Community

City interviews consultants for neighborhood revitalization

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is one step closer to a revitalization plan for the northeast and southeast neighborhoods of the city. City Planning Director Heather Sayler reported to the city planning commission on Wednesday that interviews had been conducted with consulting firms interested in taking on the revitalization project. Sayler said it was very important that the proposals considered the community’s traits. “As a college town, we are a different animal than the typical community,” she said. It was also quite important that the consulting firm knows how to collect input from the neighborhoods, Sayler said. “How will they handle engagement with the community?” City council agreed earlier this year to contract with a consulting firm to develop a strategic revitalization plan for the northeast and the southeast quadrants of the city. Among other goals, the plan will look at fixing neglected and abused housing. When offering background information to the possible consultants, city officials said the east side has been impacted by its proximity to BGSU, “which has created a magnet for student rental properties.” “Over the years, the character of these neighborhoods has changed from single-family owner-occupied homes into an area dominated by rental properties geared toward students, compounded by aging stock and lowered property values,” the background information stated. For the northeast neighborhood, the challenge is to return the blocks to family-orientation, and modify infrastructure and regulations to promote the northeast blocks to BGSU graduate students, university staff, alumni and other families. The goals for the northeast neighborhood are: Stop and then reverse “apartmentalization” of houses. Improve livability and aesthetics. Encourage health and fitness. Allow transition uses and higher densities. The challenge for the southeast neighborhood is to upgrade the character and livability of the blocks to make the whole quadrant more appealing to students as well as other types of residents. By doing so, the plan can help BGSU become more competitive and take advantage of the infrastructure already available to make a quality neighborhood. The goals for the southeast quadrant are: Enhance aesthetics. Establish new development that creates high livability. Encourage health and fitness. Create positive first impressions. The strategic plan will focus on how to attract the city’s target market of young professionals, educated and skilled, into the neighborhoods. “We’ve been talking about the need to revitalize these neighborhoods,” council member Daniel Gordon, who represents the northeast quadrant of the city, said earlier this year. The decline of the housing stock around BGSU has been going on for years, Gordon said. “The city…


Inmates addicted to opiates will get drug to help them kick habits

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For some opiate addicts, the most dangerous time is right after being released from jail or a treatment facility. They fall in with old friends, then old bad habits. The risks are even greater at that point, since their bodies are no long accustomed to the opiate amounts they used before. When that tolerance for the drug is gone, deadly overdoses are more likely to occur. So Wood County officials are looking at offering inmates injections of one drug, in order to help them beat the addiction of another drug – opiates, with heroin being the most notorious of the drug group. “Heroin is a different beast than we’ve dealt with before,” said Cary Williams, executive director of the Northwest Community Corrections Center located in Bowling Green. To give inmates a better chance at kicking opiates, they will be offered one dose of Vivitrol, an injectable drug that acts as an “opiate antagonist. It limits the body’s ability to get high,” explained Charlie Hughes, program director of the corrections center. By reducing the cravings and the pleasurable effects of the opiates, Vivitrol gives addicts a better chance of kicking the drugs. “So life without drugs seems possible,” Hughes said. Williams, Hughes and Joni Bretz, of Wood County Adult Probation Department, presented a program on Vivitrol to the Wood County Commissioners on Thursday, and asked for the board’s support of offering the drug at the community corrections center. The commissioners supported the efforts and agreed to spending up to $25,000 for one year, which would cover at least 19 inmates from Wood County who qualify for the Vivitrol.  Of the 54 Wood County residents in the corrections center, 35 percent have opiate issues. Just this week, Vivitrol also began being used at Wood County Justice Center, for Wood County residents with opiate addictions. “We are definitely on board with doing that,” Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said. The average opiate addict trying to get clean has seven relapses before being successful, according to Tom Clemons, executive director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board. “It’s normal for people to relapse,” Clemons said. And relapse after being clean in jail or treatment is particularly dangerous. According to WCADAMHS stats, someone dies from an opiate-related overdose every 15 minutes. “How can we keep people from dying when they’re coming out of jail,” Clemons said. “The Vivitrol gives them the kickstart.” The Vivitrol will be offered on a voluntary basis, and to only those who pass…


