Community

BG Council action to help Betco create 20 new jobs

 By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council helped pave the way Monday evening for a local manufacturer to add approximately 20 jobs. Council agreed to vacate about 90 feet of right-of-way adjacent to Betco Corporation on Newton Road. The vacating of the right-of-way will allow the company to proceed with construction of an additional facility at its location. Betco is planning a 20,000 square foot warehouse for the relocation of operations from another state – which will create an estimated 20 new jobs. Also at Monday’s meeting, Mayor Dick Edwards declared Nov. 25 as “Small Business Saturday” in Bowling Green. “Small businesses employ over 48 percent of the working population of the U.S.,” he said. Mary Hinkelman, managing director of Downtown Bowling Green, asked those present to remember the “Holly Days” and “Downtown Dollars” promotions while they do their holiday shopping. “We are working hard to promote our downtown,” Hinkelman said. “It’s so important for our downtown merchants.” According to Hinkelman, when people spend their shopping dollars locally, 68 cents of every $1 stays in the local economy. She also noted that local businesses are frequently giving back to the community. “They make a huge investment in our downtown and it vibrates out to our whole community,” she said. The mayor also recognized Wendy Chambers, executive director of the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau, for her efforts in the city being named one of Ohio’s Best Hometowns of the Year. This is the second…


Muslim students at BGSU dedicate themselves to social justice

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Many people serve others because of the dictates of their religions. For Adam Smidi, it was his desire to serve others that led him to rededicate himself to Islam. As he read the Koran and about the prophet Mohammad, he found a calling. At the recent Muslim Student Association Convention at Bowling Green State University, Smidi said:  “I wanted to learn more about my religion that I was so far away from. I found that there was this element of social justice, like a pillar, or a backbone of the religion … treating yourself with dignity and treating others with the dignity that everyone deserves.” The Muslim Student Association has dedicated this year to reaching out to the community through service, Toghrul Alakbarov, president of the group, said. They will collaborate with others including plans to participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service next year. The convention is attended both by members of the association and community members invited for a free dinner, conversation, and entertaining lessons about Islam as well as presentations on weighty matters. Smidi, now a doctoral student in organizational communication at BGSU, was born in West Virginia, making him a self-described “Muslim hillbilly” and grew up in Toledo. His family, though, frequently traveled back to Lebanon to visit. He was “growing up with two cultures, two identities, and loving them both, my American and Muslim identities.” He now runs his family’s car dealership. “What’s most important to…


County voters support child, elder protective services

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Voters responded to the increasing numbers of child abuse and neglect in Wood County by passing the 1.3-mill renewal levy for Human Services on Tuesday. The Wood County Human Services levy passed with nearly 68 percent of the votes (19,126 to 9,151.) That wide margin of approval was welcome news to Sandi Carsey, administrator of Wood County Children’s Services. “I think that people understand that child protection and protection of the elderly is very important,” Carsey said. “Wood County has always been very supportive,” she added. Since the levy was last passed 10 years ago, Wood County has seen six deaths of children under 3 years old due to abuse. Five suffered from head trauma, and one was smothered. There are no plans to use the levy funding to add staff. A pressing need is to provide safe placements for children removed from their homes. “The number of kids in care has gone up drastically,” Carsey said. Wood County is on its way to setting a record for 2017, as the numbers of child abuse and neglect cases continue to grow. Since 1987, the Children’s Services and Adult Protective Services portions of the agency have relied on the 1.3 mills to support their work. The 10-year levy generates $3.7 million a year, and costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $36 a year. The funding provides for child abuse and neglect investigations and, if needed, placement of children in foster homes…


BG voters reject anti-pipeline charter amendment

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Many Bowling Green residents distrust pipelines, but they also disliked the charter amendment intended to keep the lines off city land. The charter amendment, proposed by Bowling Green Climate Protectors, failed on Tuesday by a vote of 2,145 (39 percent) to 3,408 (61 percent). “I’m grateful to the voters of Bowling Green for protecting the integrity of the city charter,” Mayor Dick Edwards said as the results came in. The proposed Bowling Green charter amendment was intended to give the community rights to a healthy environment and livable climate. But while that was the intent, critics said the words went far beyond those reasonable rights. Despite defeat on Tuesday, the group behind the charter amendment is not daunted, said Brad Holmes, of the Climate Protectors organization. “We’re going to keep our options open,” Holmes said. And while the issue failed at the polls, it succeeded at making people more aware of the threats from pipelines, he said. “We raised awareness about the severity of these type of issues in Bowling Green,” Holmes said. “We hope to inspire other communities to do such initiatives.” The Bowling Green Climate Protectors, saw the charter amendment as a way for citizens to intervene if the city does not adequately protect its citizens from harm to their environment. The charter amendment would have given citizens a right to peaceably protest projects such as the Nexus pipeline that is planned near Bowling Green’s water treatment plant in Middleton…


