Community

Long, hard road – city bike commission recommends sharrows and bike lanes

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News The city’s Bicycle Safety Commission peddled a report Monday evening that may result in more bike sharrows being imprinted onto pavement, and bike lanes being added to some streets. After years of the community spinning wheels, Steve Langendorfer and his commission met with City Council’s Transportation and Safety Committee to present infrastructure that could make bicyclists more comfortable and more likely to use city streets. The city has already worked with Yay Bikes, an education program helping bicyclists learn their responsibilities and their rights on roadways. Education is the least expensive step to encourage bicycling in Bowling Green. “Bike riders are as entitled to the road as cars,” Langendorfer said. However, education only goes so far – and reasonably priced and rationally prioritized infrastructure may be the next step. Langendorfer presented the council committee with lists of city streets where sharrows would be helpful for bicyclists. Sharrows, the icons that look like bikes and arrows, have already been applied to portions of Fairview and Conneaut avenues. They are a much less expensive solution than actual bike lanes. With fiscal and physical limitations in mind, the Bicycle Safety Commission recommended adding sharrows to the following north-south streets in the city: North and South Wintergarden Road, from Poe to Sand Ridge.North and South Maple Street, from Conneaut to Sand Ridge.Fairview Avenue, north of Poe (south of Poe already has sharrows.)North and South Grove Street, from Poe to Sand Ridge.North and South Church Street, from Clay to Sand Ridge, and Kenwood Avenue, from Sand Ridge to Napoleon.North and South Prospect Street, and/or North and South Enterprise, from Poe to Lehman.Thurstin Avenue, from Poe to East Wooster, and Manville Avenue, from East Wooster to East Napoleon.North College Avenue, south of Poe Road, and South College Avenue, from Main to Napoleon. Sharrows were also recommended for the following east-west city streets: West and East Newton Road, from Community Center to North College Avenue.Frazee Avenue, west of North College.East Merry Avenue, from Thurstin to Mercer Road.Clay and East Ridge, from Main to Mercer.West Wooster Street from Wintergarden to Haskins Road.Clough Street, from Main to Mercer, with consideration for the curve around the windmill.Pearl Street, from Wintergarden to Main.West and…


BG school board eyes options – may try 2 levy renewals this fall

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Remember story problems? Three old trains are barreling toward Bowling Green, while two new trains are headed toward the same location at the same time. Only this story problem doesn’t ask which train will arrive first at the station. The question behind this story problem is – which trains will voters get on board and support at the polls. Bowling Green Board of Education spent another long Saturday work session going over its options for dealing with a potential five tax issues going before voters in the next two to four years. It appears the board may be narrowing its options to possibly putting two renewal levies on the ballot this fall. David Conley, the district’s financial consultant from Rockmill Financial, used the train analogy so the board could visualize the three existing tax issues coming due in the district. One option, he said was merging two of the trains onto one track – or in this case, combining two tax levies into one issue. While the plan to reduce tax requests on voters was attractive, some board members were clearly leaning toward biting the bullet and asking instead that voters to approve two existing levies for a continuing period of time. Where does BG stand right now … Here’s a refresher on the levies coming due for the school district: 4.2-mill current expense levy, generating about $2.4 million a year, which expires in 2020.1.6-mill emergency levy, generating about $1 million a year, which also expires in 2020.0.5 percent income tax, generating about $3.2 million a year, expiring in 2022. Those add up to $6.8 million a year. Failure to renew those would hit the district hard, Conley said. At the same time, Bowling Green needs new money (those are the new trains barreling toward the station). Those options include: New operating levy, with an undetermined source of income or property tax revenue.Funding for new facilities, which Conley estimated will be anywhere from $30 million to $50 million. Again, the source of these funds may be income tax, property tax, or combination of the two. To figure out the story problem, Conley said the board must identify its priorities. “Your priorities will help…


