<![CDATA[The Ticker]]> http://www.traverseticker.com Mon, 27 Feb 2017 06:08:14 -0500 <![CDATA[TCAPS Looks To Expand STEM]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/tcaps-looks-to-expand-stem Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) could soon significantly expand its science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programming – a move designed to prepare more students for careers in some of the highest-paying and fastest-growing industries in the country.

Traverse City Central High School Assistant Principal Heidi Skodack will outline a proposal to TCAPS board members tonight (Monday) at their 6pm meeting to expand STEM curriculum across every grade – from kindergarten to twelfth – over the next decade. “There are pockets of excellence in STEM right now, but there are areas we need to expand opportunities to students,” Skodack says. “Different schools are offering different exposure to STEM. How do we create vertical alignment so that if I’m a student, no matter where I go to school, I can have those experiences?”

Skodack says student interest already runs high in TCAPS’ existing slate of STEM classes and extracurricular activities, which are predominantly geared toward middle and high school students. Participation in a four-year track called SCI-MA-TECH – which graduates high school students with a heavy concentration of science, math and technology credits – is granted through a highly competitive application process. The district’s robotics teams have also grown in popularity: In 2015, TC Central High School’s team won the state robotics championship and competed in the world championship in St. Louis. Skodack says TCAPS’ decision to introduce a new Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science class to both high schools next fall has also generated “high enrollment interest and a great response from students.”

Among lower grades, TCAPS has added 3D printers and launched “Competition Build Lab Days” at both of its middle schools, expanded robotics programming to both middle and elementary schools, and introduced a pilot engineering curriculum called “Engineering is Elementary” in third-grade classrooms at Eastern Elementary and Central Grade School.

In her presentation tonight, Skodack will provide an overview of a recommended phased approach to gradually increase STEM classes and activities in every grade over a multi-year timeline. The plan calls for eventually offering weekly STEM opportunities and projects with industry professionals for elementary students, as well as introducing coding classes and fully integrating STEM into math and science curriculums for middle school students. At the high school level, plans call for offering a “rigorous” STEM curriculum including AP/college credit courses, program certifications, mentorships with industry professional and the eventual creation of a new district STEM lab.

The 10-year goal, says Skodack, is for TCAPS to become a “nationally recognized leader in STEM education,” offering a comprehensive STEM curriculum, highly skilled STEM educators, and “clear career pathways developed for K-12 students.”

Waiting for students at the end of those pathways are a skyrocketing number of jobs in some of the country’s highest-paying fields. Skodack points to state and national data that shows growing demand – and wages –in nearly every category of STEM occupations, including software development, computer programming, financial management, information analysis, IT administration, and civil, mechanical and biomedical engineering. “One statistic that was very telling that drove this (proposal) is that wages in Michigan for STEM versus non-STEM jobs are almost double,” says Skodack, pointing to median earnings in Michigan of $34.48/hour for STEM jobs compared to $17.99/hour for all other jobs.

STEM jobs are expected to grow by 11.8 percent through 2020 in Michigan, compared to 8.5 percent for all occupations, according to state data. In the Metro Detroit area, a full 30 percent of job listings are in STEM-intensive or research-and-development fields. Perhaps most crucially, approximately 50 percent of STEM jobs don’t require a four-year degree – putting secondary students with access to training and education at an early advantage entering the marketplace.

Expanding STEM classes at TCAPS could “catapult students into a great set of skillsets, so if they choose to go into STEM, they’re going to have a leg up on everyone else either in college or the workforce,” says Skodack. She hopes by expanding the program within all grade levels, TCAPS will also be able to attract students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM.

“One of the biggest areas of concern I have…is that fifth grade is when they say girls decide they’re not as interested in math and science,” says Skodak. “You see a lot of STEM in high school, but if we’re not getting them at an elementary level, we’re losing them before they even get (to high school). We know we need to be targeting students at a younger level to help drive the decision to stay in those high-level math and science classes…it’s a critical piece for me to make sure we have representation from minority and female students in STEM.”

Even for students who never go on to work in STEM-related fields, Skodak believes the curriculum is valuable. “Students are learning teamwork, they’re learning problem-solving, they’re learning to work in groups and that failure is OK – if you make a mistake, go back and try again,” she says. “Not every kid is going to be a STEM kid, but those skills are transferable to any career they’re going into."

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Mon, 27 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[NMC To Approve New Welding Degrees]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/nmc-to-approve-new-welding-degrees Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) board members will consider voting to approve two welding degrees at their 5:30pm meeting tonight (Monday) at NMC's Oleson Center. 

The proposal offers "two new degree pathways for students interested in pursuing careers in welding," according to a memo from Vice President for Lifelong and Professional Learning Marguerite Cotto. "NMC currently does not have a dedicated associate's degree pathway in Welding Technology, and students interested in pursuing such with an interest in welding can only achieve an Associates of Applied Science (AAS) degree through the Manufacturing Technology track."

