Articles by Jan Larson McLaughlin

New elevator to make history more accessible

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   More than a century ago, the Wood County Infirmary was a place of refuge for the sick, the elderly and the poor. Now, a historical museum, the site is again reaching out to those who need a little extra help. After months of renovations, the Wood County Historical Center will soon be fully accessible to the public. And museum staff will no longer have to disappoint physically handicapped guests by informing them that their visits will be limited to the first floor, explained Director Dana Nemeth. By the end of September, the historical center will be furnished with an elevator and handicapped accessible restrooms. “This building was meant to serve the community when it was a social welfare site,” said Holly Hartlerode Uppal, curator of the museum. “We gave people an opportunity to start over.” Though some have questioned the renovations to the historical building, Hartlerode Uppal believes the operators of the county infirmary would approve. “They would be very excited about all the improvements,” she said. “They did their best to take care of people and we are doing our best now.” The $1.2 million renovation, assisted by the state and county, has been extensive. The elevator will make stops at the basement, ground floor, first and second floors, and the attic. Because the west wing of the historical center is a couple steps lower than the center and east wings, the project required that indoor ramps be built on the first and second floors. The elevator will be accessible from the outside of the back of the building. A connecting driveway is being extended from the parking lot to the east, an ADA parking lot is being added just to the west of the elevator, and the driveway on the west will be expanded so buses can make the turn to access the elevator. The renovations also created four handicapped accessible restrooms, and a larger meeting room that can be rented out. The project will not only make it easier for people to move about the museum, but also make it easier for people to move some really heavy exhibit pieces. In fact, one room in the west wing is full right now of very heavy artifacts that staff would rather move with the aid of the elevator. That includes a cast iron stove, two organs, three pianos, a model…


Ashley Furniture plans store on South Main Street

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A home furnishings store is looking to make a home here in Bowling Green. Ashley Furniture has applied for a zoning variance to put up a large sign at 816 S. Main St., in the same strip of stores as Big Lots and Subway. The location was formerly a Hallmark store. “They just want a larger sign to be seen from the road,” said Bowling Green Planning Director Heather Sayler. The variance request will go before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Sept. 14, at 7 p.m., in the city Administrative Services Building, at 304 N. Church St. Ashley Furniture has had a warehouse in Bowling Green for several years. The warehouse, located in Bellard Business Park on the north end of the city, is currently undergoing an expansion to double its size, Sayler said. The retail Ashley Furniture site is leasing the South Main Street space from Southwood Plaza LLC/Tolson Enterprises, in Toledo. “Having a filled-in space is wonderful,” Sayler said Friday morning. And having a retail store in the same community as the warehouse will make it more convenient for customers, she added. Also moving into the same strip of stores is a Rapid Fire Pizza restaurant, which will be located just to the south of Ashley Furniture. The zoning variance for Ashley Furniture was requested by Advance Sign Group, to allow the construction of a wall sign that would be 191.42 square feet in size, which is 79.42 square feet larger than allowed in the city’s B-2 general commercial zoning district. The request also asks for permission for the sign to extend 4 feet, 2 inches above the roof line, which is not allowed under zoning. The application stated that since the façade of the building is being remodeled for the furniture store, the larger sign will be better suited to the scale of the new façade. The sign on the building, reading “Ashley Homestore Select,” will be the only sign for the new business. Ashley Furniture currently has retail locations in Findlay and in Spring Meadows shopping center near Toledo.


Bringing solar power out of the dark ages

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ohio may be the nation’s leading solar manufacturer, but some state leaders’ attitudes about solar are back in the dark ages, according to Bill Spratley, executive director of Green Energy Ohio. However, Bowling Green could be a “game changer” – building the largest solar field in the state. “Next year, Bowling Green, Wood County will be the mecca.” It’s appropriate that Bowling Green take the lead, Spratley said, since the city was the first to erect utility scale wind turbines in 2003. Maybe the Bowling Green solar field can convince politicians that harnessing the power of the sun is no longer radical. “They still think solar is out in the future. Solar is here now,” Spratley said. “We’ve got to get past these buggy whip manufacturers.” Spratley said he runs into solar investors around the country, curious about Ohio’s reluctance to support solar power. “What the hell is happening in Ohio,” he said they ask him. The state legislature has frozen Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, he said. Consequently, renewable energy comprises just 3 percent of the overall mix of electricity sources in the state. “We need to send a message to free the hostages in Columbus,” he said of possible solar funding to “get power to the people.” Spratley was one of many speakers at the “Building Big Solar Across Ohio” conference in Bowling Green on Thursday. He was joined by leaders of renewable energy companies, representatives of solar companies, officials from communities using solar power, and green energy advocates. Solar power used to be “for off-the-wall hippies,” said David Dwyer, president of American Renewable Energy. But that is no longer the case. For those unable to access solar power on their roofs, community solar was created, according to Mark Wilkerson, of Clean Energy Collective. “Solar had to transcend politics,” said Wilkerson, who has worked in the solar industry for more than three decades. “It’s the extension of the American dream.” And it is working in some areas. Take the small town of Minster, with just 2,850 people. It was formerly famous for its Oktoberfest and winning sports titles. But now it’s also on the map for its 18-acre solar field which produces 4.2 MW of electricity. The conference pointed out the top 25 solar sites in Ohio, with the greatest number being in Southwest Ohio, and the greatest capacity in Northwest…


