Articles by Jan Larson McLaughlin

BG chamber names top citizens

Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce recognized its top citizens during its annual dinner dance held in the Bowling Green State University ballroom Saturday evening. Bob Callecod was named Man of the Year, and Barbara Sanchez was named Woman of the Year. The outstanding citizen award recognizes those who live or work in the Bowling Green area, and have demonstrated an active leadership role for the betterment of the community through involvement in business, civic, social and service organizations. Judy Ennis was given the Athena Award, and Dr. Ed Whipple was given the Zeus Award. The Athena Award celebrates the potential of all women as valued members and leaders of the community, and recognizes those who support them. The recipient must assist women in reaching their full leadership potential; demonstrate excellence, creativity and initiative in their business or profession; and provide valuable service by devoting time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community. The Zeus Award is the counterpart to the Athena. Zeus Award recipients are male individuals who support a culture that encourages women to achieve their full leadership potential through active mentoring, supporting, and development actions. A Zeus award nominee is someone who…


Wood County hires assistant administrator

The Wood County Commissioners have appointed Kelly O’Boyle of Waterville to serve as assistant county administrator, the position formerly held by Joe Fawcett. O’Boyle’s duties will include preparation and management of the county budget, supervision of the fiscal and clerical staff within the commissioners’ office, and working closely with the county administrator to provide guidance to projects for commissioners’ departments.  The assistant county administrator also serves as the director of the Wood County Solid Waste Management District, including the Wood County Landfill.  Her employment with Wood County will begin on Feb. 16. Her annual salary will be $73,000. O’Boyle is a graduate of Central Michigan University, and holds a master of public administration degree from the University of Toledo.  She currently serves as the director of finance and human resources with SMG – the management company that operates the Huntington Center and Seagate Center.  Prior experience includes service to Lucas County as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, assistant director of the Office of Management and Budget, and project manager.  


Elevator will make history accessible

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Dana Nemeth remembers wanting to show her father-in-law, a World War II veteran, the new exhibit about the war at the Wood County Historical Center. But when they got to the museum, she quickly realized it was not possible. The WWII exhibit was on the second floor, and her father-in-law could not climb the stairs. “I was really excited for him to see it,” Nemeth recalled. “It was such a disappointment.” That was a decade ago, before Nemeth became director of the museum, and before the state gave the site a $600,000 grant to help pay for a $1.2 million elevator and accessibility accommodations. By this summer, no aging veterans, no families with strollers, no people in wheelchairs will be limited to the first floor of the museum. “It’s been a long time coming,” former Wood County Commissioner Jim Carter said Friday as the museum opened new exhibits and kicked off the construction of the elevator. Former history teacher, State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, spoke of the need to make all floors of the facility accessible. “So all citizens could value and learn at this great community asset.” The elevator has…


History in unusual places…toy soldiers, Superman and beer cans

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   At the young age of 7, Matt Donahue was going through trash bins looking for beer cans. Not for recycling, but for collecting. It would be the start of a lifetime of collecting for Donahue. The beer cans, along with an eclectic combination of items such as Wonder Woman memorabilia, Dr. Seuss books, and salt and pepper shakers, are part of a new program at the Wood County Historical Center and Museum. The exhibits feature several community members’ collections for the site’s new “Be Your Own Museum” program. The site was opened to guests Friday to show off the loaned collections. There are superheroes and comic book character from Larry Nader, 1950s era toys from Mary Dilsaver, vintage sewing machines from Cindy Huffman, Nancy Drew books from Jayne Tegge, hand-painted china from Jane Westerhaus, Pez dispensers from Kelli Kling, and more. Roger Mazzarella, who is sharing his collection of tin soldiers, dressed the part Friday, wearing a replica of a 1879 Wales military uniform. “I’m a historian at heart,” said Mazzarella, who is a retired history teacher. Mazzarella acquired the initial pieces of his collection from his father who served as an…


Getting downtown to go green

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Downtown business owners may soon learn how changing to environmentally green operations can help them keep more of their economic green. Students studying environment and sustainability at Bowling Green State University are working on a type of “green business certification program.” Such a program, which is already in place in Lucas County and Toledo, recognizes businesses that put together sustainability plans. Dr. Holly Myers, who specializes in land use and environmental planning at BGSU, is coordinating student efforts to survey downtown Bowling Green businesses on a sustainability grade card. The three principles of sustainability are environment, economics and quality of life. “It seems like downtown is a good place to start,” she said. Businesses will be surveyed, and suggestions will be made of how they can operate in a more sustainable manner. “This is not something to force on them,” Myers stressed. The green checklist includes topics such as waste reduction, energy conservation and green purchasing. The program will calculate how much can be saved by steps such as changing to LED lightbulbs, billing electronically, or turning off computers at the end of the work day. “I think they are going to…


