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 here to defend yourself,” she said. “This is a huge moral issue. It puts profits over people’s health and safety.” Tish O’Dell, from Broadview Heights, said pipeline companies look at communities “like Monopoly cards” they can acquire. “They don’t care about the people in the communities,” O’Dell said. “You don’t have to make it so damn easy for them either.” Paul Wohlfarth, of Ottawa Lake, Michigan, said Nexus pipeline officials have not been forthright about their plans. They are allowed to bury pipelines within 10 feet of a home, but then tell homeowners it won’t devalue their property. Meanwhile, there are gasline leaks and explosions about every other day somewhere in the country, he said. Pipeline officials also tell farmers that their yields won’t be affected by the pipeline, yet most report diminished crop yields, he said. Wohlfarth also accused Nexus of refusing to show how the pipeline will benefit Ohio. The line ends in Canada, but Nexus officials have said they have a contract…

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: Contact Chambers at or visit the Winterfest Facebook page “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 to the university will be located near the ice arena on campus, and possibly one will be installed in the atrium of the Four Corners Center. The festival’s usual slate of events, including skating, the Frostbite Run and the chili cook off will be held in the city parks as well as some winter games. Chambers said other features are in the works.  

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 market conditions, we have developed plans that will enable us to more quickly begin production of our Series 6 module. Although the decision to accelerate our Series 6 roadmap requires a restructuring of our current operations, we expect the transition to Series 6 will enable us to maximize the intrinsic cost advantage of CdTe thin-film technology versus crystalline silicon. Recent steep module pricing declines require us to evaluate all components of our cost structure and streamline our business model to best position the Company for long-term success.” Widmar also noted during the call that there’s some uncertainty in the future about if a Trump Administration will continue support for alternative energy technology.

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 that joy of music available to more children and adults with a new ensemble program. Williams initiated the project. The idea would be to have three ensembles. One will be a beginning ensemble for children 8 through 14, who may or may not be taking private lessons. The second ensemble would be for children who have been playing for at least a year. The third would be for adults who want to learn to play a string instrument. The classes are scheduled to start Jan. 13 and 14 with registration underway through Dec. 1. Contact Williams wants to give all string players a chance to play in an ensemble regardless of the school they attend or if they are homeschooled, as both she and Schmitz were. They would like at least 10 in each ensemble. The pricing is set to be affordable for families. One semester cost $70 for the first child with discounts for the next two. The fourth family member is free….

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 State University, and  Andrew, a senior in Bowling Green High School. Reliable, trustworthy and friendly help, Williams said, is essential to operating a restaurant. She said that’s the kind of staff they have. That staff didn’t have to wait long to swing into action. Even though the restaurant’s computer system wasn’t in place, they opened anyway. “It comes down to you’ve got to have the doors open,” Williams said. The food and drink were ready. The shop was ready. “It was time to sell some pizza,” she said. While this would be considered “a soft opening,” Williams said: “It wasn’t really soft. It was pretty busy.” Though there’s a menu printed, she said, they are still fine-tuning it. That’s done in consultation with the cooks and the rest of the staff as well as comments from customers. Some items had to stay on the menu, she said. That included the garlic and pizza bread. And “the salads here are beautiful fresh large flavorful,” she said,…

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 shop open by helping to clean, paint and stock shelves. Minniear said her mother Caroline Lippert, who studied art, has grand designs for the shop’s large front display window. Even Jon Minniear’s mother, who forbade him from playing video games when he was a kid – he played them at his father’s – is a big support of the shop. The shop will stock used games from old handheld models, the original Nintendo and up through PlayStation and Xbox as well as action figures, TV and movie board games and toys. Items will date back to the 1970s, with the bulk from the 1980s into the 2000s. “I grew up playing it so I feel like a kid,” Minniear said of the stock. Many of their customers feel the same way. “There’s a huge market for this stuff because people want to keep part of their childhood,” she said. Most of the video games will be used, she said. Every game will be refurbished and…

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 the Ohio Lake Erie Commission already have a plan in place to limit the phosphorus creating algae in the lake. “We don’t really need the feds coming in and putting more regs on us,” he said. The U.S. EPA would require the region to identify sources of phosphorus and address the problem. “We’re already doing that.” An existing Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement with Canada has set the scientific standard that phosphorus entering the lake be reduced by 40 percent. That means Canada’s portion must be reduced by 300 metric tons, while the U.S. portion must drop by 2,300 metric tons. Originally, the plan was to start the reduction efforts in 2018. But Gov. John Kasich and Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler decided that was not soon enough. The plan looks at the primary sources, such as agriculture, septic systems and stormwater. “Everyone has a piece of this issue,” Gebhardt said. The Maumee River is the biggest contributor to the phosphorus levels in the lake,…

