BG residents want action on neighborhood plan

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   By the end of the evening, each table was cluttered with huge sheets of paper listing ideas to revitalize neighborhoods in Bowling Green. The suggestions were widely varied, but linked by one common desire of local residents – they want action. “How many of you are sick of planning and want to see something happen?” asked Adam Rosa, from the consultant group Camiros, from Chicago. The question caused hands to shoot up around the Crim Elementary cafeteria, where nearly 100 people had gathered Tuesday to participate in the process. Rosa then showed an image from the “Animal House” movie. “This is kind of the opposite of what we are going for,” he said. Instead, the goals are to increase the livability, opportunity, vitality and education of the community. And to do that, the Camiros consultants need community input. “This is all about you telling us about your neighborhood,” Rosa said during the first public meeting of the revitalization process. The Bowling Green Community Action Plan will focus on the East Side of the city, where the needs have been identified as the greatest. But the plan will be applied to all areas of the city, Rosa said. Camiros has worked with the special challenges faced by university communities elsewhere, such as the homes to Notre Dame, Indiana State, University of Chicago, Bradley University and Lawrence University. The city of Bowling Green was compared with Kent – showing very similar demographics in population, income levels and percentage of student rental units. Though the statistics were almost identical, the photographs from the two communities showed very different uses of open space, business sites and areas uniting the city to the campus. The photos from Kent showed a bike boulevard to connect the community and university, a “Poetry Park” on open space, and attractive businesses. During their initial observations of Bowling Green, the consultants noted a very livable urban area that creates and preserves the feeling of community. They noticed a walkable city, with historic qualities and strong businesses. But they also saw a housing spectrum that lacked homes for young couples and seniors. They noticed the large number of faculty members who live outside the city. While they saw many well kept properties, the consultants also saw housing stock being degraded, especially on the East Side. They suggested the need for more code and building enforcements. They estimated a $54 million loss in property values on the East Side, where most student rentals exist and most disorderly conduct complaints occur. “You guys know all this,” Rosa said. To get better acquainted with the community and residents’ desires for it, local citizens were asked to list community assets first. The lists were long, noting good parks, well-kept and friendly neighborhoods, nice downtown shops and restaurants, the ability to have a voice in the community, lots of culture, high volunteerism, beautiful architecture and good schools. The residents were also asked to describe the negatives, listing the high number of homes chopped up into rentals, low quality homes, the lack of safe bike routes, strip malls being filled with cheap chain restaurants, absentee ownership of properties, inadequate enforcement of rules, lack of attention by the university and city to students living off campus, and the use of…

Chloe Higgins still a winner to BG

Stacey and Jeff Higgins learned today that their 11 year old daughter, Chloe, did not receive the most votes in the NFL Rush Kid Reporter Contest. As previously reported, Chloe was chosen as one of three finalists in a national kids’ sports writing contest based on her essay about her favorite team, the Seattle Seahawks. The public was able to vote on their favorite story once per day per device. Chloe was the only female finalist. Chloe’s mother Stacey took to Facebook this evening upon learning the results in order to thank everyone for their support. “Jeff and I received the news today that Chloe was not the grand prize winner in the NFL RUSH Kid Reporter Contest. While this is disappointing, she is still a winner to us! We will let you know what game her finalist prize includes when we know. We do wish to sincerely THANK ALL OF YOU that voted, posted, shared. and cheered her on. This has been a great experience even without the grand prize, and we are so appreciative of your support and encouragement. Both our girls are pretty darn amazing and it’s a privilege to have them celebrated by you.” Chloe is certainly still a winner to her family, friends, and all of Bowling Green. According to the NFL Rush website, she will receive a finalist prize of two tickets to a nearby regular season NFL game.

