Business

Road to climate control just got a lot steeper

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Advocates for climate change efforts already had a rough road ahead – and Donald Trump’s election has made the climb even steeper. But David Holmquist, a regional leader for Citizens Climate Lobby in the Chicago area, is no stranger to fighting against difficult odds. Unlike other climate legislation advocates who work with already converted Democrats, Citizens Climate Lobby takes a different strategy. This group tries to win over resistant Republicans. “If we want to get climate change legislation, we have to have Republicans on board,” Holmquist said Thursday as he spoke with the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club. So instead of being argumentative with conservatives, the climate lobby tries to convert Republicans with respect and reason. The group of volunteer lobbyists get a range of reactions from Republicans, from supportive to antagonistic. Holmquist was asked Thursday where U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, stood on that scale. Holmquist said he was uncertain – but wouldn’t tell even if he knew. The Citizens Climate Lobby keeps its efforts with individual legislators confidential, he added. “We have allies and we don’t want to out them” until they are ready, he said. “Our mission is to create the political will for a stable climate,” Holmquist said. “That attitude has allowed us to make inroads with people who don’t agree with us.” The climate lobby group, founded in 2007, has a volunteer force of nearly 40,000 members and supporters. They don’t consider themselves environmentalists, but rather realists. The organization was founded by Marshall Saunders, a businessman who realized that all he had created in Bangladesh would be swallowed by water if efforts weren’t made to counter climate change. Saunders started out trying to persuade average citizens to support the cause. But he realized that was the wrong route when his speech to a group convinced a handful of people to change to energy efficient lightbulbs, on the same day that Congress granted major subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. “He decided he needed to be talking with Congress,” Holmquist said. And that means dealing with less than welcoming Republicans. “There’s virtually no chance we’ll have a Democratic Congress until at least 2022,” he said. But Holmquist said more and more Republicans are open to the idea of climate change legislation. “We do…


NEXUS pipeline passes FERC environmental review

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Less than a week from Bowling Green City Council’s decision on allowing a pipeline to cross city property, the project got the blessings of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC’s  541-page report released Wednesday found no major environmental issues with the NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline project – meaning construction will likely begin early next year. The proposed 36-inch natural gas pipeline would run 255 miles from fracking fields in eastern Ohio, across the state, to Michigan and end in Canada. Along its route, it will pass through Wood County, north of Bowling Green, then go under the Maumee River downriver from the city’s water intake. Once it gets to Waterville Township, a compressor station is proposed. The environmental review concluded: “We determined that construction and operation of the projects would result in some adverse environmental impacts. Most of these environmental impacts would be temporary or short term during construction and operation, but long-term and potentially permanent environmental impacts on vegetation, land use, visual resources, and air quality and noise would also result from the projects. However, if the projects are constructed and operated in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, the mitigation measures discussed in this EIS, and our recommendations, these impacts would be reduced to acceptable levels.” On Monday, City Council will vote on an ordinance granting NEXUS an easement to cross 29 acres of city land located in Middleton Township, about 2.5 miles east of the city’s water treatment plant. Bowling Green officials have maintained that fighting the pipeline will not change the route and will only end up costing the city in court. Bowling Green Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell said earlier this week that he has no concerns about the pipeline going across city property. “It’s a federally approved project. They have to meet federal regulations from FERC,” he said. O’Connell said he was comfortable with the pipeline. “We’ve been getting gas here for decades from other parts of the country.” Ultimately, the decision will be up to council on Monday to act on the easement request. But O’Connell predicted that a denial by the city would result in costs. “If they don’t approve it, they’ll take us to court,” he said. The city’s acreage is currently rented out for farming, and has…


BG downtown parking holiday in December

Mayor Richard Edwards has declared that there will be no charge to park within city parking lots during the month of December. All other parking regulations will be in effect. The free parking will not include the on-street meters in front of the Wood County Courthouse on Court Street, between North Summit and North Prospect, or the meters in the County Parking Lot. Although the charge for parking will be removed during December in designated spaces, all other parking restrictions, such as the two-hour parking limit, parking in handicapped spaces, prohibition of on-street parking in the downtown from 3 to 5a.m., and other regulations will continue to apply and will be enforced. The mayor encourages businesses, proprietors, and persons working in the downtown to share rides and park in long-term spaces to allow parking turnover for those shopping and/or dining in the downtown.


