By Bob’s treasured friend and former Ferndale mayor, Craig Covey

FERNDALE LOST ONE OF ITS LEADERS IN EARLY FEBRUARY, leaving behind wife Ruth and son Brad and a host of friends and admirers. Destined to become one of our city’s historical figures, Bob was beloved by thousands of people in southeast Michigan. He was 71.

Born in Kittanning, Pennsylvania, Bob settled in Ferndale in 1982 to be near Hagopian, where he worked for many years. He quickly became a contributing member of the neighborhood in southwest Ferndale and the greater community.

Best known for his outgoing personality and engaging manner, Bob loved people and his communication skills were legendary. In spite of some challenges, folks remember Bob as a cheerful, smiling guy always willing to roll up his sleeves for the task at hand.

FERNDALE HIT ITS NADIR IN THE 1980s and was a bit rough around the edges. The down- town was mostly empty, and property values were low. Woodward Avenue in the city featured an adult theater and a massage parlor. But, like others, Bob saw a diamond in the rough.

Bob’s proudest accomplishment was leading a citizens committee to pass a major bond issue to repair and rehabilitate the city’s infrastructure, which had previously failed. By bringing together residents, businesses, the schools, and community groups, the effort succeeded and allowed the City to fix its aging roads, water mains, and sewers. It was that unglamorous-but-necessary work that halted the city’s decline and laid the foundation for the rejuvenation of Ferndale that took place in the 1990s and 2000s.

Bob was a bridge in the city, linking older residents, businesses, police and fire with the new younger people that began making Ferndale home. He was comfortable talking with seniors, students, religious leaders, minorities, and the LBGT community and was respected by all of the disparate groups in Ferndale as it became more diverse.

HE WAS ONE OF THE SMARTEST PEOPLE I HAVE EVER KNOWN and understood the workings of municipal government and especially its budget and financing. Always willing to invest in the city, he also fiercely guarded the taxpayers’ money.

I once took Bob a small baggie of little hot peppers that I had proudly grown in my garden. The next
day, he brought me a grocery sack full of the largest, most flavorful peppers I had ever tasted that he had grown. He was a giving, caring, and generous human being.

In these current times of anger, division, and fear, we are going to greatly miss the warmth, under-
standing, acceptance, and cheerfulness that was Robert Porter.

From Mayor Melanie Piana

A GOOD MAYOR EMPOWERS ANOTHER EMERGING LEADER. Former Mayor Bob Porter influenced my career path by helping start the Michigan Suburbs Alliance where I worked for nine years. And he appointed me to the Zoning Board of Appeals when I was in grad school. Bob has a special place in my heart for empowering me. Rest in peace, my friend. Your impact on Ferndale continues on.

From Dean Michael Bach, owner of Dino’s and M-Brew

ALMOST EXACTLY 20 YEARS AGO, then City Council member Bob Porter took the time to seek me out and welcome me to Ferndale as the new owner of the Rialto Cafe. We chatted often and he would introduce me to many business owners, neighbors, police, fire and friends in the neighborhood. He also put me in touch with many people at City Hall able to help a young and ambitious punk from Detroit realize a dream of owning a restaurant. He told me to get involved and to simply “do the right thing” in Ferndale, and the community would appreciate and support my efforts.

As time went on, and Dino’s was able to establish itself as a local watering hole, MAYOR Porter would pop his head in the lounge for a cold beverage and shoot the breeze about city stuff. I would eventually be appointed to the DDA Board of Directors by Mayor Covey, and our breeze-shooting would turn into advisory sessions. He would never just give advice, but would kinda’ tell a story about a situation he experienced and how he or others would handle it. The conversations were always light and full of wisdom.

We would stay in touch with an occasional call, with our last chat being during this past holiday season. He sounded good although he did tell me he didn’t feel “all that great.” He would never let a conversation lead to a negative lane. He was always flattering and never had anything but nice things to say to and about everybody. His life touched a lot of people with his charm and uplifting approach.

So…on this the day of his passing on to eternal rest. I want to take a moment to raise a toast to Mayor Bob Porter. The uplifting of others in your community will forever remain a life lesson learned from the heartfelt and genuine ways in which Mayor Bob would lead, live and love the City of Ferndale.

Salute and Cheers to you, Sir.

