Government

Water & sewer district eyes BG as expanded water source

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the water wars continue in Toledo, the Northwestern Water and Sewer District is looking for the best partner to do business with in the region. The more officials study the issue, the better Bowling Green water looks. “What we’re seriously looking at now is Bowling Green,” NWSD Executive Director Jerry Greiner said Sunday during an open house at the district headquarters located on Ohio 582 between Bowling Green and Perrysburg. Bowling Green’s value in water services rose to the surface nearly three years ago when the algal bloom crisis prevented Toledo water users from consuming their water. Bowling Green’s water had no problems. Since then, concerns about Toledo’s water quality and expense has led many areas of the region to reconsider their contracts with Toledo. In addition to large surcharges, surrounding communities are also being forced into tax sharing agreements if Toledo water leads to economic development. “That’s sometimes difficult to swallow,” Greiner said. The dissatisfaction has led to a great deal of study on alternative water sources – with Bowling Green being one of the options. Earlier this year, Waterville switched over to Bowling Green water. Now the water source is being eyed by three other regions – the Northwestern Water and Sewer District, Perrysburg and Maumee. According to Greiner, Bowling Green currently has enough water capacity at its existing plant to supply one of the three entities. To supply more, the city would need to expand its plant, Greiner said. And the Bowling Green reservoir space has to expand regardless of whether or not more customers are added, he…


Wood County to direct growth with new land use plan

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The new Wood County Land Use Plan does more than give lip service to organized development – it’s added some teeth. Recently the Wood County Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt the new land use plan, which will direct growth to areas with the roads, waterlines and sewer lines to handle it – while maintaining the agricultural and natural areas that are also important to the county. “It’s nice because you have zoning, and zoning is great for directing growth, said Dave Steiner, director of the county planning commission. But the land use plan takes it a step further. “Without a plan, you don’t have something to fall back on.” So if a developer wants to rezone some acreage in the middle of prime farmland for industrial use, the land use plan helps back up the rejection by the county and townships, Steiner said. The plan takes into consideration the latest census information, demographics and development. The plan also looks at “reinvestment areas,” where previous development has “fallen by the wayside” and may need a jumpstart with brownfield development, Steiner said. And the plan defends agricultural areas that are still vital to the county’s economy. The county had outgrown the last land use plan, which had been adopted in 2007. “It was not nearly as comprehensive as this one,” Steiner told the commissioners. The guiding principles of the land use plan are as follows: Support sustainable land use and development patterns, and identify and protect natural and environmental resources. Protect prime agricultural land and support agricultural production. Target economic development areas to support…


Overall voter turnout 11.2% for local primary election

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Voter turnout in Wood County for Tuesday’s primary election was a weak 11.2 percent. That means nearly 90 percent of the registered voters left the fate of the Bowling Green City School’s income tax renewal and the city council candidate race up to the few people who showed up at the polls. Of the 38,424 registered voters in the areas of Wood County with items on the ballot, just 4,302 voted. The low turnout means that two Green Party candidates made it into the November election by getting just 41 and 31 votes. It’s not that voters didn’t have opportunities to cast their ballots. Early voting was offered 30 days prior to Tuesday’s election. The Wood County Board of Elections was open every weekday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The week prior to the election, the hours were extended to 7 p.m., and the office was open last Saturday and Sunday for voters. The exact voter turnout in Bowling Green is not calculated by the board of elections, since the primary election had issues in Bowling Green, the Bowling Green school district area, Henry Township, Jerry City, Tontogany, and Rossford school district. But it is known that overall, the turnout was 11.2 percent. “That’s a pretty low percentage,” even for a primary election, said Terry Burton, director of the Wood County Board of Elections. The turnout in some ways is disappointing to Burton. “The democracy side of me says I wish people participated in the process,” he said. “We go through the same process, no matter how many vote.” The last…


Latta’s health care vote leaves some constituents feeling sick

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Congressman Bob Latta said the nation needs rescuing from the “disaster that is Obamacare.” So on Thursday he became one of the 217 Republicans who voted to push out the Affordable Care Act to replace it with the American Health Care Act. The vote was followed by cheers from Republican members of Congress who had promised for seven years that they would get rid of the ACA. “It’s very evident that Obamacare is failing the American people, and its problems continue to grow,” Latta posted on his website. “The promises of Obamacare have been thoroughly broken, and the problems it has foisted on hardworking families can’t be ignored.” “Constituents in my district have told me about skyrocketing premiums, difficultly using their insurance, and the lack of choices they face thanks to Obamacare,” Latta stated. But many constituents in Wood County were left wondering Thursday if Latta listened at all to their concerns. Those citizens, who support the ACA, peacefully protested each week outside the congressman’s Bowling Green office. They wrote countless letters and made countless phone calls. The local citizens pleaded to be heard. They begged for a chance to meet with Latta. But on Thursday, he voted without a single town hall meeting on the health care issue. Some constituents did receive letters back from Latta – but they were identical form letters mailed out months after the local residents sent letters voicing their concerns. “In his bogus form letter that many of you received, he wrote that premiums would go down 10 percent under the new plan and…


