Year in Review 2020 — Part 2

Year in Review 2020 — Part 2

By Jim Newell

Review Editor

Another year over and a new one just begun. And 2020 was a year like no other in recent memory.

This week, The Lake Orion Review continues its look back at some of the news and business stories, sports and school highlights and events that helped shape the Orion community in 2020.

Beginning in March, the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on all aspects of life in the world dominated how our governments, schools, businesses and community groups and individuals had to alter their lives — from canceling events to social distancing and, dining, to businesses being temporarily, and in some cases, permanently shut down, and the seesaw of remote and in-person learning in our schools.

So, without further ado, this is the news that was…

June 3

LO DDA hosts Virtual Flower Fair: Lake Orion’s Downtown Development Authority hosted the first ever Virtual Flower Fair on May 29 and May 30.

Uncertainty around fall semester continues to be the subject of discussion during LOCS school board mtg.: Many parents in the Lake Orion Community Schools district were upset with how the district handled at-home (virtual) learning in the spring.

“My question to the board is: if Lake Orion is considered an elite school district, why were we so late to the game?” parent Melissa Reisler wrote.

Some parents have also raised concerns about the district’s current policy on grading and classwork requirements.

Assistant Supt. of Teaching and Learning Heidi Mercer said that most K-12 teachers are not trained in this form of teaching.

Culver’s fundraiser supports effort to save LO fireworks: Culver’s of Lake Orion will host a fundraiser on Thursday to support Orion residents’ efforts to save the annual fireworks show.

As of Tuesday afternoon, a citizen-led effort by Greg Rogers raised $21,906 on GoFundMe, more than $5,000 over the $16,000 stated goal.

The Lake Orion Fireworks Association announced on its website that this year’s Fourth of July Dueling Fireworks show would be canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Lake Orion Lions Club, which holds fireworks during its annual Jubilee, also canceled its fireworks show.

June 10

Supporters hold peaceful Black Lives Matter rally, march in Lake Orion: Nearly 1,000 people gathered Friday evening in the parking lot of the Lake Orion Plaza on M-24 and E. Clarkston Road to rally for the Black Lives Matter movement, calling for an end to racism, police brutality against African Americans and unity among everyone.

Lake Orion resident Antoine Peoples went to the Black Lives Matter rally with his wife and two young sons.

“We thought it was very important for us to be out here. My wife, Sara, actually helped to organize it. We thought it was important to bring a voice to Lake Orion for the movement that’s going on against police brutality. We feel that it needs to be said, and it needs to be shown, that everybody should be treated equally under the law and if there are bad apples in the police department that they should be held accountable for their actions,” Peoples said.

The protestors then marched to downtown Lake Orion — joined by Oakland County Sheriff’s officers and deputies and Lake Orion police — chanting the names of those who had been killed by police or armed citizens.

Lake Orion Schools breaks ground on Early Childhood Center: District officials broke ground on June 4 at the district’s new Early Childhood Center at the corner of Joslyn and Clarkston roads.

“A new Early Childhood Center is a dream that our district has talked about and wished for many years,” Assistant Supt. of Teaching and Learning Heidi Mercer said. “Due to our supportive, dedicated community, that dream is now becoming a true reality.”

In 2018, Lake Orion voters passed a $160 million, 10-year school bond to fund capital improvement projects.

June 17

Village council approves ‘private’ Fourth of July fireworks show: The Lake Orion Village Council unanimously approved a request to allow a fireworks show on the Fourth of July.

Police Chief Harold Rossman said he has concerns about how many people will attend, construction on M-24, whether people will put chairs in the construction zone to watch the fireworks and gridlock before and after the fireworks show.

Rossman also said that he will have 16 officers on duty that night, but will be 10 officers short because some officers, including reserve officers, had already put in for vacation time after learning the fireworks

LOCS Board of Education selects superintendent candidates for first round interviews: The district received 29 applications for the position and narrowed the selection down to six candidates to interview.