If approved by board members, the proposal would make two new welding degrees available starting in fall 2017: an AAS degree in Welding Technology (62 credits/84 contacts) and a Level 1 Certificate in Welding Technology (17 credits/26 contacts). The degrees will require investing $60,000 into the college's APL building to support the transfer of arc welding to the building. According to Cotto, benefits of the new programs will include increased opportunity for student transfers to four-year institutions, lower student cost, simplification of student scheduling, and a dedicated AAS degree in welding with industry-recognized credentialing through the American Welding Society (AWS).

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Mon, 27 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[Join Us For "A Stroll Through The Village" At Recess Wednesday!]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/join-us-for-a-stroll-through-the-village-at-recess-wednesday Join The Ticker for "A Stroll Through The Village" at Recess this Wednesday (March 1) in the Mercato at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons from 5pm to 7pm!

Attendees will enjoy socializing, a chance to explore the shops and stores of Mercato, and delicious food and beverages from Village vendors including Cuppa Joe, MI Farm Market, The Underground Cheesecake Company, Red Spire Brunch House, S2S Sugar 2 Salt, PepeNero, Left Foot Charley Winery and Earthen Ales. Guests will also be entered into a door prize drawing for a chance to win great prizes, including two "Experience the Village" gift baskets valued at over $100 each!

The Mercato is located in Building 50 at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Admission to Recess is $10 and is open to the public. The event goes from 5pm to 7pm.

NOTE: The entrance and registration area for this event will be at the Mercato entrance near the former Tastes of Black Star Farms (around the back of Building 50, just past the fountain courtyard).

The 2017 Recess series is presented by RE/MAX Bayshore Properties, a full-service real estate company providing northern Michigan with professional real estate services.

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Mon, 27 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[Residents Fight To Build A Better Benzie]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/building-a-better-benzie Benzie County is two worlds in one place. One world is populated by well-off retirees or part-time summer residents who live on the lake and eat expensive meals at restaurants. The other world consists of workers who staff those restaurants and clean those homes, people who live in trailers or ramshackle houses or even the woods.

As Patrick Sullivan writes in this week's Northern Express - sister publication of The Ticker - life for these working people in recent years has become such a struggle that some of those well-off retirees have decided to do something about it. For the last year, they’ve been trying to figure out how to make life better for everyone in Benzie County. The group called Advocates for Benzie County began at a meeting of the Sunrise Rotary in Beulah when Richard Robb and a friend listened to a speaker talk about rural homelessness. The retired automotive executive found himself intrigued by a virtually invisible problem – Benzie County’s homeless living in the woods.

“Afterwards, we looked at each other and said, ‘We’ve got to learn more about this,’” Robb says. “It’s not obvious. We don’t have people walking around the streets like you do in Traverse City or in a big city.”

Robb and a group of like-minded folks – John Parkins, Tim Bannister, Gerald Wilgus and Peter and Jill Brown – decided to organize with a mission “to promote a better quality of life for all the residents of Benzie County.” They hosted a meeting in January of 2016 and asked every local expert or decision maker they could think of to come. That first forum led to sub-topics that spurred more meetings. They’ve since talked about housing, employment, healthcare, education, infrastructure and childcare. “It’s an aggressive thing, but it’s not, ‘We’re going to solve this tomorrow,’” Robb says. “We want to be sure we’re not just a bunch of old white guys with beards trying to push something on people we think are in trouble.”

Possible solutions range from addressing the lack of childcare options in the county to an urgent shortage of housing, particularly senior and low-income housing. Part of the reason there’s so little affordable housing is that there’s no one around to build it, a consequence of vocational programs being cut in the county’s high schools a decade ago. Another reason involves infrastructure and the fact that there are few places where developers could build HUD developments even if they wanted to. Those developments require water and sewer hookups, and the economics of operating the projects require access to natural gas because propane costs too much. 

Kay Bond, the treasurer of the Advocates and chairperson of the housing committee, says increasing affordable housing will require creative solutions, such as getting natural gas to Thompsonville to spur affordable developments. “What a great place for workforce housing, and it’s right around the corner from our largest employer [Crystal Mountain],” Bond says.

Read more about the fight to improve life for Benzie residents in this week's Northern Express cover story, "Building A Better Benzie." The Northern Express is available online, or pick up a free copy at one of more than 600 distribution spots across 14 counties.

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Mon, 27 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[TC Restaurant Week This Week]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/tc-restaurant-week-this-week More than 40 area restaurants will participate in Traverse City Restaurant Week this week, which officially kicked off Sunday and will continue through this Saturday, March 4.

Participating restaurants will offer a three-course - and in some cases, four-course - meal for $30 per person. Some participating restaurants are also offering prix fixe lunch menus as part of the event, which is organized by the Downtown Traverse City Association. Reservations are strongly encouraged, as some restaurants may book up in advance.

A complete list of Traverse City Restaurant Week participating restaurants and menus is available online here.

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Mon, 27 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[City Could Transform Utility Boxes Into Art]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/city-could-transform-utility-boxes-into-art Most people who spy one of the 1,000-plus electric utility boxes located throughout Traverse City see a drab – even ugly – utilitarian unit. But for a select few, the boxes represent an enticing blank canvas.

