Community

BG schools did not sanction gun raffle…club cancels fundraiser

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Student groups do all kinds of activities to raise funds – sell candy bars, wash cars, sit in dunking booths. But raffling off guns? Not in Bowling Green, says Superintendent Francis Scruci. Scruci sent out an email to district parents late Wednesday afternoon explaining that a raffle was being promoted by the Bowling Green Wrestling Club. The prize was two firearms, with one being an assault rifle, he said. As of Thursday afternoon, the raffle had been canceled. The superintendent explained he did not sanction the raffle and was not aware it was being conducted. He had been alerted by a parent earlier Wednesday. “The Bowling Green City Schools does not promote guns and is not affiliated with this type of raffle,” Scruci wrote in the email. “I can assure you that if the proper procedure had been followed the raffle would have been denied for distribution through the district.” The email continued to say the Bowling Green Wrestling Club is an outside organization raising funds for wrestlers from youth to university age and exists outside of school parameters. “It’s technically not affiliated with the school,” Scruci said when reached Wednesday evening. No flyers were sent out with students, but the high school wrestling coach did send out an email about the raffle to school staff, the superintendent said. “I knew nothing about it,” Scruci said. “They did not submit anything, nor did we distribute it.” But the superintendent decided to be proactive and send out a mass email to parents. “It has nothing to do with us, but I didn’t want parents to see it on Facebook” and think the school endorsed the raffle, he said. “It would have been rejected.” The raffling of firearms, especially an assault rifle just doesn’t make sense, Scruci said. “I and the Bowling Green City Schools are not promoting the raffle of guns as it directly opposes our zero tolerance policy for weapons,” he wrote to parents. On Thursday afternoon, Scruci said he wrestling club intended…


Phoenix Technologies gets 1 out of every 20 plastic bottles recycled in US

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bob Deardurff loves the scene in “The Graduate” when a character shares the secret of success with Dustin Hoffman. Just one word – plastics. That one word has proved to be Deardurff’s success at Phoenix Technologies in Bowling Green, which was named Wood County Corporate Citizen of the Year on Wednesday evening. In fact, the company has had so much success that one out of every 20 plastic bottles recycled in the U.S. comes to the Bowling Green company, Deardurff said. Phoenix Technology takes plastics full circle by using items from the recycling center on North College Avenue, washing the items at its plant on East Poe Road, then converting the plastic into pellets at its plant on Fairview Avenue. “We have an opportunity in Wood County and Bowling Green, so we can close the loop,” all within a half mile, Deardurff said. The recycled plastic is then returned to items for packaging food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, shampoo, soap and detergents. When introducing the Corporate Citizen of the Year, Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw noted the company’s beginnings in 1985 in Toledo. “The business flourished,” she said, and by 1991 was manufacturing bottles for Palmolive dishwashing detergent. In 1992, the company opened in Bowling Green, and by 1993, the company had one manufacturing line and eight employees. Before long, they added two more lines. Then in 1999, they patented the technology to be able to serve larger markets. “All the while they were focusing on be environmentally friendly and green,” Herringshaw said. The company now employees 96 people at its two facilities in Bowling Green. “They are the key to making this company successful,” Deardurff said of the employees. Much has changed since 1973 when the technology was first developed to use plastic for making bottles instead of glass. “Much of that technology was done here in Northwest Ohio,” Deardurff said. The company continues to advance the value of recycling through technology, he said. Also at the annual meeting of the Wood County…