BG agrees to trade land to expand business park

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council on Monday pushed through a land swap that will allow a business park to expand, and started the process to possibly add two additional roundabouts in the city. Council voted to suspend the rules requiring three readings of a land trade ordinance for Wood Bridge Business Park on the northeast edge of the city. Council voted unanimously to support the swap. A developer has purchased 43 acres just east of the Wood Bridge Business Park for warehousing and logistic services. The warehouse space will benefit existing Wood Bridge businesses, since many of them will use that space for storage which will allow them then to expand manufacturing spaces. That will create more jobs – which will increase income tax revenues for the city. The business park currently brings in nearly $1 million for Bowling Green City Schools each year, according to City Solicitor Mike Marsh. The extension of Wood Bridge Business Park to the east opens up the possibility for the park’s expansion to the south – eventually connecting with Bowling Green Road East. It would become an L-shaped development around the Meijer store. But to expand the business park to the south means a land swap with Richard and Judith Carpenter, who own the 65 acres east of Meijer. Marsh thanked the Carpenters for being willing to trade farm land. “They are supporters of our community and huge supporters of our school system,” he said. The deal goes like this: The city will trade approximately 80 acres of farmland east of the solar field, near Carter and…


BG steers toward rules to allow golf carts on some streets

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Golf carts and other slow moving vehicles will be allowed to operate on some city streets – but only after they jump through some hoops first. As of Jan. 1, a state law deemed it illegal to operate an under-speed or utility vehicle on public streets unless it is registered, Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter told City Council on Monday evening. A couple steps must be taken in Bowling Green before the carts can motor along city streets, according to Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett. First, the city must pass a local ordinance allowing them on public roads. They will be limited to streets with speed limits of 35 mph or lower. Second, an inspection program must be set up with the local police division. The vehicles must have proper brakes, lights, turn signals, tires, windshield wipers, steering, horns and warning devices, mirrors, exhaust systems, windshields and seat belts. Once an inspection is passed, the golf cart or other slow-moving vehicle can be registered and titled just like other vehicles. Stickers indicating registration will have to be placed on the carts. The city is still working on finding out how often the inspections must be performed. Fawcett said the city has received a complaint about a golf cart using public roadways in the Stone Ridge development. And the city administration and council members are also hearing from local residents who want to continue to drive golf carts on city streets. “We’re hearing that people do want the ability to do this,” Fawcett said. “We’re willing to work to make this happen. But there…


BG at-large council primary puts 4 women in race

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green voters narrowed down the field of at-large council candidates in Tuesday’s primary election – leaving four women in the race. Winning a place on the general election ballot were Democrats Holly Cipriani and Sandy Rowland, and Green Party candidates BeverlyAnn Elwazani and Carolyn S. Kawecka. A total of 10 candidates had filed for the two open at-large council seats. Running for the seats were four Democrats, four Green Party members, one Republican and one Independent. Terry Burton, director of the Wood County Board of Elections, said this is the first time the Green Party has had enough candidates to warrant a primary ballot in Bowling Green. None of the ward seats were contested in the primary election. The primary election whittled down the at-large race to a maximum of two candidates from each party. Following are the unofficial vote counts for the Democratic at-large candidates: Holly Cipriani: 423 Mark Hollenbaugh: 412 Robert Piasecki: 266 Sandy Rowland: 1,001 Following are the unofficial vote counts for the Green Party at-large candidates: Helen Kay Dukes: 29 BeverlyAnn Elwazani: 41 Carolyn S. Kawecka: 31 Rosamond L. McCallister: 20 Voters will elect two at-large candidates in the November election from the choices of Democrats Cipriani and Rowland, Green Party Elwazani and Kawecka, Republican Greg Robinette and Independent Nathan Eberly. One council member from each of the city’s four wards will also be elected in November. Following are the Democratic and Republican candidates who have filed for those seats. No Green candidates filed for the ward seats. First Ward: Democrat Daniel J. Gordon, Republican Ryan A….