AMP promises to fix labor problems with solar site

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Nagging questions surrounding the solar field construction have paid off – literally, for the workers there. American Municipal Power CEO Marc Gerken stood before Bowling Green City Council Monday evening, apologized and promised to make things right. Bowling Green officials, who went to bat for the solar project, and the Wood County Commissioners, who approved the project’s tax abatement, have been demanding answers about construction of the site. They suspected that the job was not employing at least 80 percent Ohio labor, and they knew that the contractor wasn’t paying prevailing wage. Gerken took responsibility for one of those issues – the lack of prevailing wages being paid on the worksite. “I’m deeply sorry for that,” he said to City Council and a packed council chambers Monday. Gerken said AMP had planned all along for the project to be a prevailing wage job. However, the size of the 20 megawatt site and the speed at which it needed to be done meant AMP had to go outside for help. “We can’t pull this off ourselves,” Gerken said it was quickly realized. So AMP picked NextEra as a partner as the developer. NextEra then hired Blattner Energy as the construction contractor. Somewhere along the line, the prevailing wage standard was dropped. AMP realized the error when Bowling Green officials brought it to the company’s attention. “I applaud the city for raising it when they did,” Gerken said. When pressed, NextEra amended its contract with Blattner to require that prevailing wages be paid. The company will also go back and make up for lost wages, Gerken said. “They owned up to it,” Gerken said. “But we should have been on top of it. We stumbled a little bit here and I take ownership of that.” As far as the other issue – of 80 percent Ohio labor being required in the tax abatement agreement – Gerken said a law firm has been hired to audit the workforce at the site to make sure Blattner is complying. The audit will certify how many workers are true residents of Ohio. Last week, the Wood County Commissioners sent a letter to the Ohio Development Services Agency stating the county is prepared to yank the tax abatement agreement with NextEra if proof cannot be presented that the contractor is using enough Ohio labor. “Over the past few weeks we have received information stating that the prime contractor, Blattner Energy, may be skirting the 80 percent requirement by leasing local rental housing for out-of-state employees and suggesting that they obtain an Ohio driver’s license,” the letter stated. “Meanwhile, many vehicles parked at the project site have out-of-state license plates.” Gerken said that if Blattner isn’t using enough Ohio labor, that company will be held responsible for the additional costs – not AMP and not Bowling Green. “This is on them if they don’t meet it,” he said. Gerken said AMP will get a monthly report on the workforce audit. Council president Mike Aspacher expressed relief that the issues were being addressed. “Thank you for coming and providing that explanation,” Aspacher said, adding that he felt Gerken gave “suitable responses” to council’s concerns. Council member Bruce Jeffers thanked Gerken for taking ownership of the issues and finding solutions. Gerken said…

County says it may yank tax break for solar site if 80% Ohio labor not being used

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Commissioners don’t want to be kept in the dark about possible tax abatement violations at the massive solar project north of Bowling Green. And they are prepared to yank the tax break if they don’t get verification that the contractor is using at least 80 percent Ohio labor. Last week, the commissioners sent a letter to the Ohio Development Services Agency stating that on July 19, the county approved a “significant tax abatement” for the solar project based on the criteria and regulations developed by the agency. Of great concern to the commissioners was the requirement that 80 percent of the construction labor for the project be Ohio residents. “Over the past few weeks we have received information stating that the prime contractor, Blattner Energy, may be skirting the 80 percent requirement by leasing local rental housing for out-of-state employees and suggesting that they obtain an Ohio driver’s license,” the letter continued. “Meanwhile, many vehicles parked at the project site have out-of-state license plates.” The commissioners said it is the state agency’s responsibility to ensure that the project owner and contractor are in compliance, and to provide written verification to the county and Bowling Green officials. Since construction of the project is to be complete by the end of this year, verification should not be delayed, stated the letter, which was signed by all three commissioners. Labor at the site was the only item in the abatement agreement that included somewhat local participation. To the commissioners’ displeasure, there was no commitment requiring use of local solar equipment or local contractors with solar experience. “If information regarding strict compliance with the 80 percent Ohio domiciled labor is not provided and verified by you, we will give serious consideration to rescinding our resolution granting the abatement,” the commissioners stated in the letter. Bowling Green Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter said this morning that city officials are aware of the county’s letter and the questions raised. “We will be addressing it tonight at city council,” she said. City council members raised similar questions about the solar project labor earlier this month. Council President Mike Aspacher said he received an email from an AMP official in early September saying that prevailing wages would be paid to workers on the project. However, since then it has been reported that is not the case. “There’s some conflicting information,” Aspacher said at the last city council meeting. Council member Bruce Jeffers also expressed his frustration. “I assumed throughout this project that people would be paid prevailing wage.” The issue is complicated by the fact that Bowling Green owns the property for the solar field at the corner of Carter and Newton roads, northeast of the city. But the solar field is an AMP project, which has contracted with NextEra, which has contracted with Blattner Energy. Bowling Green Utilities Director Brian O’Connell said the city is hosting the solar field and buying energy from it, but not directly connected to the construction. “We’re somewhat removed from the construction,” he said. Neither the agreement with AMP nor the tax abatement granted to NextEra require that prevailing wages be paid or that union labor be used. If the project were the city’s, that would be different, O’Connell said. “We do…