Coffee and conversation with BG cops

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Tim Horton’s coffee shop was probably the safest place to be in Bowling Green Wednesday morning … as long as you weren’t cracking any jokes about cops and doughnuts. The first “Coffee with a Cop” event packed the place with police and citizens wanting a chance to chat. “We want people to be comfortable talking with us,” said BG Police Chief Tony Hetrick. The chief was getting a variety of input from citizens, some with concerns about neighborhood issues like loud parties and littering, and some just wanting to say “thank you” to the police. “It was a mix of a lot of different things,” Hetrick said. Sitting at one table were Lt. Brad Biller and Lt. Dan Mancuso, talking with citizens as they stopped to chat. “It’s been very positive,” Mancuso said. “People are saying things are going in a good direction,” Biller said. Some citizens had specific concerns, such as the woman who was recently widowed and was worried about personal security at her home. Others came with praise for specific officers, like Pam Leid, who wanted the chief to know about a particular patrolman who has been very helpful. “This patrolman has done a superb job and the chief needs to hear that,” she said. Mike Crawford came to show his support for local officers. He served 16 years on the force, and his son is currently with the department. But Crawford said the current climate makes it very difficult to be a police officer. “Quite candidly, I wouldn’t do it now for anything,” he said. Linda Lander was there as a member of the Not In Our Town organization. “This is a nice opportunity to talk one on one,” she said. “It’s a two-way street.” Bowling Green State University police also showed up for coffee and conversation. “It gives people in the community a chance to have an informal conversation,” BGSU Police Captain Michael Campbell said. BGSU Police Chief Monica Moll said it’s always better to get to…


State of Wood County – steady and solid

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s annual checkup showed a healthy region with more jobs being created, more teamwork being touted, and more tax revenues coming in to support services. The state of the county address, held this morning in the courthouse atrium, painted a rosy picture of the past year and the one ahead. “The past year was one of progress and change in Wood County,” said Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw, who presented the program with fellow commissioners Joel Kuhlman and Craig LaHote. Finances are staying steady. “Throughout the recession, Wood County remained fiscally strong,” Herringshaw said. Increases in revenue from property tax, sales tax and the casino tax are helping to compensate for loss in revenue from Local Government Funds and investment income. The commissioners recently approved a budget with annual appropriations totaling $40,628,105 – nearly $900,000 more than the previous year’s appropriations. Those solid finances have allowed the county to pay cash for some capital projects, such as the $2.9 million jail expansion and $1 million updates at Wood Haven Health Care. It has also allowed the county to retain its good bond rating, Herringshaw said. The commissioners have made wise use of the casino tax revenue, she said, by using it to fund bridge designs. This year, the revenue will pay for seven bridge projects throughout the county. Kuhlman listed off successes at several businesses in the county, with many new jobs being created. Those included First Solar which is adding 250 jobs, Fed Ex which is adding 262 jobs, Home Depot which is creating 500 jobs, CSX which has added 30 jobs, plus expansions at Schutz Container, O-I, and the building of Costco in Perrysburg. “Wood County’s economy has continued to improve,” Kuhlman said. He cited efforts to work with local trade unions and Penta Career Center’s new robotics lab. Successes were touted at Wood County Child Support Enforcement Agency which was recognized for increased collections, the Auditor’s Office for gaining state recognition, and Job and Family Services whose director…


Beloved Alvie gets atrium named after him

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Gail Perkins has no doubt her late husband, Alvie, was planning ahead when he sketched out the atrium design for the Wood County Courthouse Complex. “That’s why he put in the skylights, so he could look down and see what’s going on,” she said, pointing up to the glass sections. And she knows Alvie would have been so proud to have the atrium dedicated in his honor Wednesday morning during the annual State of the County address. As the longest serving county commissioner in Wood County history, Perkins would often talk about the atrium at home, his wife said. That and roadwork, and pump stations and flooding ditches after heavy rains. “Our evenings out were to drive around looking at the ditches,” Gail Perkins recalled, smiling. Such is the life of a public servant and his spouse. As the atrium was officially dedicated in his honor, Commissioner Doris Herringshaw referred to Alvie Perkins as a “forefather,” serving 25 years as commissioner and passing away in January. “We believe it’s appropriate to name this atrium for him,” she said. The stories vary a bit, but no one disputes the fact that Perkins came up with the idea for the enclosed atrium that links the courthouse, county office building and old jail which is currently the law library and records center. Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar tells it this way. “He sketched it on the back of something he pulled from the recycling bin.” And from there the plans progressed. The atrium solved several problems. It allowed for better courthouse security, made it possible for people to walk between the buildings without being exposed to the weather, and provided space for employees and citizens to meet. “It’s a year-round useable space,” Kalmar said. Wood County Juvenile Court Judge Dave Woessner recalls it this way. “I vividly remember. He drew a diagram on a napkin. He had it in his pocket, and he would proudly show it to people.” Regardless of the paper, the idea…


