BG school bus cameras catch people passing illegally

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   School buses in Bowling Green are now equipped with their own type of red-light cameras. So far this school year, at least 19 vehicles have illegally passed Bowling Green City School buses stopped for picking up or dropping off children. So the district is investing in cameras mounted on the bus exteriors to catch drivers illegally passing stopped buses. Wednesday morning, Bowling Green City Schools Transportation Director Toby Snow stood outside Kenwood Elementary as the buses conducted annual emergency evacuation drills during National Bus Safety Week. But Snow is aware that one of the biggest threats comes from other vehicles sharing the road with school buses. About three years ago, the district put external cameras on three buses that were experiencing the most problems with red light runners. But then the number of vehicles running past stopped buses jumped this year, Snow said. He reported 18 to the school board earlier this month. That number has since grown to 19. “I just decided it’s a good thing to see from all of them,” Snow said of buying additional cameras. So far, 11 buses are equipped with the cameras – which cost about $750 each. Seven more cameras are on order. The district has a total of 20 school buses that carry about 1,300 students to and from school each day. The law requires drivers to stop for school buses when the red lights are on and the stop sign is extended on the side of the bus. Vehicles are required to stop at least 10 feet away from the bus. The bus drivers put yellow lights on first to warn drivers that a bus stop is approaching. If the bus is on a four-lane road, just the vehicles headed the same direction as the bus are required to stop. Bus drivers are asked to identify the vehicle, license plate and give a description of the driver for vehicles passing them illegally. But that is asking too much for drivers who are also watching a busload of children, Snow said. “It’s almost impossible,” he said. So the cameras help do the job. They are mounted at an angle so they catch license plates of passing vehicles. “We’ve had them catching them as fast as 50 mph,” Snow said. And they are able to capture license plates in daylight or darkness. “The driver can now concentrate on the children,” he said. Bowling Green is not alone having problems with drivers not stopping for buses. “It’s a nationwide issue.” Earlier this year, an 8-year-old in Missouri was killed by a truck as she was crossing the road to get on her school bus. “The safety of our kids, especially during drop-off and pick-up is important,” said Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci. The number of violations so far this year is troubling, Scruci said. “It’s distressing. Fortunately, we haven’t had a tragedy.” The bus cameras will help, Scruci said. “It’s just an added resource to keep kids safe,” he said. “When a car or truck passes, we can at least report that to police.” Scruci has heard the common complaints from motorists annoyed by the delay of bus stops. “It’s the state law and you need to abide by it,” he said. “Just stop. It’s not…

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Firefly Nights announces a Halloween-themed encore festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Even after a wet start to the evening, the more than 200 people who were around at the end for Friday’s Firefly Night festival, still wanted more music from the closing act Freight Street. So the local folk-rock quintet, fronted by Boo Lee Crosser with singer Flannery Murnen, drummer JP Stebal, bassist Devonte Stovall, and violinist Kathleen Schnerer, obliged. This was to have been end of the three-event community festivals for the season. But organizers also have an encore planned. The businesswomen who spearheaded and organized Firefly Nights in downtown Bowling Green announced at the end of the night that there will be one more festival this year on Oct. 19. The October event will feature the same mix of music, food, kid activities, and shopping, only with a Halloween theme. Working with Downtown Bowling Green, the Firefly Night fest will take the place of downtown treat or treating. Mary Hinkelman, director of Downtown BG, said that the festival was a way to continue the trick or treating while adding more activities both for youngsters and the whole family. Kati Thompson, one of the Firefly founders, said the idea came up through discussions by the organizers. Hinkelman responded favorably to the possibility, and suggested using it to replace downtown trick or treating. With about 2,000 kids taking part last year, the event is becoming unmanageable, she said, with kids having to wait in long lines to get their treats. They then approached the city about the possibilities of staging another festival, which requires closing Main Street in downtown off to traffic. City officials approved. In announcing the event, Thompson said: “Don’t worry we’ll still have plenty of treats for the children, but we’ll combine that with fun for the entire community.” What Halloween activities will be offered and how the treat or treating will be handled is still being discussed. Possibilities include hayrides, a kiddie parade, Halloween and fall themed activities, doughnuts and cider, and even a costume contest for children and adults. Thompson said details will be forthcoming. The Oct. 19 Firefly Nights festival will be held 6-10 p.m., same as the summer events. Friday’s event got off to a soggy start with a downpour shortly after it began. Festivalgoers sought shelter under awnings, and in shops and restaurants. Laura Wicks and Gayle Walterbach, two of the founders, said they expected restaurants did well. Boosting local business is part of the mission of Firefly Nights, they said. But the food trucks that stayed had lines by closing time. Other vendors, however, probably suffered. That’s the nature of an outdoor festival, Wicks said. Both were upbeat at how the summer events had gone, and enthusiastic about the encore to come.  

