Government

Wood County Auditor distributes taxes

Wood County Auditor Michael Sibbersen has announced the distribution of the real estate, public utility tax, and special assessments for the second half 2016 settlement. A total of $81,567,728 was collected and distributed including $2,419,667 for special assessments. In addition $9,034,412 is to be reimbursed from the state income tax funds, $6,066,961 in non-business credit, $852,995 in owner occupied credit, and $2,114,456 in homestead exemption monies. These represent tax reductions for qualifying properties. The Wood County County Commissioners requested that the 1.3 mill voted Human Services Levy collection be suspended for this year due to sufficient fund balance. This provided tax relief of $40 annually on a $100,000 home. Wood County currently maintains 74,670 individual land parcels of record and distributes the taxes to 18 school districts, 19 townships, and 26 cities and villages. Wood County has more than 100,000 individual special assessments, which are distributed to regional, county, municipal and township governments. Examples include ditch construction and maintenance, sewer and water systems, street lighting, street cleaning, and tree maintenance programs. Totals for the second half revenue distribution are as follows: WOOD COUNTY $2,851,090 REGIONAL WATER AND SEWER $723,791 COUNTY DITCH MAINTENANCE AND CONSTRUCTION $222,235 COUNTY SEWER AND WATERLINE PROJECTS $225 MAUMEE WATERSHED CONSERVANCY $44,227 BOARD OF DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES $8,672,079 ALCOHOL, DRUG ADDICTION &MENTAL HEALTH BOARD $2,861,003 PARK DISTRICT $1,129,684 COMMITTEE ON AGING $790,775 BOARD OF HEALTH $634,745 HISTORICAL CENTER $60,664 JOB & FAMILY SERVICES $0 WOOD COUNTY LIBRARY BOND $134,689 TOWNSHIPS $6,400,725 MUNICIPALITIES $7,117,554 SCHOOLS $49,992,604    


Lt. Gov. makes it her business to help Ohio businesses

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor was right at home talking to the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce members, sharing their disdain for governmental red tape that bogs down businesses. “I was with you, fighting the bureaucracy,” Taylor said, speaking of her time as a CPA prior to entering government. That frustration led her to cross to the other side. “I discovered what I really wanted to do was serve,” Taylor said during the mid-year chamber luncheon this past week. “I wanted to be a part of writing the laws.” She started out small, running for a position in city government, then worked her way up to state representative, then state auditor, and finally to her current position as lieutenant governor under John Kasich. In government, Taylor said, she has been able to fight for taxpayers, bringing about regulatory reform. “The status quo is never acceptable for me. We hold every state governmental agency responsible for their regulatory impact on business,” she said. “If the answer is – ‘That’s what we did before’ – that is not acceptable.” Taylor described her approach as a “common sense” strategy, to look at how regulations such as those protecting the environment were affecting businesses. State rules were reviewed with a special emphasis on looking at the impact on business, she said. That analysis led to 60 percent of the rules affecting businesses being rescinded or amended, Taylor said. “We have to understand, what we do in government does affect business and job creation,” she said. Consequently, Ohio’s unemployment is down and wages are rising faster than the…


Public hearing planned on transit grant

A public hearing will be held in the Council Chamber at the City Administrative Building, 304 N. Church St., Bowling Green on Aug. 16, at 1:15 p.m. for public comment.     The City of Bowling Green is applying to the Ohio Department of Transportation for an operating and capital assistance grant from the Ohio Public Transportation Grant Program. The operating grant will provide financial assistance for public transportation service within the city limits of Bowling Green in 2017.  The service currently operates Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is recommended that all passengers, including wheelchair users, schedule their ride one hour in advance.  For rides originating and ending in Bowling Green’s corporation limits, fares are $3.50 per one-way trip; elderly, disabled and children ages 4 to 13 ride for $1.75 per one-way trip (with a city-issued transit ID card), and package fare is $1.75.  For those rides originating and/or ending outside the corporation limits (up to one mile outside city limits), fares will be $4 per one-way trip; elderly, disabled and children ages 4 to 13 ride for $2 with a city-issued transit ID card (package fare is $2).  Children under 4, passengers’ language interpreters and personal care attendants ride free regardless of where the rides originate or end. No service changes are proposed. For more information call 419-354-6203.


