Articles by Jan Larson McLaughlin

Grant to be used to prevent binge drinking

(Submitted by the Wood County Prevention Coalition) The Wood County Prevention Coalition received $2,500 from Drug Free Action Alliance as a recipient of the #PUSH4Prevention Community Stipend, the Wood County Educational Service Center announced today. “We feel very blessed to receive this stipend and hope to make the most of this opportunity. Although we’ve seen many successes in reducing youth alcohol use through the years, more work needs to be done to prevent binge drinking in our community,” said Milan Karna, Wood County Prevention Coalition Coordinator. The Wood County Prevention Coalition aims to reduce underage access to alcohol through community compliance checks around St. Patrick’s Day, expand collaboration with Safe Communities of Wood County by providing information, providing safe transportation and also offering alcohol-free alternative activities. The Mayor of Bowling Green, Richard Edwards has proclaimed March 13th through March March 17th Swallow Your Pride Week. “Thanks to funding from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, our agency is able to help both community coalitions and campuses make crucial, public health investments in preventing substance misuse,” said Marcie Seidel, Drug Free Action Alliance’s executive director. “We’re excited to see how these organizations’ initiatives will improve the lives of many in their communities.” The Wood County Prevention Coalition was one of nine recipients of the stipend and one of several dozen applicants for the #PUSH4Prevention Community Stipend, which funds coalitions and campuses to implement or enhance prevention programs in their communities to prevent substance misuse. “We had many great applications, and I know that the recipients will do an excellent job of reducing substance misuse in their communities,” said Seidel. “The grant recipients all demonstrated thoughtful plans to prevent the misuse and abuse of substances in their communities and on their campuses.” The #Push4Prevention Community Stipend is made possible with support from Ohio MHAS and is administered by DFAA’s Ohio Center for Coalition Excellence and Ohio College Initiative to Enhance Student Wellness. Drug Free Action Alliance is a certified prevention agency leading the way in promoting healthy lives through the prevention of substance abuse and fostering mental health wellness for 30 years. DFAA is nationally recognized for building networks that empower communities to create safe and healthy environments. For more information, visit

League of Women Voters to host program on mental health

The League of Women Voters of Bowling Green is hosting a program on mental health on Wednesday, March 22, at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:45) at the Wood County District Library. The program is titled “Mental Health Concerns in Older Adulthood,” with the presenter being Lisa Myers, director of social services as the Wood County Committee on Aging. She will talk about various mental health issues that might be experienced by older adults and discuss agencies and programs that can help. The program is directed toward older adults and family members.  

BG to look for lead waterlines still being used in city

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   In the wake of the lead contaminated water crisis in Flint, officials in Ohio are under order to identify waterlines made of lead. As a water provider, the city of Bowling Green must submit a waterline map to the Ohio EPA, showing the type of lines supplying homes – copper, galvanized iron, plastic or lead. That map must be submitted by March 9 and updated every five years, according to Bowling Green Director of Public Utilities Brian O’Connell. O’Connell explained to City Council Monday evening that the city is responsible for the portion of the waterline that extends to the curb stop, but the portion of the line going into the residence is the homeowner’s responsibility. So while O’Connell is confident the lead lines in the city’s portion have been replaced, the same cannot be said of the portions that are the responsibility of homeowners. “We are not aware at this time of any lead lines” installed by the city, he said. Since 1967, the city service lines were all required to be copper or plastic. Prior to then, lead lines were allowed, but in the 1990s any known lead service lines were replaced. The city has taken further steps to prevent lead in the water by adding corrosion inhibitors to the water. Since some residents may unknowingly have lead lines in their homes, the Environmental Protection Agency has had the city test about 30 water samples each year from residences that may have older connections to the city waterlines. In the past several years, only a handful of homes have shown any detectable levels of lead. All the others have tested as “no detect” for any lead. “I’m not trying to scare anybody,” O’Connell said. However, the risks of lead in water can be significant and long-lasting, especially to young children. “It’s an important health concern.” In a week or so, the map showing the city’s waterlines will be put on the city’s website. “The website is to educate customers about the potential of lead piping,” O’Connell said. Homes built before 1998 may also have lead plumbing fixtures, since prior to then Ohio plumbing code allowed lead in fixtures. So several Bowling Green homes may be affected, since 83 percent of the city’s housing was constructed…

