Community

Clemons has been the voice for those living with mental health, addiction issues

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Tom Clemons can talk … and talk … and talk. Most of what he talks about is pushing for mental health services for Wood County residents – and making fun of himself for talking so much. Clemons, whose propensity for talking is well known, is retiring from his position as director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board next March. “This interview could last several days,” he said with a big grin. “I go off on tangents.” And that is an understatement. Clemons is aware that his gift of gab is nearly legendary – so he is frequently apologizing for rambling. “Oh my God, Tom’s at it again,” he says in his customary self-deprecating manner. But this fall, as Clemons fine tuned his WCADAMHS levy pitch, he was able to rein it in. “It took everything I had,” he whispered. “I can be succinct. I just don’t like being succinct.” Behind him in the WCADAMHS conference room as he was interviewed was a white board with almost unintelligible pen scratchings. It was a visible manifestation of how Clemons’ brain works. Far from neat and tidy, it’s how Clemons thinks. And it’s benefitted Wood County for more than 20 years. Clemons came to the board first as associate director in 1997, then became director in 2012. Prior to that, he worked as a therapist in private practice in the Defiance area. He changed jobs to be closer to home while his and wife Karen’s children were teenagers. “For a few years I really missed being a therapist,” he said. “But I realized I could really affect more people and systems of care,” in his administrative position. Clemons was drawn to psychology early in life. “I had friends in high school who I saw become addicted to drugs and alcohol.” And he had two friends who took their lives. His parents were a huge influence on his career path, with his father being a minister and his mother having a divinity degree and working with senior adults. “I was raised to serve other people,” Clemons said. “I think the idea of service to others has always been ingrained in me.” His belief system is focused on “finding ways of loving our neighbors,” and not just those geographically close. Clemons’ gift of gab was also a trait passed down. “Dad was…

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Gardner talks funding, water, guns and abortion at town hall

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Since the lame duck session of state government usually brings some hasty legislative decisions, State Senator Randy Gardner spent Saturday morning conferring with his constituents. Always a history teacher at heart, Gardner tried to put the present in perspective by explaining past decisions. For two hours, he answered questions at his town hall meeting, then spent another hour talking with citizens individually. Though they didn’t always like his answers, the citizens at Saturday’s town hall meeting appreciated the willingness of the senator to hold a public gathering. “The next three weeks will be a really challenging time with big decisions,” said Gardner, a Republican from Bowling Green who has rotated between the state representative and senate seats since 1984. Adding to the unpredictability of the lame duck session will be the number of amendments tacked onto bills at the last moment. “Amendments will change the outcome of bills,” Gardner said. And it’s not unusual for amendments to present competing interests in the same bill, he added. Gardner has two of his own issues pending in the lame duck session. The Sierah Joughin bill creates a statewide database for law enforcement listing convicted violent offenders living in their jurisdictions. The bill is in response to the death of a 20-year-old woman from Fulton County, who was killed by a convicted violent felon. “I’m pretty optimistic,” this will pass, Gardner said. This bill has its critics, he said. Some feel the database could impede the rehabilitation of convicts. To better understand that criticism, Gardner said he met with Eddie Slade, who spent 31 years in prison for murder and burglary. “I have extra respect now for people who struggle to turn the lives around,” he said. But Sierah’s Law is in the best interest of communities, he said. Gardner’s other pending bill would “finally” see movement to get funding for the preservation of a healthy Lake Erie and help the agricultural community at the same time. Following are some of the other topics Gardner was asked about during the town hall. Hot button issues – guns, abortion and petitioning Marilyn Bowlus, of Pemberville, asked Gardner about pending house bills on “Stand Your Ground” gun laws and abortion rights. “It seems like Ohio is going backward,” Bowlus said. States that make it easier for people to justify…


