Government

BG puts sale of industrial park acreage on fast track

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council agreed last week to put the sale of industrial park acreage on the fast track. The city approved emergency action to sell three acres to a company wanting to move here from Cincinnati, and 1.56 acres to a company already here that needs more parking and storage space. Sue Clark, director of the Bowling Green Community Development Foundation, explained the need to expedite both sales. On the southeast corner of the city, three acres will be sold in the John Quinn Innovative Tech Park off Napoleon Road for $26,000 per acre. According to Clark, the new company plans to build an 18,000-square-foot manufacturing building. It currently has 10 employees, and plans on hiring 10 more by 2022. “He is anxious for his concrete footers to be done before the snow flies,” Clark said of the company owner. And in the Woodbridge Industrial Park off Dunbridge Road, Vehtek officials would like to purchase acreage in order to provide more parking for employees and storage space for racking. Vehtek, with approximately 700 employees, is one of Bowling Green’s largest employers. The company has plans to add another 50 employees. Several employees already have to park in the grass during their shifts. And Bowling Green Fire Chief Bill Moorman has repeatedly expressed concern about getting fire equipment up to the building in case of a fire. The added space will help, Clark said. “So the fire chief can get the fire truck around without any problems,” Clark said. Plans call for an improved right-of-way on East Poe Road, with the addition of a culvert crossing over the Poe Road ditch, along with widening a portion of Poe Road. These improvements will allow better truck access into and out of the facility. For the right-of-way widening, Sue Clark, director of Bowling Green’s economic development office, has been working with the state to secure Ohio Department of Transportation funds for 75 percent of the improvements. Normally the city would fund the other 25 percent of the project. However, the city is proposing that Vehtek pay $60,000 to the city for a strip of city property adjacent to the company’s northern property line. This will improve Vehtek’s ability to expand its site and make parking/storage improvements. Council member Sandy Rowland initially expressed concerns about the ordinances being expedited for the two companies. “What can we do to make this fair for everyone,” Rowland asked. Council president Mike Aspacher assured that it’s just the sale of the land from the city to the companies that is being hastened. “These folks will still need to go through the same planning and permitting process,” he said. “These are pretty cut and dry real estate transfers,” Aspacher said. The companies will still have to submit plans to the city planning commission and the county building inspection office. Mayor Dick Edwards credited Clark with being successful in getting Vehtek to improve its site. The company is owned by Magna, one of the largest corporations in Canada. “The time and effort you have put in on this is not short of amazing,” he said to Clark. “She really deserves a lot of credit, bringing this to fruition and making it happen.” Also at Monday’s meeting, Edwards fulfilled the terms of…

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Muslim student thanks BG for anti-discrimination efforts

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Nearly two years ago, Ahmad Mehmood stood up in front of Bowling Green City Council and asked city leaders to stand up for people from different lands. On Monday, Mehmood was back – this time thanking City Council for taking a stand against discrimination in the community. “I didn’t expect life here to be as easy,” said Mehmood, who has been a student at Bowling Green State University for two years. As a “brown Muslim student” from India, he was prepared to face discrimination and distrust. But instead, he found acceptance. “There is no space for hate,” he said praising the anti-discrimination resolution passed by City Council in January of 2017. “The City of Bowling Green has made it clear. It won’t accept that from its residents.” Back in 2017, as council was considering the anti-discrimination resolution, Mehmood stressed that for international students the measure was far more than a symbolic act. “We’ve always felt like we belong here,” he said on Monday evening. “We share something bigger than what divides us.” Mehmood talked about his homeland of India, where groups are targeted as part of the caste system. “We don’t want our country to be like that,” he said. No two people are identical, he said. “It’s almost like finding the same two colored socks on a Monday morning.” Yet, there are enough similarities that different people can coexist. “We can live side by side,” he said. To show appreciation to city leaders for their efforts, Mehmood invited City Council, the mayor and others to the annual Muslim Student Association dinner on Oct. 19 on campus. Council member Sandy Rowland thanked Mehmood for the invitation, and said she would attend. “I’m proud and happy to have you here,” Rowland said. “I want to thank you for your kind words, and want you to know you are appreciated in Bowling Green.” Mayor Dick Edwards thanked the Muslim Student Association for its involvement in the community. “I too have been the beneficiary of their very thoughtful invitations to various events.” The resolution passed by council in 2017 condemns violence, hate speech and discrimination targeting Muslim people and expresses solidarity with the Muslim community and all those targeted for their ethnicity, race or religion. The resolution calls on council to: Condemn all hateful speech, violent action, and discrimination directed at Muslim people and those perceived to be Muslim anywhere in the city or outside the city; Reject political tactics that use fear and misinformation to manipulate voters or to gain power or influence, and commits to prevent this from happening in the City of Bowling Green; Commit to pursuing a policy agenda that affirms civil and human rights, and ensures that people subjected to hate speech, violence, or discrimination on the basis of race, religion, or immigration status can turn to government without fear of recrimination; Reaffirm the value of a pluralistic society, the beauty of a culture composed of multiple cultures, and the inalienable right of every person to live and practice their faith without fear; Urge the citizens of Bowling Green to increase their involvement with the Human Relations Commission, Not In Our Town, and other community organizations, programs, and events that promote these principles, including by engaging with the local Muslim…