Court rules pipeline can’t use eminent domain

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A judge ruled this week that one of the pipelines planned in Wood County cannot ride roughshod over local farmland. Wood County Common Pleas Judge Robert Pollex ruled that Kinder Morgan does not have the authority to use eminent domain since the Utopia pipeline would be transporting ethane for a private company – not for public use. The ruling came as welcome news to many landowners in Wood County, more than 20 of them represented by Maurice Thompson, of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law. “They can really put the screws to Ohio landowners” and pay them “unfair low rates,” Thompson said of pipeline companies, if eminent domain is used. Thompson had argued that Utopia did not qualify for eminent domain. Unlike pipelines that are sending gas to companies that supply energy for public consumption, the Utopia pipeline would be sending ethane, a byproduct of the fracking industry, to a private plastics company in Ontario. Kinder Morgan was planning to start construction later this year on the $500 million ethane pipeline from shale sites in southeast Ohio to Canada. The proposed Utopia line would run south of Pemberville, then north of Bowling Green, then cross the Maumee River south of Waterville. Kinder Morgan claimed the company has the power of eminent domain to bury the pipeline in 21 miles of Wood County. The statement released by the pipeline company on Thursday said the firm isn’t giving up on the project. “We consider the court’s action to be a misinterpretation of existing law, especially in light of the recent Sunoco decision on September 29, 2016 in the 7th District Ohio Court of Appeals (Harrison County), which upheld the use of eminent domain under similar circumstances,” stated Allen Fore, vice president of public affairs for Kinder Morgan. “We will appeal today’s decision and are confident of prevailing on appeal,” Fore stated. The pipeline case is being heard by all three common pleas courts in Wood County because Kinder Morgan has sued so many local landowners, Thompson said. The landowners’ arguments are two-fold, Thompson explained. First, the private pipeline will provide no public use so it does not qualify for public domain authority. Second, the pipeline company did not explore alternative routes as suggested. The local families had asked that the pipeline company consider placing the line along road right-of-ways, to avoid going through farm fields or housing lots. The Wood County commissioners have also asked the company to consider routing the pipeline along highways to lessen the burden on landowners. Though many of the landowners did not want to speak publicly, Jerry Bruns said earlier this fall that he has no intention of selling out to the pipeline company. His farmland near Pemberville has been in his family since the 1860s. “It’s basically going to damage the soil of the farm,” by compacting the ground, he said. Despite claims by the pipeline company that the soil will be restored to its present condition, Bruns has seen the effects of such projects. A portion of his fields was packed down by a heavy truck five years ago, “and nothing is growing there yet,” he said. In moving to dismiss the case, Thompson argued that the Utopia Pipeline is not a “public use,” as required by…

