Government

City government may find room to grow right next door

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Members of the new Citizens Academy got a course Tuesday evening on city history, the branches of city government and the city finances. But the highlight of the class was the field trip. They wedged their way into cramped offices, squeezed through maze-like areas, and marveled at tangles of wires and mountains of boxes in the City Administration Building. Many in the Citizens Academy, made up of city commission members and local media, had heard stories about the city building, but few had seen the conditions in person. So the question naturally came up – is the city still talking about a new administration building? The answer was an emphatic “yes.” The city building, at 304 N. Church St., started its life more than a century ago as a school. It then was turned into a library, and in 1976 became the city administration building. The result is a 17,000 square foot building with cramped offices, maze-like spaces and cobbled together technology. But after years of discussion, the solution, it seems, may be right next door. Earlier this year, city officials announced that property at 140 S. Grove St. would be donated to the Wood County Senior Center for a new facility. The property was previously the setting of the school administration building. The new site would allow for a much larger senior center and for a building actually constructed for that purpose, instead of the retrofitted post office that had been used as a senior center for years. The move from 305 N. Main St. to South Grove Street would not…


Two sides at odds over proposed BG charter amendment

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Words matter. The proposed Bowling Green charter amendment is intended to give the community rights to a healthy environment and livable climate. But while that may be the intent, critics say the words go far beyond those reasonable rights. The wording of the charter amendment may be difficult for voters to digest. The supporters interpret it as giving citizens a right to peaceably protest projects such as the Nexus pipeline that is planned near Bowling Green’s water treatment plant. But others see the wording as so open to interpretation that it goes far beyond what most city residents would want. It hardly seems possible the two sides of the Bowling Green charter amendment issue are talking about the same two pages of text when they describe the proposal. Lisa Kochheiser and Brad Holmes, of the Bowling Green Climate Protectors, see the charter amendment as a way for citizens to intervene if the city does not adequately protect its citizens from harm to their environment. “We’re not trying to overthrow the government. We want to strengthen our government by adding to citizen rights,” Holmes said. The majority of people don’t want pipelines in or near their communities, he said. “This is going to be the most tangible way of people legally protesting.” City attorney Mike Marsh doesn’t want pipeline in the city either. And if there were a ballot issue to not allow Nexus on city land, he would support it. But the charter amendment goes far beyond that, he said. “It’s a far reaching, almost anarchy type of proposal,” Marsh said. “It…


Sibbersen served county 40 years in taxing position

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Mike Sibbersen started out at the Wood County Auditor’s Office in a summer job, testing local gas pumps and checking store scales for accuracy. “I remember doing Beeker’s” general store in Pemberville where the scales weighed penny candy. At the end of the summer, Sibbersen was offered two jobs – one teaching and one continuing at the auditor’s office. He took the latter. That was 40 years ago. For the last 24 of those years, Sibbersen has been county auditor – the tax man some people love to hate. “The news you have to convey is not always what people want to hear,” he said. In many ways Sibbersen is the opposite of his predecessor, Harold Bateson, who was boisterous and often confrontational. Sibbersen is measured, certain and exact – on everything from numbers to words. “I have the reputation around here of being a frustrated editor,” he said. “Words are important.” The job has changed a great deal in the past four decades – much of it due to technology and revisions in tax law. When Sibbersen started, in addition to checking weights and measures, he also had to inventory lock boxes of deceased residents for the Department of Taxation. “When I came here, we were still doing personal property tax,” that has been phased out by the state, he said. Now the office inspects all the store checkout scanners in the county to make sure they are accurate. They also have to be on the alert for credit card skimmers. The staff has dropped from 26 to 22 during his…


BG considers policies for use of Wooster Green site

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The design for the new Wooster Green has been determined, so the city is working to nail down rules for how the space can best serve its role as a public gathering place. The goal is for the open space at the corner of West Wooster Street and South Church Street to enhance the quality of life for Bowling Green residents, welcome visitors to the city, and increase commerce in the downtown. It has been recommended that the space be free and open to the public, except when previously reserved. The recommended rules (or policies) are as follows: – Amplified music or sound shall not be used unless previously authorized by the governing board. Such use shall not occur past 10 p.m. on weekdays (Monday-Thursday and Sunday) and 11 p.m. on the weekend (Friday and Saturday). These times may be amended by the governing board. – The sale and use of alcohol shall be done in accordance with applicable city ordinances and with the Ohio Revised Code. –  No one may use the space between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., unless previously authorized by the governing board or the municipal administrator. –  Vehicles shall remain on the access road, or another designed vehicular point-of-entry, unless authorized by the municipal administrator or governing board. –  Those reserving or using the space shall not drive any stakes or rods into the ground unless authorized by the municipal administrator. Restriction of this type of activity is recommended to protect underground infrastructure. –  Any hanging or securing of displays and/or decorations should only…


