Government

No illegal “skimmer” devices found in Wood County during sweep

The Wood County Auditor’s office participated in Ohio’s recent statewide sweep and no illegal “skimmer” devices were found in the county.  The sweep represents a continuation of the ongoing inspections that the auditor’s office conducts in a protection effort to prevent credit card fraud as a result of information theft at the pump.  A total of 64 counties participated in the coordinated search at nearly 1400 stations checking over 12,000 pumps. To this time 35 skimmer devices in 16 counties across the state have been found since last October.  The auditor’s office has issued an advisory to the gas stations in this county and continues to encourage operators and managers to protect customers by performing daily checks at the pump to ensure the safety of their customer’s credit information and combat crime.  This year nine “Skimmer Summits” throughout the state have also been hosted by county auditors to raise awareness of this danger. Consumers should know that paying for gas with cash is always the safest option at the pump.  Using a credit card is safer than using a debit card, because customers who use their debit cards risk their PIN numbers being stolen.  Motorists should use pumps near the attendant, as criminals often target pumps further from view.  Anything that seems out of place or indicates that a pump has been tampered with should be reported.


Help offered for safe drug disposals at home

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When you look in your medicine cabinet, how many old prescription bottles are looking back at you? Maybe there are some pain pills for post surgery recovery. Or maybe there’s some antibiotic you forgot to finish as you recovered from an infection. Wood County residents now have a save way to dispose of old prescriptions. Deterra drug pouches that deactivate drugs are being given away by the Wood County Educational Service Center. The zip-lock pouches deactivate drugs effectively, safely and quickly, according to Milan Karna, program coordinator with Wood County Prevention Coalition. “The compounds of the drugs are rendered useless by the carbon inside,” Karna said. Though some drug drop-offs are available at law enforcement agencies in the county, the Deterra packets can be used at home. The pouch top is ripped off, drugs poured in, water added, then zipped tight and disposed. Liquid medications can also be placed in the pouches. The packets are biodegradable, Karna said. This option is better than throwing pills in the trash or flushing them down the toilet, where the medications can make it into waterways, he said. And it’s much better than keeping old prescriptions in the medicine cabinet, where they can be tempting to kids – even good kids. Across the nation, prescription meds like these are finding their way into “skittles” parties, according to Andrea Boxill, deputy director of the Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team. Kids collect random pills from home and make a potluck of them at parties. An estimated 2,500 juveniles start taking opioids every day – and many of those…


Ashley Furniture plans to open in BG by November

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ashley Furniture store plans to soon furnish a store here in Bowling Green. On Wednesday evening, the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals approved a variance request from the home furnishings store. Ashley Furniture applied for variance to put up a larger sign than permitted at 816 S. Main St., in the same strip of stores as Big Lots and Subway. The location was formerly a Hallmark store. “They just want a larger sign to be seen from the road,” said Bowling Green Planning Director Heather Sayler. Members of the Zoning Board of Appeals questioned Ashley Furniture representatives about the hardship that the sign restrictions placed on the company. Company officials said the larger sign would be proportionate to the 24,000 square foot store, and would be able to be seen from the road, Sayler said. The board agreed to allow the variance. Company officials reported the furniture store may be open by November. Ashley Furniture has had a distribution center in Bowling Green since 2006. The warehouse, located in Bellard Business Park on the north end of the city, is currently undergoing an expansion to double its size, Sayler said. The retail Ashley Furniture site is leasing the South Main Street space from Southwood Plaza LLC/Tolson Enterprises, in Toledo. “Having a filled-in space is wonderful,” Sayler said. And having a retail store in the same community as the warehouse will make it more convenient for customers, she added. “It seemed like a nature fit,” Sayler said this morning. Also moving into the same strip of stores is a Rapid Fire Pizza restaurant,…


Ohio swing state status comes with privilege & pain

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ohio is just a face in the crowd of 50 states most years. But every fourth year, we have bragging rights that our votes truly count. As Ohioans, we get showered with attention every presidential election – and unlike citizens in New York or California, we matter. That’s because Ohio has picked winners in presidential elections 28 out of 30 times since 1896. “Ohio, hands down is the most important,” said Melissa Miller, political science professor at Bowling Green State University. “We have the best record of swinging to the winner.” Ohio isn’t just a bellwether state, it is THE bellwether state, Miller said Tuesday. And this year, we may well be the swingingest of the swing states. “We could be the Florida of 2000,” she said. Miller will be giving a presentation for the public about Ohio’s status as a swing state, Wednesday at 7 p.m., at Zoar Lutheran Church, 314 E. Indiana Ave., in Perrysburg. Miller will talk about Ohio’s role as a battleground state – which puts its residents in the bulls eye for both Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s campaigns. The latest polls which include all four candidates – Clinton, Trump, the Libertarian’s Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein – show Clinton and Trump incredibly close in Ohio. “They’ve been neck and neck for a long time,” she said. And the campaigns know more about Ohio than many Ohioans do. They know that Ohio most closely maps the national popular vote. The average deviation has only been off by 2.2 percent in the last 30 elections,…