Tipping the scales – local fight against childhood obesity

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When Diane Krill was a child, she spent summer days playing in the park – not parked in front of the TV. “We were there from sun up to sundown,” she said of days of non-stop activity. “We didn’t go home until the dinner bell rang.” But times are different now, said Krill, CEO of the Wood County Community Health Center. Parents afraid to let their children roam the neighborhood sometimes prefer to use the TV as a babysitter. And when they do activities – like soccer or baseball – busy parents often rush through a fast food drive thru to pick up dinner. “We are seeing trends that are leading from childhood to adulthood,” said Wood County Health Commissioner Ben Batey. The likelihood that an obese child will learn healthy eating and exercise habits as an adult is, well, slim. So on Tuesday, the Wood County Health Department held a meeting on childhood obesity for interested community members. A recently conducted Community Health Assessment showed that 72 percent of Wood County adults are overweight or obese – higher than the state average of 67 percent. That adds up to about 37,000 Wood County adults who can be labeled as obese. “That seems staggering,” Batey said. “What can we do about that?” The survey found slightly better results among local youth, where the number of obese youth dropped a bit in the last three years. “We’re seeing a positive trend with our youth, and we don’t want to lose that,” he said. A big problem appears to be that many Wood County adults are not modeling healthy exercise or eating habits for their children. And discussing people’s diets can be a potential minefield – like bringing up politics or religion, Batey said. When surveyed about exercise, many local adults said they don’t have time for physical activity. However, in the same survey, adults averaged 2.4 hours a day watching TV, 1.5 hours on their cell phones, and 1.4 hours on the computer for non-work items. “We’re not taking time to get up and move,” Batey said. “I’m not saying don’t watch TV. But get up and move while you’re watching TV.” Batey admitted to being a “couch potato” himself, and eating too much fast food – until he and his wife had their first child. “This is about childhood obesity. But kids learn from our behaviors as adults,” he said. In the countywide health survey, 76 percent of the parents said the most physical activity they participate in with their children is cleaning and yardwork. While that’s all good, it’s not showing kids that exercise can be fun. “Are we setting the standard that kids want to get physical activity,” Batey said. “What messages are we sending to our kids?” Batey’s household has a rule that each family member must be in some structured physical activity that they enjoy – so there is a commitment. “It becomes important that we make time,” he said. Otherwise, exercise is often the first item to be cut from daily schedules. “The majority of people, we’re just not wired that way,” Batey said of exercising when a comfy couch is the other option. “We’re wired for comfort.” But even for a public health professional, it can…