Tall grass keeps neighbors annoyed and city busy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence – but it may also be taller, which could get your neighbor a notice about grass and noxious weed violations. This is the time of year when spring rains bring on rapid grass growth, catching some homeowners unprepared or unwilling to deal with their grass and wayward weeds. “Spring is always the worst, with the onslaught of the rain,” said Jason Westgate, Bowling Green’s code enforcement officer. Westgate estimated the city has issued 10 to 20 grass and weed notices each day during the month of May. It’s like a summer version of the city’s snow shoveling ordinance. If landowners don’t take care of the property themselves, then the city will – and send the owners the bill. “During rainy spells, we try to give people time to catch up,” Westgate said. “But we had a lot of people calling to complain that neighbors haven’t mowed and the grass was getting knee-high.” The city’s tall grass and noxious weed ordinance sets the maximum allowed grass height at 8 inches, and prohibits particularly unruly weeds like wild mustard, musk thistle, giant hogweed and poison hemlock, as suggested by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. So like every other springtime, code enforcement has again been busy trying to remind residents of the rules. “It depends on when the warm weather comes and the rain hits. Then it becomes a perfect storm,” said Heather Sayler, city planning director. Several of the violations are reported by unhappy neighbors, and others are spotted by the code enforcement officer. Some involve foreclosed homes, others are rentals that are unused in the summer, and others are just neglected. Sayler said some resident wait to mow until they get notices. “It’s time consuming,” for the city, she said. “It’s so time consuming, but it’s important,” especially for limiting mosquitoes and other critters. When tall grass or weed outbreaks are reported, a letter is posted on the offending home and a notification is sent in the mail. “Sometimes it upsets people when they get that letter,” Sayler said. “We try to make it a nice letter,” not very threatening. “But it also has to have a little bit of teeth,” to get some homeowners to respond. The city gives property owners a chance clean up their act themselves. “Once we post the property, they are given five days to remedy the situation,” Westgate said. Oftentimes, residents on both ends of the issue get upset –…


New business park planned in Crossroads area

A new business park, promising hundreds of new jobs, is being planned in the Crossroads area of Wood County. NAI Harmon Group today announced its plans to purchase an 87-acre piece of land from the carpenters union for development of a Class “A” business park, the Harmon Business Park, located within Crossroads property. The announcement was made at a Wood County Economic Development meeting this morning. “It’s a great opportunity for Rossford and the Crossroads,” said Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission. “It’s going to provide some much needed development up in that area.” NAI Harmon Group is looking to attract at least 10 end users, totaling hundreds of new jobs for the area in the coming years. The first tenant to the park is slated to break ground in the third quarter of this year. The entire investment is projected to cost more than $75 million upon completion. The Harmon Business Park sits alongside Interstate 75, Ohio 795, and the Ohio Turnpike to attract warehouse/distribution and light manufacturing users. Also, the park will be within an existing TARTA route that will make it easier for employees to access their new jobs. “I am committed to developing this project to the fullest and believe we must create jobs and opportunities to build a strong central metro area,” said Ed Harmon, president of the NAI Harmon Group. The announcement was good news for Rossford officials. “I believe this is the anchor the City of Rossford and Wood County needs to redevelop the Crossroads,” said Neil MacKinnon, mayor of Rossford. NAI Harmon Group plans to partner with the City of Rossford and Wood County to accomplish this project. Harmon is working alongside the City of Rossford to address road, water and sewer infrastructure needs and zoning changes that will allow the area to expand now and in the future. “This new business park and facilities will be designed to meet the demands that we are seeing in the market today,” Harmon said. “I have been meeting with seven possible users for the Harmon Business park and I look forward to developing the property,” Stephanie Kuhlman, senior development agent for NAI Harmon Group. NAI Harmon Group offers commercial real estate services including marketing, warehousing, logistics, construction, property management and more. NAI Harmon group was founded in March of 2016, upon the former Industrial Developers Limited affiliating with the NAI Global real estate network. The Harmon Group is new to NAI Global but not new to Northwest Ohio and commercial real estate. Collectively, the…


