Articles by Jan Larson McLaughlin

No illegal “skimmer” devices found in Wood County during sweep

The Wood County Auditor’s office participated in Ohio’s recent statewide sweep and no illegal “skimmer” devices were found in the county.  The sweep represents a continuation of the ongoing inspections that the auditor’s office conducts in a protection effort to prevent credit card fraud as a result of information theft at the pump.  A total of 64 counties participated in the coordinated search at nearly 1400 stations checking over 12,000 pumps. To this time 35 skimmer devices in 16 counties across the state have been found since last October.  The auditor’s office has issued an advisory to the gas stations in this county and continues to encourage operators and managers to protect customers by performing daily checks at the pump to ensure the safety of their customer’s credit information and combat crime.  This year nine “Skimmer Summits” throughout the state have also been hosted by county auditors to raise awareness of this danger. Consumers should know that paying for gas with cash is always the safest option at the pump.  Using a credit card is safer than using a debit card, because customers who use their debit cards risk their PIN numbers being stolen.  Motorists should use pumps near the attendant, as criminals often target pumps further from view.  Anything that seems out of place or indicates that a pump has been tampered with should be reported.


Help offered for safe drug disposals at home

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When you look in your medicine cabinet, how many old prescription bottles are looking back at you? Maybe there are some pain pills for post surgery recovery. Or maybe there’s some antibiotic you forgot to finish as you recovered from an infection. Wood County residents now have a save way to dispose of old prescriptions. Deterra drug pouches that deactivate drugs are being given away by the Wood County Educational Service Center. The zip-lock pouches deactivate drugs effectively, safely and quickly, according to Milan Karna, program coordinator with Wood County Prevention Coalition. “The compounds of the drugs are rendered useless by the carbon inside,” Karna said. Though some drug drop-offs are available at law enforcement agencies in the county, the Deterra packets can be used at home. The pouch top is ripped off, drugs poured in, water added, then zipped tight and disposed. Liquid medications can also be placed in the pouches. The packets are biodegradable, Karna said. This option is better than throwing pills in the trash or flushing them down the toilet, where the medications can make it into waterways, he said. And it’s much better than keeping old prescriptions in the medicine cabinet, where they can be tempting to kids – even good kids. Across the nation, prescription meds like these are finding their way into “skittles” parties, according to Andrea Boxill, deputy director of the Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team. Kids collect random pills from home and make a potluck of them at parties. An estimated 2,500 juveniles start taking opioids every day – and many of those are prescription drugs, Karna said. “We don’t want someone to…


‘Buddy Benches’ to make BG playgrounds more friendly for lonely kids

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   School recess is supposed to be a fun break from the confines of the classroom for elementary students. But for some kids, the playground is a lonely place. It was like that for Aleksander Ostrowski, a third grader at Kenwood Elementary School in Bowling Green. “Aleks came to me and said he had no one to play with and just walked around” during recess, said his dad Chris Ostrowski. So the Ostrowski family started thinking about how to make the school playground a friendlier place for kids. They had heard about Buddy Benches before, and started doing some research. The bench idea got started in the U.S. by a 10-year-old boy named Christian Bucks who was apprehensive about moving to Germany for his dad’s job. One of the schools there had a buddy bench – a place where a child could sit if he had no one to play with, and other kids would take it as a signal to ask him to play. Christian ended up not moving to Germany, but he did start spreading the Buddy Bench concept across the U.S. And soon, each elementary in Bowling Green may have its own Buddy Bench. “I want all the elementaries to do it,” Chris Ostrowski said, since every school undoubtedly has children facing the awkward problem of having no one to play with during recess. The benches are intended to give kids a safe, nonjudgmental place to retreat, and to encourage other kids to reach out to them. “It really teaches kids the importance of social interaction – the inclusion, the tolerance,” Ostrowski said. The idea for the benches has actually…


Ashley Furniture plans to open in BG by November

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ashley Furniture store plans to soon furnish a store here in Bowling Green. On Wednesday evening, the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals approved a variance request from the home furnishings store. Ashley Furniture applied for variance to put up a larger sign than permitted 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. Members of the Zoning Board of Appeals questioned Ashley Furniture representatives about the hardship that the sign restrictions placed on the company. Company officials said the larger sign would be proportionate to the 24,000 square foot store, and would be able to be seen from the road, Sayler said. The board agreed to allow the variance. Company officials reported the furniture store may be open by November. Ashley Furniture has had a distribution center in Bowling Green since 2006. 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. And having a retail store in the same community as the warehouse will make it more convenient for customers, she added. “It seemed like a nature fit,” Sayler said this morning. Also moving into the same strip of stores is a Rapid Fire Pizza restaurant, which will be located just to the south of Ashley…


