Government

Kuhlman tries for court of appeals seat – sending local candidates scrambling for open seats

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Commissioner Joel Kuhlman has turned in an application for judge in the Sixth District Court of Appeals, sending more local candidates scrambling for seats. Kuhlman didn’t think much of it when some of his Wood County supporters approached him about filing for the ballot spot vacated when Court of Appeals Judge Jack Puffenberger withdrew his name on June 3. Kuhlman chalked it up to his local constituents being supportive. But then the push came from people outside Wood County, including encouragement from Lucas County’s handpicked candidate for the seat who declined the offer. So Kuhlman started taking a second look. “I’ve been struggling with it for the last couple days,” said Kuhlman, the lone Democrat on the county commissioner board. “I really like being a commissioner.” But after debating, he decided to take the chance. “I’m going to go for it,” he said Friday afternoon. Kuhlman’s decision has started a game of political musical chairs with potential candidates eyeing empty seats. “It’s a complicated mess right now,” said Mike Zickar, head of the Wood County Democratic Party. That’s because earlier in the week, Republican Tim Brown announced he was giving up his state representative position to take the top spot with the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments. “It’s like playing multiple games of chess right now,” Zickar said. Here’s why: Kuhlman is facing off with Republican Ted Bowlus right now for county commissioner. If Kuhlman is selected by the Sixth District’s eight central committee leaders for the court ballot, he has to give up his spot on the county…



Child abuse reports spike, another investigator to be hired

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When child abuse reports jumped in February, it was hoped the spike was just a blip. But then came May. “February set the all time high for Job and Family Services investigations in a month,” said Dave Wigent, director of the Wood County agency. “But in May, we broke the record we set in February.” Children’s Services has gone through brief spikes in the past, Wigent said. “This is going on a five-month trend.” Last year, the agency investigated 718 child abuse and neglect cases. The average has been 60 to 70 cases a month. But this year, the numbers were hitting 80 to more than 90 a month. In order to deal with the increase in child abuse cases, the office needs another investigator, Wigent told the Wood County Commissioners on Thursday morning. While the current staff can handle the increase for a month or two, the continued demands are too much for the present staff. The workload is being spread amongst the six current investigators and others on the Children’s Services staff. “All these folks are busy to start with,” Wigent said. Wigent presented graphs to the commissioners showing the average number of investigations handled per worker per month at other county Children’s Services agencies in Ohio. Of those listed, Wood County had the second highest workload, with each worker handling 13.6 investigations a month. Licking County was higher with 16 per worker, and Allen County was the lowest with nine per worker. “It’s pretty easy to say these seven people are the tip of the spear for us,” Wigent…



Tim Brown leaving Statehouse, but sticking with public service

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   State Rep. Tim Brown, R-Bowling Green, is stepping down from the Statehouse to return to his roots. Brown was hired as director of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments on Wednesday. The move ends his 27-year career in government, but returns him to grassroots public service that he found most rewarding. “It was the time I spent with Jim and Alvie, at the local level, that I enjoyed most,” Brown said referring to his years as Wood County commissioner with Jim Carter and Alvie Perkins. “Now I’ll have a chance to do it again,” Brown said this morning. “It’s the local stuff that matters to people. It kind of feels like I get to come home to those issues again. The public service isn’t ending on my part.” The decision to give up the Statehouse for the TMACOG leadership position was tough. “It’s bittersweet,” he said. “This path provides me with the opportunity to do the work I really enjoy doing.” Brown will probably start his new job in mid-July. His salary has not yet been set. Brown started his career in public service working for Congressman Paul Gillmor for eight years. He then served as county commissioner for 15 years, and is now in his fourth year as a state representative. He was not looking for a new job, but was approached by a few people about the difficulty TMACOG was having filling the top position. “The more we talked, I realized this is the work I enjoy. It turned out to be a remarkable opportunity,” he said. “It’s an…


Tim Brown named president of TMACOG

State. Rep. Tim Brown, R-Bowling Green, was selected Wednesday to be president of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments. Brown will replace Tony Reams, who is retiring. Brown, whose salary is being negotiated, may start as early as July 1. Brown, 53, was first elected to the Ohio House in 2012. He was appointed a Wood County commissioner in 1997 and subsequently elected. Brown said it would be up to Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, to determine the process to fill Brown’s seat in the House.