Lack of skilled labor slows some local manufacturers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Graduating high school students have long looked at college as the route to financial security and prestige. But more and more, it’s a ticket to great debt and frustrating job searches. For years, parents have propelled their offspring toward professions needing college degrees. “That’s where you make money,” said Sue Clark, executive director of the Bowling Green Economic Development Foundation. “But that just isn’t true anymore.” “Parents want kids to be something other than in manufacturing,” Clark said. But those parental dreams are based on outdated beliefs that industry is hard, dirty work with little reward. Today’s manufacturers are “very high tech, very clean, and very well-paid,” she said. During her annual report on economic development in Bowling Green, Clark talked about healthy growth in the city. Manufacturing jobs had reached 4,000 – the highest ever in the city. “Our companies keep reinvesting in themselves,” she said. “We now have more employees in the manufacturing sector than the university does.” But that growth, along with the low 3.7 percent local unemployment rate, poses a problem of its own. “While I paint a rosy picture, we’re not without our concerns,” Clark said. “Finding good employees is at the top of our list.” The top complaint from industries in Bowling Green is the lack of skilled trade workers, she said. In fact, some manufacturers have reported that they have been turning down work and foregoing expansions because they cannot find the needed workforce. “While we are a university town, we still value plumbers, electricians, die makers and machinists,” Clark said. Some training programs, like union apprentice programs, Penta Career Center and Owens Community College, are responding to the need. But while they are “filling the pipeline,” it’s not solving the problem right now, she said. One of the Bowling Green industries feeling the pinch of not enough skilled trades people is Rosenboom Machine & Tool Inc., which makes custom hydraulic cylinders. “I’ve had difficulty finding the skilled positions I need,” said Dee Meyer, head of Rosenboom human resources. The biggest need is for computer numerical control machinists. The lack of CNC machinists poses two problems. “It keeps us behind in serving our customers,” Meyer said. “And it takes more overtime to get the job done.” While Meyer said a lot of training programs are responding to the demand, that doesn’t satisfy the immediate issue. “We need the people now,” she said. Meyer also acknowledged that the Bowling Green plant can’t match the pay at Toledo plants. “We compete with…


Memorial Day speaker drops bomb about Boys State … but turns out his coordinates were likely wrong

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A retired U.S. Air Force colonel dropped a bomb on the Bowling Green Memorial Day Program Monday, but it appears the torpedo may have been a dud. During his keynote speaking comments, Col. Scott Manning expressed his sadness that Buckeye Boys State was moving from Bowling Green State University to Miami University after this year’s program. As a high school student, Manning had attended Boys State and decided to return to BGSU for his college education and ROTC. So the loss of the program was a personal loss to him. That bombshell sent some shockwaves through the dignitaries and the crowd at the Memorial Day service. “I’m absolutely astonished if that’s true,” Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards said. Edwards attended Boys State when it was stationed at Camp Perry, convinced the program to move to BGSU in 1978 when he was in the university president’s office, and was later named to the Buckeye Boys State Hall of Fame. The Buckeye Boys State program has been in limbo for a few years, with the primary sticking point being money. BGSU wants more to house the program, Boys State wants the university to consider the value of having 1,300 male high school juniors come to campus for a week of mock government activities each June. “You get the best and the brightest from the state,” Edwards said. The program is not intended to be a money making venture, he said, but it does work as a recruitment tool for BGSU. Until Manning’s announcement, it was believed negotiations for a new five-year conference agreement were still going on. The current agreement expires after the program later this month. “I know negotiations haven’t been going well,” said Dave Ridenour, of the Bowling Green American Legion Post, who also helped organize the Memorial Day program. But after the program was over, Ridenour said that Manning had been given inaccurate information. “He misspoke from rumors.” The coordinates for the bombshell were faulty. “It’s pretty common knowledge that negotiations have not been going well with the university,” Ridenour said. “However, there’s no confirmation that they’re leaving.” Ridenour said the negotiations have narrowed the gap between what Boys State is paying and what BGSU wants. Meanwhile, “the whole community is on pins and needles.” Patrick Nelson, director of the Bowen Thompson Student Union at BGSU, was at the Memorial Day service and said afterward that the university had just sent new contract information to Boys State organizers on Friday. “As far as I know, we’re…


