By Jim Newell
This week concludes The Lake Orion Review’s look back at 2020, a year like no other in recent memory. In this issue, we highlight some of the news and business stories, sports and school highlights and events that helped shape the Orion Township and Village of Lake Orion communities from October through December of 2020.
For the first two parts of the Year in Review 2020, visit lakeorionreview.com or see the Dec. 30 and Jan. 6 print editions.
So, without further ado, this is the news that was in 2020…
Library board running as write-in candidates: In the Nov. 3 general election, all six incumbents on the Orion Township Library Board of Trustees are seeking re-election but due to a misunderstanding in the filing deadline MaryAnne Thorndycraft, Mary Pergeau, James Abramczyk, James Phillips, Bert Quinn and Michael Luna must run as write-in candidates.
Drakos honored for 16 years of school board service: Lake Orion Community Schools Board of Education Secretary Steve Drakos was honored by the Michigan Association of School Boards for 16 years of school board service: 10 in Lake Orion, six in Oxford.
Lake Orion stops U of D Jesuit in defensive football battle: It was the first game ever between the two teams and the Dragons overcame three turnovers with an impressive defensive performance to top the Cubs on the road, 7-6.
Polls open on Election Day, safety precautions in place: Orion Twp. Clerk Penny Shults expects high absentee voter requests, but knows that many people will still head to the polls on election day. Voters will also face new safety precautions at the polls due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be expected to follow some increased safety procedures.
Dragon volleyball team dominates Stoney Creek in 3-1 victory
Varsity boys tennis defeats Flushing 6-2
Lake Orion boys cross country defeats Clarkston; Sophie Novak takes first place in the girls race
Orion Twp. man was part of the group plotting to kidnap Gov. Whitmer: Thirteen people who conspired to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer are in jail after a months-long undercover investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation put a stop to the plan.
And an Orion Twp. man was allegedly part of the plot to kidnap the governor, according to an FBI affidavit filed in federal court. Daniel Joseph Harris, 23, was reportedly one of the conspirators arrested in an FBI operation.
Members of the group had talked about storming the state Capitol building and taking hostages; kidnapping Whitmer at her official or personal vacation residences; and taking her to remote location in Wisconsin to “stand trial” for treason, according to the FBI complaint.
LOCS moves to finish early bond construction work, prepares for series two: In the past two years, the Lake Orion school district has nearly completed the work scheduled for series one bond projects. In November 2018, Orion voters approved a $160 million, 7.491 mils construction bond.
Downtown Lake Orion becomes home to DIA mural: Detroit Institute of Art artists are painting a mural on the side of the building at 120 S. Broadway St.
Clarkston Wolves hand the Dragons their first football loss of the season: The Wolves posted a lopsided 31-7 victory.
LOCS reports positive COVID-19 case two weeks before in-person learning set to begin: Lake Orion Community Schools announced Oct. 12 that a positive case of COVID-19 was identified in an Early Childhood Special Education classroom.
The district has been informed by the Oakland County Health Division that during the 2020-2021 school year, there have been five school-related COVID-19 positive cases in the district.
What’s in the proposed Lake Orion marijuana ordinance?: In the Nov. 3 general election, Village of Lake Orion residents will decide on a proposed ordinance that would allow for the creation and governance of medical and adult recreational marijuana facilities in Lake Orion.
Kruse & Muer Roadhouse, Big Wave Sushi announce closings this month
Michigan Supreme Court ruling prevents LOCS from holding scheduled meeting: The Lake Orion school board canceled its Oct. 14 meeting after an Oct. 2 Michigan Supreme Court ruling that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lacked the authority in issuing her State of Emergency and Executive Orders surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Boys varsity team shares first place at OAA league cross country meet, finish fourth at Oakland County meet: The Lake Orion boys varsity cross country team is league champs, sharing the title with Rochester Adams. Senior Nicholas Laurent finished eighth at the county meet and third overall at the league meet.
LO senior Sophie Novak places first at league meet, sixth overall at the Oakland County meet.
