Lifelong Fraser resident reminisces on small-town qualities

By Nick Mordowanec
C & G Staff Writer

FRASER — Helen Stovel sat inside the booth of a small diner in Fraser, flipping through the pages of a large photo binder she started filling with photos in 1939.

The binder’s girth was impressive — a couple of inches or more of some of her greatest memories of growing up in small-town Fraser. A resident her entire life, the 92-year-old spoke admirably about the city that raised her and made her who she is. Most importantly, she holds no regrets.

“Sometimes you don’t remember everything, (but) it’s good to remember Fraser because Fraser was a small town,” Stovel said. “Everybody knew everybody. Your parents knew everybody that was in your class, and their parents. I think it was better for all the kids.”

She was a single child of parents who moved to Fraser in 1921, establishing their own stake in a city that was based on relationships and hard work. Her education consisted of tight-knit bonds between classmates — all 41 of them who played sports, and were socially and physically active.

As the pages turned, so did the thoughts in her head. She remembered old brawls on Gratiot Avenue between the neighborhood boys, how entertainment legend Mickey Rooney made a stop in Mount Clemens in his heyday and how there was a Steffens Park dedication in May 1943.

The newspaper clips were enduring and in good shape, the print still legible and the colors faded only a little. Even the photos provided visual proof of moments etched it time.

Stovel also had old Valentine’s Day cards from her youth, next to old report cards. A report card from her kindergarten year of 1929 said that she whispered too much to her classmates.

She said the methodology from then and now has truly changed, especially in the classroom. She recalled students being tied to their seats and having tape put over their mouths if they didn’t act accordingly in school.

“They aren’t able to do that nowadays,” she said.

Stovel recalls her mother having a hard time when she was born, mainly because mothers back then didn’t get a lot of help. The ideologies of that time period pointed to more basic means of living, doing whatever was necessary to cut financial corners and provide the means for successful family life.

“People were more conscious with their money, and they were satisfied with less,” she said. “(Nowadays they) get a house with three bathrooms and six bedrooms and a big mortgage.

“Mothers didn’t work back then; they stayed home with their kids. There weren’t places for the women to work, anyhow.”

She was married in 1942 to an Army soldier, and she later gave birth to one son and one daughter. Her son is 60 years old and currently lives in Warren, and her daughter is 70 and lives in Harrison Township. Macomb County is their home, and always has been.

Stovel’s father knew her husband’s parents several years before the two ever even met.

“When I met (my husband) I didn’t want to go,” she said. “We got married because, well, this was more time, you know.”

But there were tough times that tried strength.

Her husband, who died in 2011 after 69 years of marriage, experienced tribulations during World War II that were shared by a large number of his comrades. And although her beau was a prisoner of war in 1945, near the end of the war, he made it out alive and was able to return to Fraser and to his family.

“We liked to live in Fraser,” she said. “It was a small town and it was quiet; we knew people. Oh, I love (the old photos and articles). You can see the ones who got married, and now they are dead. It was better being brought up then, to a point.”

Helen Stovel’s life has been one filled with memories, both good and bad, of her life that revolved around Fraser and the people close to her throughout all the years.

She pulls out her binder once in a while to remember how things used to be.

In her words, time changes and life goes on.

Royal Oak Animal Shelter to hold fundraiser

By Nick Mordowanec
C & G Staff Writer

ROYAL OAK — The city’s animal shelter is seeking donations to keep its animals as safe as can be.

The Royal Oak Animal Shelter is holding a fundraiser from 3-7 p.m. Oct. 12. It will take place at the Royal Oak Veterans of Foreign Wars Acorn Post 1669, located at 214 E. Fourth St. in Royal Oak.

Pamela Wilson, one of four part-time attendants at the shelter, said that the goal is to raise money for the animals — all of which are either dogs or cats — during the shelter’s one large fundraising event for the year.

Smaller fundraising events, like bowling events, tend to take place throughout the year, if needed.

Public donations — which include food, cat litter and monetary donations — allow the shelter to maintain productivity and have the resources it needs.

The shelter has about eight dogs and between 22-24 cats, which includes six kittens.

A black cat named Mellie has lived at the shelter since December — the longest furry resident of the shelter, whether cat or dog. Wilson thinks Mellie has been the longest tenant because of her black color, which doesn’t give her much of a chance due to stigmas associated with black-colored cats.

The shelter holds more cats than dogs due to the building’s amount of space, but the objective remains to help as many animals as possible.

