January 09, 2014GROSSE POINTE PARK — The year 2013 saw the media spotlight once again focused on Grosse Pointe Park.
The murder in May of Sabrina Gianino, the firebombing of a lakefront mansion and the harassment of a mentally impaired Detroit resident by members of the city's Department of Public Safety brought news cameras and reporters back to the Park. Not that they had ever really left, as the 2012 murder of Jane Bashara took the forefront once again as her husband, Bob, was charged in May with her murder.
Bashara, already in prison after confessing to attempting to hire a hit man to kill Joe Gentz, was charged with first degree murder, conspiracy to commit first degree murder, solicitation to commit murder, suborning perjury during a capital trial, witness intimidation, obstruction of justice and felony firearm.
Bashara will go to trial on those charges in March.
Also scheduled to stand trial in March is Myron Williams. He has been charged with the May murder of Gianino. According to prosecutors, Williams strangled Gianino and stole several
items later found in the possession of a crack dealer. Williams was living next door to Gianino, in the attic of a Wayburn flat rented to his sister.
The murder mobilized neighbors into pressing Park officials for a stronger rental ordinance holding landlords accountable for tenants and allows the city to monitor rental properties. Landlords are now required to be licensed and hold a valid certificate of occupancy under a new ordinance approved by the city council at its Dec. 9 meeting.
Less than a week after Gianino's murder, news crews were back in the Park, this time to report on the firebombing of a lakefront mansion by a 20-year-old Grosse Pointe Park resident. Police tracked footprints in the wet grass and took Charles Kay into custody. While the house suffered minimal damage and no one was injured, Kay was charged with arson second degree, sending explosives with intent of causing damage and possession of a Molotov cocktail. In December, Kay pleaded guilty to the charges and will be sentenced in January. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
News crews returned to the Park in November, after a video surfaced on social media sites that showed at least one Park public safety officer harassing a mentally impaired Detroit resident. The video was shared among several offi cers, resulting in the city hiring a public relations consultant and Chief David Hiller announcing the suspension of five officers. In addition, an entire shift was reassigned and all Park public safety officers will be given sensitivity training. They will also receive training in the proper use of social media tools.
The Park was also the focus of two other major local stories in 2013.
In March, Hiller announced that talks were in place which would allow the Park to take over police dispatch services for the City of Grosse Pointe, with an eye toward consolidation in the fall. Those talks were successful, and in October, the long-awaited changes to the dispatch system in both the Park and the City were completed.
While the consolidation of the dispatch services went off without a hitch, talks about combining the two departments into one hit a snag in June. A consultant from the International City/County Management Association Center for Public Safety made several recommendations on how to merge police, fi re and ambulance service between the two cities, but the observation raising the most concern was one regarding cutting the number of public safety offi cers that would be on the street at any given time.
"We would never go forward with a consolidation that involves cutting patrol offi cers," city manager Dale Krajniak said. "We will look at the study to see what we can merge, but we will not cut road patrols."
Not all the news from the Park centered on public safety and courtrooms.
Kercheval in the Park became a destination spot with the addition of the Red Crown Restaurant and the announcement the Atwater Brewing Company would be opening a new location on Kercheval.
Mark Rieth, Atwater's owner, confirmed in April he signed a letter of intent to take over the former Grace United Church of Christ on the corner of Kercheval and Lakepointe, and expects to be open in early 2014.
"We will have both a microbrewery and a distillery," Rieth said, "and we'll be serving traditional German fare."
While plans are still preliminary, Rieth said he intends to keep the church building intact, and will use the original pews as seating. Plans also call for outdoor seating, live music and dancing, and a beer hall in the basement.
"We're very excited to be coming to Grosse Pointe Park," he said, noting he is a Park resident himself.
"There is so much going on in that area, and we're proud to be a part of it."
The November election saw several incumbent council members running unopposed. It also marked 30 years in offi ce for Mayor Palmer Heenan who celebrated his 92nd birtrhday in December. He remains at the helm to take Grosse Pointe Park into the new year.