Search for citizen study leads Harvard grad to BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Jamie Piltch’s search for the true definition of a good citizen brought him to Bowling Green. Piltch, 23, is on a trek through the so-called rust and sun belts of the U.S. to discover whether Americans still care about being good citizens. His journey started in Washington, D.C., in May, then on to Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, then Bowling Green. From here, the recent Harvard grad was headed to Detroit, Saginaw, South Bend, Chicago, then onto Wisconsin and Iowa before heading south. Along the way, Piltch, is interviewing all types of people about their views on citizenship. Some of those interviews – including some done here in Bowling Green – are being posted on his blog   www.citizensstory.com. He sat down at Grounds for Thought and talked with business owner Floyd Craft and city attorney Mike Marsh. While in Bowling Green, he also spoke with an Afghanistan war veteran, a soon-to-be naturalized citizen, and a secretarial assistant at BGSU. Their views on citizenship can also be found on Piltch’s blog. Piltch, originally from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, hasn’t always fascinated by the meaning of being an American citizen. “Like most young people, I spent the first 20 years of my life mildly disinterested in politics. I voted in the 2012 presidential election, a moment of personal pride. But, outside of getting my license, I didn’t really interact with the government. I never voted in a local election and rarely thought about my town’s needs. I didn’t even consider doing those things.” However, he is the son of two teachers, steeping him in “nerd” genes. “During…


BG to get needed warehouse space for manufacturers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green manufacturers will soon have a place to warehouse items, rather than shipping them outside the city or using their own valuable production space. Ground was officially broken Wednesday morning for a 200,000-square-foot warehouse in an expanded area of the Wood Bridge Business Park on the east side of the city, off Dunbridge Road. “This is one of the most collaborative projects I’ve ever worked on,” Bowling Green Community Development Foundation Executive Director Sue Clark told City Council on Monday evening. The project called for teamwork with the Wood County Port Authority, Ohio Department of Transportation, JobsOhio, Poggemeyer Design Group and others, Clark said. And it called for the expansion of the business park into the next 100 acres to the east. “This is a really big event,” Mayor Dick Edwards said of the groundbreaking. “It’s fascinating how the warehouse is already underway,” Edwards said, praising Clark for her skill in navigating through the “minefields.” The warehouse is being built by Mosser Construction, which will own the site and lease it to Ohio Logistics. Clark said the additional warehouse space in the city will free up room at manufacturing sites to be used for production. “For many years, on our economic development visits, companies have relayed concerns about warehousing,” a legislative package given to council stated. “We’ve learned that, in many cases, companies are warehousing out of town.” City officials have also been told by local manufacturers that finding adequate warehousing is important because companies want to find space for new equipment or processes within their existing plants, and moving inventory…


County hears pitch for business incubator to hatch inventors’ ideas

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A business incubator may be set up in Wood County to help local inventors hatch their ideas. The Wood County Commissioners heard a proposal Tuesday morning from Rene Polin, president and founder of Balance, a company that helps entrepreneurs turn their ideas into reality. “You can’t just be a dreamer. You have to be a dreamer with a business plan,” Polin said. And that’s where Balance would come in to the picture. “We want to bring our panache in the industry from Cleveland to Wood County,” Polin said. To do that, Polin needs some type of very basic workspace – something with office space, power and connectivity. “I know that sounds primitive,” but that’s all that’s needed, he said. The firm’s Cleveland space is an old factory building. The firm works with entrepreneurs, helping them assess their plans, fill out necessary paperwork, and determine if the project is worth their time and investment. After all, most inventors aren’t good business people, explained Doug Miller, of the Wood County Economic Development Commission which is working to bring Balance here. “They don’t have any idea how to run a business,” Polin agreed. “We bring the management acumen.” The business incubator can help entrepreneurs determine if there is a market for their product, Miller said. “People get focused on their invention,” but if the public won’t buy it, the idea isn’t going anywhere, he said. Sometimes, the dreams need to be tweaked. “We ask the hard questions,” Polin said. “We don’t kill the dream, but we change their idea of what their dream can be.”…


Hotel tax may be hiked to promote BG to more visitors

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials want to help fill the local hotel beds, restaurants and stores. But to do that, more funding is needed, according to Wendy Chambers, executive director of the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau. So on Monday evening, Chambers and the CVB board made a pitch to Bowling Green City Council. They asked council to approve a three-year renewal of the current 3 percent hotel/motel tax, with the CVB continuing to get 60 percent of that tax revenue. The board also asked for an additional 1 percent hotel/motel tax, dedicated to the CVB. Todd McGee, vice chairman of the CVB and general manager at the newly remodeled Best Western Falcon Plaza, explained the tax is paid by visitors to local hotels and motels, and would have no impact on city residents. The additional funding is needed to do more marketing and advertising, to feed the local economy. “This would grow Bowling Green tourism,” McGee said. All the hotel and motel owners in the city support the 1 percent increase, he added. “We are a big destination of sporting events,” with regional youth athletics and BGSU sports filling up local hotels, McGee said. Events such as the Black Swamp Arts Festival, National Tractor Pulling Championships, and concerts also draw overnight guests to the city. “Now is a perfect time for this increase,” McGee said. A new Fairfield Inn recently opened, and another hotel will be constructed soon. His own location, Best Western, just put more than $1 million in renovations. “It is our job to bring people, teams and events to…


