Articles by Jan Larson McLaughlin

Demands of volunteer firefighting lead some to burnout

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As a young boy, Tim Schroeder remembers kids chasing behind fire trucks, then watching in awe as volunteer firefighters battled blazes. Children dreamed of becoming firefighters, and as soon as reaching adulthood, many joined the ranks. That was then. Now, most kids don’t race behind fire trucks, they have different dreams, and most don’t sign up on volunteer fire departments. Most prefer jobs that pay, that have reasonable hours and that don’t demand quick departures during dinner or in the middle of a deep sleep. That has some volunteer fire departments struggling to survive. Add to that the training requirements, the equipment costs, the calls at all time of day and night, and the fact that many employers no longer let volunteer firefighters leave work for fire calls. Despite all those odds, Wood County still has 23 fire departments, the vast majority volunteer. A few neighboring departments have merged to become fire districts, but only one – Jerry City – has shut down in the last few decades. Though their memberships are shrinking, and in some cases graying, the fire departments are a source of community pride and camaraderie. “There’s still the excitement,” Schroeder, a member of Weston EMS, said Saturday during the Northwestern Ohio Volunteer Firemen’s Association training held at Bowling Green State University. “It’s just a struggle to get personnel.” The volunteer job demands time and dedication. One of the hurdles to getting and retaining firefighters is the training. Over the weekend, about 700 area volunteer firefighters were at BGSU trying to rack up some free training hours. The basic initial firefighter training is 36 hours. That used to be good enough to keep someone on the department for a lifetime. But now an additional 18 hours of training is required each year. “You used to get a certification and that was it,” said Tom Bentley, from Wayne Volunteer Fire Department. “The older guys don’t want to maintain that,” said Dave Miller, from Woodville Township Fire Department and chairman of the fire school. In addition to firefighting skills, the volunteers learn how to handle hazardous materials, search and rescue skills, emergency medical skills, and how to drive fire trucks. Over the weekend, there were classes on handling agricultural accidents, tanker shuttles to put out fires where there are no fire hydrants, fire investigations, the heroin epidemic, meth labs, natural gas safety, silo explosions and severe weather. “It’s hard to attract people with all the training requirements,” said Ryan Lee, of Central Joint Fire District. But then, there is a reason for the training. “It’s a dangerous job,” he said. Some departments have weekly training for the firefighters, like Central Joint, which drills every Tuesday evening. While that is useful, it leaves little time for the socialization that previously attracted firefighters, and it’s more time away from family which is already an issue for some volunteers. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, being on a volunteer fire department was like being a member of a fraternity, Lee said. “It was more of a social group,” he said. “Now it’s a second job” – but without the pay. Central Joint averages 260 fire and EMS runs a year. So that means multiple times a week, “you’re leaving your dinner table” or other…

Fire damages home on East Reed Street this morning

A passerby reported a house fire at 129 E. Reed St. at 6:41 a.m. today, Sunday. Bowling Green Fire Division responded with two engines and the ladder truck. Upon arrival, heavy fire was showing on the second floor of the large, former single-family home that had been converted into a triplex, according to Bowling Green Fire Chief Tom Sanderson. A resident of the first floor apartment was evacuated by Bowling Green Police Division. According to Sanderson, the initial fire attack with a deck gun was followed immediately by an interior attack and search of the second floor apartment. No one was in the second floor apartment at the time. The fire was quickly under control, the chief said. Mutual aid was called to the scene, including Central Joint Fire District with an engine and four firefighters, and Mid-County 120 Ambulance with two paramedics. There were no injuries to residents or firefighters. The fire is under investigation, Sanderson said.