Bicyclists feel they are spinning their wheels in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The roomful of bicyclists was asked how many considered Bowling Green to be a bicycle friendly community. No one raised a hand. Instead, the 40 or so bicyclists shared stories of how unwelcoming the city is to two-wheel travelers. They told of streets marked as bike routes that have no berm for bicyclists, of road repairs that leave streets layered with loose gravel, of storm sewer grates positioned so they snag bike tires and of motorists hostile about sharing the road with bicycles. And they discussed bicycle plans adopted by the city nine years ago – with very little progress made to improve bicycle travel in the community. That transportation master plan update from 2007 recommended that the city consider bicycle facilities as part of all new or re-construction road projects, that all bike routes have improved signage, and that the city consider eliminating parking on streets for bicycle routes. When the bicyclists in the library meeting room were asked to identify the streets they would most like to see accommodate bikes, they listed the same streets that had been designated in the 2007 plan. Many felt that they were just spinning their wheels. Tuesday’s meeting was a joint effort of the city’s Bicycle Safety Commission and the City Council Transportation and Safety Committee members Daniel Gordon, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino. The goal was to gather input from bicyclists on what streets they would like modified in some way to improve safety for cyclists. The group also discussed options for making the streets more accommodating to bikes. Those options include: Widening…


BG policy makes sure city won’t get stuck with bills for political rallies in community center

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As a swing state much sought after by the presidential candidates, Ohio may become a second home for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during the next three months. In preparation for campaign visits prior to the November election, the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Board on Tuesday adopted a new fee for candidates wanting to hold events at the city’s community center. The new fee is intended to help pay the actual costs, since security for presidential candidates requires that the entire center be closed to the public. The $750 fee will be added on to existing rental fees for the gym, classrooms and floor coverings required for a campaign event. In the past, the community center has been used for campaign rallies by Mitt Romney in 2012 and Bill Clinton campaigning for Hillary Clinton in 2008. “We essentially had to close the whole building,” said Kristin Otley, director of the city’s park and recreation department. The community center brings in about $500 a day in the summer, and up to $1,000 a day during other times of the year from admission and class fees. So the new fee splits that in half, and asks campaigns to pay $750, Otley explained. “If we need to shut down the entire center,” then at least the city won’t be shorted on revenue, she said. The city will also require that campaigns pay the fee in advance of any rally being held at the center. In the past, the city has not required that, Otley said. Bowling Green did receive payments from the Romney and…


Murder prompts calls for violent offender registry

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The murder of a 20-year-old University of Toledo student last week has spurred a call from Northwest Ohio citizens for a violent offender registry in the state. So State Senators Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, and Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, have begun working on a system that could better inform and warn the public about violent offenders in their midst. Citizens in the region asked legislators to consider such a registry following the murder of Sierah Joughin in Fulton County.  James Worley, the man charged with Joughin’s murder, was convicted of abduction in 1990 and served three years in prison. Gardner said he and Hite, who both represent portions of Fulton County, are responding to people outraged and horrified by the murder and the similarities to the previous abduction. “We are considering concerns and anxieties of citizens,” Gardner said. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 10,000 people had signed the petition asking for the registry. “This person obviously is a sick, disturbed individual,” he said of Worley. “The question is, are there any other unsolved murders around the state.” A violent offenders registry would at least make citizens aware of such offenders residing in their neighborhoods, Gardner said. To determine the best way to set up such a system, Gardner said he has spoken with four sheriffs, the Buckeye Sheriff’s Association, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and county prosecutors. “We’re doing our homework,” he said. “We are thinking about the most practical, best way to do this.” The system would probably work similarly to Ohio’s existing sex offender registry law. Several other states have…


Review of BGPD shows very low use of force, few citizen complaints

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News There were enough chairs set up in the Simpson building Tuesday to seat every citizen who had filed a complaint against the Bowling Green Police Dvision in the past three years. And there would be room for more. None of them showed up when a visiting accreditation team from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc.  set up shop to receive citizens’ comments. City Councilman Bruce Jeffers was there. He said the police force is “positively engaged with the community.” In a time when there are so many reports of clashes between police and citizens with violence “going in both directions,” he is “amazed” how the BG officers “deal with large number of partying students … without losing control or using excessive force.” Planning Director Heather Sayler was there as a resident to praise the department, especially the D.A.R.E. program. Fire Chief Tom Sanderson was there to lend his support to Chief Tony Hetrick and the officers. He and his crews see first-hand BG police officers’ ability to de-escalate tense situations, which allows EMS crews and firefighters to feel safe doing their jobs. That camaraderie between the fire and police divisions is not always the case, said Robert Johnson, a retired Illinois State Patrol lieutenant colonel. Also on the CALEA team was Capt. Brad Fraser, from Shelby, North Carolina. Lt. Daniel Mancuso serves as the BGPD’s accreditation manager. That wasn’t the only surprising thing they found in reviewing the BG police’s performance from 2013 through 2015. Over that period, Johnson said, Bowling Green officers never used their firearms, nor did they use their…