Birney Directive and Lake Orion DDA sign brand marketing contract: The DDA Board of Directors voted unanimously to hire The Birney Directive at an annual fee of $18,000 during its June 9 meeting.

June 24

LOCS school board selects two superintendent candidates for second round interviews: The school board interviewed their top six candidates last week, meeting with each candidate from June 15-17.

On Thursday, the board narrowed the field down to their top two candidates for the second round of interviews: Vanessa Keesler, Deputy Superintendent at the Michigan Department of Education, and Benjamin Kirby, Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services at South Lyon Community Schools.

However, during their Thursday meeting, the board hit a bump that nearly derailed the current search, when board President Jim Weidman announced he would like to again pause the current search.

‘Advancing Diversity’ webinar open to the public on June 30: The “Advancing Diversity: A Conversation to Increase Cultural Competency in the Lake Orion Community” webinar was a collaboration between the NOCC, OAYA, LOCS, Orion Twp. Parks & Rec. Dept. and Orion Twp. government.

Father Joe Dailey, Christ the Redeemer pastor, retires: After nearly 43 years of service as a Catholic priest, Father Joe Dailey, pastor at Christ the Redeemer, is retiring at the end of the month.

Blessings in a Brown starts fundraiser for summer lunch program: Private donor to match up to $10,000.

July 1

Ben Kirby named new superintendent of Lake Orion Community Schools: The Lake Orion Community Schools Board of Education met on Monday and unanimously agreed on selecting Ben Kirby as the district’s new superintendent.

LOCS names Rick Arnett as interim superintendent: During their June 24 meeting, the Lake Orion school board named Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Rick Arnett the interim superintendent between the departure of Superintendent Marion Ginopolis on June 30 and July 20, the expected starting date for the newly hired Superintendent Ben Kirby.

Supt. Ginopolis heads up list of LOCS retirees: This year, LOCS will say goodbye to 21 retirees.

Fork n’ Pint in Lake Orion takes precautions after an individual tests positive for COVID-19: Fork n’ Pint restaurant in Lake Orion closed last week after someone at the restaurant tested positive for COVID-19.

Owner Doug Young said the case in question was asymptomatic. He did confirm that 11 workers at the restaurant have now been quarantined as a precautionary measure.

“We’re all moving forward and learning to toe the line with this, and we’re following all precautions and procedures. But where we can go above and beyond, we want to do that for the safety of our employees and guests, Young said.

LOCS anticipates funding cuts heading into the 2020-2021 school year: Lake Orion Community Schools is anticipating a $4.4 million overall reduction in per pupil funding for the 2020-2021 school year.

July 8

Independence Twp. woman pulls gun on mother, daughters at Orion Twp. restaurant after a heated argument: A wife and husband from Independence Twp. have been charged with felonious assault after pulling guns on a Pontiac woman and her daughters in a Chipotle restaurant parking lot in Orion Twp. on July 1.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael J. Bouchard held a press conference July 2 and laid out the timeline of the incident, saying the altercation started after one person bumped another at the fast food eatery.

‘It takes a village’: hundreds come together to help Orion family in need: In June, Dylan Kade, 19-year-old alumni of Lake Orion High School, was taken to St. Joseph Hospital with a temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit. On July 1, he was diagnosed with Encephalitis, which was causing cognitive impairment and was moved into the PICU for strict monitoring. Now, friends have started a GoFundMe campaign to help the family with the mounting medical bills.

LOCS cancels special meeting to hire Ben Kirby as district superintendent: The district had originally expected to complete contract negotiations and make a motion to officially hire Kirby during a special meeting on July 6, however that meeting was canceled due to ongoing contract negotiations.

Returning depth will carry Lake Orion cross country this fall: While graduating one of the most accomplished runners in school history, Andrew Nolan, obviously makes things more difficult, boys varsity cross country coach Stan Ford and his staff return all nine of their other top-10 performers in 2019, leading to plenty of optimism as they prepare to embark on the 2020 campaign.