BG school task force gets glimpse at renovated elementary

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News The school task force had toured Bowling Green’s old elementary buildings, and another district’s new building. In the continuing search for the best solution for Bowling Green City Schools, this week the members toured an elementary that is a combination of renovated and new construction. The facilities task force met at Powell Elementary School – North Baltimore’s one elementary that serves the entire district of 350 preschool through sixth graders. The school is a combination of wings being added and renovated. The oldest portion was built in 1956, followed by another section added in 1987. The entire elementary then went through a renovation and a building addition in 2001. More renovations were done in 2010. North Baltimore Superintendent Ryan Delaney and head custodian Chris North said the building serves the district quite well. The renovated and new areas have larger than traditional classrooms, more even heat and welcome air conditioning. In addition to being a much smaller district, there are some other differences between Bowling Green’s and North Baltimore’s situations. North Baltimore qualified for 59 percent state funding for its building construction costs. Bowling Green currently qualifies for 17 percent state funding. According to North, officials at North Baltimore had initially wanted to build a new elementary – but were informed by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission that building new was not an option if the district wanted state funding. “The problem was, the building was in too good of shape,” North said. The same was not true for the old North Baltimore High School, which was built in 1927. A new middle school/high school was constructed in 2012. The elementary was able to be renovated and had plenty of room for the necessary additional space. “The main thing is, if you’re going to do a renovation, you have to have the room,” Delaney said. Task force tours classroom in Powell Elementary School. Powell elementary features large classrooms, with some of them having as few as 16 students per room. “The theory was – do it right. So they added the extra room,” Delaney said. When planning the addition, the superintendent said the district went big. “There’s never enough room,” he said. So…


Black Swamp Players casting female version of ‘The Odd Couple’

From BLACK SWAMP PLAYERS The Black Swamp Players will hold auditions for the final production of its fifty-first season, Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple (Female Version), during the week of Feb. 25. Open auditions for the production will be held on the following dates: Monday, Feb. 25 and Tuesday, Feb. 26. Auditions will begin each evening at 7 and run to 9:00 PM. Callbacks will be held on Thursday, February 28 beginning at 7:00 PM. All auditions and callbacks will be held at the First United Methodist Church on East Wooster Street in Bowling Green. The script for The Odd Couple (Female Version) calls for a cast of six women and two men. Auditions are open to adults of all ages, races/ethnicities, orientations, sexes, and abilities. Those who want to audition should be prepared to cold read from the script. First performed in 1985, The Odd Couple (Female Version) is a modern riff on Simon’s classic comedy from 1965 about the unlikely friendship between a clean freak and a slob. The female version is set in the apartment of slovenly Olive Madison who, at the opening of the play, has invited a group of friends over for a weekly game of Trivial Pursuit. Late to arrive is Florence Unger, who has just been separated from her husband. Fastidious, depressed, and hyper-tense, Florence seems suicidal, but as the action unfolds, Olive becomes the one with murder on her mind when the pair decide to room together and hilarious results ensue. The production will be directed by Heath A. Diehl. The Odd Couple (Female Version) will open on Friday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m. Additional performance dates include: Saturday, April 27, Friday, May 3, and Saturday, May 4, all at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, April 28 and May 5 at 2 p.m.. All performances will take place at the First United Methodist Church, 526 E. Wooster Street in Bowling Green. Tickets for the production are $12/adults, $10/seniors and students, and can be purchased on the organization’s website or at the door.


BG park board wades into debate over raising pool fees

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News The Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Board is again being asked to raise fees at the city pool. But as long as the park programs are treading water, some board members are holding steady in their opposition to increasing pool passes and daily fees. Last September, the board voted to raise rates for several park programs by 3 percent. City Council later approved those changes. Also on the list in September for proposed fee hikes were daily and season pool passes. But at that time, park board chairman Jeff Crawford asked that the proposed increases at the pool be studied further. He spoke about his wife’s experience teaching at Crim Elementary School, where a portion of the student body is lower income. Crawford said he would like to wait and see the summer statistics at the pool to see if it’s necessary to raise fees for kids using the facility. On Tuesday evening, updated numbers were presented by Kristin Otley, director of the city’s parks and recreation department. Those rates showed increased use of the pool last summer – but a deficit in the overall parks budget, primarily due to the first payment being made on bonds for the new city park building to be constructed this year. The good season was viewed from two perspectives. For Otley, the hot summer and high usage meant that season pass owners likely felt they got their money’s worth and would be more willing to pay a little bit more this summer. But for Crawford, the good season meant that more revenue came in at the pool, so fee increases should be considered only if absolutely necessary to keep the pool afloat. Crawford again voiced his specific concerns about families who might be unable to afford seasonal or daily passes if the fees were increased. “I don’t want us to raise pool rates,” he said. “It’s a mistake to think that raising the fees will translate into more money.” Rate hikes could result in fewer people being able to afford using the pool. “I hate to see families who can’t show up” because it’s become unreachable. Otley, however, is looking at the bigger picture of the…