“Our main goal is, we take in stray animals and owner surrenders,” Wilson said. “Our goal is to place them back with the owner if they’re lost, reunite them with their owner or find them suitable homes.

“Some people just have to let go, due to the economy and stuff, so we screen them at the doctor and place them in homes. We do good getting them homes.”

As for how many animals are in the shelter at any given time, Wilson said they “can’t predict who is going to come in and who is going to come out.” The outlook can be gray, but donations and volunteers are part of the crux of the operation. It keeps things going in a positive direction.

“I hope a lot of people will come (to the fundraiser) and help,” Wilson said. “It’s not for us; it’s for the animals.”

Tickets for the fundraiser cost $15, either at the shelter ahead of time or at the VFW’s door during the event. Royal Oak-based Katherine’s Pet Parlor will be making the pasta as part of a full spaghetti dinner, which will include both regular and gluten-free noodles, salad, rolls, desserts and soft drinks.

There will be tickets sold for three or four raffles. For tickets to the event, visit the shelter at 1515 N. Edgeworth in Royal Oak or call (248) 246-3364.

Local teacher honored with ‘Excellence in Education’ award

By Nick Mordowanec
C & G Staff Writer

FRASER — Tom Trudeau went from running a landscaping business for 20 years to teaching elementary school students, and the journey has definitely paid off.

Trudeau, who has taught fourth grade at Eisenhower Elementary in the Fraser Public Schools district the past 14 years, was honored in late September by the Michigan Lottery with an Excellence in Education award.

The award is given by a certain base of criteria: excellence, dedication, inspiration, leadership and effectiveness.

Trudeau’s passion for teaching, notably in the realm of science, sparked a nomination from a parent who has two children — one in fourth grade and one in fifth grade — at the school. The parent’s children were members of Eisenhower’s environment club, which is a once-a-week after-school program that usually takes place in the spring and gives students the opportunity to plant vegetable gardens and flowers, clean the schoolyard, and put in bird feeders and bird houses.

The award was established by the Michigan Lottery to recognize outstanding teachers of academia in public schools across the state. Winners of the award receive a plaque, a $500 cash prize and a $500 grant that can be used toward their classroom, school or school district. Winners are also recognized in TV segments across the state.

It was definitely a surprise for the mild-mannered educator.

“I won (the award) and found out,” Trudeau said. “I got this mysterious email and thought, ‘Is this legit?’

“I couldn’t believe it. I was really shocked. I didn’t think I had done anything that all of the teachers do at this building year in and year out. Everybody here is working hard. To be singled out, it was a little surprising because you see everyone doing hard, hard work every day. But if a parent appreciates it, to me that was a big thing. The parent thought enough to do it and nominate me.”

Trudeau’s teaching methods, as well as those of his fellow educators, get students to think and identify learning patterns on their own. For example, he puts various codes around his classroom and encourages students to use their iPads, scan the codes and come to their own conclusions as to what data means and how their world can expand from what they learn.

“I realized a while ago that Google has all the answers,” he said. “My job as a teacher is to teach them how to get to the answers. They don’t even know the questions yet.”

That is how Eisenhower Elementary encourages learning: for kids to be responsible about what they learn and what they should aspire to know. As Principal Denis Metty said, all people learn differently and it is about teachers pushing students to where they want them to be, avoiding the status quo.

“The entire staff is a staff that truly cares about the kids that they’re working with, and it’s evident it’s not just a job for them and for Tom,” Metty said. “We all have bad days, we all have days where like, ugh, it’d be nice not to be here. But this group doesn’t ever do that. They’re always here and present with the kids.

“Tom integrates humor into his lessons, delivers his instruction at a level that kids can relate to, while at the same time pushing them. Being a third-year principal at a building, you have to earn the respect of everybody and vice versa. And it was quickly earned on my side of the coin with Tom because he doesn’t just talk about it; he does it.”

Trudeau has a Bachelor of Arts degree and a master’s degree in education, both from Oakland University. His children grew up and graduated through Fraser Public Schools, which inspired him to chase a similar kind of experience. When winters got slow in the landscaping business, he went to school and got a degree.

Now, he is meeting people like Michigan State University men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo as part of the Michigan Lottery prize — an experience he joked that he may not top for the rest of his life. He never thought he would sit down with a Big Ten head coach and just shoot the breeze, he said.