Interfaith gathering calls for peace in face of terror

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Just hours after terrorists struck Belgium killing at least 30 this morning, people of different faiths gathered together in Bowling Green. The peace they wanted to promote seemed so fragile in the wake of the attacks. “Today, of course, we woke up to the terrible news of another terrorist attack in Europe,” said Phil Dickinson, who practices Buddhism. “How can we compete with bombs and bullets?” The answer – with hospitality that leads to peace. True hospitality that is offered to more than friends and family. The same can be said for dealing with hate speech that is currently dividing this nation politically. “Fear and terror seem to be everywhere these days,” Dickinson said. Dickinson was one of the speakers of many faiths who shared at the second annual Community Interfaith Breakfast in Bowling Green Tuesday morning. The program included speakers representing Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Protestant Christianity, Islam, and Roman Catholic Christianity. They broke bread, ate fruit and drank coffee together as a community united by their respect for each other. “We see the diversity of people in our community as a gift, not as a problem,” said Rev. Gary Saunders, co-chair of the Not In Our Town group which helped organize the breakfast. Imam Talal Eid, of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, said different faiths must build bridges. “We need to be together to learn how to live together,” he said. “We need to learn a common language. That is the language of peace and hospitality.” Eid referenced the attacks in Belgium and the “innocent lives lost.” Every religion has its fanatics, and these terrorists “claim they are Muslims,” but the Imam disputed that. “You need to know, if you look at Islam, you’re not going to find that in it,” he said, noting that the Koran calls the killing of innocent people “a murder against humanity.” Each speaker told of the power of hospitality over hatred. Barbara Moses spoke of the Jewish holiday of Passover Seder when families come…


Park levy need not questioned, but more millage may pose problems

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   BG officials did not question the need for a new parks and recreation levy Monday evening. They did, however, question the chances of the millage increase passing on the November ballot. City council’s finance committee listened to BG Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley as she made the pitch for a 2-mill property tax levy lasting five years. Since the proposed levy is an increased amount from the current 1.4-mill levy, the council committee felt the need to scrutinize the request. Otley explained that the parks and rec program has not seen a levy increase in 16 years. In the meantime, the program has grown in acreage, facilities and programming. “We’ve added so much in 16 years,” Otley said. “The things we added were all things the community was asking for and wanted to see.” Also during that 16-year period, several maintenance projects were deferred. “A lot of things have been put off,” Otley said. For example, the Veterans Building in City Park is in great need of repairs. The parking lot at Simpson Garden Park has serious pothole problems. The park land has grown to 333 acres, including the new Ridge Park. And the 10-year-old community center is in need of maintenance. The three members of the finance committee, Robert McOmber, Michael Aspacher and Theresa Charters Gavarone, did not dispute the need for the additional millage. But they expressed concern that if voters don’t support the levy, that the department will be left with no levy revenue since the current levy has expired. “It’s the first time we’ve gotten ourselves in a position where we only have one shot,” at the levy, McOmber said. “People don’t have to vote yes just because you need it.” McOmber suggested that perhaps other options should be considered rather than the 2-mill levy, such as a lesser 1.8-mill levy, or two levies that add up to 2 mills. In that case, if voters feel they can’t afford the entire 2 mills, they may at least…