Rest In Peace

By Bill Good

ON MARCH 10TH VOTERS PASSED A TRANSFORMATIONAL BALLOT INITIATIVE FOR FERNDALE SCHOOLS. This ballot measure called for a $125 million bond at no expected tax rate increase. The $125 million will be issued in what is referred to as a “3-series,” meaning bonds will be sold at three different times: 2020 ($53M), 2023 ($35.5M), and 2026 ($36M). The three main areas addressed in this bond are SAFETY, SUSTAINABILITY and RE-IMAGINING THE CLASSROOM.


CONTROLLING WHO CAN ACCESS OUR SCHOOL BUILDINGS AND WHEN IS VITALLY IMPORTANT for the safety of everyone on our campuses. We have a plan to improve each of our buildings toward two major goals: Deterrence & Prevention.

Deterrence is all about reducing the risks of unauthorized entry which starts with presenting a positive security image. If an intruder is faced with a secure vestibule and adequate monitoring and prevention tools, the likelihood of an incident is dramatically reduced. This bond will allow Ferndale Schools to build a secured entry vestibule at each school.


ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND ENSURING OUR STUDENTS ARE “WARM AND DRY” inside of their schools isn’t exciting; it’s expected. Repairing and improving infrastructure will benefit the long term sustainability of our district. This includes expensive items like roofs and boilers. This bond will be used to safeguard our community’s investment in our facilities. But more than simply replacing an aging roof or boiler system, these funds will allow Ferndale Schools to create a comprehensive, decade-long, facility improvement plan which will allow work to be done in a systematic way leading to significant energy savings.


WHEN PUBLIC SCHOOLS WERE ESTABLISHED, THEY WERE DESIGNED to train students for the labor force of the time: primarily factory work performing a minimal number of tasks. Today, we are seeing automation take over these jobs, resulting in a return to the renaissance principles of innovation and collaboration in the workspace. Entrepreneurs and employees alike are expected to perform multiple tasks using multiple sets of tools, whether working in the physical or digital space. This has driven a major change in the mission of public education.

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By Sara E. Teller

My dad, brother, and sister all worked at the video store,” recalled Khamarko’s daughter, Candace Samona of Southfield. “When the dollar store opened, my dad, mom, and I all worked there.”

Everyone was fond of the well-known business owner, who, in 2010, at just 64-years-old, was tragically taken away in an instant when he was shot and killed in an armed robbery.

A press release from the Ferndale Police Department reads in part, “On November 26, 2010 at approximately 9:00 P.M. Ferndale police responded to the Dollar Club Plus at 2750 Hilton Road, Ferndale, Michigan. A witness called 911 to report the owner of the store, Karim Khamarko, 64, of Southfield, Michigan, was laying on the floor of the business bleeding and having trouble breathing…Officers discovered Khamarko had been shot several times and was gravely injured…Ferndale Fire/Rescue transported Khamarko to William Beaumont Hospital-Royal Oak where he died.”


Just like that, the kind-hearted father and grandfather of three, was gone.

“My dad was the best person,” Samona said fondly. “He was a loving dad, married to my mom for 34 years and, at the time he passed, had three grandchildren. He now has six.”

Every night, before he closed the store, Samona said Khamarko would call his grandkids and ask them what kind of balloon they wanted him to bring home. She called him “the best grandpa.”

KHAMARKO WORKED JUST AS HARD AS HE DID AT HIS BUSINESS when he was home, too, ensuring he always kept his family happy.

“My mom and dad were best friends,” Samona said. “I got married five years ago and feel so lucky to have had an example of what a marriage should be.” It is a shame, she added, that her parents’ bond was severed so suddenly.

The case has remained an open investigation for nearly a decade, a police press release stating, “Detectives followed up on many tips and leads throughout the initial phase of the investigation but unfortunately, none of them led to the identification or arrest of a suspect. Since 2010, this case has remained open and detectives have periodically re-examined the case file in hopes of discovering new information that would bring the killer of Karim Khamarko to justice.”

Then, in late October 2019, Ferndale officers, following a tip, apprehended a 48-year-old male from Romulus, and immediately asked for an arrest warrant for murder from the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office. Old wounds resurfaced for Khamarko’s loved ones.