BG Council wants to plug general fund problem

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council wants to get a handle on the city’s lagging general fund problem before it becomes a crisis. So prior to the next two council meetings, the Committee of the Whole will meet at 6 p.m. on May 15 and June 5, to talk about building up the city’s general fund revenue. Council member Bob McOmber advised his fellow council members to talk with constituents and ponder on the possibilities. “Think long and hard about this topic before that meeting,” he said during Monday’s council meeting. And leave all the options on the table. “Just sort of let the topic percolate in your mind.” McOmber isn’t expecting council to make any decisions on May 15, other than narrowing down the options to raise more general fund revenue. But by June 5, they should be prepared to choose. “We’re going to need to move fairly quickly,” he said. Stagnant revenue and increasing expenses have Bowling Green City Council looking at ways to bring more money into the city’s general fund. The city’s gains in income tax revenue have been eaten away by state and federal funding cuts in the past decade. The budget for 2017 lists revenue of $14,996,197 and appropriations of $15,623,253 – which means it is cutting into the balance by $627,056, and is not sustainable. The city’s overall revenue continues to be flat, as costs continue to escalate. While income tax revenue is up, the city continues to take hits from interest revenue, intergovernmental fund cuts such as estate tax losses, and the end to its cable…


BG to consider 2 more roundabouts on East Wooster

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials may soon seek another go-round at more roundabout funding. On Monday, Bowling Green City Council will hear the first readings of resolutions for two more roundabouts on East Wooster Street. The city is already working with the Ohio Department of Transportation on roundabouts at the Interstate 75 interchanges on East Wooster Street. The resolutions before council on Monday involve the intersections of East Wooster at Campbell Hill and Dunbridge roads. If approved, ODOT would pay 80 percent of the roundabout costs, with Bowling Green paying the remaining 20 percent. That means for the Campbell Hill rotary, estimated to cost $1,525,000, Bowling Green would pay $310,000 plus $153,000 for project preparation. For the Dunbridge Road rotary, estimated to cost $935,000, Bowling Green’s share would be $190,000, plus $95,000 for project preparation. Bowling Green is already working with ODOT to put two roundabouts at I-75 and East Wooster Street in 2018. The work will include pedestrian access along the bridge deck and aesthetic improvements for those entering the community. The Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments is seeking transportation projects that might qualify for the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program. Roundabouts often qualify since they allow traffic to continue moving at a steady pace unlike regular intersections that require motorists to stop and go. In addition to creating less air pollution, city officials are interested in the roundabouts because the East Wooster Street Concept Plan identified these locations for intersection improvements, including a “new look” for the corridor. The plan calls for a calmer and more aesthetically pleasing entrance to…


Electric study aimed at keeping customers from rate shocks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials reviewed a plan last week to control electric rate increases while still meeting revenue requirements. A cost of service and rate study proposed ways to develop rates that are fair and equitable – with few unpleasant surprises for customers. “This plan presents a way to sustainability, with limited impact on customers,” said Trey Shepherd, of Sawvel and Associates. “They want something smooth and level.” Bowling Green has a couple strengths in its favor. First, electric sales are continuing to increase. “We don’t see a ton of municipalities experiencing growth,” Shepherd told members of the city’s Board of Public Utilities Monday evening. More growth means less impact on customers since rate increases can be spread over more electric users. “Growth helps,” Shepherd said. “It really does help to limit rate increases.” The other plus for Bowling Green is its movement toward renewal energy. There is less reliance on market energy purchases, making the city less exposed to the volatility of the market, Shepherd said. Currently, nearly 40 percent of the city’s electricity is generated by renewable sources of hydro, solar and wind. “Compared to other municipalities in this part of the state, your renewables are higher,” he said. The city has been able to prepay $4.6 million into the rate levelization fund, due to growth in electric sales and lower than expected power supply costs over the last few years. Annual rate increases for residential customers are expected to be in the area of 2.83 percent. Most commercial and industrial customers will see rate increases of around 4 percent. No…


Wood County landfill filling up faster than expected

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s landfill continues to be filling up faster than expected. When 2016 rolled around, it looked as if the existing permitted space at the landfill would last another 11 years. By last summer, that remaining lifespan had shortened to eight to 10 years. And by Tuesday, that time had shrunk to six or seven years. The news was presented to the county commissioners on Tuesday by landfill staff and consultants. Since it takes a few years for any landfill expansion to be approved by the Ohio EPA, work is being done now to get the process going. The entire landfill area is close to 300 acres. Of that, 45 acres are permitted right now for use. It’s that space that has six or seven years left. The requested expansion will be for 65 acres to the north of the current area being used. The first phase of the proposed expansion would “piggyback” on top of a section already being used. The landfill is allowed to reach a height just over 100 feet. Bill Petruzzi, of Hull and Associates consulting firm, said a place to put trash is a treasure. “Wood County has continued to provide such a good service to the community,” Petruzzi told the county commissioners on Tuesday. In the last three decades, the number of licensed landfills in Ohio has dropped from 197 to 37, he said. Of those, more than half are private. “All along, Wood County has always done the right thing,” Petruzzi said. “You provide a needed service at a low price.” The county landfill has…


