Local officer seeks to change stereotypes

By Liv Larsen

LANSING TOWNSHIPLansing Charter Township Police Officer Aaron Lightner has been with the Lansing Township Police Department since 2006 — that is, if you ignore the one month he worked at the MSU Police Department in 2011 before promptly opting to move back.

Lightner enjoys the intensity that comes with the auto accidents which happen frequently along the highway in Lansing Township.

“I like the type of work we do here,”  Lightner said. “We average 90 crashes a month…I like the fact that we’re busy.”

Unlike some departments where the officers pass along cases to the detectives, at LTPD the officers see their cases from start to finish.

“They do their own follow ups,” Lansing Township Chief Kay Hoffman said. “It gives a certain amount of pride.”

MSU Police Detective Chad Davis, a former co-worker of Lightner’s, knows the type of person it takes to enjoy the fast paced style at LTPD.

“You have to be incredibly independent,” said Davis. “You handle every type of call.”

Not only does Lightner enjoy the fast pace that comes with being an officer at the LTPD, but he also makes it a point to nail the essence of a role model, particularly to young children.

“I’ll see some kids playing basketball on the side of the street and I’ll get out [of my car] and I’ll play basketball with them,” said Lightner.

Another time while patrolling, Lightner drove past the local St. Vincent Home, a program providing a safe school atmosphere for children with disrupted lives, and saw an opportunity to interact with the children and staff of that facility.

“I got to play football with the kids at the St. Vincent Home,” said Lightner while remembering a particular day of patrolling. “I got out and asked if I could play — as long as I could be quarterback… I played for like a half hour with them.”

Not only does Lightner aim to help the lives of kids, and get to know the people of the community, he also aims to change what he called the overall negative stereotype that looms around police officers; even more so now in the wake of the riots in Ferguson, Mo., that erupted after a local officer shot and killed an unarmed teenager.

Lansing Township Police Department was one of the first local departments to go back to using the traditional black and white cop cars.

Lansing Township Police Department was one of the first local departments to go back to using the traditional black and white cop cars. Photo by Liv Larsen

“My goal in law enforcement is to change people’s opinion about officers,” Lightner said. “I want people to know there are still officers out there that are good people, that can treat you fairly and respectfully. I want them to remember how I treated them. There is a negative stereotype, and we need to change that.”

 

 

 

Making something out of nothing: Scrap Artist Troy Sika

Jordan Jennings

Lansing Township News

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Troy Sika of Westside Car Care holds one of his in-progress works of art, a welded bark tree. (Photo by Jordan Jennings)

 

 

LANSING TOWNSHIP — Combining experience from his auto repair business, passion for car heritage and love for scrap metal fabricating, Troy Sika of Lansing, Michigan welds automotive parts into art.

Having begun his thriving Westside Car Care in 1982, Sika calls his shift into art “a natural progression.”

Although it began as a hobby, Sika’s art landed him as a member of the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. He calls the Arts Council a “resource pool,” and has attended some of their workshops and even received commissions through it.

Ed Bonnen, business manager and partner of Kim Kauffman Studio in Lansing, is good friends with Sika. With Kauffman photography studio previously next door to Westside Car Care, Bonnen started taking his vehicles to Sika 20 years ago.

Bonnen says he liked taking his vehicles to Sika is because “he’s meticulous and thorough… He’s a great problem solver and he isn’t afraid of tackling difficult situations.”

This attention to detail is also evident in his art.

“And they’re fun, they’re playful… And then he turns around and tells me he can name every car, make and model that goes into the parts that are in these things,” says Bonnen.

Already rooted in the art community, Bonnen helped Sika get more exposure. “I really like what he’s doing, so I just planted him in different directions and he went with it.”

Automotive Tradition

Raised in Mason, Michigan, Sika says he’s “always felt very proud to be brought up and raised in car country.” It’s very important to him to use automotive parts in his art.

He calls himself  “very old fashioned,” and does all of his work by hand. Anything else “takes away from the tradition of metal working to me,” he says.

In a way, Sika’s art is a community effort—many of the parts he uses are supplied by his customers. Donations include car parts and old tools from the early- to mid-1900s. He says he loves to use that kind of stuff because “they’re all part of… American automotive history.”

Now, all tools are made by computers, machines, or overseas. “They’re just not the same,” he claims.