Opiate addictions treated like disease, not choice

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Matt Bell knew he had hit rock bottom when he sat in his mother’s garage with a gun in his mouth. “I just wanted to die,” Bell told an audience at Bowling Green State University Wednesday evening. “The only reason I didn’t pull the trigger is because I didn’t want her to find me like that.” Bell was one of the lucky ones. Every day in Ohio, eight people die from opiate related overdoses. “Those are good people, who got sucked in,” he said during the program on heroin and opiates. The opiate problem has been going on for more than a century, according to Andrea Boxill, deputy director of the Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team. But it didn’t seem to matter when Asians used it as they built the railroads across the nation. Or when poor African Americans and Appalachians returned from the Vietnam War using it. But now it’s different. “It’s the first time it’s affected young, white, affluent people,” Boxill said. Ohio has the distinction of ranking second in the nation for overdose deaths. Bell was almost one of those statistics. He grew up with an idyllic childhood in a middle class family in Walbridge. “I went to a good school. I got straight As. I played sports. I went to church.” He had a loving family that ate dinner together each evening. He stayed away from drugs and alcohol and even dumped his girlfriend after he heard a rumor that she had smoked a cigarette. But then he went from his small school to St. Francis, where there was much more competition. His freshman year, his father was…


Park district to preserve farm, restore wetlands

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Doug and Mary Ellen Pratt sat on the porch of their farmhouse as people started showing up for the Wood County Park District meeting Tuesday. They gazed out on their cornfield as they talked about their plans to donate their property to the park district to preserve it for future generations. “We didn’t want it to turn into that,” Doug Pratt said, pointing at the roofs in a nearby housing subdivision. They guaranteed that won’t happen by turning over 160 acres of fields and farm homestead to the park district. Bob Hawker, park board president, praised the Pratts for their generosity and appreciation of parks. After Tuesday’s park board meeting, the board members toured the land and house that the Pratt’s were leaving to local citizens. For nearly two centuries, the farm settled by William Pratt in Perrysburg Township has stayed in the family’s care. The 160 acres of fields and farm homestead are split by Hull Prairie Road, just north of Roachton Road. The farmland is almost completely surrounded by housing developments, and will soon be neighbor to the newest Perrysburg school. The Pratts asked that the park district dedicate about 40 acres for sports fields, then use the remaining 120 acres for trails, trees, a pond, cross country skiing and picnic areas. The couple asked only that the park district be good stewards to their land. “Preserve it as open land and provide a place for recreation for years to come,” and preserve the family name, Mary Ellen Pratt asked. The 160-acre park area will be the second largest county park, next to the Bradner Preserve, and is estimated to…


Ohio swing state status comes with privilege & pain

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ohio is just a face in the crowd of 50 states most years. But every fourth year, we have bragging rights that our votes truly count. As Ohioans, we get showered with attention every presidential election – and unlike citizens in New York or California, we matter. That’s because Ohio has picked winners in presidential elections 28 out of 30 times since 1896. “Ohio, hands down is the most important,” said Melissa Miller, political science professor at Bowling Green State University. “We have the best record of swinging to the winner.” Ohio isn’t just a bellwether state, it is THE bellwether state, Miller said Tuesday. And this year, we may well be the swingingest of the swing states. “We could be the Florida of 2000,” she said. Miller will be giving a presentation for the public about Ohio’s status as a swing state, Wednesday at 7 p.m., at Zoar Lutheran Church, 314 E. Indiana Ave., in Perrysburg. Miller will talk about Ohio’s role as a battleground state – which puts its residents in the bulls eye for both Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s campaigns. The latest polls which include all four candidates – Clinton, Trump, the Libertarian’s Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein – show Clinton and Trump incredibly close in Ohio. “They’ve been neck and neck for a long time,” she said. And the campaigns know more about Ohio than many Ohioans do. They know that Ohio most closely maps the national popular vote. The average deviation has only been off by 2.2 percent in the last 30 elections, Miller said. They know Ohio most often puts the winner…


BG to start flushing and testing fire hydrants Sept. 19

The City of Bowling Green’s Water Distribution Division will begin the process of flushing fire hydrants throughout the city’s water distribution system. This work will begin on Sept. 19, and will be on-going for several weeks occurring daily, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Work will begin within the 4th Ward. During the program, water consumers may experience rusty or discolored water. This condition is temporary with water quality returning to normal as flushing is completed. Customers are encouraged to check their cold water supply prior to using the water. If discoloration is discovered, customers should flush their cold water line only for a short period until the discoloration clears. Although the discolored water is not harmful to drink, it may stain light-colored clothes laundered in it. For this reason, consumers are advised to monitor the cold water for discoloration. Residents experiencing problems may pick up laundry rust remover from the municipal water distribution office at 324 N. Maple St. from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays. The City of Bowling Green apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause local water consumers. However, the flushing and testing program is necessary to ensure proper fire hydrant operation and high quality water. During this process, city crews will be working in and near the road. Motorists are encouraged to slow down and use caution when approaching city crews performing this work. For additional information on the fire hydrant flushing and testing program, visit the city’s website or call the Water/Sewer Division at 419-354-6277. #