BG teamwork touted in ‘State of the City’ address

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Though it may sound trite, it’s teamwork that makes Bowling Green work, and it’s those teammates who will get it through tough times in the future. That teamwork was seen in city government last year, with a solar field being built, a park levy being passed, streets being paved, sidewalks being replaced and trees being planted, Mayor Dick Edwards said Thursday during the annual State of the City address. Vital members of the team are Bowling Green City Schools and Bowling Green State University, which have the ability to bring new residents and businesses to the community. “There are hundreds of details,” to make a community work, Edwards said during the address hosted by the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce. Among the many teammates are the fire division which responded to more than 3,000 calls last year, and the police division that reached out to the community with a new “Coffee with Cops” program. Both divisions are nationally accredited – which only six cities in Ohio can boast. “This speaks directly to their extremely high level of service,” Edwards said. “It’s a very, very demanding process.” Last year, economic development in the city brought in investments of more than $47 million in machinery and equipment, and more than $24 million in business construction. “Bowling Green is on the right track for 2017,” the mayor said, noting that during his annual visits with industries, many have indicated they are likely to add more jobs. The city’s utilities also continue to be a point of pride – with a state-of-the-art water treatment plant, an…


Solar site puts BG on the map for green energy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is now second only to Oberlin in Ohio for the percentage of renewable power in its energy portfolio. As if on cue, the rain stopped and the sun came out for the dedication of the new Bowling Green solar field on Thursday afternoon. The 165-acre solar field, which started producing power earlier this year, is the largest solar site in Ohio. And with a portion of the solar field’s product coming to Bowling Green, the city can now boast the second highest percentage of renewable energy in the state. “I applaud Bowling Green for its forward thinking,” said Pam Sullivan, executive vice president of American Municipal Power. The solar field, near the corner of Carter and Newton roads northeast of Bowling Green, has 85,000 solar panels that soak up the sun to generate power. The panels rotate with the sun so they can create more energy. On sunny days, the site can peak at 20 megawatts. The portion going to Bowling Green will supply 5 percent of the city’s energy needs. The addition of the solar field means approximately 40 percent of the city’s energy portfolio is now renewable. “Everyone from Bowling Green should be very proud of that statistic,” Sullivan said. The city earned the nickname “Blowing” Green when it had wind turbines installed, Sullivan said. Now it has truly earned the “Green” portion of its name, she added. It’s been a long journey for the city to go so green, said Brian O’Connell, public utilities director for the city. It started in 1999, when the city first purchased…


Pipeline panel set to answer questions from BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For months now, Bowling Green officials have listened to opposing sides of the Nexus pipeline. Mayor Dick Edwards has been particularly frustrated by the conflicting “science” being presented on both sides of the issue. So in an effort to find the facts about the potential risk of the pipeline on Bowling Green’s water treatment plant, the mayor is bringing together a panel of experts on the topic. The panel discussion on the natural gas pipeline and its potential impact on the city’s water source will be held May 8, beginning at 4 p.m., in the council chamber, 304 N. Church St. The discussion will not focus on whether or not the pipeline should be constructed, but whether it poses risks to the city’s water treatment plant, Edwards said. “I want to really focus in on the water treatment plant and the geology,” the mayor said. Edwards is also hoping that any concerns that need to be thoroughly explored are identified during the panel discussion, so the city can notify the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of the issues. “I’m not naïve that a lot of people are concerned about pipelines in general,” the mayor said. But the panel discussion will focus on the proximity of the pipeline to the water plant. The panel will consist of Dr. Charles Onasch, retired professor emeritus of geology at BGSU; Dr. Andrew Kear, assistant professor of political science and environment and sustainability at BGSU; Mark Baranoski, retired geologist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources; and Stephen Champa, a senior hygrologist for Eagon & Associates. Steve Kendall,…


BG to vote on school renewal levy, council candidates

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green voters will face a school tax, two liquor issues and a truckload of city council candidates when they cast ballots in the primary election next week on May 2. Bowling Green City School District will have a 0.5 percent income tax renewal for current expenses for five years. The income tax for the district began in January of 1993 and has been renewed every five years since. It makes up 11 percent of the district’s general fund revenue, generating $3.34 million annually. Superintendent Francis Scruci has stressed that the income tax issue is a renewal – not a new tax. Also on the ballot are several city council candidates. A total of 16 candidates have filed for the open seats. None of the ward seats will be contested in the primary election. However, filing for the two open at-large seats were four Democrats, four Green Party members, and one Republican. The deadline for filing for Independent candidates is May 1, too late to appear on a primary ballot. Nathan Eberly has indicated interest in running as an Independent. The primary election will narrow down the at-large race to a maximum of two candidates from each party. Since only one Republican filed, voters will be given the choice of ballots for the Democratic Party, the Green Party or for issues only. Terry Burton, director of the Wood County Board of Elections, said this is the first time the Green Party has had enough candidates to warrant a primary ballot in Bowling Green. Burton said the lack of a Republican ballot in…