BG wastewater rates not keeping up with costs

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wastewater is not exactly viewed as a prized commodity, like water or electricity. But Bowling Green officials learned Monday evening that they aren’t charging enough for their wastewater services. “Wastewater is kind of a weird animal,” Bowling Green Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell said Monday afternoon. Unlike water and electric, for which customers are charged more when the city delivers more – with wastewater the city charges for taking away a used product.  “There’s little ability to grow sales.” The city recently hired a consultant to look at the current wastewater rate structure, and look at the expenses to operate the city’s wastewater plant. The study found that the city is undercharging its customers. “We not currently collecting enough to fund the utility,” O’Connell said. The results of the study were presented to the city’s board of public utilities, with recommendations that revenues need to increase by about 21 percent in order to meet the projected 2020 revenue requirements. “We need to have a rate adjustment,” O’Connell said. The rate hikes will be spread out over four years, with 5 or 6 percent increases each year. The wastewater study also noted that the city’s residential and industrial customers are currently subsidizing the commercial and wholesale customers. Consequently, the commercial and wholesale customers will see larger increases than the residential and industrial users. “You don’t want those numbers to get too far out of whack,” O’Connell explained. As is typical, the board of public utilities will be given some time to digest the wastewater report before voting on any rate increase plan. O’Connell…


BG recycling efforts trashed with 35% garbage

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ken Rieman is accustomed to handling some pretty disgusting stuff. But lately, his job is enough to test even the toughest of stomachs. Last week, as he sorted through items at the Bowling Green Recycling Center, he came across raw hamburger squirming with maggots, dirty diapers and used feminine hygiene products. In the past, the amount of trash placed in residential recycling bins has averaged anywhere from 7 to 18 percent. But in the last couple weeks, that amount has jumped up to 35 percent. “That’s totally insane. We can’t handle that,” Rieman said. “That’s what I call abusing the system.” Rieman thinks he knows the reason behind the increase. He believes it’s an unintended consequence of the city’s new trash bin rules. He suspects the city requiring garbage bin lids to be closed is leading people with overflowing trash bins to sneak their extra garbage into their recycling bins. “The only explanation I have is the city trash rules,” he said. “They’ve said the lid has to be closed, so where does the trash go now?” On Friday, he stood at the Bowling Green Recycling Center, hand sorting items from bags that city residents had placed in their recycling bins. He sifted through cigarette butts, a filthy towel, footstool, used kitty litter, disc brakes, a broken scooter and rocks. “Anyone who thinks I ought to be sorting for recyclables is welcome to take my job,” Rieman said. But Bowling Green Public Works Director Brian Craft isn’t jumping to any conclusions that the new trash rules are causing the problem. “Trash in…


Time’s up for parking meters replaced by kiosks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Lilly Hinebaugh stood in front of the parking kiosk, reading the instructions. “Oh my God,” she said in response to the command that she enter her license plate number on the digital pad. So she sent her friend back to the car. “Can you go over and yell it to me?” “This is annoying,” said Hinebaugh, a BGSU student from Huron. She wasn’t alone. Monday was the first day that the new parking kiosks were in operation in the city parking lots behind the first block of South Main Street, on the east side. Three kiosks have taken the place of the individual parking meters, and require the motorists to punch in their license plate numbers as they pay. Rebeca Olivarez also was caught off guard. “I didn’t know my number. I had to go back. It was kind of a hassle,” she said. “It was easier to use a meter.” However, Olivarez said she liked the option of using a credit card with the kiosk. “That’s good if you don’t have change.” And she realized that like anything different, it takes time to get accustomed to it. “It’s just new,” she said. The three kiosks are located behind SamB’s restaurant, at the parking entrance on East Wooster Street, and near the parking entrance on Clough Street. Large electronic signs have been erected in the lot now to notify people of the changes. That didn’t help Traci Rodgers, one of the drivers unlucky enough to end up with a ticket on her car. “I didn’t know I had to pay,” she said,…


180th Fighter Wing shares tribute video created for local 9/11 memorial

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Anyone old enough to remember the Sept. 11 attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives in New York City, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, remember where they were when news broke of the terrorist attacks. As part of a memorial to those lives lost, members of the 180th Fighter Wing tell their stories of that day. One was still in school, in shop class, another was in a meeting at Wood Lane offices. One was serving in Saudi Arabia, another in New York City. And one was at the 180th, and piloted one of the many military jets scrambled that day. The 180th Fighter Wing is the site of Northwest Ohio’s 9/11 Memorial, currently under construction. Members of the 180th Fighter Wing were able to collect artifacts for the memorial, including steel beams from the World Trade Center, limestone from the Pentagon and soil from Pennsylvania where Flight 93 crashed. The memorial, designed as a sun dial, will also include locally, hand-blown glass pieces representing the 2,977 lives lost in the attacks. The memorial should be completed by Sept. 11, 2017.


