Story & photos by Jeff Lilly
Illustration by Gary Bedard.
We hear a lot about humanity’s effect on the natural environment and the creatures that inhabit it. Usually, the story is about how humans alter the landscape to make it more suitable for our needs, destroying habitat in the process. However, there are several species of animals that not only can coexist with humans, but thrive in the habitats we alter and create. Not all of these species make for good roommates, though.
Meet the rat. Rats have been with humanity since the beginning, when we first started to live together in bands and communities. Where there are humans, there is waste, and thus a food source. Where humans take shelter and build structures, rats can live, too. When humans moved about, by ship and stage and rail, rats hitched a ride with us. These days, they’ve learned to use our roads, railroad tracks, and sewer lines as highways of their own, making travel easier and helping them to spread. They also reproduce quickly; a mature rat can bear a new litter of pups every three to four weeks.
Ferndale has a rat problem. You might have heard about an infestation under a neighbor’s garage. You may have seen them running along the streets at night. Maybe you have some yourself, nesting under that doghouse or in that woodpile.
“We get a lot of calls in the spring,” says Joseph Gacioch, Chief Innovation Officer and Assistant City Manager for the City of Ferndale. Rodent activity can be more noticeable then, with melting snow both providing convenient sources of water for rats, as well as uncovering food sources hidden by snow. But rats are around all year long.
Besides basic health issues — rats have been known since antiquity as harborers and carriers of disease — they can also do quite a bit of damage to home and property. Rats can chew through practically anything; wood, drywall, insulation board, even concrete block, brick, and lead pipes. Rats can gnaw the insulation off of electrical wires, causing shorts and fires. They can tunnel under slabs and foundations. They can chew the bottoms out of plastic garbage cans to get at what’s inside. They’re also hard to keep out; a rat can squeeze itself through a hole the diameter of a half-dollar.
“We’ve seen a large increase in calls about rats,” Says Dale Stepaniak, co-owner of Pest Masters, an exterminator located in Livonia that contracts with the City of Ferndale. “We used to get rat calls once a month. Now, we get them once per day.” Stepaniak also notes that, “We have an issue with rats in most of Metro Detroit.” He’s gotten calls from Redford, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Royal Oak, Livonia, and other local cities, all of which have seen a “significant increase” in rat activity in the last few years. But why? Both Stepaniak and Gacioch point to the last recession as a possible piece in the puzzle. “We had all of these vacant homes, all of these people walking away from their houses.” Stepaniak says. The relatively large number of vacant properties in Detroit, right across 8 Mile Road, also contributes to the problem.
So what can we do about it? One of the biggest things is to eliminate neighborhood food sources. This means cleaning up dog droppings (rats love them) and not throwing out bread or seeds for the squirrels. Make sure you don’t leave pet food outside in bowls overnight, and if you store it outdoors, make sure it’s in a covered night before pick-up, and use metal bins with tight-fitting lids if you can. Unharvested vegetables, left to winter over in garden beds or boxes, can also be an invitation to rats.
But the number one source, Stepaniak says, though it pains many nature-lovers’ hearts to hear it, is bird feeders. “At least half of the jobs we do, we find a bird feeder on the property, or at a property next door.” He explains. This isn’t to say you can’t ever feed the birds, but “If your neighborhood is fighting rats, and you’re (feeding birds,) then you’re a culprit.” The thing to remember is that even if you don’t have a food source, they may still pick your yard to settle in. Stepaniak talks of a recent job where “They were living under a gentleman’s deck.
You could watch the rats go from under his deck, across the back yard next door, down the side of the house to a house across the street. No fault of this guy…they were feeding across the street, but living under his deck.” Another thing we can do is eliminate cover and shelter for rats. This means elevating your woodpile (at least 12 inches above the ground,) clearing away debris from the back of your garage, and eliminating clutter and hiding places, including unused vehicles and old tires. Keep your shrubs and grass trimmed, as well. “We have codes. We have property maintenance guidelines.” Gacioch explains. “If you follow them, you help eliminate the opportunity for rats to move in.”
Meanwhile, the city is doing its part.
