“Darnedest thing I have ever seen in my career”, says Ypsilanti Fire Chief Jon Ichesco. Ichesco was surveying the damage from a car fire that occurred on Wednesday afternoon in the 500 block of West Michigan Avenue.
Ichesco didn’t have to go very far from his office to the scene of the fire, neither did the firefighters. It was all of about 50 feet from the station doors to the car fire.
The Pontiac Bonneville fire burst into flames on Michigan Avenue and pulled into the drive way next to the fire station. The fire was quickly put out and no one was hurt in the accident.
(July 25, 2007) The Michigan Central railroad is back in Ypsilanti. The newly formed company called Michigan Central Railway is a joint venture of the current track owner Norfolk Southern and Watco Companies. The new company will operate track from Ypsilanti to Kalamazoo.
MCR will be headquartered in Kalamazoo and says they will employee 118 people. MCR will also operate track between Jackson and Lansing; and between Grand Rapids and Elkhart, Ind, and plans to acquire the rights from Norfolk Southern for the trackage rights on the Amtrak-owned line from Kalamazoo to the Michigan/Indiana state border.
In a press release, MCR said that a major part of the transaction will be the investment of more than $6 million in infrastructure in the first year, and more than $20 million in the first three years of Michigan Central operation.
“The track investments reflect our belief in the future of this railroad,” said David Eyermann, Michigan Central’s interim president. “Our goal is to work with the state of Michigan, communities, Amtrak, and most importantly our freight customers to make this a growing railroad that is even more a part of the Michigan economy.
VP Jim Vick and Police Chief Cindy Hall were also removed as a result of their failure to tell the campus that the death of an EMU student in her dorm room was a murder
(July 16, 2007) The Board of Regents at Eastern Michigan University fired President John Fallon effective Sunday, July 15th. Fallon had come under fire for his mishandling of the reporting of the death and subsequent murder investigation of EMU student Laura Dickinson. Fallon was noticeably absent from today’s meetings. His office has been sealed and he will be given time at a later date to retrieve his personal belongings. Under his existing contract, Fallon has 60 days before he has to move out of University House.
University Regent James F. Stapleton read from a prepared statement prior to the vote to fire Fallon. In that statement, Stapleton hinted that he was persuaded to change his support of Fallon and vote to terminate the president because of allegations that Fallon was about to do or say something that would have been harmful to the University. Stapleton would not elaborate further on the specifics of what Fallon was expected to do that might have been detrimental to the University.
Under the terms of his contract, Fallon will receive one year of salary, approximately $225,000, either in lump sum or over a 12 month period of time.
Also gone from the University are Jim Vick, Vice-president for Student Affairs, and Cindy Hall, Director of Public Safety. Hall reported to Vick. Hall apparently had cleaned out her office over a week ago. Hall, who is is in effect the police chief at EMU, oversaw the investigation of the murder of student Laura Dickinson. Dickinson was raped and killed in her dorm room last December on EMU’s campus. The university had originally said no foul play was suspected and didn’t correct that statement until Orange Taylor III was arrested in late February and charged with her murder.
Failure to disclose and notify the community of campus crimes is a violation of the Federal statue known as the Clery Act and can result in significant fines and penalties for the institution. The U.S. Department of Education has not decided what, if any, fines or penalties they will place on EMU.
The regents confirmed during the press conference that both Vick’s and Halls’ termination from the university was by mutual agreement and they do not expect further litigation.
Citing personnel policy, the regents would not disclose the terms of Vick or Hall’s separation.
The Regents said that Ken McKanders, University Attorney, was also negligent in his handling of the Dickinson investigation by his failure to properly act under the Clery Act. McKanders received a reprimand that will become part of his permanent personnel file.
Don Loppnow, has been promoted to Executive Vice-president and will take over the helm at EMU.
Several top administrators after the meeting expressed relief that Fallon had been fired. One administrator, who would not go on the record, said it was time to clean house. They were hopeful that the actions by the board of regents would help chart a new course of reconciliation and openness at the University.
Student body president Greg Jones said in a prepared statement, “Defective communication has been a plague on Eastern Michigan University for far too long. Now we have the opportunity to reexamine and rehabilitate this process.”
The death of Laura Dickinson was not the first problems with openness to beset the University. Former EMU president President Kilpatrick had come under fire over the extravagance and over $6 million spent on the University House. Kilpatrick quit after receiving a $500,000 exit package.
YpsiNews asked Regent Sidlick during the press conference, if in the spirit of openness, would he release the Pat Doyle memo regarding the University House. Sidlick would not commit to releasing the memo, however Sidlick said the Doyle memo is an issue the Board of Regents should bring back for reconsideration.
The Doyle memo was at the center of University House scandal. The memo was the subject of a protracted legal battle by the Ann Arbor News over a freedom of information request to EMU to make public a copy of the memo which outlines the money spent and progress on the University House. EMU fought to keep the memo secret and the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in favor of EMU. The Ann Arbor News has not indicated if they will appeal ther case to the State Supreme Court.
(July 5, 2007) Steve Holda, Executive Assistant to the Vice President for Business and Finance, Special Projects, has resigned effective Friday, July 6, 2007. Holda came to EMU in 2002 where he was assistant to the vice-president for business and finance. He was appointed interim director of Finance in 2005. He was a finalist for vice-president of Finance in 2006 but lost out to Janice Stroh.
Holda had been heavily involved in the controversial College Place street closing. Holda recently said the project was on hold pending a complete revisit of Eastern’s campus wide master plan. The plan to close College Place is still pending approval of the MDOT office in Brighton.
The closing and transfer of College Place to EMU was opposed by numerous business and home owners in the area. EMU student government and EMU faculty have also been opposed to the street closing in front of Pease auditorium. While it had support of the DTDDA and City officials, an earlier attempt to give College Place to Eastern was overturned when a hastily called City Council meeting in 2004 at 7:30 in the morning was found to be illegal. When a re-vote was scheduled four days later, several council members had switched their vote and the project was killed.
However, the project was quietly revived in 2006 (Link 1, Link 2) and a new application was sent to MDOT by the City and EMU. A second vote was never taken by City Council. Instead, facing opposition from the community, the City deferred on a final decision pending MDOT’s approval. It is fully expected that if MDOT approves the project, the mayor has the four votes necessary to approve a 99-year lease of College Place to EMU for $1 per year. In return, EMU will agree to a lease of the business school surface parking lot behind the AATA station at Pearl and Washington to the City under similar terms.
Just shortly after the College Place plan was revived by the city, Holda was appointed to the Depot Town DDA board in November 2006 by newly elected mayor Paul Schreiber. While only on the board for a short period of time, Holda was very active on the board.
No stranger to controversy, Holda was an advocate of EMU’s request for the city to grant a no-cost long term lease for a giant electronic billboard on city property on S. Huron and I-94. Neighbors near the billboard have voiced strong opposition to the plan. One neighborhood association even passed a resolution asking the city to not grant the lease because of concerns over the massive size of billboard and light pollution. The proposed billboard is nearly double the height of the existing board and three times the size of the current billboard.
Holda was also present through much of the controversy surrounding the excesses of the President’s House at Eastern Michigan. The Presidents House received a strong rebuke from Lansing politicians when a state audit showed the costs were nearly double what the university had claimed was spent on the project and that student funds had been spent on the project despite repeated assertions from EMU to the contrary. Since that audit, EMU has struggled to receive any funding from Lansing for capital improvement projects including the renovation of Mark Jefferson and Pray-Harold lecture halls.
Holda did not give reasons for his sudden resignation.