BG utilities director receives national award

Submitted by City of Bowling Green The Director of Public Utilities for the City of Bowling Green, Brian O’Connell, has been named the 2016 Robert E. Roundtree Rising Star Award recipient by the American Public Power Association. Mayor Richard Edwards stated, “Bowling Green is fortunate to have such a talented, thoughtful, and dedicated person leading our Utilities Department and working closely with the City’s independent Board of Public Utilities. Brian deserves this recognition and this award reinforces what we have known about him for a long time.” O’Connell has served as the Director of Public Utilities since 2011. He began his career with the City in 2004 in the Engineering Division. He has a passion for public power issues at the federal, state and local level, and regularly attends the APPA National Conference and Legislative Rally. He represents Bowling Green as well as 14 other municipal electric systems on the American Municipal Power Board of Trustees. Under Mr. O’Connell’s leadership, Bowling Green is on track to achieve a balanced portfolio that is responsible, sustainable, and derived by nearly 37 percent from renewable sources such as wind, hydro, and soon to be solar. Bowling Green’s rates remain competitive with the local investor-owned utility, and the system has a strong credit rating from AMP. O’Connell received the Roundtree Rising Star award at the Association’s national conference in Phoenix, AZ.


ODOT details road projects in Wood County

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Construction projects on Interstate 75 and surrounding roads have drivers tied up in knots – or stalled in traffic. “It looks like hell out there,” Wood County Commissioner Joel Kuhlman said during a meeting with Ohio Department of Transportation officials Tuesday morning. Every time he drives on I-75, which is being widened to three lanes in each direction, Kuhlman is amazed at the complexity of the project. “It could be way, way worse,” he said. The commissioners were told by ODOT officials that the widening project is on schedule, with the stretch of I-75 between Devils Hole and Oil Center roads expected to be done by the end of November. “Essentially, we’re where we need to be,” said Brian French, engineer on the project. But until it’s done, the disruptions to drivers will continue, with closures in the Perrysburg area expected till September, then closure of the southbound ramps for Route 582 planned after that. ODOT is trying to stagger road closures and detours. “We certainly appreciate 75 being widened. All of your predecessors talked about it,” Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said. “Even though we get caught in traffic jams,” Herringshaw added. But Todd Audet, deputy director of ODOT District 2 office in Bowling Green, isn’t apologetic about the congestion caused by the construction project which came sooner than expected due to early funding. It would have been irresponsible for the district to not snap up the construction dollars when they were offered, he said. “Funding became available and we’re doing as much as we can,” Audet said. The entire I-75 project should…


Patient advocate bill signed in Ohio law

One of the most comprehensive patients advocate bills in the nation was signed into law at the Ohio Statehouse Monday, according to State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green. Gardner sponsored Senate Bill 129, known as the Prior Authorization Reform Act, to require faster turnaround times for patients and medical providers to receive health care coverage decisions from insurance companies. “This bill begins a new era when patients can receive health care in a more timely manner – the same health care they expect, deserve and have paid for,” Gardner said Monday.  “We need a more modern, accountable and cost-effective prior authorization process in Ohio.  Soon we will.” Gardner said the Ohio State Medical Association had approached him to sponsor the bill. “I agreed with them we need a better system,” he said. “I’ve always been one who wanted to strengthen the doctor-patient relationship.” Nearly 80 health care providers and patient advocate organizations, including the American Cancer Society, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, several mental health organizations, the Cleveland Clinic and numerous other hospitals supported the bill. The lead supporting organization, the Ohio State Medical Association, said the bill is one of its top priorities during the current session of the General Assembly. “Senate Bill 129 has a number of provisions that will make the prior authorization process more transparent, more fair, and more patient-focused,” said Tim Maglione, senior director of government relations for the OSMA. Gardner said the bill was quite complicated, involving several medical organizations and tackling multiple provisions. “Most states have done one or two provisions at a time,” he said. Highlights of Senate Bill 129’s numerous reforms include:…


County housing analysis reveals lack of affordable rentals and lack of public transportation

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A new analysis of housing in Wood County revealed the same problems as past studies – too few affordable rentals and a lack of public transportation which doesn’t allow people to access less expensive housing. Dave Steiner, director of the Wood County Planning Commission, shared the latest Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing with the county commissioners on Tuesday. The study is required every five years in order for the county to get Community Block Grant Funding from HUD. The massive report digs into the county’s demographics, and looks at areas where fair housing opportunities can be furthered. Steiner said the report points out three areas needing improvement. First is the lack of affordable rentals, which are limited primarily to Bowling Green. Few low rent properties are available outside of the city, he said. Second is the lack of public transportation, which is especially detrimental in small villages. Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw mentioned the new Net Plus transportation program which should be in operation by the end of last week. However, that program is to provide rides to doctor’s appointments, not to the grocery story or social visits. “It does keep people in small towns kind of isolated,” Herringshaw said of the lack of public transportation. With Wood County being the seventh largest county geographically in the state, efforts to provide comprehensive public transit have stalled. “There’s no easy solution to that,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said. Steiner agreed. “I have yet to find a solution,” he said, adding that the need for public transportation will continue to grow. “With…


BG transfers land for potential buyer, The Beat Dance Company

Bowling Green City Council authorized the transfer of 2.3 acres in Bellard Business Park to the Bowling Green Community Development Foundation, Monday evening, in lieu of dues for economic development purposes. The foundation has a potential buyer for the acreage, The Beat Dance Company, which offers youth dance and gymnastics programs. The transfer of this property to the foundation and sale would result in approximately $25,300 credit towards the city’s annual community development foundation dues.