School bus driver shortage causing route delays

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wanted: Someone willing to get behind the wheel of a school bus as early as 5:50 a.m., to drive 60 unchaperoned students to and from school each day. Not exactly a dream job. “I’ve always said bus drivers are the bravest people I know. They turn their back on 60 teenagers,” Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci said Monday. Like many school districts, Bowling Green City Schools is having trouble filling the drivers’ seats in its buses. On Tuesday afternoon, Scruci sent out an email to all parents and guardians informing them of problems the shortage might cause. Some of the solutions to the shortage will result in some late drop off times on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, according to the email. Following are some of the problems expected: On Wednesday, Bus 22 has no driver. Buses possibly impacted will be 4, 8, 20, 21.  This will probably delay drop off times for Kenwood Elementary students riding those buses. On Thursday, Bus 22 has no driver. Buses possibly impacted will be 4, 8, 20, 21.  This will probably delay drop off times for Kenwood Elementary students riding those buses. Also Bus 3 for the high school has no driver.  Buses impacted will be 2, 4, 8,17.  This will likely delay high school and Crim Elementary students. On Friday, Bus 3 for high school has no driver.  Buses impacted will be 2, 4, 8, 17.  This will likely delay high school and Crim Elementary students. The email from Scruci ends with this plea: “If you know of anyone interested in becoming certified to drive bus, please forward them to me.” The district has 21 full-time drivers and 11 substitutes. The problem is that 23 full-time drivers are needed, and seven of the subs have other jobs. “They are substitutes for a reason, because they don’t want to work full-time,” said Toby Snow, interim co-director of the school transportation department. The shortage isn’t just affecting regular bus transportation to and from school, but also the shuttling of athletic teams to competitions. Last week, the girls tennis team was more than 1 ½ hours late to matches on two different days. The district, which is also responsible for transporting students to and from non-public schools and Penta Career Center, delivers as many as 1,700 students each weekday. Bowling Green isn’t alone with its driver shortage. “We’re experiencing the same issues that a lot of schools are having,” Scruci said. “There are not a lot of people who want to do it.” The district tried to attract new drivers by parking a school bus out in front of the high school with a large sign stating the need for more drivers. Two people expressed interest. The job pays $14.62 to $16.08 an hour, depending on the person’s experience. The driver must go through background checks with BCII and FBI, and have to get a commercial driver’s license. “It’s going to cost you before you ever get paid,” Snow said. New drivers must have a minimum of 20 hours of on-board instruction, plus attend a four-day class. “There’s a lot to it,” Scruci said. The shortage means that Snow, a bus mechanic, has to drive a route each day. “It’s become a real issue, route wise,” he said….

BG refuse and recycling collection to be delayed next week due to holiday

The City of Bowling Green offices will be closed on Monday, Sept. 5 in observation of Labor Day. As a result, all refuse and recycling collection will be delayed by one day per the following: – Regular Monday collection will be collected on Tuesday. – Regular Tuesday collection will be collected on Wednesday. – Regular Wednesday collection will be collected on Thursday. – Regular Thursday collection will be collected on Friday. Questions about this schedule or the city’s refuse/recycling program may be directed to the Public Works Department at 419-354-6227.

Pipeline officials promise to treat land and landowners fairly

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Pipeline officials with Kinder Morgan don’t see the protests by Wood County landowners as a fatal flaw to the Utopia pipeline plans to cross their properties. When landowners say “no,” the pipeline officials hear “maybe,” according to Allen Fore, vice president of public affairs for Kinder Morgan. Often property owners hold out until the eminent domain process is underway, but end up entering agreements with pipeline companies, Fore said. In fact, 98 percent of the land acquisition done by Kinder Morgan never gets to the point of final court resolution, he added. “We have worked with tens of thousands of landowners,” Fore said during a recent stop in Bowling Green. Several landowners in Wood County are protesting Kinder Morgan’s efforts to access their land through eminent domain. Fore believes that’s because they aren’t aware of the compensation that will be offered and the mitigation to their property that will be provided. Some of the landowners from the Pemberville area have stated that no amount of money will convince them to let the pipeline be buried on their farmland or building lots. But Fore said these objections are no different than those he has resolved before. “There’s a lot of passion in the process,” he said. “The challenge is on us to make sure people have accurate information.” “It may start out adversarial, but often it doesn’t end that way,” Fore said. But this case may be a bit different since the proposed Utopia pipeline is not sending natural gas to sites to generate public power. The Utopia line will be sending ethane to a private company in Ontario that makes plastic products. Therefore, the local landowners are asking the courts to rule that the Utopia pipeline does not qualify for eminent domain authority. But Fore argued that gathering ethane is part of the natural gas production process when it’s extracted from shale in southeastern Ohio. “There wouldn’t be an industry if you couldn’t move the product,” Fore said. The shipping of ethane benefits the natural gas extraction, since it’s a result of the same process. “We’re confident that it does meet the qualifications for eminent domain,” Fore said. “We think it’s a very important use that Ohioans will ultimately benefit from.” Looking at the “big picture” for Ohio, this project will help the state, he said. Kinder Morgan recently released a study of the economic impact of the Utopia Pipeline, saying Ohio stands to benefit from $237.3 million in economic impacts during the first five years of the project. The study says the pipeline will: Generate $4.9 million in tax revenues. Create 2,132 direct and indirect jobs in Ohio. Contribute $144.9 million to Ohio’s gross state product. Provide $87.5 million uplift to the Ohio economy through additional income and spending. Those numbers, however, mean little to individual farmers who fear the pipeline will forever change the use and productivity of their land. But Fore defended Kinder Morgan’s reputation of working with landowners affected by pipeline projects. “We set the standard for other pipelines to follow,” he said. “We have a good reputation.” Kinder Morgan works with county farm bureaus, county commissioners and township officials to make sure landowners and local governments are treated properly. The township roads must be repaired after the…

