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Top 10 stories of 2012 in NE Michigan

December 30, 2012
The Alpena News

1. In April, Alpena Municipal Council voted 3-2 to terminate its contract with City Manager Thad Taylor in a closed-door session. At its next meeting, City Planning and Development Director Greg Sundin was named interim city manager by council. Following the termination, residents expressed their displeasure with the removal and a recall effort was launched against Mayor Matt Waligora and Councilmen Michael Nunneley and Dave Karschnick. The petition language was approved, and all three officials denied the charges. The petitions received enough signatures and the recall was put on the November ballot. Waligora survived being recalled, but Nunneley and Karchnick were recalled.

Fifteen residents applied for the temporary council positions, with former Councilman Mike Polluch and Susan Nielsen named to the seats.

Sundin remains as the interim city manager, and a search for a permanent manager has been put off until after the February special election to fill the temporary positions held by Polluch and Nielsen.

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2. In 2011 Delta Airlines announced it would end air service to Alpena County Regional Airport. The search for a new air carrier began in late 2011 with separate requests for proposal. Neither was met with enthusiasm, and 2012 began with a third RFP. After the third RFP didn't live up to local hopes, local officials met with SkyWest and the FAA was petitioned to extend a fourth RFP. At that point, SkyWest bid on the service and was chosen as the carrier. Flights began in September offering air service to Detroit and Minneapolis, and the airport surpassed the 10,000 enplanements necessary for the $1 million subsidy for the airport.

3. The Huron Undercover Narcotics Team had a tumultuous 2012. In late 2011 HUNT and the Straits Area Narcotics Enforcement launched an investigation of Presque Isle County Prosecutor Rick Steiger. The Michigan Attorney General's Office filed charges against Steiger, accusing him of doctor shopping, but in 2012 District Court Judge Theodore Johnson and Circuit Court Judge Michael Mack dismissed the charges. Then-HUNT Commander Del Putnam was removed from his post on unrelated issues, which was followed by Alpena County Sheriff Steve Kieliszewski removing a deputy from HUNT. Alcona County twice attempted to pass millages to support HUNT, but both failed. In December Putnam reached a plea agreement on the charge of willful neglect of duty by a public officer. In October, Detective/Lt. Frank Keck took over as the HUNT commander.

4. The Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational School District and Atlanta Community Schools spent much of the year tied up in a lawsuit stemming from services for special education services, a suit that began in 2011.

In addition, a recall effort was made to remove members of the Atlanta school board. Superintendent Teresa Stauffer and board President Janet Sarkozy both resigned, and Stauffer was signed as a consultant for the lawsuit against the AMA; she resigned in October. In December a judge dismissed the suit and special education through the AMA resumed in Atlanta.

5. "Bath salts" became a problem for a portion of the year. The product became the target of community leaders as several cases found emergency crews called to treat those who abused the product. Several area residents were treated at the ARMC emergency room as a result. Several businesses that carried the synthetic "drugs" were broken into, and law enforcement confiscated the synthetics. That was followed by local officials banning their sale in Alpena.

6. Alpena County announced it is pursuing a Center of Excellence designation that could help Alpena County Regional Airport land an unmanned aircraft (drone) project. The county reached agreements with both the University of Michigan and University of Texas, as well agreements in the private sector, should the county be named a Center of Excellence. A newly formed Michigan Advanced Aerial System Center Committee is chaired by Commissioner Tom Mullaney

7. A shorter-than-expected winter, coupled with lack of rain and drought-like conditions in much of the Midwest resulted in lake levels hitting record lows. Coastal communities throughout the Great Lakes faced issues related to the lake levels, and could begin the next boating season with much the same issues as the one that wrapped up.

8. Area schools and governmental entities continued to do what they could to manage budgets and stay operational. Each was forced to make hard decisions to stay within their budget constraints, with most running into budget deficits forced onto them by less revenue sharing and reimbursements from the state.

9. Rogers City and all of Northeast Michigan had a rooting interest in a reality TV show as Rogers City native Melissa Fleis advanced to the finals of Project Runway. Week after week Fleis continued to survive and thrive to make it to the show's finale.

10. Alpena Community College continued its efforts to provide the best quality education for area students. The college's first marine technology students began hands-on training during the summer with classwork starting in the fall semester. Then ACC signed an agreement with University of Michigan-Flint to offer a bachelor of nursing degree in Alpena.



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