Government

BGSU & OSU heads: Higher education a wise investment

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Several decades ago, college was affordable for a few, and a dream for all the others. A few decades later, college was the place kids were expected to go to start their futures. Now, the pendulum has swung back again, with college costs and job prospects leading to a push in the trades. But BGSU President Rodney Rogers and OSU President Michael Drake held a public conversation Wednesday evening about the lasting value of higher education. “Higher education is a value to young people, a value to our communities, a value to our state,” said State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, who moderated the conversation. A college degree makes a person more employable, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for someone with a master’s degree is 2.2 percent; a bachelor’s degree is 2.5 percent; an associate’s degree is 3.4 percent; and a high school education, 6.8 percent. And more than 80 percent of the country’s top 100 jobs require a bachelor’s degree. “There’s real value there,” said Gardner, who both Rogers and Drake called a strong advocate for higher education. A college degree also results in bigger paychecks. It offers a better annual return for investment (average 13.7 percent) than the stock market (average 10 percent), Drake said. “It’s really about the best investment a person can make in their future,” the OSU president said. Over a lifetime, that investment averages more than $1 million more in earnings, he added. The perks go beyond the paychecks, Drake said. People with college educations are more likely to rank themselves as happy, are healthier, live longer, and are more engaged in their communities, Drake said. Drake asked those in the audience to envision a map of the U.S. – then put their fingers on a couple areas of great innovation, like Silicon Valley, Boston, or the Research Triangle. “Under your fingers are great universities,” he said. Rogers noted the BGSU alumni who are doing great things in their communities. “That is a part of what drives our state, our region and our communities,” he said. Ohio’s 14 public universities are places where ideas are discussed – places that help inform the public debate. “That is the power of universities,” Rogers said. “We are making Ohio a better place. We need to embrace it. We create public good.” But state budgeting is an issue. In the 1980s, state funding made up 60 percent of university budgets. That number is now closer to 23 percent. “We seem to almost write budgets by anecdotes,” Gardner said. Legislators hear of someone’s child earning a four-year diploma then having to take a job as a janitor. They hear stories of too many people going into higher education, and degrees being worthless. “People say that,…

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Scruci asks city to join in solution for school district

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci invited city leaders Monday evening to get involved in school business. Scruci asked those attending City Council to put June 25 on their calendars. Since the school district’s bond issue has been rejected twice by voters, the board is taking a different approach. “Our board is committed to finding out what our community will support,” he said. So a community task force open meeting will be held June 25, at 6:30 p.m., in the school’s performing arts center. “It’s going to be turned over to the community,” Scruci said. City Council President Mike Aspacher thanked the superintendent for the invitation to join in the process. “We’ve all been supportive of your efforts in the past,” Aspacher said. Also at Monday’s meeting, Mayor Dick Edwards expressed regret that the “celebrity guest” expected to attend the meeting was unable to make it. But the mayor revealed his intentions to declare June 15 as Jerry Anderson Day in Bowling Green, in honor of the newscaster’s last day at WTOL-11. Anderson got his start in broadcasting 44 years ago at WFOB radio here in Bowling Green, Edwards said. Since then, he has helped many community groups with fundraising, either by acting as auctioneer or emcee. His generosity has been “totally amazing,” the mayor said. Edwards also mentioned all the positive national publicity Bowling Green is receiving since the general managers of both hockey teams in the Stanley Cup are Bowling Green State University hockey alums.  The men, both from the same town in Canada, both played under BGSU Coach Jerry York, and were roommates for three years. George McPhee is now with the Las Vegas Golden Knights, and the Brian MacLellan is with the Washington Capitals. Ryan Carpenter, a more recent BGSU hockey standout, is playing for the Golden Knights. And Mike “Doc” Emrick, who earned his doctorate at BGSU, has been mentioning the many BGSU connections during this play-by-play announcing. In other business, Public Works Director Brian Craft was asked to give an overview of the city’s new brush collection program. The pickups used to be every spring and fall, then were reduced to once in the fall. Now the brush pickups are upon request, with four options of April, May, September and October. In May, the city got 320 requests for pickups, Craft said. Though not always convenient, Craft said if people missed those months, the city will return in September and October. “We’ll come back around in the fall if you can hang onto it,” he said. Large item collections have also changed, with residents being eligible for two pickups a year, of up to five items, for no charge. These pickups are available any time of the year, as long as people call to request. This change…