First Community Action Plan meeting, Aug. 30

The City of Bowling Green is hosting the first community meeting for the Community Action Plan, Aug. 30 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at Crim Elementary, 1020 Scott Hamilton Dr. The Community Action Plan will advance goals from the City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan Update by identifying city-wide neighborhood improvements. Call the Planning Department at 419-354-6218 or visit the Planning Department webpage for questions. The City of BG hired Camiros, Ltd. ( for this project.

A gathering of voices rises from Wood County’s past at Living History program

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Voices from Wood County’s past gathered and spoke Sunday at the 13th Annual Wood County Living History Day. Though no longer walking among us, these figures, said master of ceremonies Michael Penrod still have an impact on how we live. This collection of personages brought together by the county Historical Society had in common the theme of collections. They collected or the work they created was collected. Dominick Labino, a glass innovator in industry and art, created distinctly colored glass pieces that are in museums around the world. “That’s quite legacy,” said Keith Guion, the actor who portrayed him. Dorothy Uber Bryan’s paintings created while undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer are collected at the University of Toledo Health Science campus. Ella Dishong’s collection was the assembled goods of the small rural business proprietor that over time became collectible. Floy and Earl Shaffer found themselves collecting as a diversion from the grief of losing two sons, one as a child, and one in middle age. And Floy Shaffer’s own pottery was collected by regional buyers, including those who purchased her work in the early days of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair. Lloyd Weddell’s skill as a woodworker meant his figurines and fiddles were treasured by many in the area. Jerry Hagerty’s interest in collecting Native American artifacts found in recently tilled farm land was one of the reasons he was asked to be the first caretaker of the Wood County Historical Center and Museum. Together these seven people’s stories, each presented by an actor and through a script penned usually by someone who knew them well, offered a slice of the county’s collective memory. Dominick Labino Labino’s story, told by Guion and written by his protégé Baker O’Brien, begins with his early admiration for the blacksmith in the town he grew up in. He admired the man’s ability to repair anything. Labino entered the glass industry and invented a number of patented products. He helped develop the glass fibers used on the bottom of the space shuttle. His fame came when he was asked by Otto Wittmann, the director of the Toledo Museum of Art, to lend his expertise to the fledgling effort to explore the use of glass in art. He built the first furnace. He went on to retire from business early so he could pursue art. He built a studio at his Grand Rapids home and experimented endlessly. “I tried just about everything.” The result was distinctive bold colored art works that are treasured by collectors. Dorothy Uber Bryan Bryan was presented through a short play acted by her daughter Katherine Hollingsworth, granddaughter Meredith Hollingsworth, and son David Bryan, in a script penned by Bryan and Meredith Hollingsworth. Bryan was a busy wife and mother, raising her children and supporting her husband Ashel Bryan’s banking career, even preparing the food for the MidAm Bank Christmas party. But once her youngest daughter was in high school, she decided to study painting at Bowling Green State University. There, working with students younger than two of her three own children, she was dubbed “Grandma Go-Go.” At BGSU, she and several other older women studying art founded the Medici Circle, a group that continues to support the BGSU School of Art. When she had cancer,…