BG may share bar tab for sewer improvements

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Bowling Green Board of Public Utilities agreed Monday evening to split the tab on sewer improvements that will allow the Brathaus bar to expand. Doug Doren, owner of the bar at 115 E. Court St., wants to expand the existing building to the north. The city has been working with Doren to relocate the existing city sewer that is partially underneath the existing building. The expansion would also be over the sewer, according to Brian O’Connell, director of public utilities for the city. O’Connell explained to the board Monday evening that both the city and property owner will benefit from the sewer relocation. Doren will be able to move forward with the building expansion, and the city will have a new accessible sewer that will be within a utility easement. The sewer also serves other customers in the area. Originally, Doren was going to cover the full price tag for the sewer relocation. However, the costs will be higher than first expected. So O’Connell proposed a 50/50 split on the anticipated $50,000 cost. At the same time, the city’s electric division plans to have work performed in the utility easement to relocate the overhead electric lines to underground service. This would allow for the removal of the large self-supporting pole that is located in the sidewalk on the south side of East Court Street, O’Connell said. The cost for the electric work is estimated at $50,000.  The city will pick up that entire tab, since it is the sole entity to benefit from that work. Doren would like to work on the bar expansion in April, so the city plans to complete the sewer and electric work this winter. City Council heard the first reading on this project last week. Second and third readings will be requested at the Dec. 5 meeting, O’Connell said. In other business on Monday, the board of public utilities adopted a resolution supporting the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Government’s efforts to provide interconnection of water services in emergency situations. O’Connell explained that he revised the TMAGOC resolution to reflect Bowling Green’s position. “Emergency connections are a good thing. We support that,” he said. However, the resolution was originally written for Toledo and its water customers. The resolution supports a regional…


Hirzel Canning blends tradition & innovation in products packed with the flavor of Northwest Ohio

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When Prohibition knocked Carl Hirzel’s upstate New York brewery out of business, he turned his knowledge of fermentation toward making another product. “He took his technology for making beer and turned it to making sauerkraut,” said his great-grandson Steve Hirzel. By then Carl and his wife, Lena, had joined his brothers in the Toledo area.  “The company literally started in the kitchen,” Hirzel said. Hirzel Canning & Farms continues in operation 93 years later with a fifth generation moving in to keep the firm moving forward. And the company still makes sauerkraut, originally sold under the Deer Lodge brand now as Silver Fleece. Business is good for the tart fermented cabbage, Hirzel, president of Hirzel Canning, told the Bowling Green Exchange Club Tuesday. The company is still looking toward fermentation as a way to develop other products for an increasingly fickle consumer. Hirzel said company’s success is rooted in the Great Black Swamp. “In our backyard we’ve been given a garden to grow our crops. … Half of products we get are within 10 miles of the facility.” Those products now are centered on tomatoes, which the company turns in salsas, pasta and Sloppy Joe sauce and tomatoes in various forms from crushed to whole, in cans and cartons. “Anything you can think of doing with tomatoes we do,” he said, “except paste.” The varieties of tomatoes grown locally are not suited to making paste. They are more like what people would pick from their gardens. They don’t need a lot of processing on their way to the consumer. “We want to heat it up really quickly, sterilize it and put it in the package,” Hirzel said. That’s the difference between the more than 60 products sold under the Dei Fratelli label and its competitors’ products. Working closely with area growers, some who have been associated with the companies for four generations, the company aims to be “picking it when it’s vine ripe, and then putting it in the package right away. You talk about preserving nutrients and color.” Those growers are essential. “They’re family farmers, local,” he said. “We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have this reliable base.” The company still has a farm at its headquarters in Northwood, where they constantly refine seed varieties to produce…