BG pays debt of gratitude on Memorial Day

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As she sat along Main Street this morning waiting for the Memorial Day Parade to pass by, Debbie Van Ausdal got goosebumps. “Our area doesn’t have any parades anymore,” said Van Ausdal, of Dayton. “This is a beautiful town. I just love it.” She came up to Bowling Green after her daughter, Sarah Galish, called to say she was going into labor. But since the baby decided to delay his or her arrival, Van Ausdal and Galish went to the parade to show respect for Van Ausdal’s father who served in the Korean War. “It’s a way to honor him,” Van Ausdal said. The annual parade started on South Main Street, stopped briefly at the Wood County Courthouse, then ended for the program at Oak Grove Cemetery. Marching were color guards from the BGSU Army ROTC Pershing Rifles, American Legion Post 45, and Paul C. Ladd VFW Post 1148. There were Civil War re-enactors, Korean War veterans, members of the local American Legion, VFW and AMVETS, plus BGSU student veterans, Bowling Green High School Marching Band, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Along the parade route were several families, decked in red, white and blue, with children waving flags. Sitting on the curb in front of Ben Franklin were two young adults, Jared Baker of Bowling Green, and Becky Wittkofski of Toledo. “As a veteran, it’s a great way to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said Baker, who served in the Air Force. Wittkofski, whose dad retired from the Air Force, said she grew up as a “military brat.” “This is my first civilian parade in a while,” she said. Down the street a bit was Julie Corrigan, whose husband Bruce, was directing the BGHS marching band. “I would come anyway,” she said. “I think it’s important that the younger generation knows why we do these things. Sometimes I don’t think they know.” To some children if it’s not explained, she said, “it’s a parade with candy.” Dave Hyslop makes sure to attend the parade every year he’s in town when Memorial Day rolls around. If he’s elsewhere, Hyslop, who has five years of active service and 31 years total service in the Navy, tries to locate a parade or service to attend. “If I’m traveling, I always try to find one. I just need to remember what people have done,” he said. After the parade, Hyslop was planning to go to Weston Cemetery to visit the grave of a World War II veteran who was…


Historical center to focus on World War I next year

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the nation prepares to honor those who gave their lives serving the country, the Wood County Historical Center is preparing to look back to those who served a century ago. The museum is planning to focus on World War I next year – 100 years from when the U.S. officially entered the war – trying to give local residents an idea of what it was like to serve in the war and what it was like to be left behind at home. Though the exhibits are still in the planning stages, Museum Director Dana Nemeth and Curator Holly Hartlerode Uppal explained the concept last week to the Wood County Commissioners. All men living in Wood County at the time had to sign up for war, but it cannot be found exactly how many went overseas to battle, Uppal said. One part of the exhibit will be a trench-like structure so visitors can experience a little of what the soldiers felt during trench warfare. “Imagine living in one of those things,” Uppal said. Soldiers fought largely in trenches during World War I. By the end of the war, more than 9 million soldiers had been killed, and another 21 million wounded. Nemeth and Uppal hope to have global domination games, and WWI propaganda posters from the library, as well as gas masks and uniforms from the era. Bradner American Legion will be approached about loaning the museum its WWI machine gun for the exhibit. The exhibits will also focus on the lives of families left behind here in the states, by explaining Victory gardens, Liberty Bonds, and rationing that was part of life then. The exhibits will also look at “shell shock” and post traumatic stress disorder – terms that originated during WWI, Uppal said. In an effort to immerse visitors in the era, Uppal said the community band will be approached about playing a concert of World War I music. And some type of poppy field will be created to recognize the poem memorializing WWI soldiers, called “In Flanders Field.” The WWI theme will carry throughout 2017 at the historical center. “It’s brought a lot of new life to the staff,” Nemeth said. Military personnel and their families are invited to tour the Wood County Historical Center & Museum at no charge this summer as part of the annual Blue Star Museums program in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, and the Department of Defense. This promotion will last through Labor…