More county residents turn to food pantries for help

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Across Wood County, more people are turning to food pantries to help feed their families. Some food banks offer food once a month, others whenever needed. Some require proof of need, others ask for nothing. “We’re seeing more food insecurity,” said Sue Clanton, director of United Way in Wood County. So last month, people representing food pantries throughout Wood County gathered at the United Way office in Bowling Green to collect information on all the grassroots efforts to help the hungry. Information was recorded on how often food is available, how much food is given per person, and how families qualify at each operation. The details will be updated in the county’s “211” help telephone system, so when people call for help they can be directed to the place most able to assist. In addition to bags of groceries, many of the sites offer such help as free meals, laundry and shower services, clothing, kitchenware, toiletries and baby items. Others provide car care, used furniture or community garden crops. Many of the operations are hosted by churches. Some are open multiple days a week, others once a month. “We don’t turn anyone away hungry,” said a volunteer with St. Thomas More’s food pantry in Bowling Green. First United Methodist Church in Bowling Green averages 200 clients a month at its food program, Heather Sayler said. The church has four freezers, and may need to add another for the program. “We’re looking at harnessing our volunteers,” with more than 50 a month, she said. “Long-term we’re looking at home delivery.” Perrysburg Christians United offers food once a month, and help with rent and utilities for people at risk or eviction or having their utilities cut. The Brown Bag program in Bowling Green is open three days a week. The site has no “means testing,” and provided for about 17,000 meals last year. “We help people in urgent crisis in need of food,” Gwen Andrix said. “All it takes is for someone to say, ‘I don’t know where I’m going to get my next meal.’” Many people are falling through the cracks, according to Andrix. All it takes is one unexpected car repair, sickness or a spouse leaving to push someone into poverty. So people are also offered a sheet listing local resources – “to hopefully find a lasting solution to whatever situation they are in.” The Brown Bag program also tries to offer delivery 24/7. “If you call us today, I will try to get food to you today,” Andrix said. The Otsego Food Pantry has served families in that school district for more than 20 years. “We wanted to make sure children were being served,” said Lisa Hatfield. That program tries to provide enough food and toiletries to last seven to 10 days. Normally the help is offered once a month, however, it can be “once a week as they get through a rough spot.” No proof of need is required. “People just have to say they have a need,” she said. Hatfield said the Otsego pantry also tries to meet other needs. “We do mentoring. We do job referrals,” and can provide gas vouchers. Hatfield questioned the number of people who go from one food pantry to another in the county….

BG large item garbage collection starts March 20

A large item pick-up, to collect items which are too heavy or of such composition or configuration that they cannot be placed in the regular weekly refuse collection containers, will be held during the week of March 20. All items should be placed curbside by 7 a.m. on Monday, March 20 to ensure pick-up. Items may be placed curbside no earlier than 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 19. There will only be one pick-up for each location and, once the crews leave a street, they will not return. Pickup is by ward and not by your normal refuse collection day. City crews will collect the large items throughout the city independent of the normal refuse collection schedule. Additional information can be found at This is not an unlimited refuse collection. As with the city’s residential refuse collection program, this special collection is only for one and two family dwellings on public streets, per city ordinance. Mattresses and box springs will be collected for an additional fee. The fee is $25 for the first mattress or box spring and $15 per mattress or box spring thereafter up to a total of three. The fee must be paid prior to collection at 304 N. Church St., Public Works Office. Phone: 419-354- 6227. Please note that this service is provided anytime of the year, not just at large item collection. Note that refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and dehumidifiers are not eligible for collection. By law, the city is not authorized to pick up building materials, construction or demolition refuse, sod, and rocks. For a fee, property owners may dispose of these items at the Wood County Landfill on U.S. 6. For more information pertaining to the landfill, call (419)352-0180 or visit

BG couple persistent in piecing together giant puzzle

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Rarely does one birthday present bring so much pain and pleasure. Steve and Lois DiMaria’s grandchildren gave their grandpa an 18,000 piece puzzle – innocently instigating a mystery the Bowling Green couple felt compelled to solve. “It took us four years to do it,” Steve said. “We would tackle it during the winter months.” The grandchildren also had no idea of the space the puzzle would consume. Every year after Thanksgiving dinner until Easter dinner, the DiMaria’s dining room table would be overtaken by the Ravensburger puzzle showing an African scene of elephants, giraffes, rhinos, lions and zebras at a watering hole. That’s a dining room table, with two leaves – with the puzzle taking up the entire 9 ½ by 6 ½ foot space. When guests would come over, the DiMarias would have to offer more casual dining. “Sorry, we have to eat in the living room on TV trays,” Lois would say. “We’re not going to move it.” To tackle such a monster of a puzzle really takes personalities that love puzzles. Lois is such a person. Steve, not so much. But Steve rose to the challenge and became hooked on completing the project as much as his wife. “It would be hours at a time,” Lois said. “I’m an all or nothing person.” The work was extra tedious since the pieces were so small and similar in shape. Sometimes they would have to take apart sections that were already completed to redo them. There were times the couple felt like giving up – especially in the vast areas of gray on the elephant. Some portions of the puzzle, with lots of color, were easier to piece together. “There were sections that were really fun to do,” Lois said. “It really felt like you had accomplished something.” Luckily, the 18,000 pieces were divided into four plastic bags of 4,500 pieces each. That made the job a little more manageable, Steve said. “We were grateful for that,” Lois added. After four years of on-and-off work, the puzzle was complete – except for one annoyingly missing piece right in the center of the elephant. The couple searched everywhere for the missing piece, but finally had to call the puzzle company to ask for another. Of course, the missing piece came in a bag with 4,499 other pieces. “I don’t think I have the gumption to do it,” Lois said about sorting through the bag for the exact piece of gray. The giant puzzle now lives on eight pieces of fiber board, under the DiMaria’s bed – the only space large enough to store the African scene. “I cut them so they would just go through the door,” Steve said of the fiber board pieces. The couple pieced the board together – taking up their living room floor – to show the entire scene. “It’s a beautiful puzzle,” Steve said. “It really is beautiful.” And big. “It’s mind boggling, isn’t it,” Steve said. The grandchildren who gifted the puzzle were amazed when they saw the complete picture. “I think they were impressed,” Lois said. “They got a lot of laughs out of it.” The couple is now looking for a home for the massive African scene – saying it’s a shame to hide…

