Community

City government may find room to grow right next door

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Members of the new Citizens Academy got a course Tuesday evening on city history, the branches of city government and the city finances. But the highlight of the class was the field trip. They wedged their way into cramped offices, squeezed through maze-like areas, and marveled at tangles of wires and mountains of boxes in the City Administration Building. Many in the Citizens Academy, made up of city commission members and local media, had heard stories about the city building, but few had seen the conditions in person. So the question naturally came up – is the city still talking about a new administration building? The answer was an emphatic “yes.” The city building, at 304 N. Church St., started its life more than a century ago as a school. It then was turned into a library, and in 1976 became the city administration building. The result is a 17,000 square foot building with cramped offices, maze-like spaces and cobbled together technology. But after years of discussion, the solution, it seems, may be right next door. Earlier this year, city officials announced that property at 140 S. Grove St. would be donated to the Wood County Senior Center for a new facility. The property was previously the setting of the school administration building. The new site would allow for a much larger senior center and for a building actually constructed for that purpose, instead of the retrofitted post office that had been used as a senior center for years. The move from 305 N. Main St. to South Grove Street would not…


Scruci fields questions from farming community on bond issue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci faced a tough crowd Monday evening – members of the local farming community, looking for information on the school district’s 6-mill bond request for buildings. The bond issue could be a hard sell to farmers, since owners of large amounts of acreage will be among those most affected by the property tax on the November ballot. This was the third time the superintendent has met with members of the farming community. And each time he has not pushed for them to pass the bond issue. Instead, Scruci has suggested they ask themselves two questions. “Does this help move the community forward and is it good for kids?” Then came the tougher one. “Can you afford it?” “We know there are people in this community who can’t afford it,” Scruci said. And they have to cast their votes accordingly. That doesn’t mean they are against the school district or the students, he added. But the district cannot wait until everyone in the district can afford new schools, he said. “This community will never grow and our kids will not get what kids in every other district in our area are getting,” Scruci said. The superintendent fielded questions about why the district can’t use an income tax, which wouldn’t hurt local farmers as much. An income tax cannot be used to pay for a building project, he explained. What about an increase in sales tax, someone asked. The schools have no way to increase sales tax, Scruci said. One man said the length of the bond issue – 37…


Antrone “Juice” Williams takes a shot at helping kids & raising awareness of stroke dangers

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Five years ago Antrone “Juice” Williams almost died on a basketball court in Maine. He was doing what he loved playing basketball. He was good enough to have played college hoops and semi-pro ball. And then in an instant he was down, just aware enough to know this may be the end. It wasn’t. After he came out of an induced coma, Williams started the long road to recovery. On Sunday Williams (formerly known as Moore) will be back on the court again. He’s not playing for fame or glory, but to help raise awareness about stroke disease and support his efforts to mentor young people. Williams is hosting his second H.O.W. We Hoop! Celebrity Basketball Charitable Game Sunday, Oct. 1 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Bowling Green Community Center. The game may be for fun, but Williams said that he expects School Superintendent Francis Scruci is intent on avenging a very serious beating by the team led by Williams. Williams said he “scored a few buckets,” but his concern is people may have been going easy on him. He doesn’t want them to. He’s proud that five years after nearly dying he’s able to “hobble” down the court, again playing the game he loves. Sometimes people don’t understand the lasting toll a stroke can take, he said. He lost more than two million brain cells on the way to the hospital on the day he was stricken. His outward appearance can belie the damage that’s  beneath the surface. Still he persists. “It’s all about how you perceive your strengths,” he said….