Buckeye Boys State convenes at BGSU

More than 1,200 young scholars from throughout Ohio will be at Bowling Green State University Sunday,June 12, through Sunday, June 19, for American Legion Buckeye Boys State. Students learn about city, county and state government by creating a mock government. City, county and state officials, along with American Legion volunteers, typically take part. Participants at Buckeye Boys State are also eligible for the BGSU Buckeye Boys State Achievement Scholarship. The automatic $1,000 scholarship for Boys State participants is renewable yearly and may be combined with other university scholarships. Buckeye Boys State was founded in 1936 and has been held at BGSU since 1978. In a letter this week to staff and faculty President Mary Ellen Mazey stated: “We’re committed to doing everything we can to continue this great collaboration.” She continued: “Buckeye Boys State and the dozens of summer conferences and camps we host give us the opportunity to showcase our campus and provide prospective students and their families with a taste of the BGSU experience. Our incoming freshman class includes 68 alumni from last year’s Boys State.


Sign language – variance granted for hotel LED sign

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A variance was granted Wednesday evening which will help a local business owner compete with the big flashy signs closer to the interstate. The Bowling Green Zoning Board of Appeals voted to grant a variance for a new larger LED sign for the Best Western hotel at 1450 E. Wooster St. The variance was requested by Harmon Sign to allow an 18-foot tall and 58.8-square-foot sign, which would encroach 17 feet into the 25-foot front yard setback. Nelson Pixler, of Harmon Sign, said the new electronic message sign is all part of a rebranding effort at the Best Western location. The new sign will not be any taller than the current sign, and will allow the owner to use the existing foundation. “It certainly will spruce up the area with the new look,” Pixler said. The hotel also has a very tall pole sign that was granted a variance in 1991, according to City Prosecutor Matt Reger. Paul Bishop, the son of Best Western owner Jake Bishop, explained the effort to rebrand the hotel, locally called the Falcon Plaza. Approximately $400,000 has already been spent on renovating the common areas, conference rooms, lobby and breakfast area. “I’m very proud of what we’ve done,” Bishop said. Next on the list is upgrading of all the individual hotel rooms, which should be completed next year. Though part of Best Western, the hotel will retain its local flair as the Falcon Plaza. “We intend to keep that as part of the identity,” Bishop said. Not only will the new LED sign be more noticeable to…


Green space still in limbo; BG offered Wood Lane home for expansion of city site

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The city of Bowling Green is still looking for a home for municipal offices. That’s what worries some residents, who don’t want to see the city’s new home built on the green space where the old junior high used to sit. City council has not addressed the issue since mid-April, when a consultant presented plans for a new city building sharing the green space area. So Monday evening, citizen Carol Kinsey asked council where the plans stand for the open space. Council president Mike Aspacher explained that there had been “no development.” The mayor and city administration are looking at all the alternatives for a new city building. He asked that citizens “be patient,” and added that the citizens’ support of saving the green space has not gone unnoticed. “We get that. We understand that,” Aspacher said. Council member Sandy Rowland assured that once the issue moves out of the council committee, public input will again be sought. “There’s a lot of interest in what’s happening,” Rowland said. One option to give the city offices more space occurred recently when Wood Lane officials asked if the city would be interested in buying the house just to the north of the city building on North Church Street. The house is used as a group home for individuals with developmental disabilities. “That house is certainly available,” said Mayor Dick Edwards. But the city has no plans to purchase the property, he added. “We have no immediate need for it.” Aspacher said “a very brief conversation” was held about the property and an appraisal was…


Communities compromise to get block grants

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   In an era of political bickering and obstinance, Wood County Planning Commission saw a rare example of compromise and cooperation Tuesday evening. As usual during the annual awarding of Community Development Block Grants, the planning commission had far more requests than there was funding. Seven towns asked for a total of $307,800, but the county had just $162,000 to hand out. Each town described its request, with the mayor or other official giving their best pitch. “Now’s the hard part,” Dave Steiner, director of the county planning commission, said of the selection process. “The state puts us in the position of only selecting four and the money is finite,” said commission member John Alexander. The commission weighed the value of the projects and the amounts the towns were willing to pay on their own. And then they tried to shuffle the projects around to meet the winning combination of $162,000 – but with no success. So instead of digging in and defending their requests, the four towns on the top of the funding list all agreed to shave some money off their requests and try to come up with more funding own their own. So when the math was done, the following communities got funding: Bairdstown, through the efforts of the Northwestern Water and Sewer District, will get $40,000 to help low and moderate income homeowners pay for sewer lateral installation costs. The town had asked for $50,000. Bairdstown is the last village in Wood County to get public sewers for its 50 homes. “There are a lot of low income and…