MDNR Encourages Safety At State Parks & Campgrounds

By Jessica Mathews / news@whmi.com

Livingston County residents and others planning to spend some time at state parks or camping this holiday weekend will notice some changes due to COVID-19 but there are still ample opportunities to make memories across Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently re-opened state parks, campgrounds and state-managed boating access sites with new health and safety protocols in place. Chief of Parks & Recreation Ron Olson says most parks and campgrounds are open and a lot of amenities such as restroom and shower facilities are back open. He says they’re gradually getting back to somewhat normal but still have requirements such as social distancing and wearing masks in indoor areas. Olson tells WHMI if people are coming to visit a park and plan to recreate or camp, they should be prepared to take some safety precautions. Olson says people should come prepared and be mindful of common protocols and bring sanitizing supplies and PPE but also not visit if they are ill or don’t feel well. He also asks that people be patient when waiting to go on a trailhead or into a restroom facility or common areas and let other people move out of the way.

Olson reminds anyone planning to be out on the Great Lakes that high water levels have reduced beach space. On big lake beaches, particularly Lake Michigan, Olson says they are trying to very much compel people to pay attention to normal safety precautions. Olson says when red flags are flying – don’t go in the water. He says there are a lot of issues with rip currents and other things and while people like the big waves, they can create some real treacherous situations – even wading around. Olson says they just ask people to be mindful of the signage they provide and heed red flag warnings, even the yellow-medium range – adding water is still on the cold side. Olson says people should just pay attention and make sure to not swim in areas they’re not supposed to like off breakwalls and other areas that may seem fun but that’s where most of their accidents have occurred.

Meanwhile for those looking to remain on land, Olson said they’ve seen a very large increase of people wanting to ride on off road trails and routine maintenance has been taking place. He says they ask riders to be patient and not forget safety protocols or speed and communicate effectively if they come upon certain situations. Olson says they ask that riders not wander off trails or if they’re waiting at a trailhead to be patient and give people space.

Recreation passports are required again to enter state parks. For those wanting to embark on a last minute trip and visit an area, Olson suggests checking current information on the MDNR website. He noted almost 95% of available camping and lodging opportunities are occupied over the holiday weekend. Olson noted they are still in process of ramping up and some parks still have construction projects that were paused in the spring and aren’t done yet. He says re-starts in some parks haven’t occurred yet and some parks have flooded campsites due to high water. Olson said there are almost 4000 camp nights that will be affected by not being able to utilize certain campground sites because of those issues. He says they’re hoping water levels drop and once they get back in action and get projects completed those will be re-opening.

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Motorcyclist Killed In Howell Township Crash

By Tom Tolen / news@whmi.com

The Livingston County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a fatal 2-vehicle crash that occurred at around 6 p.m. Friday evening in Howell Township, taking the life of a West Michigan man.

According to Sheriff Mike Murphy, the 33-year old Zeeland man was headed east on Grand River on his 2000 Harley Davidson motorcoycle when he approached the intersection of Highland Road and was struck by a westbound GMC Canyon pickup truck driven by a 39-year-old resident of White Lake Township in Oakland County. Deputies at the scene say the White Lake man failed to stop at the intersection, whereupon the truck he was driving struck the motorcycle.

The motorcycle rider was pronounced dead at the scene by Livingston County EMS, while the truck driver was not injured. The intersection of Grand River and Highland Road was closed for about three hours after the mishap. Deputies were assisted at the scene by the Howell Fire Dept., Michigan State Police of the Brighton post and Livingston County Ambulance.

The crash remains under investigation by the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office Traffic Safety Division.

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Reckling Endorsed By Small Business PAC

By Mike Kruzman / news@whmi.com

A GOP candidate for 47th State House has been endorsed by a political action committee that supports small business.

Livingston County Republicans Chair Meghan Reckling announced this week that she has been endorsed by the Small Business Association of Michigan’s Small Biz-PAC. According to a release, the Small Biz-PAC represents 28,000 members and supports candidates who work to stimulate small business growth and provide Michigan with an entrepreneurial economy. Reckling said that as a small business owner herself, she couldn’t be more pleased or honored to receive this endorsement.

She adds this endorsement to a list that already includes such from Associated Builders and Contractors, Right Life Michigan, U.S. Senate candidate John James, State Senator Lana Theis, and several county officials. Reckling is one of 4 candidates vying for the nomination at August 4th’s primary.

Also in contention are Livingston County Commissioner and former Sheriff Bob Bezotte, Assistant to the Brighton Township Manager Zach Dyba, and Marion Township resident Yvonne Black. The 47th State House seat is currently held by Hank Vaupel of Fowlerville, who is term limited and can’t run.

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Health Department Urges COVID-19 Safety This Holiday Weekend

By Jessica Mathews/News@whmi.com

The Livingston County Health Department is highlighting steps area residents can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 this holiday weekend.

Officials stress that COVID-19 is still spreading in the community. A press release states with restrictions lifted, more residents are leaving their homes – increasing their risk of exposure to COVID-19 as they encounter more people. Officials say cases continue to increase across the state as well as across the nation. Since June 15th, the Health Department has seen an increase of 51 cases in 18 days. In the past two weeks, the department has also seen a significant increase of COVID-19 cases in younger people. Officials say that shows that everyone, young and old, can be affected and now is not the time to let your guard down against COVID-19.

