem if you’re a student in school. Clarkston Community Schools does not have a district-wide rule, but each school distributes and discusses a school specific code of conduct to each student at the beginning of the year.
Easter walk: Everest Academy students stood with a cross in downtown Clarkston during Good Friday and collected prayer intentions to post on crosses throughout the community.
‘A traffic nightmare’: Heading to DTE Energy Music Theatre for summer concerts or even driving on Sashabaw Road was going to be tough as construction was beginning. “It’s going to get really scary moving forward when we start experiencing some of the backups on I-75 on concert nights,” said Independence Township Supervisor Pat Kittle.
Catallo back on City Council: Sharron Catallo was back on City Council after a split vote to appoint her, April 22. City Council voted to appoint Catallo, former mayor and City Council member, to fill the term of Rick Detkowski, who resigned the previous month.
Sashabaw ‘goat rodeo’ this summer: Independence Township Supervisor Pat Kittle said Sashabaw Road was the number one priority for repaving. “I’ve been told I-75 may be backed up all the way to M-59,” he said. “It’s going to be a goat rodeo and will only get worse. Just gridlock.”
Township Clerk Pallotta calls it a career: According to Barb Pallotta, “it’s just time.” Pallotta, who served as the Independence Township Clerk since 2011, announced her retirement earlier this month.
Three turnovers on Township Board: Three of the seven-member Independence Township Board – Clerk Barb Pallotta, Treasurer Paul Brown, and Trustee Jim Tedder – stepped down, leaving the board nearly half filled with appointments for a year and a half until the next election. Pallotta retired while Brown and Tedder left for new jobs.
School snow days forgiven: Summer was back on schedule for school families, with the state forgiving four more snow days. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bill 4206, May 10, to forgive four snow days called while the state was under a state of emergency due to the cold winter.
Clarkston breaks ground for ‘new’ city hall, parking: After more than 10 years of planning, setbacks, and replanning, work on expanding and renovating Clarkston’s city hall had begun.
Schools leaders grant three princess wishes: Addyson Ray was all smiles after her coronation as princess with all the trimmings, thanks to the hard work of classmates and Make-A-Wish. Ray, an Andersonville Elementary fifth-grade student with Down Syndrome, was the guest of honor at Clarkston Junior High School’s pep assembly as Make-A-Wish Michigan and CJHS leadership students teamed up to grant a once-in-a-lifetime wish, surprising her with a princess-themed party in her honor, a trip to Disney World, and a Barbie Dream House.
Road work delayed: Road work supposed to begin this year on Clintonville, Clarkston, Flemings Lake, and Walters roads would be delayed until 2020, according to Independence Township Supervisor Pat Kittle.
‘Bait and switch’: City Council members called foul on more than $10,000 in unexpected sidewalk bills. The list of slabs needing repair had grown from July 2018, when an inventory was completed, to April 2019, said City Manager Jonathan Smith.
Revenue, spending up for 2020: Increasing property values in the City of the Village of Clarkston are expected to bring in $12,728 more in tax revenue to the city for its 2020 budget.
Dambust? Davisburg Millpond looks to be restored to river: The Mill Pond in Springfield Township was on track to become a riverwalk after the Springfield Township Board was in favor of removing its dam, but many steps remain.
Seat swaps on Board of Trustees: Independence Township Trustee Rachel Loughrin replaced Paul Brown as treasurer and Brown took another open trustee seat.
Bailey Lake’s Simecek drives away as Teacher of the Year: Michelle Simecek, a third-grader teacher at Bailey Lake Elementary, was honored by the Clarkston Foundation as Teacher of the Year. In addition to the honor, Simecek was awarded a vehicle lease of her choice from The Suburban Collection in Waterford.
Raise for Sup’t Ryan: Superintendent Shawn Ryan, whose contract was approved by the Clarkston Community Schools Board of Education was here for the long haul. His annual salary will increase from $165,000 to $171,000.
Committee calls for private parking agreement: Parking was hard to come by when Clarkston’s Main Street is hopping. More paid parking and agreements with private parking lot owners would help, according to the city Parking Management Committee.
Raises for city: Raises across the board were approved for Clarkston city employees, but the overall administration budget was down.
New Clerk Neubeck excited to join township: Cari Neubeck became the new clerk for Independence Township and could not be more excited. Formerly the deputy clerk in Oakland Township, she was sworn in on June 18.
Check out next week’s edition for a year in review, July-December.