Wintergarden Park flush with excitement over restrooms

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For all those people who have wanted to bond with nature – only to have nature call at an inopportune time – there is now a public restroom at Wintergarden Park. No more using the port-a-pot. No more trying to get in the nature center on weekends, only to realize it’s locked. There was no ceremonial flush Thursday afternoon, just a collective appreciation by those gathered for the ribbon cutting at the new “Building on Nature” project. “We’ve been standing in line for a long time,” for this day, Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards said. Among those at the grand opening were members of the Bowling Green High School cross country team. “We run here every Thursday for the whole season,” coach Pat Carney said. “We’re going to use it more than most people.” Since the runners often get muddy on the Wintergarden trails, they usually used the port-a-potties rather than track dirt through the nature center. “They are very excited to have this facility,” Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley said of the team. They aren’t alone. After the ribbon cutting ceremony, some park patrons peeked into the unisex restroom and expressed relief that they no longer had to rely on a port-a-potty. “Sometimes I’d run home because I didn’t want to use it,” one woman said. Some walkers have asked if they can take their dogs in with them when they use the restroom. “Yes, you can take the dog in,” said Cinda Stutzman, natural resources specialist with the park and rec department. Next to the restroom is another feature that park patrons will find useful – a three purpose drinking fountain with spouts also for filling water bottles and one down low for dogs. While the public will no doubt appreciate the restroom portion of the new building, the park staff is pretty excited about the garage and maintenance area of the structure. “I have running water, and I can turn around without falling down,” Stutzman said. “I feel like I’m in the lap of luxury.” The building, which cost $113,000, is the first of a two-phase project at Wintergarden Park. The next phase will be remodeling inside the nature center. Otley, who said 170 donations were received for the first phase, thanked the community for making the building possible. “They support parks and recreation,” she said…


Environmentalists and farmers shouldn’t be at odds on Lake Erie

(As submitted by Mike Ferner, Coordinator Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie) Responding to your article, “Farmer asks County not to declare Lake Erie ‘impaired,’”  in the BG Independent News, it is important to say that “simple farmers,” as Mr. Drewes defines himself, and people who want to clean up Lake Erie are not enemies and in fact have much in common. I grew up and worked on farms in Richfield Twp., in western Lucas County, spending many summers hoeing corn, soy beans and sugar beets and baling hay.  In those days factory farming was unheard of and I know from my own experience that traditional farmers try to be good stewards of the land and water. Up until 20-some years ago, many more family farms supported the rural economy and grocery stores had plenty of milk, eggs, hamburger and pork chops without CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) even being imagined.   Today, the Ohio Farmers Union, representing a dwindling number of “simple farmers,” is very opposed to the radically unsustainable form of agriculture represented by CAFOs.  This industrial form of food production is the exception to a long tradition of farming methods and history shows it’s not necessary. “Only” 146 CAFOs in the Western Lake Erie Watershed generate an amount of animal waste equal to the sewage output of Chicago and Los Angeles combined — some 700,000,000 gallons annually.  That does not include an unknown number of “one-under” operations that stay just below the number of animals that requires registration with the EPA. The Ohio Dept. of Agriculture estimates 80-85% of excess nutrients going into Lake Erie are from agriculture and there can be little doubt that most of it comes from CAFOs. So we are faced with a big problem that will only get worse if we ignore it. Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie supports the same kind of cleanup for Lake Erie that is ongoing with the Chesapeake Bay.  The U.S. EPA is overseeing an inventory of all pollution sources, setting the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) from all sources that the bay can absorb and remain relatively healthy and a mandatory action plan with deadlines and report cards.  This process can be monitored at Chesapeake Progress and an important study on the economic benefits of cleaning up the Bay can be found here. The Chesapeake Bay history is important for us to heed, if we want to protect Lake Erie with all its environmental and…