BG elects 6 City Council members from field of 13

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green voters elected six City Council members from a field of 13 on Tuesday. Despite the busy ballot, there will be no big changes on council. Four incumbents were returned to their seats. The other two winners had previously served on council years ago. The make-up of council will now be five Democrats and two Republicans. And still, only one seat is held by a woman. That woman, Sandy Rowland was the top vote getter in the race for at-large candidates. Following is a list of the vote tallies for the council candidates, with the winners in bold. The unofficial vote totals for the At-Large race are: Holly Cipriani (Democrat): 1,958 (21 percent) Nathan Eberly (Independent): 936 (10 percent) Beverly Elwazani (Green): 717 (7 percent) Carolyn Kawecka (Green): 265 (3 percent) Gregory Robinette (Republican): 2,680 (28 percent) Sandy Rowland (Democrat): 2,971 (31 percent) First Ward unofficial totals: Daniel Gordon (Democrat): 254 (76 percent) Hunter Sluss (Republican): 79 (24 percent) Second Ward unofficial totals: Kent Ramsey (Republican): 248 (32 percent) John Zanfardino (Democrat): 531 (68 percent) Third Ward unopposed race: Michael Aspacher (Democrat): 1,274 (100 percent) Fourth Ward unofficial totals: William Herald (Republican): 1,470 (52 percent) Scott Seeliger (Democrat): 1,358 (48 percent) At-large winner Rowland said she was honored to get the top voter support. “It’s all about Bowling Green and the people who support me,” she said. “For six years, I’ve listened to the people. They put me here and I…


BG school levy fails; board ponders next attempt

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green school officials were disappointed but not dissuaded by Tuesday’s defeat of the 6-mill levy for school buildings. The levy was rejected by a vote of 3,471 (46 percent) to 4,021 (54 percent). “I feel bad for the kids. I feel bad for the staff. I feel bad for the community,” Superintendent Francis Scruci said as he stood surrounded by levy supporters as the election results came in. But Scruci and the school board don’t plan to waste much time moaning about the loss. They have some decisions to make. Do they go back on the ballot in May or November? Or do they try to patch up buildings with permanent improvement funds and add more modular classrooms? “We’re not going to stop doing what’s right for kids,” Scruci said. “We’re disappointed this is 20 months of work that came down to one day,” he said. The 6-mill levy, lasting 37 years, would have raised $72 million for buildings. The plan was to consolidate the three elementaries into one centralized building, and to renovate and add new sections to the high school. The levy failure was not due to lack of communication, since Scruci made nearly 100 presentations on the levy and building plans since September. However, in the last couple weeks, opposition to the levy came out with “a lot of misinformation” that didn’t help, he said. The superintendent had said that if the levy failed, the district would come…


County prosecutor sets up opiate response team

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County has its first employees assigned specifically to battle the opiate crisis. Sixteen people died of opiate overdoses in the county last year, according to the Wood County Coroner’s Office. In response to a survey of local first responders, 16 departments said they responded to 83 opiate overdoses last year, and administered the life-saving drug Naloxone 60 times. And in an 18-month period, the county prosecutor’s office saw about 130 drug cases. Getting addicts in treatment, and getting them back after relapses are important, Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson said during a meeting with the county commissioners. The average person experiences seven relapses during their three to five years of trying to get free of opiates. On Tuesday, Dobson and Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn announced the implementation of a new program in the prosecutor’s office to battle the opiate and drug epidemic. The program has been named the Addiction Response Collaborative, or ARC. Earlier this year, Dobson – who lost a stepson to opiate addiction – introduced his four-tiered plan for dealing with the opiate epidemic in Wood County. The plan called for the creation of a quick response team, a pre-trial diversion program in the prosecutor’s office, an intervention in lieu of sentencing program in the courts, and the establishment of a drug docket in the courts. The program team includes a Drug Addiction and Abuse Response Coordinator hired by the prosecutor’s office through funding from the Wood…