Overgrown courtyard becomes oasis in middle of BGHS

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The courtyard at Bowling Green High School is being transformed into a peaceful oasis in the middle of the classrooms and chaotic lives of students. There in the courtyard is the soothing sound of a waterfall, where koi fish glide back and forth, beautiful flowers and smooth stonework. But it hasn’t always been this way. A couple years ago, biology teacher Josh Iler looked at the courtyard and realized it could be so much more. “The bushes were overgrown, covering the windows,” Iler said. One bush was blocking the door into the courtyard, making it difficult for students and staff to use the area. “They would not come out here,” Iler said of the students. But on Thursday, the courtyard was full of students sitting at the patio tables, taking a breather before their last couple classes of the year. “Now you’ve got to get out here early to get a seat,” Iler said. A couple years ago, Iler decided to use the courtyard as a classroom tool, and turn it into the oasis at the same time. He asked North Branch Nursery to come up with a landscape design for the space. “Get me started and I’ll let the kids figure out the rest,” he said. From there it grew … and grew. The work started on the edges of the courtyard, with the old overgrown bushes being pulled out and replaced with neatly sculpted flower beds. Then recently, the work moved into the center, where the school’s victory bell used to sit before it was moved out to the football field. “There was nothing but a cement slab,” in the center, Iler said. So on a recent Saturday, Iler and his students were joined by Superintendent Francis Scruci to create a koi pond with waterfall. “It got bigger and bigger,” he said, with the help of Select Stone, North Branch Nursery, Midwood and D&D Landscaping. One of those students helping with the project is Jordan Arrington. Though he graduated on Sunday, Arrington came back to school Thursday to talk about the courtyard project. “I took a lot of pride in this,” Arrington said. “He’s the guy who wouldn’t let it stop,” Iler said of Arrington. Arrington will be attending Bowling Green State University this fall, and is considering architectural landscaping as a possible major – not a path he even considered until working with Iler on the courtyard project. The skills he learned have also earned him a job at home this summer. “I have…


City Park to come alive with sound of music

Information from BG PARKS & RECREATION Bowling Green Parks and Recreation will present six shows in its Concerts in the Park series, starting on June 12. All concerts are Sunday nights at 7 on the Needle Hall stage in City Park. Scheduled to perform are: June 12, The Bowling Green Area Community Band. June 19, The Joe Baker Band, playing standards, rock, blues and country standards. June 26, Kerry Patrick Clark and Band, playing folk and original songs. July 10, The Jeff Tucker Band, originals and rock classics. July 17, Swingmania, swing and big band sounds. July 24, The Pride of Toledo Chorus and Voices of Harmony, barbershop singing.


Come on in – the water is fine at city pool

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The lounge chairs are lined up in rows, the snack bar is stocked, the lazy river has been activated, and the inner tubes are inflated. And even better – the weather forecast for Saturday is calling for a sweaty 88 degrees – perfect for taking a dip in Bowling Green’s city pool on its opening day for the summer. The forecast also calls for a chance of rain, but according to the white board on the wall by the pool entrance, there’s a “148 percent chance of having fun.” “Finally, good weather,” said Kristin Otley, director of BG Parks and Recreation, who has been knocking on wood for weeks in hopes of a hot weekend opening for the pool. This will be the third year for the new aquatic center, complete with a water park, slide, diving boards, lazy river, and picnic pavilions. The pool, located in City Park, opens for public swimming at 11 a.m. Josh Chatfield, manager of the pool, said the preparations went smoothly this year. “We’re ready. Everything fired up really well,” he said. And unlike some other community pools in the area, Bowling Green is not seeing a shortage of lifeguards, Chatfield said. “We have an abundance of people” to staff the site, he said. Last year, the pool lured more than 30,000 swimmers and more than 450 kids for swimming lessons. “We had kids on wait lists we had to turn away,” for lessons, Chatfield said. Otley is hoping for similar – or even better – numbers this summer. But the variables are out of her hands. “Any outdoor recreation operation is so dependent on the weather,” she said. But so far, the signs are good. “It looks like it might be a nice hot summer. Hopefully the people will come.” While the attendance affects the revenue end of the pool operation, the expenses don’t vary much with the number of patrons, Otley explained. “We have to be staffed a certain way regardless of whether we have 20 people or if we’re packed.” This is the first in many years that the pool won’t have to close down after Memorial Day because lifeguards and swimmers are still in school. “This year when we open, we can stay open,” Otley said. When the new aquatic center first opened, the newness attracted a lot of swimmers. Now in its third year, the department is planning to use Facebook more for marketing, and the crew at the pool is looking for ways to draw…


