Articles by Jan Larson McLaughlin

Pregnant women advised to avoid travel to Zika virus areas

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Women who are pregnant, or intending to get pregnant, are being advised to restrict their travel to avoid the Zika virus. The Wood County Health District is following CDC instructions and suggesting travel to the Caribbean, Central America and South America be avoided for pregnant women. No vaccine exists for the Zika virus, which has been connected with cases of microcephaly (small heads with incomplete brain development) in infants. Anyone with concerns about traveling can check out the CDC’s website for any travel health notices at In December 2015, Puerto Rico reported its first confirmed Zika virus case. Some Zika cases have been reported by people returning to the U.S. from international travels, but the virus has not yet been transmitted in the U.S. “There is no evidence anyone that has Zika in the U.S. got it in the U.S. They all traveled to other areas,” said Pat Snyder, of the Wood County Health District. The virus is spread by mosquitoes. But according to Snyder, the type of mosquito known to transmit Zika is rarely seen in this region. “It’s not too common in Ohio,” she said. “That doesn’t mean that couldn’t change.” The virus is primarily a concern for pregnant women. “Most people inflicted with the virus have no symptoms,” Snyder said. The most common symptoms of the Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes), muscle pain and headaches. The illness is usually mild, lasting for several days to a week. People traveling to areas where the virus has originated should take precautions, according to the health district. Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite mostly during the daytime. So people are advised to use insect repellents, and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants if weather permits. They are also advised to use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside, or sleep under a mosquito bed net if necessary. General Zika Info: Fact Sheets:

East Side may get revitalization plan

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Neglected and abused housing on Bowling Green’s East Side may soon be addressed in a revitalization plan. Bowling Green City Council heard the first reading Monday evening of a plan to contract with consultants to develop a strategic revitalization plan for the northeast and the southeast neighborhoods of the city. “We’ve been talking about the need to revitalize these neighborhoods,” council member Daniel Gordon said after the meeting. The decline of the housing stock around Bowling Green State University has been going on for years, Gordon said. “The city has not intervened,” he said. Much of the traditional single family housing has been converted into rental units. “When you have that unbalance created,” the housing problems worsen, Gordon said. Council member Sandy Rowland said she has been a strong advocate of getting the revitalization plan moving. “I know what the situation on the East Side is with housing,” she said. Since she works in the real estate industry, Rowland said she is aware the problems don’t stop at Main Street which divides the east and west sides of the city. “It affects the entire city,” she said, after the meeting. When the city recently updated its land use plan, the consultant ranked revitalization of the East Side was high on the priority list, Rowland said. More and more of the single-family homes close to the university are being converted into rentals. “And when those wonderful homes are turned into rentals, they rapidly deteriorate.” Consequently, fewer and fewer homes appeal to young couples and young professionals looking to purchase homes, Rowland said. Gordon is hoping that the revitalization plan is more than conceptual and has some real teeth. One possibility would be the creation of revolving loans for homeowners wanting to spruce up their structures. “There have to be some incentives,” Rowland said.

BG to use bugs to cut phosphorus

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is going to enlist the help of bugs to treat its wastewater. Brian O’Connell, director of public utilities, told city council Monday evening that the city would be paying $126,000 for a biological phosphorus removal project. The project will involve making changes to the aeration and “tricking” microscopic bugs already in to wastewater to eat the phosphorus before it leaves the plant. Phosphorus is one of the culprits blamed for the algal bloom crisis in Lake Erie in the summer of 2014. Phosphorus got to the lake from sources such as sewer plants, farm fields and lawn chemicals. According to O’Connell, by using a biological rather than chemical treatment, the water downstream will benefit. “We’re going to use the bugs in our wastewater plant to consume the phosphorus,” he said. The change is not being required by the Ohio EPA, but O’Connell said environmental regulations are all pointing in that direction. “We are trying to be proactive,” he said. O’Connell said after the meeting that the change should cut the phosphorus that leaves the plant in half. Also at Monday’s meeting, council approved plans for working with the Ohio Department of Transportation for resurfacing the city’s portion of Ohio 105 from Bowling Green’s east side to Ohio 199. During the citizen comments portion of the meeting, Diane Vogtsberger asked council questions about its plans to hire a consultant to do a site assessment of the green space on West Wooster Street which was formerly the site of the junior high school. Council President Mike Aspacher answered her questions, saying Poggemeyer Design Group would be paid $3,200 for the site assessment, creating three artistic renderings of possible uses. There is no timeline for the assessment, he said. The decision to hire the consultant was made by Aspacher, Mayor Dick Edwards and City Administrator Lori Tretter following a public meeting about the proposed use of the green space.