Yet, soon after, the case stalled again. On Friday, November 1, according to the report, officers “were notified by the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office that the case we submitted to them concerning the murder of Ferndale business owner Karim Khamarko did not contain sufficient evidence for them to issue an arrest warrant at this time.” Without the prosecutor’s blessing, the man was released.

POLICE CHIEF VINCE PALAZZOLO, ON BEHALF OF THE DEPARTMENT, offered hope, “We appreciate the careful consideration of our Prosecutor’s office as they spent hours examining the evidence our detectives brought them. We are ever mindful of the interplay of checks-and-balances designed into our criminal justice system that seeks to ensure the fair application of due process for those accused of crimes.” The case remains an “open and active investigation.”

“It’s hard to explain,” Samona said of how the family is holding up. “Because the pain is there all the time. It never goes away.” Regarding the new development, she said they had “mixed emotions” adding, “We would like to thank the residents of Ferndale and the police department for being so supportive over the years.”

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By Sara Teller

THE FERNDALE HIGH SCHOOL GOLDEN EAGLE MARCHING BAND has been a participant and state finalist in the Michigan Competing Bands Association (MCBA) for over three decades.

“A competitive marching band at this level means that they create and perform a show much akin to a theater production throughout the summer and fall,” explained Elon Jamison, Ferndale Schools’ Director of Bands. “A competitive band is distinguished from a ‘half-time band’ that primarily performs at home football games, though they may do a competition or two.”

This year, Ferndale schools had Sean Forbes, a deaf rapper from Detroit, show the band how to properly sign his song, ‘Watch These Hands’ during its show entitled ‘The Sounds of Silence.’ The performance consisted of four movements that led to a second-place finish at the annual MCBA State Finals.

JAMISON SUMMARIZED THE SEQUENCE. “The first movement explored the ‘silence’ created in Beethoven’s head caused by severe tinnitus as he composed and performed in the latter half of his life,” he said. “The second part used several different lullabies to put the band to ‘sleep’ – another form of silence. “The third movement was all based around Forbes’ song, ‘Watch These Hands,’ and served the concept in two ways. The first was to attempt to make the marching band accessible to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

The second way was to give our hearing audience the silence that occurs when marching bands are rehearsing but not playing. The last part of our show was a treatment of the Simon and Garfunkel classic, ‘The Sound of Silence.’” Jamison added that “it takes a village” to make sure band members have time to rehearse and compete. Many parents volunteer in a variety of capacities including serving lunch at weekend rehearsals and laundering the band’s uniforms. They also volunteer to be part of the pit and prop crews.

“Another big job,” Jamison said, “is being a camp chaperone, which means traveling to Interlochen for a week in August, and living with a dozen teenagers, keeping them physically and emotionally healthy and well-rested, so they can rehearse nine hours a day to learn that year’s show.”

MUCH LIKE OUR BAND, FERNDALE’S WINTER GUARD is also a force to be reckoned with, and it’s back after a “decade hiatus,” according to instructor Jennifer Batsios. The team is comprised of more than 24 Ferndale students, grades 8-12, and competes in the Michigan Color Guard Circuit (MCGC).

“The team placed first in its competitive class in 2018 and rose to a higher competitive class for the 2019 season,” Batsios said. “For the 2020 season, the Ferndale Winter Guard will compete not only in MCGC in the next competitive class level, Scholastic A, but will be returning to the national circuit, Winter Guard International (WGI), where it will compete with more than 130 teams from around the country.”
Ferndale’s Winter Guard begins rehearsing in November and competing in January. “The team will compete throughout Metro Detroit in preparation for state championships at Saginaw Valley State University at the end of March,” Batsios explained.

“Following state championships, the team will head to Dayton, Ohio to compete in Winter Guard International World Championships in April.” WGI is an extensive organization. There are more than 33,000 participants at the regional level and more than 16,000 participants at the Sport of the Arts World Championships.

Batsios is incredibly proud of the guard, saying, “The students continue to amaze me with their dedication and level of performance!”

For information about Ferndale’s band, contact Elon Jamison,

For information on the color guard, contact Jennifer Batsios,

By Rudy Serra

Q: I WAS TOLD THERE IS A NEW LAW that allows papers to be signed electronically. What if I need a document notarized? Do I still have to personally appear before a notary public?

