Senior levy renewal to help meet growing needs

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   More than 20 percent of Wood Countians are over 60 years old. To help that growing group stay at home and independent as long as possible, the Wood County Committee on Aging is again looking for voters’ support. Here are some numbers to chew on. The Committee on Aging provided approximately 200,000 meals to seniors last year. As baby boomers age, the numbers of seniors will continue to grow beyond the current 21,443. Approximately 6,500 of those seniors received services last year. By the year 2025, the senior population is predicted to hit 35,000. The number of those over 85 is expected to increase dramatically, providing other challenges. Those numbers add up to the Wood County Committee on Aging seeking approval to put a 0.7-mill renewal levy on the November ballot. The county commissioners listened to the board’s pitch on Tuesday and will rule on the request soon. What doesn’t quite add up, is that the WCCOA is asking for a renewal, even though their costs and demands for their services are growing. But Jim Stainbrook, director of fiscal and facility operations, explained that the board wanted to avoid asking the taxpayers for more. So while the grants and tax revenue have been flat recently, the board decided to turn to its reserves rather than ask more of local taxpayers. “We’ve held back monies,” for situations like this, Stainbrook told the commissioners. “In doing that, we can keep the levy the same as it has been.” The WCCOA is planning to use about $3 million of its $6 million reserves. The rest of its funding will come from the tax levy, which brings in about $2 million a year. About 20 percent of the board’s funding also comes from federal and state funding, and another 10 percent in fees and donations. Denise Niese, director of WCCOA, talked about the programs that the dollars help provide. She spoke of the nutritional, educational, health and transportation programs that help local seniors remain in their…

Pregnant women advised to avoid travel to Zika virus areas

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Women who are pregnant, or intending to get pregnant, are being advised to restrict their travel to avoid the Zika virus. The Wood County Health District is following CDC instructions and suggesting travel to the Caribbean, Central America and South America be avoided for pregnant women. No vaccine exists for the Zika virus, which has been connected with cases of microcephaly (small heads with incomplete brain development) in infants. Anyone with concerns about traveling can check out the CDC’s website for any travel health notices at In December 2015, Puerto Rico reported its first confirmed Zika virus case. Some Zika cases have been reported by people returning to the U.S. from international travels, but the virus has not yet been transmitted in the U.S. “There is no evidence anyone that has Zika in the U.S. got it in the U.S. They all traveled to other areas,” said Pat Snyder, of the Wood County Health District. The virus is spread by mosquitoes. But according to Snyder, the type of mosquito known to transmit Zika is rarely seen in this region. “It’s not too common in Ohio,” she said. “That doesn’t mean that couldn’t change.” The virus is primarily a concern for pregnant women. “Most people inflicted with the virus have no symptoms,” Snyder said. The most common symptoms of the Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain, conjunctivitis (red eyes), muscle pain and headaches. The illness is usually mild, lasting for several days to a week. People traveling to areas where the virus has originated should take precautions, according to the health district. Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite mostly during the daytime. So people are advised to use insect repellents, and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants if weather permits. They are also advised to use air conditioning or window/door screens to keep mosquitoes outside, or sleep under a mosquito bed net if necessary. General Zika Info: Fact Sheets:

East Side may get revitalization plan

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Neglected and abused housing on Bowling Green’s East Side may soon be addressed in a revitalization plan. Bowling Green City Council heard the first reading Monday evening of a plan to contract with consultants to develop a strategic revitalization plan for the northeast and the southeast neighborhoods of the city. “We’ve been talking about the need to revitalize these neighborhoods,” council member Daniel Gordon said after the meeting. The decline of the housing stock around Bowling Green State University has been going on for years, Gordon said. “The city has not intervened,” he said. Much of the traditional single family housing has been converted into rental units. “When you have that unbalance created,” the housing problems worsen, Gordon said. Council member Sandy Rowland said she has been a strong advocate of getting the revitalization plan moving. “I know what the situation on the East Side is with housing,” she said. Since she works in the real estate industry, Rowland said she is aware the problems don’t stop at Main Street which divides the east and west sides of the city. “It affects the entire city,” she said, after the meeting. When the city recently updated its land use plan, the consultant ranked revitalization of the East Side was high on the priority list, Rowland said. More and more of the single-family homes close to the university are being converted into rentals. “And when those wonderful homes are turned into rentals, they rapidly deteriorate.” Consequently, fewer and fewer homes appeal to young couples and young professionals looking to purchase homes, Rowland said. Gordon is hoping that the revitalization plan is more than conceptual and has some real teeth. One possibility would be the creation of revolving loans for homeowners wanting to spruce up their structures. “There have to be some incentives,” Rowland said.

