Government

Planet Fitness plans to open gym in Bowling Green

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green has long been the home to plenty of pizza joints. Maybe that’s why it’s becoming the home of more exercise gyms. Planet Fitness is the latest gym business to plan on making Bowling Green its home. At Wednesday’s city planning commission meeting, Planning Director Heather Sayler said Planet Fitness has plans to open a gym in the Shoppes on South Main strip mall, south of East Gypsy Lane Road. Sayler also announced a few other commercial and industrial projects underway in the city. A permit has been issued for the construction of a Home2Suites extended stay hotel at 1630 E. Wooster St., in the space formerly used by Victory Inn. The Home2Suites is one of Hilton’s hotels. Another permit has been issued for an addition to the Aldi grocery store at 1010 S. Main St. Currently under review is a permit for site improvements of the McDonald’s restaurant on East Wooster Street. Sayler also noted an increase in requested zoning permits, with 166 being sought this year compared to 137 at his time last year. New construction this year includes 17 single-family homes, three commercial buildings, 1 industrial site, and three institutional facilities. The city’s engineering division has approved construction plans for Plat 1 of The Reserve at Martindale, which consists of three proposed lots along Pearl Street and Martindale Avenue. The city is also reviewing a preliminary drawing for Plat 8 of Pheasant Farms. Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the planning commission reviewed a manufacturing zoning definition request that would allow a vocational training school to be built in Bellard…


Conneaut water project a ‘nightmare’ for city and residents

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Neighbors and city officials can agree on at least one aspect of the Conneaut Avenue water project – it’s been a nightmare. For those living along the stretch of Conneaut from Mitchell Road to Wintergarden Road, the project has meant multiple boil advisories, yards still torn up for the waterline work, and almost constant dust from the gravel roadway. For the city employees, the project has been a source of frustration caused by faulty waterline equipment and unexpected delays. Has the waterline project been a headache and a nightmare? “Yes and yes,” said Bowling Green Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell. In an attempt to explain the delays, the city invited residents along the waterline to an open house Thursday. On display were some of the pieces of defective equipment that have plagued the project. The project began in January to replace the old water main, affecting about 50 homes along Conneaut Avenue. For each home, a “saddle” is wrapped around the waterline, allowing a hookup with the home. The saddles used with the old line were made of cast iron and were severely deteriorated. So new saddles were ordered and fitted to the waterline. But the new saddles would not seal on the old waterline, since it was not an exact round shape. So new PVC pipe was installed and the saddles were fitted. Residents were advised to boil their water, and all seemed good. Then the saddle connections started leaking. So different saddles were ordered and put on the waterline. Residents were again asked to boil their water. Again the seals…


BG Council debates further fight against pipeline

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   At least two Bowling Green City Council members are interested in taking the Nexus pipeline fight further. Council has already rejected an easement to allow the pipeline to cross city-owned land within miles of the city’s water treatment plant. The city held a panel discussion with four geologists addressing their concerns about the pipeline. And the mayor has written several letters identifying concerns to FERC, federal and state legislators, and the pipeline. But on Monday, council member John Zanfardino suggested that the city look into filing a motion to intervene on the project with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. “I know there are questions of cost,” Zanfardino said. But the costs may be worth it to ensure safe drinking water, he said. Zanfardino referred to one of the panelist’s concerns that the environmental statement for the pipeline did not even mention several risks. “This seems to give us a legal leg to stand on,” if something happens, Zanfardino said of the motion to intervene. Though one of the panelists said the cost to file a motion to intervene would be “negligible,” the city’s legal counsel thinks otherwise, especially if it leads to greater litigation and expense.  So Zanfardino suggested some exploration should be done. “We’re running out of time,” he said. FERC tends to rubber-stamp pipeline projects even in the best of times, Zanfardino said. “And we’re not in the best of times.” Council member Daniel Gordon agreed. “There is a real sense of urgency here,” he said. “We can’t put a price tag on our water supply here in Northwest Ohio.”…


BG cracks down on ‘deplorable’ house on Wooster

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The house is the problem child on the East Side – 1014 E. Wooster St. Neighbors have reported trash, a recliner and a mattress piled in the front yard. This past weekend, the college students living there had a TV “blaring” in the front yard. The inside of the house has also had its share of problems, according to records kept by the city. “It is unfortunate that conditions like this exist and there is so little regard for community values and people who reside in the neighborhood,” Mayor Dick Edwards said during Monday evening’s city council meeting. The owners of the house, Ronald F. and Mary Jo Trzcinski, live in Holland, Ohio. The city has recorded two pages of complaints and official responses to the “deplorable conditions and appearance” of the house that sits to the east of Crim Street across from Bowling Green State University. “It’s enough to make your head spin,” Edwards said. The mayor made several trips to the property over the weekend, and East Side advocate Rose Hess continued to monitor the site. “I think it’s time to take the gloves off with this property,” Edwards said. Over the last few years, the city’s police division, fire division, code enforcement officials, and Wood County Health District have intervened. Each time they have asked the owner to cleanup or repair items, the Trzcinskis have done just enough to comply. This past weekend, Hess recorded more problems at the property. “Last night we drove past there and a 36-inch flat screen TV was blaring in the front yard.  (Interior…