“The Building Department now requires an inspection prior to demolition of a property,” Gacioch says. A pest expert now has to sign off on a property, saying there are no rats. If there are, they have to be exterminated and the property re-inspected before demolition can commence. Otherwise, the rats will scatter and move to new locations. New construction now must have rat walls, foundations that extend into the ground to discourage burrowing. Ferndale is also sharing resources and coordinating with neighboring cities on strategies to combat rat infestations. They’re also using modern technology to combat the ancient enemy, including utilizing geo-tracking to keep tabs on infestation sites and their spread.
Ferndale is curently working with Pest Masters on an extermination program along Troy Street. It’s a big challenge, Stepaniak says, because the businesses along 9 Mile, which include grocery stores and restaurants, have a large number of dumpsters in the nearby alley. While the businesses will get tips and suggestions, eliminating the food source entirely may be impossible. On the other hand, Stepaniak cites a successful recent program along the rail line. CN worked with the City to cut brush and eliminate clutter along the wall, and a series of traps has greatly reduced infestation there.
How do you know if you have rats? Besides seeing them in action, look for holes in the ground, under foundations and sheds. Entrances to rat warrens will typically be about the size of a soda can. While a rat or two might be handled by snap-traps or a bit of poison, larger infestations should be handled by an expert. Stepaniak shows me a brochure with an array of modern, scientifically-designed rat poison feeding stations, like the kind used along the rail line. They’re securely locked and inaccessible to pets and children, rain-proof so the poison doesn’t get spread around in the environment, and, most importantly, attractive to rats. Pest Masters will inspect and re-fill the traps on a schedule until the problem is eliminated.
The war against rats will never end. After all, they’re survivors, and have thrived despite thousands of years of efforts to stop them. But using our biggest advantage — our brains — and a bit of care and cunning, we can turn back the current tide.
For more information on how to fight rats, Ferndale has a page up on the city website. Go to www.ferndalemi.gov/Services/Code_Enforcement/Pest_Control
Pest Masters: www.pestmastersmi.com or call 1-800-934-4770.
Story and photos by Malissa Martin
The Boston Tea Room has something for everyone, according to owner Heatherleigh Navarre. “We like to say that we are a bookstore, a tea room, and that we sell products for your spiritual journey, no matter what journey that is.” Lee said.
Navarre opened the first Boston Tea Room in Wyandotte and a second store in Ferndale in 2009. She outgrew the space after five years and moved across the street to a bigger store two years ago. “We opened up a second location on this side of town because we had a lot of clients who, honestly, didn’t want to have to drive all the way downriver. So they kept really encouraging and asking for a shop on this side of town,” Navarre said. She says Ferndale’s downtown atmosphere is a good fit and attracts a lot of business. “We have a lot of people who walk in the shop just because they see all the beautiful crystals, jewelry, or candles in the window, and they may not have any idea that we’re doing tarot card readings or psalm readings behind the curtain, but they’re really intrigued by what they see. So we have a lot of clients that just come in to shop or to browse,” Navarre said.
The Boston Tea Room offers over 60 mostly organic loose-leaf teas, and has complimentary tea of the day for patrons. “I have people who come in every day just to see what tea is in the pot and we love doing tea tastings and that kind of thing. So we really have something for everyone. We’ve got the retail and we’ve got the services. We also have the tea cafe area where people will come in and sit and chat with each other,” Navarre said.
The Boston Tea Room aims to provide spiritual support and items such as cards, crystals, books, CDs and DVDs to help nurture people on their spiritual journey, no matter their chosen religion. “So if you come from a Catholic upbringing, we have The Boston Tea Room: Helping Guide People on their Spiritual Journey jewelry with the saints on it or little pocket saints that you can carry with you. If you’re exploring the Buddhist path or Buddhist philosophy we have Buddhist mala beads and statues and that kind of thing. If you’re interested in investigating earthcentered, pagan traditions we have books and items for that,” Navarre explained.
The tea room also offers home and office blessings, meditation classes, tarot classes, tea tastings, mediumship classes, how to read the crystal ball, how to read tea leaves, and much more. “One of my favorites is we’re combining the new trend of adult coloring with the tarot. It’s like an adult coloring tarot session where your coloring a tarot card and you get a little mini reading of what it means,” Navarre said.