The nose knows…more than we may suspect

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It wasn’t exactly scientific, but the simple test did prove how powerful the sense of smell can be. At the request of Dr. Paul Moore, a professor of biology at Bowling Green State University, the roomful of adults plugged their noses, put the jelly beans in their mouths, started chewing and tasted nothing. The second their released their nostrils, the flavors came rushing in – apple, cherry, cinnamon. “As soon as you let go of your nose, you know,” Moore said to the members of the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club during their weekly meeting last Thursday. Moore has been studying the sense of smell for 30 years. “Every animal makes a lot of decisions based on smell,” including humans, he said. We often aren’t even aware of it, but smells play a big role in most people’s lives. Far back in history, the sense of smell was necessary for survival. “Odors played an essential role if you lived or died,” Moore said. Bitter odors would warn people the food was poisonous or meat had gone rancid. “It’s the most ancient sense we have,” he said. And the least explored. “It is the last frontier of the brain.” Unlike colors or noise, odors are more multi-dimensional and harder to define. “Odors don’t lie on a linear spectrum,” Moore explained. Odors are sometimes used to influence people’s behavior – often without them knowing. For example, it’s long been a tactic when trying to sell a house to add the smell of fresh baked items – with chocolate chip cookies being the best, Moore said. Auto dealers are now “branding” their dealerships with odors that potential buyers find appealing. There are “power odors” that are comparable to a “power suit” in the business world. Unlike sight and hearing, which call on the thinking part of the brain, the sense of smell calls on the subconscious. Smells evoke emotions and memories stronger than any other sense, Moore said. “You feel about it,” he said. “It’s almost like you have no control over it. They bring up these really rich, vivid memories.” Moore told of a man who lost his wife in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He found great comfort in spraying her perfume on her pillow. The scent evoked a powerful emotional connection. And unlike imperfect vision which can be corrected with glasses, and failing hearing that can be improved with hearing aids, there is no cure for people who can’t smell. “We have no way to fix the loss of smell,” Moore said. It has been found that people who lose that sense often experience depression. Moore told of studies performed in Germany where the subjects were asked to rate women in photographs. The people in a room with a pleasant rose smell rated the same women much higher than those people viewing the photos in a room with an unpleasant odor. The same conclusion occurred when the subjects were asked to judge the competency of the women in the photographs. The subtle smells affected the people in ways they didn’t even realize. Moore also talked about animals and their sense of smell. Eighty percent of a dog’s decisions are based on its nose, he said. Some dogs are being trained to smell certain…

New elevator to make history more accessible

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   More than a century ago, the Wood County Infirmary was a place of refuge for the sick, the elderly and the poor. Now, a historical museum, the site is again reaching out to those who need a little extra help. After months of renovations, the Wood County Historical Center will soon be fully accessible to the public. And museum staff will no longer have to disappoint physically handicapped guests by informing them that their visits will be limited to the first floor, explained Director Dana Nemeth. By the end of September, the historical center will be furnished with an elevator and handicapped accessible restrooms. “This building was meant to serve the community when it was a social welfare site,” said Holly Hartlerode Uppal, curator of the museum. “We gave people an opportunity to start over.” Though some have questioned the renovations to the historical building, Hartlerode Uppal believes the operators of the county infirmary would approve. “They would be very excited about all the improvements,” she said. “They did their best to take care of people and we are doing our best now.” The $1.2 million renovation, assisted by the state and county, has been extensive. The elevator will make stops at the basement, ground floor, first and second floors, and the attic. Because the west wing of the historical center is a couple steps lower than the center and east wings, the project required that indoor ramps be built on the first and second floors. The elevator will be accessible from the outside of the back of the building. A connecting driveway is being extended from the parking lot to the east, an ADA parking lot is being added just to the west of the elevator, and the driveway on the west will be expanded so buses can make the turn to access the elevator. The renovations also created four handicapped accessible restrooms, and a larger meeting room that can be rented out. The project will not only make it easier for people to move about the museum, but also make it easier for people to move some really heavy exhibit pieces. In fact, one room in the west wing is full right now of very heavy artifacts that staff would rather move with the aid of the elevator. That includes a cast iron stove, two organs, three pianos, a model oil derrick, old washing machines, ice boxes and a corn sheller. “We can move things more easily,” Nemeth said. And that’s good for the staff and the stuff.” “It’s better care for our collections if I don’t have to lug them up and down three floors,” Hartlerode Uppal said. Since the former county infirmary is on the National Register of Historic Places, it is exempt from ADA requirements. However, that just didn’t seem right, especially considering the former use of the building, Nemeth said. “Because we’re a historic site, we don’t have to be accessible. We get a free pass,” Nemeth said. “But we all feel a public building should be accessible.” Since the elevator project has been under construction, Nemeth has heard from several people who are looking forward to the completion. She has talked to people who previously volunteered at the site but can no longer navigate stairs….

