Community

BG to use bugs to cut phosphorus

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is going to enlist the help of bugs to treat its wastewater. Brian O’Connell, director of public utilities, told city council Monday evening that the city would be paying $126,000 for a biological phosphorus removal project. The project will involve making changes to the aeration and “tricking” microscopic bugs already in to wastewater to eat the phosphorus before it leaves the plant. Phosphorus is one of the culprits blamed for the algal bloom crisis in Lake Erie in the summer of 2014. Phosphorus got to the lake from sources such as sewer plants, farm fields and lawn chemicals. According to O’Connell, by using a biological rather than chemical treatment, the water downstream will benefit. “We’re going to use the bugs in our wastewater plant to consume the phosphorus,” he said. The change is not being required by the Ohio EPA, but O’Connell said environmental regulations are all pointing in that direction. “We are trying to be proactive,” he said. O’Connell said after the meeting that the change should cut the phosphorus that leaves the plant in half. Also at Monday’s meeting, council approved plans for working with the Ohio Department of Transportation for resurfacing the city’s portion of Ohio 105 from Bowling Green’s east side to Ohio 199. During the citizen comments portion of the meeting, Diane Vogtsberger asked council questions about its plans to hire a consultant to do a site assessment of the green space on West Wooster…


Fire damages Corner Grill (Updated)

BG INDEPENDENT NEWS A fire Monday morning  damaged the Corner Grill in downtown Bowling Green. No one was injured. Several hours later almost a dozen employees gathered near the police tape blocking off the entrance to the eatery and the remains of two futons to commiserate about their jobs and the Corner Grill’s place in downtown culture. The fire started before the sign signaling the start of another week of round-the-clock service had been lit. Bowling Green Fire Chief Tom Sanderson said the call came in at 7:45 a.m. from an employee reporting fire in the grill. Flames were still evident in the grill area when firefighters had arrived and the fire have moved into an abandoned stairwell connected to the eatery. That stair well has not been in use for years, and was locked. Two futon mattresses burned. Those, Sanderson said, had likely been in the stairwell for some time. The Corner Grill suffered extensive damage in the grill area. Investigation into the fire is continuing, the fire chief said. During Bowling Green City Council meeting Monday evening, council member Theresa Charters Gavarone, who owns Mr. Spots with her husband, said the restaurant suffered quite a bit of smoke and water damage. The business is expected to be open on Wednesday. “I ran up Main Street in my socks,” to let the firefighters into the restaurant, she said. Gavarone joined Mayor Dick Edwards and others in praising the work of the city’s fire and police divisions. “I can’t say enough…


Bill protects domestic violence victims’ addresses

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   In 2009, to punish his ex-wife, James Mammone III stabbed to death their two young children in their carseats, then fatally shot his former mother-in-law in Canton. Testimony for Ohio House Bill 359 stated Mammone was able to commit these acts after using public records to find his ex-wife’s address. The bill, co-sponsored by State Rep. Tim Brown, R-Bowling Green, is designed to keep addresses of former crime victims confidential. The legislation allows for victims of domestic violence, rape, sexual battery, menacing by stalking and human trafficking to safely register to vote while keeping their home address confidential. The victims would be assigned an Address Confidentiality Program number that they can use instead of their home address when filling out an election ballot. Brown said members of the House were moved by the compelling testimony about the Mammone case. “You could have heard a pin drop,” in the chambers, he said. “It was an earthshaking story to hear.” Since vehicle and voter registrations are public records, many domestic violence victims who have escaped their abusers often choose to not register to vote or participate in other government registrations out of fear their abuser will be able to find them. Under this legislation, any personal information about a victim who participates in the Address Confidentiality Program is exempt from the public record. “Victims of crime should be able to vote and carry on with their lives without fear that their attacker can track…


BG chamber names top citizens

Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce recognized its top citizens during its annual dinner dance held in the Bowling Green State University ballroom Saturday evening. Bob Callecod was named Man of the Year, and Barbara Sanchez was named Woman of the Year. The outstanding citizen award recognizes those who live or work in the Bowling Green area, and have demonstrated an active leadership role for the betterment of the community through involvement in business, civic, social and service organizations. Judy Ennis was given the Athena Award, and Dr. Ed Whipple was given the Zeus Award. The Athena Award celebrates the potential of all women as valued members and leaders of the community, and recognizes those who support them. The recipient must assist women in reaching their full leadership potential; demonstrate excellence, creativity and initiative in their business or profession; and provide valuable service by devoting time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community. The Zeus Award is the counterpart to the Athena. Zeus Award recipients are male individuals who support a culture that encourages women to achieve their full leadership potential through active mentoring, supporting, and development actions. A Zeus award nominee is someone who gives back to the larger community of women and girls by providing and/or supporting leadership development opportunities and initiatives.