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 Street which was formerly the site of the junior high school. Council President Mike Aspacher answered her questions, saying Poggemeyer Design Group would be paid $3,200 for the site assessment, creating three artistic renderings of possible uses. There is no timeline for the assessment, he said. The decision to hire the consultant was made by Aspacher, Mayor Dick Edwards and City Administrator Lori Tretter following a public meeting about the proposed use of the green space.

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 about the professionalism and the prompt response,” she said. City Administrator Lori Tretter said the fire division already had a crew on Interstate 75 responding to an accident there when the downtown fire was reported. “Our folks are so professional. They are so good. They just make you proud,” Tretter said to council. Early Monday, Assistant City Administrator Joe Fawcett said city officials were called at 7:50 a.m. and notified of the fire and that North Main Street would be closed going both directions at the corner of Court Street. Court…

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 them down through a public record,” Brown said. The Secretary of State’s office will administer this program by assigning each participant with an ACP number and post office box that the victim can use as an official address for government functions. The only individuals who are able to access the participant’s full information are the county board of elections for the purposes of verifying voter eligibility and law enforcement officers with a legitimate government purpose. The program also permits participants to request their employers, schools or institutions of higher education…

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 perhaps for the wrecking ball at one time,” Brown said. But public officials and historical society volunteers saw the value of the rambling brick building that was once used to house the county’s poor, elderly and ill. The price tag, however, for an elevator was out of reach, Nemeth said. “The cost was too much,” she said. “And since we’re a historic structure, we’re not required to make the building accessible.” But the elevator remained a goal – even though it seemed distant at times. “We wanted to make sure…

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, whose initial collecting turned into a career in popular culture, which he teaches at Bowling Green State University. Donahue grew up in Maumee, in a home right behind the Fraternal Order of Eagles lodge. It was a great place for a young collector. He would go through the trash looking for different kinds of beer cans. He later traveled to other bars in the city to expand his collection. “I have hundreds and hundreds,” Donahue said, standing in front of a wall of cans. “This is only a small part…

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 the complexities of “green” programs, and show that putting recycling bins downtown may not go far to solve trash issues. Myers is hoping that a type of logo can be created for those businesses which score well on the sustainability surveys, so they can be recognized for their efforts.  

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 is especially true of women who may forego wearing traditional head covering. “They are afraid of hate crimes,” he said. “They stop speaking out about their religion and themselves.” Pena said later in the program that it’s not just up to Muslims, or other members of “marginalized” communities. Putting the burden exclusively on Muslims or African-Americans or members of the LBGT community to explain their experiences also “can be an oppressive move.” “Some days you don’t have it in you,” Pena said. “The philosophy of Not In Our Town is…

‘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 will help people understand that folks do care,” he said. Julie Broadwell, a commission member who lives on the East Side, was asked to identify the 10 city blocks most in need of being “adopted.” Barb Ruland suggested the commission could help by getting signage and providing bags for the trash. Only the areas between the sidewalks and streets would be picked up, so the students wouldn’t be entering private lawns. Mattiace pointed out that the project should be more than just trash pickup. “I don’t want the students to…

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 for longer periods in county jails, the sheriff said. “The type of inmates here have changed over the years.” The jail has also been the site of a couple overdoses by inmates, in cases where it hasn’t been determined if the prisoner had already taken the drugs prior to being jailed, or used them after being booked. Wasylyshyn said the scanning should rule out that the drugs were transported in by inmates. “Once the inmates know this is going on, the word will get out,” and attempts to smuggle drugs…

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 to replace faulty septic systems. During his three decades in environmental health, all the villages in the county had sewer systems installed, and an estimated 15,000 septic systems were eliminated. “That made a big difference in water quality,” he said. He helped with efforts to shut down all the abandoned dumps in the county. “We got all the tire dumps cleaned up.” Espen’s team kept pushing for smoking ban enforcement until it became commonplace in the county. “That was quite a challenge,” he said. He refused to back down as…