Even in a rainy, off-year election, voting matters

By Kirsten Rintelmann
The Williamston Post

According to Williamston School Board member and Township Clerk Ernie Gaffner, Election Day rain did not dampen mid-afternoon voter turnout in precincts one and two.


“Voting has been pretty steady all day in both precincts,” said Gaffner. “People are serious about their voting.”

Although it was a non-presidential election, Gaffner said that what’s on the ballot is still very important. Aside from gubernatorial candidates, Williamston School Board election candidates were also being elected.

Gaffner said that voting on the school board not only determines who fill those seats, but it also affects other things in the district.

“The majority of registered voters do not have children in schools,” said Gaffner, “but things that happen in the schools also reflect on the community.”

According to Gaffner, an example is the direct relationship between how well a school performs and the property values in a community. The better a school is, the higher the property values.

City Councilman Ben Stiffler said there are differences among candidates and that “They should be voted for because they are the most qualified.” said Stiffler. “They should also be someone who is well educated and knowledgeable in the position they want.”

Although voting numbers were expected to be much lower than in a presidential election, voters “need to be a part of it because every single vote does count,” said Gaffner. “If the person they want is on the ballot and they didn’t vote, then they really shouldn’t complain.”


Trick-or-treat with your dog downtown

By Kirsten Rintelmann
The Williamston Post

Sheri Munce asking her dog, Cami, to shake.

Sheri Munce asking her dog Cami to shake.

The fifth annual Trick-or-Treat with Your Dog will take place in downtown Williamston on Saturday, Oct. 18, from 2-4 p.m.

It is a fundraiser for the non-profit organization For Better Independence Assistance Dogs, which trains facility and assistance dogs. According to Gary Spanski of FBI Dogs, dogs and their owners will have the opportunity to go store-to-store and get a treat— just like children go house-to-house on Halloween. A map locating all participating stores will be handed out. Some stores will have their own employees’ hand out goodies and others will have bowls of treats set out.

Spanski said additional events will take place at McCormick Park from 2-5 p.m. Some
include raffles, games, bobbing for hot dogs/tennis balls and an agility course. There will also be contests such as best costume, dog/owner who drove the farthest, best trick and largest dog. Judging will begin at 4:30 p.m and prizes will be donated by Joey’s Pet Outfitters and Caraway Kennels.
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Dusty’s Cellar showcases chic dining, fine wines, specialty taste in Okemos

By Abbie Newton
The Williamston Post

Thirty years ago, there was a small bakery nestled in the Meridian Mall in Okemos called Dusty’s. Today, that same bakery has expanded to include a restaurant, a tap room and a retail store for specialty foods. <Listen to the story.>



Williamston schools suffer from enrollment slump

By Kelsey Parkinson
Williamston Post staff writer

While Michigan is recovering from the economic downturn over the past few years, the state’s schools are still suffering – but not from funding. From declining enrollment.

Williamston Community Schools’ student enrollment has gone from 1,884 students during the 2009-10 school year, to 1,799 students this school year, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

chartThis trend is being seen statewide, according to Brian Ciloski, analyst at the MDE.

“Statewide, we went from 1,623,000 in 2009-2010, to 1,523,000 this year,” Ciloski said. “There’s been about 20,000 students a year that the state has been losing.”

What has been causing this downward trend? Williamston School Board Trustee Rhonda Coon thinks that it might have something to do with a kind of “baby boom.”

“The largest graduating class was in 2010, with 191 students graduating,” Coon said. “There was a small baby boom, I guess you could say, in 1991 and 1992. Those kids graduated in 2010.”

Coon herself moved to Williamston at about the time her own son was starting kindergarten. He graduated in 2010.

“There was a lot of growth at the time I moved to Williamston,” Coon said. “We’re now seeing that boom affecting us.”
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Williamston School Board favor new speed limit on Mitchell Road

by Miranda Bryant
staff member

Williamston School Board members agreed March 17 that they would like to see a lower speed limit on Mitchell Road. They did not vote, but will continue the discussion at their April 21 meeting.

Board members discuss speed limit issues.

Board members discuss speed limit issues.