Wood County hires assistant administrator

The Wood County Commissioners have appointed Kelly O’Boyle of Waterville to serve as assistant county administrator, the position formerly held by Joe Fawcett. O’Boyle’s duties will include preparation and management of the county budget, supervision of the fiscal and clerical staff within the commissioners’ office, and working closely with the county administrator to provide guidance to projects for commissioners’ departments.  The assistant county administrator also serves as the director of the Wood County Solid Waste Management District, including the Wood County Landfill.  Her employment with Wood County will begin on Feb. 16. Her annual salary will be $73,000. O’Boyle is a graduate of Central Michigan University, and holds a master of public administration degree from the University of Toledo.  She currently serves as the director of finance and human resources with SMG – the management company that operates the Huntington Center and Seagate Center.  Prior experience includes service to Lucas County as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, assistant director of the Office of Management and Budget, and project manager.  


Elevator will make history accessible

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Dana Nemeth remembers wanting to show her father-in-law, a World War II veteran, the new exhibit about the war at the Wood County Historical Center. But when they got to the museum, she quickly realized it was not possible. The WWII exhibit was on the second floor, and her father-in-law could not climb the stairs. “I was really excited for him to see it,” Nemeth recalled. “It was such a disappointment.” That was a decade ago, before Nemeth became director of the museum, and before the state gave the site a $600,000 grant to help pay for a $1.2 million elevator and accessibility accommodations. By this summer, no aging veterans, no families with strollers, no people in wheelchairs will be limited to the first floor of the museum. “It’s been a long time coming,” former Wood County Commissioner Jim Carter said Friday as the museum opened new exhibits and kicked off the construction of the elevator. Former history teacher, State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, spoke of the need to make all floors of the facility accessible. “So all citizens could value and learn at this great community asset.” The elevator has been a long time coming, first being discussed in the late 1970s. State Rep. Tim Brown, R-Bowling Green, spoke of the contributions of history buffs like Lyle Fletcher, Clark Duncan and the countless “barn bums” that helped preserve the site that was built in 1868. “This was on the path…


History in unusual places…toy soldiers, Superman and beer cans

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   At the young age of 7, Matt Donahue was going through trash bins looking for beer cans. Not for recycling, but for collecting. It would be the start of a lifetime of collecting for Donahue. The beer cans, along with an eclectic combination of items such as Wonder Woman memorabilia, Dr. Seuss books, and salt and pepper shakers, are part of a new program at the Wood County Historical Center and Museum. The exhibits feature several community members’ collections for the site’s new “Be Your Own Museum” program. The site was opened to guests Friday to show off the loaned collections. There are superheroes and comic book character from Larry Nader, 1950s era toys from Mary Dilsaver, vintage sewing machines from Cindy Huffman, Nancy Drew books from Jayne Tegge, hand-painted china from Jane Westerhaus, Pez dispensers from Kelli Kling, and more. Roger Mazzarella, who is sharing his collection of tin soldiers, dressed the part Friday, wearing a replica of a 1879 Wales military uniform. “I’m a historian at heart,” said Mazzarella, who is a retired history teacher. Mazzarella acquired the initial pieces of his collection from his father who served as an Army medic in World War II. When his father passed down the toy soldier collection to his son, Mazzarella tried to sell them to another collector. But instead, he came home with not only his dad’s collection, but several more pieces. He was hooked. The same was true for Donahue,…


Getting downtown to go green

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Downtown business owners may soon learn how changing to environmentally green operations can help them keep more of their economic green. Students studying environment and sustainability at Bowling Green State University are working on a type of “green business certification program.” Such a program, which is already in place in Lucas County and Toledo, recognizes businesses that put together sustainability plans. Dr. Holly Myers, who specializes in land use and environmental planning at BGSU, is coordinating student efforts to survey downtown Bowling Green businesses on a sustainability grade card. The three principles of sustainability are environment, economics and quality of life. “It seems like downtown is a good place to start,” she said. Businesses will be surveyed, and suggestions will be made of how they can operate in a more sustainable manner. “This is not something to force on them,” Myers stressed. The green checklist includes topics such as waste reduction, energy conservation and green purchasing. The program will calculate how much can be saved by steps such as changing to LED lightbulbs, billing electronically, or turning off computers at the end of the work day. “I think they are going to be surprised at how much they can reduce their costs,” Myers said. The sustainability rating goes far beyond recycling, but Myers said some students are particularly interested in conducting a trash audit of businesses. “There is very little recycling downtown,” she said. The sustainability project will also help students understand…