‘Adopt’ a block idea taking shape

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Residents of Bowling Green’s East Side often wake to find their yards littered with trash from party-goers. So in an effort to clean up the neighborhoods and sullied reputations of college students, plans have begun for some blocks to be “adopted” by student groups. The Bowling Green City-University Relations Commission discussed the cleanups as a goal that can be accomplished rather than started then put on hold each time a break in semesters occurs. “We talk about these things over and over again,” said Lisa Mattiace, vice president of the commission. But little is accomplished, the board agreed Tuesday evening. Peter Rodriguez, a member of the Undergraduate Student Government, said that organization had begun talks about student groups adopting city blocks, similar to the “adopt a highway” program started by the Ohio Department of Transportation. But Rodriguez added that the progress on the program “is very, very slow.” The project is brought up annually, but “there’s no traction.” Members of the city-university commission agreed they could help provide the needed traction. They recognized this program as a project they could team up with the USG to get accomplished, possibly this spring semester….


Jail inmates to undergo scanning

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Sure, police dogs have great noses for sniffing out crime, and command community adoration. But they do have their limits. They can’t work 24 hours a day, and they can’t sniff out hidden weapons. So instead of acquiring a canine to scan inmates entering the Wood County jail, the sheriff’s office has purchased a full-body scanning system. The scanner was purchased with $118,000 in jail commissary funds, from inmates purchasing snacks or toiletry items. The Soter RS body scanner shows if an inmate is trying to smuggle drugs, small weapons such as razor blades, or cell phones into the jail. The searches are much less invasive, and less unpleasant than strip and cavity searches for both the inmates and the jail personnel. According to Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn, Wood County Justice Center is the third county jail in Ohio to have such technology. Upon arriving at the jail, each inmate will go through the 10-second X-ray scanning procedure. The scan shows any foreign objects in the stomach or body cavities, or any items that may have been missed during a pat down by officers. “It’s more thorough than TSA scanners,” at…


Espen fearless in defense of environment

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Brad Espen wouldn’t stand a chance in a popularity contest. He refused to budge for landowners protesting sewer lines. He stood eye to eye with federal officials delaying cleanup of hazardous materials. He was unapologetic when enforcing smoking bans. “I made my share of people mad, but when you know you’re doing the right thing, it kind of balanced things out,” said Espen, who will soon retire after 30 years in environmental health at Wood County Health District. “I was always trying to do the right thing.” Espen may have lacked popularity, but he was never short on persistence. One case in point would be the now demolished Victory Inn, in Bowling Green.  After countless inspections and violation reports, the hotel was finally shut down. “We just never gave up with that one,” he said. Espen started at the health department doing housing and restaurant inspections. He then went on to solid waste inspections, and eventually took over as director of environmental health. “I was always interested in the environment,” though he originally thought his career path would lead to work with wildlife and nature – not sewers and hazardous waste. He grew…


BG Parks Due for Levy and Master Plan Update

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Bowling Green parks and recreation officials want help from citizens this year. First, they want citizen input on a master plan update, and then they want citizen votes on a levy in November. Kristin Otley, director of the parks and recreation department, told city council earlier this week that the parks are on the third year of a three-year levy. That means the city will be working to put a levy on the November ballot. The levy amount has not been determined, but Otley explained the department’s levy amount has not changed in 16 years. The parks and programming, however, have changed greatly, she added. “There is a lot more acreage and facilities, and things to take care of,” Otley said. Otley also informed council that the parks and recreation department will be working to update its master plan this year. The plan will cover the next five years. Five or six community focus group meetings will be scheduled to get public input on the parks and programming. Also at Tuesday’s council meeting, Planning Director Heather Sayler reported that zoning permits have remained steady in the city, with 364 in 2014, and 370…


Drivers needed for wheels on the bus to go round

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Wanted: Adults with good driving records willing to work odd hours and cart around 60 kids at a time. Applicants with nerves of steel and eyes in the back of their heads would be preferred. Like other school districts around the region, Bowling Green is looking for bus drivers, specifically substitute bus drivers. Carlton Schooley, director of the district’s transportation department, made a pitch for more drivers during Tuesday’s board of education meeting. He eased into his presentation with the sing-song version of “The Wheels on the Bus.” But Schooley pointed out that unlike the bus in the children’s song, his buses go beyond just the town. “They also go around the district,” which stretches miles out on rural roads. The bus drivers are more than just chauffeurs for students, Schooley explained. “School bus drivers are the first people in the morning that students see” and the last school officials to return them home at the end of the day. His presentation, called “So you want to be a bus driver,” explained the process to become a driver. The district currently has 20 regular drivers, and eight substitutes. But that is just not…