State Democrats point out difference between tax cuts and tax shifts

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Tax cuts sound great – until communities realize the “cuts” are just shifts from the state to them. A group of Ohio House Democrats swung by Bowling Green during a statewide tour on Thursday, telling citizens to not fall for the “tax cut” promises. They joined up with House of Representatives candidate Kelly Wicks at Grounds for Thought to share their message. In an effort to reduce taxes, the state merely shifted responsibilities to local communities and schools, the Democrats said. It works like this: the state looks like the good guy by collecting lower taxes from residents and businesses, then the state slashes the money it previously sent to local governments and schools. That means schools need to pass more levies to pay for equipment and buildings. Libraries need to pass more levies to pay for books and bookmobiles. Municipalities need to pass more levies to pay for fire trucks, parks and roads. And college students have to pay fees for services that were previously part of the tuition, and walk away with degrees and debts up to $80,000. Meanwhile the state still looks like the good guy, and citizens are angry with local government, schools and colleges for asking for more money. The city of Bowling Green took an annual $1.3 million hit with cuts in the Local Government Fund and loss of estate and CAT taxes. “That doesn’t make sense that we are putting that much pressure” on local government and citizens, Ohio House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn said. “We want to make government in Columbus work for you,…


Zoning change would not take buildings to new heights

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials want to change the zoning code on building heights – not to raise limits, but to limit the questions raised. An amendment has been proposed that would eliminate the maximum floor limitation for all zoning districts. But the zoning would maintain the maximum height limitations. The number of floors would still be regulated by Wood County Building Inspection, which enforces the Ohio Building Code. According to Bowling Green Planning Director Heather Sayler, the change would alleviate some confusion caused by the city’s current zoning which poses limits on the number of floors and the height of buildings. The issue came up again earlier this year when a Hilton hotel was proposed at the site of the former Victory Inn at 1630 E. Wooster St. That proposal exceeded the city’s height and story limits, and the Zoning Board of Appeals rejected the request for a variance. The proposed hotel was 65 feet tall, five feet taller than allowed, and five stories high, one story higher than allowed in B-2 general commercial zoning. The proposed hotel would have been a relatively new Hilton product called Home 2, which offers extended stays. The change in the zoning language would allow a hotel to have five floors, as long as the height of the building did not exceed 60 feet. Sayler said she is unsure if the Hilton hotel project is still a possibility. The developers had submitted a new proposal that reduced the hotel height to 60 feet. The new zoning language would allow the desired five stories, as long as it…


BG picks three streets to make bike-friendly

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Engineer Jason Sisco admitted the city map showing a handful of yellow streets as possible bike routes didn’t look like much. But it was a start – and that’s what bicyclists have been seeking for years. During a Complete Streets meeting held by the Transportation and Safety Committee prior to the City Council meeting Tuesday evening, the first steps were introduced to make a few streets more accommodating for bicyclists. Complete Streets is a concept that calls for roads to be safe and accessible for all modes of travel – including bikes. The city adopted a long range plan in 2007, identifying several streets to become more bike-friendly. But that’s where it stopped when money got tight. “It went on the back burner,” city council member Sandy Rowland said. A community meeting this past summer brought together cyclists talking about the risks of riding in Bowling Green. They identified several streets they would like to see improved for bicyclists. “We certainly had a loud and clear message,” Rowland said. “They were tired of waiting.” Council member Daniel Gordon agreed, saying the city needs “at least one street we are working on in earnest.” And council member John Zanfardino said bicyclists have told him they will gravitate to safer roads – and any improvements are better than doing nothing. The Bicycle Safety Commission helped by narrowing down the street list to the top six that should be made more bike-friendly. Those streets were Conneaut, Fairview, Court, Clough, Pearl and Maple. During Tuesday’s Complete Streets meeting, that number was narrowed further…