Tax breaks – just part of doing business for cities

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council member Bruce Jeffers isn’t against business. He’s just doesn’t like the idea of having to offer incentives to attract them to the city. So before council voted on an ordinance Monday evening for a new job creation and retention program, he had a few questions. “I value our businesses in Bowling Green,” Jeffers said. And the city has done a good job of making sure the community has good infrastructure and energy options for prospective businesses, he said. “So I wonder why we need to offer incentives for businesses to come here,” he said. “The answer seems to be because everyone else does it.” That answer is partially true, responded City Attorney Mike Marsh. Incentives like tax abatements are nothing new, Marsh explained. “I wrote the first one 32 years ago,” he said of the first city incentives program for Bowling Green. The city, Marsh said, doesn’t offer every possible incentive, but picks and chooses what works best here. “You don’t have to have the exact same programs, but you need to have some things tailored for who we want to attract,” he said. So the city is selective in its incentives. “We don’t want people who want to come here and not pay any taxes,” Marsh said. “We’re not desperate. We don’t want to give away the store.” However, without some incentives, the city may not even get a glance from some perspective businesses. “Then again, if we didn’t have them, we might not have gotten them to look at us,” Marsh said. Council went on to unanimously approve the new job creation and retention program. According to Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett, the program is modeled after one used by the city of Maumee. Similar programs were reviewed from dozens of cities, he said. The purpose of the city’s program is to “help maintain Bowling Green’s competitiveness as a location for new businesses and the expansion or retention of existing businesses.” The program offers incentives to qualifying businesses that agree to create a specified number of new jobs. Eligible businesses include headquarters, manufacturing, science and technology, research and development, distribution and certain types of service industries. To get incentives, the business must create jobs which are new to the city. The jobs must equal a minimum annual local payroll totaling $350,000 within a three-year period. Companies may receive up to 50 percent of the total payroll tax that the city receives from those jobs for a period of three years. For the retention of existing jobs, the program gives consideration to companies contemplating leaving Bowling Green for sound financial or economic reasons. An existing company claiming job retention would be eligible for a grant based upon the amount of payroll for those jobs to potentially be…


BG passes food truck ordinance – time to get cookin’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Phil Barone has already scouted out a great place for his food truck. And after Bowling Green City Council’s action Monday evening, he may finally get to set up shop. City Council voted in favor of the new mobile food vendor ordinance and declared an emergency to get things cooking. “We’re getting into good weather and want to get things moving,” said council member Bill Herald, who led the food truck ordinance effort. The fees set by council Monday evening are $100 for an annual mobile food vendor permit, and $40 for a special event permit. The ordinance was welcomed by Barone, who has owned Rosie’s Italian Grille in Toledo for 36 years, and has a food truck that serves customers in Perrysburg, Maumee, Waterville and Toledo. Barone, of Perrysburg, arrived early for the council meeting, so he drove around town looking for a good spot for his truck. His eyes zeroed in on Wooster Green with the new gazebo. “I think we could get enough trucks there to make a difference,” he said. Barone heads up a food truck association which has 11 members. Their menus offer items like grilled baby lamb chops, lobster mac and cheese, cauliflower crust pizza, Cuban food, steamed mussel salad, perch, cappuccino, and ice cream. Now he just has to find a day of the week that works. “It’s usually best to do it once a week, so people get used to it.” Some communities couple their food truck evenings with other events. Perrysburg pairs its farmers market with food trucks. Waterville links art exhibits with food trucks. Barone is thinking Bowling Green’s hook may be music. “We have some fantastic food vendors, we just need to get them down here,” he said. Earlier this year, Barone wasn’t so sure Bowling Green would get its food truck ordinance done. But he was hopeful, since both he and his wife graduated from BGSU and love the community. “Bowling Green is not known for doing anything really fast,” he said. “Bowling Green deserves a good shot, so I’m going to do my best.” Al Alvord, a retired Bowling Green police officer who operates “Weenie Dawgs” hotdog cart, is also pleased that the city now has a food truck ordinance. “This has been a long time coming,” Alvord said. He first introduced his hot dog cart idea in 2003 and again in 2012. “There was less than a warm reception,” he said. Alvord praised the work of the committee that worked on the ordinance for understanding the value of mobile vendors. “We’re not here to compete with the brick and mortar. We’re here to augment them,” he said. “It’s for the betterment of Bowling Green.”


BG site selected for medical marijuana dispensary

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A Bowling Green location has been selected by the state as a provisional medical marijuana dispensary. The former Glass City Credit Union Building, at 1155 N. Main St., will be able to provide medicinal marijuana under the name Glass City Alternatives. The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy today awarded 56 medical marijuana provisional dispensary licenses. A total of 376 applications had been received. A provisional license is a temporary license issued to an applicant for a medical marijuana dispensary license, authorizing them to begin establishing a dispensary. All provisional license holders have six months to demonstrate compliance with the dispensary operational requirements to obtain a certificate of operation. Once a dispensary is awarded a certificate of operation, it can begin to sell medical marijuana to Ohio patients and caregivers in accordance with Ohio laws and rules. The state had been divided into four quadrants for medical marijuana sales – with Northwest Ohio to have 10 dispensaries. The region was broken into districts, with Wood, Hancock and Henry counties being combined into one district to be allowed one dispensary. No applicants filed for locations in Hancock or Henry counties. So that left Wood County to host a dispensary. The three applications filed with the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy were for sites at: 106 E. Napoleon Road, Bowling Green, with the business name of Debbie’s Dispensary, filed by Sara Presler. 1155 N. Main St., Bowling Green, with the business name of Glass City Alternatives, filed by Mark Jacobs. 2701 Woodville Road, Northwood, with the business name of Serenity Dispensary, filed by Deitra Hickey. House Bill 523, the Ohio law that in 2016 legalized marijuana for medical use only, tasked the Ohio Board of Pharmacy with determining which locations should be approved as dispensaries. A total of potential 376 sites were submitted, though just 56 were approved, according to Grant Miller, spokesperson with the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. The law requires 500 feet between any marijuana business and a school, church, public library or public playground. “We have to make sure they are complying with the rule,” Miller said earlier this year. “It’s an in depth process. Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into the application.” All the applicants were required to show the sites had proper commercial zoning, and that the community had not enacted a moratorium on the sale of medical marijuana. “When it comes to dispensaries and the way they interact with areas, it’s really up to the local areas. In the end, it’s down to the local town, township or city,” Miller said. “We are judging them on the merits we required.” In 2016, Bowling Green City Council considered a moratorium on medical marijuana, but decided against taking such action. The city attorney and city planning director suggested…