Answer: Michigan law now allows documents to be notarized electronically. Notaries are not required to make arrangements to do their deed by computer, but they are authorized to do so. In order to notarize documents remotely, a notary has to use a service that has been approved by the State’s “Office of the Great Seal.”

The Secretary of State published this helpful information about the approved vendors:

• E-Mortgage Law – Offers electronic notarizations services.

• Nexsys – Offers both electronic and remote notarization services.

• Pavaso – Offers both electronic and remote notarization services.

• NotaryCam – Offers both electronic and remote notarization services.

Because only approved vendor systems can be used in Michigan, a notary wishing to provide these services must use one of the vendors above. Otherwise, a notary should still use the pen and ink method.

Any person who can obtain a $10,000 notary bond from an insurer can be a notary. Licensed attorneys are exempt from the bond requirement. There is a ten-to-twenty dollar fee for filing the bond with the County Clerk and an additional ten dollar application fee. The new on-line application asks about electronic notary services and asks the applicant to identify one of the approved vendors if they wish to provide that service.

Unless they are being reimbursed for costs of travel, a Notary Public in Michigan should not charge more than ten dollars to notarize a document. Many attorneys, banks, insurance companies and others provide public notary service free. Serra Services P.L.L.C., for example, provides free public notary service.

The title “notary public” simply means a public notary. A notary acts as an impartial witness of a signature. When a document is notarized, the notary is certifying that they were present when the document was signed, that they knew or identified the person signing, and that they saw the person sign.

JUDGE RUDY REPORTS is a regular feature in Ferndale Friends. We welcome questions from readers. If you have a legal question or concern, send your question by email to Advice about specific cases cannot be provided but general legal questions and topics are welcome.

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By Sara E. Teller

IN JANUARY OF 2019, THE MICHIGAN SAFE DRINKING WATER ACT created new water sampling requirements to better detect possible lead in drinking water.

“These changes require all communities with lead service lines and older housing stock, including Ferndale, to do more sampling than we’ve done in the past,” explained Kara Sokol, City of Ferndale’s Communications Director.

Before the revisions, the cities were required to test water from five properties with lead service lines each year and now 30 lines must be tested. The City of Ferndale stresses to residents this doesn’t mean the quality of the water sources has changed, only that there are stricter measures in place to detect lead in the lines. After sampling is completed, the results are sent to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).

Dan Antosik, Deputy Director, City of Ferndale’s Department of Public Works said, “The revisions to the lead and copper provisions of the administrative rules under the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act, 1976 PA 399, as amended, were put in place to help better protect the public. The rule changes may have an impact on the sampling for water supplies with corrosion control as they are stricter in the sampling protocols than prior to the changes.”

He added, “In order to identify the additional 25 properties to test, the Department of Public Works sent out a mass email to all addresses in our contact list asking for those with a lead service line for assistance. We then verified those willing to assist with the sample collection that they had a lead service line. After we finished the sampling, all sample results were submitted to EGLE for review.”

AFTER THE SAMPLES WERE SENT TO PARAGON LABORATORIES of Livonia and the results submitted to EGLE, Ferndale found 27 of the 30 properties were in compliance. Having three above EGLE’s Action Level, which the City is stressing is “not a health-based standard,” simply means more sampling must take place to determine if any further action needs to be taken.

Sokol said, “Despite this, the City of Ferndale takes the issue of lead service lines seriously. In accordance with new state rules, we’re working on a plan to identify and inventory service lines throughout the City, and by 2021 will begin replacing five percent of our lead lines per year.”

In the meantime, residents concerned about the potential of lead in their lines can have the water independently tested by submitting a sample to an approved lab. Bill Mullan, Media & Communications Officer for Oakland County Executive David Coulter, said, “If residents want to know the quality of the drinking water in their homes, Oakland County Health Division is certified to test drinking water for lead and copper.”

EGLE’s Action Level is 15 parts per billion (ppb) and, if after submitting samples to a lab, residents find their water is above this standard, they can flush out the lines for five minutes before consuming the water or install a water filtration system. Lead hardware can also be replaced with lead-free components.