His teaching methods have consumed his students over the years and, though success is not always viewed in terms of instant results in his profession, he understands that is just part of the journey.

“Teaching is a funny thing,” Trudeau said. “The rewards are not as tangible as other jobs (and) the rewards sometimes take years. Sometimes you don’t get them at all.

“The rewards come when you see a child that’s grown up and tells you that ‘I liked this or learned that,’ or a parent says, ‘My child loved that.’ Those are the rewards.”

Nonhomestead millage on the horizon for Fraser Schools

By Nick Mordowanec
C & G Staff Writer

FRASER — On Nov. 4, voters in Fraser will decide whether a millage renewal is the right course of action for their school district.

The 18-mill nonhomestead property tax levy will allow the district to collect approximately $5 million — or about 9 percent of the $51 million budget — to be inserted into the operating fund.

Nonhomestead properties refer to industrial, commercial and some agricultural property, as well as “second homes.” Because this is a millage renewal, this is not a new tax for Fraser homeowners who reside in the district, nor is it an increase for nonhomestead property owners.

That $5 million total pays for programs, services, electric bills and mowing the lawn, among other things.

“Anytime you lose $5 million out of your operating budget, you really have to take a look at where would you find that money,” said Fraser Superintendent Dr. David Richards. “Knowing that you can’t completely shut down a district, you have to look at what programs or services we can reduce and cut back on.

“The community has always been very supportive of this particular millage because it is an operating millage,” Richards said. “I think Fraser has always enjoyed the programs and services that kids have benefited from.”

Similar millages passed in 2009, 2005, 1995 and 1994. This particular renewal would last 10 years and continue the trend set forth by Proposal A — a funding formula developed by legislators in 1994 that shifted where revenues come from for a school district. Prior to Proposal A, revenue was mostly generated locally and the surrounding community had the opportunity to vote how little or how much a school district would receive. That principle has since shifted to Lansing, where the state pays the majority of the costs while schools (like Fraser, in this instance) levy 18 mills on non-homestead properties to receive full funding.

Fraser Public Schools Community Relations Coordinator Nicole Malak said that awareness for the millage renewal began before the present school year, instructing parents and staff members of possible ramifications if the millage fails to pass. An FAQ sheet was also handed out to parents so they can be more privy to what the renewal entails and why it is taking place.

Fraser Public Schools Business Manager Laurie Videtta said past millages varied based on taxable value of property, and the current $5 million number was based on current property values in Fraser.

“The reason we put this on the November ballot is, it’s a regular election so there’s no cost to the school district (to run the election),” Videtta said. “In the event that it would fail in November, we would run a special election probably in February or May.”

Richards said the money generated “is a big deal” and a “big chunk” of the budget.

“The community has been very supportive, but it’s not something we take for granted because we know everyone is looking at every cost associated with running our school district, and hopefully our community has seen us be very fiscally prudent,” Richards said. “Our audits have always turned out really strong, the work that we have done with our bond issue (has been good), under budget and within scope. We have completed what was promised.”

With other schools in other districts also leveraging their cost-effective points of view, this pass-fail scenario presents a great deal of importance to overall functionality. Things have, however, been different in Fraser’s school district recently because the student population has grown and more families are moving into the city.

Richards said the school district actually saw more move-ins to Fraser than school of choice, which points out a big shift that says people want to be part of the community and school system.

He added that what-if scenarios are always discussed, and potential tough decisions are a reality that has proven to be true for many school districts the past 10 years. Many of the things that could have been cut in the school district have already been scratched, according to the superintendent.

“We’re really fortunate that Fraser, as a community around the school district, is very supportive,” Richards said. “We have great services in the city and the school district is a big part of that, with folks wanting to buy homes here and be part of the community.”

Voting will take place Nov. 4 from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. at regular voting precincts, and all registered voters who reside in the Fraser Public Schools district are eligible to participate.

Section of sewers to undergo rehab project in 2015

By Nick Mordowanec
C & G Staff Writer

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Clinton Township’s Public Works Department, along with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), is looking to improve two parts of the area’s Sewer District ‘D’: inflow and infiltration.

The sewer district, which is located in the northeast portion of the township, is getting an overhaul in 2015 as part of an S2 grant given by the MDEQ in March 2012 to study excessive inflow and infiltration in the sewer collection system.