Traverse City Light & Power has often had to deal with the negative side of that creative temptation: graffiti artists and vandals who “tag” or deface utility boxes with spray paint. “It just goes in streaks,” says TCL&P Executive Director Tim Arends of the vandalism. “They’ll spray paint an insignia or mark, and we have to go out there and sand it off and repaint the box.” Recurring graffiti issues prompted the city-owned utility to undertake a major project three years ago to repaint all TCL&P transformer boxes throughout the city.

But a new solution could help resolve TCL&P’s graffiti problem long-term – while at the same time encouraging positive artistic expression on the units. Developer Mike Wills recently approached Arends for permission to “wrap” the three transformer units at his Uptown development on Pine Street to mimic the surrounding brick buildings, blending them into the development (pictured as a conceptual before/after, top row).

 “The boxes are all gathered around the main entry of the project and are pretty visible,” Wills says. “They stick out like a sore thumb. I contacted Image360, and they took pictures of all the brick to create a photographic wrap for the units.” Wills says in addition to seeking TCL&P approval to put the wraps around his boxes, he’s also considering asking permission to place a four-inch shallow planter on top of one unit – which can be easily lifted off for utility crew access – that would mimic the living roof on top of Uptown. “It’d be a living example…on the street level of what we’ve done up there,” he says.

Rather than viewing Wills’ request as a one-off, Arends sees an opportunity for the TCL&P board to create a broader policy allowing other property owners to paint, wrap or creatively decorate units throughout the city. Other communities across the U.S. – including San Luis Obispo, Minneapolis, San Pedro, Glendale and more – have introduced public art programs allowing paintings or murals on utility boxes, leading to a range of colorful creations splashed across the sides of city units (pictured, bottom row).

In Fort Collins, a similar program led to a drastic reduction in vandalism on transformers that were upgraded with murals or paintings, with only four instances of graffiti on painted cabinets recorded in more than a decade. Particularly visible units in high-traffic areas that used to be tagged “at least once every month” went completely untouched once the program launched, a Fort Collins Utilities report found.

“We have found that these projects eventually lead to business owners in the downtown area taking a more active interest in policing the area around them, and eventually improving the community feel of our downtown area,” the report states.

Arends says any type of art policy approved by the TCL&P board would likely have a few important ground rules. Nothing could be done to boxes that would hinder crews’ access to the transformers or their ability to maintain system reliability, and the utility wouldn’t be responsible for any damage to artwork incurred when crews were accessing units. “The utility also wouldn’t be responsible for anything financially in terms of creating the art,” Arends says. “It’ll either be up to volunteers or private property owners.”

The policy – which will likely soon go before TCL&P board members for official consideration – also provides an opportunity for the utility to partner with another city body, the recently formed Arts Commission. City Commissioner Amy Shamroe, who serves on the both the TCL&P board and the Arts Commission, says she’d “love to see more interaction” between the two groups on a potential policy.

“I think taking a step forward on this is a great thing for Light and Power to do, because it’s the one thing they have control over: These (units) are necessary, so why not make them appealing?” she says. “With the Arts Commission, we have a selection panel for artists, we have projects come to us at their early inception and help find the right artists and producers. I think this is a great way for there to be more interaction between (the two boards).”

As with a recent American Waste and Downtown Development Authority partnership that allowed local students to transform downtown dumpsters into works of art, Shamroe said a public art program for utility boxes could “add to the vibrancy” of Traverse City and serve as another "welcoming" place-making project for the region.

“To include some kind of art on these necessary but rather dull units would be a great improvement,” she says, “and another feather in our cap in terms of doing something unusual to keep the area vibrant and beautiful.”

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Sat, 25 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[City Announces Sara Hardy Humanitarian Award Winner]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/city-announces-sara-hardy-humanitarian-award-winner Dayna Ryan has been named the 2017 recipient of Traverse City's Sara Hardy Humanitarian Award.

Ryan will receive the award March 6 at a 7pm presentation at the city commission meeting, which will be preceded by a 6pm celebration in the second-floor training room of the Governmental Center. Ryan has worked extensively throughout the region serving people with disabilities, having led, created or served with organizations including Artists Creating Together, Arc, The Dream Team, ACCESS Ability Volunteer Mentoring Program and NEMO (No One Ever Misses Out). "This year’s recipient has made an immeasurable, positive impact on our community and is especially deserving of the Sara Hardy Humanitarian Award," according to a city release.

The Sara Hardy Humanitarian Award is presented to individuals exemplifying the Human Rights Commission's ideals, with recipients chosen by the Human Rights Commission, a board Hardy helped to inspire.

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Sat, 25 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[East Bay Township Man Arrested In Connection To Local Vehicle Thefts]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/east-bay-township-man-arrested-for-stolen-guns A 19-year-old East Bay Township man was arrested in connection to multiple vehicle larcenies in Grand Traverse County in recent weeks. 

Grand Traverse Sheriff's Office detectives said leads developed during their investigation of recent vehicle thefts led them to a Glen Arbor residence. Detectives recovered two guns that had been stolen from an unlocked car in East Bay Township at the residence. Detectives searched two additional residences in East Bay Township connected to the suspect and located "a significant amount of stolen property" in addition to the firearms, according to the Sheriff's Office, including electronics, power tools, clothing and jewelry. Detectives are working now to locate the owners of the stolen property.

