Community

Refugees test Germany’s services and goodwill

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Across Germany, more than 1 million refugees are packed into school gyms, old military bases, unrented apartments and tents. The influx of the migrants has divided the nation. But where some people see a crisis, Christian Schlegel sees a challenge. Schlegel, who works for a news and documentary channel in Germany and is in the U.S. as part of a journalism exchange program, talked to Bowling Green State University students and faculty Tuesday about the refugees who flooded his country in the last months. Countries like Germany and Sweden were a natural choice for the refugees, some fleeing war and famine, and other trying to escape extreme poverty. “I think they thought we were a relatively rich country,” with good social services, Schlegel said. But the influx of 1.1 million migrants in the nation of 80 million tested the social services and the good will of some Germans. “Germany was unprepared,” Schlegel said, explaining that in 2003, just 127,000 applied for asylum in his country. Processing of the latest refugees has moved slowly. “Refugees have to wait for appointments for several months.” Meanwhile, some Germans have remained welcoming to the migrants, but others fear it will ruin their culture and security. Those feelings were magnified after the mass assaults reportedly committed by Muslim migrants on New Year’s Eve in the cities of Cologne and Hamburg. Those attacks “mostly served right wing political parties,” Schlegel said. The welcome mat that had been cautiously extended, was pulled back. The New Year’s Eve attacks fed the “hysteria,” though Schlegel pointed out that far more people die in auto accidents a year than from terrorism. Schlegel estimated that those vehemently opposed to the refugees – especially Muslims – measure between 10 and 20 percent of Germany. Initially, some clung to the traditional “Dublin Rule,” which states that the European member country where a refugee first hits ground is responsible for that person. “It’s not our problem,” many Germans felt when the mass migration of refugees began. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed them. “Let them through…


‘Open carry’ walk planned in BG Saturday

An “Open Carry/Firearms Education Walk” is planned for Saturday in Bowling Green. Organizers, who have coordinated such walks on other college campuses in Ohio, will be walking with their firearms from the Bowling Green State University to the downtown area, then back. They plan to eat lunch while downtown. The walk will start at Lot K on the campus at 1 p.m. Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick said Ohio law allows open carry of firearms in most locations. “It’s completely legal, as long as the person is not barred from possessing a firearm,” he said. Police officers will be made aware, but will not monitor the event. “They are merely walking with an unconcealed firearm. That’s not illegal in any way, shape or form,” Hetrick said. BGSU Police Chief Monica Moll said the organizer Jeffry Smith contacted her though not required to do so. In an email, she said: “He has previously conducted similar walks at the University of Akron, the University of Cincinnati and The Ohio State University.  I have talked to members of the police department at each of those institutions and they said they did not have any safety concerns or problems during Mr. Smith’s event.  Based on that information, I do not have any major concerns about the event at this time, but we will have some of the BGSU police officers who are working at that time maintain a presence in the vicinity of the walk.” No number estimate for those participating was given to city police. Hetrick said similar walks with open carry firearms have been held in the city without incident. “There were no problems,” he said.


Smith reaches for the stars at planetarium

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the stars filled the domed sky and the cardboard rocket took off into space, one of the students quietly slid over to sit in her teacher’s lap. “This was so real, one little girl thought the dome took off,” teacher Nancy Frankart said after the planetarium show was over and the lights came on. “She thought we were traveling to space.” That is music to Dale Smith’s ears. Smith has been director at the Bowling Green State University Planetarium since it opened in 1983. “I came with it. That makes me the best director they’ve ever had and the worst director they’ve ever had,” he said, smiling. Smith started focusing on the stars as a child in upstate New York. “In third grade, a friend lent me a book about planets, and I was hooked,” he said. “A lot of astronomers have similar stories. Something grabbed ahold of us.” For some, like Smith, it’s not enough to look skyward themselves. They want others to enjoy the view as well. “Something inspired us and we want to share our love of the universe with audiences.” And that’s exactly what Smith does as he turns off the lights, asks the children to put on their imaginary seatbelts, lean back in the planetarium chairs and travel through space. Last week, he took first through third graders from St. Wendelin Catholic School in Fostoria on a ride in the “Secret of the Cardboard Rocket.” This particular show tells of siblings who build a spaceship out of cardboard and spend the night in it in their backyard. The rocket blasts off in the night, taking the pair to every planet in this solar system. The students’ eyes were glued to the dome ceiling for the 40-minute trip to Pluto and back. The shows get routine for Smith, but the children’s questions after the show continue to thrill him. “Once the first one asks, the ice is broken,” Smith said. And the flood of questions began. “You never know what you are going to get.” Last week…