CJ’s Lakeside Grill, Sandbar sold to new owners: It’s the end of an era. After 23 years under the care of owners Carl and Joan Slomczenski, CJ’s Lakeside Grill and CJ’s Sandbar has changed ownership.
“I am officially retired,” Carl Slomczenski told The Review. “It feels good. It feels really good.”
The new restaurant will be named Johnny Black’s Lake House.
Contested Orion Twp., village and school board candidate races to be decided on Tuesday: There are six candidates – two Democrats and four Rebublicans — running for four Orion Twp. Trustee spots; six candidates vying for four seats on the village council; and nine candidates running for four seats on the school board.
LOCS reports three positive COVID-19 cases: On Oct. 23, Lake Orion schools reported two students from the same household tested positive for COVID-19. On Tuesday, the district reported another positive test, this time, a high school student.
MDHHS reports ‘alarming increases’ in COVID-19 cases: On Oct. 24 the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released a statement reporting more 3,300 positive COVID19 test results.
LO boys place second at pre-regional cross country meet: Nicholas Laurent finished third overall for the Dragons. The team now moves on to the regional finals.
LO girls team finish their season at cross country pre-regional meet: The team finished fifth. Senior Sophie Novak will move on to the regional final.
LOCS presents beginning of the year data at Oct. 28 meeting: The data was collected among Kindergarten through eighth-grade students district-wide using nationally-normed benchmark assessments for reading and math.
Natrabis breaks ground on $20 million marijuana facility in Orion Twp.: Cannabis company Natrabis broke ground on a new marijuana cultivation facility in Orion Township on Thursday.
The 54,000 square feet marijuana cultivation facility is at 4601 Liberty Drive South, between Brown Road and Giddings Road across from General Motors Lake Orion Assembly Plant.
Orion Twp. named a five-star community: Orion Twp. was recognized as a five-star community in the University of Michigan Dearborn’s annual eCities study for its successes and efforts in contributing to Michigan’s entrepreneurial growth and economic development.
Seven Dragon runners head to state cross country finals on Friday: The Lake Orion boys varsity cross country team took third place at the MHSAA Region 7-1 meet at Clintonwood Park in Clarkston on Friday and move on to the Division 1 state finals this Friday at the Michigan International Speedway.
Dragon pole vaulters finish 1-2 at Halloween Vault: Dragon pole vaulters Bella Monterosso and Carlie Knebl, both juniors at Lake Orion High School, took home the first and second place medals at the third annual Halloween Vault held Oct. 31 in Vermontville, MI.
Bobcats Slay Dragons in First Round of Football Playoffs: Lake Orion’s fast start fizzled out and the Dragons lost in the first round of the state football playoffs last Friday to the Grand Blanc Bobcats, 28-14.
Bresett, Flaherty elected to LOCS school board, Taylor, McQuiston re-elected: Scott Taylor, Birgit McQuiston, Danielle Bresett and Susan Flaherty were elected to the Lake Orion Community Schools Board of Education for four-year terms.
Orion Twp. Board of Trustees set: Julia Dalrymple, Brian Birney, Michael Flood, Jr. and Kim Urbanowski were elected as township trustees.
Supervisor Chris Barnett, Clerk Penny Shults and Treasurer Donni Steele ran unopposed and round out the seven-member board.
Lake Orion voters elect the old and the new to the village council: Councilmember Jerry Narsh was the highest voter-getter and will serve a four-year term, along with newcomers Sarah Luchsinger and Michael J. Lamb.
Council President Ken Van Portfliet was fourth in the vote totals and will serve a two-year term.
President Pro-tem Bradley Mathisen lost his re-election bid, and candidate Leigh Stephen Wilson failed to win a spot on the council.
High Times: Lake Orion marijuana ordinance passes decisively: Village of Lake Orion voters decisively passed an ordinance proposal on Nov. 3 that would allow and set up guidelines for marijuana facilities within village limits. The ordinance passed with 1,122 (65.27 percent) supporting the proposal and 597 votes (34.73 percent) against.
LOCS proceeds with in-person learning plan as COVID-19 cases increase: Lake Orion schools reported seven cases of COVID-19 from Nov. 2-8. Elementary students went back to school on Oct. 26 and middle and high school students were to start on Nov. 9.