Tornado and severe weather spotter training offered

Wood County Emergency Management Agency is offering severe weather training. The Annual SKYWARN Severe Weather Spotter’s Training for Wood County will be held Wednesday, March 15, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Bowling Green State University, Olscamp Hall, Room 111. Participants may use Parking Lot N off Ridge Street off of Mercer Road. Registration will be the night of the class starting at 6 p.m. A Tornado Awareness Training class will be held Wednesday, April 5, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the Wood County Courthouse Office Building, fifth floor meeting room. Pre-registration is required on-line at Training will be provided by the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center. Contact EMA Office, 419-354-9269, if you have questions concerning these classes.

Bowling Green to host tree and shrub program

The Bowling Green Tree Commission will be hosting a class on Saturday, March 25 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Simpson Garden Park, 1291 Conneaut Ave. The class is titled “Preparing Your Trees and Shrubs for Spring.” The class is free to the public and will be held outside. Participants will learn steps to take as the growing season approaches. This will include proper mulching, pruning, and spring clean up. Contact Bowling Green Arborist Grant Jones, by email at or by phone at 419-353-4101 with questions.

Waterville turns to BG for water supply

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   While Toledo is fighting to hang on to its water customers, Bowling Green is adding customers that are jumping ship and looking for more reasonably priced water. Last month, the village of Waterville started getting its water from Bowling Green. “Waterville approached us,” Bowling Green Utilities Director Brian O’Connell said. The village had abandoned its own water plant in the 1980s. “They were a customer of Lucas County, and Lucas County is a customer of Toledo.” But big water rate hikes proposed in 2014-2015 from Toledo led Waterville to search for other sources. “Waterville was looking for different options, to explore what the possibilities were,” O’Connell said. “One of those options was to put a pipe under the river to the Bowling Green Water Treatment Plant.” Bowling Green had the extra water capacity, more reasonable rates, and was willing to give Waterville a 25-year contract compared to Toledo’s offer of a nine-year deal. “We had additional capacity that could meet their need,” O’Connell said. There were no capital costs for Bowling Green since Waterville put the pipeline under the river to link up along Forst Road to a main from Bowling Green’s water treatment plant. “Waterville assumed all the capital costs and the debt,” and Bowling Green just has to treat more water, O’Connell said. “It made sense for both communities to do the project. It’s good for our revenue stream,” he said. The city has a “wholesale contract” to sell the village about 500,000 gallons a day. Bowling Green already treats 4 to 5 million gallons of water a day, with that peaking to 6 to 8 million gallons in the summer. Bowling Green water is already sold to many communities outside the city, some supplied through city lines and others through Northwestern Water and Sewer District lines. Those towns getting BG water include Tontogany, Haskins, Grand Rapids, Portage, Rudolph, Weston, Milton Center, Custar, Jerry City, Cygnet, Hoytville, Bloomdale and Bairdstown. The water treatment plant, which sits on Ohio 65 along its water source, the Maumee River, has some additional capacity remaining. But city officials have not been approached by any other Toledo water customers wanting to switch suppliers. According to O’Connell, the plant could supply roughly 3 million more gallons a day using the plant’s…

BG uses funds to help people repair homes, get to jobs

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Last year, Bowling Green used grant funding to help low income residents repair their homes, get to work with public transportation, create jobs, and provide transitional housing for people teetering on the brink of homelessness. “One hundred percent of the actions we take are for people of low and moderate incomes,” said Tina Bradley, grants administrator for the city. “The need is still there,” Bradley said after a recent public hearing on the Community Development Block Grant and Revolving Loan Fund program operated by the city. Though the city either met or exceeded its goals, Bradley said there are always unmet needs. “We always have a waiting list at the end of the year,” she said. The biggest problem dealt with by the CDBG program is the lack of affordable housing in Bowling Green. That also means that many residents have difficulty dealing with home repairs. “When a furnace goes out, it can be devastating,” Bradley said. Using the CDBG and RLF funding of $701,640, the city was able to do the following: 8 mobile home repairs. 17 housing rehabilitations. 8 elderly home repairs. 1 home repair. 84 people helped with public transportation. 129 people helped with transitional housing for homeless. 7 jobs created with Revolving Job Creation/Business Assistance Loans. Sue Clark, executive director of the Bowling Green Economic Development Office, spoke up at the public hearing to explain that public transportation is becoming increasingly important for local manufacturers who rely on the service to get employees to work on time. “That is key to keeping some of their employees,” Clark said. Clark also said the city’s Revolving Loan Fund has been very useful in helping local businesses to create jobs. “It’s a powerful tool,” she said. “It’s probably one of the more successful Revolving Loan Funds in the state.” Brent Baer, superintendent of Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities, said Wood Lane consumers are frequent users of the public transportation services. He also said the board would like to work more with the city on housing opportunities. “We’re always grateful for the opportunity to partner with Bowling Green,” he said. Representatives of the Salvation Army spoke of the need for transitional housing for the homeless. The city originally projected it would serve 75 people last year…