Islamophobia is everyone’s problem

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The shadow of ISIS and American politicians who exploit its atrocities hung over the panel on Islamophobia at Bowling Green State University Wednesday afternoon. The moderator Susana Pena, director of the School of Cultural and Critical Studies, started the discussion off by positing a definition: “Islamophobia is a hatred or fear of Muslims as well as those perceived to be Muslim and Muslim culture.” She told the more than 100 people in attendance that at its most extreme Islamophobia expresses itself in physical violence and hate crimes, such as the 2002 attack on the Islamic Center in Perrysburg. It also expresses itself in racial profiling and “micro-aggressions … every day intentional and unintentional snubs and insults,” Pena said. Cherrefe Kadri, a Toledo attorney, was on the board of the Islamic Center of Northwest Ohio when the arsonist attacked. The man convicted of the crime wrote a letter of apology. “It was a cathartic exercise,” Kadri said. “He thought we were happy he was imprisoned. I assured him we were not.” Kadri said she is disappointed in politicians such as Donald Trump and Ben Carson who “think it’s courageous speaking against people based on their religion.” And she’s disappointed in other political leaders, especially Republican leaders, who have not opposed their views. “It puts people in danger.” Saudi student Adnan Shareef, president and founder of the Muslim Students Association at BGSU, said he knows of some Muslims “afraid of affiliating themselves with anything Islam.” This…


‘Adopt’ a block idea taking shape

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Residents of Bowling Green’s East Side often wake to find their yards littered with trash from party-goers. So in an effort to clean up the neighborhoods and sullied reputations of college students, plans have begun for some blocks to be “adopted” by student groups. The Bowling Green City-University Relations Commission discussed the cleanups as a goal that can be accomplished rather than started then put on hold each time a break in semesters occurs. “We talk about these things over and over again,” said Lisa Mattiace, vice president of the commission. But little is accomplished, the board agreed Tuesday evening. Peter Rodriguez, a member of the Undergraduate Student Government, said that organization had begun talks about student groups adopting city blocks, similar to the “adopt a highway” program started by the Ohio Department of Transportation. But Rodriguez added that the progress on the program “is very, very slow.” The project is brought up annually, but “there’s no traction.” Members of the city-university commission agreed they could help provide the needed traction. They recognized this program as a project they could team up with the USG to get accomplished, possibly this spring semester. And once started, it would be easy to continue every semester. “I think it’s commendable for the USG to be taking that on,” commission member Chris Ostrowski said. Tom Mellott, also on the commission, suggested that signs be erected identifying which group is responsible for which blocks. “I think it…


Jail inmates to undergo scanning

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Sure, police dogs have great noses for sniffing out crime, and command community adoration. But they do have their limits. They can’t work 24 hours a day, and they can’t sniff out hidden weapons. So instead of acquiring a canine to scan inmates entering the Wood County jail, the sheriff’s office has purchased a full-body scanning system. The scanner was purchased with $118,000 in jail commissary funds, from inmates purchasing snacks or toiletry items. The Soter RS body scanner shows if an inmate is trying to smuggle drugs, small weapons such as razor blades, or cell phones into the jail. The searches are much less invasive, and less unpleasant than strip and cavity searches for both the inmates and the jail personnel. According to Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn, Wood County Justice Center is the third county jail in Ohio to have such technology. Upon arriving at the jail, each inmate will go through the 10-second X-ray scanning procedure. The scan shows any foreign objects in the stomach or body cavities, or any items that may have been missed during a pat down by officers. “It’s more thorough than TSA scanners,” at airports, Wasylyshyn said. Inmates will also go through the scans when they return from furloughs or court hearings, “just in case someone, somehow passed something to them,” he said. The decision to get a body scanner came after changes in the state that allow more serious criminals to be housed…