Summit to teach how to build survival bunker, stock up on supplies

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As Nick Getzinger and Dave Morris put another coat of paint on the Oath Keepers Outpost at Woodland Mall, they talked about their organization being misunderstood. The Oath Keepers organization, they said, is nothing for people to fear. “Our goal is not to scare people, it’s to help,” Getzinger said. Woodland Mall manager Michelle Beaverson also wants people to know she is committed to the mall being family friendly. “We have so many family-based businesses in the mall,” Beaverson said. Both the mall and Oath Keepers organization were rattled a bit last week when questions arose about the new business and the plan for a multi-state summit at the mall this summer. Beaverson said an email about the summit was sent out from the organization prematurely, before she had an opportunity to review it. With the help of Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick, Beaverson revised the summit announcement to include only the activities that would adhere to the mall’s standards. The new summit description also clarified that any firearms events would be held at other sites, not at the mall, Beaverson said. The initial email stated the mall allows people with concealed carry permits to bring firearms into the mall. However, the mall currently does not allow firearms. Beaverson said Friday she is undecided about lifting that ban, but will probably keep it in place. That email also said those attending the summit could camp on mall grounds. However, Beaverson said she has to get permission from city zoning before that can occur. But Beaverson said most of the activities planned for the summit have now been approved by herself and the police chief. There will be classes on gunsmithing, ham radio operation, food canning, self defense, survivalist training, building a survival bunker, making fuel, building a hydrogen generator, and concealed carry classes. Originally the plans offered an opportunity to do gunsmithing on AR-15 rifles. “The AR-15 thing is not going to happen,” Beaverson said. The mall manager said the summit offers a lot of family-friendly events, but the original email…


WWII tanker model in BG headed to Navy museum

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Elmer Long’s home for four years during World War II was in the belly of a Navy oil tanker. A small version of that ship, which became a big part of Long’s life, will soon have a new home at the Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis. Betty Long, Elmer’s widow, is donating a detailed replica of the USS Mattaponi tanker to the museum later this month. The model was a Father’s Day gift to Elmer in 1997 from the couple’s sons, Wes of New Rochester, Chuck of Perrysburg Township, and Dana of Gibsonburg. “Elmer would be excited,” Betty said. Elmer and Betty Long grew up in the tiny town of Hoytville, in the southwest corner of Wood County. Elmer enlisted in October of 1942 and served until April 1946. “He was on the ship the whole time,” Betty said. “He was down in the boiler room,” serving as a machinist mate. The oilers, as they were called, were important because they allowed other Navy ships like destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers, to have greater range. The ships could be refueled while underway, rather than having to come into port for fuel, according to Dave Chilson, retired Navy captain from Bowling Green. “He talked about it all the time,” Betty said. “He was proud to have been in the service.” When Elmer returned from the war, he and Betty began dating, and married in February of 1947. The couple moved from Hoytville to even tinier Scotch Ridge. Elmer worked in heating and air conditioning in a federal building in Toledo, and as custodian at Webster Elementary for 28 years. He retired in 1986. His sons, recognizing how much his Navy service meant to Elmer, asked Andy Trummel, of Lorraine, to build a replica of the USS Mattaponi. It took Trummel a year to build it to scale. “He couldn’t even talk,” Betty said of her husband, when his sons presented the ship to him on Father’s Day. The ship sits in a glass case in Betty’s Bowling Green home, next to the map…