Apartment fire in BG contained to one unit

A fire in a 12-unit building at 505 Clough St., Bowling Green, was contained to one apartment this evening. A resident of the building called 911 at 5:38 p.m., when the renter smelled smoke in the hallway while leaving the building. Bowling Green Police Division went door-to-door and evacuated residents from the building which sits next to the railroad tracks. No one was injured. When Bowling Green Fire Division arrived on the scene, firefighters could see the flames through the window. They had to force entry into Apt. 9, where the fire was located. Once inside, the fire was knocked down quickly, according to Fire Division Capt. Bill Moorman. The fire is under investigation, with the cause not yet known. No one was home in the apartment at the time of the fire, Moorman said. Bowling Green State University is on spring break this week. The resident of the burned apartment was in town, but reportedly at work when the fire occurred. While the fire was contained to one unit, several other units were being ventilated for smoke. It was unknown yet if there were inhabitable. “At least the tenants can come in and check them out,” Moorman said.

Health district aims high for public health goal

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Health District has a pretty lofty goal for local residents. “We’re striving to be the healthiest county in Ohio,” Health Commissioner Ben Batey said Thursday to a meeting of the Wood County District Advisory Council – representing the municipalities and townships in the county. In order to improve local public health, the district has set some lofty goals for itself. In addition to all the environmental and nursing services already provided, the district plans to focus on the priority issues of obesity, mental health, youth violence and bullying, and health care access. Dental care will also be a priority for the health district, with the use of an $820,000 federal grant to build a dental center onto the existing health district building on East Gypsy Lane Road. Medicaid dental services have long been identified as a serious need in the county. The new dental clinic, which will have five examine chairs, is expected to be open by the beginning of 2018. Though the number of projected clients is unknown, Batey said of the 1,300 health center patients surveyed, 75 percent said they would be interested in using the dental services. Batey also noted that the county’s Net Plus program now offers transportation to medical appointments for any Wood County residents. “We have set a standard in Ohio,” for good medical access, Batey said. “We tackle these issues that other counties are really struggling with.” The success of the health district was recognized last year when the agency received national accreditation. “That was a very proud moment for us,” Batey said, noting that very few health departments throughout the nation achieve that status. “We got very positive feedback on the job we are providing our residents.” The efforts are being recognized outside Wood County as well, he said. “People are now looking at us as a regional leader.” Batey presented the health district’s annual report to the municipal and township leaders Thursday evening. The report lists the programs offered to protect public health in the county. Those include programs covering: Food safety. Public swimming pools and campgrounds. Private drinking water and home sewage treatment systems. Animal bites and rabies prevention. School inspections. County housing and general nuisances. Institutions and jail inspections. Smoke-free workplace enforcement. Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition. Children with Medical Handicaps. Immunizations. Personal care for seniors in their homes. Healthy Kids program working to prevent obesity. Emergency preparedness. Non-infectious disease epidemiology. Child and Family Health Services. “I’m very proud of this report,” Batey said. “We’ve come a long way.” Batey said 2016 was a “tough year” for finances, but by adjusting staffing levels and expenses, there were no layoffs or drastic cuts to programming. The district is now working on building up reserves in case of emergencies, such as a pandemic. “We plan for a more stable financial future.” Board of Health President Richard Strow thanked the municipal and township leaders for their support of the health district. “It’s been very good to have the support of the townships and the cities,” he said. Strow also thanked the health district’s “tremendous staff” for their positive impacts on the county. “We are very, very fortunate to have the employees we have,” he said.