Current Projects

Currently Sika is working on another of his ever-popular tree works. Beginning with a pipe, he’s in the process of welding layers onto it. With 50 hours already into the piece, he has yet to finish welding and polishing it. A solution of muriatic acid and salt water will create rust in between the polished “bark” to give it more texture.

Sika has been working for the past few years to perfect his metal trees’ realism.

Does he sketch out each of his pieces during the planning process? “I’m a stick figure drawer,” he replies, denying at traditional artistic ability. “No, I just think it out one piece at a time.”

His favorite piece is a complex pond scene titled “Down By the River,” which won People’s Choice Award in the 2012 Lansing Scrapfest.

How much does his wife and two children participate in his art designs? “Probably more than what he likes sometimes,” his wife, Sandra, says.

“He kind of surprised us I think when he first started to do that,” she says. “It was never something he intended to do, she says.

“It’s hard not to get excited about it because it’s very creative,” she adds.

Using “dead” metal to represent living creatures appeals to Sika. This irony is also reflected in how all of Sika’s pieces, whether animals or people, contain a metal heart.

“If I have a trademark, that’s probably it,” he says.

This liveliness seems to be one of his work’s most appealing traits.

“It’s all rusty and nasty and dirty, and then when you make something like that, people just smile. And that’s the best part of the whole thing,” he says.

Sika’s future projects include a piece for Art Prize next year. A drawer full of spark plugs will also soon become an Indian’s headdress.

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His first ever piece of art greets you when you enter Westside Car Care. (Photo by Jordan Jennings)

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Sika turned this Chrysler engine block out of a 1999 Dodge Stratus into a table. “That engine would’ve been worth about $15 scrap for the aluminum, and that’s where it was heading… then I grabbed it and spent a lot of time polishing it and making it into a table.” (Photo by Jordan Jennings)

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Sika’s art space. On the left, an in-process “crazy bird” that will be put in the tree he’s welding. The bird is made out of saw blades, and old railroad spike and pruning shears. (Photo by Jordan Jennings)

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1930s heavy industrial wrenches become arms or legs. (Photo by Jordan Jennings)

Eastwood Towne Center expansion brings questions to Lansing Township

By Kelsie Patrick

LANSING TOWNSHIP—The board of trustees on Sept. 23 approved a new type of liquor license for the planned Hyatt Place hotel in Eastwood Towne Center.

UntitledThe Hyatt Place hotel is requesting to have a resort liquor license. State law used to require all businesses to have a background check before being approved for a liquor license. According to the resort liquor license, businesses are not required by law to have a criminal background check of any sort in order to receive a liquor license.

“Just following review, we know these are things that we need to talk about and resolve”, said board member John Broughton on the issue.

“The Heights”, which is the name of this soon to come business venture is strategically located in the geographic center of the Lansing tri-county region. The Heights will provide 125,000 new square feet of retail space, 125 luxury apartments with first floor commercial space, 125 room Hyatt Place, 119 room Fairfield Inn, and 116 room Homewood suites.

“This is the first time you all have seen an application for a new license like this and it matches what the state did. Background checks are no longer needed for approval in the liquor control act. Do we adopt this new resolution?” said Director of Planning and Development, Steve Hayward.

Board member Deontrae Hayes made the motion to approve the resort liquor license for Hyatt Place Lansing. The rest of the board voted and the motion was unanimously approved.

Dual-trained firefighters, paramedics serve Lansing area residents

Lansing Township firefighter and paramedic Shane Brink stands by a department fire truck. Photo: Nick Barnowski

Lansing Township firefighter and paramedic Shane Brink stands by a department fire truck. Photo: Nick Barnowski

By Nick Barnowski

LANSING TOWNSHIP – No matter the situation, Shane Brink is ready to help.

The 27-year-old is one of 14 Lansing Township firefighters who also double as paramedics, offering their services in both a fire truck and ambulance when trouble calls.

“We have to be careful and our training comes into play big time there,” said Brink, who joined the fire department nine months ago.

In order to become a Lansing Township firefighter, one must also possess a current Michigan paramedic license, a requirement that sets the township apart.

“I think it’s unique among any township probably within the country,” said Kathleen Rodgers, Lansing Township supervisor.