Spring snow brings squeals to some, groans to others

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   By noon today, the Conneaut sledding hill was nearly rubbed raw. Children who had felt cheated by so little snow this winter, threw on their boots, hats and mittens and headed to one of the few sledding hills in flat Wood County. “They’ve been waiting to try out their sled since Christmas,” said Tricia Hastings as her three children repeatedly went up and down the hill. “April 9, who would have thought?” Hastings’ children were making the most of the rare snowfall. “It’s really good packing snow. See, look,” said Jenna Hastings as she threw a snowball at her mom. But while the snowfall brought squeals of delight for sledders, it brought some sighs for spring from others. Lori Tretter, Bowling Green municipal administrator, said the heavy snow brought down several limbs and power lines in the city. Crews worked through the night to keep the roads clear of snow and branches broken by the six inches of snow. “The weight of the snow had a great impact,” Tretter said. “When it came, it was fast and furious.” City road crews reported that at 2 this morning, the snowfall really picked up. “We’re really thankful for those guys,” she said. While some adults grumbled about getting out snow shovels they had packed away for the season, others welcomed the white covering. “I’m rare among my peers. I love snow,” said Steve Colon, of Bowling Green, while he waited for his daughter and her friend as they sledded down Conneaut hill. “So what if it’s April, I missed it this winter.” His children were equally as pleased. “They’ve been playing outside all morning,” he said. The only thing that would have made it better is if winter would have returned on a school day. “It was a shock,” said Cassie Boron, of Portage, as her daughter and a friend flew down the hill. “It gets them out of the house, doing something. I’m excited.” Children made repeated treks up the slippery hill – some bundled up so tight they could barely move –…


Not just kids stuff: Parents talk about strengths and weaknesses of youth rec programs

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s park programs for kids may be the envy of other communities – but they need more ballfields, more swimming lessons, and some snowday activities to keep parents from going crazy. The first community focus group for the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department held on Wednesday evening identified strengths and weaknesses of the city’s youth programs. Parents listed off items they liked about the department: Strong summer programming. Well-run starting sports programs. Reasonably priced activities. Tutsy Asmus told of her relatives in Toledo who bring their child to Bowling Green for softball and swimming. “They will come to Bowling Green to sign their daughter up,” she said. Her husband, Mark Asmus, said his coworkers listen with envy and disbelief as he talks about BG park and rec programs. “I work with a lot of people in Findlay who pay twice as much or more for not as much,” he said. Ryan Patton told of his conversation with kids from Oregon using the skate park in City Park. “They drove to Bowling Green for the skate park,” he said. Though the parents had positive comments about the programming, they also would like to see some changes. First, the city needs more softball and baseball fields, Patton said. “It’s been a dire need for years.” There is one field at City Park, and several at Carter Park, but it’s not enough, he said. “We don’t have a dedicated softball field,” so the girls teams have to play on adult fields, which are different, Patton explained. The fields don’t need to be perfect, he said. Teams often take any spot they can find for a practice field, since once games start for the season  the fields are not available for practice. Patton said his team sometimes practices at a local church field. “It’s horrible, but I take it wherever I can get it,” he said. “They just need a place to go.” Enough space is needed to avoid injuries to others. “You don’t want to hit a baseball or softball into a bunch…