180th Fighter Wing to test response capability

Alert fighter jets from the 180th Fighter Wing will conduct a test of the Aerospace Control Alert system on Saturday, March 11, between 8 and 10 a.m. The purpose of the event is to exercise coordination between the Eastern Air Defense Sector, Federal Aviation Administration and 180th Fighter Wing. Those living in and around the Springfield, Ohio, area may hear and/or see fighter jets in close proximity to a Civil Air Patrol aircraft, which will be taking on the role of a Track of Interest (TOI). A TOI is an aircraft that has been identified as a potential threat. Although scheduled for the morning, the exercise flights could be delayed or canceled due to inclement weather. Aerospace Control includes maintaining air sovereignty and air defense through the surveillance and control of airspace over Canada and the U.S. These types of exercises are conducted on a routine basis as part of North American Aerospace Defense Command’s Operation Noble Eagle, which was initiated after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.  

County park district hosts photo gallery exhibition

(Submitted by Wood County Park District) The Wood County Park District is hosting a Photo Gallery Exhibition in Bowling Green. For the past two years, hobby and professional photographers from around the county have submitted photos taken at Wood County Park District properties into a contest run by the Friends of the Parks. The contest judges choose winners and Facebook voters choose the People’s Choice winners. All photo submissions are on display in an exhibition during March showcased at the Four Corners Center with an opening reception on Friday, March 10, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. The public is invited to this reception with light refreshments and featuring the photographs which showcase the beauty of Wood County. The exhibition is free and open to the public Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in March at the Four Corners Center located at 130 S. Main St., in Bowling Green, (near the intersection of Main and Wooster, it is the tall limestone building with pillars). The purpose of the Photo Gallery Exhibition is to feature the work of the community photographers who entered the photo contest. To partner with the Four Corners Center and the Bowling Green community. Also, to display photos that educate on the beauty of the nature within Wood County. The Wood County Park District is proud to preserve and highlight our natural and cultural resources for all Wood County citizens to enjoy. For more information, please visit, or download the free “wcparks” app.

House legislation creates state bond bank

State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, has announced the Ohio House’s passage of legislation that would create a state bond bank to be administered by the office of the State Treasurer. House Bill 54 authorizes the Treasurer of State to issue loans to qualifying entities for the purpose of making permanent improvements, meaning any property or asset with an estimated period of usefulness of five years or more. All funds, transactions, and accounts for this purpose would be facilitated through the State Bond Bank and the State Bond Bank Trust Fund. Under the legislation, local governments would be able to secure loans from the bank, although the program is optional. With this resource, local governments would have better access to bond funding and lower administrative costs for such a purpose. “This is a piece of legislation that will grant local governments some much needed relief,” said Gavarone. “This bill will benefit our communities by giving our governments the opportunity to access capital to finance important community projects without the burden of aggressive interest rates and fees.” House Bill 54 will now head to the Ohio Senate for further deliberation.