BG mayor may join ‘Climate Mayors’ national movement

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards is bucking President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate control. During Monday’s City Council meeting, Edwards said he is investigating joining the Climate Mayors national movement. “Several residents have been in touch with me about the possibility of joining with mayors throughout the country in combating climate change and in preparing for global warming,” Edwards said. “The intensifying of the environmental movement among mayors is proceeding on a bi-partisan basis in partial response to some of the proclamations emanating in recent days from Washington,” the mayor said. Edward’s statement earned him an emotional thank you from council member Sandy Rowland, and applause in the council chamber from citizens and council members. The mayor mentioned a recent NPR interview he heard featuring the mayor of Carmel, Indiana. That city, like Bowling Green, has no risk of the global warming risk from rising ocean waters. But the Carmel mayor also believes in the need for climate control efforts. “Mayor (Jim) Brainard’s comments about Carmel could well have been said about Bowling Green and our efforts to be on the leading edge of environmental sustainability,” Edwards said. Both mayors are Republicans and are bucking the trend of some in their party. In the NPR interview, Brainard talked about why his community in Indiana cares about climate change. “We see ourselves as a part of the country and the world. And we realize if there’s that sort of displacement, we’re at risk for all sorts of bad things,” Brainard said. “There’s also the frequency and intensity…


BG Council debates how to boost general fund

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Absence makes the heart grow fonder – even if it’s just the possibility of losing city trash pickup. Bowling Green City Council members held a meeting prior to their regular meeting Monday evening to debate how to keep afloat the city’s sinking general fund revenue. Prior to the meeting, the options had been narrowed down to three basic ideas: Redistribute income tax revenue, which would require a vote by city residents. This option would take money – $500,000 to $1 million – from city utilities and put it in the general fund. Charge a tree trimming assessment on property taxes, which would not require a citizen vote. An owner of a $150,000 home would pay $80 to $100 a year, which would generate about $300,000. Change city trash pickup, either by privatizing collection or maintaining city collection but start charging residents for the service. Privatizing would save the city $800,000 annually. Continuing the city service would cost the average homeowner $12 or $13 a month. This would not require a vote by citizens. Of those options, the one creating most citizen uproar is the privatization of garbage collections. That response came as a surprise to Bob McOmber, who has served on council for 12 years. During that period, trash pickup has been the source of many complaints. “They tell us how lousy our trash collection is,” McOmber said. But now that the service may go to a private company, the feelings have changed. “We love our trash collection,” he said. And many citizens have even expressed a willingness to pay the city…


Push to change the way congressional districts are drawn gets underway

From INDIVISIBLE DISTRICT 5 Indivisible District 5 will hold an information session and training for those seeking signatures on petitions in support of an effort to change the way Congressional District are drawn Thursday, June 8, 7-8 p.m., Grounds for Thought, 174 S. Main St., Bowling Green The Fair Congressional Districts for Ohio campaign is obtaining signatures to get redistricting reform on the Ohio ballot in 2017. When in power, politicians from both major political parties have drawn the district lines to favor their own political party—commonly referred to as “gerrymandering”—and created noncompetitive “safe seats” for members of Congress. This lack of competition leads to more extreme views in Congress and means that members of Congress increasingly do not reflect the views of most Americans. Redistricting reform will curtail gerrymandering by requiring a bipartisan commission to draw district lines according to specific rules. In order to get this initiative on the ballot, the campaign needs to collect more than 300,000 signatures. We are looking for volunteers to pledge to collect signatures at area events and around town. This information session will include an introduction to gerrymandering and why reform is needed, a short training session for those interested in volunteering, and a question and answer session. To sign up to volunteer to collect petition signatures, go to www.ohfairdistricts.com/volunteer/. Volunteers will also be at Grounds for Thought all day on June 8 (9 a.m. – 8 p.m.) to gather signatures.