BG spared from strange string of tornadoes

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For a couple hours Wednesday night, local residents sat in their basements with their eyes glued to weather radar. They tried to decipher the path of the tornadoes from the west, bracing for their possible arrival here. But when it was over, Bowling Green and Wood County survived the storm unscathed, according to local emergency response officials. “What a crazy night,” Wood County Emergency Management Agency Director Brad Gilbert said after the tornado warning was lifted for the county at 9:30 p.m. “It was a strange phenomenon tonight.” The tornado warning was followed by a thunderstorm warning and heavy rains. “We can handle that,” Gilbert said. Though tornadoes reportedly touched down in several places to the west, they seemed to have lost their punch when they reached this area. The National Weather Service reported “a lot of rotation on the radar,” Gilbert said. And trained weather spotters and firefighters called in a lot of strange weather. “I received a lot of reports of wall clouds, funnel clouds, but no tornado touching down. So that’s good.” Normally such weather is accompanied with lighting and heavy winds – but not tonight, he added. So Gilbert said he did not even get reports of power outages from the storm. “The good news is, as the storms came into Wood County the tornadoes dissipated,” said Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn. “I’m not aware of any damage.” But the county was prepared for the worst, with trained weather spotters, firefighters and ham radio operators on guard, the sheriff said. Bowling Green Fire Division had firefighters watching the skies on the west side of the city, Fire Chief Tom Sanderson said. “When we have a tornado watch, we send spotters out to the west edge of town,” Sanderson said. “If it turns to a warning, we bring them back in” to take shelter. “We didn’t see any tornadic activity” Wednesday evening, the chief said. Bowling Green Police Major Justin White said no damage or problems from the storm had been reported to him. “Actually, I’m down in the basement with my kids,” said White, who was not on duty at the time. The city avoided the high winds that hit other areas. “I think we were fortunate,” White said. The storm hit during the first week of classes for students at Bowling Green State University. According to BGSU…


Leaving legacy of learning & loving at Wood Lane

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When Melanie Stretchbery walks out on the floor of Wood Lane Industries, she is swarmed by workers wanting to give her hugs and high-fives. They talk about birthdays, knitting projects and their work day. These are the people who convinced Stretchbery to start her career working with the developmentally disabled 33 years ago. She didn’t plan this career path. “I was going to work in criminal justice,” she said, initially doing some work as a parole officer. But something didn’t feel right. “I didn’t feel hope working in corrections,” Stretchbery said. So she tried a new career path working with people with developmental disabilities. There, she found the hope she was looking for. “It’s everywhere,” Stretchbery said, as she rounds out her career as superintendent at Wood Lane. “There’s a feeling of hope and never giving up. The appreciation and gratitude for everything you have.” Though the individuals and families she worked with for years face profound challenges, she continued to be amazed at their approach to life. “They fight and never give up. I don’t see many bitter people. You just respect that.” Unlike other careers, where people come and go, work in developmental disability services often means working with people for their entire lives – from birth to death. “I feel very fortunate. I feel honored that families let me be with them and let me experience their triumphs and tragedies, and everything in between.” Stretchbery has watched many families go through the difficult decision of letting go of a person with developmental disabilities. That decision, to allow Wood Lane to help take care of a family member, takes an incredible amount of trust, she said. And it’s up to Wood Lane to live up to that faith, she said. The work also gave Stretchbery a chance to make real differences in individual lives. She recalled a resident at a Wood Lane group home, who had several challenging behaviors. In those days, before the practice was banned, staff would “take down” someone who was posing a risk to themselves or others. They would be restrained until they calmed. Stretchbery talked to the resident and asked him how it felt to be restrained. He curled up on the floor and pleaded “stop.” She checked his history, which revealed he had been abused. So Stretchbery tried another approach – she invited him…