The S2 grants are part of the MDEQ’s more than $1 million in grants that helped 10 Michigan communities fund wastewater system projects and make sewer infrastructure a top priority. The S2 program was designed to help these various communities plan and design systems — not to mention encourage reconstruction and offer a more positive outlook in terms of water systems.

After the township conducted a physical inspection of the problematic manholes, reports concluded that structural rehabilitation was necessary. It was also found that various “wet weather” events occurred in 2013, further displaying the need for improvements to the system.

The township aims to improve inflow and infiltration by sealing and tightening manholes by means of rehabilitation and repair, which would fulfill the objectives outlined in the MDEQ’s S2 grant that pertain to such wet weather events.

The estimated cost of the project is approximately $300,000, and that includes cost for construction of the improvements, engineering, construction services, administration and contingency. Clinton Township will fund the project through money in its water and sewer funds, while user funds will not be increased throughout the duration of the project.

The project area will concentrate on sanitary sewer manholes within the Joy Road right of way and south of Joy Road. The environmental impact of the project will be minor, and there will be a short-term impact on residents, notably in terms of township roadways. Temporary traffic control measures will be in place throughout the duration of the construction period.

Township Public Works Director Mary Bednar said the sealing and tightening of the manholes is a “maintenance activity that we need to do.” The S2 grant, which was signed by Gov. Rick Snyder on May 31, 2011, goes through the state and determines what needs to be done in different districts. It is an appropriation grant that came after the township conducted a study of its sewer systems.

“The study said we did have an infiltration problem, and from then we were able to deduct we should do this project to dry up the system and tighten up the system so water is not leaking into the sanitary sewer system,” Bednar said. “We looked at areas before the grant (was accepted) based on where there might be some issues (and) did an internal review of numbers.”

The project is part of next year’s township budget and has no distinctive start date.

Fraser, Rizzo Services agree to three-year contract extension

By Nick Mordowanec
C & G Staff Writer

FRASER — A three-year extension of waste services was unanimously approved by the Fraser City Council at a recent council meeting.

On Sept. 11, the council voted to extend its contract with Rizzo Environmental Services, Inc. The city originally solicited bids for a single-hauler waste collection and disposal program in 2005. After the proposal was then accepted, an additional three-year option was accepted by the city with an effective date of Sept. 13, 2008.

The agreement was later extended to Sept. 15, 2014, and lasted until Sept. 12 of this year. However, the contract that was extended until Sept. 17, 2017, included a one-time 2.5 percent increase that includes refuse pickup, weekly compost pickup as scheduled by the city, weekly recycling pickup and container pickups as needed.

Fraser City Manager Rich Haberman said the 2.5 percent increase was in terms of billing just for the first year of the updated contract, which he explained represented no real differentiation than in years past.

There is no billing to the customers, except for about an approximate $1.60 for the recycling fee. The city’s current rate is around $7 and that includes recycling fees.

Haberman noted how Clinton Township’s fees, in comparison, are $14.10 for the same types of services.

“Of all the cities I’ve been in with dealing with solid waste, I have to really think hard of one complaint my office has received,” Haberman said during the meeting. “We get virtually no complaints with this company. I know we’re competitive.”

Mayor Doug Hagerty also expressed his contentment with the way Rizzo Services has dealt with the city and its residents. Complaints have been minimal, he said, and refuse has been taken care of properly. While some cities may see trash on their lawn or driveway post-pickup, it doesn’t occur very often in Fraser.

“What I can say is, I’ve been around the city a long time, for 30-plus years, and I’ve seen a lot of trash haulers come and go,” Hagerty said. “I know there’s been a number of issues we’ve had in the past. I think Rizzo Services does just an awesome job. I’ve had occasions where I’ve had to call them and ask for a specific thing (and) within an hour, or two hours, there’s a supervisor handling the situation. There’s no garbage left on the street.”

Councilwoman Barbara Jennings also praised how the company takes everything during its pickups. She mentioned how she threw out some possessions that were damaged by recent floods and Rizzo Services took it all.

“I was quite surprised (the total fee) was even that light because in the not too distant past, usually the refuse contract contained what they called a fuel adjustment and we have no adjustment in this contract,” Haberman said. “They’ve been very fair to us.”

Millage results reflected in township’s latest audit report

By Nick Mordowanec
C & G Staff Writer

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Fiscal responsibility has resulted in a positive financial outlook in Clinton Township.

The township’s Board of Trustees, in accordance with the residents in the community, has continued the upswing of monetary progression since the recession of years prior.