Levy renewal sought for child and adult protective services

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For 30 years, the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services has relied on voters to provide funds to protect local children and seniors. This year will be no different. There have been times when expenses and needs are lower, that the voters have been given a break and the levy has gone uncollected for a year. But that is unlikely to occur again anytime soon considering the most recent increase in abuse and neglect reports. “They are on a record pace for child abuse and neglect complaints,” said Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar. It doesn’t help that Ohio is “dead last” among the states for funding of child protective services, according to Dave Wigent, director of Wood County Department of Job and Family Services. Even if Ohio were to double its spending for child services, the state will still be last, he said. “We’re forced to support with levy funding from the local level,” Wigent said. “We’re in an embarrassing situation for child welfare support,” he said. Also not helping is the uncertainty of the federal budget. If the cuts were to proceed as proposed by President Donald Trump, child abuse and neglect funding would be slashed further. “It would have a devastating effect on us here,” Wigent said. Wigent presented his request to put the renewal 1.3-mill levy on the November ballot this year to the Wood County Commissioners. The commissioners gave the levy request their verbal blessing, and will have staff prepare a resolution to get it on the ballot, Kalmar said. The millage, to be collected for…


BG fine tunes three design options for Wooster Green

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s downtown green space is taking shape. The question now is whether it should be a formal symmetrical shape or an informal meandering shape. Some pieces of the puzzle are definite – like the stone arched entry, the pavilion, and a gathering area. But just where those pieces fit on the 1.7 acres at West Wooster and South Church streets is still unknown. On Thursday, Troy Sonner, of Poggemeyer Design Group, presented three possible designs for the town square dubbed Wooster Green. The firm is donating its design services to the community in recognition of the business’ 50th anniversary. “We are one step away from a blank canvas,” Sonner said to members of the green space steering committee. The first design was modeled after the ideas of the Green Space Task Force. It includes wide walkways from corner to corner, creating a symmetrical “X” shape with a center area featuring a fountain or statue. The pavilion would be located toward the south of the site. This plan has the most concrete. The second design was submitted by a city resident, and features an open area close to Wooster, a winding walkway, and the pavilion toward the southwest portion of the square. This plan leaves larger open spaces and has less concrete. The third design is a combination of ideas from the task force and the citizen’s plan. It features the pavilion closer to Church Street, has a winding walkway, and much more open space toward the center and south of the square. This plan has the least concrete. Mayor Dick Edwards…


New voting machines come with hefty price tags

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When Wood County got its first touchscreen voting machines, many people feared they were too old-fashioned to keep up with the new voting technology. But now, after 11 years of elections, it’s the voting machines themselves that are considered obsolete. Across Ohio, county boards of elections are facing the challenge of replacing their aging voting machines with newer, expensive technology. The price tag to replace Wood County’s touchscreen voting stations is between $3.8 and $4.2 million. Counties and election boards have been working with the state legislature and secretary of state to get help footing the bill. “This is a great need across the state,” said Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar. “The implications statewide and nationally are incredible.” Wood County Board of Elections Director Terry Burton presented the news to the county commissioners on Tuesday. “He told us the end is in sight and we need to prepare,” Kalmar said. The first touchscreen voting machines were purchased as part of the Help America Vote Act after the infamous “hanging chad” drama in Florida in the 2000 presidential election. The electronic touchscreen systems were purchased to prevent the uncertainty of punchcard voting. The initial touchscreen units cost $1.2 million – with federal funds paying for at least 80 percent of the price, Kalmar said. Kalmar is banking on the legislature helping this time around. The topic has been before the state for a while. “That has been the discussion for the last two years,” Burton said. Heavy duty lobbying is underway to get some money out of the state’s next budget cycle, he…


British firm chooses BG for its plant in the states

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A British company has chosen Bowling Green as the site for its first plant in the U.S. Mineral Insulated Cable Company is leasing a portion of the former Lear plant at the corner of Fairview and Van Camp Roads on the northern edge of Bowling Green. MICC, a world leader in the manufacturing of mineral insulated cable products, plans to create at least 33 new jobs, and make a capital investment of $1.5 million. “We’re thrilled that MICC has decided to locate in Bowling Green,” said Sue Clark, executive director of Bowling Green Economic Development. “It’s a great opportunity,” she said, for the city and for the company which was looking for an entry point into the U.S. marketplace. MICC first learned about Northwest Ohio during a Select USA Investment Summit in Washington, D.C., when the company’s managing director Doug Dooley met Paul Zito, of the Regional Growth Partnership. MICC officials were considering locations like Chicago, Philadelphia and Texas. “Paul was a good enough salesman to convince Doug to come to Northwest Ohio,” said Scott Warner, who is going to be general manager of the new plant. The benefits of the region’s central location, logistics and low cost of doing business were stressed. Then once Dooley came to Bowling Green, he met Clark, who showed him the sites, including the former Lear plant. “It was a real group effort between Regional Growth Partners and Sue Clark,” Warner said. MICC agreed to lease about a third of the building, or about 45,000 square feet of production space, and some office space. Lear was…