BG Community Foundation seeks grant applications

(As submitted by Bowling Green Community Foundation) The Bowling Green Community Foundation is now accepting applications from non-profit organizations and school districts within the 43402 and 43403 zip codes for its 2016 grants program. Grants will range from $500 to $5000 to support projects to be implemented in calendar year 2017 that enhance the health, welfare, and vitality of the Bowling Green community. The application deadline is Oct. 15. Applications from 501(c )(3) organizations or from smaller programs that fall under the umbrella of 501(c )(3) organizations will be considered. Further details about the grant process as well as the actual grant application are available via the Foundation’s website, www.bgohcf.org, or by calling 419-352-0281 to leave a message for the administrative assistant. Founded in 2004 by a Chamber of Commerce Leadership BG class, the BG Community Foundation is part of the Toledo Community Foundation and is directed by a local board of trustees. Since 2007, 293 grants totaling $348,827 have been awarded to nonprofit organizations providing diverse services and programs that benefit Bowling Green residents. Tax-free charitable contributions provide the sole support of the Bowling Green Community Foundation’s mission. Citizens continue to make contributions that honor or memorialize loved ones while supporting nonprofit efforts.


BG parks may raise non-resident program fees

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Non-residents of Bowling Green have long paid extra for using city park and recreation services. But those fees may be bumped up if city residents pass the 2-mill park and recreation levy on the November ballot. On Tuesday evening, the Bowling Green Park and Recreation Board discussed raising the non-resident fees since city residents will be paying more through their property taxes if the levy passes. “Our citizens are supporting us with property taxes,” said Kristin Otley, city park and recreation department director. Currently, non-residents pay an extra $3 per child for a one-time event or program, and an extra $8 for a program that extends past one day. “We may need to adjust that slightly,” Otley told the board. Park and Rec Board President Jeff Crawford agreed that a fee increase would be reasonable for those people living outside the city. He asked that the staff come to the next board meeting with a recommended amount. Otley mentioned the options of raising the $3 and $8 fees by $1 or $2 each. The park and rec department has never gotten any pushback about the extra fees since most non-residents realize city residents are already paying on their property taxes. City residents also have the additional perk of getting priority signup status for programs. Some programs fill up quickly, so city residents are given first chance to register for those, Otley said. At the same time the board is considering raising non-resident fees for youth services, Otley suggested they may want to decrease the non-resident fee for adult programs. She explained that in the past, the park and rec department offered many more sport options for adults. So the extra $40 non-resident fee for a year made sense. But now only volleyball and men’s basketball programs remain, and the extra $40 non-resident fee is too steep for a lot of people considering the limited options. “It’s hurting some of our programming,” Otley said, and isn’t conducive with the goal of attracting more people to the city’s community center. “The leagues have somewhat suffered.” So next month, the board will also consider reducing those adult non-resident fees to the same as the new youth non-resident fees. In other business, the board got an update from recreation coordinator Ivan Kovacevic on summer programs. The movies in the park were a success, he said, with…


Wood Soil & Water Conservation District to meet

(As submitted by the Wood Soil & Water Conservation District) The Wood Soil & Water Conservation District is holding the 67th Annual Meeting & Awards Banquet at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center OARDC (4240 Range Line Rd. Custar) Saturday, September 10th  at 11:30 AM.  Tickets are available for $10 each. A buffet lunch in included and the election for two members to the district board of supervisors is open 11:30 AM– 1:00 PM. Ron Snyder, NACD Soil Health Champion, and staff will present “Soil your Undies.” Don’t miss it! Please contact the district office at 419-354-5517 or wcswcd@woodswcd.com by August 26th to RSVP. The Wood Soil & Water Conservation District is supervised by a board of five elected citizens and landowners of Wood County.  Each elected supervisor serves a three year term and volunteers their time in the interest of conservation for both the agricultural and urban communities throughout Wood County. Residents or landowners, firms and corporations that own land or occupy land in Wood County and are 18 years of age and older may vote for supervisor. A non-resident landowner, firm or corporation must provide an affidavit of eligibility, which includes designation of a voting representative, prior to casting a ballot. This year’s candidates for the Board of Supervisors are Dale H. Limes, and incumbents, Dennis Ferrell and Lee E.  Sundermeier. Please join us, too, at the district office (1616 E. Wooster St. Suite 32 Bowling Green, OH) for an Open House and to meet the candidates for the Wood SWCD board of supervisors on Thursday, September 1st 4:00-7:00 PM.   Enjoy  a hot dog and refreshments.  Talk with the candidates, current board members, and staff making decisions and promoting practices and programs to protect our local resources and keep Lake Erie clean. Request your absentee ballot Monday – Friday 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. or find the request form online at www.woodswcd.com.