An audit report conducted by Plante Moran was once again presented to the township board on Sept. 22, consisting of statistics that make board members and residents privy to the township’s financial state — more specifically, how judicious decisions and voter results have impacted the township monetarily and philosophically.

Plante Moran’s audit presentation reflected what occurred in the township during its 2013-14 fiscal year, which concluded March 31 of this year. That means the report encompassed the periods of time before and after voter approval of the police and fire millages of late 2013.

Township Treasurer Bill Sowerby said he was not surprised by Plante Moran’s assessment of the township’s financial state, alluding to a conservative nature among the trustees which has led the community into a more optimistic present and future.

Sowerby mentioned how tough fiscal decisions have impacted the township in a positive light, including responsibly funding the police and fire pension system, funding health care and retiree health care for employees, and spending wisely in an unpredictable budget of police and fire that had declining revenues last year.

The passing of each millage last year was a giant stepping stone for the township.

“The biggest financial concern is that now that the voters were generous and understood the issue within the need of the police and fire budgets, and voted for the millages last November, that should not give the township board going forward (the ability to suddenly overspend) because new dollars come in,” Sowerby said. “Those dollars were earmarked for police and fire only, and anything it helped to free up in the general fund needs to be carefully spent and not overspent because in just a few years, the township has to go back to the same voters and ask for millage renewals for police and fire.”

He added that the responsibility of the Board of Trustees is to continue to demonstrate fiscal conservativeness in order to prove to voters that dollars spent on millages are spent how they are intended.

Around the same exact time last year, Sowerby was somewhat apprehensive of the prospect of a failed millage or two, mostly because that infusion of dollars meant to stabilize both the police and fire funds would cease to exist.

But since each millage passed, money is available in other areas of the township. Spending was cut back and the township can still provide various services and departmental offerings, such as parks and recreation, festivals, and activities at the Clinton Township Senior Center.

It offers an outlook of promise in many regards.

“What it shows is that even though we went through tough times the last five years, and our budget revenues declined, the Board of Trustees was still able to make Clinton Township a desirous place to live and do business,” Sowerby said. “That, I think, proves sustainability in our township. That was demonstrated in our audit report and the popularity of our programs that the township didn’t have to scale back.”

Township officially welcomes Budd Park paddle launch

By Nick Mordowanec
C & G Staff Writer

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The new paddle launch at Clinton Township’s Budd Park was installed a few months ago, but its official christening recently took place.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony occurred Sept. 23 to celebrate the paddle launch, while also recognizing Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel’s Blue Economy Initiative that has become a selling point for Macomb County residents.

The initiative has put Lake St. Clair and Clinton River on the forefront, further exposing multiple communities and their residents to the waterways that are unique to the local economy and residents’ quality of life.

Utilizing the water sources — which consist of over 50 active marinas, world-class fishing and boating, and numerous public and private access points — has become a point of emphasis in terms of providing sustainability for current and future generations.

“What Mark Hackel has done in his leadership role, he has coordinated the entire county that benefits projects in not only the host community (but also) surrounding communities up and downstream,” said Township Supervisor Bob Cannon.

The Clinton River basin is about 760 square miles long and 81.5 miles long. It covers the eastern half of Oakland County and almost all of Macomb County, from Springfield Township to Lake St. Clair. Around 1.5 million people live in the watershed.

Near the beginning of the 2014 calendar year, the township received a county grant that was symbiotic with the aspirations both had to improve the aquatic experience in multiple communities. The Clinton River Watershed Council, or CRWC, played a large role, too, in terms of its WaterTowns initiative that placed emphasis on making the Clinton Watershed and its hubs attractive to a multitude of people.

These hubs offer residents access to waterways in their communities for a variety of activities, linking them with the Clinton River. It’s part of a five-year “road map” that the CRWC hopes will positively dictate future additions to the watershed, including the development of new infrastructure.

Clinton Township’s Public Services Director Mary Bednar said this particular paddle launch gives people in the community a formal entry point that presents ease and can help manage the influx of people who enter the river through Budd Park, which is located at 19000 Clinton River Road.

“I can tell you (that), for many, many years, people used Budd Park to launch their canoes and kayaks,” Bednar said. “It’s a nice, about 2 1/2-hour paddle to Mount Clemens. It’s an easy, gentle paddle, and it’s good for beginners and novices to do that. But we’ve (previously) never had a formal location.”