BG wastewater rates not keeping up with costs

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wastewater is not exactly viewed as a prized commodity, like water or electricity. But Bowling Green officials learned Monday evening that they aren’t charging enough for their wastewater services. “Wastewater is kind of a weird animal,” Bowling Green Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell said Monday afternoon. Unlike water and electric, for which customers are charged more when the city delivers more – with wastewater the city charges for taking away a used product.  “There’s little ability to grow sales.” The city recently hired a consultant to look at the current wastewater rate structure, and look at the expenses to operate the city’s wastewater plant. The study found that the city is undercharging its customers. “We not currently collecting enough to fund the utility,” O’Connell said. The results of the study were presented to the city’s board of public utilities, with recommendations that revenues need to increase by about 21 percent in order to meet the projected 2020 revenue requirements. “We need to have a rate adjustment,” O’Connell said. The rate hikes will be spread out over four years, with 5 or 6 percent increases each year. The wastewater study also noted that the city’s residential and industrial customers are currently subsidizing the commercial and wholesale customers. Consequently, the commercial and wholesale customers will see larger increases than the residential and industrial users. “You don’t want those numbers to get too far out of whack,” O’Connell explained. As is typical, the board of public utilities will be given some time to digest the wastewater report before voting on any rate increase plan. O’Connell expects the board to make a decision at its Oct….


Child Passenger Safety Seat Awareness Week

(As submitted by Safe Communities of Wood County) Safe Communities of Wood County announced that there have been 8 fatal crashes to date in 2016 in Wood County compared to 10 from this time last year. September 18-24 is Child Passenger Safety Seat Awareness week. In Wood County, there were no fatalities involving children under the age of 13 in calendar year 2016. Child safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers. Car seats are most effective when installed properly in your vehicle and used correctly. It is essential for parents to make sure their child safety equipment in their vehicles is current with state and federal regulations and is installed properly. Residents of Wood County are encouraged to contact either Wood County Hospital or Safe Kids of Greater Toledo to schedule a car seat inspection.


BG recycling efforts trashed with 35% garbage

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ken Rieman is accustomed to handling some pretty disgusting stuff. But lately, his job is enough to test even the toughest of stomachs. Last week, as he sorted through items at the Bowling Green Recycling Center, he came across raw hamburger squirming with maggots, dirty diapers and used feminine hygiene products. In the past, the amount of trash placed in residential recycling bins has averaged anywhere from 7 to 18 percent. But in the last couple weeks, that amount has jumped up to 35 percent. “That’s totally insane. We can’t handle that,” Rieman said. “That’s what I call abusing the system.” Rieman thinks he knows the reason behind the increase. He believes it’s an unintended consequence of the city’s new trash bin rules. He suspects the city requiring garbage bin lids to be closed is leading people with overflowing trash bins to sneak their extra garbage into their recycling bins. “The only explanation I have is the city trash rules,” he said. “They’ve said the lid has to be closed, so where does the trash go now?” On Friday, he stood at the Bowling Green Recycling Center, hand sorting items from bags that city residents had placed in their recycling bins. He sifted through cigarette butts, a filthy towel, footstool, used kitty litter, disc brakes, a broken scooter and rocks. “Anyone who thinks I ought to be sorting for recyclables is welcome to take my job,” Rieman said. But Bowling Green Public Works Director Brian Craft isn’t jumping to any conclusions that the new trash rules are causing the problem. “Trash in recycling has always been a problem,” particularly at the beginning…


Time’s up for parking meters replaced by kiosks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Lilly Hinebaugh stood in front of the parking kiosk, reading the instructions. “Oh my God,” she said in response to the command that she enter her license plate number on the digital pad. So she sent her friend back to the car. “Can you go over and yell it to me?” “This is annoying,” said Hinebaugh, a BGSU student from Huron. She wasn’t alone. Monday was the first day that the new parking kiosks were in operation in the city parking lots behind the first block of South Main Street, on the east side. Three kiosks have taken the place of the individual parking meters, and require the motorists to punch in their license plate numbers as they pay. Rebeca Olivarez also was caught off guard. “I didn’t know my number. I had to go back. It was kind of a hassle,” she said. “It was easier to use a meter.” However, Olivarez said she liked the option of using a credit card with the kiosk. “That’s good if you don’t have change.” And she realized that like anything different, it takes time to get accustomed to it. “It’s just new,” she said. The three kiosks are located behind SamB’s restaurant, at the parking entrance on East Wooster Street, and near the parking entrance on Clough Street. Large electronic signs have been erected in the lot now to notify people of the changes. That didn’t help Traci Rodgers, one of the drivers unlucky enough to end up with a ticket on her car. “I didn’t know I had to pay,” she said, as she walked around the lot with the yellow ticket…