Big Kids bring Bard’s beautiful works to BG stage

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Shakespeare’s plays and actual play collide when Beautiful Kids Independent Shakespeare Company brings the Bard’s works into Bowling Green’s City Park. Since 1997, the Beautiful Kids have localized Shakespeare’s observation that “all the world’s a stage,” and paraded Shakespeare’s panoply of characters across the Needle Hall stage. All within laughing and shouting distance of the swings, slides and picnic table. All within a wooded glade that can stand for parapets of a Danish castle, a battlefield at Agincourt, the Forest of Arden, or the wilds of Prospero’s island. The productions began in 1997 when a group of Bowling Green State University theater students decided to stage “As You Like It” at Needle Hall, and every year since students, graduates and the friends have returned to stage a Shakespeare play, sometimes two. The troupe marks its 20th year with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” this week Wednesday, June 1, Thursday, June 2, and Friday, June 3,  at 7 p.m. The tradition has passed down from student to student with little formal structure. Tyler Ward, who was active with the troupe for five years starting in 2005, said because the plays are not done with the constraints of school or work, they have an element of freedom to them. “Beautiful Kids gave me the opportunity to explore Shakespeare on my terms,” he said. “We were doing it for the love of it. We were doing it because we wanted to do some freakin’ Shakespeare.” With the semester over, and the cast hanging on in town for a few weeks, “it became really celebratory. It became like a month-long party.” Ryan Albrecht, who is producing this year’s show, said that in the last few years, student participation has dropped off. That’s probably because the theater fraternity Theta Phi is no longer active, and that served as an important conduit for Beautiful Kids. The troupe, he said, is trying to revive the link with theater students in order to keep the troupe going. Regardless of who’s on stage, the spirit remains. This is Shakespeare on the fly with thrift-store costuming and cubes for a set. That’s part of the charm. That stripped down staging, said Albrecht, puts the emphasis on the words. “With a powerful script, good actors, and a place to do it, frequently you can put on the best show in the city,” said Michael Portteus, who has been involved for a decade. This year he’s playing Theseus and Oberon. “Shakespeare is timeless,” he said. “In every play there’s something beautiful. Everything…


Humane Society garage sale on steroids offers shoppers high volume for low prices

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Cathy Walters clung tightly to the pink pool noodle, the stuffed walrus, and the horned hats for her grandkids as she rooted through the plastic farm animals. She was a woman on a mission. “I came here for anything I can find,” said Walters as she rummaged for items at the Wood County Humane Society Garage Sale on Thursday. And this wasn’t her first load at the sale. “Two people had to help me carry it out,” she said of her first round which included an incubator for eggs, a vegetable steamer and glassware. “All I have to do is figure out where I’m going to put it,” Walters, of Bradner, said with a sly grin. “These are great deals. You couldn’t ask for better prices.” The monster garage sale filling the space under the grandstand at the Wood County Fairgrounds is a major annual fundraiser for the humane society, bringing in $15,000 last year for the organization. It is also a major undertaking for the 80 volunteers who accept donations from the community and organize them for the three-day sale that runs through Saturday. “The donations were incredible for three straight days,” said Joe Schroeder, co-chairperson of the sale with Stephanie Ringler. The group accepts anything “good and useful” and hopes garage sale enthusiasts like what they see. “Furniture flies out of here,” Schroeder said. Crafts and fabrics are also hot. “They buy them by the box.” And on Friday, clothing goes for 10 cents an item. “It’s a real guess. What sells one year might not sell the next,” said volunteer Jean Scott. The scene was a dream for bargain hunters looking for some obscure items to take home. For the home decorators there were vases galore, candlesticks, snow globes, wind chimes, and ceramic forms of every creature from ducks, elephants and dogs, to frogs, cows and cardinals. The kitchen gadget aisle bulged with electric griddles, coffee makers, the “miracle chopper,” several George Foreman grills, waffle irons, cookie cutters, muffin pans, woks, ice cream makers, meat grinders, toaster ovens and something called the “camper’s dream,” that promised it could make ice anywhere. For the younger crowd there were superhero action figures, a Barbie beauty shop, Legos, board games and stuffed animals. For the more athletic types, there were basketballs, bicycles, a treadmill, skis and sleds. For those wanting a little slower speed, there were rocking chairs, puzzles, movies and books on romance, cooking, sports and do it yourself projects. There was a row of suitcases…