The investigation into the larcenies remains ongoing.

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Sat, 25 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[Tourism Businesses To Vie For Funding At Pitch Night]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/tourism-businesses-to-vie-for-funding-at-pitch-night A few local tourism-based businesses are about to get a boost. Project Tourism will host a live event where local businesses will compete for cash prizes. The money – $7,000 to the winner, $2,000 for second place and $1,000 for third – are intended to be catalysts to help the winners grow even more.

“The main purpose is to help companies get some capital to leverage more funding,” says Allison Beers. The event planner is coordinating the Pitch Night, where the six finalists will make their final presentations for the money. The event will take place on April 19 at The Hagerty Center in Traverse City.

“It’s all about tourism,” says Mike Busley. The co-owner of Grand Traverse Pie Company [with his wife Denise] is the co-chair of the Michigan Tourism Strategic Plan's Product Development Committee. Project Tourism is the first output of the committee’s planning. Busley says if the event is successful, they hope to use it as a template statewide.

The committee’s work comes under the general heading of the Pure Michigan campaign. Busley says Pure Michigan is great about getting the word out about what the state has to offer, but getting financing for small to medium-size businesses that can benefit from the program can be challenging.

All companies entering the competition will receive two complimentary tickets to the live Pitch Night. “You can learn by seeing how others approach the onstage competition,” Busley says. And the meet and greet portion could be even more beneficial, he notes, connecting the small business owners with members of the lending industry looking for investment opportunities. Representatives from Chemical Bank and Venture North will on-hand; the hope is that other lenders will also be interested.

Interested in pitching an idea? Pitches should detail a tourism-related capital project and how much total capital is needed. How will the funds enhance the business and therefore benefit the tourism industry? How could this funding be a catalyst to something bigger? Pitches should be no more than 250 words, describing how the cash prize could change the business, community or industry. Submissions are due March 15, with finalists selected March 17.

Eligible businesses must be located in Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Charlevoix, or Emmet County. Start-ups are not eligible, and businesses must have less than $10 million in annual sales and fewer than 100 employees.

Click here for more information.

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Fri, 24 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[Country Star Cole Swindell Announced For Cherry Fest Lineup]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/country-star-cole-swindle-announced-for-cherry-fest-lineup Platinum-selling country artist Cole Swindell has been added to the 2017 National Cherry Festival lineup.

Swindell is set to perform on the Pepsi Bay Side Music Stage on Thursday, July 6. Swindell has had six number-one hits on country music charts, including You Should Be Here, Ain't Worth The Whiskey and Middle Of A Memory. He was nominated as a 2016 CMA New Artist of the Year and has two CMA Triple Play Awards, awarded to songwriters who pen three number-one songs in a 12-month period. His most recent album, You Should Be Here, shot to number one on the iTunes Top Country Albums Chart and number three overall on iTunes within hours of its release. Swindell is currently on tour with fellow country star Dierks Bentley, with whom he just released the single Flatliner.

Tickets for Swindell's National Cherry Festival performance go on sale Friday, March 3 at 9am online and are $30 for general admission or $45 for reserved seats. A Bay Side Music Stage Pass valid for all eight nights of festival performances is also available for $75.

Swindell is the second act announced so far for this year's National Cherry Festival. Comedy troupe The Tenderloins - whose four members are the creators and stars of TruTV's Impractical Jokers - are also scheduled to perform on Friday, July 7.

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Fri, 24 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[Resort Owner Claims Defamation In Parasailing Dispute]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/resort-owner-claims-defamation-in-parasailing-dispute A resort owner who a year ago faced criminal charges alleging he attempted to extort money from an East Grand Traverse Bay parasailing business is now suing his accuser, alleging defamation of character.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Jonathan Moothart on behalf of Bryan Punturo and the ParkShore Resort, accuses attorney Brace Kern and his client Saburi Boyer of making up allegations in order to get Punturo to pay them money. The suit alleges that Kern and Boyer maliciously lied about Punturo’s business dealings.

Boyer operated a parasailing business at the ParkShore until 2006, when he moved his business, Traverse Bay Parasail, to another resort.

The suit alleges that in the years after he moved, and Punturo’s son Casey operated a parasail business at the ParkShore that competed with Boyer, Boyer sought to corner the parasailing market on East Bay, an allegation which Boyer has denied.
The suit alleges that Boyer sought to buy out Casey Punturo, that he established a “cut-throat” non-compete agreement with another parasail operator, and that he sought to purchase Punturo’s right to compete against him.

Bad weather in 2014 hurt Boyer’s business and caused him to default on an agreement with Punturo, causing Punturo to take legal action against Boyer. That caused Boyer to turn to Kern, who filed a complaint against Punturo with the Michigan Attorney General, who launched a criminal prosecution of Punturo on extortion charges. Kern also filed a civil suit against Punturo seeking over $780,000 in damages.