National Suicide Prevention Week, Sept. 5-11

Christen Giblin, National Alliance on Mental lllness of Wood County   What public health problem is responsible for 41,149 deaths in the United States each year (U.S. Centers for Disease Control)? The answer is suicide. September 5-11, 2016 is National Suicide Prevention Week. Established by the American Association of Suicidology, National Suicide Prevention Week was established to promote understanding of suicide and support those affected by it. The week surrounds World Suicide Prevention Day September 10. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. According to the National Institutes of Health, 86% of those who complete suicide suffer from a mental illness, especially depression. Suicides increased 24% in the country between 1999 and 2014 (CDC: this statistic is adjusted for age.) Wood County is not immune to the problem; it sees an average of twelve suicides per year. The nation and local communities have responded to this public health issue with public information and education campaigns.  In Wood County, a Suicide Prevention Coalition formed nearly ten years ago to address the problem aggressively. Partnering with local agencies, it has placed prevention specialists in district schools, participated in televised community forums, and designed print campaigns. It also honors those who have lost loved ones to suicide with an annual Survivors of Suicide Evening of Remembrance.

Ashley Furniture plans store on South Main Street

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A home furnishings store is looking to make a home here in Bowling Green. Ashley Furniture has applied for a zoning variance to put up a large sign at 816 S. Main St., in the same strip of stores as Big Lots and Subway. The location was formerly a Hallmark store. “They just want a larger sign to be seen from the road,” said Bowling Green Planning Director Heather Sayler. The variance request will go before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Sept. 14, at 7 p.m., in the city Administrative Services Building, at 304 N. Church St. Ashley Furniture has had a warehouse in Bowling Green for several years. The warehouse, located in Bellard Business Park on the north end of the city, is currently undergoing an expansion to double its size, Sayler said. The retail Ashley Furniture site is leasing the South Main Street space from Southwood Plaza LLC/Tolson Enterprises, in Toledo. “Having a filled-in space is wonderful,” Sayler said Friday morning. And having a retail store in the same community as the warehouse will make it more convenient for customers, she added. Also moving into the same strip of stores is a Rapid Fire Pizza restaurant, which will be located just to the south of Ashley Furniture. The zoning variance for Ashley Furniture was requested by Advance Sign Group, to allow the construction of a wall sign that would be 191.42 square feet in size, which is 79.42 square feet larger than allowed in the city’s B-2 general commercial zoning district. The request also asks for permission for the sign to extend 4 feet, 2 inches above the roof line, which is not allowed under zoning. The application stated that since the façade of the building is being remodeled for the furniture store, the larger sign will be better suited to the scale of the new façade. The sign on the building, reading “Ashley Homestore Select,” will be the only sign for the new business. Ashley Furniture currently has retail locations in Findlay and in Spring Meadows shopping center near Toledo.