Push is on to get local citizens to register to vote

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The man picked up the brochure in the library on how to check on his voter registration status. “I think I’m registered,” he said. “I definitely don’t want to miss out on this one.” The League of Women Voters don’t want him or any other Wood County citizen to miss out on voting. So on Tuesday, members staffed tables at libraries throughout Wood County to help people register or make sure they are already registered to vote. “Most people have said they’re registered, which is great,” said Judy Knox, as she sat at a table in the Wood County District Public Library on National Voter Registration Day. The window to register to vote is nearing closure, with the last day on Oct. 9. Early voting for the general election starts the next day on Oct. 10. The League of Women Voters teamed up Tuesday with libraries in Bowling Green, Grand Rapids, North Baltimore, Pemberville, Walbridge and Weston, to give local residents opportunities to register to vote. “It’s a very dynamic political environment,” said League member Joan Callecod as she volunteered up at the Walbridge Library. “It’s important for people to cast their votes.” The League of Women Voters have had a registration table at the Bowling Green downtown farmers market all summer. “We’ve tried to put a real push on,” Knox said. “This is the first step to being a citizen,” Knox said about registering to vote. “The next step is getting to the polls.” There are multiple options for how people vote, she explained. They can vote absentee, or do early voting at the board of elections, or vote on Election Day Nov. 6. As she was working at the voter registration table in Bowling Green, Knox heard a common refrain from a citizen. “Someone walked by and said, ‘I don’t know why people wouldn’t vote. Countries fight for the ability to do that,’” Knox said. Voting, she said, should just be part of a person’s life. “Every voting is important, frankly.” In addition to registering voters, the League of Women Voters members also offered information on registering online, the types of identification accepted at the polls, and verifying voter registration. “It’s just good to check,” with voter purging being done, Knox said. Prior to being removed from voting rolls for inactivity, citizens should receive notice from boards of election, Callecod said. “People should be contacted by mail,” she said. But citizens with questions if they are still registered to vote after moving, not voting recently, changing their name, or serving jail time, can verify their registration by calling the Wood County Board of Elections at 419-354-9120, or going to lwv.ohiovotes.us. Following is basic voting information from the League of Women Voters. Step 1: Register to vote by the deadline: The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6 general election is Oct. 9. Who is eligible? You must be a U.S. citizen, 18 years old or older by the general election, an Ohio resident for at least 30 days before Election Day, not currently incarcerated for a felony conviction (people with prior convictions may register to vote), have not been declared incompetent to vote or denied the right to vote by a court. Register to vote or check your…