Two sides at odds over proposed BG charter amendment

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Words matter. The proposed Bowling Green charter amendment is intended to give the community rights to a healthy environment and livable climate. But while that may be the intent, critics say the words go far beyond those reasonable rights. The wording of the charter amendment may be difficult for voters to digest. The supporters interpret it as giving citizens a right to peaceably protest projects such as the Nexus pipeline that is planned near Bowling Green’s water treatment plant. But others see the wording as so open to interpretation that it goes far beyond what most city residents would want. It hardly seems possible the two sides of the Bowling Green charter amendment issue are talking about the same two pages of text when they describe the proposal. Lisa Kochheiser and Brad Holmes, of the Bowling Green Climate Protectors, see the charter amendment as a way for citizens to intervene if the city does not adequately protect its citizens from harm to their environment. “We’re not trying to overthrow the government. We want to strengthen our government by adding to citizen rights,” Holmes said. The majority of people don’t want pipelines in or near their communities, he said. “This is going to be the most tangible way of people legally protesting.” City attorney Mike Marsh doesn’t want pipeline in the city either. And if there were a ballot issue to not allow Nexus on city land, he would support it. But the charter amendment goes far beyond that, he said. “It’s a far reaching, almost anarchy type of proposal,” Marsh said. “It…


Sibbersen served county 40 years in taxing position

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Mike Sibbersen started out at the Wood County Auditor’s Office in a summer job, testing local gas pumps and checking store scales for accuracy. “I remember doing Beeker’s” general store in Pemberville where the scales weighed penny candy. At the end of the summer, Sibbersen was offered two jobs – one teaching and one continuing at the auditor’s office. He took the latter. That was 40 years ago. For the last 24 of those years, Sibbersen has been county auditor – the tax man some people love to hate. “The news you have to convey is not always what people want to hear,” he said. In many ways Sibbersen is the opposite of his predecessor, Harold Bateson, who was boisterous and often confrontational. Sibbersen is measured, certain and exact – on everything from numbers to words. “I have the reputation around here of being a frustrated editor,” he said. “Words are important.” The job has changed a great deal in the past four decades – much of it due to technology and revisions in tax law. When Sibbersen started, in addition to checking weights and measures, he also had to inventory lock boxes of deceased residents for the Department of Taxation. “When I came here, we were still doing personal property tax,” that has been phased out by the state, he said. Now the office inspects all the store checkout scanners in the county to make sure they are accurate. They also have to be on the alert for credit card skimmers. The staff has dropped from 26 to 22 during his…


BG considers policies for use of Wooster Green site

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The design for the new Wooster Green has been determined, so the city is working to nail down rules for how the space can best serve its role as a public gathering place. The goal is for the open space at the corner of West Wooster Street and South Church Street to enhance the quality of life for Bowling Green residents, welcome visitors to the city, and increase commerce in the downtown. It has been recommended that the space be free and open to the public, except when previously reserved. The recommended rules (or policies) are as follows: – Amplified music or sound shall not be used unless previously authorized by the governing board. Such use shall not occur past 10 p.m. on weekdays (Monday-Thursday and Sunday) and 11 p.m. on the weekend (Friday and Saturday). These times may be amended by the governing board. – The sale and use of alcohol shall be done in accordance with applicable city ordinances and with the Ohio Revised Code. –  No one may use the space between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., unless previously authorized by the governing board or the municipal administrator. –  Vehicles shall remain on the access road, or another designed vehicular point-of-entry, unless authorized by the municipal administrator or governing board. –  Those reserving or using the space shall not drive any stakes or rods into the ground unless authorized by the municipal administrator. Restriction of this type of activity is recommended to protect underground infrastructure. –  Any hanging or securing of displays and/or decorations should only…