Northwest Ohio Woodland & Wildlife Family Fest set

(Submitted by Wood Soil & Water Conservation District) It’s that time of year for the Annual Maple Syrup Festival and this year it will be even bigger as the Northwest Ohio Woodland & Wildlife Family Festival joins the event on Saturday, March 25. The fun begins at the Williams County Fairgrounds in Montpelier, Ohio. Bring your family and friends to see a sugar shack in operation, enjoy pancakes with real maple syrup, and numerous additional educational events. Events start at 8:00 a.m. and continue until noon in the Gillette Building with pancakes and sausage prepared by the Williams County Fair Foundation and Williams County Pork Producers topped with “real” maple syrup provided by the Northwest Ohio Maple Syrup Producers. Breakfast will be served starting at 7:30 a.m. and there will be 2 serving lines to better serve those attending. Handicap parking will be available at the Gillette Building. Both the east and west entrances will be open. Horse-drawn wagons (weather permitting) and tractor-drawn wagons will be on hand for rides across the covered bridge to the sugar shack. The sugar shack is complete with a stainless evaporator, holding tank and filtering unit. See the tree tapping process of gathering the sap and the boiling process in the evaporator until the sap becomes syrup. The ‘Woodland’ events of the festival will include a portable sawmill demonstration, the ‘dos and don’ts’ of chainsaw and logging safety, NW Ohio Woodland Owners Association and the Loggers Chapter, samples of native hardwoods. John Mueller and Joe Puperi, Division of Forestry, will be available to answer all your tree and forestry questions! The ‘Wildlife’ events will include two exhibits of pelts and animal mounts from local taxidermists, find out about trapping and the fur trade, see live raptors from Nature’s Nursery, learn about bees and beekeeping, see live reptiles, make rope the old-fashioned way, learn about wildlife and programs from the Division of Wildlife, Pheasants Forever, restoration and hunting of wild turkeys from the National Wild Turkey Federation, the ‘Worm’s World’, talk with a State Park Naturalist about nature, and find out the latest on invasive species in our area from Amy Stone. There will also be representatives and educational displays from the following organizations:  Williams County Master Gardeners, Montpelier Tree Commission, meet ‘Johnny Appleseed’, what is a ‘CSA’, leaf casting, nature photography, Schedel Gardens, the ‘Native Indian syrup story’, Project Learning Tree, and displays from the Northwest Ohio Soil & Water Conservation District display, Maumee River Water Trail, and Toledo Metroparks. The Williams Soil & Water Conservation District will have tree seedlings for sale during their annual seedling sale. The Northwest Ohio Maple Syrup Producers will have real maple syrup that can be purchased along with fresh-spun maple cotton candy, maple candy, and other maple products. Poppin’ George will have fresh popped ‘kettle corn’ to purchase. So bring your family and friends to the Williams County Fairgrounds in Montpelier on Saturday, March 25, for a fun-filled morning while enjoying “real” maple syrup, pancakes and sausage, plus loads of woodland and wildlife fun! There is no charge for the events or entry to the fairgrounds. There is a charge for the breakfast. This event is being sponsored by the Northwest Ohio Maple Syrup Producers, Williams County Fair Foundation, Williams County Fair Board, Williams Soil and Water…

Lubrizol named CES Employer of the Month

(Submitted by Community Employment Services) Community Employment Services (CES) of wli – Work Leads to Independence, recently named Lubrizol of Bowling Green as their Employer of the Month. Lubrizol has partnered with CES since February of 2016. Currently they employ one individual as a Glassware Technician. This individual is responsible for cleaning and preparing the numerous glass testing and quality control beakers and containers that Lubrizol uses as part of their quality control and production monitoring processes at their Bowling Green facility. The employees and supervisors at Lubrizol in Bowling Green have played a supportive role for this individual served by CES. We appreciate their dedication in becoming a community placement employer. Since 1985, Community Employment Services has assisted the business community to meet their staffing and diversity needs by offering a pool of qualified and competent workers with disabilities. Community Employment Services is a division of wli – Work Leads to Independence.

BG Schools program focuses on positive behaviors

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It’s hard to teach science theories, sentence dissection, or just about anything when kids are acting up. So Bowling Green City Schools are adopting a program called PBIS – Positive Behavior Intervention Supports. The program provides consistent rules throughout the district and reinforces positive behaviors by students. In order to have good learning environments, “we have to get the behaviors under control,” Crim Principal Melanie Garbig said during a recent board of education meeting. Each school in the district has a PBIS team, spearheaded by the guidance counselors, with the goal to have the program fully implemented next year. The program reinforces the same expectations to all students – from preschoolers to seniors. Students are reminded to be responsible for themselves, respectful of others, and safe in their schools. That common language will follow the students every year of school. “Those expectations are going to be the same,” Garbig said. “I think it’s going to make a difference.” The PBIS program focuses on positive reinforcement. Students caught being good are given “pride” slips. “Pride” postcards signed by teachers, are addressed to children and mailed to their homes. “It’s a way to celebrate the positive behaviors,” said teacher Stacey Higgins. Posters stating expectations of students are placed around the school, defining good behavior in the hallways, cafeteria, playground, bus, or during assemblies. To trick is to make it fun to behave. Crim staff and students made a video showing examples of bad and good behavior. The twist was that the teachers were the ones misbehaving, and the students were schooling them. The video shows teachers messing around during lunch, running in the halls, banging on bathroom doors, throwing items in the classroom, and climbing around the seats on the bus. The students then get their turn of exhibiting the right way to behave in each setting. “Obviously there’s more to education than reading and writing,” said school board member Paul Walker.