July 15

LOCS school board, Kirby reaches an agreement on superintendent contract: The Lake Orion Board of Education wrapped up their superintendent search process on July 9 by finalizing the district’s contract with Ben Kirby. Kirby’s contract will extend from July 20 of this year through June 30, 2023. He was hired by a unanimous vote.

To dispense or not to dispense…Village of Lake Orion to hold hearings on medical, recreational marijuana ordinances: The Lake Orion Village Council plans to hold two public hearings on developing a proposed medical and recreational marijuana ordinance and the council and administrators want residents’ input.

LOHS announces plans for “drive-in commencement” ceremony: Lake Orion Community Schools sent out communication Monday outlining their plans to hold an in-person “drive-in” graduation ceremony in the Lake Orion High School student parking lot at 6:30 p.m. on July 30.

Village council approves three events during rising COVID-19 numbers: The Lake Orion Village Council continued to approve more events for downtown Lake Orion during its meeting on Monday, two of which would currently exceed the governor’s orders on the maximum number of people allowed to gather in one place at one time.

The Brave the Wave event, the Golling/LOPD Car Show and the Bike Nights at 313 Pizza Bar were all approved, 5-0, by Council President Ken Van Portfliet, President Pro-tem Bradley Mathisen and Councilmembers Doug Hobbs, Jerry Narsh and Ray Hammond.

C-Pub at Canterbury raises $10,000 for Lake Orion family: On July 9, the C-Pub at Canterbury Village held a fundraiser for Dylan Kade, selling pizzas at $20 and then matching the amount raised.

Seven candidates vie for four Orion Twp. Trustee seats: Republican township trustee candidates Brian Birney, Julia Dalrymple, Marie Monaco, Michael Flood, Jr. and Kim Urbanowski face off in the Aug. 4 primary, with the top four vote getters moving on to the general election where they will face off against Democrats Cheyenne Dwyer and Eileen Nolton.

July 22

Lake Orion LIVE! concerts in Children’s Park: The Lake Orion DDA kicked off their Lake Orion LIVE! summer concert series in Children’s Park on July 8 with a performance by Lake Orion musician Steve Taylor.

Fiancé of late LOHS teacher seeks to raise money for grief counseling and a scholarship in her name: Stephanie Peck, a math and science teacher at Lake Orion High School, was 29-years-old, engaged and 11-weeks pregnant when she suddenly passed away in mid-April this year.

Village council members clarify recent approval of events, adherence to governor’s orders on crowd control: Two Lake Orion Village Council members wanted to clarify the council’s recent approval of two events in downtown Lake Orion.

President Ken Van Portfliet and President Pro-tem Bradley Mathisen said they were concerned that an article in the July 15 issue of The Lake Orion Review might lead people to believe that the council was “throwing caution to the wind” when approving events during the pandemic.

“That’s the only thing the council took exception to, as if we were throwing caution to the wind. We’re really paying attention…to the governor’s executive orders,” Van Portfliet said.

Village council members did not specify how they were working with businesses and groups to adhere to the maximum capacity.

On July 13, Lake Orion Village Council approved the Brave the Wave jet ski competition and the Golling Buick GMC/Lake Orion Police Association Car Show, both for Aug. 1, and Tuesday Bike Nights at 313 Pizza Bar. Anticipated attendance at Brave the Wave and the Golling Car Show was listed at 300 people on the event applications and would exceed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders on the maximum number of 100 people allowed to gather in one place at one time.

Village, DDA approve bid for sidewalk connecting Slater St. lot to Anderson St.: The DDA board unanimously approved hiring KMI Maintenance for construction of the Slater Street Parking lot sidewalk access across Orion Twp. fire station property at a cost not to exceed $10,530.

Downtown businesses receive grants from DDA crowdfunding campaign: The Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority announced July 14 that nine downtown businesses are being awarded grant money from the DDA’s recent crowdfunding campaign.

The campaign ran from May 14 to June 30 with the goal of raising $25,000, but raised $10, 480 to split equally among the businesses that had applied for the grant.