Search for citizen study leads Harvard grad to BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Jamie Piltch’s search for the true definition of a good citizen brought him to Bowling Green. Piltch, 23, is on a trek through the so-called rust and sun belts of the U.S. to discover whether Americans still care about being good citizens. His journey started in Washington, D.C., in May, then on to Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, then Bowling Green. From here, the recent Harvard grad was headed to Detroit, Saginaw, South Bend, Chicago, then onto Wisconsin and Iowa before heading south. Along the way, Piltch, is interviewing all types of people about their views on citizenship. Some of those interviews – including some done here in Bowling Green – are being posted on his blog   www.citizensstory.com. He sat down at Grounds for Thought and talked with business owner Floyd Craft and city attorney Mike Marsh. While in Bowling Green, he also spoke with an Afghanistan war veteran, a soon-to-be naturalized citizen, and a secretarial assistant at BGSU. Their views on citizenship can also be found on Piltch’s blog. Piltch, originally from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, hasn’t always fascinated by the meaning of being an American citizen. “Like most young people, I spent the first 20 years of my life mildly disinterested in politics. I voted in the 2012 presidential election, a moment of personal pride. But, outside of getting my license, I didn’t really interact with the government. I never voted in a local election and rarely thought about my town’s needs. I didn’t even consider doing those things.” However, he is the son of two teachers, steeping him in “nerd” genes. “During…


BG woman puts needles to work knitting knockers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Peg Cranny has knitted since a child, making afghans, sweaters, caps. But now her focus has shifted to making knockers – that’s right, knitted knockers. Cranny, of Bowling Green, works with the national Knitted Knockers program that provides prostheses for women who have had mastectomies. She has been donating the knockers to the Maurer Family Cancer Care Center at Wood County Hospital, where they are given to cancer survivors at no cost. Cranny has not had cancer, but she has friends who have had mastectomies. “I feel sympathy for the women who have had breast cancer. It must be devastating to lose a breast,” she said. “If I can help in any small way to make them feel better about themselves, then I’m happy.” One out of eight women will experience breast cancer in their lifetime. There are 50,000 mastectomies done a year in the U.S., and 90 percent of those women will wear breast prostheses at least for a while. Many of the women find the traditional breast prostheses to be hot, heavy and expensive, Cranny said. That’s where her knitting skills come in. “They have thousands of women who do this across the U.S.,” she said of the national program. Cranny learned to knit as a Brownie, “and I’ve knitted ever since,” she said. “I like to knit and I like to knit fast projects,” Cranny said. She makes knocker sizes from A to DDDD. “I can whip that out in an hour or two,” she said of the smaller A sizes. The national Knitted Knockers program has strict standards on the…


Expert’s examples of poorly designed environments hit home at BGSU’s Optimal Aging Fair

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Speaking from 400 miles away in upstate New York, Esther Greenhouse, struck a nerve with those watching her in Bowling Green. The environmental gerontologist was the keynote speaker at the Optimal Aging Community Fair at Bowling Green State University. Greenhouse projected an image of a parking meter kiosk as an example of poor design. You could almost hear the local audience groan. The City of Bowling Green installed such meters to considerable complaint. Throughout her presentation, Greenhouse talked and showed images that could have come from just a few miles away: Four-lane roads that are hard to cross; old houses that require steps to enter; showers that require climbing into; sidewalks in poor repair; and rural roads with no sidewalks. And when she took questions, those in the audience zeroed in on precisely those issues – rural transportation, roundabouts, and parking kiosks. The problem with so many of these issues of public space, Greenhouse said, is that our built environment is designed for people driving vehicles. A small town has roads made so trucks can easily negotiate it, not so people can walk safely. “We’ve put all out transportation eggs in one basket, vehicular traffic, primarily vehicles with one person in them,” Greenhouse said. Those environments discourage people with limitations, whether age, disability, or logistical, from going out. And that makes their problems even worse. “The status quo is not benign,” she said. “We do not design for everyone.” It discourages elders from getting out, making it harder for them to get the exercise, healthy food, and the social interaction they need. These kind…