Branch of extremist group plans summit in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A summit of the “Oath Keepers” organization could bring a thousand members of the “pro-American” survivalist group to Bowling Green this summer. News of the proposed multi-state summit had several local officials researching the Oath Keepers group today. The organization has been referred to in some national media as having extremist anti-government views, with an emphasis on protecting Second Amendment rights to own guns. But calls to the FBI and Homeland Security by Bowling Green Police Division revealed no criminal behavior, according to Deputy Chief of Police Justin White. During foot patrols at the Woodland Mall in Bowling Green, officers had noticed the new “Oath Keepers Outpost” store being constructed. The mall is the site for the proposed summit on June 10. The store and the summit for the “Not On Our Watch” organization then came to the attention of the “Not In Our Town” organization which supports diversity and fights hate in Bowling Green. “We had concerns directed toward us from campus and community,” said Rev. Gary Saunders, co-leader of NIOT. But little was known about the Oath Keepers. “So we’re going to learn more,” Saunders said. “We would like to find out more and get to know them.” “We’re the folks who stand up for an inclusive and welcoming community,” Saunders said of NIOT. “There’s no question there’s some concern around the group, but we have no basis for making any judgments.” Nick Getzinger, state executive officer to the president of Ohio Oath Keepers, said the public has nothing to worry about. “We’re not crazy people,” said Getzinger, who lives in the Weston area. Oath Keepers is made up of members who have served in the military, civil service, police, fire or EMS services – anyone who has sworn to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution, Getzinger said. “That oath has no expiration date,” he said. The group operates as a non-profit organization whose members have pledged to defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The Ohio Oath Keepers separated to create their own branch from the national organization, Getzinger…


Library not a place that shushes new ideas

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Michael Penrod remembers the doomsday predictions for libraries, with the internet and electronic books rending them obsolete. “Locally, the numbers don’t bear that out,” said Penrod, director of the Wood County District Public Library. It could be because the library is always looking for the next chapter on how to reach out to readers, he said during his annual “state of the library” presentation to the Wood County Commissioners on Tuesday. The library continues to add to its collection of electronic books for people who want to access a good read anytime, anywhere. It offers job coaching and one-on-one help accessing its 24-7 virtual library. And instead of shushing children, young patrons are encouraged to read aloud. This is not a library where new ideas are met with “Shhhhhh.” Last year, the library saw a 3.8 percent increase in borrowing, a 10 percent increase in program attendance, a 25 percent increase in patrons asking staff for assistance, and a 19 percent increase in foot traffic in the building – averaging 4,839 visitors per week. Borrowed books, ebooks, audiobooks and other items totaled 602,463 last year. The most growth was seen in borrowing of electronic books. When first hired at the library, Penrod recalled thinking he would spend a couple years at the library before moving on to something “bigger and better.” “Bigger and better is here,” he told the commissioners. Penrod said he had just received calculations from the state showing return on investments at the library. For every $1 invested at the library, the community gets $4.14 in return, he said. The library is always looking at new ways to get people in the door. The library held 1,326 programs and events last year, attended by 25,025 children and adults. The site now has a job coach who helps people write resumes. “We just don’t provide a book,” he said. “We are providing a human.” Commissioner Joel Kuhlman complimented the library on its children’s programs, adding that his kids love going to the library. “Your youth programs are great,” he said….


Kenwood closed again Thursday; water test results not complete

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Kenwood Elementary School will be closed again Thursday since complete test results are not back on water at the school. Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci closed the school on Wednesday due to discolored water at a drinking fountain in the school. Initially it was believed the greenish colored water was due to a back flow valve failure. However, Scruci said this evening that the water problem appears to more likely be the result of the older pipes in the building going unused over spring break. The pipes went unused for 10 days during break. After being run, the water was clear this morning, Scruci said. Tests conducted this morning showed the water being fine but the full scale contaminant test results will not be available until after noon on Thursday.  Therefore, Kenwood Elementary will be closed again Thursday. All other schools in the district will be open. “Our first responsibility is to keep our students safe,” Scruci wrote in an email to parents.  “I am not willing to take any unnecessary risks and want to err on the side of caution.” Water samples were taken to a testing site in Toledo from Kenwood school and other schools in the district for baseline data. Initially the testing facility said the results would be complete in eight to 10 days, but Scruci said it was made clear that was unacceptable. “We cannot wait eight to 10 days,” he said. The district has one more calamity day left due to few snow days this past winter, but Scruci would really like the students back at their desks. “We certainly want to get them back, they start testing next week,” he said. The district received no reports of children sickened from the water earlier this week. “I think that it’s fine, but until I’m 100 percent certain that’s the case, and there’s nothing in there that will harm the kids,” school will remain closed, Scruci said.