Bill protects domestic violence victims’ addresses

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   In 2009, to punish his ex-wife, James Mammone III stabbed to death their two young children in their carseats, then fatally shot his former mother-in-law in Canton. Testimony for Ohio House Bill 359 stated Mammone was able to commit these acts after using public records to find his ex-wife’s address. The bill, co-sponsored by State Rep. Tim Brown, R-Bowling Green, is designed to keep addresses of former crime victims confidential. The legislation allows for victims of domestic violence, rape, sexual battery, menacing by stalking and human trafficking to safely register to vote while keeping their home address confidential. The victims would be assigned an Address Confidentiality Program number that they can use instead of their home address when filling out an election ballot. Brown said members of the House were moved by the compelling testimony about the Mammone case. “You could have heard a pin drop,” in the chambers, he said. “It was an earthshaking story to hear.” Since vehicle and voter registrations are public records, many domestic violence victims who have escaped their abusers often choose to not register to vote or participate in other government registrations out of fear their abuser will be able to find them. Under this legislation, any personal information about a victim who participates in the Address Confidentiality Program is exempt from the public record. “Victims of crime should be able to vote and carry on with their lives without fear that their attacker can track them down through a public record,” Brown said. The Secretary of State’s office will administer this program by assigning each participant with an ACP number and post office box that the victim can use as an official address for government functions. The only individuals who are able to access the participant’s full information are the county board of elections for the purposes of verifying voter eligibility and law enforcement officers with a legitimate government purpose. The program also permits participants to request their employers, schools or institutions of higher education use the postal box numbers assigned to them by the Secretary of State’s office. The bill now moves to the State Senate for consideration. Passage of the bill would make Ohio the 38th state to have such provisions for victims of domestic violence. “Since introduction of the bill, I have had victims call my office telling me they wish this…

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 gives back to the larger community of women and girls by providing and/or supporting leadership development opportunities and initiatives.

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 been a long time coming, first being discussed in the late 1970s. State Rep. Tim Brown, R-Bowling Green, spoke of the contributions of history buffs like Lyle Fletcher, Clark Duncan and the countless “barn bums” that helped preserve the site that was built in 1868. “This was on the path perhaps for the wrecking ball at one time,” Brown said. But public officials and historical society volunteers saw the value of the rambling brick building that was once used to house the county’s poor, elderly and ill. The price tag, however, for an elevator was out of reach, Nemeth said. “The cost was too much,” she said. “And since we’re a historic structure, we’re not required to make the building accessible.” But the elevator remained a goal – even though it seemed distant at times. “We wanted to make sure everybody could enjoy the museum,” she said. So now, 10 years after bringing her father-in-law to the museum, Nemeth gets to oversee the installation of the elevator in the “fabulous old building.” “My hard hat is my favorite accessory this winter,” she said. The elevator will be located on the back of the west wing of the building. A carport…

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 Army medic in World War II. When his father passed down the toy soldier collection to his son, Mazzarella tried to sell them to another collector. But instead, he came home with not only his dad’s collection, but several more pieces. He was hooked. The same was true for Donahue, whose initial collecting turned into a career in popular culture, which he teaches at Bowling Green State University. Donahue grew up in Maumee, in a home right behind the Fraternal Order of Eagles lodge. It was a great place for a young collector. He would go through the trash looking for different kinds of beer cans. He later traveled to other bars in the city to expand his collection. “I have hundreds and hundreds,” Donahue said, standing in front of a wall of cans. “This is only a small part of my collection.” His favorites are the more unusual ones, like the George Washington bicentennial can, the Cincinnati Reds Hudepohl, the J. R. Ewing can, and the Billy Beer can. He did not, for those wondering, drink his way through his collection. “I’m not much of a drinker. I’m more of a collector,” Donahue said. And it’s not just beer…

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 be surprised at how much they can reduce their costs,” Myers said. The sustainability rating goes far beyond recycling, but Myers said some students are particularly interested in conducting a trash audit of businesses. “There is very little recycling downtown,” she said. The sustainability project will also help students understand the complexities of “green” programs, and show that putting recycling bins downtown may not go far to solve trash issues. Myers is hoping that a type of logo can be created for those businesses which score well on the sustainability surveys, so they can be recognized for their efforts.  