Moothart noted that both the civil case and the criminal case were dismissed at the earliest stage of the legal process.
“That speaks louder than anything I can say,” Moothart said.

The two sides have all along claimed wildly different versions of the events that unfolded. Boyer maintained that it was Punturo who demanded money from him in exchange for not running him out of business.

Ultimately, the extortion charge was dismissed because District Court Judge Thomas J. Phillips ruled that threatening to run someone out of business may be bad conduct, but it’s not illegal.

Punturo’s lawsuit alleges that Kern publicized the cases in order to humiliate the defendants and to get them to settle the civil lawsuit.
In a response to an email requesting comment, Kern said he had no comment “at this time.”
 

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Fri, 24 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[What's Next For Prop 3 Lawsuit?]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/what-s-next-for-prop-3-lawsuit A lawsuit filed against Traverse City over Proposal 3 could hinge on two key questions set to be answered in the coming weeks: What is the city’s plan for implementing the new charter amendment? And does developer Tom McIntyre – who is challenging the legality of requiring a public vote on buildings over 60 feet – have standing to sue the city?

Judge Thomas Power indicated at a Thirteenth Circuit Court hearing Tuesday both questions will need to be answered before McIntyre’s lawsuit can proceed. “I have an independent responsibility to question whether there’s a case or controversy,” Power said. “You can’t just wander into court and say, ‘I’m idly interested as an intellectual manner in the outcome of such-and-such an issue; here, you’re required to decide it.’” The judge said determining whether McIntyre has the right to sue the city would be an “important issue” to resolve early in the proceedings.

Attorneys for Save Our Downtown (SOD), the community group that helped get Proposal 3 on the ballot, argued Tuesday that the standing issue should result in the immediate dismissal of McIntyre's case. Since the developer hasn’t yet applied for a special land use permit (SLUP) from the city, there’s no official project to litigate, the group argued. Though McIntyre’s attorney, Thomas Grier, pointed to thick folders and architectural renderings he said represented “tens of thousands” of dollars in planning for a 100-foot building on State Street (pictured), SOD said the lack of a formal SLUP application meant McIntyre hasn't yet been deprived of anything and doesn't have grounds to file a lawsuit.

“There hasn’t been a request, let alone a denial,” SOD attorney Jay Zelenock said. “(The case) should be dismissed at this time.”

Power declined to dismiss the case, saying no official written motions have yet been filed requesting dismissal. He agreed, however, to grant SOD “friend of the court” status, which will allow the group to have a voice in the lawsuit going forward. SOD had argued Proposal 3 wouldn’t be properly defended by the city on its own, citing several comments from commissioners and staff opposing the charter amendment.

The case will next head to an April scheduling conference, at which time the question of McIntyre’s standing is likely to be addressed. Power said he would set the meeting for April in order to allow city officials enough time to finish a planning process on how best to implement Proposal 3. Ambiguity surrounding how the charter amendment works – including whether an election is triggered as soon as a SLUP application is submitted to the city, or if the project can go all the way to the city commission for review before final approval is put on hold pending an election – was cited as part of the basis of McIntyre’s lawsuit.

“It doesn’t make any sense for us to apply for a SLUP…because where does it go from there?” Grier said to Power, arguing that voters now have a “gatekeeping role” for development that makes it pointless to apply for permits until election issues are resolved.

Similar confusion from city staff over the timing of when elections are triggered prompted commissioners in December to instruct staff to come up with a proposed implementation policy and bring it to the board for approval. Based on Power’s desire to see the city's policy before ruling on McIntyre’s standing, City Planning Director Russ Soyring says staff met Wednesday to work toward meeting the April deadline.

“We hope to have something to the commission before the end of March,” he says. “Our goal is to get something (to which) the commission can say, ‘Yes, we agree we can work with these parameters and guidelines.’”

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Thu, 23 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[Park Place Brownfield Plan Moves Ahead]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/park-place-brownfield-plan-moves-forward Travere City commissioners unanimously approved a brownfield plan for the Park Place Hotel Tuesday, leaving the project with just one remaining hurdle to clear going forward.

The brownfield plan describes $2.6 million in local eligible reimbursement funding in relation to the demolition of the Park Place dome and construction of a new conference center, including just under $1 million to the Park Place for demolition and clean-up costs and $1.6 million to fund three major public improvement projects downtown. "I'm excited about this project," said Commissioner Gary Howe, who said he hoped the hotel project, a new marketplace going in across the street and planned streetscape improvements on Park Street this year would "hopefully generate some activity" in the State Street corridor.

Hotel officials told commissioners the new facility will be "state of the art" and a potential economic boon for downtown. Some commissioners noted their desire to build a public easement into the development agreement to ensure the public will continue to be able to traverse the hotel property as a connection between State and Washington streets. "Now is the time when we're making an agreement and collaborating to get something in place," said Commissioner Tim Werner. Agreed Commissioner Brian Haas: "I think creating more of a pedestrian easement through there or just better access I think is good for the whole surrounding area." Hotel officials said they had no objections to partnering with the city to provide public access through the Park Place property.