Clinton Township and Macomb County officials, business owners and area residents were present during the ribbon-cutting.

The paddle landing features a launch pad that connects to Clinton Township’s Civic Center, offering stabilization and an area to invest in “green” infrastructure.

The $5,000 grant for the launch was given by ITC Holding, Inc., and the county granted Clinton Township, Utica and Sterling Heights similar grants in order to complete different launches. The launch was designed and constructed by the township’s public works department.

With Hackel’s initiative and different communities partaking in its efforts, future water-related ventures are anticipated if the proper grants are available.

“This opens up a whole new avenue in recreation,” Cannon said.

Butterflies present hope for pulmonary rehab patients

By Nick Mordowanec
C & G Staff Writer

Patients in the center are often dealing with their own struggles, ranging from chronic pain in the lungs to debilitating diseases.CLINTON TOWNSHIP — In Henry Ford Macomb’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center, hope can be hard to come by.

Diane DeClerck is a respiratory therapist in the rehab center at Henry Ford. She has worked as a respiratory therapist since 1978, and she started working twice a week in a separate outpatient building 10 years  ago — when she first started doing pulmonary rehab.

Pulmonary rehab is a structured, medically supervised program where patients receive education, get exercise and learn about their personal ailments. The range of illnesses include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis and other general lung conditions. Most of the lung illnesses are incurable.

But the former hospital floor therapist views her job as an outlet for hope and happiness, extending beyond the line of patient and instructor. It’s about becoming friends.

“I love this job, enjoy this job, want to do it 10 days a week but we’re only open two days a week,” DeClerck said. “You become close to the patient, develop friendships, share life with them, they share their life with you. I really get a lot of satisfaction out of helping people and I really enjoy the people I meet.”

Becoming close to someone with a lung disease is complicated.

“You become friends with them and you get to know them and they eventually pass away,” she said. “I’m used to that.”

It’s nothing new to her. She understands the pulse of the hospital and the overall atmosphere of her area of expertise. From physical and emotional viewpoints of life and death, to meeting families and understanding someone through that avenue, DeClerck and two co-workers strive to make patients know they care.

Four years ago, DeClerck was introduced to a woman at a luncheon who raised Monarch butterflies. She had caterpillars and raised them until they hatched from a chrysalis and became butterflies.

DeClerck learned that Monarchs fly to Mexico in the fall and migrate back in the spring, going as far as Canada and then back down to Mexico in between. The Monarchs that come out in spring only live about five weeks, just breeding and laying eggs before they die.

One day, she brought butterflies, caterpillars and chrysalis into the rehab center, letting people who had undergone lung transplants release butterflies for symbolism. When they released the butterflies, a certain feeling came over them.

“They told me how wonderful it was,” she said. “I recently had a woman who released a butterfly (and wrote) a poem about what it made her feel like. It’s healing and makes the person feel real good. I feel really good when I come back the next day and they tell me what it did for them.

“I wish I could make them all better, but sometimes they need a hug and they’ll ask me for a hug. I think the more we can do for people is the best we can do four ourselves because when you find out you made someone feel real good, it makes you feel real good.”

Christine Bergeron, 62, of Clinton Township, has emphysema. She started having issues in 2005, but her health began to deteriorate even more in 2009. She is waiting for a lung transplant.

She finds DeClerck’s butterfly remedy quite interesting, to say the least.

“You wonder how a person gets themselves involved in raising butterflies, like where does that type of interest come from?” Bergeron said. “It’s almost like dog therapy, like how they bring dogs to the hospital. It’s new life watching them emerge.”

Patients gather in the center when a new butterfly hatches. Everyone gazes as the wings unfold and the butterfly doubles in size, hanging upside down while its wings blow out. When the butterfly is ready to move on, DeClerck puts it on a patient’s hand, where it will sit, flex its wings and say goodbye.

She cares for her patients, and she also cares for the butterflies. DeClerck noted that the Monarch species is in trouble due to limited milkweed in farmers’ crops. She is enamored with butterflies nowadays because of all the meaning it brings to her own life.

For the patients she deals with and the feeling it gives back, hope is more than just a four-letter word.

“Just how many people have held a butterfly and watched it fly away?” DeClerck said.

Police, parents fight against new drug

Macomb, Wayne counties have banned sale of substance

By Nick Mordowanec
C & G Staff Writer

FRASER — A room full of law enforcement officials, media members and concerned parents gathered Sept. 25 at Fraser City Hall to put an end to a dangerous and relatively new substance called Cloud 9.