‘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. And once started, it would be easy to continue every semester. “I think it’s commendable for the USG to be taking that on,” commission member Chris Ostrowski said. Tom Mellott, also on the commission, suggested that signs be erected identifying which group is responsible for which blocks. “I think it will help people understand that folks do care,” he said. Julie Broadwell, a commission member who lives on the East Side, was asked to identify the 10 city blocks most in need of being “adopted.” Barb Ruland suggested the commission could help by getting signage and providing bags for the trash. Only the areas between the sidewalks and streets would be picked up, so the students wouldn’t be entering private lawns. Mattiace pointed out that the project should be more than just trash pickup. “I don’t want the students to think they are garbage collectors for the city.” It was suggested that residents be notified of the pickups so they would not only be aware, but so they could join in the cleanups if they wished. Commission member Michael Oiler said he would introduce the project to Graduate Student Senate to see if that group would like to get on…

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 airports, Wasylyshyn said. Inmates will also go through the scans when they return from furloughs or court hearings, “just in case someone, somehow passed something to them,” he said. The decision to get a body scanner came after changes in the state that allow more serious criminals to be housed for longer periods in county jails, the sheriff said. “The type of inmates here have changed over the years.” The jail has also been the site of a couple overdoses by inmates, in cases where it hasn’t been determined if the prisoner had already taken the drugs prior to being jailed, or used them after being booked. Wasylyshyn said the scanning should rule out that the drugs were transported in by inmates. “Once the inmates know this is going on, the word will get out,” and attempts to smuggle drugs or weapons into the jail will decrease, the sheriff said.      

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 up in Bowling Green, being the sixth generation of his family here. “That’s part of the reason I care so deeply about my community.” Espen starts his days early, getting to work around 5 a.m. when the office is still quiet. From his office he has led crusades for sewers to replace faulty septic systems. During his three decades in environmental health, all the villages in the county had sewer systems installed, and an estimated 15,000 septic systems were eliminated. “That made a big difference in water quality,” he said. He helped with efforts to shut down all the abandoned dumps in the county. “We got all the tire dumps cleaned up.” Espen’s team kept pushing for smoking ban enforcement until it became commonplace in the county. “That was quite a challenge,” he said. He refused to back down as excuses were made to delay cleanup of the old beryllium site in Luckey. “Thank God, we’re going to see something happening there this summer.” And in Lake Township after the tornado flattened homes and businesses, he was there helping people rebuild their lives. He worked alongside Wood County Emergency Management Agency Director Brad Gilbert in Lake Township, at an oil…

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 in 2015. A small increase was seen in single family housing starts, with 19 in 2014 and 26 in 2015. Sayler announced the Wood County Health District inspectors will start the housing survey in the city in early spring. Council also heard about an annexation request for 31 acres at the northeast corner of Haskins and Newton roads, across from the city’s community center. A request has been submitted to change the zoning for the property to institutional to allow for an assisted living facility to be built. According to the request, submitted by HCF Realty of Bowling Green, the new facility would consolidate existing buildings at 1021 and 850 West Poe Road. In other business, Utilities Director Brian O’Connell reported that Bowling Green will be ready to supply water to the village of Waterville by July or August. Also at the meeting, Tom Clemons, director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drugs and Mental Health Services Board, presented plaques for Police Chief Tony Hetrick, along with officers Noel Crawford, Jeremy Lauer and Ray Baer for their efforts handling a person with mental health issues. The officers treated the person with respect, and kept a situation from becoming violent, Clemons said….

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 enough. “We’re always looking for drivers,” BG Superintendent Francis Scruci said. But the job does have some downsides. Drivers work split shifts, transporting students a couple hours in the morning and a couple hours in the afternoon. And the passengers aren’t always the best behaved. “It really is a trying job,” Schooley said, explaining the drivers must keep their attention on the road, while maintaining order on the bus. “You have 60 kids behind you and no eyes in the back of your head.” Anyone interested in the job may submit an electronic application. Driving histories and background checks will be investigated. Then prospective drivers take a 15-hour class which covers topics from driving safety, to handling blood-borne pathogens, to rending First Aid. Applicants learn how to best handle behavioral issues. “You need to know what you’re going to do before it occurs,” Schooley said. Prospective drivers learn to inspect parts of the bus, like tires, lights and electrical circuits. They learn maneuvers for pulling onto highways, crossing railroad tracks, unloading students, and pulling over for emergencies. Applicants then take four written tests, including questions on mountain driving, “though that’s not critical here,” Schooley said. The final training includes riding…

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 iron lines. The total investment is pegged at $2 billion. The west side project in Bowling Green affected 930 customers, replacing 37,000 feet of lines, and costing $4.1 million. The east side project will affect 365 customers, replacing 10,000 feet at a cost of $1.8 million. Columbia Gas officials hope to have the east side project completed by the end of 2016. Kozak conceded that the west side project was the focus of several complaints by residents. He added that his company learned from that project, and intends to do better on the east side. “We need to work better with the city,” he said. This time around, the gas company will have a full-time person available for city residents to contact with concerns. Though some areas of grass and concrete have not been restored on the west side, Kozak said Columbia Gas is committed to fixing those areas. “We want to leave the area we touched as good or better than we found it,” he said. A public meeting was held with east side residents last week to explain the project. Kozak said citizens will be notified with door tags as the work nears their neighborhoods.