Every home in BG to be part of housing survey

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Now might be a good time to touch up that peeling paint, tuckpoint that chimney, and firm up that sagging front porch. Starting in April, a housing inspector from the Wood County Health District will be making the rounds in Bowling Green, checking out residences – all 5,524 or more. It’s time for the housing exterior survey which the city contracts for every five year from the county health district. The contract is a “unique arrangement,” according to Lana Glore, of the environmental division of the health district. In most cases, health districts respond on a complaint basis. “You’re kind of putting fires out,” she said. But in Bowling Green, the city tries to keep those fires from ever starting by having the surveys done every five years. “To me, it looks like it works,” Glore said. The inspector will go from home to home, April through August, looking at exteriors that can be viewed from public property. “Every house is looked at,” Glore said. The data collected will be compiled in September through November. Then the results will be reported to council in December. Each home will be surveyed for 14 primary categories: Roofs, siding conditions, stairs and railings, windows, foundations, driveways, public walkways, chimneys, porches, doors, accessory structures, soffits and roof edging, private walks and exterior sanitation. They will also be surveyed for 10 non-primary categories: Paint, attached garage, grading and drainage, yard maintenance, siding type, gutters and downspouts, garage condition, dumpsters, starlings and pigeons, and whether or not an address is present. Homes that are substandard in two or three primary categories are classified as “deficient.” Homes that are substandard in four or more are classified as “neglected.” Owners of neglected homes are sent letters explaining the deficiences. During the last housing survey in 2011, a total of 5,524 homes were surveyed. A total of 628 primary deficiencies were found. Deficient homes numbered 86, and neglected homes totaled 7. The 2011 survey showed some improvements from the results of…


Trying to keep Lake Erie water from going green

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After Lake Erie turned green with algal blooms in 2014, and local residents were cautioned not to consume tap water from Toledo, officials rushed to make changes to keep this crisis from happening again. But too little has been accomplished, and the threat still looms over the lake as summer approaches again, according to a Waterkeepers conference held Friday at W.W. Knight Preserve near Perrysburg. Speakers blamed a good portion of the problem on the amount of manure being created, and the amount of fertilizer being spread on fields. “We are producing more shit than we have land to put it on,” speaker Dr. Earl Campbell, of Perrysburg, said during a break in the program. “We’re not understanding the source and the amounts,” of the phosphorous from manure and fertilizers running into the lake, said Sandy Bihn, executive director of the Waterkeepers organization. “We’re not following the Clean Water Act.” Two speakers from the agricultural community praised farmers for trying to reduce runoff, but also pointed fingers at them for not doing enough. Estimates vary, but agricultural runoff is blamed for 50 to 80 percent of the nutrients creating harmful algae in Lake Erie. The problem has worsened as small farms have been replaced by large farms with more concentrated livestock operations, according to Ron Wyss, a Hardin County farmer. The building of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, sometimes referred to as mega-farms, has led to over application of manure on fields nearest the CAFOs. Recent studies have shown that less phosphorous from fertilizers produces comparable or better yields, yet some farmers continue to apply more than necessary to their fields, Wyss said. “This is America, and the more, the better,” he said. “The bottom line is, 20 parts per million is all you need to grow your crop,” Wyss said, though many farmers double that amount. “Forty parts per million is way over what we need to grow most crops.” Regulations actually allow much, much more, up to 150 parts per million….


BG schools to hold monthly talks – on drug testing, charter schools and more

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s new school superintendent is not shy about communication – and not just Twitter and Facebook – but old-fashioned face to face time. Francis Scruci been hosting regular coffee klatches with citizens, but now he’s looking at narrowing the focus of the discussions and drawing more input. So once a month, Scruci plans to host public workshops. Each will focus on a specific topic, such as drug testing, delivery of instruction, school funding or the impact of charter schools. “I want open and honest dialogue,” he said. The superintendent has asked that all the school board members also attend the workshops. So the gatherings will be like a second meeting a month for the board, but one with more interaction with the public than is possible at regular board meetings. “The community, staff felt disconnected from our board and schools,” Scruci said. Anyone will be allowed to speak at the workshops and no decisions will be made during the meetings. “There will be a climate of collaboration,” he said. “It’s not adversarial.” Scruci presented the idea last week during the first such workshop, this one focusing on the future of school buildings in the district. “We want interaction with our community,” he told the audience. “We want dialogue.” “We have to have the entire village working together for the good of our schools,” Scruci said. The superintendent stressed that anyone wanting to talk to him need not wait until the monthly workshops. In addition to the coffee klatches, he said citizens are welcome to drop by his office at anytime to talk. “We all care about kids. We all care about the community,” he said.        