Bill makes public records more accessible to public

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Public records should be just that – public. For that reason State Rep. Tim Brown, R-Bowling Green, co-sponsored a bill making public records more accessible for Ohioans. Brown said he decided to co-sponsor Senate Bill 321 after hearing testimony from Ohioans who were blocked from getting public records by obstinate public officials. “No one should need to hire a lawyer to get public records,” Brown said. “It can be time consuming and costly to resolve these matters.” “We came up with a bill that works for people,” he said. Ohio already has a simple method in place for making an initial public records request that is not burdensome to a citizen. However, if the office or agency denies access to those public records, the person requesting them is “often faced with an uphill battle consisting of attorney fees and court dates.” Under Senate Bill 321, any person who believes that his or her public records request was improperly denied can file a challenge with the Court of Claims for $25 without the need to hire an attorney. The legislation also stipulates that the claim must be resolved within 45 days. If the matter proceeds to court, and it is determined that the public office or official acted in bad faith, the court can award court fees to the citizen who filed the records request. “Hopefully, it’s a step in the right direction,” Brown said. Two years ago, the Ohio Newspaper Association, along with the Ohio Coalition for Open Government and the Ohio Association of Broadcasters, sent out journalists in all of the state’s 88 counties to see how cooperative governmental entities were at responding to public records requests. The journalists were undercover, pretending to be citizens requesting records that should be available to them. Most of the offices in Bowling Green and Wood County did pretty well at responding, though some initially balked at the requests. Overall, Bowling Green and Wood County offices did much better than many areas of the state. Senate Bill 321 takes public records requests one step further. The bill was vetted by the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, of which Brown serves as chairman. Brown said he is always a proponent of making government more transparent for all Ohioans. “This bill creates a more public and consumer friendly process for hearing complaints of denial to a public record in Ohio,” he said in a press release about the bill. “A mediation process is created with the intent to resolve the matter within 45…


Community engagement secret sauce in moving BG forward

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The city is moving to make progress on many fronts, and two members of council credit citizen involvement with helping set the agenda. Daniel Gordon, who represents Ward 1, and John Zanfardino, who represents Ward 2, both on Bowling Green’s east side, held a meeting for their constituents Monday night at the Wood County Library to discuss the issues facing the city. “BG has some really engaged folks,” Zanfardino said. “That’s incredibly important.” He cited the efforts of the People of Engagement Bowling Green, a project founded last year to bring information to residents and bring those residents into the process. Several members were in attendance. Zanfardino also noted the weekly bike rides that are being held to raise awareness of the need for accommodations for bike rides. Students also have been active picking up trash in the neighborhoods on the south side. Sean Herman, who works with The Common Good, was on hand. “All our efforts are important and are moving the city forward,” Zanfardino said. One issue that has recently gotten a boost, he said, was the need to look at how to revitalize housing, especially on the east side of town. The city has just allocated $90,000 to hire a consultant to advise it on the issue. “The city council has put it in the forefront,” Gordon said. Zanfardino said for the 11 years he was on council the issue was not even acknowledged “until last year.” The effort follows up on the development of the city’s land use plan. It takes “the housing aspect of it and actualizes it,” he said. The public forums on a five-year plan for the parks have ended, Gordon said, but those still wanting to submit ideas should send them to skorr@bgsu.edu. Two issues of particular concern to him are the creation of another park on the southeast end, possibly where a playground exists at the former South Main School, and the further development of the park on the Ridge Street School site. He also said he was concerned about the lack of play area for the children who live in the mobile home park between Kroger and the railroad tracks. Those kids end up playing in the street or parking lots. “It’s a public safety issue,” Gordon said. Again, he said, that it’s one thing if he as a member of council brings the issue up. “It’s another thing if they hear from 50 of you. It has more impact.” City resident Neocles Leontis said Gordon was “the first…