The synthetic drug — also known by such names as Crown and Relax — blew up on the scene earlier this year when gas stations and smoke shops began selling it to minors.

The liquid-based drug comes in a small plastic bottle and can be taken in various ways, including droplets on the tongue, mixing it with chewing gum or smoking it out of a hookah pen. The effects of the drug can include nausea, high blood pressure, sweat and hallucinations — very similar to flu-like symptoms.

On Sept. 24, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Macomb County Health Department Director William Ridella issued an emergency order that denies retailers and individuals the ability to sell Cloud 9 and similar synthetic drugs in Macomb County. The Wayne County Department of Public Health issued a similar order.

Fraser Director of Public Safety George Rouhib led the discussion at City Hall on Sept. 25, joined by Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham, Ridella, Lisa Pettyes from Fraser Public Schools, an employee of the Michigan State Police Crime Lab, a member of the Drug Enforcement Agency and a Macomb County prosecutor.

Rouhib led things off by saying that Fraser and the surrounding community has seen substances like this before, most notably heroin and the K2 drug (also known as “Spice”). He said Cloud 9 is purchased at gas stations for around $25 per bottle.

The substance contains a compound called AB-PINACA, which was first identified as a component of synthetic cannabis products in Japan in 2012. Though the pharmacological properties of the compound have not been formally studied or reported in scientific literature, there may be some professionals who are privy to its effects and may have witnessed or diagnosed certain individuals who have used the product.

A current issue is that authorities have struggled to find someone who can speak about the dangers of the compound, thus making the ongoing investigation more difficult.

Pettyes discussed how the substance has affected students in Fraser, so much so that bathroom doors are now being kept open as to monitor behavior. But only so much can be done to that regard, and when teachers aren’t even aware of the substance’s properties, it makes things that much more difficult.

“We’re extremely appreciative to have our local law enforcement so involved in this,” said Nicole Malak, the community relations coordinator for Fraser Public Schools. “We’re here today to educate ourselves so that we can continue to educate our community, and that includes our parents, students and staff.

“We held a community night at the end of last school year on this topic, but it’s good to have other law enforcement here, other cities here. This is a widespread issue and not just a local issue.”

With law enforcement approximating 23 individual overdoses on Cloud 9 within the past few months, getting the product off the streets is the No. 1 objective.

“It’s difficult because when a new substance comes out, we have no knowledge what it is, what it does, what are the effects of it,” Rouhib said. “So, it takes us time to do research, to gather the intelligence — where it’s being sold, who’s buying it, how much. By the time we get all this information, kids are overdosing and sometimes they’re dying.

“But, I think today was a good example of a proactive approach of what we’re doing out there and, when you have probably 50 different law enforcement agencies here today, we’re taking it serious. We don’t want anyone dying.”

During the gathering, a 14-year-old student of Fraser High School (whose identity was requested to be withheld) spoke in front of the crowd and answered questions regarding his experience with using Cloud 9 earlier this year.

The boy said he and about half of his friends became enthralled in the substance around January or February, inserting the substance in a hookah pen and smoking it in the school bathrooms and even in classrooms. The boy’s friends would walk into gas stations — where store employees would only sell to certain individuals they apparently trusted — and pay about $20 for a hookah pen and $25 for the Cloud 9.

He added that the substance would kick in 10 seconds after inhaling it, causing a reddish complexion and glossy eyes. The vapor has no distinct smell and, even though users get high off the product, they are still able to function normally in society — and that includes communicating with parents, friends, teachers and law enforcement.

After the boy’s use became habitual and his behavior changed over time, he eventually weaned off the substance and now “just wants to help people.”

He wasn’t the only one, though. Another parent in the audience talked about how her son used the substance 15 times on one occasion in late April, and “that’s when the nightmare began” with repeated use, eventual psychiatric treatments and even a week-long institutionalization.

“It was not my son, and I knew this,” the woman said.

After five overdoses in Roseville in the past few weeks, to various other occurrences in the county and in surrounding areas, waiting is not a viable option.

“As soon as we found many kids were suffering the same ailments, we knew that this drug had something to do with it,” Rouhib said. “That’s when we started to implement a number of goals because this is a new drug and it’s important that we educate each other about it.

“That’s why we brought your best educators: the people who are using it. And I learned a lot from a 14-year-old kid today.”