Citizens plot out future for BG community

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The neighborhood consultant group studying Bowling Green got another earful Tuesday evening. More than 60 city residents huddled at round tables to plot out ideas for their community. They envisioned areas of their city with boulevard gardens, a market in the middle of student housing, bicycle paths, historic renovations and townhouses. “We know there are a number of issues in the community we need to deal with,” said Adam Rosa, a member of the consultant group Camiros, from Chicago. On Tuesday, Bowling Green residents were given areas to zero in on: East Court Street, where the focus was placed on improved sidewalks, boulevard gardens, bike paths, and historic renovations. Thurstin, Manville and Wooster streets, where the emphasis was put on mixed used development, improved pedestrian safety, improved business facades, and multi-family development. East Clough and Railroad Avenue where ideas included a rails-with-trails program, business incubator, artist studios, and brewery-taprooms. Third and High streets where the possibilities included a corner store, street trees, pocket park, and small lot single-family housing. Ridge Park area where the focus was on home renovation, possible townhouses, granny flats and more park activities. During the earlier public meeting, planners learned that Bowling Green residents felt the city’s assets were its history, culture, open space, parks, educational opportunities, commercial amenities, and neighborhood appearances. On the down side, citizens felt problems existed with code enforcement, poor transportation which doesn’t accommodate walkers and bicyclists, conflicts between renters and homeowners, property maintenance specifically poor curb appeal, plus trash and noise. Citizens identified opportunities for improvement as the addition of high-quality multi-family housing, open space improvements, bike and pedestrian accommodations and commercial redevelopment especially between campus and downtown. At Tuesday’s meeting, citizens voted to select the first “early action project” for the Community Action Plan. “They are something people can work together on to achieve,” Rosa said. “We want to create early action steps that can build a momentum.” Of 10 options, the top vote getter was a “Better Block Party” on Court Street, an event that would help identify how to make that a more attractive and usable connection between BGSU and downtown. A redesign of Court Street would be tested by temporarily establishing one-way traffic with expanded bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure for a weekend. The redesign would be promoted as part of a block party. Other options in order of their votes were: Code enforcement handout and distribution, house painting and landscape day, neighborhood cleanup day, establishment of a dog park, a walk BG program which would post signs in neighborhoods about distance to destinations like a park or grocery store, community garden, recycling and reuse day when people bring items to share with others, a public mural, and a Bowling Green T-shirt design contest. Rosa emphasized the need for the Community Action Plan to involve people from all aspects of Bowling Green – city officials, community residents, apartment owners and managers, business representatives, service providers, education leaders and public officials. “So that everyone has ownership of what comes out of the process,” Rosa said. The Bowling Green Community Action Plan will focus on the East Side of the city, where the needs have been identified as the greatest. But the plan will be applied to all areas of the city,…

BGSU grad student Katherine Eboch wins national service award

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Katherine Eboch, an MBA student who is specializing in supply chain management at Bowling Green State University has received the 2016 Student Voluntary Service Award from APICS, a leading professional association for supply chain and operations management in the world. This award chooses one supply chain management student who has demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to volunteering to the local supply chain management association chapter and community. Eboch lives in Bowling Green with her husband. Out of more than 6,000 supply chain and operations management student members worldwide, a Bowling Green State University student has been the recipient of the prestigious APICS Student Voluntary Service Award since 2013. “I am very honored to receive this prestigious award and to be the fourth consecutive BGSU student to be awarded the APICS Student Voluntary Service Award,” Eboch said. “After completing my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drama and working for a few years, I saw the importance of business, specifically supply chain management, in the arts as well as the importance of networking. When I decided to return to school for my MBA, I was determined to get involved and maximize my experience at BGSU, which is why I joined the Supply Chain Management Association. “Looking to the future, I plan to take what I have learned from BGSU about supply chain management and incorporate it into the work I hope to do with nonprofits and arts organizations.” Among Eboch’s many leadership roles, she served as the president of the BGSU student chapter of Supply Chain Management Association (SCMA) last spring, and under her leadership helped BGSU finish its 11th consecutive “gold” year and earned its seventh straight “platinum” award maintaining SCMA as one of the top 10 chapters in the world. Dr. Janet Hartley, professor and director of the BGSU Supply Chain Management Institute, recommended Eboch for the award. “Under her leadership the SCMA hosted professional development speakers from Diebold, Expeditors, and Marathon Petroleum and toured Bittersweet Farms, a non-profit organization that assists autistic adults. Eboch serves as a mentor to freshman and sophomore members to help them develop the skills needed to take on leadership positions in SCMA. Katherine enthusiastically promotes the benefits of being a member of the SCMA and APICS to other students, prospective students and alumni.” As the organization’s president, Eboch worked with the SCMA board to plan and execute other activities ranging from recruitment, professional development, fundraising and social events and helped streamline processes of the organization. Besides SCMA, Eboch serves in a leadership role for the BGSU Women in Business Leadership student chapter as its vice president of communications and marketing. Drawn to serve others, Eboch is a board member at large of the Bowling Green Rotary Club where she took on the role of liaison between the professional chapter and BGSU’s RotarAct (the affiliated student chapter). She was recently selected for the “40 under 40” award for Rotary International and attended the inaugural Legacy Zone Young Professionals Summit in Cleveland. Prior to studying at BGSU, Eboch was a member of the Hartford, Connecticut, chapter of Rotary where she was named Rotarian of the Year by the Hartford Chapter. The three previous BGSU winners of the APICS Student Voluntary Service Award are Rob Everard (2015), Chelsea Folk (2014)…