Bringing solar power out of the dark ages

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ohio may be the nation’s leading solar manufacturer, but some state leaders’ attitudes about solar are back in the dark ages, according to Bill Spratley, executive director of Green Energy Ohio. However, Bowling Green could be a “game changer” – building the largest solar field in the state. “Next year, Bowling Green, Wood County will be the mecca.” It’s appropriate that Bowling Green take the lead, Spratley said, since the city was the first to erect utility scale wind turbines in 2003. Maybe the Bowling Green solar field can convince politicians that harnessing the power of the sun is no longer radical. “They still think solar is out in the future. Solar is here now,” Spratley said. “We’ve got to get past these buggy whip manufacturers.” Spratley said he runs into solar investors around the country, curious about Ohio’s reluctance to support solar power. “What the hell is happening in Ohio,” he said they ask him. The state legislature has frozen Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, he said. Consequently, renewable energy comprises just 3 percent of the overall mix of electricity sources in the state. “We need to send a message to free the hostages in Columbus,” he said of possible solar funding to “get power to the people.” Spratley was one of many speakers at the “Building Big Solar Across Ohio” conference in Bowling Green on Thursday. He was joined by leaders of renewable energy companies, representatives of solar companies, officials from communities using solar power, and green energy advocates. Solar power used to be “for off-the-wall hippies,” said David Dwyer, president of American Renewable Energy. But that is no longer the case. For those unable to access solar power on their roofs, community solar was created, according to Mark Wilkerson, of Clean Energy Collective. “Solar had to transcend politics,” said Wilkerson, who has worked in the solar industry for more than three decades. “It’s the extension of the American dream.” And it is working in some areas. Take the small town of Minster, with just 2,850 people. It was formerly famous for its Oktoberfest and winning sports titles. But now it’s also on the map for its 18-acre solar field which produces 4.2 MW of electricity. The conference pointed out the top 25 solar sites in Ohio, with the greatest number being in Southwest Ohio, and the greatest capacity in Northwest Ohio, including sites in Clyde and Owens Corning in Toledo. The fewest solar sites are found in the Southeast quadrant of the state. All but one of Ohio’s 88 counties – Noble County – has some solar power generation in place. The 25 sites together produce 132 MW of electricity – the equivalent of taking 15,000 cars off the road, according to Emily Sautter, of Green Energy Ohio. By the end of this year, Bowling Green’s solar array should be producing 20 MW on 165 acres northeast of the city, at Carter and Newton roads. The acreage was formerly rented out for farming by the city, and will be leased at $1 a year by NextEra, which is building the solar array. The benefits of solar power to the city include reduced carbon emissions, a more diverse power supply with peaking resources, and a fixed price for the life of…

Wintergarden Park flush with excitement over restrooms

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For all those people who have wanted to bond with nature – only to have nature call at an inopportune time – there is now a public restroom at Wintergarden Park. No more using the port-a-pot. No more trying to get in the nature center on weekends, only to realize it’s locked. There was no ceremonial flush Thursday afternoon, just a collective appreciation by those gathered for the ribbon cutting at the new “Building on Nature” project. “We’ve been standing in line for a long time,” for this day, Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards said. Among those at the grand opening were members of the Bowling Green High School cross country team. “We run here every Thursday for the whole season,” coach Pat Carney said. “We’re going to use it more than most people.” Since the runners often get muddy on the Wintergarden trails, they usually used the port-a-potties rather than track dirt through the nature center. “They are very excited to have this facility,” Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley said of the team. They aren’t alone. After the ribbon cutting ceremony, some park patrons peeked into the unisex restroom and expressed relief that they no longer had to rely on a port-a-potty. “Sometimes I’d run home because I didn’t want to use it,” one woman said. Some walkers have asked if they can take their dogs in with them when they use the restroom. “Yes, you can take the dog in,” said Cinda Stutzman, natural resources specialist with the park and rec department. Next to the restroom is another feature that park patrons will find useful – a three purpose drinking fountain with spouts also for filling water bottles and one down low for dogs. While the public will no doubt appreciate the restroom portion of the new building, the park staff is pretty excited about the garage and maintenance area of the structure. “I have running water, and I can turn around without falling down,” Stutzman said. “I feel like I’m in the lap of luxury.” The building, which cost $113,000, is the first of a two-phase project at Wintergarden Park. The next phase will be remodeling inside the nature center. Otley, who said 170 donations were received for the first phase, thanked the community for making the building possible. “They support parks and recreation,” she said of Bowling Green residents. The old shed formerly used for maintenance at the park has been “recycled,” and is now being used for storage at the city’s athletic fields, Otley said.    