Annual BG Interfaith Breakfast plans announced

(Submitted by Not In Our Town) The third annual Bowling Green Community Interfaith Breakfast will be held on Wednesday, April 5, at the Junior Fair Building of the Wood County Fairgrounds, 13800 W. Poe Road. The breakfast is presented by Not In Our Town Bowling Green, in collaboration with the City of Bowling Green Human Relations Commission, and Bowling Green State University. Breakfast will be served from 7:15 – 7:45 a.m., with the program beginning at 8:00 a.m. The breakfast will feature brief presentations from speakers reflecting a variety of major religious streams – Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Native American spirituality. The theme will be “Building Peace through Understanding: Mythbusting,” with speakers addressing the challenges to peace which come from public misconceptions. Music will be offered by the Bowling Green High School Madrigals and by musicians from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In addition, art presentations on the theme of “peace” will be unveiled from local elementary school students. Mayor Richard Edwards and BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey will make opening remarks. Superintendent of Bowling Green City Schools Francis Scruci will also bring greetings. The university is providing bus transportation for students who wish to attend. There is no charge for the meal, thanks to generous sponsors and the donation of the breakfast by the South Side Six restaurant. However, reservations are required by Friday March 24, and can be made by contacting Alex Solis (BGSU Co-Chair of Not In Our Town BG) at or calling (419) 372-9452.

Falcon cam gives sneak peek in courthouse clock tower nest

The falcon cam in the clock tower at the Wood County Courthouse is again in operation and can be viewed at According to Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar, a pair of Peregrine Falcons are again nesting in the tower and will be joined later this spring with some new offspring. The falcon cam is offered through a partnership with Bowling Green State University. In years past, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources would band the baby falcons in order to track their whereabouts. However, Peregrine Falcons have repopulated enough that the ODNR no longer tracks them.

Something to chew on: Senior congregate meals serve up food and friendship

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It’s more than the meatloaf and lemon meringue pie that draws senior citizens to congregate meals at community centers across the nation. It’s something that doesn’t show up on the daily menu. And it’s something that many seniors can’t get their daily dosage of at home. Almost as important as the nutrition served up at senior centers is the conversation shared around the dinner tables. Robert Blancato, executive director of the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs, is going across the nation doing research on the value of congregate meals for senior citizens. On Friday, he was in Bowling Green at the Wood County Senior Center for lunch with local citizens. “We know there’s a growing problem of isolation of older people,” Blancato said. So he is surveying seniors about the values of casseroles and conversations. “I’ve decided to sit with older adults and ask them myself.” Denise Niese, executive director of the Wood County Committee on Aging, said much research has been done on how home-delivered meals help seniors remain independent in their own homes. “We know the value of home-delivered meals,” Niese said. But until now, no one has surveyed the value of congregate meals. As Blancato chats with seniors over chicken or lasagna, he finds a common thread in the conversation. “They use the word socialization,” he said. They talk about the opportunity to get out of the house, to volunteer, and to learn from others. On Thursday, Blancato sat down for a meal in East Cleveland and heard the same comments. “They’ve been verification of the importance of these programs.” His favorite comment came from an older woman at a center in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “Because we love to gossip,” she told him. “Every time I talk to older adults, they provide the proof,” Blancato said. However, while Blancato is gathering up research supporting the value of congregate dining programs, the federal government is threatening massive funding cuts. The Older Americans Act has already been lagging in funding for years, he said. “It is nowhere near enough to meet the needs.” But Blancato pointed out that the average age of seniors showing up for congregate meals is in the upper 70s, and the average age for those getting home-delivered meals is…