Kids beef up their skills raising livestock for county fair

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Months of wrangling hefty cows, getting up for early morning swine feedings, and coaxing obstinate goats may pay off this week for kids showing their livestock at the Wood County Fair this week. As adults were setting up carnival rides and food stands Sunday in the front of the Wood County Fairgrounds, kids were getting their livestock ready to show. Kassie Fintel, 17, has been building a relationship with Tot, an 800-pound beef feeder, since February to prepare him for the fair. Basically, it comes down to teaching some manners to Tot (whose twin is of course named Tater). “It’s so much work,” said Fintel, who goes to Bowling Green High School. “It’s countless hours every summer.” In addition to the feeding and cleaning of stalls, Fintel spent quite a bit of time walking Tot. “We have to walk them or they won’t be broken for the fair,” she said as she nudged Tot into position. During judging, Tot will be asked to show that he can raise his feet when tapped with a stick, set his feet square, stand quietly in the ring, and walk without running. “Basically, manners,” Fintel said. At that moment, Tot decided to ignore Fintel and instead chew on a ribbon tacked to the fair pen. “I love his personality,” Fintel said. “He’s such a little dog basically. He doesn’t realize how big he is.” Fintel also shows her quarter horse, Tuck, at the fair. That is less of a challenge since she and Tuck have been partners for years. “My horse has been trained, and we know what we’re doing,” Fintel said. At the barn next door, goats were being weighed in for the week. Though many of the animals showed reluctance to comply with their owners’ wishes, the goats clearly won the prize for being the most ornery. Mason Roe, 11, of Weston, was waiting with his goats, Trixie and Scarlett – neither who were particular about the spellings of their names. “They’re funny,” Roe said. “They walk and jump.” Like the other kids at the fair, Roe has spent months feeding, cleaning, shaving and walking his goats. He found that the pair had a fondness for eating corn. However, since goats bloat up with too much corn, he usually feeds Trixie and Scarlett specialty feed and hay. His goats weighed in at 102 and 80 pounds – making that training component so very important. “I hope they don’t fight with me,” while being shown, Roe said. In the rabbit and poultry barn, Emma Meek, 12, of Grand Rapids, and Addysen Limes, 12, of Weston, talked about their labor of love with livestock. “It’s a lot of commitment,” said Limes, who has meat chickens, pullets and market ducks at the fair. Meek has swine and beef cattle. “Mine is easier than Emma’s. She has to pull around cattle,” Limes said. Meek, however, had developed a strategy with her pig and cattle. “Both my animals love marshmallows and cucumbers,” she said. “I wouldn’t say it’s bribery,” but it has helped with behavioral issues. Limes also learned a secret to fattening up her chickens. “You have to keep a light on at night so they keep eating,” she said. Limes has also learned the value of frequently…

Pirates play coming to Pemberville Opera House

From PEMBERVILLE OPERA HOUSE Pemberville Children’s Theatre Workshop will stage Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” Friday, Aug. 3, and Saturday, Aug. 4 at 7:40 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 5 at 2 p.m. in the Pemberville Opera House, 115 Main St, Pemberville “Treasure Island” is one of the most durable adventure stories of all times, with the villainous Long John Silver following young Jim across the ocean in search of a buried fortune on Treasure Island. Tickets are $8.0 and  $5 under 18 at at Beeker’s General Store or by calling Carol Bailey at  419-287-4848. Luke McHaffie plays Jim and Stephen Williams plays Long John Silver. Cast, directed by Angie Patchett, includes: Mercy Lanning, Chloe Holcomb, Eli Smith, Karena Lowe, Madison Fox, John Williams, Isabella Holcomb,  Titus Angel, Abigail Farris, Seamus Maxon, Kevin Williams, Devon Eidenour, Shane Meehan, Cozy Daniels, Deign Maxon, and Danielle Angel. Also, . Justus Angel, Hayden Cadaret, Ethan Headley, Finnian Maxon, Eamon Maxon, Neely Maxon, Rebekah McHaffie , Caitie Meehan , Delilah VanderWaarden , and Liam VanderWaarden. This year’s production of “Treasure Island” will feature “sea and sky” scenery.  Original to the opera house, it is approximately 100-120 years old. Each piece measures 9’ x 10’ and has small porcelain wheels in the bottoms. These were designed so that one person on each side of the stage could change the scenery with one swift pull. Each piece of scenery fits into a wooden slat at the top of the stage which serves as a channel. The canvas was repaired before artist Kim Baskey, of Toledo, touched in all the wear and tear to make it look like brand new all the while preserving its wonderful history. This is the 11th year for the Pemberville Children’s Theatre. Featuring 28 children between the ages of 7 and 16, who worked weeks to put this production together. Workshop made possible through the generosity of the Gale and Marlyn Williamson Performing Arts Fund.