Last pitch made for BG charter amendment proposal

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   On the eve of the Tuesday’ election, proponents of the Bowling Green charter amendment made one last big pitch for the proposal to City Council Monday. And city officials, whose efforts had been questioned and criticized by the proponents for the past year, ended up thanking the college students behind the proposal for their passion and sincerity. The evening ended with a handshake between Mayor Dick Edwards and Brad Holmes, one of driving forces behind the charter amendment. On Tuesday, Bowling Green voters will determine whether or not the anti-pipeline amendment becomes a part of the city charter. Three BGSU students stood up Monday to defend the charter amendment. Alex Bishop, who is originally from Mansfield, said the Rover pipeline runs about a half mile from her home and spilled thousands of gallons of hazardous material that destroyed a wetlands. She doesn’t want to see something similar happen near her “second home” of BGSU. “This issue is really important to me,” Bishop said. “I wanted a chance to come here and talk about it.” Holmes said the charter amendment proposal had to jump through several hoops to even get on the ballot. “I’m just very happy we made it this far,” he said. Though the wording of the charter amendment has been criticized, the purpose of the proposal is to empower city officials and the community to reject plans for a pipeline that could be potentially dangerous, he said. “We’re very confident,…


BG gets tips on how to become ‘welcoming community’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green has declared itself a “welcoming community.” But what does that really mean? And how exactly can it be accomplished? Earlier this year at the urging of the city’s Human Relations Commission, Bowling Green City Council adopted a resolution stating the city was welcoming. “All communities say they are welcoming,” said Rev. Mary Jane Saunders, co-chair of the Human Relations Commission. “We always know any community can be better.” The commission wants Bowling Green and its residents to view immigrants as a benefit – not a detriment to the community – and to realize the economics of immigration. Several cities in the “rust belt” have started looking at immigrants in a different light than some areas of the nation. In many Midwest cities, immigrants are now seen as a solution to critical labor shortages and as ways to strengthen the local economy Several manufacturers in Bowling Green have expressed concerns recently about the labor force being too small to fill their needs. So last week, Bowling Green welcomed home Steve Tobocman, whose great-grandfather immigrated to this community in the beginning of the 20th century after fleeing the persecution of Jews in Russia. Tobocman is executive director of Global Detroit, which works to leverage international talent to fill businesses’ unmet needs, help immigrant entrepreneurs, revitalize neighborhoods, and build an inclusive region. Tobocman, an attorney and former Michigan state legislator, complimented Bowling Green for taking the first step to becoming a truly welcoming…


BG Schools takes drudgery out of math, science & tech

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For a few hours last month, the gym at Conneaut Elementary School was transformed into a wetlands, prairie, woodland and river. For one day last week, all of Bowling Green’s fourth graders took part in the BG Math Invasion 2017. And every week, girls are beating the odds by joining the “Girls Who Code” program held after school every Monday. This is science, math and technology being made fun. “They are really into it,” Nichole Simonis, fifth grade science and reading teacher at Conneaut said about the COSI on Wheels program. “They are so excited about science. They were talking about it all morning. They saw the COSI truck and started cheering.” The COSI visit was funded by an anonymous donor, Simonis said. This was not a typical science lesson, nor a typical science teacher. With her portable mic on her head, Alex Wilkins quickly paced around the gym and fired off questions to the kids about ecology, habitats, and food chains. In the prairie setting, one student was decked out with wings and fuzzy feet and told to “be a bumble bee.” She slurped the nectar off one flower and shared it with another. They talked about seeds. “So seeds don’t have legs. I’ve been walking all over this gym, but seeds can’t do that,” Wilkins said. So another student came up to turn on a giant fan to blow seeds across the gym. They talked about other seed options –…


BG Peace Marchers make statement with their feet

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Nearly 125 people bundled up to join the annual Peace March on Friday from downtown Bowling Green to Bowling Green State University. Among them was Holli Gray-Luring, who was pushing her 3-year-old son, Ian, in a stroller. “It just feels good to be a part of something so positive,” said Gray-Luring, who also participated in the Peace March last year. “The people who stand here are aligned with our thoughts and beliefs in the world.” The second annual Peace March was again organized by Not In Our Town Bowling Green – a group dedicated to accepting diversity and speaking out against hatred. “It is an opportunity to be very visible on the streets of Bowling Green,” said Julie Broadwell, the community co-chair of Not In Our Town. The march makes a statement that all people are “welcome and included in Bowling Green life.” The walk started downtown in the free speech area off East Wooster Street. Led by a group holding the Not In Our Town banner, the walkers stayed on the sidewalks as they headed east to the BGSU campus. Most walked, some used wheelchairs. Joining in were BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey, several university officials and students. On the city side, were Mayor Dick Edwards, several City Council members and city residents. The walk ended in front of the student union, in the free speech zone on campus. “I think the peace march is something so special,” said Alex Solis,…