Pipeline protesters pack BG Council meeting

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council chambers overflowed into the hallway Monday evening as people urged city leaders to not buckle to a pipeline company. More than 20 speakers implored City Council to continue their commitment to green energy, rather than take steps backward in their environmental efforts. Once the meeting room exceeded its 66-person capacity, Fire Chief Tom Sanderson had to ask 40 others to listen to the meeting on the hallway speakers. “I think this is a moment in our history” when Bowling Green has the opportunity serve the greater good, Laura Sanchez told council. Monday was the second reading of an ordinance to grant Nexus Pipeline an easement to cross 29 acres of city land located in Middleton Township, about 2.5 miles east of the city’s water treatment plant. The third and final reading will be given on Dec. 5, when city council will vote on the ordinance. The proposed natural gas pipeline would run 255 miles from fracking fields in eastern Ohio, across the state, to Michigan and end in Canada. Along its route, it will pass through Wood County, north of Bowling Green, then go under the Maumee River downriver from the city’s water intake. Once it gets to Waterville Township, a compressor station is proposed. One by one, citizens stood up Monday evening and asked the city to fight the pipeline plans. Lisa Kochheiser said the pipeline would intersect with a fault line, run near a quarry where blasting takes place, and be dangerously close to the city’s water reservoirs. “This scenario is a recipe for disaster,” she said. During a council meeting earlier this month, pipeline protesters were told that fighting the pipeline would ultimately cost the city money in legal fees, and do nothing to stop the natural gas line. But on Monday evening, Aidan Hubbell-Staeble urged council to look beyond the monetary costs. “I would hope council does what is right for the community.” Some of the speakers traveled from other communities fighting the same pipeline on the other side of the state. Rev. Sharon Kiesel, from Medina, said physicians in many states have called for a ban on fracking.  Kiesel talked about “shale gas syndrome” causing many illnesses, and fracking wastewater being injected into wells. “You have an opportunity…


Winterfest looking for help creating new logo & name

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News This weekend provided the first blast of winter weather, but planning for next February’s celebration of the season BG Winterfest is already well underway. Wendy Chambers, director the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the committee is looking to improve the event, and that takes advanced planning, as well as fresh branding. Winterfest is holding a contest for a new name and a new logo.  The date for submissions is Thursday, Dec. 1. For details visit: https://www.facebook.com/WinterfestBG/photos/a.173662663758.124178.74230638758/10154225204718759/?type=3&theater. Contact Chambers at wendychambers@visitbgohio.org or visit the Winterfest Facebook page www.facebook.com/WinterfestBG. “We’re stepping everything up a notch,” Chambers said. “That’s why we felt it was appropriate to do the logo and renaming contest.” Winterfest has been presented for about a decade, and it’s still a work in progress. When it started, it was a new concept in the area, Chambers said. Now a number of similar events have sprung up.  “So we said ‘let’s do something to set ourselves apart.’” The 2017 event will have some notable expansions. Bowling Green State University has scheduled the 50th anniversary of the ice arena so it coincides with Winterfest. That means Falcon hockey will be added as an element of Winterfest. There’ll also be high school and university alumni hockey on tap over the weekend. And Olympic gold medal winner Scott Hamilton and Alissa Czisny are expected to return home to Bowling Green for the festivities. Also, this year the committee wants to have more happening in the downtown. “It was the missing component,” Chambers said. A tent with beverages and ice carving demonstrations will be set up in the Huntington parking lot at the corner of South Main and Clough streets. As night approaches, visitors can then avail themselves of the eating and entertainment options downtown. Businesses and organizations will have the opportunity to suggest themes for these four ice sculptures made on the Saturday of the festival. An object would be preferable to a logo for this purpose, Chambers said. Businesses and organizations can also sponsor ice sculptures that will be carved beforehand and installed in the Huntington parking lot. While some prefer the sculptures line Main Street that’s too much of a security concern, she said. The revenue raised will go toward supporting downtown flower plantings and holiday decorations.  Some related…