The school zone on Mitchell Road has a 30 mph speed limit when the lights are flashing. When the lights are not flashing the speed limit is 45 mph.

“I’m curious to why the township is hesitant?” said trustee Rhonda Coon.

Superintendent Narda Murphy said that the speed limit could be changed but drivers would still travel at 45 mph unless there is daily enforcement.

“Speed limits are really determined by how people travel on the roads,” Murphy said.

Williamston School Board has approached this situation with Michigan Safe Schools, but was given only two flashing lights at each end of Mitchell Road, President Marci Scott said.

30 mph speed limit while flashing post.

30 mph speed limit while flashing post.

45 mph when not flashing post.

45 mph when not flashing post.

“One of the disappointing outcomes of safe routes was that they couldn’t get the routes of the school projects because that was the best they could get for safety on that road,” Scott said.

The board does not have the authority to establish a speed limit on Mitchell Road but can ask that the speed limit remain at 30 mph all day, and not just when flashing.

Secretary Ernie Gaffner said the township might be waiting on a resolution or statement of support from the board of education.

Even though most board members supports the idea, Vice President Larry Ward said he would rather see the experts decide.

“I believe the experts know what they are doing when it comes to traffic,” Ward said. “If it needs to be changed because of technical reasons than let the experts say it needs to be changed.”

Ward also said that slower speeds are just as dangerous as fast speed limits.


Williamston school board supports a reinvestigation of the safety on Mitchell Road and will discuss the issue at the April 21 meeting.

 – Miranda Bryant


Later school start time at Williamston Schools moves toward board approval

By Abbie Newton
Staff Writer

Williamston Community Schools could start the school day 15 minutes later next year. The Williamston School Board began discussing plans for the change at their March meeting.

Listen to the story here.


New chef at Gracie’s Place teaches first cooking class on first day of work

by Kelsey Parkinson
Williamston Post staff writer

Chef Ryan Young at Gracie’s Place did not expect to teach a cooking class on his first day of work.

“It was my first class ever, and I think the class went really well,” Young said.

Gracie’s Place, located on Putnam Street, offers cooking classes once a month, with themes ranging from Spanish to Hawaiian to American Regional. Paired with every cooking class are different wines to match each dish.

A recent installment was “The Art of Soup!” where Young taught 10 guests to make five soups: broccoli cheddar, New England clam chowder, French onion, gumbo and consommé.

“It was my first time making consommé, but I think it turned out well,” Young said.

Young made the move from Tavern 109, on Grand River Avenue, very recently. He “fell into” the opening for the new position.

“I had to cook a four-course meal for four,” Young said. “I originally applied for the sous chef position, but then was offered the head chef position.”

Young attended the Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Portland, Ore.

“I focused on pastry in culinary school because I didn’t want to spend years in a bakery,” Young said.

Young will be re-doing Gracie’s Place’s menu in a few weeks, aiming for an “American homestyle” theme, as well as continuing to teach cooking classes.

“I also want to do a barbecue class, and a dessert class, too,” Young said.

Gracie’s Place owner Dawn-Marie Joseph said she are looking forward to what Young will bring to the restaurant.

“We’re very excited to have him here,” Joseph said.

Gracie’s Place bakes its own classic sourdough bread, but Young hopes to transition into baking all the breads they offer. The restaurant buys its produce and meats from local farms, such as Heaven Sent in Mason and Bloom Farms in Webberville.

Check out Gracie’s Place’s Facebook page and website for updates on specials and upcoming cooking classes.


Williamston native planning benefit to help grandson with rare disease

By Kelsey Parkinson
Williamston Post Staff Writer

Imagine your child or grandchild being born with a disease that doctors and nurses could not identify because it is so rare.

Williamston native Crystal Amon’s grandson Hunter is living with Moebius syndrome, a disease that has fewer than 4,000 known cases worldwide.

Moebius syndrome is the lack of the 6th and 7th cranial nerves, according to Moebius Syndrome Foundation co-founder Vicki McCarrell.

“The 6th and 7th cranial nerves—there are 12 total—control very critical things,” McCarrell said. “The 6th cranial nerve controls lateral eye movement, while the 7th controls facial movements such as smiling, frowning and blinking.”

