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Employee at Van Rob says plant may close

At the Monday, Jan. 19, Tecumseh City Council Meeting, Kurt Matson, a skilled trades representative for United Auto Workers Local 3000, informed council that KIRCHHOFF Automotive has threatened to move work and close the KIRCHHOFF Van-Rob factory east of Tecumseh, located at 1200 E. Chicago Blvd., if the union does not open its contract and possibly take concessions.

KIRCHHOFF Automotive merged with Van-Rob in 2011, “We ratified our recent contract less than two years ago,” said Matson. “Our contract is for five years. Because of the recent mismanagement and current unprofitability on our new work that we have obtained, management has threatened to move this work out of our facility and close the plant if we don’t open our contract and possibly take concessions.”

Matson added that Van-Rob President and chief operations officer Tony Parente has tried to strong-arm the union for meeting.

At a hastily called meeting on Sunday, Jan 11, 202 union members — out of the 580 now employed there — voted to not open the contract, according to Matson.

“I believe the city council should be aware of what’s going on,” said Matson.

A KIRCHHOFF Van-Rob Tecumseh spokesperson said that there was nobody at the Tecumseh plant or any other facility that could talk about current contract negotiations.

A message left for KIRCHHOFF Van-Rob Human Resources Manager Bruce Martin, who’s located at the Van-Rob’s plant in Waverly, Ohio, was not returned. However, his outgoing voicemail message said he would be in Tecumseh from Wednesday, Jan. 21, to Friday, Jan. 23, and again from Monday, Jan. 26 to Wednesday, Jan. 28.

Tecumseh City Manager Kevin Welch said that the city has not heard from the company about closing or the threat of closing and that the city only knows of what Matson said at Monday’s meeting, Jan. 19.

Paisley, Underwood and Florida Georgia Line to headline Faster Horses Festival at MIS

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Faster Horses Festival will return for the third year on July 17, 18, 19 following two immensely successful years, last year hosting over 25,000 fans for the three- day country music and camping festival taking place in the Irish Hills of Brooklyn.

Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood and Florida Georgia Line will lead the hard-hitting lineup along with top acts Frankie Ballard, Kristian Bush, Mark Chesnutt, Craig Wayne Boyd, Lee Brice, Clare Dunn, Mickey Guyton, Tracy Lawrence, Lonestar, Dustin Lynch, Justin Moore, RaeLynn, The Cadillac Three, Thomas Rhett and Dwight Yoakam with more artists to be announced in the coming weeks. Three-day passes go on sale Monday, Feb. 2, at 10 a.m.

Additional camping options will also be available to festival-goers this year, including a new RV camping site (Big Rig Alley) and the option to rent pre-set tents, allowing fans to tailor their experience.

“The entire Faster Horses team and I can’t believe we are already approaching year three of this festival,” said Brian O’Connell, Live Nation President of Country Touring. “We take pride in listening to you, the Faster Horses community, for your feedback and together we are growing this festival each year. We have the best fans who have been coming since the very first year, and new ones ready to embrace what makes this festival so unique. This year, we’ll be debuting lay-away plans for ticket purchases at your request, along with a lineup that is second to none. Come on July, we’re ready!”

For more details as they are announced, visit fasterhorsesfestival.com.

Homeschool ensemble to perform with Ann Arbor Symphony at TCA

Local music will be in the air on Sunday, Jan. 25, 7 p.m., at the Tecumseh Center for the Arts when the National Homeschool Music Ensemble (NHME) performs with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra. Homeschool students from the area have been practicing regularly at the Grange Hall on Burt St. and are looking forward to sharing time on the stage with professional musicians.

“The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra is providing an educational opportunity in the form of a side-by-side concert with students from National Homeschool Music Ensembles of Lenawee and Washtenaw County,” said NHME Director Donald S. Dobrosky.

NHME is the homeschool music program providing band, choir, string, and percussion education. The program is 15 years old and is rated as a first division music program. The students have played with such prestigious groups as the Straits Concert Band in Mackinac City and the current concert with the Ann Arbor Symphony.

The concert on January 25 will be directed by Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra conductor Arie Lipsky.

Dobrosky is a local musician in Tecumseh and has been a supporter of music his whole life. He started NHME after being asked to by local parents who wanted music as part of their children’s homeschool education.

Students start in a beginner class for the first year on their instruments, and then are immediately placed in the advanced class, regardless of age. Dobrosky’s youngest student, Chana Weiss, started playing at age four and is now seven.

Students in NHME participate in regular band and orchestra activities like Band Festival and Solo and Ensemble. The difference is their preparation for these activities also included joint rehearsals with Eastern Michigan University students for Solo and Ensemble, and assistance for Band Festival from John Pasquale, director of the University of Michigan Marching Band.