BG businesses warned of billing scam

The Bowling Green Police has been made aware of a billing scam involving several phone calls to a local business in which the caller stated they were with Toledo Edison. The caller claimed that the business risked a shut down of service if payment was not immediately received. The business was not a Toledo Edison customer and recognized the calls as a scam . The numbers and names associated with the scam are as follows: 1-800-872-2202 1-800-677-4032, extension 202 The City of Bowling Green Utilities Department does not rely exclusively on phone calls to warn of past due accounts and utilizes a more formal process of notification. If your business receives a similar call do not provide them with any information. If you have a question about your business account call the Bowling Green Utilities Office at 419-354-6258.


County businesses to get help fighting drugs in workplace

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For years local manufacturers have reported difficulty with drugs in the workplace. Employers have said they have trouble filling some positions due to applicants failing drug tests. Companies have struggled with how to handle employees who show up on the job high or intoxicated. So Wood County is going to try a different approach. A $20,000 grant from the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services will help start a program working with local employers on the issue. Chris Streidl, manager of clinical programs and quality improvement for the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board, presented information on the program recently to the Wood County Commissioners. The goal of the program will be to connect with local employers to provide training and resources so they can recognize substance abuse and respond appropriately, Streidl said. The program will help employers decide how and when to get help for an employee, or how and when to sever the relationship with that employee. Businesses will also learn to develop policies to protect both themselves and workers. The legalization of medical marijuana in Ohio makes it even more difficult for businesses to be drug-free, Streidl said. “Finding people to fill positions has been difficult. It’s been an issue in our community,” he said. The program will be designed to meet the needs of Wood County businesses. “It will be tailored to our community. It won’t be cookie cutter,” Streidl said. Streidl asked for the county commissioners’ support – not financially – but in getting the word out to area businesses. “We want to make sure we get this to everyone who can benefit,” he said. “We want to make it accessible to all businesses, big and small.” A final needs assessment will be conducted as part of the grant. Streidl said he expected the first meeting of those involved in the program will be held before the end of the year.  


First Solar to halt production in Perrysburg Township while plant is redesigned (updated)

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News First Solar Inc. has announced it will halt some production at the plant in Perrysburg Township for about 18 months. The move comes as the company shifts from one series of solar modules to another. In a conference call Wednesday Mark Widmar announced it will scrap its new series 5 line and move directly to its series 6 line. That will require it to retool its facilities including the Perrysburg Township plant. Steve Krum, spokesman for First Solar Inc., issued a statement Thursday afternoon detailing the job cuts. As of Nov. 21, the company will begin “separating” 450 employees who either work on the affected lines or support those employees. Those employees will stay on the payroll for 60 days. Another 200 workers will continue to manufacture Series 4 modules on lines not affected by the plant retooling. The statement continued: ” Additionally, several hundred associates working in Research & Development, supply chain sourcing, customer support, IT and other functions will continue to support our global operations out of the Perrysburg facility.” CEO Mark Widmar said Wednesday that “Ohio will continue to be our innovation hub.” The company expects some production at Perrysburg will resume in the second half of 2018. Thursday’s statement said: “We will assess the need for additional production workers when the new lines are operational.” The company said moving to the newest series and skipping one line will better meet market demand. The Series 6 modules will cost 40 percent less to produce. The company will also be able to manufacture them in their existing plants. The company said it is also considering putting a plant in Vietnam that was built but never used to work once production is ramped up. In the meantime production will be less next year than this, down from more than 3 gigawatts to about 2.2 gigawatts. First Solar hopes to have 3 gigawatts of production in 2018. Widmar said the move is in the best long-term interest of the company. The company is expecting to pay $10-15 million in severance charges this year. In announcing the move, Widmar stated: “The acceleration of the Series 6 roadmap is an important development for First Solar. Following the completion of an internal review process to evaluate the best competitive response to address the current challenging…


Black Swamp Fine Arts School expands music offerings with ensembles for kids & adults