Home sweet home…107 BG families use housing vouchers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Housing Agency has little to do with the actually housing and a lot to do with the people who need it. Members of the volunteer board managing the agency’s work in the city met last week to discuss the latest numbers. As part of the HUD Section 8 voucher program, the agency is currently helping 107 local families by offering rental assistance based on income. Those in the voucher program in Bowling Green include large families, senior citizens and young individuals. The agency does not offer emergency help, and has a waiting list of about 90 families in need. Federal funding is about $31,000 a month, which is used for rent on any appropriate home. Unlike federal housing projects, this program allows the families to choose their own apartment, trailer or house to rent. The landlord must agree to the arrangement, and the home must pass a HUD inspection. There is no limit to how long a family can receive the rental assistance, as long as they still qualify, according to Brian Horst, director of the Bowling Green Housing Agency. The group keeps track of why families leave the program. “What we do like to see is ‘assistance no longer needed’ as their reason for leaving,” housing agency board member Tom Knox said. “Often it means a job has been gotten where there was none before.” The Bowling Green agency is allowed to pay for rental vouchers for up to 119 families. However, the $31,616 in federal funding doesn’t go far enough in BG to house more than 107 right now. The group is currently waiting to hear what future funding will be. “We do always have a concern about what’s going on in Washington,” Knox said. “Among other things, HUD is a favorite target” of funding cuts. Borst, who manages the housing voucher programs in several counties in Northwest Ohio, said the rental costs are much higher in Bowling Green than other communities. HUD tries to accommodate that difference,…


Not just spinning their wheels – bicyclists to meet with city engineer

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Squeaky wheels don’t always get the grease. But members of the Bowling Green Bicycle Safety Commission will soon have a chance to have their concerns heard as the city works on its Complete Streets plan. The commission learned Tuesday evening that it will have an opportunity to meet with City Engineer Jason Sisco on April 5 at 6 p.m. “They want to hear more from bicyclists,” explained Kristin Otley, city parks and recreation director and a member of the bike commission. The Complete Streets project is an initiative to make city streets more accessible and safe for bicyclists and pedestrians – not just motorists. When a Complete Streets meeting was held last week, there was a consensus that more input was needed from those in the community who pedal along city streets the most. The bicycle group is realistic. “We don’t imagine that we’re going to have bike lanes everywhere,” member Eileen Baker said. In some cases, just a shoulder along the roadway would be nice, she added. She noted the narrow width of Napoleon Road, which leaves no room for error. “I’m happy to ride in the shoulder,” Baker said. In other cases, it would be helpful to just have a berm area with a bicycle painted on it. Part of the Complete Street concept is to link bicyclists with “destinations” in the city, giving them useable routes to places like Bowling Green State University, all the city schools, park areas and downtown. Baker pointed out how difficult it is to access the downtown area on a bicycle. It is illegal to ride on the sidewalks, and very dangerous to ride in the street, she said. “You’ll either get doored or you’re going to get squashed,” she said. And riding in the parking lots behind the businesses can be risky as well. Members of the bicycle commission were asked to do some homework prior to their meeting with the city engineer. They were given copies of the bicycle route map printed…