Study to see if sports complex could score big here

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Parents of young children often pack up the vehicles several weekends of the year to head out to travel ball tournaments. Local economic development officials want to see if they might be able to get a piece of that action. Four entities – Wood County Economic Development Commission plus the cities of Perrysburg, Rossford and Maumee – have invested $15,000 each to have a study conducted on whether or not this area could support a massive sports complex. “I think there is a demand,” said Wood County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Wade Gottschalk. “We all know parents who drive kids to tournaments every weekend. We want to see if there’s enough demand for something of this scope.” Perrysburg Mayor Mike Olmstead suggested the feasibility study after visiting the Grand Park sports campus near Indianapolis. That 400-acre facility includes more than 31 multipurpose and soccer fields, 26 baseball diamonds, and an indoor soccer and events center. “It’s a great idea,” Gottschalk said. That’s why experts in the field have been brought in to do impartial evaluations, he added. If the study finds that such a sports complex would be feasible in this area, then the next question is where, Gottschalk said. Some suggestions have been made that acreage in between Perrysburg and Bowling Green, somewhere along Ohio 25, would be considered. “But we’re not to that point yet,” Gottschalk said. Some signs point to a large sports complex being successful here, he…


BG school officials hear levy is too taxing for farmers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Besides agreeing that kids need good schools, there seemed to be little common ground plowed Wednesday evening when a local farmer met with Bowling Green City School officials, teachers, parents and community leaders. After helping to send out 5,000 mailers to district voters, urging them to vote against the school levy, Richard Chamberlain was asked to attend one of the superintendent’s coffee chats Wednesday evening. Chamberlain came armed with a stack of property tax bills. Chamberlain said the 6-mill school levy is putting the bulk of the burden on farmers. School officials said they are trying to give students the schools they need to succeed – and a property tax is their only option. Superintendent Francis Scruci explained the school building project to Chamberlain, showing him the charts that he carries everywhere. Plans call for the consolidation of the three elementaries on property north of the middle school, and for renovations and an addition to the high school. “I appreciate it,” Chamberlain said. But it’s the way the project is being funded that doesn’t sit well with the farmer. “You would be more than willing to push the burden for this great project onto the few,” he said. After the meeting, Chamberlain said all he wanted was school officials to admit they were unfairly putting the millage on the backs of the farming community. But Scruci and High School Principal Jeff Dever said the district needs new schools, and the state legislature…


Anti-abortion protesters picket outside BGHS

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As students left Bowling Green High School on Wednesday afternoon, they were met by anti-abortion protesters with graphic photos of aborted fetuses. Principal Jeff Dever said the protesters showed up with no notice to the school district. “I didn’t want those people there, especially with the kids,” Dever said this morning. “Some kids were afraid to go past them.” However, the six protesters stayed on the sidewalk along West Poe Road – “which is a public space,” he said. Bowling Green police responded, and along with Dever, talked with the protesters and advised them to stay off school property and not go past the public sidewalk. Dever said he asked one of the protesters why they would want juveniles to see the graphic images. The protester reportedly told Dever that he first saw such photographs of abortions when he was 6 years old. “Shame on your parents,” the principal said he responded to the protester. The anti-abortion group was reportedly at Bowling Green State University earlier in the day, then moved over to the high school in time for school dismissal. There remained there from about 2:15 to 3 p.m. “The bad thing was it scared the kids. They were spooked about walking through,” Dever said. “It kind of stunk. They shouldn’t do that.” Some other students were angered by the protesters, the principal said. “We had kids who wanted to argue with them.” According to Dever, this is the first time…


BG Council members share big ‘wish lists’ for tight budget

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As members of Bowling Green City Council began their discussion on the city’s 2018 budget, it was fitting that Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter handed them “100 Grand” candy bars. There weren’t enough, so they had to share. That was pretty much the theme of the evening. The city projected a general fund deficit of $625,000 by the end of this year – primarily due to flat income tax revenues and continued cuts from the state. That deficit may be less than first projected, but will still be somewhere between $300,000 and $400,000. So Tretter used another food analogy. This time a pizza. “Perhaps you can think of all of the people who need to share the pizza,” she said to City Council. The pizza can be sliced many different ways. “But it’s still just one pizza we are sharing.” Before City Council gets its hands on any of the $15 million budget, much of it has already been allocated for personnel costs, debt services and ongoing contracts. Close to 76 percent of the general fund goes for salaries and fringe benefits, which is a reasonable percentage, Tretter said. So that leaves council with far less discretionary funds than their “wish lists” for the year. To get an idea of council members’ priorities, each was asked to identify areas they would like to see funded. Council President Mike Aspacher started off the list with the Community Action Plan – an item that made…