July 29

Orion Twp. voters to decide on police, fire mills: When Orion Township voters head to the polls on Aug. 4, they will be asked to decide on two public safety millages, one for police and one for the fire department.

LOCS admin. discusses return to school plan at July 22 meeting: The school board met on July 22 and discussed the district’s return to school plan this fall, including busing, personal protection equipment, cleaning district buildings and screening/positive cases of COVID-19.

Orion Twp. launches ReCollect garbage notification tool: Residents are able to access the ReCollect tool at

Paint Creek dam passes inspection, no major issues: There are a few minor surface cracks to patch and some vegetation to clear away from the dam structure, but overall, the Paint Creek dam is in pretty good shape.

Lucas Trumble, a dam safety engineer with the Hydrologic Studies and Dam Safety Unit for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE), inspected the dam on July 23. The last inspection report on the dam was in 2016. Dams, such as the one in Lake Orion, have to undergo a safety inspection every four years.

Nine residents file to run for Lake Orion Community Schools Board of Education: The nine candidates will vie for one of the four, four-year seats on the board on the November ballot.

Six candidates to run for Lake Orion Village Council in November: There are six candidates running for four open seats on the Lake Orion Village Council in the Nov. 3 general election, and at least one will be a new member to the council. Councilmember John Ranville did not seek re-election.

Deputies recover two stolen vehicles, suspects in custody: Oakland County Sheriff’s deputies have recovered two stolen vehicles and have two suspects in custody after a break-in and theft from Leonard Enterprise Used Cars, 3921 S. Baldwin Rd.

The owner reported the stolen vehicles at 7:17 a.m. July 24. Two of the four vehicles stolen have been recovered.

Lake Orion school board seeks candidates to fill vacancy: The Lake Orion school district is seeking applications for a vacant position on the board of education after board Secretary Dana Mermell sent a letter to the board resigning her position on July 16, effective immediately.

Aug. 5

Supporters gather for ‘Back the Blue’ pro-police rally in Orion Twp.: Between 50-70 people showed up to the Back the Blue Pro-Police rally Saturday, with protestors standing along M-24 at the Lake Orion Plaza, cheering as passing vehicles honked their horns and gave thumbs up signs in support.

“We’re here to ‘Back the Blue’,” said Dr. Joe Mastromatteo of Lake Orion. “Support our police in any way we can. God bless them. They put their lives on the line for us every day that they leave home.”

LOHS and Learning Options classes of 2020 hold in-person graduation ceremony on July 30:

Lake Orion to hold hearing on medical, recreational marijuana ordinances: The Lake Orion Village Council will hold a public hearing on developing a proposed medical and recreational marijuana ordinance at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 10.

“I would welcome as much input from our residents as possible,” said Councilmember Teresa Rutt.

LOCS Board of Education selects familiar face to fill board vacancy: The board interviewed four candidates before unanimously selecting Mary Jo Burchart, former board member from 2000-2012, to fill the vacant seat until new board members take office in January.

Kids & Kops charity car show rolls into downtown Lake Orion: Golling Buick GMC and the Lake Orion Police Association co-host the car show, with proceeds benefiting the police association’s charitable programs.

Aug. 12

Public safety is a priority for Orion voters, as police and fire mills pass: More than 62 percent of voters passed the requested 3 mill Fire and Emergency Medical Services Operating Millage, while more than 57 percent supported the requested 3.5 mills Police Operating Millage.

Orion Twp. board discusses moving forward with municipal complex: Cost increases to more than $18 million: After putting the development of a new Orion Twp. Hall and police station on hold this spring, the township is now moving forward with plans to build a new facility on township owned land.

The project includes nearly 9,000 additional square feet and more than $3.3 million in increased costs from the maximum the township had planned when it put out a notice to issue $15 million in bonds for the project.

Orion Twp. trustee race set for Nov. 3 general election: Republicans Brian Birney, Michael Flood, Jr., Kimberly Urbanowski and Julia Dalrymple will move on to the November election and face Democrats Cheyenne Dwyer and Eileen Nolton. Marie Monaco lost her bid to be one of the four candidates on the Republican slate.