Veterans, Girl Scout buildings to be replaced in City Park

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Two old, failing buildings in City Park are destined for demolition. Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley knows it will be tough for some local residents to lose the Veterans Building and the Girl Scout Building. Anytime you tear down a building, some distant memories are stirred. Otley is expecting to hear comments like, “When I was 6, I came to a birthday party here and had a really good time.” But the city is the steward of the park buildings. “We have to take care of it,” she said Tuesday evening during the monthly meeting of the Parks and Recreation Board. The aging buildings are not worth sinking renovation dollars into, Otley said. So Schorr Architects, of the Columbus area, is working on a concept plan that involves taking down both the Veterans and Girl Scout buildings and replacing them with one larger building with adequate space for programming, storage, ADA accessibility, air conditioning, and an attractive design that reflects the historic nature of the park. The architects have taken note of the historic Needle Hall and stone wall in the park, Otley said. “It’s really an amazing opportunity” to get a building that is efficient and aesthetically pleasing, she said. Tim Stubbs, facilities coordinator for the park and recreation department, stressed that tearing down the two buildings near the entrance of the park has been discussed for several years. “This is not new. It’s had a lot of thought put into it, and it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “We have to do something.” The new…


BG plans ahead for another water treatment reservoir

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials plan to spend $220,000 to buy some acreage for another water treatment reservoir. A few years ago, the city purchased 76 acres on Hull Prairie Road with the thought of putting another reservoir there in the future. The one problem was a house that sat on four acres in the center of the acreage at 23134 Hull Prairie Road. But the owner of the house, Jay Largent, has now asked if the city is interested in purchasing his house and the four acres for the appraised price of $220,000. The Board of Public Utilities voted Monday evening to do so. “This could be advantageous for us,” Director of Public Utilities Brian O’Connell said, explaining that 80 acres is much more desirable than 76 acres with a house in the middle. “It does give us a more viable site for a reservoir.” A larger reservoir would provide additional raw water storage as well as better quality raw water to the plant. Until the new reservoir is needed and the house is demolished, the city may rent it out to make some income. Or the city may trade the land for other acreage closer to the water treatment plant that is four miles away from the Hull Prairie acreage. According to O’Connell, there’s enough money for the land acquisition in the 2017 Water & Sewer Capital Improvement Fund. Also at Monday’s meeting, the board of public utilities voted to enter an agreement with the Wood County Port Authority to help extend services to a new portion of the Woodbridge Business Park….


Gubernatorial hopeful Jon Husted stomps at Spots

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Secretary of State Jon Husted is a great believer in technology. That’s what allowed him to cut the cost of operating his office at a time when state spending was on the rise. That’s what allowed him cut the state’s incorporation fee from $125 to $99. That’s what let him to cut the workforce in his office by a third – through early retirement and attrition, he explained. His 7-year-old daughter will not have to learn to drive, he said, because she’ll come of age in a time of self-operating vehicles. And Husted wants to be in the driver’s seat in Ohio as it enters the age of driverless cars. The Republican candidate for governor was in Bowling Green Monday morning at a meet and greet with citizens at Mr. Spot’s, hosted by Ohio Rep. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) and her husband, Jim Gavarone Theresa Gavarone used the occasion to formally announce her endorsement of Husted. She said she’s backing Husted to replace Republican John Kasich because in her tough fight to win her seat last fall, he stepped in and helped her. She also said she appreciated his cutting filing fees for new businesses and reducing the cost of running his office by $14.5 million. Husted said that people may not like change but it is coming. “We want to make sure every generation of people who graduate from Bowling Green have opportunities in Ohio. “The states that get this right are going to be the ones that are going to win, and the states that don’t are going to fall behind,” he…


College Credit Plus doesn’t always add up

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News As high school graduates step across the stage to receive their diplomas, more and more of them will be taking college credits with them. This is the end of the second year of the state’s College Credit Plus a program that allows students as young as seventh grade to earn college credit. The program replaced the Post-Secondary Options Program. Pushed by Gov. John Kasich, College Credit Plus greatly expanded the options, and required school districts to make the program available. Students can take courses in their home school taught by credentialed high school teachers as well as going to campus. They can also take online classes. And more and more students are availing themselves of the opportunity, said John Fischer, vice provost for strategic enrollment planning at Bowling Green State University. He expects that as many as a third of students who enroll in BGSU next fall will bring some college credits with them. Fischer has been the lead administrator overseeing BGSU’s participation in College Credit Plus. In the past school year almost 1,900 students were enrolled in at least one College Credit Plus course at BGSU, either on the Bowling Green or Firelands campus. More than half are seniors with juniors accounting for another 700 or so. The numbers by grade drop off from there – 175 sophomores, 41 freshmen, 13 eighth graders and four seventh graders. About 300 take their courses on the BG campus or online with 685 taking classes at high school sites under the aegis of the main campus “From an enrollment perspective it is robust and incredibly strong,”…