Hotel tax may be hiked to promote BG to more visitors

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials want to help fill the local hotel beds, restaurants and stores. But to do that, more funding is needed, according to Wendy Chambers, executive director of the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau. So on Monday evening, Chambers and the CVB board made a pitch to Bowling Green City Council. They asked council to approve a three-year renewal of the current 3 percent hotel/motel tax, with the CVB continuing to get 60 percent of that tax revenue. The board also asked for an additional 1 percent hotel/motel tax, dedicated to the CVB. Todd McGee, vice chairman of the CVB and general manager at the newly remodeled Best Western Falcon Plaza, explained the tax is paid by visitors to local hotels and motels, and would have no impact on city residents. The additional funding is needed to do more marketing and advertising, to feed the local economy. “This would grow Bowling Green tourism,” McGee said. All the hotel and motel owners in the city support the 1 percent increase, he added. “We are a big destination of sporting events,” with regional youth athletics and BGSU sports filling up local hotels, McGee said. Events such as the Black Swamp Arts Festival, National Tractor Pulling Championships, and concerts also draw overnight guests to the city. “Now is a perfect time for this increase,” McGee said. A new Fairfield Inn recently opened, and another hotel will be constructed soon. His own location, Best Western, just put more than $1 million in renovations. “It is our job to bring people, teams and events to…


Anti-pipeline amendment doesn’t belong in city charter, McOmber says

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Just as the environmentalists don’t believe pipelines belong near the city’s water treatment plant, a Bowling Green City Council member doesn’t believe the proposed anti-pipeline charter amendment belongs in the city’s “pristine” charter. The anti-pipeline charter amendment remains in legal limbo – but just in case it’s cleared for the ballot in November, council member Bob McOmber cautioned about the language that may be inserted into the city’s charter. The proposed charter amendment is very difficult to understand, he said. And the portions McOmber does understand, he finds “highly objectionable.” “It’s inappropriate to insert that cause into the city charter,” he said during Monday’s council meeting. McOmber said the local residents behind the anti-pipeline charter amendment are a special interest group. While there is nothing inherently wrong with special interest groups, their views don’t belong in the city’s charter. “The proposal puts the cause of one special interest in the charter,” he said. The city’s charter is “pristine,” and has always been reserved for the mechanisms of city government. “I think it would be a mistake to insert special interests in the city charter,” he said. McOmber referred to the inflated Ohio constitution that has been allowed to grow into a “complete mess and embarrassment.” McOmber mentioned the successful anti-discrimination ordinances adopted by citizens a few years ago. That effort went through council to help with the drafting and adopting of the ordinances. “That is so much more appropriate,” he said. “This would be a mistake for the city.” McOmber, who is not running for re-election, suggested that prior to the election…


Opioid addiction is the talk of the town

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News State Senator Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) was understating matters when he said last Wednesday that the opioid epidemic has “a lot of people talking.” He said this just as a “BG Talks: Heroin and Opioids in Bowling Green and Wood County” was just getting underway at the Wood County District Public library. The moderator for the panel discussion Kristin Wetzel, began the session painting a bleak picture of the crisis nationwide, 948,000 overdoses in 2016, and 13,219 fatalities. These numbers are enough to get anyone talking. On Thursday afternoon, State Rep. Robert Sprague (R-Findlay) convened a roundtable of state politicians, law enforcement officials, and treatment experts to discuss the crisis. This Wednesday, Sept. 20, the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce will host a seminar on the epidemic. See details here. Both Gardner and Sprague noted that the legislature has done more than talk about the issue. In a budget year when the legislature faced tight finances, it budgeted an increase of $178 million more to combat the epidemic. Still, Gardner said, frustrations over the progress remain. Eight years ago, Belinda Brooks, of Solace of Northwest Ohio, got “a crash course” in the issue. Her then 18-year-old daughter became hooked on opioids after a serious ATV accident. She was prescribed Percocet and Vicodin. Having some self-esteem problems, the daughter suddenly realized “she was the life of the party when she took them.” That led to heroin. And at 19 she got pregnant, and even that wasn’t enough to get her to kick the habit. Charlie Hughes, of the Northwest Community Corrections Center, said of addicts…