Making sure everyone counts in U.S. Census in 2020

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County residents need to know the U.S. Census counts. It counts when determining how many congressional members Ohio gets, how much the region gets in federal highway funds, and which businesses want to invest here. The League of Women Voters in Bowling Green hosted a program last week focusing on the importance of the U.S. Census count which rolls around every 10 years – the next one in 2020. A demographer and a census official talked about the value of collecting accurate statistics. The count doesn’t come without controversy. This time around, the addition of a question about U.S. citizenship is still being debated. Despite some claiming that only citizens should make the official tally, the founders were clear, according to Dr. Wendy Manning, president of the Population Association of America, and a sociology professor at BGSU. “It’s meant to count all the people who live here,” Manning said. The U.S. Constitution required the population count every decade – with 2020 being the 24th count. The first census in 1790 had six questions, was conducted by U.S. marshals going door-to-door over an 18-month period. Counted were free white males age 16 and older; white males under age 16; free white females; those who paid taxes; and the number of slaves. That first census found nearly 4 million living in the U.S. The 2020 census – which will be primarily conducted online – is expected to find about 334 million people. Those who don’t respond online or through the mail will still get an in-person visit from a Census Bureau representative. The questions have varied over the years – in number and subject matter, Manning said. Like the original census, the 2020 census will have relatively few questions at six or seven, depending on the outcome of the citizenship question debate. Following are some of the questions that formerly appeared on census surveys: Number of insane or blind residents in the home in 1840. Number of paupers or convicts in the household in 1850. Number of English speaking residents in 1890. Number of Hispanic residents in the home in 1980. Number of unmarried partners in 1990. Number of multiracial partners in 2000. The number of Native Americans living on reservations were not counted until 1990. “Over time lots of people have been left out of the census,” Manning said. The number of…


County dental center to fill gap in local medical services

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Many Wood County families cannot afford dental insurance, or cannot find dental offices willing to accept Medicaid patients. So for many, dental care is put off until the pain is unbearable. But soon, local residents will have a place to turn to for help at the new dental center at the Wood County Community Health Center. The center, with its sliding fee scale, will not turn away anyone due to lack of insurance or funds. “Nobody will have to go without dental services because of an inability to pay,” said Alex Aspacher, community outreach coordinator at the health department. “There’s a large need for those in the Medicaid community.” The dental center will target women, children and the uninsured, but anyone will be accepted. “As soon as you’re ready for your first checkup, till you don’t have a need for us anymore,” said Kami Wildman, outreach and enrollment specialist at the Wood County Health Department. The dental clinic has five exam chairs, a lab, and will offer services such as X-rays, minor surgeries and preventative care. The addition of the dental services makes the community health center a comprehensive “patient-centered medical home,” Wildman said. The center provides a primary care physician, dental, pharmacy and behavioral health all in one building, Aspacher said. The dental facility provides a patient service that has been identified as an important missing piece for decades. “Dental has been a consistent need in the county going back some time,” Wildman said. “It’s easy to put it off until you have pain.” And like many other health issues, poor dental care can lead to or worsen other health problems. More and more correlations are being identified between poor dental health and diabetes and heart issues. “It’s possible if we help people with oral health, that other benefits will follow,” Aspacher said. By reaching children at a younger age, local public health officials hope to help promote healthy dental habits early on. The opening date for the facility is still unknown. The dental center has hired its program coordinator and an hygienist. Still to be hired is a dentist, two assistants and two support staff. An open house at the dental center is planned for Dec. 6, from 4 to 7 p.m. “We’re really thinking once people get in here to see it, they will be impressed,” Aspacher said. Community…


Hot news – BG gas aggregation program locks in low prices

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Next year, several Bowling Green residents can bump their heat up a couple degrees, dump the triple layers of clothing – and not feel guilty about it. On Monday, the Board of Public Utilities accepted the lowest natural gas rate since 2012 for city residents and small commercial businesses using Columbia Gas. The price that is now locked in for city customers is 18 percent lower than the current price. “Eighteen percent – that’s pretty good,” said Brian O’Connell, the city’s public utilities director. “That’s the lowest price we’ve ever had” in the aggregation program. And instead of the usual six month contract, this price is locked in for 24 months, O’Connell told the board. Typically, the longer term fixed price options are more expensive, he said, so this long-term price is a bonus. “We’ll be set for the next two years,” he said. The lowest bid came from a gas supplier called Volunteer. The price per ccf (100 cubic feet) will be $0.3855 compared to $0.470 for this year. The highest cost seen so far through the program was $0.633 in July of 2014. Columbia Gas customers in the city will automatically be included in the aggregation program, unless they opt out of the program. Customers will still have the ability to switch to another supplier at any time with no cancellation fee. Large customers, like industrial users, are not eligible for the program. Most residential and small commercial gas customers participate in the program. Why not, O’Connell asked. “We’re just offering another option for customers,” he said. The 18 percent reduction only covers the actual volume of the natural gas being purchased – not for the infrastructure costs to Columbia Gas. Bowling Green started its natural gas aggregation program in 2004 to offer savings for local Columbia Gas customers. O’Connell explained that because of the way gas pricing works lately, he typically has to tell the gas supplier to lock in a fixed price the same day the price is quoted to the city. “For the aggregation program to work, I have to be able to respond quickly,” he stated.