Orion Twp. Supervisor Chris Barnett, Clerk Penny Shults and Treasurer Donni Steele all ran unopposed.

LOCS welcomes Supt. Ben Kirby as fall planning continues: Kirby’s start date was July 20. LOCS board members and administrators continue to plan for the start of school.

Lake Orion Athletics well-equipped to handle new safety protocols: Student-athletes, coaches, spectators will have to follow new pandemic procedures.

Aug. 19

Orion Twp. board votes to move forward with municipal complex: The Orion Township Board of Trustees voted 6-1 during its meeting on Monday to move forward with the proposed Orion Township Municipal Complex and hire Cunningham-Limp as the project manager.

LOCS Board of Education unanimously approves remote start plan at Aug. 12 meeting: LOCS is set to begin the fall semester remotely on Sept. 8. In July, the school district announced plans to offer both an in-person and an online learning option for students during the fall semester. However, last week the district took a sharp turn when the school board voted unanimously to forego that plan in favor of a fully remote start plan.

Village voters to decide the fate of marijuana ordinance in Nov. election: Lake Orion voters will decide on whether or not to adopt a village ordinance governing medical and recreational marijuana facilities in the village after a group submitted enough petition signatures to put the issue on the Nov. 3 general election ballot. The village council announced during its Aug. 10 meeting that it had received the petitions.

Aug. 26

Village council approves four restaurants as part of the new downtown Social District: Cocktails to-go on tap in Lake Orion public areas. The Lake Orion Village Council unanimously approved permits for four downtown restaurants during a special meeting on Aug. 19. The council has previously approved creating the social district during its Aug. 10 meeting.

Building Bridges: Village of LO to replace Meeks Park bridge, repair others: The village got a pedestrian bridge for a mere $20,000 – which included the bridge, two approaches, the concrete footings and delivery. The bridge will replace the old Meeks Park bridge later this fall. The Children’s Park bridge was recently resurfaced.

Downtown businesses shuffle around, reopen: Anita’s Kitchen announced that it would reopen. Sarah’s Bath Boutique recently reopened at 12 N. Broadway St. Broadway Embroidery, now at 24 N. Broadway St., moved its store front into the space formerly occupied by Hamsa Yoga, which has closed in Lake Orion.

Great Lakes Athletic Club closes outdoor pool after positive Coronavirus case: Great Lakes Athletic Club announced last Thursday that they would be closing their outdoor pool for 14 days after a lifeguard tested positive for COVID-19. “Anyone who utilized the pool from Sunday, August 16 to present should self-quarantine for 14 days and is advised to seek testing,” the club wrote on their Facebook page.

Sept. 2

Nine candidates vie for four open seats on LOCS Board of Education election: The Review previews candidates Birgit McQuiston, Scott Taylor, Danielle Bresett, Joel Cole, Susan Flaherty, Misty Morris, Edwina Mitchell Patterson, Amy Denise Silvester, Janice Zale.

Holy Spokes donates 110 children’s bicycles to Free Bikes 4 Kidz: Holy Spokes of Orion continued its commitment of bringing joy and freedom to bicyclists of all ages – especially to the kids who may never have had one – by donating 110 children’s bikes to Free Bikes 4 Kidz Detroit on Thursday

LOCS reviews back to school plans, provides updates on return to school, Dragon’s Den: “This whole decision is about students, it’s about employees, it’s about parents and ultimately our community. And we want to make sure that we are being responsible to all of those groups,” said Supt. Ben Kirby.

Sept. 9

Six candidates vie for four seats on the Lake Orion Village Council in the Nov. 3 general election: The Review’s preview of village council candidates Kenneth W. Van Portfliet, Bradley E. Mathisen, Jerry Narsh, Sarah H. Luchsinger, Michael J. Lamb and Leigh Stephen Wilson.

Honoring first responders: Patriot Day ceremony Friday at Friendship Park: the annual Patriot Day ceremony on Sept. 11 moves to Friendship Park to accommodate greater social distancing.