“Lansing Township, at the fire department’s urging and our firefighters’, decided to provide the advanced life support transporting ambulances to residents of the township,” Captain Mike Kaloz said. “This was as opposed to utilizing the private service we were using at the time so we could provide a better service to our residents.”

The requirement dates back to the late 1990s when Lansing Township analyzed first responder calls in the area. Rodgers, who then served on the Public Safety Committee, said the township found its fire service spent much of its time attending to medical calls.

“It has turned out to be a very important part of what Lansing Township does, not only for Lansing Township, but for the region,” Rodgers said.

Kaloz began his career around when the decision was made, and said it has been nothing but positive. He said nearly half a million dollars is brought in per year in revenue to the department from the ambulances.

“It was huge economically,” said Kaloz, who has been with the fire department for 23 years. “Also, in my opinion, if it wasn’t for these ambulances, we wouldn’t have as many full-time firefighters as we do right now.”

The township’s emphasis on public safety has allowed it to help the Lansing area despite its population of just more than 8,000 people.

“That’s definitely good that they support us because that’s where we get the funds for our equipment and protective equipment,” Brink, a Laingsburg native, said. “It helps us be the best that we can be.”

Rodgers said that in the past three years, Lansing Township has answered over 150 ambulance calls in the City of Lansing. In that same time period, the City of Lansing has assisted Lansing Township on five calls.

Lansing Township possesses four ambulances, enough to ensure that proper personnel reach an emergency. Brink said that his training for both occupations is used fairly regularly, particularly at car crashes where the individual and vehicle must be attended.

“The advantage of that for Lansing Township is that now we can respond not just with a basic ambulance, but ambulances that are stocked to almost be an emergency hospital room,” Rodgers said. “If an ambulance goes out, there are two people on that ambulance and we have two paramedics on site.”

According to the Lansing Township Fire Department call history, there were 417 fire and 1,566 ambulance calls in 2012. The firefighters’ training has allowed the department to respond in an average of four minutes, which Rodgers said is “probably the best response time in the area.”

“We have a very highly skilled fire department and it works very well for us,” Rodgers said.

Future of Waverly Animal Hospital in question

By Liv Larsen and Jordan Jennings

Lansing Township —  A handful of people gathered in the Lansing Charter Township Office Board Room to discuss the future of the Waverly Animal Hospital. Ivan Johnson, the PNC Bank trustee for the late Dr. Charles Thrush, owner of the Waverly Animal Hospital, presented a request to allow a rezoning of a residential lot currently used as part of the animal hospital at 233 Waverly Road. The decision was ultimately denied by the members of the board.

This particular request would allow the expansion of the lot another 92 feet for continuance of the “animal run” that the dogs staying at the animal hospital currently use to go outside. PNC bank got involved in December 2013 in hopes to continue the business and secure the future of the Animal Hospital.

Lansing Township Planning Director, Steve Hayward, addresses the board.

Lansing Township Planning Director, Steve Hayward, addresses the board. Photo by Liv Larsen

“Dr. Stuhler is my vet,” said Lansing Township resident Vicki Simmons. “Dr. Thrush bought that house as his own, and she’s going to buy that.”

According to Johnson, the house that Simmons is talking about is the house that uses its backyard for the current animal run, which is in violation of ordinance 85-6.1 paragraph M, stating that “the animals need to remain inside the four walls of the facility,” leaving the next move to try and allow for a reuse variance for the hospital.

“[A] reuse variance would allow us to continue to use that,” said Dr. Stuhler, veterinarian at Waverly Animal Hospital.

Concerned neighbors expressed fears that if the board doesn’t allow the extra 92 feet, then the animal hospital would shut its doors and move away.

“She would build elsewhere,” said Simmons, “and there’d be another empty lot.”

Other neighbors feared that if the expansion is allowed, that the barking from the dogs will become a neighborhood fiasco a fact already taken into consideration from Stuhler.

“There’s a lot of neighboring dogs, [so] are they hearing our dogs, or another neighbor’s dog?” asked Stuhler. “We’re very conscious of it.”

As for the future of the animal hospital, that’s still unknown. The Planning Commission Board voted unanimously against the rezoning of the current lot; but that doesn’t mean the expansion won’t happen, it’s just a matter of what the Board of Appeals has to say. For Stuhler, the future is still unclear.