“We have people come in all the time,” Dobrosky said. “NHME does things other music programs don’t do.”

Business owners object to building use restrictions

Before the regular Tecumseh City Council meeting Monday, a study session was held on the possibility of restricting office use in the city’s downtown B-2 District.

Council decided to take no action, instructing Tecumseh City Manager Kevin Welch, Economic Development Director Paula Holtz and Building Services Department Director Brad Raymond to monitor downtown business usage and keep council informed of the amount of office space in the district.

The area in question was businesses located on Chicago Blvd. between Ottawa and Pearl Streets.

Currently, there is 1,341 feet of building frontage downtown, with 334.5 feet of office frontage — approximately 25 percent of downtown Tecumseh is office frontage, according to documents presented to council.

During public comment, Erika Aylward and Chris Wallich spoke in opposition to restricting downtown business usage while supporting that retail downtown is important.

“It does concern us, being property owners, that we may be prohibited from renting to whomever we wish in the future regardless of the economic situation,” said Aylward, owner of Boulevard Market. “We would hate to see it be a law that we can’t choose who we would rent to,” adding that an ordinance would be prohibitive to a property owner.

“There should be no limit placed on it,” said Wallich. “My building is occupied by non-retail establishments, so I am concerned that if some sort of ordinance was put in place, I would really struggle. I think downtown Tecumseh should be primarily retail, but I’m concerned that, as a building owner, that if those restrictions were placed in there, I’d be up a river.”

Gas pipeline proposed to run through Lenawee County east of Tecumseh

A second natural gas pipeline is being proposed to be built through Lenawee County by Nexus Gas Transmission. The other pipeline, ET Rover, is projected to run northward through the Irish Hills area.

The 250-mile pipeline, according to a map from Nexus Gas Transmission, appears to run near Blissfield northward to the east of Britton and then northeastward into Washtenaw County. There, the pipeline connects with existing pipeline, the new pipeline originating from Kensington, Ohio, and ending in Ontario, Canada.

The final location for the pipeline and new facilities will be determined by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which will review the proposed and alternative routes to determine which will have the least environmental and stakeholder impact while still meeting the intent of the project and needs of the market.

Currently, Nexus Gas Trans-mission is waiting for the FERC to approve the company’s use of the pre-filing review process.

The proposed pipeline will be capable of transporting at least two billion cubic feet per day of natural gas and will consist of 36- to 42-inch diameter piping.

The estimated cost of the project is approximately $2 billion with the company predicting the pipeline to be in service as early as the fourth quarter of 2017, with construction starting as early as the first quarter of 2017.

According to the company’s website, the project will create “significant jobs during the construction phase and ongoing,” though gives no specifics as to how many jobs, temporary or permanent could actually be created.

The next step for Nexus Gas Transmission lies in the hands of the FERC, as they begin scoping to determine environmental issues and reach out to applicant stakeholders.

An informational meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 17 at Adrian College’s Adrian Tobias Center located at 110 S. Madison St. in Adrian. The meeting runs from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Aylward’s chocolate captures attention in Wall Street Journal

When Erika and John Aylward started working on the recipes for Peppalo Stone Ground Chocolate five years ago they just wanted to try making something different and delicious to them. Then a Google search led a Wall Street Journal writer to Boulevard Market and the Aylwards, and suddenly their chocolate has become a nationwide sensation.

“Five years ago we started messing with it,” said Erika.

After a phone conversation with Erika, and an express shipment of chocolate bars for a photo shoot, the story went to press on Tuesday, Jan. 13. Almost immediately, Peppalo requests started pouring in through the Boulevard Market website.

Erika frantically contacted her daughter in Shanghai, China, for help updating the Boulevard Market website. The next few days were a blur of chocolate making and prep for shipping.

“Just to see our chocolate bar in the Wall Street Journal was crazy,” Erika said.

Before the article was released, Peppalo bars were sold locally with some chocolate shipped around the country to people craving the unique stone-ground chocolate experience.

The Aylwards were inspired to try making chocolate after a trip to Sicily. After experiencing a chocolate process that went back to the 1500s in Spain, Erika and John decided to try the process in Tecumseh.

Cocoa beans for Peppalo come from the Dominican Republic. According to Erika, cocoa grows as a bean, but is more like a nut than a bean. Different beans have different flavors.

“The beans themselves are like eating a raw pea,” she said.

The beans grow in a pod, and are removed and allowed to ferment before traveling to Boulevard Market. John roasts the beans and then runs the roasted bean through rollers.

A grinder pushes out the cocoa butter from the roasted beans, and the resulting liquor is heated. After removing it from the heat, sugar is added and the chocolate is tempered.

“Tempering creates a shiny bar and gives it a snap,” said Erika.

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