Amon said half of Hunter’s face is paralyzed, and he also has a deformation where his jaw appears crooked.

“One side of his mouth overlaps, where the other side, the teeth don’t touch,” Amon said.
The syndrome has additional attributes, such as club feet or webbed hands or missing digits.

“About 50% of the children born with Moebius syndrome are born with club feet,” McCarrell said.

Though Hunter does not have malformed hands or feet, Hunter has muscle contracture, which causes him to have a shortened Achilles tendon so he walks around on his toes.

“He had lost all range of motion in his legs,” Amon said. “As long as he keeps growing, he will continue to have problems with his legs.”

Williamston native Crystal Amon with her grandson Hunter and granddaughter.

Williamston native Crystal Amon and her grandson Hunter and granddaughter.

Every time he has a growth spurt, Amon said, he has to go into soft casts where he gets
re-casted every week to regain his range of motion. He then will be casted until the growth spurt is done, and then the doctors put him into braces.

“Right now, he’ll have to have two more adjustments with his braces until he hits another growth spurt,” Amon said. “This could be until he is 18 or 20 years old.”

Amon also said that “tall genes” run in the family, so while Hunter may be only 5, he looks as though he is 8 years old. His doctors estimated that he would be about 6’7” when he’s done growing.

As far as the facial paralysis goes, McCarrell said there is a gracilis muscle surgery perfected by Toronto plastic surgeon Dr. Ronald Zucker, better known as “the smile surgery.”

“Primarily in children, Dr. Zucker takes the gracilis muscle from the inside of the thigh and transplants it into the missing cranial nerve space, and ties it in with the face so they can chew,” McCarrell said. “It takes about six weeks to work. Once that happens, they can smile.”

Amon said Hunter went through speech therapy starting at the age of 3, including learning sign language.

“As soon as he learned sign language, he was a new kid,” Amon said.

Hunter is also mildly autistic, Amon said, and he is placed in a disabilities class at school in Williamston.

“The disabilities class has made a world of difference with his social skills,” Amon said.

Amon, who said she would do anything for her “little man,” is planning a benefit to raise money to attend the next biennial convention held by the Moebius Syndrome Foundation. The next conference is July 18-20 in Bethesda, Md.

“My goal is to find out as much as I can, and do as much as we can while he’s young,” Amon said.

Amon is a member of the of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a national organization whose motto is “People Helping People,” and is on the Eagles’ benefit committee.

“All of the money that we raise during the events, we give to charity,” Amon said. “They’re constantly trying to do things to raise money for others.”

Amon is hoping to hold the benefit this spring through the Eagles, and wants to have an auction, dinner, and even possibly a band play. Amon owns CC Embroidery & Gift Shop, where she said she has received a lot of offers from customers to donate to the auction.

“A lot of businesses, who are also my customers, are interested in helping,” Amon said. “They tell me, ‘just let us know and we’ll donate.’”

Amon runs everything past Hunter’s mother, Tara Haynes, to ensure that “she is comfortable.”

“She’s all excited, and she cries,” Amon said. “She doesn’t want Hunter, who is a really cute little boy, to be picked on.”

Amon’s main focus with the benefit is to raise enough money to attend the convention, but would hope to raise more money to help fund a jaw-correction surgery for Hunter. Currently Hunter’s state-funded insurance is being denied.

“We met with an oral surgeon in Lansing, who sent us to the University of Michigan hospital,” Amon said. “But his insurance is being denied there.”

Amon also hopes they can raise money to also fund the “smile surgery.” She said she wants to meet with Dr. Zucker and see what action they should take in regard to Hunter’s condition.

Hunter was originally misdiagnosed with Bell’s palsy at a month old, when he started physical therapy. He was finally diagnosed with Moebius syndrome when he was about 7 months old.

“It took tons of doctors,” Amon said.

Despite the challenges she has faced, Amon is passionate and said she would do anything to help her grandson, and cannot wait to move forward with the benefit plans.

“How exciting is this, to be a part of something that’s so rare, and bring awareness,” Amon said.