The brownfield plan next goes to Grand Traverse County commissioners on March 15. That body represents the final approval step for the plan.
 

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Thu, 23 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[TC West Coach Dies Unexpectedly]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/tc-west-coach-dies-unexpectedly Mike Wilde, the girls' head varsity basketball coach for Traverse City West Senior High School, died unexpectedly in his sleep Wednesday.

Traverse City Area Public Schools canceled its girls' basketball games against Petoskey Wednesday in the wake of the news. “Mike was personal friend and a true friend to TCAPS and to our students,” says TCAPS Superintendent Paul Soma. “He has coached football, baseball, softball, track, and both girls’ and boys’ basketball. He will be sorely missed.”

The 59-year-old was a long-time coaching veteran of both TCAPS and St. Francis High School. TCAPS said it would have counselors on hand at TC West "for students and staff needing additional support."

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Thu, 23 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[Lucky's Announces Opening Events, $10K Donation To Groundwork Center]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/lucky-s-announces-opening-events-10k-donation-to-groundwork-center Lucky's Market will host a series of special events commemorating the grand opening of its Traverse City store March 22 - including the presentation of a $10,000 "impact grant" to local nonprofit Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities.

The new organic grocery store at Buffalo Ridge Center will host a public "bacon-cutting ceremony" (the chain's spin on a ribbon-cutting ceremony) on March 22 at 10am. At the ceremony, Lucky's Market representatives will present Groundwork Center with a $10,000 check "to expand family cooking classes to five nearby Traverse City elementary schools." The new cooking workshops will "feature guest chefs and provide hands-on education and nutrition activities for the whole family," according to Lucky's.

Other special events planned around the store’s opening include:

> Tasting Fair on Saturday, March 25 from 11am to 3pm featuring Lucky’s Market’s local product vendors, food samples and gift basket giveaways.
> Reusable bag credits through May 20: Shoppers reusing their shopping bags can choose to get a 10-cent credit on their purchase or send a donation to Women's Resource Center, Reigning Liberty or TART Trails.
> Upcoming Impact Day in which 10% of one day’s total net sales will go to SEEDS to "help more people learn to cook from scratch, reinvest in the local community, and transform the lives of northern Michigan youth."

The 28,000 square-foot Traverse City store will be the second Lucky's Market in Michigan after Ann Arbor and is expected to employ 150 staff members.

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Thu, 23 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[More Students Attending College -- In High School]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/more-student-attending-college-in-high-school College – it’s not just for college students anymore. Data at Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) shows more students are graduating and entering college having earned credits already. Last school year, 1,242 students took advantage of one of the three programs to earn college credit at TCAPS. The programs give students a taste of the college experience, accelerate their path to college graduation – and save them some serious tuition dollars.

Advanced Placement (AP) classes, part of the national College Board, allows students to take college-level courses and exams while still in high school. Depending on their scores on the tests and the particular college a student attends, AP tests can exempt students from required course or stand as college credits.

Under dual enrollment, students take classes in both high school and college. That’s perhaps easier for students at Central High School, who can walk next door to Northwestern Michigan College (NMC); This year 156 students from Central are dual enrolled versus 139 at West, both representing record numbers.

Early college is the newest offering; it began in the 2014-15 academic year. Students attend high school for five years rather than four and, upon graduation following the fifth year, they will have earned a significant number of credits or, depending on the program, perhaps an associate’s degree. One hundred eighteen students are enrolled in early college this year, a record high.

Traverse City West counselor Tom Ford says the advantages of the programs are plentiful, in terms of accelerated learning opportunities – and cost savings. “There’s no tuition cost,” says Ford of the AP program, though there is a cost for the tests.

Danielle Priest, a West senior, took two AP classes last year and is now taking AP literature, psychology and statistics. She says last year’s AP government class has already had an impact on her. “I learned how the government is structured. I turned 18 in October and voted in November,” she says.

TCAPS Superintendent Paul Soma’s perspective on the AP program is not only as the leader of the district, but as a father of two students who have taken advantage of it.

His son is in his second year at Michigan State, having entered college with more than 40 credits. His daughter, a high school senior, will enter Western Michigan with more than 35 credits.

“My son will take just a little more than four years for a Master’s in Business Analytics and a (bachelor’s) degree in Computer Science. My daughter is looking at a double major [graduating] in four years. It’s given them a leg up.”

In addition to cost savings, Soma says the program also demonstrates to college administrations that the incoming student is serious about his or her education. “They’re also recognized by the faculty at college,” says Soma. “My daughter is already experiencing that, and she’s not even at Western yet.”

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Wed, 22 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[Grandview Parkway Bridge Repair Project Starts Today]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/grandview-parkway-bridge-repair-project-starts-today A major bridge repair project will kick off today (Wednesday) on Murchie Bridge on Grandview Parkway and continue through early June.

The project will require partial bridge closures, reducing the four-lane stretch of road to two lanes. One lane will be open to traffic in each direction at all times. Traffic shifts will occur at the Front Street and Cass Street intersections. The project will include possible weekend and night work.