State testing survey raises questions

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   With school districts across Ohio getting less than stellar grades on their recent state report cards, some further investigation has revealed some disturbing discrepancies, according to Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci. Scruci explained at Tuesday’s school board meeting that a survey about the state tests was conducted with all the district superintendents in Ohio. The superintendents were asked one question – if their district tests were conducted online, on paper, or a combination. A total 450 superintendents responded. Of those, 250 had online tests, with 175 getting an F for the value-added overall grade, and just 47 getting an A. Just 95 districts gave all-paper tests, with 85 of those getting an A. “There is some suspicion in the state that the tests were not equal,” Scruci said. Due to the rash of low scores, there is a possibility of legislative action which would make the most recent scores invalid. However, Scruci said he wasn’t using the discrepancies as a crutch, and he still considers the district responsible for state testing scores. But he also said that a two-hour test should not be used to make a valid assessment of a student. That small “snapshot” is not a true indicator of what the student is learning. Scruci said he is working on a blueprint that will “drill down” to work with each student and take the pressure off teachers when it comes to test scores. “We have to make some changes. We have to do things differently,” he said. Scruci proposed that the district should hire two curriculum coordinators, one at the secondary and one at the elementary level for next year. Ideally, he would also like to hire instructional coaches, but realizes that just is not affordable for the district. Scruci quoted the school treasurer, Rhonda Melchi, as frequently reminding him, “Just because I’m a new superintendent doesn’t mean there’s a new revenue stream.”  


Residents protest pipeline compressor station

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Waterville area residents are sick just thinking about the toxins that a pipeline compressor station could pump into their air. More than 500 showed up Wednesday evening to say they won’t sit by quietly and let the facility be built as part of the proposed Nexus pipeline. The natural gas pipeline would run 255 miles from eastern Ohio, across the state, to Michigan and end in Canada. Along its route, it will pass through Wood County, north of Bowling Green, then through Waterville. When it gets to Waterville Township, a compressor station is proposed off Moosman Road, south of Neapolis Waterville Road. Compressor stations are used to pump natural gas through the pipelines, and are located at intervals along the line to pressurize the gas to keep it moving. Residents packed a school in Waterville Wednesday evening to protest plans to put the station in their community. There were so many people who wanted to testify at the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency hearing, that the EPA skipped the program and went straight to the public comments. “This is one of the larger crowds we’ve ever had at an EPA hearing,” said Mike Settles, of the Ohio EPA. Settles explained that his agency only has authority over the station’s air emissions. FERC is the agency that must approve the actual pipeline. “Safety is not our issue. I know that’s not what you want to hear,” Settles said. The air pollutants typically released from the compressor station include such items as nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, methane, benzene, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde and toluene. Barry Booth traveled five hours from his home in Carroll County, where the Nexus pipeline begins, to warn Waterville residents of what they can expect from having a compressor station as a neighbor. “We are living in it,” he said, of the toxins spewing out from the station near his home. “It will get on your kids’ toys. It will get onto everything.” Booth said both he and his wife have…


Something to cheer about – BG buys new bleachers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green fans have something to cheer about – and soon they will have something new to sit on while doing so. The board of education voted Tuesday evening to spend $542,000 for new bleachers in the football stadium. A section of the current bleachers was deemed unsafe last year after serious rusting was discovered. The board voted to spend an extra $14,000 to add slip resistant decking. “I think $14,000 is a very good deal compared to the lawsuit from somebody slipping,” board member Ed Whipple said. The district will use its permanent improvement levy revenue to pay for the new bleachers. However, that levy generates $525,000 a year, so general fund monies will also have to be used for the bleachers. District treasurer Rhonda Melchi cautioned the board that the permanent improvement funds may be needed elsewhere. The $542,000 pays for new bleachers on both the home and visitor sides, handicapped accessible restrooms and pays for the old bleachers to be torn down and taken away. Kent Buehrer, the engineer on the project, said the bid actually came in 11.3 percent below estimate. Also at Tuesday’s board meeting, Kenwood Elementary Principal Kathleen Daney talked about all the “Community Connection” programs at the school. Daney listed such programs as: Students painting city snow plows. One Book BG program, which included the community in the book, “The World According to Humphrey.” Thanksgiving canned food drive. Caroling at Heritage Corner Nursing Home. Dear Santa, a district-wide program adopting 20 families with 55 children during the holidays. Jump Rope for Heart, which raised $18,478 at the elementaries for the American Heart Association. BG winter art festival in the downtown. PTO family dance, which raised supplies for the Cocoon Shelter. Family movie night, at which items were collected for the Wood County Humane Society. Team ERIN Coin Wars, which raised funds for the injured child of a staff member. Red Cross blood drive, which had 139 donors. Daney also talked about the recent effort started…