Wood County Republican Women’s Club re-chartered

(As submitted by Wood County Republican Women’s Club) After seven years “off-line,” a historic Republican women’s club in Ohio has been re-chartered by the National Federation of Republican Women (NFRW). Originally active from 1935-2009, Wood County Republican Women’s Club was re-chartered in July with 13 members. Beverley Hirzel of Walbridge will lead the club as president this year. Club members meet the third Wednesday of the month at various locations. “The NFRW is pleased to welcome this club into our nationwide network of grassroots leaders,” NFRW President Carrie Almond said. “We look forward to working with Beverley and club members to promote Republican principles and elect Republican candidates during this 2016 election cycle and beyond.” Annual club dues are $30. These dues also cover membership in the NFRW and in the Ohio Federation of Republican Women. The club was reorganized this year with the goal of mentoring and educating Republican women voters and fostering greater unity within the party. For additional membership information or other details, contact Hirzel at njoyeachday1@sbcglobal.net. Founded in 1938, the NFRW has thousands of active members in local clubs across the nation, making it one of the largest women’s political organizations in the country. The grassroots organization works to promote the principles and objectives of the Republican Party, elect Republican candidates, inform the public through political education and activity, and increase the effectiveness of women in the cause of good government. For more information about the NFRW, visit www.nfrw.org.


Farmer asks county to not declare Lake Erie ‘impaired’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Mark Drewes tried to convince the Wood County Commissioners Tuesday to not fall for claims by city folk that farmers don’t care about the region’s water. He asked that the commissioners not jump on board with other regional officials asking that Lake Erie be designated as “impaired.” The self-professed “simple farmer” sat down in front of the county commissioners and handed out his charts showing phosphorus runoff rates, county livestock populations and maps of extensive soil sampling on his farm. The water issue became a very public matter in 2014 when the algae rendered Toledo water undrinkable for a few days. But according to Drewes, who farms near Hoytville in the southwest corner of Wood County, the water issue had already been a hot topic for the agricultural community. “We’ve been talking about it for years,” he said. “This problem is the No. 1 problem we face as farmers in Wood County.” But declaring the lake “impaired” will only make matters worse, the farmer said. “That is a very drastic measure,” said Drewes, who farms corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. He also works closely with large livestock operations, and serves on the Ohio Corn Growers Board. Drewes said he was troubled to see Toledo Councilman Mike Ferner ask the commissioners to help declare the lake as impaired, while implying that farmers don’t care about the water. “That’s absolutely incorrect,” he said. Drewes’ family has farmed the land for generations – and plans to continue for many more. So the water quality is important to them as well. “It’s something we think about every day,” he said. Both commissioners Joel Kuhlman and Craig LaHote asked Drewes how the “impaired” designation would hurt farmers – especially if they are already doing all they can to reduce algal blooms. If the lake is declared impaired, scientific studies will be conducted to determine where the phosphorus is originating. “We want to know where it’s coming from, so it can be addressed,” Kuhlman said. LaHote said that agriculture could benefit if studies show farm phosphorus isn’t as much of the problem as suspected. But Drewes said was skeptical of any studies. “Impaired status will push agriculture to its breaking point. We are regulated beyond belief,” he said.  “Let’s figure this thing out before we attack it. Let’s not attack it, then figure it out.” But Kuhlman said…


Makers of adult incontinence products to expand

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It’s a sad fact of life. As the nation’s population gets grayer, they have a greater need for adult absorbent products for incontinence. That means more business for a Wood County company that has been meeting those bladder control needs for more than 40 years. So the company, Principle Business Enterprises, is looking to expand in response to greater demands. The company, located north of Bowling Green, near Interstate 75 and Devils Hole Road, is planning a $4 million expansion which would add 47,000 square feet to the existing building. On Tuesday, the Wood County Commissioners approved an enterprise zone agreement with the company for 100 percent real and personal property tax abatements over 10 years. Principle Business Enterprises currently employs about 235 people, and will create at least five new jobs with the expansion. That estimate is very conservative since each new line at the plant will employ six or seven people. The firm produces various products for incontinence, including “Tranquility” and disposable swimwear, and footwear like Pillowpaws and slipper socks. “We are really making a difference in the lives of people with difficult physical challenges,” said Chuck Stocking, CEO of the company. “The bad news is people need our products,” Stocking said Tuesday to the commissioners. The good news is, the company is continuing to work on meeting the demands for adult absorbent products and wound care items. “We’ve had such consistent growth,” said Larry Jones, CFO of Principle Business Enterprises. “As the boomers shift into that period of their lives” when they have more physical needs, the company is expanding to meet them. “It’s a good problem to have,” Jones said of the company’s need to expand. Stocking also told the county commissioners that the company is now working with the Veterans Administration. “It took us seven years to crack the code on how to do business with the Veterans Administration,” he said. “We have a team working on better care for our veterans.” The long term vision for Principle Business Enterprises includes additional expansions, Stocking said. Jones said the company provides a safe and good work environment, so the longevity of its employees is quite high. Wood County Planning Commission Director Dave Steiner also said the company is a good neighbor. “They have been good corporate citizens as well.” As part of the enterprise zone agreement, Principle Business…


