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News@noon: School closings and layoffs

The Detroit News

Today is Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016. Here's what's going on in and around Metro Detroit.

A glut of inventory is prompting General Motors Co. to reduce production at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, as well as at factories in Lansing and Ohio.

Bad news, and bad news

As Christmas 2016 approaches, Metro Detroit starts the second day of its work week with bad news.

General Motors will be cutting the second shift at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, and the 1,300 jobs that come along with it, the company said in a filing on Monday. Those cuts, though announced Christmas week, won't take effect until March, and are the result of unsold inventory piling up.

The News' Melissa Burden reports that the Detroit-Hamtramck plant builds the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric, Cadillac CT6, Chevrolet Impala and the Buick LaCrosse sedans. Some of the models had inventory levels nearing six months at the end of November, including the LaCrosse, which had a 168-day supply, according to Autodata Corp.

Monday night, the Board of Education of Livonia Public Schools voted to close two elementary schools in the large suburb — a move expected to save about $800,000 a year for a district challenged by falling enrollment and a "multi-million" dollar deficit.

The two elementary schools are Cass and Garfield. Garfield students are slated to attend Randolph and Kennedy; Cass general education pupils will go to Buchanan and Hoover, according to the district. Pupils in the Cass Center program, which serves children in grades K-4 with unique learning needs, would attend Randolph, while Buchanan Center pupils head to Grant.

The move disturbed many parents who attended the board meeting. Some blasted the decision, worrying how their children and the community would be affected.

“We might now consider moving,” said Mary Kennedy, who was at the meeting with her 15-month-old daughter.

The Seattle-based company was also considering both Ohio and Indiana for the regional facility, according to a staff memo from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which said the grants are designed to help Amazon attract workers despite Michigan’s relatively low unemployment rate.

A bright side

It wasn't all bad news for Livonia, however, which will welcome a new regional "fulfillment center" from internet retail giant Amazon.com.

Amazon.com will qualify for up to $7.5 million in state performance grants to open the facility.

The Michigan Strategic Fund Board on Tuesday morning approved grant funding for the previously unannounced project, which is expected to create at least 1,000 jobs through 2020.

Schuette charges EMs in Flint water crisis

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced on Tuesday the third round of criminal charges in the ongoing saga that is the Flint Water Crisis. Two of the four individuals facing charges are former emergency managers in Flint, Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose.

“(Earley) knew the plant was not prepared to produce water and, nevertheless, allowed it to be provided to the public,” said Jeff Seipenko, a special agent with the attorney general’s office in 67th District Court. Later, despite concerns over health issues, Earley, who served as emergency manager from 2013 to 2015, declined to return Flint to its previous water supplier, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Similarly, Ambrose, while serving as emergency manager in 2015, also failed to return Flint to its previous water source despite health concerns.

Former Flint Public Works Director Howard Croft and his subordinate, Daugherty Johnson, also face charges. Seipenko said the pair “put pressure on individuals at the (Flint) water treatment plant to get the plant to work, despite having been told it wasn’t ready.”

Later, both refused to reconnect to DWSD. Like Earley and Ambrose, they face charges of willful neglect of duty and misconduct in office.

The case will come down to, as News reporter Chad Livengood wrote on Twitter, "did Flint EMs willfully refuse to go back to Detroit water or were they following orders from Treasury Dept. & Gov's office?"

In other news

• Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has announced she will appeal after a rape charge against former Michigan State basketball legend Mateen Cleaves was dismissed by a judge in Flint, where the case is being tried.

"There is insufficient evidence on charges,” 67th District Judge Cathy Dowd ruled after a preliminary hearing in the case on Dec. 5. “This case is dismissed.”

Upon hearing news that Worthy would pursue the charge again, Cleaves' attorney Frank Manley told The News' Oralandar Brand-Williams: "We are confident that Judge Dowd's well-reasoned and articulated decision will be affirmed on appeal and we are dismayed that the Wayne County Prosecutor 's Office have chosen to waste Genesee County taxpayer resources by pursuing this unnecessary appeal."

• In Ann Arbor, the Michigan Wolverines football team is preparing to face Florida State next Friday in the Orange Bowl. The "Christmas Camp," as players are referring to the 15 extra practices that a bowl berth brings, is an opportunity for young players to stand out, reports Angelique Chengelis.

“It’s huge for development,” Chris Wormley, a defensive lineman who will be playing his final game for Michigan, said of the bowl practices. “A lot of the freshman and sophomores who haven’t been playing much are going to get a lot of practice reps and a lot of reps that are going to mean something when we watch film.

See anything we should know about? Want to send in a news tip but not sure where? Email online@detroitnews.com.

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