Schedule work will includ bridge rehabilitation, deep concrete overlay, joint and bridge railing replacement, median curb replacement, sidewalk repair, partial painting, rocker realignment, riprap placement, concrete surface coating, and approach work on Grandview Parkway over the Boardman River. The project is expected to be completed by June 9.

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Wed, 22 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[New Program Aims To Develop Community, Government Leaders]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/new-programs-aim-to-develop-community-government-leaders A Grand Traverse County official’s dream to launch an “academy” to engage young professionals in politics and community leadership could dovetail with larger statewide efforts to do the same – positioning the region as a potential pilot site for a new civic democracy program.

County Administrator Tom Menzel hopes to build what he calls community “bench strength” by encouraging residents – particularly those in the early stages of their careers – to run for office and serve in local government and other leadership positions. “Businesses build bench strength for the future; communities are no different,” says Menzel. “I think there’s a tremendous pool of talent in this community that’s underutilized in terms of the public sector. It’s critical they become involved, because they’re going to be living with the consequences of the decisions being made.”

In a recent meeting with Michigan State University Extension officials, Menzel’s mention of developing a potential academy or training program led to the discovery that other northern Michigan communities have expressed a similar interest – and that MSU is also considering launching a new program to promote civic engagement statewide. MSU Extension District 3 Coordinator Jennifer Berkey says that in a series of recent public workshops in Antrim and Kalkaska counties focused on identifying community needs, determining “how to engage people politically through civil discourse” rose to the top of the list.

“Positive political interactions would be the best way to describe it,” Berkey says. “Nationally, there seems to be a very large surge of individuals wanting to get involved. Across the state, we’re seeing that and trying to be responsive.”

Officials envision a two-fold approach to getting citizens trained and connected to service opportunities in the Grand Traverse region. The first and more immediate step would be to create a local steering committee that could identify barriers to citizen involvement, as well as community needs and existing resources to promote to residents. Berkey notes, for example, that MSU Extension offers classes on basic governmental and leadership skills including conducting and participating in meetings, understanding the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act, learning government statutes and procedures, and improving communication and conflict resolution skills.

"It's more than just politics,” says Berkey. “It’s an opportunity to better equip individuals to be part of a civic democracy or a civically engaged process. Part of the process could be bringing other partners to the table who can offer other pieces of the puzzle.” Berkey cites local nonprofits, school boards and other community groups as additional organizations who could get involved and also benefit from residents’ service.

Berkey says officials are working to begin steering committee discussions in the coming weeks. While that process is underway, local leaders are also lobbying MSU to consider the Grand Traverse region as a pilot site for a new university program aimed at increasing community involvement.

“The idea is to be able to focus on a small number of communities with grant dollars over a three-year period to increase civic engagement, improve public processes and research carefully what works and what doesn’t,” says John Amrhein, who specializes in government and public policy education at MSU Extension. “That way we can go to other communities and say, ‘We learned A,B and C work but D,E, and F don’t.’” Amrhein says while discussions are still in their early stages at the university, MSU is working now on “getting enough definition” to the program to begin approaching “major foundations” to fund the project.

Menzel says Grand Traverse County wants to “aggressively go after” partnering with MSU on the program, which he believes aligns with his vision of a young professionals academy. “We want to be part of curriculum development and grant writing to fund the activity and to be a test site for this program,” he says. “We’ve made it really clear (to MSU) we’re very interested in this.”

The program could build on efforts already underway in the region. The Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce offers a Young Professionals division – with a subcommittee focused on advocacy – as well as Leadership Grand Traverse, an intensive four-month program for Chamber members that prepares “participants for decision-making leadership roles in areas such as policy, program implementation and organizational growth.” Area high school students can now experience government in action up-close through the city’s recently launched Adopt-A-Commissioner program, which pairs students with city commissioners for a semester.

Those and potential future plans come at a time when the country is seeing a renewed interest in political participation, officials say – and could help individuals in communities better connect and transcend personal differences. “In all the years I’ve been working in this arena, there’s been a gradual increase in partisanship and rancor,” says Amrhein. “I think that increase in contentiousness probably contributed to (MSU’s consideration of a program).” Collaboration and civility can increase when citizens are working side-by-side on the same issues, he says.

“The benefit you hope to see," he says, "is that the community does better financially, socially and environmentally because of it."

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Tue, 21 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[Man In Custody After Suicidal Standoff With Police]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/man-in-custody-after-suicidal-standoff-with-police A 43-year-old Traverse City man is in custody after an hours-long standoff with police Sunday night and Monday morning in which he threatened to kill himself.

911 dispatchers received a call from the man's father at 7:32pm Sunday. The father, who lived in a separate residence in Garfield Township, said his son was threatening to shoot himself and had a pistol. The father told dispatchers his son was intoxicated and possibly on drugs, and that he "fell off the wagon." The father also said the son warned that if he heard sirens approaching or anyone knocking on the door at his Santo Street home, he would shoot himself.