BG shifts gears to map out bike routes

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   City Engineer Jason Sisco was troubled by the lack of bike route rules in the Complete Streets concept. “Engineers, we like standards,” he said. So Sisco shifted gears and did the next best thing – talked to people who frequently bicycle on Bowling Green streets. The city’s Bicycle Safety Commission met with Sisco Tuesday evening to work on the Complete Streets project, with the goal of making transportation safe for all modes of traffic. The commission discussed two main topics in order to create a new map designating bike routes around the city. First, which streets should be designated bike routes? “We can’t build bike paths everywhere,” Sisco said. And second, what type of accommodations should be made for bicyclists on those streets? The options include bike paths, which are paved areas separate from the roadway; bike lanes, which are lanes specifically for bikes along the edge; or sharrows, which use paint on the pavement to remind motorists to share the road with bicyclists. Sisco presented four different maps that already designate various “bike routes” across the city. The Complete Streets concept is intended to take that a step further and make the streets safer for cyclists. The new map will focus on getting cyclists to destinations, like schools, parks, the university, and shopping. “Let’s try to do something that makes sense and is attainable,” Sisco said. The routes will be designed to get a 10-year-old to school, a family to the park, and a college student to classes, suggested Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley. Many roadways in the city have no berm for bicyclists. Sisco cautioned that provisions for cyclists will encroach on some sacred cows for many city residents. Making room for bikes means taking room from front yards, street parking or trees. The easiest way to free up space on some roadways would be to get rid of the street parking. “But it’s going to make people mad,” Sisco said. “We can’t accommodate every interest at the same time.” The commission members asked that possible solutions not be…


Kenwood Elementary closed Wednesday due to discolored water

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Discolored water in a drinking fountain at Kenwood Elementary School has resulted in the school being closed Wednesday. Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci said this afternoon that the water fountains were all shut off after greenish colored water was noticed. City utility workers were called, tested the water, and found no bacteria in it, Scruci said. As a precautionary measure, a water testing company was called, but was unable to get to the school today. “We have the company coming tomorrow to ensure that the water is without question safe,” Scruci said. Boiler technicians and plumbers are also working on the issue to identify and correct the original cause for the discoloration, he added. Because the water was clear on Monday, it is believed the problem was caused by a boiler backflow valve malfunction. “We believe that we know the cause of the problem but until we are 100 percent certain that the water in the building is safe, we cannot put students and staff at potential risk,” Scruci wrote in an email to parents. Scruci is hopeful the school will be open again on Thursday. But that will only take place if he can be assured the water is safe for students and staff to drink, he said. “If they can’t guarantee me tomorrow that the water is safe, I will cancel school again,” Scruci said. Since the school district did not use all its snow calamity days during the mild winter, the elementary has some “wiggle room,” he said.  


BG mayor honors those who make community better

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green recognized a roomful of people who have made life better for others – whether it be families with autism, people seeking fair housing, or a woman who put her all into a small business for four decades. The council chamber was overflowing Monday evening with people who were being honored for contributing to their community. Mayor Dick Edwards recognized Barbara Rothrock for her constant dedication to small business in Bowling Green. Rothrock is retiring as owner of the “much loved and respected” Calico Sage and Thyme store. Rothrock was praised for leading by example, with 40 years of “grit, grin and outright perseverance.” When called up to the podium, Rothrock continued her push for local businesses. “Small business is important,” she said. “Support the businesses you love.” Edwards also recognized April as Autism Awareness Month and honored local families who are “living with the realities of autism and who are helping ever so many others deal with autism.” The mayor called to the podium Mary Murray, a “trailblazer” in the area of autism at Bowling Green State University, and the John Titus family. With his arm around young Ian Titus, who would one day like to be mayor himself, Edwards read a proclamation for autism awareness. Edwards also recognized Fair Housing Month in Bowling Green, calling up members of the Human Relations Commission. “Apart from its symbolic value, it is an important reminder about the basic provisions of the Fair Housing Act of 1968,” he said. Also at Monday’s meeting, city council: Learned from Utilities Director Brian O’Connell that plans to sell Bowling Green water to Waterville have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. It is hoped the project can be completed by the end of the year. Heard the city’s Bicycle Safety Commission is meeting tonight at 6 with the city engineer to talk about the Complete Streets program. Learned from Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley that the summer program brochure is now online. Otley also reported the first community focus group on the city’s parks and…