Navarre is a big supporter of Michigan artists and has rotating art shows. The Boston Tea Room sells items by Michigan artists such as jewelry, pottery, and embroidered tea towels to name a few.
The Boston Tea Room is located at 224 West 9 Mile Road. Operation hours are Monday to Saturday from 11:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. and Sundays from noon to 6:00 P.M. Call (248) 548-1415 or visit them on the web at www.bostontearoom.com
Providing Trusted Advice in Ferndale for over 13 Years
Story and photo by Jenn Goeddeke
THE ENTREPRENEURIAL WIFE/HUSBAND TEAM of Eric Uzzle (agency owner) and Peggy Uzzle (executive account manager) take the stress out of selecting insurance coverage. During a recent meet at their open-plan office (at 733 E. 9 Mile Rd), I was instantly impressed by their relaxed, upbeat attitude. With many years of joint experience servicing the needs of both local and State-wide customers, Uzzle and Uzzle have consistently offered diverse, competitive insurance and financial options.
Their primary vision is, “…to protect our customers’ assets and to help them build wealth.”
This is not your average agency: they pride themselves on a very personal, family-oriented style. Using a system that incorporates a completely ‘onlinefriendly’ (paperless) approach is what they consider to be one extra key to their success. This gives all customers the flexible option of either face-toface consultations, or doing business remotely via the internet (or both, as preferred.)
An additional component of their winning business approach is, naturally, a high level of customer service. In their words, “…we go the extra mile to give people good service, and the best price for the product.” This often means working long hours to ensure customers have all their questions answered in a timely, accurate manner.
Uzzle and Uzzle both mentioned enjoying the diversity of clients in Ferndale- a City which has both a strong Community feel, and also attracts a growing number of young professionals.
The Uzzle and Uzzle Agency have a wide variety of services to offer, in addition to the traditional auto, home, motorcycle and renters insurance policies. They always have a member of their staff who is dedicated to providing financial advice/options. Services offered include: Mortgage protection; Life insurance; Annuities; Disability insurance, Commercial insurance and coverage for rental properties. Clearly, quite an impressive array of policies to choose from!
For a no-pressure quote, feel free to stop by their office soon- or reach out using the contact information listed below.
Eric & Peggy Uzzle can be reached via phone: 248-544-8100, or by fax: 248-544-1492. Their after-hours number is: 800-255-7828. Customer Service is provided 24 hours a day. For email questions, direct to : firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. The Uzzle and Uzzle Agency office address is: 733 East Nine Mile Rd, Ferndale, 48220 (NW Corner of Nine Mile and Hilton). Office hours are: M-F, 8am- 5pm; Sat, by appointment only; Sun,
By: Rudy Serra
Q: MY EMPLOYER WITHHELD MONEY from my pay for damage to a company vehicle. I sued in Small Claims Court, but the judge wouldn’t listen to me. Can you help me? How do I appeal?
A: The short answer is that you probably cannot appeal. It is probably too late for a lawyer to help you in district court. You may want to contact the Michigan Employment Security Commission.
The rules that govern small claims court say that: “A judgment of the small claims division may be modified or vacated in the same manner as judgments in other civil actions, except that an appeal may not be taken.”
In most cases, you could appeal to the circuit court, but not in small claims. The exact application of this rule varies slightly from place to place. In the state’s largest court (the 36th District Court in Detroit) and in other districts, the judges employ one or more magistrates. I explained the difference between a judge and magistrate at state and federal levels in an earlier column.
Courts with magistrates often assign a hearing on small claim matters to a magistrate. In such cases, there is often a local rule under which the decision of the magistrate can be appealed to the district judge. Aside from that situation, the judgment of the court in a small claims case cannot be appealed.
The rule does allow a small claim decision to be “vacated” or “modified.” If you have new evidence, such as receipts that contradict your former employer or photographs that show there was no damage, you may be able to get the judge to reconsider.
This is difficult because there is a separate rule for “reconsideration” of a decision on a motion, and it requires that you make a request within seven days. Technically, it should not apply in small claims, but it is a good reason to make any request to modify the decision quickly.