Anti-pipeline amendment doesn’t belong in city charter, McOmber says

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Just as the environmentalists don’t believe pipelines belong near the city’s water treatment plant, a Bowling Green City Council member doesn’t believe the proposed anti-pipeline charter amendment belongs in the city’s “pristine” charter. The anti-pipeline charter amendment remains in legal limbo – but just in case it’s cleared for the ballot in November, council member Bob McOmber cautioned about the language that may be inserted into the city’s charter. The proposed charter amendment is very difficult to understand, he said. And the portions McOmber does understand, he finds “highly objectionable.” “It’s inappropriate to insert that cause into the city charter,” he said during Monday’s council meeting. McOmber said the local residents behind the anti-pipeline charter amendment are a special interest group. While there is nothing inherently wrong with special interest groups, their views don’t belong in the city’s charter. “The proposal puts the cause of one special interest in the charter,” he said. The city’s charter is “pristine,” and has always been reserved for the mechanisms of city government. “I think it would be a mistake to insert special interests in the city charter,” he said. McOmber referred to the inflated Ohio constitution that has been allowed to grow into a “complete mess and embarrassment.” McOmber mentioned the successful anti-discrimination ordinances adopted by citizens a few years ago. That effort went through council to help with the drafting and adopting of the ordinances. “That is so much more appropriate,” he said. “This would be a mistake for the city.” McOmber, who is not running for re-election, suggested that prior to the election…


Scruci joins other districts questioning state report cards

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The state may need a refresher course on how to do testing. Once again, Bowling Green City School District scored low in some areas on its state report card. But according to Superintendent Francis Scruci, that may say more about the tests than the school district. In the area of “achievement” – which represents the number of students who passed the state tests and how well they performed on them – Bowling Green scored a D. The sting from that grade is lessened a bit by the similar grades earned across the state, Scruci said. Of the 607 districts scored, only 22 got an A, 15 scored a B, 22 got a C, and 58 earned a D. The vast majority – 490 – earned an F. “As educators we know when we create tests for classrooms, there should be a bell-shaped curve,” Scruci said. The fact that most districts failed, raises “obvious questions.” “This is a pretty good illustration that this system is not working,” he said about the state grade cards. Scruci is not alone in his harsh opinion of the state tests. Many Wood County superintendents share his criticisms. “Everyone is frustrated with the system itself,” he said. “The system is flawed. If a teacher were to give a test and get scores like that,” they would do it again. In addition to the “achievement” area, the other grades given to Bowling Green schools include: D for gap closing. This shows how well schools are meeting the performance expectations for the most vulnerable populations of students in English language…


Path to U.S. citizenship nearly impossible for most

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   To those who wonder why undocumented immigrants don’t just wait their turn to get into the U.S., Eugenio Mollo Jr. has an answer. It can take 20 years of waiting – and that’s for the lucky ones. “It’s not that easy,” Mollo said Thursday evening during a program on immigration sponsored by LaConexion’s Immigrant Solidarity Committee. The U.S. is operating under immigration law that was adopted in 1952. Prior to then, the law was updated every seven to 12 years. “Now we’ve gone 65 years without any comprehensive immigration reform,” said Mollo, an attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality. Meanwhile, the U.S. now has up to 12 million undocumented immigrants. The nation allows 226,000 Visas to be issued a year, based on family connections, employers who need particular expertise, or due to humanitarian issues. The antiquated system, Mollo said, permits no more than 7 percent of those Visas to go to immigrants of a particular nation. That is a problem for India, China, Mexico and the Philippines, he said. To explain the current system, Mollo used the example of a U.S. citizen having two siblings who wanted a Visa. The sibling from Uganda would have to wait 13 years from when they first applied. The sibling from Mexico would wait at least 19 years. The wait time is likely much longer now. “So many people have applied,” Mollo said. “My job is to help these people climb this immigration ladder,” he said. But the climb is difficult, especially with the federal government toughening standards and considering ending some options for refugees….