Traverse City Police Department officers staged away from the residence and made telephone contact with the man, who was distraught and refused to leave his residence. He reiterated his threat to hill himself. Also inside the home was the man's mother, who suffers from dementia. The mother also refused to exit the residence. The Northwestern Michigan Mutual Aid Emergency Response Team was called to the scene, along with a TCPD hostage negotiator. Authorities also obtained a search-and-seizure warrant for the residence from the 86th District Court magistrate.

After extensive negotiations, the man voluntarily exited his residence at 3:03am Monday and surrendered to police. No one was injured in the incident. The man's mother was turned over to family members, and the man was taken to Munson Medical Center for evaluation. Several firearms were seized from the residence for safekeeping, in accordance with the search warrant.

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Tue, 21 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500
<![CDATA[History-Themed Cocktail Bar Slated For Downtown]]> http://www.traverseticker.com/story/history-themed-cocktail-bar-slated-for-downtown A new history-themed cocktail lounge could soon be headed to downtown Traverse City if city commissioners approve a liquor license for the project Tuesday at their 7pm meeting at the Governmental Center.

Husband-and-wife duo Christine and Taylor Keefe and their friend Glenn Durfee are partners in the new venture, which is set to open at 123 West Front Street (pictured). The property – comprised of two closely adjacent buildings that also house engineering firm Gourdie-Fraser – dates back to the 1800s, with a lengthy and diverse history of businesses at the site. That history made the parcel an ideal fit for the trio, who were searching for the right location to open a bar themed around Traverse City's past, according to Christine Keefe.

“In New York City, we have a ton of history-themed bars and restaurants,” says Keefe, a native New Yorker. “I didn’t see anything like that in Traverse City. This whole thing is a family business, and my family’s really into history and loves the history of Traverse City. There is an amazing bar scene already, so we wanted to add to that experience and thought history was a great way to do that.”

Tentatively set to be called 123 West Front after the site’s address, the 80-capacity cocktail lounge will highlight Traverse City historical themes – from the antiques-scattered décor to historical photos on the wall to the regionally-inspired cocktail list. “We’re bringing a mixologist from New York City to craft these cocktails that use local ingredients and are created around and named after historic characters and tidbits,” Keefe says. “For example, there used to be a Coca-Cola bottling plant on the property, so we have a Coke cocktail. We’re also going to have classic drinks from throughout the ages.”

The cocktail lounge will feature all house-made bitters and infusions and locally sourced ingredients. In addition to the cocktail list, 123 West Front will feature “a small curated list” of local beers and wines, plus a menu of small plates, according to Keefe. “We’re really going for white-glove service in a comfortable and welcoming environment,” says Keefe. “One of the things I'm excited about is the conversation that happens when you bring neighbors together. I'm hoping we can collect more personal (historical) stories from people...it's an amazing opportunity to have a creative space."

The venture – operating under the LLC Lascivious Libations Co. – was recently issued a Grand Traverse County building permit for an $80,000 commercial remodel of the property. Should things proceed smoothly with the build-out and permitting, Keefe says the cocktail lounge could be open by early summer. City commissioners will need to sign off Tuesday on the lounge's redevelopment liquor license application, which will then go to the state for final approval. While some city officials have recently discussed taking a closer look at the city’s liquor license program and potentially capping the number of licenses downtown, Commissioner Brian Haas says he doesn’t believe the informal talks – which have yet to occur in an official commission setting – should affect projects underway.

“I think the discussion (on the number of licenses) is good and one I’m open to having, but I think we should do that when there isn’t something before us,” Haas says. “(Redevelopment licenses) have been a good tool for downtown. I don’t see any reason to hold something up or block something that’s already in the pipeline.”

Commissioner Gary Howe agrees. “I’m certainly not holding it up just because a few people have concerns, because I haven’t been convinced yet of those concerns or the need to curtail implementation of these licenses,” Howe says. “I think they’ve been successful and have helped some great businesses. I think it might be premature to find ways to curtail development.”

Also on Tuesday’s commission agenda…
City commissioners – who meet Tuesday instead of Monday this week due to President’s Day – will also discuss the following at their meeting:

> Approving a brownfield plan for the Park Place Hotel, which has already received approval from the Grand Traverse County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and Downtown Development Association. The plan describes $2.6 million in local eligible reimbursement funding in relation to the demolition of the Park Place dome and construction of a new conference center, including just under $1 million to the Park Place for demolition and clean-up costs and $1.6 million to fund three major public improvement projects downtown.

> Holding required public hearings in relation to three grant requests totaling $275,000 for improvements at Hickory Hills. The city will be seeking a Natural Resources Trust Fund grant, Land and Water Conservation Fund grant and Recreation Passport grant from the state for the park, with local matches coming from funds raised by Preserve Hickory. Tuesday’s public hearings are required ahead of an official March 6 commission vote to support the grant applications.

> Considering authorizing over $82,000 for pavement markings and street stripings through the city in 2017. Commissioners previously delayed approving the expenditure, citing a desire for more information from staff about the specific list of projects the funds will cover and how projects are prioritized. City Manager Marty Colburn, City Engineer Tim Lodge, and City Department of Public Works Director Dave Green are expected to address those issues at Tuesday’s meeting.

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Mon, 20 Feb 2017 00:00:00 -0500