Dragon boys finish season, place 17th at the cross country state finals on Friday
LOHS Senior Sophie Novak competes in her 4th state finals: Novak finished 34th overall
Lake Orion Schools returns to remote learning after one week of in-person classroom attendance: District confirms 62 staff, 310 students and 14 full classrooms currently quarantining
Orion community honors Van Tassel with Paint Creek bridge dedication: Paint Creek Trail Manager Melissa Ford (left) and Polly Ann Trail Manager Linda Moran (right) hold the ribbon as JoAnn Van Tassel cuts the ribbon to ceremonially open the Van Tassel Pedestrian Bridge over Paint Creek. The bridge is near the Clarkston and Kern roads trailhead. Orion Twp. Supervisor Chris Barnett (right, blue suit) and Treasurer Donni Steel (middle left, black and gray) and dozens of well-wishers attended to show their appreciation for Van Tassel’s more than 50 years of service to the Orion community. Photo by Jim Newell.
The Orion Twp. Municipal Complex is on schedule: Construction on the Orion Twp. Municipal Complex is on schedule and township officials, the architect and construction managers are cautiously optimistic with the progress.
Village council members sworn in, officers elected at Nov. 9 mtg.: Village Clerk Susan Galeczka administered the Oath of Office to Ken Van Portfliet, Jerry Narsh, Sarah Luchsinger and Michael Lamb prior to the Lake Orion Village Council meeting on Nov. 9. Councilmembers then elected Van Portfliet as president and Narsh as president pro-tem.
Police investigate death of Orion Twp. woman, 79: The woman’s death, which appears to be from natural causes, was not reported for more than three weeks.
LOCS Supt. Ben Kirby reviews updated COVID-19 learning plan: In the wake of school closures throughout the state due to increased COVID-19 cases, last week Lake Orion Community Schools joined several neighboring districts in moving all of their in-person students back to remote learning.
LOCS provides enrollment updates at Nov. 19 mtg.: While the district projected a decline, they did not estimate as steep of a decline as they ultimately had. LOCS enrollment on Oct. 19 of this year was just 6,696 students — 405 students less than the district had in the spring of last year, or 317 fewer total students than they had expected.
‘Scouting for Food’ drive collects 3,500 pounds of food for Oxford/Orion area families
Orion Lighted Parade, ‘Christmas in Toyland’, is canceled for 2020
Peter Kalohn, Lake Orion restauranteur and businessman, passes away at 94: Kalohn, owner of Pete’s Roadhaus, died Saturday, Nov. 21 at the age of 94.
Plante Moran gives an ‘unmodified opinion’ during Lake Orion schools annual audit: Lake Orion Community Schools received their annual audit from Plante Moran at the regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 19, receiving an “unmodified opinion” – the highest form of assurance.
Orion Goodfellows sell newspapers to brighten Christmas for area families: The Orion Twp. Firefighter Goodfellows will sell special editions of The Lake Orion Review to raise funds for their annual Christmas program.
Orion shoppers support local businesses during Small Business Saturday: It’s been a tough year for local businesses, but as local, small businesses try to rebound, Orion area shoppers did their part to help stimulate the local economy this weekend, showing up in force for Shop Small Business Saturday.
GMB Architects present site designs for Stadium Drive and Paint Creek elementary buildings
OAYA starts ‘Parents Matter’ virtual support, social group: The Orion Area Youth Assistance partnered with E Community Outreach Services to offer online sessions designed to help parents navigate the stress and everchanging demands they face during the COVID-19 pandemic.
LOCS announces students will stay with remote learning until Jan. 19: Lake Orion Community Schools announced last Tuesday that remote learning will continue until at least Jan. 19, 2021 for students who had been going to class in-person.
Supt. Ben Kirby made the announcement on the district’s website, social media and in an email to parents citing data, academics, staffing and the upcoming holiday break as reasons for the decision.
“Given the continuing rise in COVID-19 case counts in Oakland County, and especially within Orion and our school district boundaries, this is not the appropriate time to bring students and staff members back into the school buildings,” Kirby said.