Green space plan gets first reading green light

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   With so much debate swirling around the marijuana moratorium Tuesday evening, a long-awaited step by Bowling Green City Council almost went unnoticed. City Council gave the first reading to a resolution declaring the city’s property at 215 W. Wooster St. as open public space. With no debate and no fanfare, the property at the corner of South Church, West Wooster and South Grove streets was officially declared as open space. The resolution states the property, formerly the site of the city junior high, is to be developed in consideration of the concept design prepared by the Green Space Task Force. At least seven members of the Green Space Task Force sat quietly in the council chambers Tuesday evening, waiting to see what would become of their plan. They left without comment, knowing that their efforts were not in vain. The task force’s plan was originally presented to city council nearly a year ago. But the plan seemed to stall out at that point, and council decided to do further study on the site in case a new city building could share the property with a community green space. Though a study showed it was possible to combine both a new city building and green space on the acreage, the bulk of the public pressure came from citizens who wanted the site to remain undeveloped, except for a few town square features. Mayor Dick Edwards also threw his weight toward the preservation of a green space for public use. So on Tuesday, in the shadow of the medical marijuana moratorium debate, City Council…


Medical marijuana moratorium fails to get enough votes

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council needed six votes Tuesday to enact a moratorium on medical marijuana growing and sales. It got five. So on Thursday, it will be legal for people to get zoning permits to sell medical marijuana in the city – with no state regulations on the growing, processing and retail sales. The state legislature passed the medical marijuana bill earlier this year, making Ohio the 25th state to legalize marijuana use for medicinal purposes. State officials assured that regulations would be in place by the time the bill went into effect – which is this Thursday. But as of Tuesday, there were still no standards set by the state. So several communities are enacting temporary moratoriums on medical marijuana cultivation, processing and retail dispensary facilities. “We’ve been watching the state for weeks, waiting for some rules and regulations,” City Attorney Michael Marsh said. “There still aren’t any.” So “rather than have a free-for-all,” Marsh presented legislation asking that council put a hold on medical marijuana sales in the city until the state sets regulations. But to have that in place by Thursday, when medical marijuana becomes legal, city council needed to give the resolution three readings on Tuesday evening. And that required support by six council members. Since Bob McOmber was absent from the meeting, that meant all the council members present had to support the three readings. Five supported the moratorium, but one – Daniel Gordon – did not. “I don’t feel comfortable rushing this through tonight,” Gordon said. But some others on council saw it differently. “I don’t…


On this Labor Day, it’s laborers that the region is lacking

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   On this Labor Day, as many of the nation’s workers take a day off from the job, the Northwest Ohio region is facing new type of labor problem. This region is short on workers. Help wanted signs and ads linger longer now as employers struggle to find people to fill openings. It’s no longer that workers aren’t trained for the job openings – it’s that there just aren’t enough workers to fill them. “There are gaps in the workforce, as we all know,” Carolyn Rodenhauser, talent acquisition manager for the Regional Growth Partnership, said last week during a meeting with the Wood County Commissioners. In recent years, the big labor issue was the lack of people trained for the right jobs – truck drivers, welders, mechanical and industrial engineers, and other skilled manufacturers. But that is no longer the case, according to Mike Jay, director of strategic networks with Regional Growth Partnership. The region responded to those shortages by setting up training opportunities, so people have the necessary skills. “Now it’s we don’t have enough bodies,” Jay said. Part of the problem is the exodus from the Northwest Ohio region by high school and college graduates. Chase Eikenbary, regional project manager with JobsOhio, suggested that retention could be improved if graduate tracking data is collected, possibly by Bowling Green State University. “How do we keep them here,” Rodenhauser said of students after high school or college graduation. “Ideally, that helps all of us if they stay in the region.” Efforts are being made to attract more workers to the region, then streamline…


Juvenile offenders garden harvests more than food

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The community service garden being grown by juvenile offenders is helping kids clean up their lives as they get their hands a little dirty. The Wood County Juvenile Court garden, now in its fifth year, is harvesting benefits for the youth, local food pantries and families in need of fresh vegetables. As of last week, this year’s harvest was up to 3,140 tomatoes, 2,000 banana peppers, 750 mini bell peppers, 58 zucchini and 35 squash. But more importantly, the community service work garden is planting seeds in the youth working it. “It’s the ‘teach a kid to fish idea,’” said Ronda Downard, who cultivated the gardening idea with Lora Graves, both co-directors of the juvenile probation department. “It’s educating them as they are doing something for the community,” Graves said. For years, the juvenile court’s community service program offered offenders a chance to put in their hours by picking up trash. But the value of that was pretty limited, said Wood County Juvenile Court Judge Dave Woessner. “This has a benefit that reaches out to a lot of learning,” the judge said of the garden. So every Saturday, spring through early fall, juvenile offenders who were ordered to pay fines, court costs, or restitution, show up at the garden next to the juvenile court and detention center, to put in their hours. These are kids in trouble for offenses like truancy, unruly behavior, theft, underage consumption, drug offenses and delinquency. More than 80 youth have worked on the 40-foot by 32-foot garden so far this year. “A lot of these kids had…