Regarding the help of a lawyer, you are probably going to be on your own. The rules do not allow attorneys to represent clients in small claim cases. The judge is supposed to be informal, to enable a non-lawyer to get the help they need. If you want a lawyer, all you have to do is hire one who is willing to help, and then tell the judge you want to “remove” your case from the Small Claim Division and have it filed in regular District Court.
Unfortunately, you cannot wait until your small claim is decided, and then remove it. You are not entitled to an appointed lawyer. You have to hire your own. If you consult with a lawyer, they will probably tell you it is too late for them to do much to help you. You should have requested “removal” at your hearing.
You may want to consider filing a complaint against your former boss with the Michigan Employment Security Division. They are an administrative agency and not a court. They might be able to help you. If you signed an agreement to any responsible for the kind of damage you caused, you may be stuck. Even if you did, the MESC could decide that the agreement is illegal. It may be worth the inquiry.
By: Ann Heler, President
WE’RE HAVING OUR 8TH ANNUAL DINNER, Friday, May 6, 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. We are going back to the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle. Just the right size, lots of our lake and river history, and a great view of the Detroit River. Price is $50 per ticket. You can send a check to FernCare: 459 E. Nine Mile, Ferndale, MI 48220 or go to the website www.ferncare.org and pay through PayPal. Strolling dinner and Hans Barbe on the piano.
The Great Garage Sale is Saturday, June 11, 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM. Once again, this is in conjunction with the Ferndale Seniors Trunk and Treasure and this year, the Ferndale Arts and Cultural Commission Art Fair at City Hall. You can bring items you wish to donate to the sale to the clinic on Thursday, June 9 and Friday, June 10 any time between 9:30 AM and 7:00 PM.
Clinic Appointments: 248-677-2273 You will definitely have an appointment within the month.
By: Blake Prewitt, Superintendent, Ferndale Public Schools
LAST WEEK THE FERNDALE SCHOOLS Board of Education unanimously voted to request a sinking fund millage be added to the August ballot. A sinking fund millage is a limited property tax, considered a “pay-as-you-go” method for funding building maintenance and infrastructure projects. No debt or interest expense is incurred with a sinking fund. The tax is levied each year and the revenue generated from this levy is designated to building upgrades or repairs only. Sinking fund revenues cannot be used for general fund expenditures (i.e., paying staff.)
Our reasons for requesting this millage are threefold:
• All current funding given to us by the state is needed in the classroom. Over the past decade, there have been severe cuts to the state’s per pupil allocation, which is the primary source of funding for the district’s ongoing operations.
As part of the ongoing restructuring process, the District has identified $13 million worth of projects over the next 15 years that are critical improvements to school safety, such as building and site repairs. Suspending these facility repairs would result in more expensive emergency repairs in the future. With less money to begin with, many districts are forced to make this difficult choice between educational integrity and structural integrity.
• We are not alone in this need. We are one of the few districts in Oakland County that does not currently have a sinking fund. The state’s lack of education funding has put increasing strain on school districts across Michigan, and Ferndale is no exception.
• There’s no alternative. After perpupil allocations, the only additional means available to fund the district is to ask voters for approval to levy mills for a sinking fund – funds to renovate and maintain facilities – and mills for debt, more commonly known as a bond.
As you know, the community recently passed a bond in 2012 for $22 million. However, the original amount of work identified in 2012 was to cost over $35 million. The law on bond funds prohibited the district from asking for that amount, and so the project was scaled down, leaving many issues unresolved.
The sinking fund would allow the district to systematically respond to critical school safety needs and building repairs, ultimately reducing the total cost while prioritizing student safety.
For more information, please visit: www.ferndaleschools.org/district/fac ilities/sinking-fund/. Thank you for carefully considering this important issue.
With Eagle Pride,
Blake J. Prewitt, Ed.S. Superintendent
By: Jeff Milo, Circulation Specialist
HAVE YOU GOTTEN YOUR FREE COPY of Station Eleven from the Ferndale Library yet? Written by Emily St. John Mandel, this disarmingly tender and thought-provoking dystopian suspense novel was recently announced as the selection for the library’s annual community book club series, Ferndale Reads. This is the seventh installment of Ferndale Reads, spanning the springtime with a set of fun and engaging events and programs tying in with a single book’s fictional world and thematic elements.