Heat may be gone, but high electric bills on the way

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The strings of hot days this summer have not only led to some discomfort, but they will also result in some higher electric bills for local residents. This past July finished in the top 20 percent of the hottest months for Ohio – with every day from July 5 through July 31 hitting above normal temperatures. Consequently, Bowling Green electric customers used 53 million kilowatt hours in July, which is a 21 percent increase from two months ago in May, and which surpassed July of 2012, one of the hottest months on record. “That is pretty high for us,” Bowling Green Utilities Director Brian O’Connell said of the kilowatt hours used. The high usage will not only result in high electric bills for the summer, but will also lead to increased rates next year. Bowling Green’s electric rates are based on a transmission charge and a capacity charge, O’Connell explained. The transmission charge for next year will be calculated based on the city’s peak energy consumption this year. The capacity charge is based on the average of a particular hour of electric usage during the top five peak days. That may not seem like a fair formula, O’Connell said, but that’s how rates are calculated. Bowling Green’s electric sees the greatest demands and peak days in hot weather since electric powers residential, commercial and industrial air conditioning. In the winter, many homes in the city area heated by natural gas, so the demands on the city’s electricity are not as great, O’Connell said. There is no risk that the city won’t be able to handle the electricity demands, he added. And there aren’t any risks of blackouts or rolling brownouts due to the peaking power usage. The problem isn’t that power won’t be there when needed – it’s that the rates will go up for next year when Bowling Green hits peak usage on extremely hot days this year. Earlier this summer, the city asked residents to conserve power in order to avoid rate increases. Customers are being asked to continue cutting back on electricity use whenever possible during the peak hours of 2 to 6 p.m. on extremely hot days, so the city can save on electricity costs next year, O’Connell said. “When customers can cut back on peak days, that can reduce the charge for next year,” O’Connell said. “If…


Uncooled school grueling for students and staff

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The library at Bowling Green High School was uncharacteristically popular during the first five days of school last week. It is air conditioned. But in other classrooms, the teachers were drenched with sweat and the students were drowsy from the heat. Clay Kalaf-Hughes’ classroom was the winner in the fan count – with seven working fiercely to cool the room in the early afternoon. “I get here super early, to try to get cool air in,” Kalaf-Hughes said. But it’s more of a psychological than actual relief. “It’s perception, that if it’s moving around, it’s cooling.” The temperatures – which have been measured at over 100 in some classrooms – make it difficult for even the most dedicated students to say focused in class. “It’s a struggle to have students concentrate in such a hot environment,” said Kalaf-Hughes, who teaches English and history. “It’s a real battle.” The high school is one of three Bowling Green City School buildings to not have air conditioning. Kenwood and Conneaut elementaries also have none, while the Middle School and Crim Elementary do have cooling. The first and last weeks of the school year can be brutal for students and staff in the sweltering buildings. Superintendent Francis Scruci has referred to the students as pools of butter sitting in the heat. The sauna like temperatures don’t make for a good learning – or teaching – environment. High School Principal Jeff Dever concurs. “It’s just a show stopper,” he said of the oppressive heat in the school. And that was even last week, when school was in its “honeymoon period” of the new year – a time when kids are excited about school and acclimated to heat from the summer. “Kids are attentive. They are trying,” he said. “But they are not operating at peak performance.” Dever pointed out that the hot conditions are not tolerated at most workplaces. “Almost every other building you go to in town is air conditioned.” One teacher, now retired, used to post a sign reading, “They air condition prisons.” But the solutions to cool the school are quite expensive since the building has no ductwork. Rough estimates for installing air conditioning just to the high school went as high as $15 million. So the superintendent looked for a temporary solution that might provide some relief until school buildings are renovated or…