Government

BG may buy old BG Block & Lumber site for $500,000

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   With its water and sewer division building bursting at the seams, Bowling Green officials may spend $500,000 to purchase neighboring property. The Bowling Green Board of Public Utilities heard a proposal Monday evening from Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell to purchase 1.57 acres at 315 and 325 N. Grove St. The property sits just to the east of the city’s water and sewer division at 324 N. Maple St. “This would save us from having to look for more space outside our area,” O’Connell told the board. “It’s a good long-term decision for water and sewer.” For some time, the water and sewer division has been in need of additional building space and parking. The city had budgeted $130,000 for concrete drive and parking improvements at the site to accommodate current staff. However, there was no ability to expand the building. Recently, a neighboring property owner, Alan Stoots, approached the city about buying his property – which was formerly the site of BG Block and Lumber. There are several buildings on the property, with some being rented to tenants for storage, commercial and residential uses. According to Stoots, the rental income is about $47,000 annually. Stoots was asking $520,000 for the property. The city hired a real estate appraiser, who said the value of the property was $450,000. After several discussions with Stoots, the city agreed to a purchase price of $500,000, O’Connell said. While that amount is 11 percent above the appraised value, O’Connell said the property is more valuable to the city because of the water and sewer division location and need for space. “We’re kind of at the seams right now,” O’Connell said. “This will get us some additional building space that we could use from day one.” The site would secure a long-term home for the water and sewer division, and possibly provide room for future growth, he said. The water and sewer division could use three of the buildings on the property, totaling about 10,000 square feet, for cold storage of materials,…

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New hotel going up in BG where Victory Inn came down

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A new hotel is being built on the site of the defeated Victory Inn in Bowling Green. The owner of the Victory Inn – Jamal Garmo of Michigan – is building a new Home 2 Suites by Hilton, which specializes in extended stays. The old Victory Inn was demolished in 2015 after nearly five years of Bowling Green and Wood County Health Department officials trying to get hotel to clean up issues. The hotel, at 1630 E. Wooster St., was frequently the source of complaints about bedbugs, plumbing and electrical problems, the lack of smoke alarms and cleanliness violations. Garmo approached the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals in 2016, since the new hotel exceeds the city’s height and story limits. His request was for a variance to allow construction of a 107-room hotel on the eastern portion of the seven acres that previously housed Victory Inn. The proposed hotel is 65 feet tall, five feet taller than allowed, and five stories high, one story higher than allowed in B-2 general commercial zoning The request was initially turned down. By building upward, the 107-room hotel would have a much smaller footprint than the two-story Victory Inn which had 103 rooms, the developer said. The developer also said the smaller footprint of the taller hotel will allow for other businesses on the seven-acre site. He said the remainder of the property could possibly be “mixed use” with some retail, office and residential. Garmo filed an appeal of the city’s decision, stating the denial was “unconstitutional, arbitrary, capricious and an unreasonable exercise of discretion.” The appeal also stated the denial posed an “unreasonable hardship” against Garmo. In November of 2016, the city changed the zoning language to allow a hotel to have five floors, as long as the height of the building did not exceed 60 feet.


BG may try electric credit to jolt industrial growth

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials hope a new electric credit may get some industries charged up to increase their power usage. The Board of Public Utilities recently discussed adoption of a development electric rate rider, which would give a short-term savings to medium large industries that expand their electric use. There are about 80 industries in the city that would qualify. The industries would have to increase electric usage by at least 10 percent, plus sign an economic development agreement with the city. It hasn’t yet been determined if the credit would extend for three or five years. But each year of the program, the credit would reduce. For example, during the first year the company could get 30 percent credit. That could decrease to 20 percent the second year, and 10 percent in the third. The ultimate goal – in additional to selling more electricity – is to create more jobs in Bowling Green, according to Brian O’Connell, director of public utilities for the city. Vehtek, for example, has upped its electric use to 9 megawatts, and has increased its workforce to about 750 people, O’Connell said. The largest electric users in the city are Bowling Green State University, Vehtek and Southeastern Container. Increased electric sales would also help the entire city, he added. The credit would also be offered to new businesses. “That may be why somebody might want to be here,” O’Connell said. “By bringing in a new customer, it helps the existing customers as well.” The board will continue to discuss the issue at its July meetings. Also at the public utilities meeting, the board agreed to advertise for bids for tree trimming and removal services. The four-year contract with Nelson tree service is coming to an end at the close of 2018. Trimming of trees helps reduce power outages caused by fallen limbs, O’Connell said. The contract has four one-year cycles, with each ward in the city being done at a time. Nelson is in Ward 1 this year. The budget includes $110,000 for…


Good news: County getting 1,000 new jobs; Bad news: Region running out of workers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County is having a banner year in business expansions – creating nearly 1,000 new jobs. But the issue waiting in the wings is the low unemployment level in the region, wavering between 3 and 4 percent. While that low rate is great news to employees, it is also worrisome to economic development officials. “It’s a good thing. But there is going to be a time when new businesses slow down looking at Northwest Ohio,” Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, said Thursday morning during his quarterly report to the county commissioners. But right now, Wood County is reveling in the news that four manufacturing plants are expanding here: First Solar, in Lake Township, investing $400 million and creating 500 jobs. Walgreens, in Perrysburg Township, investing $80 million and creating 350 jobs. Continental Structural Plastics, in North Baltimore, creating 100 jobs. Equity Meats, in Bloom Township, creating 50 jobs. “It’s been a very busy start for the year,” Gottschalk told the commissioners. And three other businesses have shown great interest in locating in the county, making multiple visits here, he added. “There are three percolating through the system,” Gottschalk said, without revealing the business names. Wood County has an estimated 60,000 people in its labor force. So 600 jobs is about 1 percent of the unemployment rate, he explained. That means the county’s ability to attract new industry will become more challenging. Gottschalk predicted that companies with upper tier wages will still be able to attract employees, but others may struggle to fill positions. “It will make it more difficult to attract average-pay employers,” he said. Existing companies in Wood County are already having trouble filling empty positions, Gottschalk said. “The available labor force is relatively small,” he said. For years, Ohio has been attractive to prospective employers because of the strong work ethic associated with employees. “Ohio has a very good reputation for its labor force,” Gottschalk said. “It just doesn’t have enough.” The state is seeing its older population grow,…