Mullan said, “If there is an actionable level of lead or copper in the water, then residents should purchase a filter at any of the big box stores that indicates on the packaging both that it filters out lead and copper and has the NSF laboratory symbol on the packaging. Residents should note that the filters are designed to fit traditional faucets. Some of the modern faucet designs do not allow filters to be attached to them. In that case, they should use a filtered drinking water dispenser or pitcher.”

Several neighboring Metro Detroit cities reported that the stricter guidelines did indeed reveal levels higher than the actionable standard. “When the State of Michigan officially notifies a local community that they have actionable levels of lead or copper in their water, the community has three business days to notify their residents. Oakland County Health Division also receives notification from the state,” Mullan explained. “The Health Division then supports the city, village, or township by assisting with its messaging to residents, being available for public information meetings, and helping to distribute water filters that filter out lead and copper to households that qualify.”

NEIGHBORING HAZEL PARK’S DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS indicated no elevated lead levels found in their lines during the stricter sampling process. This does not include independent sampling, however, and HPDPW encourages residents to check for lead exposure if there is concern, indicating, “Anyone that may have a lead service line may take simple steps to reduce exposure. Educational materials on reducing lead exposure is located on city websites.” In addition to running water at a faucet for several minutes to flush the line, residents can accomplish the same results by flushing toilets, doing laundry, running a dishwasher, or watering plants.

Oak Park’s sampling, on the other hand, did return some results above desirable levels. Colton Dale, the City’s Community Engagement & Development Specialist, said, “Of the 30 homes tested, ten came back as having lead levels higher than the Action Level. All 30 water customers who participated in the summer sampling pool have been notified of their results.”

Dale added, “If a resident lives in a home that has been identified as having lead levels higher than the Action Level, it is recommended that they use a water filter for drinking water and look at getting all lead water service components replaced as soon as possible.”

The City is taking the findings seriously, and he added, “As an immediate measure to help those affected, we are working with them to replace their private lead water service lines later this year and into 2020. As part of a larger project, we will be keeping an ongoing list of the private lead service lines throughout the city. The City of Oak Park is committed to continue to replace these private lead service lines. We will replace these private lead service lines regardless of the lead level found in testing or if the lead level is over the Action Level of 15 parts per billion. We want to eventually get to a point where no home in Oak Park has any private lead water service components.”

Dale also noted, “The main takeaway here, in my own words, is that this is not Flint. When people hear ‘lead,’ they want to equate this to the situation in Flint. This is not Flint. The lead water issues being mitigated here are related to lead components found on the private side of the water service system. The City of Oak Park has no known public lead service lines within the water system. The issue is not large in scope and it is not city-wide.”

Oak Park is recommending that residents with additional concerns contact the Oakland County Nurse-On-Call hotline, which offers information about health and related resources. The phone number is 800-848-5533. Those interested in learning more about Oak Park’s water can review the quality report at

At the County level, Mullan declared, “No level of lead in water is acceptable. Water quality is paramount to the health and quality of life of our residents. Oakland County Health Division robustly supports municipalities in educating their residents about what it means when there are actionable levels of lead or copper in the drinking water and what the next steps are.”

“In the long-run,” he said, “Oakland County would like to see sources of lead in drinking water eliminated. The long-term solution is to replace older, lead-lined pipes.”

By Sara E. Teller

LEGAL RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA IS COMING TO FERNDALE’S progressive and welcoming community. One business emerging to serve the new market is LIV. The company was founded in 2017 with its headquarters positioned downtown. The Ferndale location’s grand opening was held on September 16, 2019.

“We held a weeklong celebration to commemorate our arrival to the great city of Ferndale,” said Sara Ramos, LIV’s Human Resource Director. “Our mission here at LIV is to provide the city and its neighbors with state tested medicine in a clean, friendly, and safe environment, while delivering a very high-level of customer service.”

Ramos said the company chose Ferndale because “the founders of LIV have deep roots in Ferndale, that stretch over the last 20 years.” She added, “We love the city of Ferndale for many reasons, but one thing that sticks out is its culture. This city has a unique, open-minded, and progressive personality which makes you feel welcome no matter what walk of life you come from. I think we fit well into the culture of wellness and bettering yourself. We love talking to people and being able to help them in ways that increase their quality of life.”