Former BG family visited by hurricanes Harvey & Irma

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Sorrells family had two unwelcome guests in the past month – the first named Harvey, followed by Irma. “Stay away from us, we seem to be jinxed,” Larry Sorrells said on Saturday. Larry and Janet Sorrells, longtime Bowling Green residents, moved to Punta Gorda, Florida, in April. Their daughter Jennifer and her family live in Houston, Texas. As Hurricane Harvey approached, Jennifer, her spouse and their daughter, went to Austin for safety. “They were very lucky,” and their home suffered no damage, Larry Sorrells said. But as Larry and Janet Sorrells were worrying about Harvey’s wrath in Texas, Irma showed up on the radar. “We saw this thing for a long time,” but forecasters were uncertain where Irma was headed exactly. “We were glued to the TV” waiting for updates, Sorrells said. “We were watching the storm, and it’s a monster,” leveling some Caribbean islands on its way to Florida. Sorrells is accustomed to preparing for emergencies and public health crises. As the former health commissioner for Wood County, he spent years making sure the public was safe. But this was different. “This is our first hurricane, and maybe our last. I wouldn’t mind that,” he said. “I have a lot of training in emergency preparedness,” Sorrells said. So he and Janet planned ahead and made hotel reservations in Atlanta, Georgia, and they prepared their home with storm shutters and other precautionary steps to be battered by Irma. “There’s a lot of stuff to get ready for these things so you don’t come home to an even bigger mess,” he said….


‘Real Men Wear Pink’ … for an entire month

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Some men are uneasy about wearing pink. Not Ben Batey. And that’s a good thing, considering Batey will be wearing pink every day during the month of October. Batey, Wood County’s health commissioner, has signed up for the American Cancer Society fundraiser called “Real Men Wear Pink.” Ten men from Northwest Ohio were asked to take the pink challenge to raise funds for breast cancer research. Batey is the only one in Wood County. In order to wear pink every day for the month, Batey is having to augment his wardrobe. “My wife went out and bought me a bunch of pink shirts,” he said. “I told her not to go too crazy, it’s just for one month.” Some days it may be a pink tie, or pink socks. So far he hasn’t purchased any pink pants or jackets. Batey was approached to take the “Real Men Wear Pink” challenge by Kami Wildman, outreach coordinator at the county health district. He agreed – and then he saw the rules. “I thought she just meant occasionally,” wearing pink – not every day. “But by then I was committed,” he said. Batey actually doesn’t mind wearing pink. “That’s never been an issue for me,” he said. Batey has decided to take the pink challenge a step further – well, many steps further. He has promised to walk one mile in Wood County for every $100 that people contribute to the cause. “If I’m going to be asking people to contribute and support this cause, I want to do something as well,” he said. The…


Path to U.S. citizenship nearly impossible for most

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   To those who wonder why undocumented immigrants don’t just wait their turn to get into the U.S., Eugenio Mollo Jr. has an answer. It can take 20 years of waiting – and that’s for the lucky ones. “It’s not that easy,” Mollo said Thursday evening during a program on immigration sponsored by LaConexion’s Immigrant Solidarity Committee. The U.S. is operating under immigration law that was adopted in 1952. Prior to then, the law was updated every seven to 12 years. “Now we’ve gone 65 years without any comprehensive immigration reform,” said Mollo, an attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality. Meanwhile, the U.S. now has up to 12 million undocumented immigrants. The nation allows 226,000 Visas to be issued a year, based on family connections, employers who need particular expertise, or due to humanitarian issues. The antiquated system, Mollo said, permits no more than 7 percent of those Visas to go to immigrants of a particular nation. That is a problem for India, China, Mexico and the Philippines, he said. To explain the current system, Mollo used the example of a U.S. citizen having two siblings who wanted a Visa. The sibling from Uganda would have to wait 13 years from when they first applied. The sibling from Mexico would wait at least 19 years. The wait time is likely much longer now. “So many people have applied,” Mollo said. “My job is to help these people climb this immigration ladder,” he said. But the climb is difficult, especially with the federal government toughening standards and considering ending some options for refugees….