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Both Sophia Schmitz and Betsy Williams discovered a passion for music at an early age. Schmitz, of Perrysburg, started playing violin at 3, and was gigging when she was 11. “My mom’s an artist and my family is very musical so I was surrounded by that.” Williams, the youngest of six children, grew up in northern Kentucky with a musical mother who had the entire family singing every morning. Schmitz started teaching when she was in high school, but even before that had a goal in mind. “Since I was 12 it’s been my vision to open a studio.” For her part as the youngest of six, Williams got a late start on violin lessons. The cost of lessons was an obstacle. Her mother had taught her piano and the musical basics. “I taught myself several instruments before I settled on violin.” Those experiences and passion have now taken shape in their new endeavors. Schmitz founded the Black Swamp Fine Arts School in January, realizing her dream of opening a studio. Williams teaches violin, viola and cello at the school. Both are graduate students in the Bowling Green State University College of Musical Arts. As a BGSU undergraduate Schmitz had a minor in entrepreneurship, and in one class she had to put together a proposal for a business. When she started figuring out how much it would take to open a music studio, she realized she could make it work.  So last fall she met with lawyers and accountants, and with help pulled together a studio in space at 500 Lehman Ave. in Bowling Green where she could teach violin, piano and dance, as well as offer a space to other professional musicians associated with the university to teach. She’d already been teaching in the area, but finding a space for lessons was always a chore. Students are not allowed to use university facilities. Williams was teaching as well. She’d already been working with orchestra students at the Bowling Green High and Middle schools. Schmitz said most teachers rent space, similar to what stylists do in a salon. Others, including Williams and the two dance teachers, were hired as independent contractors. The school now has 10 teachers and about 100 music and dance students. Now they want to make…


Pizza Pub 516 ready to cook up good times for diners at former Myles site

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The smell of pizza in the oven is in the air again in the vicinity of 516 E. Wooster St. in Bowling Green. On Wednesday, Jay and Paula Williams opened the doors of the Pizza Pub 516 in the former location of Myles Pizza, which closed about a month ago. Fans of the iconic eatery will likely feel right at home in the shop’s new incarnation, and that’s by design. Paula Williams said that they will maintain the atmosphere and many of the signature items, while adding their own touches. The Williamses have experience taking over a favorite local dining spot. Three years ago, they bought Trotters Tavern in downtown. The key to taking over a beloved restaurant, she said, is understanding the community. “We’re going to try really hard to make sure that everyone in Bowling Green feels welcome, and know that they’re going to get a good pie in a friendly atmosphere.” She said they hope to grow the dining room business. “We’d like people to think of us when they think about where they’re going to go the watch the game. They can order a pizza and garlic bread and sit down and watch a sporting event with their friends.” The pub will continue to offer the same style of thick crust that Chip Myles offered for 39 years. They’ve also added a thin crust as well as a gluten free crust. The thick and thin crusts are made in house. Myles has refused to sell the recipe for his pizza sauce and the name. The Williamses tried to buy “the whole package,” but when they couldn’t, they went ahead and purchased what they could. Pizza Pub 516 aspires to continue to be the kind of place where someone stopping by to pick up a pizza will likely to meet friends. Regular customers will also find familiar faces among the staff. Williams said they hired everyone from Myles Pizza who was interested in joining the new venture. “The family we inherited” has been a great help in getting the shop up and running, she said. She said they’ve also brought in employees from their other businesses – the family also own Quarters in Perrysburg – as well as their children Jessica, a senior at Bowling Green…


Cheney reappointed to water & sewer district board

By NORTHWESTERN WATER & SEWER DISTRICT John Cheney, long-time resident of Henry Township, was reappointed to the Northwestern Water and Sewer District board effective January 1, 2017. Mr. Cheney is the longest-term board member of the District’s nine-person board of directors.  He was first appointed to the planning organization looking to form the District in 1992. He will start his 25th year with the District when his new three-year term starts in 2017.  He has served as an officer of the District on several occasions in the past. As one of the nine board members of the District, he is appointed as one of three Wood County Commissioner board members, joining three others appointed by the Wood County townships and three other from Wood County Municipalities.   Board members are responsible for the overall operations of the District, who now serves over 19,000 accounts in the region with approximately $200 million in assets with 65 employees. “We’ve come a long way during my tenure here with the District and it’s been a gratifying experience serving all ends of the County,” says John Cheney.


Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Retro a labor of love

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News You wouldn’t expect an enterprise named Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em would have its roots in romance. But the idea for Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Retro goes back when the owners Jon and Kayla Minniear were first dating. The couple shared a love of gaming and anything retro. “When we first started dating, we started collecting old Nintendo, and then we started collecting other stuff. … A lot of this is our duplicate stuff,” she says gesturing back to the shop. “We always talked about this, opening a storefront, back when we were dating.” They were also inspired by friends in their gaming community who operate similar stores. That dream will be realized Monday when Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Retro opens at 192 S. Main St. in downtown Bowling Green. A ribbon cutting is scheduled for Nov. 3 at 11 a.m. The storefront formerly occupied by Mill Jewelry.  “My grandparents bought their wedding bands here,” Kayla Minniear said. “They’re super excited we got this space.” The store has been in the works for a while. Kayla Minniear, the daughter of Caroline and Ted Lippert of rural Bowling Green, cut back her hours at WYSZ six months ago to concentrate on sales at conventions and flea markets while they looked for a space. When the store front in downtown became available, they jumped at it. It’s hard, she said, to find a place with enough room and in such a prime location.  The Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em name seemed perfect for a retro game and toy shop. As they collected, and traded, going to sales and online, they accumulated duplicates of many of their favorites, and they dreamed about opening a store stocked with the kind of toys and games they and their parents grew up playing. Minniear, a 2011 Eastwood graduate, said used equipment is nothing new to her. She never had a new game system when she was a kid. “So I played a lot of my Dad’s.” So she likes the feel of those vintage games. “I feel like they’re more family friendly. So many of the new popular games are rated M,” she said. “With the old-school games, kids could play the same games as their parents.” The couple’s families are playing a part in getting the…


Ohio EPA: Lake Erie ‘impaired’ status unnecessary

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Commissioners were asked this year by an environmentalist to sign onto a request that Lake Erie’s Western Basin be declared “impaired.” They were also asked this year by a farmer to not seek the “impaired” designation. Not certain of the best course of action, the commissioners asked the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to help clear up the issue. But the issue seemed to get more complicated instead. “As clear as mud,” Karl Gebhardt said as he left the commissioners’ office on Tuesday. Gebhardt, deputy director of the Ohio EPA Water Resources and Lake Erie Programs and executive director of the Ohio Lake Erie Commission, said the phosphorus causing algae problems in the lake is already being worked on by the state – and federal involvement is not needed. Ohio EPA officials hear the complaints: “Why is Lake Erie green? Why can’t my grandchildren go swimming in the lake?” But efforts are already underway, Gebhardt said. Based on the marine life in the lake, the shoreline of Lake Erie has already been declared “impaired.” And based on the water treatment steps needed, the areas of Lake Erie around water intakes have been declared “impaired.” The U.S. EPA would like Ohio to designate the Western Lake Erie Basin as impaired, Gebhardt said. But there is currently no science-based criteria for that designation. “We really want to base this on science,” he told the county commissioners. Ohio EPA officials have asked the U.S. EPA to establish “impaired” criteria for open waters. But so far, that has not been done. “We’re saying it’s multi-jurisdictional,” but the U.S. EPA wants each state to set standards, Gebhardt said. “We don’t feel it’s right to establish criteria that is just for Ohio.” “We have to look at the entire lake and not just Ohio’s portion,” he said. Gebhardt’s other concerns about labeling the lake as “impaired” are that “tag” stays with the lake for at least two years and there is no defined process to get rid of that label. “Do we really want the headlines and do we really want people to think it’s always impaired,” he asked. “We just want to be careful that we don’t put a tag on the lake that’s not warranted.” Gebhardt said Ohio EPA and…