Children’s Librarian Maria Simon on the mend from injuries suffered in crash

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Maria Simon is back to work at the Wood County District Public Library. Though she’s not up to rocking out, the children’s librarian is feeling well enough to return to see the Libraries Rock summer reading program through the end of the summer. Simon was seriously injured June 6 in an automobile accident on I-75. She returned to work with restrictions a week ago. Simon said she was very pleased to be back, even if it’s just part time. She attended the library’s Board of Trustees meeting Monday. She suffered a broken sternum and a concussion, so she said she’s having to limit her contact with the public. “Just a wave is all I need,” she said of well-wishers. She said that the library is a very private place, so many people probably aren’t aware of where she’s been. They may assume she’s been on vacation, Simon said. The accident occurred just south of Cygnet Road in Wood County when the Toyota Prius she was driving struck another car that was driving erratically. While trying to avoid that car she also made contact with a tractor-trailer. She, her husband Marc Simon, Bowling Green State University professor, and her mother, Mary Roemer, of South Bend, Indiana were on their way back to Bowling Green after traveling to Cincinnati to see a show the Simons’ daughter and son were performing. Roemer was very seriously injured who was taken by air ambulance to St. Vincent’s in Toledo. She has now been transferred to a skilled nursing facility in South Bend. So in addition to her own recovery, Simon was monitoring her mother’s care. Simon said she appreciates returning to the library. “I love this place,” she said. “I love libraries. Libraries incredibly healing places, places of order and stability.  There’s answers here.” Answers are hard to come by in the world of medical care where even the experts can be baffled, especially when it comes to concussions and spinal injuries, such as those her mother suffered. That “world is full of care and concern, and definitely love and prayers. That’s very comforting, but it’s extremely scary.” Back in the library “is very comforting and knowledgeable and orderly. And this place is a lot more fun.” Simon said that she especially missed the children. Her injuries knocked her out of action just as the summer reading program with the theme Libraries Rock had started rolling. But her staff “didn’t miss a beat,” she said. “They are rock stars.” She’s even turned to the library collection to study up of the injuries she and her mother suffered. Sometimes that means a book aimed at young readers since it is written in easy-to-understand terms. Simon though would like some answers from the legal system. As far as she knows no charges have been pressed against the other driver. And she still has a lot of questions about what led up the accident. County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson said his office “is still working with the State Highway Patrol to see what information and evidence is available.”  

BG twins rescue toddler from deep end of hotel pool

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The 6-year-old twins are unlikely heroes. The two blond boys, in their matching swimsuits, rescued a toddler who jumped in the deep end this past weekend at a hotel pool in Florida. The twins – Bryant and Peyton Switzer – who are taking swimming lessons this week at Bowling Green city pool, talked about the rescue before their class started on Tuesday morning. “Pretend over here is the shallow end,” Bryant said pointing to the city pool. “She was just playing in it.” But then the 3-year-old took off her water-wing flotation devices and jumped in the deep end. The boys were old enough to realize she needed help. “He jumped in and put his arm around her,” Bryant said of his brother, Peyton. “Then he gave her to me, and I got her out.” The little girl was frightened, but the twins stayed calm. “She was a little scared when she was in the deep end,” Bryant said. The boys’ mom, Amy Walters, of Bowling Green, said they had gone to Orlando, Florida, for a work trip. The twins were in the hotel pool with Walters’ fiancé, D.J. Dieter, when the incident occurred. “She had seen the big boys playing and splashing around,” and apparently wanted to join in, Walters said of the little girl. “They didn’t even think twice. They went into action,” Walters said. “We’re very proud of them.” The toddler’s mom expressed her thanks to the young heroes. “The mother was extremely grateful,” Walters said. The boys, she said, are very comfortable in the water. “They are little fish. They’d live in the water if you’d let them,” Walters said. Mia Schempf, the twins’ swimming lessons teacher at BG city pool, said the boys are strong swimmers for being so young. “They are super smart kids,” she said. It just happened that last week, one of their classes focused on water safety. “We teach them safety in and around the water,” Schempf said. “It’s awesome they were able to save someone.” After Monday’s swimming class, the boys’ bravery was recognized by State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, who presented Bryant and Peyton with certificates honoring their heroism.