MINOU CAREY JONES, THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE BLACK CAUCUS FOUNDATION OF MICHIGAN, who is also involved with the Southeast Oakland Coalition, part of the Michigan Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities, said that Ferndale has to be careful to invite in the right businesses. Jones said, “Ferndale, specifically, has thrived off of good businesses and good business practices. It has been known for being a very liberal community and [the City] needs to be careful, in choosing to allow recreational marijuana, that business owners understand Ferndale’s expectations, and follow regulations and laws.”

She added that a potential concern could be increased traffic for the sole purpose of buying product. Jones said, “Any time you are increasing access to a product, then you are going to undoubtedly have more people coming to the community. Do you want people from bordering communities coming into your community to purchase marijuana? Does current law enforcement have the capacity to enforce the additional people that come into the community?”

Justin Lyons, Ferndale’s Planning Manager, said the City responded to voters and established guidelines for allowing these companies into the area. “In response to the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act (MRTMA), approved by Michigan voters with Proposal 1 on November 6, 2018, the City of Ferndale amended ordinances related to marijuana establishments,” he said. “The community voted to approve Proposal 1 by a large margin and the City Council directed staff to amend the ordinances to allow access to recreational marijuana. The ordinance permits three marijuana retailer licenses. A marijuana retailer shall not be allowed within 500 feet of an educational institution, nursery school, or childcare center, or another marijuana retailer facility, provisioning center or medical marijuana facility.”

Ramos said, “Ferndale has welcomed us with open arms. We’re so grateful for all the love everyone has shown us during our grand opening and every day since. We really feel appreciated and proud to be providing the city with something that has the potential to change so many people’s lives for the better.”

LIV is committed to benefiting the community in positive ways, too. “We make sure to take the time to answer questions for residents that have concerns about the industry and need clarification,” Ramos said, adding, “LIV takes pride in being involved with the local community. We have only been open about nine weeks and are proud to say we have already made an impact. We donated 40 skateboards to underprivileged skaters during the skatepark grand opening. LIV is supplying 200 local families in need of a Thanksgiving meal and have an ongoing coat drive for a local foundation.”

JONES’ BIGGEST CONCERN IS ENSURING THAT RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA stays out of the hands of minors, and emphasizes that retailers are not the suppliers. She said, “The Coalition works very hard to educate voters on the potential impact [of legal recreational marijuana] through lessons learned in Colorado. It’s here now. The Coalition and people who work to protect the health of youths in general are tasked with ensuring it stays out of the hands of minors. Parents and those who use marijuana should be locking it up. For the most part, underaged use of alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and prescription drugs – the primary source does not come from retailers.”

Jones added, “Generally, retailers and businesses in Ferndale are very much in compliance with laws. Primary access points are older adults, siblings, and strangers. We can’t solely pin blame or look to target efforts to reduce substance abuse to dispensaries and retailers. Look at all access points and determine the community’s role in educating retailers, parents, schools and other stakeholders.”

Some products are potentially more attractive to kids than others, Jones said, explaining, “I’m particularly worried about the packaging and labeling of edibles. They’re not as harmful as alcohol, but there are regulations for alcohol labeling,” and she believes recreational marijuana should follow the same guidelines. “Edibles look like gummy bears, brownies, cookies, and fruit loops,” Jones warned. “Similar to alcohol, prescription drugs and other legal substances, lawmakers, parents, and teachers all need to make sure we’re protecting our youth.”

VAPING IS ALREADY “A HUGE ISSUE,” she added. “One-in-three youth vape marijuana concentrate, which burns at a different heating point than nicotine. A vaping device is not made for marijuana, and we have devices blowing up and causing personal injury. Increased awareness around the dangers and potential consequences is needed.”

When asked if more dispensaries and retailers were on the way in, Lyons responded, “The City permitted three medical marijuana provisioning centers licenses in Summer 2019 and those three facilities are now open. The City opened the applications for marijuana retailer establishments on November 2, 2019, and applications will be reviewed by City Council after March 1, 2020.”

For more information, visit the City of Ferndale’s website,

By Lisa Howard

GOOD THINGS TEND TO COME IN THREES, AND THE TRI-COMMUNITY COALITION IS NO EXCEPTION. It’s a nonprofit organization that aims to prevent substance abuse and improve mental health wellness in three cities — Berkley, Oak Park, and Huntington Woods — and its efforts are aimed at youth, adults, and the community at large. (Three again!)