State Democrats point out difference between tax cuts and tax shifts

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Tax cuts sound great – until communities realize the “cuts” are just shifts from the state to them. A group of Ohio House Democrats swung by Bowling Green during a statewide tour on Thursday, telling citizens to not fall for the “tax cut” promises. They joined up with House of Representatives candidate Kelly Wicks at Grounds for Thought to share their message. In an effort to reduce taxes, the state merely shifted responsibilities to local communities and schools, the Democrats said. It works like this: the state looks like the good guy by collecting lower taxes from residents and businesses, then the state slashes the money it previously sent to local governments and schools. That means schools need to pass more levies to pay for equipment and buildings. Libraries need to pass more levies to pay for books and bookmobiles. Municipalities need to pass more levies to pay for fire trucks, parks and roads. And college students have to pay fees for services that were previously part of the tuition, and walk away with degrees and debts up to $80,000. Meanwhile the state still looks like the good guy, and citizens are angry with local government, schools and colleges for asking for more money. The city of Bowling Green took an annual $1.3 million hit with cuts in the Local Government Fund and loss of estate and CAT taxes. “That doesn’t make sense that we are putting that much pressure” on local government and citizens, Ohio House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn said. “We want to make government in Columbus work for you, not against you.” This week on Labor Day, while the…


Zoning change would not take buildings to new heights

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials want to change the zoning code on building heights – not to raise limits, but to limit the questions raised. An amendment has been proposed that would eliminate the maximum floor limitation for all zoning districts. But the zoning would maintain the maximum height limitations. The number of floors would still be regulated by Wood County Building Inspection, which enforces the Ohio Building Code. According to Bowling Green Planning Director Heather Sayler, the change would alleviate some confusion caused by the city’s current zoning which poses limits on the number of floors and the height of buildings. The issue came up again earlier this year when a Hilton hotel was proposed at the site of the former Victory Inn at 1630 E. Wooster St. That proposal exceeded the city’s height and story limits, and the Zoning Board of Appeals rejected the request for a variance. The proposed hotel was 65 feet tall, five feet taller than allowed, and five stories high, one story higher than allowed in B-2 general commercial zoning. The proposed hotel would have been a relatively new Hilton product called Home 2, which offers extended stays. The change in the zoning language would allow a hotel to have five floors, as long as the height of the building did not exceed 60 feet. Sayler said she is unsure if the Hilton hotel project is still a possibility. The developers had submitted a new proposal that reduced the hotel height to 60 feet. The new zoning language would allow the desired five stories, as long as it complied with the 60-foot limit. However, Sayler said the developers…


180th Fighter Wing to host 9/11 ceremony

(As submitted by the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard) The 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, will host a 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, at Northwest Ohio’s 9/11 Memorial, currently under construction at the 180FW, beginning at 10:00 a.m. The Ceremony, commemorating the 15th anniversary of the attacks on our great nation, will include a flag ceremony, hoisting the flag on the new flagstaff at the center of the memorial, remarks from Col. Kevin Doyle, 180FW Commander, Mr. Steve Way, Principle Director of DGL Consulting Engineers and TRACE Executive Board Member, and Mrs. Wendy Gramza, President of the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce. Concluding the ceremony, Mr. Brian Lauderman, Project Manager for jdi Group and TRACE Project Manager for the memorial will conduct a walk-through of the memorial, highlighting each artifact of the memorial as well as a special musical presentation from the Springfield High School Marching Band. Members of the 180FW worked diligently to collect various artifacts for the memorial to include steel beams from the World Trade Center, limestone from the pentagon and soil from Pennsylvania where Flight 93 crashed. The memorial, designed as a sun dial, will also include locally, hand-blown glass pieces representing the 2,977 lives lost in the attacks. TRACE – Toledo Regional Architects, Contractors & Engineers, along with support from other Toledo community partners are working together to engineer and construct their vision and plan to complete the permanent memorial by Sept. 11, 2017, the 16th anniversary of the attacks. For more information about the memorial, visit: http://web.toledochamber.com/cwt/external/wcpagestrace/what/911_memorial.aspx