Efforts underway to find leaking septic systems

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Though sewer lines are inching their way across Wood County, there are still an estimated 14,000 homes that continue to rely on septic systems. An estimated half of those are failing and leaking raw sewage. By later this year, all 26 municipalities in Wood County will have public sewers. But many homes in rural areas don’t have that option.  And many may not be aware their septic systems are failing. “’Working fine’ is they flush the toilet and it goes away,” said Lana Glore, Wood County Health District environmental division director. But the question is – where does the sewage go? Since the average life expectancy of a septic system is 30 years, Glore said it’s possible that as many as 7,000 septic systems are sending sewage into public waterways. “In an ideal world, we’d have everybody sewered,” she said. Because aging and failing septic systems are a problem statewide, the Ohio Department of Health wants local health departments to examine every system. The Wood County Health Division already has a septic system operation and maintenance plan, but it is on a much smaller level, Glore said. Inspections of systems are complaint-driven or prompted by real estate sales. Since many older septic systems were installed without permits, they have likely never been inspected. “The first step is going to be playing catch up,” Glore said. “Where are our critical areas?” The health district consults with the Northwestern Water and Sewer District to see if plans exist to extend sewer services to problem areas. The health district works with the county building inspection office on preventing problems by determining the best locations for septic systems and making sure space is left for replacement systems. The health division also partners with the county engineer’s office to help map out systems using GIS. The health division also works with landowners to find the most reasonable solutions. If those older failing systems are inspected, and it can’t be proven that the sewage is going into a leachfield or a secondary system, then they have to be replaced. Septic system replacements can be quite costly, especially if bedrock is encountered. The health district hopes to use staff to design the septic systems and test soils, which can be a big cost savings to residents who would otherwise have to hire system designers and soil testers. The district also uses grant funding to help homeowners with the costs. New septic systems can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $20,000, Glore said. “In all cases, we look for the best system for that homeowner,” she said. In order to comply with the state’s rule that each septic system be inspected every five years, the health district is hoping to hire another employee. The operations and maintenance program will be financed with a $100 fee on each homeowner with a septic system. That fee won’t be charged until the inspections begin. “We didn’t feel it was right to just start sending letters out to people,” demanding a fee be paid, Glore said.  

Verdict in – Chidester retires leaving secure courthouse

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When Tom Chidester took the job as chief constable for the Wood County Courthouse 21 years ago, he had a tall order to fill. The Supreme Court order requiring courthouses to be made secure meant some unpopular decisions. But as he prepares to retire at the end of March, Chidester can sit back and rattle off the threats over the years that were stopped before they entered the courtrooms. In addition to standards knives and guns, there was a sword hidden in a cane, mace, plus knives hidden in phones and wallets. Oh, and then there was the six-pack of beer in a backpack. When Chidester, a former trooper with the Ohio Highway Patrol, took the job in 1996 there was little courthouse security in place. There were no metal detectors, no court security staff to keep an eye during emotionally charged trials. But there were orders in place that courthouses around the country were expected to obey. One of the biggest problems at the historic Wood County Courthouse was the number of building entrances that would need to be staffed. So county officials took the bold move of closing down all but one entrance. And former Wood County Commissioner Alvie Perkins came up with the idea for the atrium that would connect the courthouse and the county office building, which houses one of the common pleas courtrooms. “The elected officials were kind of divided on how the public would react,” Chidester recalled. “They went through many public meetings.” In December of 2005, the atrium opened and security measures went into place. There was some grumbling about just one entrance and about people needing to pass through a metal detector – but that all seems second nature now to those who use the courthouse. Chidester worked on meeting all 12 standards for courthouse safety, including such additions as cameras in courtrooms, panic buttons, limited access, metal detectors, X-ray machines and properly trained personnel. “I built it up slowly over the years,” he said, often able to get grants to pay for some of the expenses. “We were one of the first courts that met the standards.” Chidester was on a team that helped other courthouses meet the security challenges. “Most courts didn’t meet any of the standards.” Wood County’s court security now has four full-time and nine part-time officers. They scan people as they enter the courthouse complex and are posted in all criminal trials. The most common weapons confiscated at the entrance are knives. “A lot of farmers have them, and we give them back,” as they leave the courthouse, Chidester said. Chidester remembers those days of never being sure if someone in the courtroom was armed with some type of weapon. “You always wondered if people had something on them.” The court security staff also takes adult probation clients into custody if they test positive for drugs or alcohol. The security staff is trained to “simmer down” emotions as they run high during trials, Chidester said. There have been potentially charged incidents – like when the mother felt a judge was being too harsh on her son, so she hit an officer on the side of the head with her keys, or when another woman threw a chair over the…