Ferndale native Darlene Hellenberg is the Head Reference Librarian, and she has spearheaded these community-wide book clubs each year. “I love this book!” Hellenberg said of Station Eleven. “When the Michigan Humanities Council selected it for their program, The Great Michigan Read, I knew we had to participate in their program and make it our Ferndale Reads selection.”
Free copies of Station Eleven were facilitated by Ferndale Reads 2016’s sponsor, the Friends of the Ferndale Library. This non-profit, volunteerrun organization is dedicated to engaging the community and raising funds to support the library. Hellenberg has arranged several programs scheduled throughout the forthcoming month, including a visit from the veteran food instructor Renee Chodowksi (aka The Great Foodini,) with a presentation on Food of the Apocalypse (on May 9 at the Ferndale Library). A full schedule of events, including the finale featuring author Emily St. John Mandel’s visit and book-signing at the Tangent Gallery (May 19) are available at the library’s circulation desk.
The acclaimed Station Eleven begins in the wake of a pandemic that devastates civilization, following unique characters like a Hollywood star, a zealous prophet and a nomadic group of Shakespearean actors, as they seek salvation across scattered outposts in the Great Lakes region. Rather than giving away too much about the book, library staff is encouraging patrons to consider joining a couple or three unique book clubs, each of which will be discussing Station Eleven.
The Thursday Afternoon Book Club will discuss Station Eleven on April 21 at the Ferndale Library (starting at 12:30 PM). This club is perfect for recreational readers with freer weekly schedules, perhaps for the newly retired or folks who work night shifts and miss other regular earlyevening book club meetings.
COMING UP: Poetry Reading sponsored by Springfed Arts on April 5 at 7:00 P.M. to 8:30 P.M. Hosted by Susan Sheiener (of Springfed Arts) and featuring poets Kevein Meisel, Joy Gaines Friedler, Lucinda Sabino and songwriter Lauren Crane. The Boston Tea Room will be serving a selection of teas. Free. No registration required.
Saturday Crafternoon (Monthly) April 16 at 2:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. Space for your projects will be provided in the library’s community room. Coloring pages and colored pencils will also be available. Supplies for other crafting projects will not be provided. Presuming it’s not too messy, you’re encouraged to bring your own supplies (or equipment). Crafternoons will be hosted every third Saturday of each month, from 2:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. at the Ferndale Library.
ONGOING: The Artist in You is a community-wide celebration of student art, featuring works by young talents (grades 10-12) in the Ferndale School District and Center for Advanced Studies and the Arts (CASA.) Students’ 2D art will be on exhibit at the Ferndale Area District Library until May 17, sponsored by the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce.
We want to be your friend! Become a Friends member today for $20 or become Senior/student Friends member for $10. Info at: http://ferndalefriends.org/join-us/.
Story and photos by Rebecca Hammond
TWO THINGS YOU HAVE PROBABLY NOTICED in Michigan: Some towns in our state do not use road salt and, of those that do, a lot remains on streets and sidewalks.
In Marquette, the city spreads sand, making streets into an odd lasagna of snow and sand, building up all winter long. It keeps salt out of Lake Superior, but has some downsides. According to WMU’s Carla Koretsky, professor of geosciences, driving over sanded roads may send particles into the air, exacerbating respiratory problems, and might be damaging to the road surface. It can also need cleanup at winter’s end. Here, piles of salt end up near stop signs, apparently bigger the longer the truck has to wait for traffic to clear. Sidewalks can end up with salt intact long after snow is gone. All of this eventually goes down storm drains. There’s so much in places, you could sweep it up and have a free supply.
How did the Flint River end up so corrosive? I’ve assumed there might be salt deposits along its route, the Great Lakes region being a former inland sea, and salt mines – huge ones – in existence under both Detroit and Cleveland. But years of overuse, or maybe just plain use, of road salt made the Flint River more saline and thus more corrosive.