Given the link between stress and risky behavior, it’s not surprising that Judy Rubin, the executive director of the Tri-Community Coalition, thinks it’s important to also focus on mental wellness. “Recently, we’ve found through data that our kids are really stressed,” Judy says, “So we offer mental-health wellness techniques in the hopes that we can prevent kids from possibly going down a substance abuse path.” Part of that assistance includes supporting the Y.O.U. (Young, Optimistic and United) programs at high schools in the Tri-Community area. The groups are student-run and very self-sufficient, but they can turn to the Coalition for guidance and financial support for their activities.

For parents, the Coalition offers Parent Now programs, covering topics like social media, bullying, depression, and how to recognize, avoid, and get out of toxic relationships. These programs are generally held at the Berkley Public Library, and although they’re primarily aimed at parents, anyone is welcome to attend. The Coalition also hosts programs specifically dealing with drugs, such as vaping, underage drinking, and marijuana use. “It’s about keeping parents apprised of what they should be looking out for and how to intervene constructively,” Judy says, adding that unfortunately, underage drinking is a problem with younger and younger kids these days — it’s become common in middle school, and it’s not unheard of even among fifth-graders. (The Coalition has become more active in middle schools as a direct result of this trend.) Vaping is also on the rise.

ONE OF THE TOOLS THE COALITION OFFERS to help parents and kids alike is free drug-testing kits, which Judy sees as a preventative rather than punitive tool. “A lot of times, parents and kids don’t know how to get out of peer-related sticky situations,” she says. “If a child is offered a drug, one way for them to get out of the situation is for the child to say,‘My parents have a drug kit.’ It gives kids an easy out from peer-pressure.” Parents are also given suggestions about how to have open and constructive conversations about drugs, as well as refusal skill tools they can pass on to their kids.

For the past two years, Coalition has hosted a health and wellness fair for the greater community in the spring, and also for the second year they are offering free Narcan-training sessions and nasal spray kits in an effort to address the opioid epidemic. They also support nationwide substance-abuse prevention efforts like National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, an event that aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs while also educating the general public about potential prescription abuse.

This year, the Coalition will be partnering with the Huntington Woods and Berkley Public Safety Departments for National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, October 26, from 10 A.M. until 2:00 P.M. During that time, everyone is encouraged to drop off any unused or expired drugs to the Berkley Public Safety Department. (Please no sharps or liquids.) As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”

By Steve Cooper, Director of Public Safety

Photos By Bennie White

THE OAK PARK DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY has always taken pride in providing the city with the best public safety services possible. We believe in our partnership with the community through sharing and exchanging ideas, building relationships, and working together to address challenges.

These efforts have been demonstrated through a number of community initiatives, such as:

  • The Oak Park Public Safety Citizens Academy.
  • The Oak Park Public Safety Ice Cream Truck.
  • Coffee-With-A-Cop.
  • The addition of a second Community Resource Officer.

The Oak Park Public Safety Citizen Academy is entering its fourth year and the demand for enrollment remains high. The Academy is a fiveweek class for the public held on Wednesday evenings from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. The academy is held twice a year (spring and summer). The Citizen Academy provides an excellent opportunity for residents to gain a better understanding of the day-to-day operations of a Public Safety Department. It is free for Oak Park residents 18 years of age and older.

The classes cover a number of interesting topics such as patrol and traffic operations, detective bureau and case investigations, police and firefighting equipment, criminal law and procedures, use of force and officer safety, crime scene investigations and forensics, firefighting and firetruck operations, medical first-response, radio dispatch and 911 operations.

There are no physical fitness requirements to enroll and all participation is strictly voluntary. Upon completion of the Academy, students are awarded a diploma during a graduation ceremony.

THE OAK PARK PUBLIC SAFETY ICE CREAM TRUCK is entering its third season and has become one of the favorite Public Safety initiatives among both the youth and the adults in the community. On several days throughout the spring and summer, officers can be seen driving through the neighborhoods in our ice cream truck handing out free ice cream. This has provided an outstanding opportunity for our Officers to have positive interactions with many members in the community. It is amazing how a small gesture, such as sharing ice cream, can put a smile on a person’s face. The experience is truly priceless.