County hears concerns about large dairy farms

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Milk does a body good. No one is disputing that. It’s the byproduct of the dairy cows that local officials are questioning. Last week, the Wood County Commissioners heard from three people about problems associated with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in the county. Those concerns included a full manure lagoon left behind when a large dairy went bankrupt, the damage caused on rural roads not built to handle mega dairy traffic, and the impact on Lake Erie when the manure reaches the lake and fuels algal blooms. Vickie Askins informed the commissioners that when the Manders Dairy went bankrupt about four years ago, it left behind about 10 million gallons of manure it its lagoon. Since then, about one million gallons have been trucked to the Campbell Soup plant and run through its digesters. That leaves about 9 million gallons of manure behind at the dairy, located at the corner of Rangeline and Maplewood roads, southwest of Bowling Green. “It’s been sitting there basically full,” Askins said. Federal law requires that the manure must be taken care of when a CAFO closes, Askins said. And Ohio EPA requires that no manure be applied to farm fields unless up-to-date soil samples and manure analyses are obtained. Askins, a self-motivated watchdog of mega dairies in Wood County, said neither has been done. The lagoon is nearly full, and no field application study documentation can be found. Yet, she has seen evidence of “manure irrigators” being constructed near the site. “Wait a minute,” she said. “No manure shall be applied till you have a valid…


BG residents asked to conserve electricity Monday

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After a weekend of blasting air conditioning, Bowling Green electric customers are being asked to cut back on their electricity use on Monday afternoon. The city utility department is asking residents to voluntarily hold off on doing laundry, cooking and set air conditioners at a higher temperature. It’s not that the electric system can’t handle the demands, according to Utilities Director Brian O’Connell. And it’s not that there are any risks of blackouts or rolling brownouts due to the peaking power usage. It’s not about the power. It’s about the money. Customers are being asked to conserve power Monday from 2 to 6 p.m. so the city can save on electricity costs next year, O’Connell said. “There’s plenty of power available and the grid is in good shape, but if we can conserve during these peak hours, the city can save on transmission and capacity costs next year,” the city released in a statement. “Lowering the peak demand will help keep the city’s electricity rates low.” Though the temperatures are expected to be higher on the weekend, residents are being asked to conserve on Monday, when industries will be an additional pull on the electric grid. Bowling Green’s electric rates are based on a transmission charge and a capacity charge, O’Connell explained. The transmission charge for next year will be calculated based on the city’s peak energy consumption this year. “So what we are paying this year is based on last year’s peak,” he said. The capacity charge is based on the average of a particular hour of electric usage during the…


City makes slow and steady progress on land use plan

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Progress on land use issues in Bowling Green is a marathon – not a sprint, according to City Council member Bruce Jeffers. For those who doubt that progress is being made by the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee, Jeffers reported otherwise during Monday’s council meeting. “We are continuing to move forward, slowly and deliberately, with planning a variety of improvements for Bowling Green,” he said. The council, mayor, administrative staff and citizens are helping to implement actions listed in the land use section of the city’s comprehensive land use plan. “I wanted people to know we are not sitting on our thumbs,” Jeffers said. So far, the efforts have focused on zoning, streets, neighborhoods and general aesthetics. Jeffers listed proof of this as the rezoning of properties along East Wooster Street in the downtown area, street improvements further east on Wooster Street with roundabouts planned at the I-75 interchange, and Complete Street enhancements being discussed all along East Wooster. The city is also working to revitalize neighborhoods, and has selected a consultant to help devise a plan. That plan will include public/private partnerships, coordinated financial incentives and the changing of some subdivided homes back into single-family owner occupied houses. Residents will be asked to participate in those plans. Jeffers also mentioned the garbage bin issue being worked on now by council. “Aesthetic regulations are more elusive than we might first expect,” he said, listing future aesthetic issues to tackle such as building maintenance, landscaping and excessive clutter. “A very thorny issue, which many people mention, is signs,” he said. Signs have…


Public forum planned on bike lanes in BG

Bowling Green City Council’s Transportation and Safety Committee and the city’s Bicycle Safety Commission are teaming up to hold a forum for the public asking for  input on what locations should be prioritized for implementing bike lanes. The forum will be July 26, at 6 p.m., in the public library.