BG struggles to find right words for charter preamble

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials are debating how to best reflect the city’s values in the fewest words possible in the preamble of the city charter. The charter has long been limited to addressing city governance. But during a recent review by a charter update committee, it was suggested that the preamble say more about exactly what Bowling Green stands for. The committee recommended that council create a statement about non-discrimination to place in the preamble. So council members Daniel Gordon, chair of the Community Improvement Committee, Bill Herald and John Zanfardino took a stab Monday evening at coming up with a little language that says a lot about the city. “We want to set out foundational language for what the city is supposed to be about,” Gordon said. “We want to define who we are as a people and what the community stands for,” he said. Here is the current city charter preamble: “We the people of Bowling Green, in the county of Wood, and in the State of Ohio, desirous of securing for our city and for ourselves and our children the advantages of self-government conferred by the home-rule provisions of the Ohio constitution, do hereby ordain and establish the following charter. Here are five proposals for additional wording that were presented Monday evening. Mayor Dick Edward’s: …. “and in keeping with the City of Bowling Green’s determination to be a welcoming city, a city that adheres to practices of non-discrimination as established by law, a city committed to neighborhood livability and a city that embraces energy sustainability” … Council member Daniel Gordon’s: … “and determined to be a welcoming, inclusive community with strong neighborhoods and equitable quality of life; to serve the common good; and thereby to ensure the safety and freedom of all the people of Bowling Green, who seek to live their lives in peace” … Council member Bill Herald’s: … “We do this in the hope of molding a distinctive place where people can live with mutual respect, civility, and service to one…


BG Council split over prioritizing planning in city charter

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For the second consecutive meeting, Bowling Green City Council was divided over just how the city charter should be updated. And again, the vote was not according to party lines. The issue Monday evening was city planning. The decision boiled down to which was more important – protecting the integrity of the city charter, stressing the importance of city planning, or trying to do both. When it came to a vote, those wanting to keep the charter pristine while emphasizing city planning in ordinance form were Mike Aspacher, Bruce Jeffers and Greg Robinette. Those wanting to add a longer definition of city planning to the charter were Daniel Gordon, Bill Herald,  Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino. Bowling Green voters will make the final decision on the charter change in November. The background on the vote began earlier this year when the charter update committee made a recommendation that a detailed definition for city planning be added to the city charter. Initially City Attorney Mike Marsh shortened the definition to make it more streamlined for the charter. However, he was asked to reintroduce the charter amendment using the longer version. That led to a debate among council members about the need to keep the charter uncluttered, and the need to place more emphasis on city planning. At the last council meeting, East Side resident Les Barber pleaded with council to allow the longer version in the charter. A lack of planning in the past has led to many neighborhood issues on the East Side that have spread to the West Side of the city. The language approved Monday evening lists the planning director’s duties as on-going study, investigation and analysis of all municipal planning functions, including zoning, platting, housing, zoning and subdivision codes, and code enforcement, including how each of the functions impacts the well being of the city’s neighborhoods, commercial and industrial areas. Robinette said he listened to various viewpoints, and while appreciating the passion of Barber and others, he still believes the charter is not the…


BG joins the nation in rallying for immigrant families

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Nearly 250 Bowling Green citizens sweltered in the sun Saturday to add their voices to the national cry for justice for families seeking refuge in America. They gathered on Wooster Green to be counted among the 800-plus rallies held across the nation today with their top message being – families belong together. They held signs saying “Resist Hate,” “Reunite Broken Hearts,” and “The Pilgrims were Undocumented.” They came to say their country doesn’t treat people with such cruelty. And their Christianity doesn’t turn away people in need. They listened as Dr. Bill Donnelly, a psychologist who specializes in the care of children, talked about the traumatic effects the forced separations will have on children taken from their parents as they cross the southern U.S. border. “There will be devastating consequences for children and their family members,” Donnelly said. Decades of research show that children forcibly taken from their families are likely to suffer long-term problems of anxiety, depression, panic and grief, he said. “There is nothing more important for the mental health and physical health of a child,” than being with family, Donnelly said. Children crossing the border with their parents had already undergone great stress making the dangerous trek into the U.S. “They’re not coming in a luxury train,” he said. “Children rely on their parents for support in difficult times.” Despite President Donald Trump’s executive order that children no longer be separated from their parents at the border, very few families have been reunited. More than 2,000 children are still being held in detention centers, and it appears that in many cases, the federal government does not know where some separated children are so they can be reunited with parents. “This policy is needless and cruel,” Donnelly said. “We know children are not reunited with their parents.” It’s that image that brought Sheila Brown to Saturday’s rally. “I’m here to help support immigrant families,” Brown said. “I can’t even fathom having my children torn from me just because I’m looking for a better life for…