“I haven’t thought that far ahead” said Stuhler. “Our best interest is to stay where we are … We’re going to try our best and stay.”

Johnson referred questions about the issue to PNC headquarters in Pennsylvania, which declined to comment.

Steve Hayward, Lansing Township planning director, did not respond to several attempts to reach him for comment.

Waverly Animal Hospital rezoning request a slippery slope, say neighbors

By Jordan Jennings and Liv Larsen

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Former animal clinic employee Mark Wickham and his rat terrier, Casey (13 years old, blind, diabetic and arthritic) stroll the Waverly Animal Hospital parking lot. Photo by Jordan Jennings.

LANSING TOWNSHIP — The Charter Township of Lansing unanimously denied Waverly Animal Hospital’s rezoning request at the Planning Commission meeting on Sept. 17.

Jessica Salvador attended the meeting and has lived across from the clinic for a year and a half. Her concern with the potential land zone changes centers on “what could possibly go there,” she said. She and other locals worry that if the clinic were to later move, another business could replace it and expand into the residential area.

The hospital, which also serves as a dog kennel, is part of the trust of the clinic’s deceased founder Dr. Charles Thrush. The clinic’s 92-foot backyard dog run area does not comply with township setback requirements, which state that a rear yard must be 25 feet from the building. In order to comply, Ivan Johnson of PNC Bank requested that the board allow Waverly Animal Clinic’s doctor,  Jessica Stuhler, to purchase from the trust two additional lots behind the clinic.

Taking his rat terrier, Casey, for a walk, Mark Wickham said he was hired by Dr. Thrush to do odd jobs at the clinic over 40 years ago. He doesn’t consider the clinic’s proposed expansion to be a problem. “It’s been here since… early ’60s, you know, and if it [expansion] was a problem, it would’ve been a problem… a long time ago.”

Many neighbors disagree. If the clinic were to buy the additional lots, it would require a zoning change. Rather than being an A (residential) Zone, the clinic would become a G (General Business) Zone. This new zoning code could open the door to later legal problems or other disruptive businesses moving in, according to neighbors.

When asked about the risks of potential rezoning, Wickham says that although the clinic is doing well, “…in this section of Waverly a lot of businesses don’t make it…” Were the clinic to later relocate and be replaced, you never really know what new business would be more successful, he said.

If doctors purchase the land from Dr. Thrush’s trust, the clinic means only to comply with the ordinance, and not to expand,  Johnson said at the meeting. “So nothing really changes in the surrounding businesses or residential neighborhood,” he said.

Steve Hayward, planning director for Lansing Township, called this “a really unique request.” He proposed instead that PNC Bank request a special land use with restrictions. This would allow for Waverly Animal Clinic to continue functioning successfully outside of ordinance. Restrictions would also prevent any zone changes.

Salvador said she is “all for” the special land use with restrictions. “As long as it’s specific to their business I think that would be perfectly fine,” she said. “They’re not hurting anyone by being there now. The fact that its gone on this long and no one’s noticed says a lot.”

Also present at the meeting was neighbor Vicki Simmons, who strongly supports the special land use permit. “I think it’s a shame if she [Dr. Stuhler] is forced that she can’t buy,” Simmons said, “because then she will go somewhere else then we have another empty building sitting there with a large tax space that’s lost. I frankly don’t want to pick up the difference.”

Referring to Lansing Township, Simmons added, “The first meeting that we went to they said that they would do whatever they could to make everybody happy, and I think the way to make everybody happy is to grant Dr. Stuhler of Waverly Animal Clinic the special land use with restrictions.”

 

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The clinic has been undergoing series of expansions since its original establishment in this Waverly street home. Photo by Jordan Jennings.

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Although the rezoning request was denied, the PNC Bank may consider looking into special land use with restrictions. Photo by Jordan Jennings.

 

Will Michigan schools be ready for online testing next spring?

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A readiness report shows 78 percent of Michigan schools can deliver online testing, but that number could fall to 35 percent when outmoded software is phased out.

According to the state’s top school testing official, the readiness report questions if the schools will be prepared by next spring when such testing is mandated.

The state is devoted to using the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium; a group of 23 states producing new mathematics and language arts tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards for the next three years.

Michigan Department of Education deputy superintendent Joseph Martineau said that about 78 percent of the state’s school buildings are equipped for online testing.