BG Council backs 2-mill park levy, but some worry about asking voters to pass more millage

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council took a unified stance Monday on the parks and recreation levy planned for the fall ballot – but only after an hour of debate. Some wanted a more cautious approach, while others believed Bowling Green voters could be counted on to pass additional millage. No one on council questioned the need for a 2-mill levy for parks and recreation, but at least two members wanted the millage split into two levies that add up to 2 mills. Their concern was the devastating effect if voters didn’t pass the additional millage. Both Bob McOmber and Bruce Jeffers spoke in favor of two smaller levies. “I think it has a very good chance of passing that way,” Jeffers said. But when a motion was put forth to accept the parks and recreation board’s recommendation for one 2-mill levy, both McOmber and Jeffers supported the motion. “I don’t want anyone to use a split vote on the levy as ammunition,” McOmber said. McOmber said he was aware his stance would be “unpopular,” however, his fear is that voters will easily pass a renewal but may balk at the additional millage. By offering two levies, the parks could at least count on the existing levy amount continuing. “If the renewal dollars go away, they are facing a disaster,” McOmber said. Park levies in Bowling Green have traditionally been well supported, but they have also normally been on spring ballots. McOmber pointed out that since the present levy ran out in 2015, there is no wiggle room if this levy fails. There will be no second chance in the fall. If that were to happen, the park district would lose 30 percent of its budget, or $638,000 annually. “That goes away because the current levy expired,” he said. “It will be zero.” But while McOmber and Jeffers preferred a more cautious approach, others felt confident that the parks and recreation department can convince citizens of the need for 2 mills. “It is an easy story to tell,” Council member Mike Aspacher said. “It’s…


BGSU student metals and jewelry on display at Wood County library

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Student Metal Arts Council from Bowling Green State University’s School of Art is “Forging Ahead” with an exhibit at the Wood County Public Library. The “Forging Ahead” exhibit features about two dozen works of jewelry and metal art in the library’s display window. The exhibit opened Saturday and continues through April 15.                   The exhibit is part of the effort to teach students in the arts professional skills, said Andrew Kuebeck, the faculty advisor for the council. Those efforts include an entrepreneurship class specifically for visual artists taught by Gene Poor. The exhibit was organized by the council’s treasurer Michaela Monterosso. For her the library was a natural venue for the show. Back in her hometown of Terryville, Connecticut, she would place her work in the local library. “I’d put my piece there and there was so much traffic going in and out of the public library that I got a lot of commissions, so I decided it would be a good opportunity for the Student Metal Arts Council.” The show was open to all who submitted work. “It’s meant to be an encouraging event,” she said. Monterosso wanted to give her fellow students a no-stress chance to display their work. “It’s good for their resumes,” she said, “and good for mine.” The council awarded first prize in the show to Katelyn Turner’s “Mother of Pearl” and second place to Diana Bibler’s “The Hero.” It promotes the council and the work being done on campus by jewelers and metalsmiths. Monterosso was attracted to BGSU by both the reasonable tuition – East Coast art schools are very expensive, she said – as well as the chance to study with Tom Muir, an artist with a national reputation. She incorporates glass in her work, so he was also encouraged by the opportunity to work with Joel O’Dorisio. The work on display uses a variety of materials and techniques such as felting and beading in conjunction with traditional approaches. The Student Metal Arts Council’s mission is to promote…