None of this would have been possible without the tremendous support from several of our vendors in Oak Park. I would again like to thank Prairie Farms for donating three hundred units of ice cream per week, Quality Restaurant Equipment Masters for donating a large deep freezer to house the ice cream, Salient Sign Studio for providing the graphics for the Ice Cream Truck, and Autobahn Collision for the restoration work they performed on the truck. Also, our City Manager, Erik Tungate, and the Department of Public Works for donating the truck.

If you are in Oak Park this Spring and Summer, watch for the Oak Park Public Safety Ice Cream Truck in your area. It is often known to make surprise visits at various schools throughout the City as well as some City-sponsored events.

“COFFEE WITH A COP” HAS BECOME A VERY POPULAR community outreach initiative. Although the concept is not new, it is still a very good one. For almost a year now, the Oak Park Public Safety Department has partnered with numerous restaurants throughout the City to host “Coffee with a Cop.” This has provided the community an opportunity to meet at different restaurants and have informal conversations discussing many topics (community issues, upcoming events, sports, etc.) while enjoying a free cup of coffee. The citizens and the officers have an opportunity to become personally acquainted while conversing in a relaxed atmosphere. This event takes place bi-monthly on either Saturday or Sunday morning usually between the hours of 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM.

THE PUBLIC SAFETY DEPARTMENT has recently added a second Community Resource Officer, Robert Koch, who will work in conjunction with Officer Devin Benson. With the additional Community Resource Officer, we have been able to significantly impact our relationships with the many schools and students in Oak Park, senior citizens, and Block Clubs while continuing to address important needs within the community. The positive effect of an additional Community Resource Officer has been obvious and mentioned by numerous members within the community.

The entire Public Safety Department would like to extend a very heartfelt thank you to the community for your unwavering love and support throughout the years. We continue our pledge to serve at the highest level the great citizens and businesses of Oak Park with honor and integrity.

ESTABLISHED IN 1840, BERKLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT CONTAINS EIGHT SCHOOLS, the most of the three districts. It includes Berkley Building Blocks early childhood center, four elementary schools serving K-5 (Angell, Burton, Pattengill and Rogers), Norup International school serving K-8, Anderson Middle School and Berkley High. Over 4,500 students are enrolled in the District, mostly residents from Berkley, Huntington Woods and the portion of Oak Park (north of Ten Mile Rd. between Greenfield and Coolidge) within the district. There are also a limited number of School of Choice students attending.

Both Norup International, a K-8 school, and Berkley Building Blocks early childhood center are within Oak Park city limits, as well as Berkley Schools Administrative Building. Jessica Stilger, Berkley Schools Director of Communications, says the academic opportunities available to students is what makes their District stand out, including 26 advanced placement courses at Berkley High and a vast array of extracurriculars throughout their schools.

“Berkley School District is known for being a district that creates pathways for students to achieve their individual best, whatever that looks like for each student,” she says.

With an enrollment of over 400 students annually, Berkley Building Blocks helps children as young as six-weeks-old build connections and social skills up to age five.

“Our center is known for being high-quality and accredited, and dedicated to nurturing, growing and loving each student,” Stilger says. “Building Blocks forms strong family connections, encourages family involvement, hosts two parent/teacher conference sessions each year with all age levels and hosts in-house field trips many times each year to bring the outside world in.”

This dedication and focus on growing strengths continues through elementary school with the implementation of workshops to build comprehension and help students learn at an individual level. In middle school, class options only expand further, Stilger says.

“In middle school, students can explore robotics, foreign languages, journalism, and various music options, just to name a few. In addition, many students complete high school credits while attending Norup and eighth grade students complete a year-long, in-depth community research project,” she says. “Norup, just like all schools in the Berkley School District, is known for reaching and empowering all learners.”


From Building Blocks to Berkley High, District students are afforded the opportunity to grow at their own pace through a diverse collection of classes and extracurriculars. This makes Berkley Schools stand out as a district in Oakland County.

“In the Berkley School District, students are prepared to be creative, curious, confident, well-rounded critical thinkers, kind and caring and have a global perspective while understanding their communities,” Stilger says. “Berkley Schools students enjoy the multitude of experiences and successes because of the overwhelming community support, the fantastic work of their great teachers and administrators and the rich and vibrant environments that families create.”