BG spared from strange string of tornadoes

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For a couple hours Wednesday night, local residents sat in their basements with their eyes glued to weather radar. They tried to decipher the path of the tornadoes from the west, bracing for their possible arrival here. But when it was over, Bowling Green and Wood County survived the storm unscathed, according to local emergency response officials. “What a crazy night,” Wood County Emergency Management Agency Director Brad Gilbert said after the tornado warning was lifted for the county at 9:30 p.m. “It was a strange phenomenon tonight.” The tornado warning was followed by a thunderstorm warning and heavy rains. “We can handle that,” Gilbert said. Though tornadoes reportedly touched down in several places to the west, they seemed to have lost their punch when they reached this area. The National Weather Service reported “a lot of rotation on the radar,” Gilbert said. And trained weather spotters and firefighters called in a lot of strange weather. “I received a lot of reports of wall clouds, funnel clouds, but no tornado touching down. So that’s good.” Normally such weather is accompanied with lighting and heavy winds – but not tonight, he added. So Gilbert said he did not even get reports of power outages from the storm. “The good news is, as the storms came into Wood County the tornadoes dissipated,” said Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn. “I’m not aware of any damage.” But the county was prepared for the worst, with trained weather spotters, firefighters and ham radio operators on guard, the sheriff said. Bowling Green Fire Division had firefighters watching the skies on the west side of the city, Fire Chief Tom Sanderson said. “When we have a tornado watch, we send spotters out to the west edge of town,” Sanderson said. “If it turns to a warning, we bring them back in” to take shelter. “We didn’t see any tornadic activity” Wednesday evening, the chief said. Bowling Green Police Major Justin White said no damage or problems from the storm had been reported to him. “Actually, I’m down in the basement with my kids,” said White, who was not on duty at the time. The city avoided the high winds that hit other areas. “I think we were fortunate,” White said. The storm hit during the first week of classes for students at Bowling Green State University. According to BGSU spokesman Dave Kielmeyer, the university safety policy requires students to go to the lowest level of buildings when a tornado warning is in effect. “They were all sent down to the lowest floor,” Kielmeyer said. “I think everything went fine. We had good compliance.”      

Leaving legacy of learning & loving at Wood Lane

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When Melanie Stretchbery walks out on the floor of Wood Lane Industries, she is swarmed by workers wanting to give her hugs and high-fives. They talk about birthdays, knitting projects and their work day. These are the people who convinced Stretchbery to start her career working with the developmentally disabled 33 years ago. She didn’t plan this career path. “I was going to work in criminal justice,” she said, initially doing some work as a parole officer. But something didn’t feel right. “I didn’t feel hope working in corrections,” Stretchbery said. So she tried a new career path working with people with developmental disabilities. There, she found the hope she was looking for. “It’s everywhere,” Stretchbery said, as she rounds out her career as superintendent at Wood Lane. “There’s a feeling of hope and never giving up. The appreciation and gratitude for everything you have.” Though the individuals and families she worked with for years face profound challenges, she continued to be amazed at their approach to life. “They fight and never give up. I don’t see many bitter people. You just respect that.” Unlike other careers, where people come and go, work in developmental disability services often means working with people for their entire lives – from birth to death. “I feel very fortunate. I feel honored that families let me be with them and let me experience their triumphs and tragedies, and everything in between.” Stretchbery has watched many families go through the difficult decision of letting go of a person with developmental disabilities. That decision, to allow Wood Lane to help take care of a family member, takes an incredible amount of trust, she said. And it’s up to Wood Lane to live up to that faith, she said. The work also gave Stretchbery a chance to make real differences in individual lives. She recalled a resident at a Wood Lane group home, who had several challenging behaviors. In those days, before the practice was banned, staff would “take down” someone who was posing a risk to themselves or others. They would be restrained until they calmed. Stretchbery talked to the resident and asked him how it felt to be restrained. He curled up on the floor and pleaded “stop.” She checked his history, which revealed he had been abused. So Stretchbery tried another approach – she invited him to become part of her family. She has been his legal guardian since 1986, and he spends time with her family when he wishes. But he has also blossomed into a social butterfly with others. “He has frequent lunch dates and dinner dates and movie dates,” she said. “It’s been a long journey for him.” That type of behavior is typical of Stretchbery, according to Rebecca Ferguson, vice president of the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities. “She’s compassionate. This woman’s got a heart the size of a barn,” Ferguson said of Stretchbery. “She has touched so many people’s lives. People’s lives are better because of her.” Her passion and energy to better the lives of people with challenges is evident, said Janel LaFond, executive director of Children’s Resource Center, where Stretchbery served on the board for 14 years. “Melanie does nothing small,” LaFond said. “She doesn’t give up. Her…