Local fire departments get $627,523 for communication systems

Sixteen of the 23 fire departments in Wood County are being awarded grant funding ranging from $1,680 to $47,970 per department, for a total of $627,523 for the 2017 State Fire Marshal’s MARCS Grant. The grants will help fire departments to transition from a legacy VHF radio communication system to a state-of-the-art P-25 trunked 700MHz communication system called the Ohio Multi Agency Radio Communication System, according to the Wood County Emergency Management Agency. The Wood County Fire and EMS Chiefs Association voted in November 2016 to being the process of transitioning over to Ohio MARCS as their primary radio communication system for those departments. By using the MARCS, Wood County fire departments will have seamless interoperable communications countywide with fire departments and with neighboring county fire departments as well as state agencies. This will increase firefighter safety and will allow fire departments to provide better service. The following fire departments in Wood County received funding: Bloomdale, Cygnet, Grand Rapids, Hoytville, Milton Township, North Baltimore, Pemberville, Central Joint, Risingsun, Wayne, West Millgrove, Weston, Center Township, Middleton Township, Troy Township and Washington Township.

Renters’ guide rates landlords and housing units

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   More than 1,000 apartment and house renters in Bowling Green have filled out a survey ranking their landlords and living units. The results were compiled into a first-ever BGSU Renter’s Guide, intended to help students make more informed decisions before they sign leases in Bowling Green. The information is pulled from direct responses from students surveyed on their satisfaction with different rental agencies in the city. The BGSU Renter’s Guide is a joint project of the Undergraduate Student Government, the Graduate Student Senate and Off Campus Student Services. Such a guide has been offered for Ohio State University students for years. A total of 25 landlords are listed in the survey along with the ratings by their former renters. The highest number of survey responses came from renters of Greenbriar, Copper Beach, Falcon’s Pointe, Mecca Management and John Newlove. The rental costs range from the lowest of $100 to $199 a month for 19 respondents, to the highest of more than $1,000 a month for three respondents. The most common rental cost was between $300 and $399 a month. The renters were asked about how easy it was to contact their landlord with concerns. The responses ranged from 40 percent who strongly agreed it was easy, to 16 percent who strongly disagreed. Landlords  were ranked on whether or not they answered questions prior to the students moving in, whether students were given the same apartment they toured, whether students were satisfied with the apartment when they first moved in, and whether or not landlords maintained the interior and exterior of rentals. Less than half, 48 percent, strongly agreed that their landlords maintained the exterior of their homes. Even fewer, 39 percent, strongly agreed that the landlords maintained the interior. Renters were also asked how quickly their landlords responded to emergency maintenance issues. Renters from some landlords said they always responded with 24 hours. But other landlords took more than two weeks to respond, according to the survey. The renter’s survey can be found on the BGSU off-campus student services website. The guide also advises renters to ask basic questions before signing a lease, such as: What are the lease terms? What is included in the rent? Can I decorate my apartment? What is your maintenance and emergency…

BG students speak up without making a sound

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the students in Laura Weaver’s class last week practiced a new language, there were no new words coming from their mouths. They were talking with their hands. The fifth grade students in the PACE gifted and talented class held at Kenwood Elementary were learning American Sign Language. They fired off words, asking for their signs – please, thank you, hello, family, numbers – and the necessities like cookie, ice cream and popcorn. Marta Crow, a retired Penta Career Center teacher for hearing impaired students, kept up with their requests. The theme in Weaver’s class this year is “communication,” so she thought it would be good for the students to learn unspoken language. “I wanted them to understand the foundation of it,” she said. And the lessons went beyond the words themselves. “You have to understand diversity and adversity,” Weaver added. “It just seemed like the right thing to do with these kids.” “We’re so used to speaking language, when you don’t hear it, it’s a whole different world,” she said. Weaver planned to take the sign language lesson further later in the week, with students putting in ear plugs and trying to communicate. They would also be creating clay hands forming a sign language symbol. “I’ve got 50 pounds of clay waiting,” she said, smiling. And then they might give Braille a try. “That could be something cool to try,” Weaver said. Meanwhile, the students were mastering some simple sentences in sign – many having to do with cookies and popcorn. And they were learning that placement of the hands is quite important, so “please” isn’t confused for “hungry.” Crow, who had a deaf roommate in college at Bowling Green State University, said that sign language is misinterpreted no more often than verbal communication. “It’s such an expressive language,” she said. Unlike verbal communication, in which most people use just their mouths, sign language involves the face, the entire body and the space around it. “It’s not just the hands,” Crow said, using sign language to tell a short story to the students. “I use the space around me. It’s the whole package.” Crow has interpreted events using sign language for BGSU graduations, BGSU freshman welcome programs, the inauguration of BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey, and…