BG asks county to help welcome immigrants to fill jobs

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   “Help wanted” signs are going unanswered in Wood County. So local officials are looking at attracting immigrants to the region to fill those openings. Bowling Green initially wanted to put out a welcome mat to immigrants because it was the right thing to do morally. Then as city officials researched the idea, they discovered it was also the right thing to do economically. As evidenced by the number of “now hiring” signs posted in the region, Bowling Green and Wood County economic development officials have been hearing for months that the region is running low on workers. In May, Wood County economic development officials were celebrating a banner year in business expansions – creating nearly 1,000 new jobs. But the issue waiting in the wings was the low unemployment in the region, wavering between 3 and 4 percent. While that low rate is great news to employees, it is 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 earlier this year to the county commissioners. On Tuesday, the county commissioners heard the same warning – this time from Bowling Green officials. “We hear the same message time and time again,” Mayor Dick Edwards said. “We need good workers.” City Council passed a resolution in 2017 welcoming immigrants and “condemning any discrimination, harassment or unjustified deportation of immigrant residents.” As the initiative was researched, it became obvious that the welcome mat could have far-reaching economic benefits. Ohio Means Jobs estimates there are 9,200 job openings within a 20-mile radius of Bowling Green. “We are looking for skilled and other kinds of workers to come to Wood County and Bowling Green,” Edwards said. While Ohio has always been looked upon favorably by companies because of the region’s work ethic – that means nothing if there aren’t people to fill jobs. Wood County Commissioner Craig LaHote said site selection teams will notice if the available workforce is too low. “We might get ruled out before they look at anything else,” he said. Communities around the region – like Toledo and Sandusky – have already adopted “welcoming” initiatives. And while the success of the region and Wood County to bring jobs here is great, it has created a critical need to attract more workers to the area, said Sue Clark, director of Bowling Green’s economic development commission. “That only makes the workforce demand more crucial,” Clark said. Clark explained the local effort is being designed to welcome immigrants and refugees. She listed possible refugees escaping the war in Syria or the unrest in Central America. “We’re not talking about bringing in illegal immigrants,” she said. The initiative would also extend the welcome mat to international students who come to Bowling Green State University. “We do not make it particularly easy for them to find a job and stay on,” Clark said. Beatriz Maya, from LaConexion and a member of the Welcome BG Task Force, said the initiative makes economic sense. “This is based upon hard demographic data,” Maya said. “There is a shortage of more workers, for a younger workforce.” Companies that can’t find workers won’t come…


BG schools to get state funding to improve safety

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   More than $12 million in grants have been awarded to Ohio schools to improve safety. All of Ohio’s public, chartered nonpublic, and schools operated by county boards of developmental disabilities will receive the greater of $2,500 or $5.65 per student to spend on school safety programs and training. Bowling Green City School District will receive $16,627. Other schools in the city will receive $2,500 each, including Bowling Green Christian Academy, Montessori School, St. Aloysius, and Wood Lane School. Schools will have the flexibility to use these grants for training for school resource officers, safety and security materials, and programs to identify and help students who may be struggling with their mental health. Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci said that school districts in the area haven’t received official word about the grants. However, Attorney General Mike DeWine sent out a press release on Friday listing the districts and the amount they would be receiving. “If there is money for us, we will use it,” Scruci said Monday morning. “As a board, that’s what we’re committed to.” Though the board will determine how the funding is spent, Scruci predicted it would be used either on safety training for staff or on installing more 3M film over glass doors at school buildings. The covering makes it more difficult for the glass to be broken enough to allow entry to a building. “It creates an obstacle for an intruder for two and a half or three minutes,” Scruci said. “The delay allows time to get people to safety.” The grants are funded with appropriations made by the Ohio legislature as part of House Bill 318. The law requires that participating schools and county boards work with law enforcement in their jurisdictions to determine the best use of the grant funding. School district are also being encouraged to take advantage of two new school safety efforts recently launched by the Attorney General’s Office: Active Shooter Response: An Educator’s Guide: This 25-part video series was produced by the Attorney General’s Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy to aid educators in preparing for and reacting to a potentially violent school incident, such as a school shooting. The brief videos are an update to the training offered by OPOTA beginning in 2013 that provided guidance to nearly 15,000 educators on how to intervene with students who could pose a danger and how to respond in a crisis situation. Emergency Management Plan Aerial Photographs: Special agents with the Attorney General’s Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation are available to take free aerial photographs of school buildings for inclusion in school emergency management plans. BCI currently has six drones that are used primarily to document crime scenes and assist in missing persons cases, but BCI is offering to use its drones to take aerial photos of school campuses to help law enforcement plan for and respond to an emergency.