No such thing as free parking … somebody’s got to pay

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   One by one, the business owners and city officials took turns trying a different type of parking kiosk that promised to be easy to use, faster for patrons, and less likely to cause frustration for shoppers. The sample kiosk, presented recently by International Parking Solutions, was promoted as taking less than 10 seconds to use. But as with most technology, human error and uncertainty sometimes stretched out the time. Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick, whose staff patrols the city parking lots, said the kiosks used in the lot behind Panera were “not well received.” The city and a parking task force is considering several downtown parking options – including the replacement of the current kiosks with new easier models. “You want to make it as convenient as you can,” said Michael Wilson of IPS. The new sample kiosk proved to be easier – since it allows users to pay in a variety of ways with a variety of paths to get there. Unlike the existing kiosks, this one does not send the motorist back to square one if a step is missed. “If this takes you longer than 10 seconds, it’s too long,” Wilson said. But there are some problems with the IPS kiosk. It will accept credit cards or coins – but programming it to accept dollar bills costs an extra $1,500 per kiosk. Motorists who frequent the lots can go online and register their credit card to streamline the process more. Like the current kiosks in use, the IPS model also notifies motorists on their phones of their parking time nearing expiration. The motorists can then ask for more time. “The revenue side of parking is critical to cities,” Wilson said. It’s often that money that is used to maintain city parking lots and sidewalks, he said. The average minimum parking cost in cities is $1 an hour. Anything less than $1 is not work the credit card processing, Wilson said. Costs in larger communities are much higher, like $2.75 an hour in Madison, Wisconsin, and $6.50 an hour in San Francisco, he added. Kim Thomas, owner of the H&R Block building on South Main Street, said the parking issue is more complicated than it appears. “Of course, free parking sounds wonderful,” she said. But the fact that several downtown apartment renters use city parking lots for their vehicles…


Wood County library may pinch pennies – but not on books

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Though far from scientific, the popularity of the Wood County District Public Library can be measured in its worn carpet and the long wait-list for Michelle Obama’s new book. And the support for the library can be seen in the library’s ability to buy new carpet and stock up on 10 more copies of Obama’s book, “Becoming.” Wood County District Public Library Director Michael Penrod has more traditional methods for measuring the health of the library. And lately, the vital signs are looking very healthy. For example, the library: Paid off its loan early for the renovations at its Walbridge branch. Created a new capital projects fund to ensure that unexpected repairs would not short the funding for new materials for library patrons. Spends more than most libraries on new materials. Charts continued high numbers of books and other materials being borrowed by patrons. The rule of thumb is that when the economy is good, people buy their own books rather than borrow them from libraries, Penrod said. But Wood County District Public Library has seen no drop-off in usage. “In 2012, we hit a record level in terms of items borrowed by the community. We’ve been able to continue that,” Penrod said. “During the great recession, we were busier than ever.” The library has been able to stave off threats of obsolescence. The internet and e-books have not rendered the facility antiquated. “We can compete against Amazon,” Penrod said with a grin. For example, last week when Penrod was notified by staff that there were 16 holds on Obama’s new book, he decided to not make patrons wait. “We went ahead and bought 10 more,” he said. While the library has to buy e-books, it is able to lease hard copies of books. So there have been times that the library has leased 40 to 50 copies of best sellers, then returned them when they are no longer in great demand. Nationwide, libraries spend an average of 11.5 percent of their budgets on new material. “Bowling Green deserves better than that,” Penrod said. So the Wood County library spends close to 16.5 percent. “We’re very proud we’re spending a lot of money on new material,” he said. “I say ‘thank you’ to the state. I say ‘thank you’ to our voters. I say ‘thank you’ to Schedel,” where the library holds…