Anti-pipeline charter amendment now in limbo

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The legal battle to get an anti-pipeline charter amendment on Bowling Green’s ballot has come down to two sides – those who want to stop the pipeline and those who would want the jobs building it. On Thursday morning, the petition submitted by citizen activists worried about the effect of Nexus pipeline on the city’s water plant was challenged by a Bowling Green man who is a member of the local plumber-pipefitter union. The Wood County Board of Elections took information from both sides and will come back with a decision. Last week, the Wood County Board of Elections voted to allow the November ballot to include the controversial charter amendment. However, then a Bowling Green resident, David W. Espen, filed a protest with the board of elections about the charter amendment. Espen was not present at Thursday’s hearing, but was represented by the Columbus law firm McTigue & Colombo. Espen’s objections cite two possible problems with the charter amendment petition – one questioning the number of valid signatures, and the other questioning the authority of the city to grant the power requested in the petition. The complaint zeroed in on five specific signatures. Normally, that might not matter if a handful of signatures were found to be invalid. However, the pipeline petition had only one more signature than required to appear on the ballot. A total of 1,230 signatures were collected on the petition. By law, to make it on the ballot, the petition needed 714 valid signatures. It had 715. The five signatures in question are from Bowling Green State…


Pipeline charter amendment faces another challenge

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The effort to get a pipeline charter amendment on the ballot for Bowling Green voters is facing another challenge. Last week, the Wood County Board of Elections voted to allow the November ballot to include the charter amendment, which was petitioned for by people opposed to pipelines that could negatively affect the city. However, this week the charter amendment faces a new challenge. A Bowling Green resident, David W. Espen, has filed a protest with the board of elections about the charter amendment. Espen’s objections cite two possible problems with the charter amendment petition, according to Wood County Board of Elections Director Terry Burton. First, Espen claims the petition did not have a sufficient number of valid signatures. His complaint questions five specific signatures. Normally, that might not matter if a handful of signatures were found to be invalid. However, the pipeline petition had only one more signature than required to appear on the ballot. A total of 1,230 signatures were collected on the petition. By law, to make it on the ballot, the petition needed 714 valid signatures. It had 715. Second, Espen is challenging whether or not the charter amendment exceeds the city’s role allowed in the Ohio Constitution. The protest claims the issue goes beyond the limits permitted to municipalities, Burton said. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday morning at 8:30, in the fifth floor hearing room of the Wood County Office Building. Espen is being represented by the Columbus law firm McTigue & Colombo. The group supporting the petition will be represented by Toledo area attorney Terry Lodge….


Glass recycling expected to start again Thursday at noon

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Load up the glass that’s been collecting in the garage for the last two months. If all goes as planned, the Bowling Green Recycling Center will start accepting it at noon on Thursday. The Wood County Commissioners and the recycling center have come up with a deal. The agreement works for the county – which is paying for it. The agreement works for the recycling center – which will do the work and arrange transportation. And it works for local residents – who would rather see their glass recycled than landfilled. According to Bill DenBesten, president of the Bowling Green Recycling Center, glass will be accepted at the 24-hour drop-off site in Bowling Green, the 24-hour drop-off in Bradner, the weekend drop-off in North Baltimore, and the satellite trailers. Two months ago, the Bowling Green Recycling Center stopped accepting glass. The decision applied to all the center’s locations, including the 24-hour drop-off site in Bowling Green, and the satellite trailers and satellite facilities scattered throughout Wood County. Glass for recycling is particularly difficult to haul since it is very important that a load not be contaminated. Glass collected in Bowling Green and throughout the county usually has to be transported every three to four weeks, when 22 to 23 tons are collected. Glass recycling has been a costly operation for some time. However, paying for glass to be landfilled isn’t cheap either – with dumping costs at about $40 a ton. The recycling center had been sending glass from Wood County to a recycling site near Dayton. It was costing $30 a ton…


BG Community Action Plan draft gets mixed reviews

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The draft of the Community Action Plan got mixed reviews from citizens Tuesday evening. The 88-page plan was labeled ambitious and creative, but also as window dressing that turns a blind eye toward the city’s biggest problems. The panels outlining the draft plan stretched across the library atrium Tuesday evening for a public open house. They will now be on display on the third floor of the city administration building for a month. The Community Action Plan, drawn up by Camiros planning consulting firm, is intended to establish a vision for Bowling Green with priorities for the East Side and downtown areas. The draft plan is the result of many meetings with citizens, city officials and various community stakeholders during the past year. It calls for the city, university, businesses and citizens to work together on neighborhood plans. The changes called for in the action plan can be achieved through zoning, grants, development, or governmental programs. “The city needs to be a strong leader, but really it needs to be the whole community,” said Heather Sayler, director of the city’s planning department. Sayler said she realizes the draft plan is massive. “That’s why we’re giving it a whole month,” for the community to digest the plan and make comments. The Community Action Plan draft can be viewed and comments can be submitted on the city’s website on the CAP page. The community action plan sets eight priorities. Adam Rosa, of Camiros, gave brief descriptions of each: Core development. This involves the area along East Wooster Street between Bowling Green State University and…