BG to hand out micro-grants for neighborhood projects

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is ready to offer money to citizen-led projects to help neighborhoods. Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter announced last week to City Council that the city is launching a micro-grant program. This will be the first priority put in place from the city’s newly adopted Community Action Plan. The micro-grant program will allocate $500 to $5,000 annually to proposals that meet the goals of the CAP by improving neighborhoods. Applications for the first round of funding will be due June 15. A total of $5,000 will be available. Tretter said money was already set aside for the CAP this year – so this would be a good use of that funding. “I think we’re all interested in seeing something move forward,” she said to City Council. The money can be used for a variety of projects, such as the Connect Court Street event that was held last year, the Firefly Nights that just started downtown, or projects such as neighborhood tool sharing or home improvements, said Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett. “There are probably things we haven’t even thought of yet” that would qualify, Tretter said. The plan will be to offer the micro-grants twice a year, with the deadlines for applications being Jan. 15 and June 15 each year. These grants are not intended to compete with the Community Foundation grants, which serve different purposes, Tretter said. Those receiving the micro-grants will be accountable for the funding, and will be asked to come before City Council to explain the impact of the grants, she added. Other items on the list to be worked on soon for the Community Action Plan include: Work on the city zoning code and land use issues. This might include such efforts as more training for the zoning board of appeals, and forming a committee to review city parking regulations. Work on bicycling grants and infrastructure improvements. Study of potential improvements to Carter Park. Also at Monday’s meeting, Police Chief Tony Hetrick explained changes in the city’s emergency dispatching system. The work began three years ago to blend the fire and police dispatching into one center. The change allows police to access county-wide and regional records systems. It gets rid of the duplication of services, and allows the fire department to use all its staff for emergency responses rather than assigning one person to dispatching. And most recently, it allowed for an expansion to more 911 dispatching consoles. Hetrick thanked the city’s public works and public utilities departments for doing nearly all the work in-house. The project cost $60,000, but probably would have been double that otherwise, he said. Also at Monday’s meeting, the city named Jennifer Karches as its “Spokesperson of the Year.” Chairman of the Bowling Green Bicycle Safety Commission, Dr. Steve Langendorfer said Karches…


First Solar site promising 500 new jobs gets tax break

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The future is looking bright for the First Solar facility proposed in Lake Township. The Wood County Commissioners voted Thursday to grant a tax abatement request that would relieve the company from 100 percent of its eligible property and inventory taxes for 15 years. The solar panel company has plans for a $400 million facility, with 1.2 million square feet of space, and 500 new jobs. “It’s nice to see this major project go forward here in Wood County,” Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, said during the meeting with First Solar officials and the county commissioners. The new plant will be located at the southeast corner of Tracy Road and Ohio 795 – just down the road from the existing First Solar facility in Perrysburg Township. Lake Township officials have already signed off on the tax abatement, and the two school districts affected by the tax break have already made deals with First Solar. The agreements will result in Lake School District getting an additional $898,000 a year – enough to allow the school board to forgo the next levy planned for the ballot. Penta Career Center will receive $72,000 a year. In addition to creating 500 new jobs at the site, another 500 construction workers are expected to be employed to build the facility. Clarence Hertzfeld, plant manager for the Perrysburg operations, said the new site will have an estimated employee payroll of $30 million. “It will essentially double our output capacity,” Hertzfeld said of the new location paired with the existing site. First Solar’s main customers are large commercial and industrial power producers. “We compete in all the global markets,” Hertzfeld said. Jay Lake, who handles First Solar manufacturing workforce development, said the company hopes to leverage more of the “great workforce” in this region. Wood County Planning Director Dave Steiner was asked by the commissioners to weigh in on the tax break request. Steiner said he saw no problems with the request. “They’ve been a very good corporate citizen,” Steiner said of First Solar. Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw welcomed First Solar’s expansion plans. “We are certainly glad you decided to stay here,” she said. Hertzfeld said First Solar appreciates the county’s cooperation in making the new facility possible. “We’re extremely excited about what we’re endeavoring here,” he said.