‘Poor farm’ exhibit examines historical safety net for ‘worthy poor’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Long before there were safety nets like nursing homes, food pantries, subsidized housing and hospitals, there were “poor farms” to care for those who were old, sick, lame, or blind. Despite being labeled “poor farms,” they were not places of despair, according to a new exhibit at the Wood County Historical Center. In Ohio, all 88 counties had poor farms, starting in the mid 1800s to 1936 when public charity transitioned into more modern day social services. Wood County’s poor farm was located on County Home Road, southeast of Bowling Green. The sprawling building remains there today as a historical center. To commemorate the 150th year of the opening of the county poor house, a new exhibit will soon open at the center – “For Comfort and Convenience: Public Charity in Ohio by Way of the Poor Farm.” By all accounts, Ohio’s poor farm system provided a gentler life for the old and sick than many states, according to Holly Hartlerode, curator at the historical center. Curator Holly Hartlerode with old photo of residents at former Wood County Poor Farm. “We are not the only state that had a poor farm system, but we were very successful, which we’re proud of,” she said. “It is my deepest goal as curator that people do not see places like this as negative,” Hartlerode said. When Wood County’s poor farm opened in 1869, there were no public safety nets in place. “There was no social welfare, so where did people go? How do we best care for people?” Hartlerode said, noting society’s struggle. The model for the poor farms caring for paupers came over with the colonists. Based on the British workhouse system, almshouses were erected in New England, and many state constitutions offered public charity relief. In Ohio, the almshouse system was modified to fit the needs of its citizens. After the Civil War, states began to look at the best ways to provide comfort to those in need, at the convenience of those charged with dispensation of public charities. Every county in Ohio had a home to care for the “worthy poor.” The poor farms provided no luxuries, but in most cases they offered…


Maurers, Scruci, Christoff awarded for making BG a better place

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Major Bowling Green landlords, Bob and Pat Maurer, were recognized Saturday evening for sharing their wealth with the community. The Maurers were named Male and Female Outstanding Citizens of the Year at the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner. Also honored Saturday evening were two citizens for elevating women in their professions. Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci was presented with the Zeus Award, and First Federal Bank Vice President Tari Christoff was given the Athena Award. The Maurers were described as “quiet and understated” – people who preferred to stay in the background as their donations made major differences to places like the Wood County District Public Library, the Wood County Hospital cancer treatment center, and BGSU’s School of Business. The couple was credited with saving historic structures like the Millikin Hotel, the old Wood County Health Department on West Wooster Street, the Carter Historic Home used now by the library. “They were brought back to life by this couple,” Tim Harris, last year’s Male Outstanding Citizen, said of the Maurers. Bob Maurer is also a supporter of the American Red Cross, sending letters out to persuade others to give to the organization following natural disasters. “He’s a true hometown hero,” said Dolores Black, last year’s Female Outstanding Citizen, who as a junior high teacher had caught Bob Maurer chewing gum in study hall decades before. The couple was thanked for their acts of kindness and generosity to the Bowling Green community. “Bob and Pat Maurer have left a legacy to the city,” Harris said. The couple was out of town and unable to attend the chamber event, but video of them accepting the award earlier was shown. “We’ve been in Bowling Green for a long, long time, and we love Bowling Green,” Pat Maurer said. And Bob Maurer said the award actually stunned him – an attorney. “My gracious,” he said, adding that he could name a dozen other people more deserving for the award. “People love Bowling Green and love our community, and so do we,” Bob Maurer said. “We’re glad to help in any little way we can.” Tari Christoff greets her mother Newelene Hoffman, of Tampa, Florida, after…