Other cities might take this as a warning, and head a problem off at the pass. Using Great Lakes water as a drinking source is still a temporary way to avoid corrosive, salted river water, but using the sheer size of the Lakes as a way to dilute pollutants has never been a workable, long-term solution. The “Unsalted & Shark-Free” shirts and bumper stickers we amuse ourselves with were always incorrect. We are salting our Great Lakes. So far, it hasn’t mattered. But the amount of road salt used in Michigan is going up. Some interesting alternatives (beet waste, for example) have been proposed.
DOES IT MAKE SENSE FOR ANYONE in DC to object to the EPA having neglected to protect the people of Flint? Some of the same officials have tried to eliminate the EPA, or defund specific rules, or accuse it of “federal power grabs” (The Hill, 11- 23-15). When EPA administrator Gina McCarthy appeared in Washington last week, that was one accusation leveled at her. Since the EPA is also the PPA, I hope the rebuke is taken as a mandate to protect people by protecting our sources of drinking water. On the other hand, the Safe Drinking Water Act says that the EPA can take action if a drinkingwater supply even may be contaminated. Action in this case took far too long. At least drinking-water safety is getting the attention it deserves. Articles like “How Road Salt Could Turn Your City Into the Next Flint, Michigan” (Inhabitat, 1-16) are now common.
SOLAR: There’s a large solar array west of metro Detroit on I-96, and there’s a new one south of town on I-75. These are big, commercial installations. Vox.com says that in 2015, utility installations were 57 per cent of the total and, while residential rooftop installations remain the fastestgrowing segment of the solar industry, these commercial arrays are so huge, they represent a larger percentage of total capacity.
BANNING BANS DEPT: A “plastic-bag-ban” ban has been introduced in Lansing, banning the banning of bags by local governments. It’s a biggovernment override of local government by people who deride big government. With the density of plastic particles in Lake Erie now greater than in the oceans, and those particles arriving in the Lakes when any plastic item on shore is ground to bits by waves and sand, it’s a shame that big government won’t take on the issue. It’s a bigger shame that they forbid municipalities to. We can, though. Plastic bags are small, weak, and hard to carry. Reusable bags are big, sturdy, and fun to make. Look for cast-off clothes, sheets, tablecloths to make them from. Green life is one big craft project. Google “DIY grocery bags” for inspiration, but if you’re a beginner, don’t be put off by complicated designs. One is as simple as sewing the bottom of a T-shirt shut, and cutting off the sleeves and binding the next.
ENVIRONMENTAL GADFLY DEPT: The Gadfly made two rare public appearances in March, at the Ferndale Garden Club, and at Blumz, where the quarterly meeting of the SE Michigan Beautification Commissions was held. Both talks were about monarch butterflies and naturalizing one’s yard. This is one environmental issue we can act on and probably see improvement pretty quickly. Many sources are reporting far more monarchs in Mexico this winter compared to the last few, but there’s a long way to go before they rebound to numbers seen in the early ‘90s.
PLEASANT RIDGE NEWS: One of Leslie Jones’ top priorities for the PR Environmental Committee is education on lawn pesticides, with the feasibility of city bans the topic of their March 21 presentation. The photo of bright yellow dandelions accompanying the facebook notice is a reminder: dandelions are the first available food for bees, and any early butterflies.
PR’s next presentation is on Monday, May 23 at 7:00 P.M. at the community center on Ridge Road. Brendan Nolan, owner of Plants for Ecology, will be speaking on native plants. Free and open to all. A native plant sale will be held on Saturday, June 4 from 9:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. Find the Pleasant Ridge Environmental Committee on facebook.
Becky Hammond is a life member of Sierra Club, their former Great Lakes Program blogger, and the founder of the Ferndale Monarch Project.
The Sharon Elaine Foundation, a Detroit nonprofit will host a fundraiser, “One Walk One Cure,” to aid in the research to end cancer with their first all cancer walk. One Walk One Cure will take place on June 26, 2016, on Belle Isle in Detroit, Michigan. The Sharon Elaine Foundation was founded to bring attention and awareness to ovarian cancer, and provides free human hair wigs to individuals who have a financial need. June is National Cancer Survivor Month and what better way to honor those who have been affected by cancer than with an All Cancer Walk.
To be a part of One Walk One Cure to end cancer register at www.runsignup.com/onewalkonecure.