The department is encouraging residents to take safe steps while celebrating this Fourth of July weekend and advises choosing activities that limit exposure to others. The department has issued a list of different recommendations for those who are planning to travel or host or attend an event this weekend to protect themselves and others during personal and social activities. Those can be viewed in the attached release.

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Metroparks Ready For Busy 4th Of July Holiday Weekend

By Jessica Mathews / News@whmi.com

Despite some operational changes due to COVID-19, officials say there are still plenty of ways to explore area Metroparks this Independence Day weekend, create memories and start new traditions.

All 13 Huron-Clinton Metroparks are open. Officials say they’re ready to welcome people back this summer, although there will be some changes. The night sky won’t lite up with color this year as the annual fireworks displays have been canceled out of an abundance of caution against large groups gathering in the parks. Boat rental locations, marinas, liveries, campgrounds, some pools and playgrounds have re-opened, which were closed under previous executive orders. For those seeking water and sunshine, the Maple and Martindale beaches on Kent Lake in Kensington Metropark are open, along with the popular Splash n’ Blast. For animal lovers, the farm centers at Kensington and Wolcott Mill Metroparks are now open, although visitors will notice one-way traffic in certain areas and reduced capacities allowed inside barns.

Metroparks Spokeswoman Danielle Mauter tells WHMI most facilities in all 13 Metroparks are open but they have instituted some reduced capacities and extra safety protocols to keep visitors safe and healthy. Mauter says the Fourth of July weekend is always an exciting time in the parks but stressed it’s also important that visitors continue practicing social distancing. She says capacity in the parks and the individual facilities within parks will be actively monitored. When overcrowding occurs, there could be temporary closures to certain areas within the parks or entire parks. Depending on the time of day that capacity is reached, the park may re-open as visitors leave.
Due to the reduced capacities and additional precautions, anyone planning a trip is encouraged to visit the Metroparks website prior to heading out. Mauter says any closures due to capacity on the website, which has a section for park closures and information about safety protocols. A link is provided.

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Board Approves Purchase of 1,500 iPads

By Tom Tolen / news@whmi.com

The Brighton Area Schools District will be purchasing 1,500 new Apple iPads for the upcoming 2020-21 school year and beyond.

The Board of Education approved purchasing the iPads for use by BAS students at its regular meeting last week. The funds to procure the iPads are coming from the $59 million bond issue that was approved by the voters last November. The iPads will replace technologically outmoded iPads that were purchased from 2012 through 2014 with funds from the 2012 bond issue. The new iPads cost $294 apiece and will be obtained using the statewide REMC pricing program in order to obtain the best price possible.

Part of the motion, passed 7-0, includes the purchase of 1,500 mobile device management licenses at a cost of $14.85 each and a total cost of $22,275. The board also approved offering for sale to the highest bidder the over 1,400 used iPads, which have been factory re-set.

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Oakland County Prosecutor Will Handle Motion To Dismiss Rape Conviction

By Jon King / jking@whmi.com

A motion for a new trial for a convicted Brighton-area rapist will be handled by the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office

Livingston County Prosecutor Bill Vailliencourt says that in order to avoid any potential conflict of interest, he asked the Michigan Attorney General to handle the case. They have since appointed the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office to deal with the motion seeking a new trial for Zachary Lally, who was found guilty by a jury in the October 2018 sexual assault of a teenage girl who worked at a concession stand at the Oak Pointe Golf Course.

The motion, which was filed by Howell Attorney Tom Kizer, accuses Livingston County Assistant Prosecutor Pamela Maas of soliciting perjured testimony from a Livingston County Sheriff’s detective. Specifically, Kizer alleges that during the trial, a conversation between Maas and Livingston County Sheriff’s Office Det. Greg Thompson was caught on tape between proceedings in which Thompson indicated that he had forgotten his prior testimony concerning Lally’s clothes, and Mass told Thompson, ‘just say that we discussed it,” but based on Lally’s statements, she felt they had enough evidence without it. The motion further alleges Maas joked that if Thompson gave that answer, Lally’s attorney Roland Sizemore III, “will gasp, and that Maas will laugh.”

Vailliencourt told WHMI, that he, “found it very interesting that the press had a copy of the motion at the same time we received our copy. It speaks volumes. I think the circumstances demonstrate the real motivations behind this filing, especially given who the author is.” Kizer has been an outspoken opponent of Vailliencourt and is openly supporting former Judge David Reader in his bid to defeat Vailliencourt in the August GOP primary. However, Kizer tells WHMI that the timing of the motion was solely related to receipt of the official transcript from Lally’s trial. “I cannot help the timing. Perhaps Mr. Vailliencourt would have preferred the courtesy of waiting to file the Motion until after the primary just to accommodate his agenda. I had nothing to do with timing. A long trial and a lengthy transcript and Judge’s Orders defined our course.”

Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy said while his office would conduct a thorough investigation as to whether the detective committed perjury, he also questioned the timing of the motion. Murphy said it “didn’t pass the smell test” that Lally’s attorneys allege having information that could have resulted in a mistrial, yet let the trial conclude with their client’s conviction.

A date to hear the motion has yet to be set. Meanwhile, Lally remains at the Livingston County Jail pending an August 6th sentencing date, at which time he faces up to life in prison.

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Brighton 4th Of July Parade Cancelled

By Jon King / jking@whmi.com

While changes had been made to try and hold the City of Brighton’s 4th of July parade, organizers say they have to cancel the event.

In a YouTube video, Brighton Fire Chief Mike O’Brian said that city leaders had been working to keep citizens attending and participating in the parade safe, but that those efforts did not appear to be in compliance with the existing executive orders issued by the Governor. O’Brian says they are fearful that having the parade could aid in spreading the virus and their priority has always been to keep the community healthy.

O’Brian says while they want residents to stay home from the parade, they encourage everyone to still celebrate the nation’s birthday. He added that Main Street will still be closed from Friday afternoon through Saturday and is a great way to support local businesses.

The cancellation came after organizers had taken measures to try and factor in the pandemic, including asking that there be no handouts while also extending the route to allow for social distancing. But in the end, the determination was made that it was not going to be possible.

O’Brian thanked all of their volunteers, staff, public safety and parade participants for stepping up and helping prepare for the event.

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Vailliencourt, Reader Debate In Second Campaign Forum

By Mike Kruzman / news@whmi.com

The two Republican candidates for County Prosecutor faced off in campaign forum for the second time in a week.

Tuesday’s forum was hosted by Livingston County Republicans and was moderated by Sheriff Mike Murphy. Incumbent Bill Vailliencourt is being challenged by former Judge David Reader for the GOP nomination.

During his opening comments, Reader spoke of his time fostering the growth of the specialty court system that includes Veterans, Mental Health, and Adult Drug Court, while challenging Vailliencourt’s commitment to them. Reader said that Vailliencourt does not fully support these programs and is not fully vested in them. He continued, saying that Livingston County needs a prosecutor who will not restrict entry into these programs and will provide prosecutorial incentives for those who successfully complete them, which he says Vailliencourt does not.

Reader also claimed mishandling of the Judge Theresa Brennan situation from the prosecutor’s office, while stating that it was his testimony and action that helped lead to her removal from bench and plea to a felony. Vailliencourt took exception to this and said that he did everything that could have been done and accused Reader of trying to spread mis-information and re-write history for a political agenda.

The pair took turns answering 7 questions throughout the forum, but when asked about their positions on an automatic expungement bill for felonies that is in legislature, Reader admitted was not familiar with it. He went on to explain that in certain circumstances, however, the felonies they wrap around people can be harsh and that having a way to make them go away might be a good idea. Vailliencourt called this a huge issue in the state, said he was surprised Reader was unfamiliar with it, and that he was personally against it. He called the bill a real problem, in that it too easily with passed time allows someone with multiple felonies to have them wiped. Vailliencourt said it doesn’t go to the courts, and neither the prosecutor nor the victim get an opportunity to speak against the expungement. He said he has supported expungement legislation that gives the judge an opportunity to hear the cases and make an assessment to see if public safety is served by the expungement.

Reader stepped down from his position because he was required to 1 year in advance of filing to run for County Prosecutor. He said he is doing so to restore honesty and integrity to the office. Vailliencourt in his closing statement said that Reader’s sudden and abrupt resignation allowed Governor Whitmer to appoint his replacement, effectively flipping the circuit bench to the Democrats, and warned of the ramifications of giving them the power to appoint moving forward. Voters will decide which candidate becomes the nominee at the August 4th primary.

The forum can be seen in its entirety on the Livingston County Republicans Facebook page.

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Governor Signs Bills Extending Driver’s License Renewals

By Jessica Mathews / news@whmi.com

Livingston County drivers and others across Michigan now have some extra time to renew driver’s licenses and related other business.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bills 876-878, which codify her previous Executive Orders, further extending the renewal dates for driver’s licenses, commercial driver’s licenses, state ID cards and vehicle registrations. Among the extensions outlined in the legislation, those with driver’s licenses or vehicle registrations expiring after March 1st now have until September 30th to have them renewed. The bills aim to give Michigan residents peace of mind and reduce the amount of person to person interaction necessary when renewing licenses and registrations.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said they’re grateful for the support of the Legislature and Governor in their work to ensure essential transactions can be conducted in branch offices in a way that balances the health of staff and customers with the needs of Michigan drivers. Benson said they’ve been continually assessing the safest way to maintain branch operations and the legislation will go a long way toward those efforts.

Many transactions, including vehicle registration renewals, do not need to be conducted in person, and should be done online. Automobile, motorcycle and watercraft registration renewals also can be completed at one of the 122 Self-Service Stations located around the state. Residents needing to schedule an appointment can do so at Michigan.gov/SOS or by calling 888-SOS-MICH. Advance appointments can be made up to 180 days ahead of time. Same-day appointments become available 24 hours prior to the appointment time.

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