Gas line work shifts over to BG east side

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News As the west side of Bowling Green heals from the gas line replacement project that ripped up streets and sidewalks, Columbia Gas is preparing the east side for its turn. “We break some eggs to make this cake,” Columbia Gas representative Chris Kozak told Bowling Green City Council on Tuesday evening. “It’s a mess.” It’s not pretty, it’s not simple, but it necessary, Kozak said. He showed council the type of gas pipes currently snaking through the city’s east side. The cast iron pipes, many which predate World War II, have outlived their usefulness. He then showed council the plastic pipes buried in the west side of the city – and soon to be on the east side. The plastic pipes are expected to have a lifespan of 70 to 100 years, and be flexible when the ground freezes around them. “The plastic will move with the ground,” he said. The plastic piping also allows for increases in pressure if needed in the future. Kozak explained that the gas line replacements in Bowling Green are part of a broader 25-year program started by Columbia Gas in 2008 to replace the most troublesome cast…


BG bleacher costs come in high

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News The estimated cost for new bleachers at the Bowling Green High School football stadium was nothing to cheer about Tuesday evening. Replacement of the aging, rusting bleachers could cost as much as $610,845, according to Kent Buehrer, of Buehrer Group, which is in charge of the project. The estimate came in higher than projections made in the fall, which topped out at $500,000. Buehrer told the BG board of education that he would try to reduce the final price tag. But if it can’t be trimmed, the project will eat up the district’s entire 1.2-mill permanent improvement levy revenue for the year, according to district treasurer Rhonda Melchi. A section of the 50-year-old bleachers had to be closed off last fall after it was noticed that the steel scaffolding beneath the seats was rusting. To get through the remainder of the football season, the district put temporary bleachers up on the north end of the field. “We don’t want anyone to get injured,” school board president Paul Walker said. The new bleachers will cover the same approximate footprint of the existing seating, Buehrer said. However, building codes for restrooms at the facility are…


BG may use modular classrooms at Conneaut

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Bowling Green Board of Education heard Tuesday evening about three places students sit – in school buses, on stadium bleachers, and maybe in modular classrooms. The board learned from Superintendent Francis Scruci that classroom space will most likely be in short supply next school year at Conneaut Elementary. For that reason, the district may have to consider putting a modular unit on site, possibly for the entire fifth grade. “It’s certainly not something anyone wants to hear,” Scruci said. “We do have some shortages in terms of square footage.” However, he added that modular units have improved over the years since schools first started using them to make up for inadequate classroom space. The modular unit is just one building issue facing the school district. Scruci told the school board that the buildings report from the Ohio School Facilities Commission is expected later this month. To explain the report, and the possible solutions for the district, Scruci plans to hold a workshop for the public in Febrary. The district will need to decide whether to renovate or replace facilities, he said. “The most important thing is, what does our community want to support?”…


BG to study if city office, green space would fit on downtown parcel

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Before any trees are planted, sidewalks poured or gazebo erected, Bowling Green officials want one question put to rest. Is there enough room for a new city building and an outdoor community gathering space to coexist on the same grassy square?Council President Michael Aspacher asked that the city consult with a design professional to determine if the site is large enough for both a building and town square large enough to satisfy the community’s needs. Aspacher said at Tuesday’s council meeting that now is the time to “pause briefly” to make the determination before moving ahead. He referenced a community meeting last week on the green space which previously was home to the city’s junior high school, at the corner of West Wooster and South Church streets. While the meeting was productive, there are questions remaining, Aspacher said. Council member Bruce Jeffers agreed. “It seems like a reasonable approach,” he said, suggesting that some building schematics could help clarify questions. However, city resident Margaret Montague reminded council about a comment made at last week’s public meeting about trying to squeeze both the building and town square into one corner. The result could be…


More than just black and white

Diana Patton was keenly aware as a child that she did not fit neatly into the race boxes for being white or black. She was reminded of this daily as she was followed home from school by girls taunting that she state her race. “Are you white or are you black,” the girls would demand. Patton, whose mother was black and father was white, would later realize that her racial identity couldn’t be defined by some Census Bureau box. Patton was the keynote speaker at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. program on Friday hosted by the Bowling Green Human Relations Commission at the Wood County District Public Library. The speaker, who was vice president and general counsel for the Toledo Fair Housing Center, is working to finish her book called, “Inspiration in My Shoes.” She earned her law degree at the University of Toledo, where she also ran track. Patton’s mother, the grandchild of a sharecropper, married a white man in 1958. Her father was disowned by his family for his decision, she said. Her “momma” was pregnant with her sixth child, Patton, in 1968 when King was assassinated. “It was as if a bomb went off,” Patton said…