Sept. 16

Early morning fire closes Snap Taco on Lapeer Road two days after opening: Snap Taco caught fire early Sept. 12, after celebrating its grand opening on Sept. 10.

The Orion Twp. Fire Dept. got the call around 1 a.m. Saturday of a structure fire with smoke billowing from the building, said Assistant Fire Chief John Pender.

Lake Orion’s pandemic-shortened football season starts this Friday: Lake Orion head coach John Blackstock said he is excited for his team’s second chance at playing this fall.

Village seeks residents’ input on the 2020 Master Plan Amendment with interactive survey: How should village land be zoned and developed in the future? Village officials and their planners hope to get feedback on ta new survey going live on Friday. The village will then use the feedback to help update and amend its Master Plan, which helps guide land use and development.

The great picnic table conundrum comes to an end: During their Sept. 8 meeting, the DDA board made their final attempt at purchasing picnic tables but were ultimately unsuccessful, yet again.

With several downtown restaurants scrambling to provide outdoor seating, it became obvious that the downtown was in need of some sort of outdoor seating arrangements.

On June 9, the board tabled discussion that included picnic tables because they were unhappy with the number of bids received.

Thus began an uphill battle for picnic tables in the downtown.

Now, only one of four distributors had inventory that was ready to be shipped. However, each picnic table would cost $279, up nearly $120 from the bid received in June.

The board agreed to wait to purchase picnic tables.

Sept. 23

U.S. Rep. Slotkin tours Lake Orion during campaign stop on Saturday: Congressional Rep. Elissa Slotkin (MI-8th District) visited downtown Lake Orion on Saturday, speaking to dozens of supporters before taking a tour of the village.

Orion Twp. officials, guests, break ground on the new Municipal Complex: Scores of people, from local officials to teams of builders and architects, township employees and sheriff’s deputies joined the Orion Township Board of Trustees at an official groundbreaking ceremony for the new Municipal Complex on Sept. 21.

The Municipal Complex is being built on a portion of the nearly 77 acres on the east side of Joslyn Road, south of Scripps and north of Greenshield roads the township acquired from a land swap with the Michigan DNR.

The $18.4 million complex will include the new Township Hall, a new substation for the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, ample community meeting space, a full basement, parking lots and walking paths, a large board room and plans for future land development in addition to the extra office and storage space for employees.

LOCS receives remote learning feedback, addresses concerns: In the weeks since the district’s decision to begin the year fully remote, the district has been inundated with emails and comments on social media from disappointed parents,

During last week’s meeting on Sept. 15, there were 29 public participation emails that raised concerns about elementary-age students’ education, technology, remote learning and students’ emotional wellbeing.

LOHS cancels first varsity football game of season after positive COVID-19 tests: Lake Orion High School had to cancel their varsity football team’s first season matchup against the Oxford Wildcats last week after two members of the varsity football program tested positive for Coronavirus.

Sept. 30

Lake Orion admin., board revisits return-to-school plan with in-person and virtual learning options: Elementary students expected back Oct. 26.

Voters should be getting absentee ballots soon: The general election is Nov. 3, but with the COVID-19 pandemic and the ease of voting by mail-in ballot, many voters are choosing that option instead of going to the polls.

Dragons slay the Knights for their first football win of 2020: Lake Orion’s 2020 varsity football season finally got underway last Friday and the Dragons’ pent-up energy fueled them to a decisive 38-6 victory over Oak Park.

Dragons and Wildcats battle to 2-2 tie on the soccer pitch: With the tie, Lake Orion moves to 3-2-2 overall and 2-1-2 in the OAA White division, good for third place behind Oxford (first) and Farmington (second).

Dragons tennis returns for shortened season, falls to Rochester Falcons: The Dragons lost to Rochester High School on Thursday and are now 3-5 on the season.

LOHS volleyball goes on winning streak: The girls volleyball team seems to have shaken their early season slump with five wins in the past week. Lake Orion is now 9-4 overall and 2-1 in the OAA Red division.


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