Espen fearless in defense of environment

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Brad Espen wouldn’t stand a chance in a popularity contest. He refused to budge for landowners protesting sewer lines. He stood eye to eye with federal officials delaying cleanup of hazardous materials. He was unapologetic when enforcing smoking bans. “I made my share of people mad, but when you know you’re doing the right thing, it kind of balanced things out,” said Espen, who will soon retire after 30 years in environmental health at Wood County Health District. “I was always trying to do the right thing.” Espen may have lacked popularity, but he was never short on persistence. One case in point would be the now demolished Victory Inn, in Bowling Green.  After countless inspections and violation reports, the hotel was finally shut down. “We just never gave up with that one,” he said. Espen started at the health department doing housing and restaurant inspections. He then went on to solid waste inspections, and eventually took over as director of environmental health. “I was always interested in the environment,” though he originally thought his career path would lead to work with wildlife and nature – not sewers and hazardous waste. He grew up in Bowling Green, being the sixth generation of his family here. “That’s part of the reason I care so deeply about my community.” Espen starts his days early, getting to work around 5 a.m. when the office is still quiet. From his office he has led crusades for sewers…


BG Parks Due for Levy and Master Plan Update

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Bowling Green parks and recreation officials want help from citizens this year. First, they want citizen input on a master plan update, and then they want citizen votes on a levy in November. Kristin Otley, director of the parks and recreation department, told city council earlier this week that the parks are on the third year of a three-year levy. That means the city will be working to put a levy on the November ballot. The levy amount has not been determined, but Otley explained the department’s levy amount has not changed in 16 years. The parks and programming, however, have changed greatly, she added. “There is a lot more acreage and facilities, and things to take care of,” Otley said. Otley also informed council that the parks and recreation department will be working to update its master plan this year. The plan will cover the next five years. Five or six community focus group meetings will be scheduled to get public input on the parks and programming. Also at Tuesday’s council meeting, Planning Director Heather Sayler reported that zoning permits have remained steady in the city, with 364 in 2014, and 370 in 2015. A small increase was seen in single family housing starts, with 19 in 2014 and 26 in 2015. Sayler announced the Wood County Health District inspectors will start the housing survey in the city in early spring. Council also heard about an annexation request for 31 acres at…


Gas line work shifts over to BG east side

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News As the west side of Bowling Green heals from the gas line replacement project that ripped up streets and sidewalks, Columbia Gas is preparing the east side for its turn. “We break some eggs to make this cake,” Columbia Gas representative Chris Kozak told Bowling Green City Council on Tuesday evening. “It’s a mess.” It’s not pretty, it’s not simple, but it necessary, Kozak said. He showed council the type of gas pipes currently snaking through the city’s east side. The cast iron pipes, many which predate World War II, have outlived their usefulness. He then showed council the plastic pipes buried in the west side of the city – and soon to be on the east side. The plastic pipes are expected to have a lifespan of 70 to 100 years, and be flexible when the ground freezes around them. “The plastic will move with the ground,” he said. The plastic piping also allows for increases in pressure if needed in the future. Kozak explained that the gas line replacements in Bowling Green are part of a broader 25-year program started by Columbia Gas in 2008 to replace the most troublesome cast iron lines. The total investment is pegged at $2 billion. The west side project in Bowling Green affected 930 customers, replacing 37,000 feet of lines, and costing $4.1 million. The east side project will affect 365 customers, replacing 10,000 feet at a cost of $1.8 million. Columbia Gas officials hope…


BG to study if city office, green space would fit on downtown parcel

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Before any trees are planted, sidewalks poured or gazebo erected, Bowling Green officials want one question put to rest. Is there enough room for a new city building and an outdoor community gathering space to coexist on the same grassy square?Council President Michael Aspacher asked that the city consult with a design professional to determine if the site is large enough for both a building and town square large enough to satisfy the community’s needs. Aspacher said at Tuesday’s council meeting that now is the time to “pause briefly” to make the determination before moving ahead. He referenced a community meeting last week on the green space which previously was home to the city’s junior high school, at the corner of West Wooster and South Church streets. While the meeting was productive, there are questions remaining, Aspacher said. Council member Bruce Jeffers agreed. “It seems like a reasonable approach,” he said, suggesting that some building schematics could help clarify questions. However, city resident Margaret Montague reminded council about a comment made at last week’s public meeting about trying to squeeze both the building and town square into one corner. The result could be “a big building with a big front yard,” she said, quoting from council member Robert McOmber. McOmber repeated those sentiments Tuesday evening. “I would be quite surprised,” if the space was big enough for both. “I think most people in town want it to be green space, no matter what,”…