Park district asked to consider dog park, more bike routes

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Provisions for bikers and barkers were discussed by Wood County Park District board members earlier this month.        Park board member Bob Hawker said he had been approached about the lack of a dog park in the Perrysburg area. “They seem popular and they seem to be self-supporting,” Hawker said. Neil Munger, the park district director, said none of the district’s parks in the Perrysburg area are really conducive to being used for a dog park. Neither the Sawyer Quarry Nature Preserve nor the W.W. Knight Preserve have space that would work for a dog park, he said. And the Buttonwood Recreation Area is used for fishing and soccer fields. The Buttonwood soccer fields haven’t been used since the park experienced a great deal of damage from flooding a few years ago. However, it was pointed out that since the area is susceptible to flooding, putting up fencing for a dog park would not be a good idea. Hawker asked the park district staff to just take a look at possible options for a dog park in the Perrysburg area. Park board member Sandy Wiechman inquired about future plans for a bicycle route in the Perrysburg area along Ohio 65, both east and west of the city. “Is there anything in Perrysburg that has been discussed,” she asked. Wiechman said the lack of a bicycle route was brought up at a law enforcement meeting, following another motorcycle fatality on Route 65. The scenic route along the river is popular with bicyclists and motorcyclists, but it has no accommodations for bicyclists, she said. Munger said there has been discussion about how to connect Route 65 with Ohio 795, and then the Chessie Circle bike trail. He also said the possibility of a bike trail along Hull Prairie Road, between Bowling Green and Perrysburg, has been discussed. But no progress has been made on either. Also at the monthly meeting, park board member Sandy Wiechman asked about the increase in calls for park police. Chief Todd Nofzinger explained the increase is due to the reporting system the police are now using, the increase in park facility rentals, and the number of calls for people going…


Boy Scouts opening up troops to girls starting next week

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Scouting has been preparing boys for decades. Preparing them to face outside elements when camping. Preparing them for helping elderly ladies cross the street. Preparing them to be good citizens. Now the organization that has been preparing young men has got to be ready itself by Feb. 1 to allow girls into the ranks. Nationwide, girls will be able to join Boy Scout troops – with no boys – but with the same programming that has been used for years. In Bowling Green, one of the five Boy Scout troops is planning to expand with a girls’ troop. “There is absolutely interest and they are working on forming one at St. Al’s,”  said Alissa Hunt, district director with the Erie Shores Council of the Boy Scouts of America. It isn’t that Boy Scouts are anti Girl Scouts, Hunt said. “It is a wonderful program and we support all youth organizations,” Hunt said Thursday about Girl Scouts. But Boy Scouts of America has heard from many families who wanted girls allowed. “They’ve been kind of tagging along with their siblings,” and now they want in, Hunt said. “I think it’s going to go wonderfully,” she said. To be absolutely clear – boys and girls will have the same programming, but in separate troops. Ed Caldwell, CEO of Erie Shores Council of Boy Scouts of America, tried to calm fears in a press release when the decision to allow girls was first announced. “Rest assured that the Boy Scouts of America organization has not changed its name.  The Boy Scouts of America will continue the time-honored mission of preparing young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law in order to become responsible, participating citizens.  Offering programs that accomplish this mission to girls will enhance, rather than diminish, this vital work,” Caldwell said. Beginning Feb. 1, the Boy Scout program name will be Scouts BSA. All participants will be called scouts. Girls will be eligible to earn the highest rank of Eagle. “It’s offering the program that we know works for girls, too,” Hunt said. However, not all Girl Scouts organizations…