Carrie Lee’s restaurant in Orion Twp. pays more than $37k to six employees after U.S. Dept. of Labor investigation: Family who owns Carrie Lee’s provides a statement, responds to Q&A:
Carrie Lee’s Chinese & Thai Cuisine restaurant in Orion Twp. paid $37,177 in overtime back wages to six employees after a U.S. Dept. of Labor investigation found that Carrie Lee’s violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by paying kitchen employees flat monthly salaries – partially on payroll and partially in cash – regardless of the number of hours that they worked.
Milosch family supports the Lake Orion Lions Club Christmas Basket program with $5k donation
Orion Twp. man is in custody after leaving a young mother in critical condition: A 31-year-old Orion Twp. man severely beat the mother of his child and then fled with their three-month-old baby, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office reported on Monday.
The 30-year-old woman was taken to local hospital in critical condition.
The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office authorized a criminal complaint against the man on the charge of Assault with Intent to do Great Bodily Harm Less than Murder, a felony punishable by 10 years imprisonment.
DDA board approves AED purchase and snow removal bid: The Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority board approved the purchase of an AED and awarded a bid for sidewalk snow removal. The AED (Automated External Defibrillator) is for the public restroom inside of Fire Station 1 on Anderson Street across from Children’s Park.
Orion Twp. residents, prepare for 12 weeks of ‘Snowcation’ fun: Orion Twp. is planning different family-friendly activities each week to help get people active and engaged in activities while staying at home.
Orion Twp. Goodfellows help Santa collect donations in Keatington: The Orion Township Goodfellows paraded through the Keatington subdivision with a fire truck and trailer collecting donations on Sunday.
LOCS expected to return in-person with modifications on Jan. 19, 2021: The district shifted in-person students back to the remote setting on Nov. 18, later announcing plans not to bring students back to classrooms on Jan. 19 of 2021.
OAPG modifies a holiday tradition with a parade around the village, twp.: The Orion Lighted Parade was on and off, and on again and off again with a couple different format variations to try to encourage safety and social distancing during the pandemic.
But the Orion Area Parade Group wanted to find some way to continue the tradition, so it was back on — modified — as a daytime parade.
The Lake Orion Police Association modifies, but host its annual Shop with a Hero: The Lake Orion Police Association’s (LOPA) annual Shop with a Hero is one of the community’s biggest charitable evenings, with police officers and first responders shopping with 80 to 100 or more kids at a local Target store for presents.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, however, there was no chance of having that many people shop in-store, so the police association altered its plans and will deliver gifts.
Lake Orion Police Officer Ray Hammond organized Shop with a Hero and said the police association will help bring smiles to the faces of 34 kids this year.
Vandals trash the Christmas tree, picnic tables in Children’s Park: Vandals struck at Children’s Park, breaking the Christmas Tree in the gazebo in half, an incident report from the Lake Orion Police Dept. stated.
The suspects also damaged picnic table tops, along with spindles on the gazebo ramp. The acting public works director spotted the damage and reported it to Lake Orion police around 7 a.m. Dec. 17.
Orion Twp. man charged after leaving a young mother in critical condition: An Orion Twp. man who severely beat the mother of his child and then fled with their three-month-old baby, was identified as 31- year-old Christian Depaul Roberson.
He was arraigned on Dec. 15 in front of Magistrate Marie Soma of the 52nd-3rd District Court in Rochester Hills. Roberson has been charged with one count of Assault with Intent to Do Great Bodily Harm Less Than Murder or by Strangulation, a 10-year felony.
The woman was taken to local hospital in critical condition.
LOHS announces 2020 Wall of Excellence inductees: The Lake Orion High School Wall of Excellence Committee has named six alumni that will join the 13 former students on the Wall of Excellence display in the school’s common area.
The six inductees are: wheelchair racing champion Bob Gibson (Class of 1978), professional golfer Tom Gillis (Class of 1986), Disney PIXAR artist Angela McBride (Class of 2008), NBC News journalist Shannon Pettypiece (Class of 1999), electronic musician Seth Troxler (Class of 2004) and muralist and children’s author Katie Yamasaki (Class of 1995).