Pretend emergency becomes real learning experience

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It all started Wednesday at 7:30 a.m., when a pretend train accident in Perrysburg started leaking pretend hazardous materials in the city. There were pretend road closures, pretend evacuations and pretend injuries. And if that wasn’t enough, a truckload of pigs overturned on Interstate 75, sending pretend pigs running throughout the city. The scenario was pretend, but emergency responders were tasked with coming up with real answers to the crisis. The Wood County Emergency Management Agency and the Wood County Local Emergency Planning Committee coordinated the exercise as mandated every four years. Perrysburg officials were stationed on the fifth floor of the county office building, while county officials staffed the emergency operations center on the first floor. Though pretend, the participants felt the pressure of a real hazardous material accident requiring the evacuation of Woodland Elementary School and Grace United Methodist Church to the BGSU book depository in Levis Commons. The workers were bombarded with phone calls – some with valid information, others from people seeking information on where they should go, where they can take their pets, and why there were pigs running around the neighborhood. “Communication is always the first victim of a disaster,” said Wood County EMA Director Brad Gilbert. But Gilbert said emergency exercises like this are designed to highlight strengths and weaknesses. And while communication needs improvement, he said the teamwork was impressive among governments and agencies representing fire departments, police departments, utilities, Red Cross, EPA, ODNR, health district, schools, road engineers, animals control and others. “We started off and this room just erupted with interaction and chatting,” Gilbert said of the county emergency operations center. Tammy Feehan, disaster services supervisor for the Ohio EMA Northwest Region, said the teamwork in this county is notable. “It’s always a learning experience. But Wood County has such good relationships between first responders, elected officers and the EMA,” Feehan said. “The collaboration that takes place strengthens the coordination and the communication.” When the exercise was over – with the pretend patients being treated and the pretend pigs being corralled – the next challenge was to hold a mock press conference. Perrysburg Municipal Administrator Bridgette Kabat described the hazard material incident, the evacuations, the decontamination efforts at area hospitals, and the symptoms that city residents should…

Local boy unleashes a lot of love for shelter dogs

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When Drake Stearns turned 8 last recently, he got some unusual birthday gifts – giant bags of dog food, old blankets, and pet toys. Drake, a second-grader at Elmwood, had decided that he had enough toys himself and wanted his birthday party guests to bring gifts for the four-legged lodgers at the Wood County Dog Shelter. “We looked at all his toys,” and discussed a different option this year, his mom Christina Stearns said. “I wanted to do it. I wanted to make these dogs happy,” Drake said as he sat at the dog shelter next to King, who was wagging his tail furiously at meeting a new friend. So his mom sent out birthday party invitations, asking that in lieu of presents for Drake, that guests bring dog food, treats, towels or toys. The party netted nearly 200 pounds of dog food, plus lots of collars, leashes and other items. “Parents said they had a tough time not getting him toys,” Drake’s mom said. But Drake had no reservations. As he dropped off more items at the dog shelter last week, he quickly bonded with King. “He’s chosen me,” Drake said to his mom as King licked him. “He wants me. Can I get him?” Drake – who has big plans to be either a dancer, magician, artist or pet store worker – has a big heart for animals. “He actually said he wants to do this every year,” his mom said. Wood County Dog Warden Andrew Snyder said in his 12 years at the dog shelter, he can remember less than a handful of times that a child has made such a generous gesture. “It’s just not that often that someone his age will be that thoughtful and give up his gifts,” Snyder said. The stacks of dog food were especially appreciated since donations from local stores are down this year. “This was the first year we’ve had to buy dog food,” Snyder said. The dog treats also come in handy, since dog shelter staff on the road are always armed with treats to win over canines they come upon. “We all keep treats in our vehicles,” he said. The toys are used in a meet-and-greet room for people trying to get to know a…