Free dinner shows solidarity with furloughed federal workers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Dinner was served Wednesday evening in Bowling Green for furloughed federal workers and their families hurt by the government shutdown. A half-hour into the dinner, no workers showed – but those cooking up the meal weren’t discouraged. “I think the need is going to grow with time,” said Joe DeMare, of the Wood County Green Party. He and the other volunteers plan to serve up dinner again if the shutdown drags on. The free dinner – organized by the Green Party and Trinity United Methodist Church, and assisted by the Brown Bag Food Project – featured pizza from DeMare’s homemade recipe, vegetables and salad donated by Apio. The organizers know there are people out there hurting. United Way has estimated there are more than 250 federal workers furloughed in Wood, Lucas and Ottawa counties. In addition to those not getting their paychecks, there are others who use federal programs who will soon feel the pinch of no food stamps or WIC assistance if the shutdown lingers. Though few showed for the dinner, the organizers felt better for offering the help. “The idea of stopping the government for a political dispute is against the Green Party philosophy,” DeMare said. And as far as the church – “that’s just part of their DNA,” said Helen Dukes, who is a member of both the church and the Green Party. “I think the only way to overcome the depression right now is to do something. Otherwise, it just gets worse.” The Green Party is accustomed to being on the outside of traditional government. The group believes in decentralization – acting on local levels to counter national problems, DeMare said. “We can’t afford to give up,” he said. “The issues we fight for are too important to just let slide.” The volunteers have pledged to continue offering the meals until the shutdown is over. “It takes time for things like this to take traction,” DeMare said. “As the need becomes more dire, I think more people will come.” Wednesday’s dinner did receive a lot of support from the community, Dukes said. “I’ve really been heartened by the number of people who said, ‘Oh good, somebody is helping,’” she…


BG school task force tackles complex funding options

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Nobody said it would be easy. But few expected it to be this hard to come up with a way to finance new or renovated buildings for Bowling Green City Schools. For at the same time as finding a solution for paying for buildings, the finance task force is dealing with the reality that the district has so many other tax issues looming in the near horizon. “You have a lot to figure out,” said David Conley, of Rockmill Financial, who is overseeing the school finance task force. “I have never dealt with a structure this complicated,” Conley told the task force members Tuesday evening. “No matter how you slice it, it’s going to be a lot,” he said of the potential of five school tax issues on the ballot in the next three to five years. To try to simplify the options available, Becky Princehorn, a leading attorney in Ohio for school levy and bond issues, spoke with the task force Tuesday evening. Princehorn herself conceded that the options are far from simple. Adding to the complexities are: Tax rollbacks, which were ended by the state, but which can be continued by the school district if it passes renewal – not replacement levies.The uncertainty of state OFCC funding – which is completely depleted now.The fact that income taxes must be either on traditional or earned incomes – not both.The conclusion that bonds from property taxes are the most secure, so they end up being the least expensive in the long run – but these also hit landowners and the agricultural communities the hardest.Voter fatigue – which has the district looking at combining some tax issues so it doesn’t have to keep coming back to voters. Further complicating the task force’s job are claims by a couple members that the school district’s budget contains a great deal of waste, and that the district should look at dropping non-mandated programs at the schools. Conley and Princehorn tried to keep the discussion on track. In the simplest terms, the district has three options for raising funds – property tax, income tax or a combination of the two. David Conley talks with task force. Of importance…



Cocoon working to raise awareness and funds to help domestic violence survivors

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News The Cocoon is known as the shelter in Bowling Green that takes in victims of domestic and sexual violence. But it is far more than that. In fact, emergency shelter is just 10 percent of the help offered by the Cocoon. It’s up to Robin Guidera, the new development coordinator at the Cocoon, to get the message out that the agency provides much more than emergency shelter. And while she’s at it, Guidera also hopes to let local businesses and individuals know how they can help. Guidera, a new face at the Cocoon, previously worked at the Toledo Zoo and Lucas County Libraries. She first learned about the Cocoon through her daughter, a student at Perrysburg High School. “She’s very much a ‘girl power’ kind of girl,” big on human rights and believing in the mission of the Cocoon, Guidera said. “I kind of felt like it was a sign,” when the position opened up with the Cocoon, Guidera said. Working with Cocoon Director Kathy Mull, Guidera will focus on raising awareness of the Cocoon’s programs and raising funds to keep them going. “I will be looking for avenues to stay in front of people, so we’re not showing up just when we have our hand out,” she said. That means Guidera will be sharing the stories of people helped by the Cocoon. “We need to balance the dark side of what we do, to tell some of the success stories,” she said. And that means Guidera needs to explain to the community that the emergency shelter represents 10 percent of the services offered by the Cocoon. The shelter is busy – with the 24 beds being filled to capacity at times. But that is just one service the Cocoon provides. Last year alone, the Cocoon received more than 6,000 calls on its crisis line. “And it’s not getting any better,” Guidera said. The Cocoon has provided medical advocacy to help survivors navigate services. The agency also provides legal advocacy to help survivors secure temporary protection orders and custody orders. And the Cocoon offers transportation to survivors needing help getting to court, doctors’ appointments or the hospital. All Cocoon services are free to…