‘Welcoming’ language inserted in city charter preamble

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Not everyone on City Council welcomed the same language proclaiming Bowling Green as a “welcoming” community. But after some word wrangling and drawn out analysis, the city charter got a new preamble Monday evening. The new preamble makes a statement about the city being welcoming, inclusive and non-discriminatory. It reads as follows: “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; and determined to be a welcoming, inclusive community with adherence to practices of non-discrimination as established by law; do hereby ordain and establish the following Charter.” Council member Daniel Gordon, who led the effort for the preamble change, acknowledged the compromise that went into the wording. After words had been added and subtracted, the preamble commits the city to “standing with marginalized communities within Bowling Green,” he said. The preamble change was supported by all but one City Council member – Bruce Jeffers. “I appreciate the language you put together,” Jeffers said, noting that his fellow council members “fought it out” until they reached a good compromise. Though he approved of the wording, Jeffers said the welcoming statement did not belong in the city charter. They were the “right words in the wrong place,” so he voted against the preamble change. Council member Bill Herald said he understood Jeffers’ concerns, and he reminded council how the vote to pursue the preamble change narrowly passed by a vote of 4 to 3. However, Herald commended the work of the council committee, which included himself, Gordon and John Zanfardino. There was “spirited” and “respectful” discussion which resulted in a worthy compromise. After wrestling with the meaning of the term “welcoming,” the committee arrived at wording that did not detract from the purpose of the preamble, Herald said. “It goes with the type of community we want Bowling Green to be,” he said. Council members Gordon, Herald, Zanfardino, Mike Aspacher, Greg Robinette and Sandy Rowland voted in favor of the preamble change. But Robinette challenged council to look further if it wants to truly be welcoming. “If we really care for the well-being of citizens,” council should look at the city’s codified ordinances, he said.


Bicycle safety groups look for affordable solutions

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   City groups looking at transportation and bicycle safety want to do more than just spin their wheels. So on Monday evening, a joint meeting was held with the Bicycle Safety Commission and the City Council Transportation & Safety Committee. Together, the groups wanted to look at the two priorities involving bicycling that City Council selected in the new Community Action Plan. After discussion, the groups decided on the more manageable goal of pursuing grants to fund a bike lane on Court Street. They also decided to further explore the more “sweeping goal” of creating bike friendly streets in the area of Clough, Scout Hamilton, Thurstin and South College streets. Meanwhile, John Zanfardino, head of the council committee looking at bicycling in Bowling Green, said he continues to struggle with the seemingly opposing threads of the bicycling discussion. One direction focuses on education of bicyclists and motorists, so they learn to better share city streets. The other focus is on creating infrastructure for bicyclists – whether that is the more expensive bike lanes or the less costly sharrows painted on roads. “I’m a fan of Yay Bikes,” Zanfardino said of the Columbus-based organization that has worked with Bowling Green officials to better educate bicyclists and motorists. “It has the benefit of being a low cost way of making the city safer for bikes,” he said. Council member Daniel Gordon, also a member of the council committee, agreed that the Yay Bikes program was helpful. But he questioned the Yay Bikes conclusion that Bowling Green only needs education – not biking infrastructure. “Your streets are fine. You don’t need bike lanes. You don’t need infrastructure,” Gordon said of the Yay Bikes’ observations. “That’s certainly not the sentiment I’m hearing from folks in town,” Gordon said. The communities of Toledo, Sylvania and Perrysburg are working on biking infrastructure, he said. So it seems strange that a college town like Bowling Green would be veering away from bike lanes, Gordon said. “Residents have been calling for bike lanes for decades,” he said. “I think it’s well past time for us to make further efforts.” While people who bicycle a lot in the city are comfortable sharing the road with motorized vehicles, many people don’t have that comfort so they just don’t bike, he said. It seems, Gordon and others have concluded, that the momentum for bikes lanes has stalled in the city. The expense of building bike lanes can be great. Oftentimes street width needs to be extended into yards, utility poles may need to be moved, or street parking may need to be prohibited. “These two goals, if we push forward, are going to be expensive,” council member Greg Robinette said of the two CAP bicycling priorities. Those expenses have led the focus to shift to educational opportunities, said Steve Langendorfer, head of the city bicycle safety commission. However, that does not mean an end to infrastructure efforts. “The education is not meant to over-ride the engineering,” Langendorfer said. The city has been offering several community “slow roll” bike rides, plus training for local third graders. “Those have been particularly helpful encouraging people to get out on the streets and ride,” Langendorfer said of the community rides. The commission has also identified the most “rideable…