Recycled tire material tried on buckled sidewalks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is trying out a new product that may put a slight spring in the step of walkers as well as help trees along city sidewalks. Buckled up sidewalk pavement is being replaced by a product made from recycled tires. The first experiment with the rubber surface sidewalks is being tried on a small section of Eberly Street, where  tree roots had buckled up the paved sidewalks, said Bowling Green Public Works Director Brian Craft. Craft explained to city council Monday evening that the recycled tire product is flexible with expanding tree roots, and with the ground as it freezes and thaws in the winter – “where concrete will break.” The rubber will not only help trees by allowing their roots to grow without buckling the concrete, but it will also be beneficial to walkers. It should reduce the trip hazards of broken pavement, and it will allow the water to run into the ground rather than gathering on the pavement and freezing in winter. “It’s a way to save the trees and not damage the roots,” Craft said. The city may try the rubber material next on some sidewalk sections on North Maple Street. The recycled tire product costs about $6 a square foot, which is comparable to concrete. However, the rubber takes more labor and time since it has to be mixed as it is applied. “The pace is slower,” Craft said. But it is probably worth the expense, “if it saves you from taking down a perfectly healthy tree,” whose roots are causing upheaval with concrete sidewalks. The…


County warms up to solar field tax exemption

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The future looks bright once again for the solar field planned by the city of Bowling Green. Tuesday morning, the Wood County Commissioners approved the tax break requested for the largest solar field planned in Ohio. The approval came one day after the work at the site was scheduled to begin – since the commissioners refused to grant the 30-year tax abatement for the $43 million project until their questions were answered. Though it took longer than hoped, the delay will not negatively impact the project which is set to be completed by the end of this year, said Daryl Stockburger, of the city’s utility department. “At this point, the project can keep its schedule,” Stockburger said Tuesday after the commissioners met. “We are only a day behind.” Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards said he understood the commissioners’ desire to get their questions answered. But he was also relieved that the project could now move forward. “It’s a wonderful project,” Commissioner Craig LaHote said. “It would be a great gem to have here.” But the commissioners refused to be rushed into approving the tax break. “We’ve had less than two months to look at it,” LaHote said. “This abatement is unique,” he said. The county has granted tax breaks to private companies before, but this request is different in its size and duration, granting an exemption of $7.3 million over the first 15 years. Most tax abatements are based on the number of jobs created by a business. But this request differs there as well, since there will be no jobs beyond…


BG debates trash bin enforcement – issue fines or confiscate cans?

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council wants to make sure that once a garbage bin ordinance is passed, that it is enforceable. So on Monday evening, council debated whether violators should face fines or have their trash cans confiscated. Council member John Zanfardino expressed concerns about the penalty portion of the ordinance. He is in favor of ordering violators to pay fines when problems are spotted. Waiting to confiscate the cans on garbage pickup day would be like arresting someone for walking around with an open bottle days after the violation, he said. He asked that the city warn residents for first violations, then issue fines for additional violations. “To me, that’s a very laborious way to address it,” Zanfardino said of city workers confiscating the cans. Council member Sandy Rowland shared concerns about the city taking away garbage bins from violators. “I just don’t think it’s going to work for enforcement,” she said, voicing concerns about city workers entering private property. But Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter said the cans would only be removed from property when they are sitting by the street on pickup day. “We don’t want people to go on private property. We own the right-of-way,” City Solicitor Mike Marsh said. The city already confiscates trash cans that are left at the roadside for several days. Residents then have to pay $50 to get them back. Council member Bruce Jeffers said confiscation of a trash bin sends a strong message. Marsh cautioned that fines cannot be levied against residents without a citation being issued. “There isn’t a way to fine someone…


BG’s new arborist has deep rooted love of trees

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s new arborist is a big believer in diversity. That’s one of the reasons he was attracted to the city – its diversity of trees. Grant Jones, who was working at the botanical Longwood Gardens outside Philadelphia, knew of Bowling Green’s reputation as a tree hugging community. “I’ve always heard good things about Bowing Green and its commitment to trees,” he said. Jones shares that commitment – though he could do without the messy mulberry tree he has to park under at his temporary home. Since arriving on the job on June 1, Jones has been getting to know Bowling Green’s people and its trees. “There’s a really nice grove of old oak trees,” he said about the huge trees in City Park. “They look like they are doing pretty well right now.” “I think that’s one of the things I like about trees,” they take time to reach their potential, he said. “They’re not something that’s instant.” Unlike Nebraska, where he grew up, Bowling Green has a wealth of maple, oak, honey locust, crab apples and pear trees. “There’s not a lot of trees in Nebraska, so I got to appreciate the trees we had,” Jones said. And unlike many cities, Bowling Green has a tree inventory that tracks all the city-owned trees in the parks, cemetery and right-of-ways between sidewalks and streets. “That’s important,” Jones said. As tree diseases come and go, an inventory allows the community to track its susceptible trees and replace them with types that can withstand the diseases. A few years ago, it was the…