A teacher by example, Marcy St. John, honored with BG’s Drum Major for Peace Award

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When Marcy St. John taught French at Bowling Green High School she instructed her students in more than verb conjugations and vocabulary. She wanted them to learn to be able took at the world from an international perspective, said fellow teacher Jennifer Dever.  St. John even served as advisor to an Amnesty International chapter that had students petition governments on behalf of prisoners of conscience. Dever was introducing St. John as the recipient of the Drum Major for Peace Award given by Bowling Green Human Relations Commission for dedication to promoting a just and inclusive community.  The award was given Friday as part of the 30th annual tribute to Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. (A second story on Christina Lunceford’s keynote address will be posted later.) From left, Mayor Richard Edwards, Jennifer Dever, Marcy St. John, and The Rev. Mary Jane Saunders during presentation of Drum Major for Peace Award. Dever, who teaches English and serves as secretary for the commission, was a new teacher when she first met St. John.  They monitored a large study hall together. Though St. John was unaware of it, she became Dever’s mentor. “I wanted to be like her,” Dever said. “She served as my counselor and coach, helping me through the most difficult years of my teaching.” The Rev. Mary Jane Saunders, St. John’s friend and her pastor at the First Presbyterian Church, said: “For many years Marcy has provided a strong example of what it means not just to talk the talk, but walk the walk, when it comes to loving God and loving and serving her neighbors.” Dever said: “In her personal life, Marcy shows a commitment to promoting the values of justice and inclusion. She has a generosity of spirit and a love for her community. In the decisions she makes in spending her time and resources, Marcy shows an amazing commitment to living a life in service to others.” In accepting her award, St. John cited the words of Marian Wright Edelman, the founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”…


Inspections find lead in a couple water service lines in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News At least a couple homes in Bowling Green have been found with lead service lines bringing water into their faucets. “I don’t want to scare anyone that we have a lead problem. We don’t,” Bowling Green Director of Public Utilities Brian O’Connell said to the Board of Public Utilities. But as a water provider, the city of Bowling Green must submit a waterline map to the Ohio EPA, showing the type of lines supplying homes – copper, galvanized iron, plastic or lead. That map must be updated every five years. To do that, the city inspects some lines that are on homeowners’ properties. Those inspections recently turned up a couple homes with lead lines. O’Connell explained that the city is responsible for the portion of the waterline that extends to the curb stop, but the portion of the line going into the residence is the homeowner’s responsibility. So while O’Connell is confident the lead lines in the city’s portion have been replaced, the same cannot be said of the portions that are the responsibility of homeowners. If there is doubt, the utility crews are inspecting them. “The sooner we get rid of those lead lines, the better,” O’Connell said. Since 1967, the city service lines were all required to be copper or plastic. Prior to then, lead lines were allowed, but in the 1990s any known lead service lines were replaced. Inside the customer’s residence, potential sources of lead could be lead pipes, lead solder, or lead in plumbing fixtures.  Another potential source of lead is the water service line pipe that delivers water from the city water main to the customer’s residence.  Over the years, different pipe materials have been used for water service line pipes such as lead, galvanized iron, copper, or plastic. There is no lead present in the drinking water as it leaves the city’s water treatment plant.  The city treats the water to reduce the potential for lead to contaminate the drinking water. This is achieved through a corrosion control treatment process and by adding orthophosphate to the water as a corrosion inhibitor. The city of Bowling Green is responsible to maintain the water service line from the…