Government

Small housing subdivision plan approved in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Planning Commission approved plans Wednesday evening for a small housing subdivision east of Peace Lutheran Church. The seven-lot subdivision will sit on the 3.5 acres between Pearl, Martindale and West Wooster streets. The backside of the development borders the homes on Western Avenue. The property, owned by David Maurer, will be called the Reserve at Martindale. The plan is to develop the subdivision in two stages, with the three lots along Pearl Street going first. The owner, represented by Dave Saneholtz of Poggemeyer Design Group, requested several waivers of subdivision rules and regulations. They were: Reduction of the 35-foot front yard setback to 25 feet. City Planning Director Heather Sayler said this was acceptable since many homes in that area have the small setbacks. In lieu of rear or side yard easements, the owner offered easements along the public right-of-way. Sayler said that was satisfactory. Delay of the waterline installation along Martindale Road until the lots along that road are created. Fire Chief Tom Sanderson said that was acceptable. Waiver from improving the existing street to the centerline. Avoidance of putting in sidewalks along the development since many streets in that area lack sidewalks. The sidewalks waiver request was the only one that met with opposition from city officials. “We do not support that,” Sayler said, explaining that bit by bit, the city has been trying to install sidewalks in residential areas. “We’ve been working hard to get sidewalks in wherever we can.” Sidewalks improve the walkability of neighborhoods and…


Failing septic systems in county estimated at 6,000

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As many as 6,000 failing septic systems in Wood County are sending sewage into public waterways. That estimate is based on the fact that there are approximately 12,000 septic systems operating in the county, with the average life expectancy of the systems at 30 years, according to Wood County Health Commissioner Ben Batey and Environmental Division Director Lana Glore. Because aging and failing septic systems are a problem statewide, the Ohio Department of Health has suggested that local health departments examine every system. “They want all septic systems to be looked at,” Glore told the Wood County Commissioners Tuesday during a meeting on septic systems in the county. Though admirable, the plan is quite “grandiose,” Batey said, explaining that the Wood County Health Division can’t meet that goal unless they go on a hiring spree. “The state’s expectation that we check every system in the next five years – that’s just not feasible,” he said. The Wood County Health Division already has a septic system operation and maintenance plan, but it is on a much smaller level, Glore said. Inspections of systems are complaint-driven or prompted by real estate sales. The health division works with the county building inspection office on preventing problems by determining the best locations for septic systems and making sure space is left for replacement systems. The health division also partners with the county engineer’s office to help map out systems using GIS. “We’re working toward better use of technology,” Batey said. The health division also works with…


BG residents and bicyclists clash over plans

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   There was a head-on collision Monday evening between city residents who want to safely bicycle in town, and city residents who want to hang on to their front yards and street parking. John Zanfardino, of City Council’s Transportation and Safety Committee, set the scene by explaining the long-awaited goal of creating bike routes in the city. “Everywhere I visit has bike lanes,” he said. “It seems to me a progressive concept we should consider.” The consultants working with Bowling Green on a community action plan asked about bike lanes during their initial visit to the city, according to council member Daniel Gordon. “The very first thing they noticed when they came to Bowling Green was a lack of bike lanes,” he said. “This is a national movement,” said council member Sandy Rowland. But plans to modify the first two streets for bikes met roadblocks Monday evening from neighbors who felt their concerns were being ignored. When City Engineer Jason Sisco presented the plan to widen sidewalks on the east side of Fairview to accommodate bikes, the neighbors asked why the bike lane wasn’t being placed on the west side along the golf course owned by the city. “Yeah,” several in the audience said loudly. Sisco said city officials had been worried about putting bicyclists too close to stray golf balls, but he added “there’s nothing that says it couldn’t be on the west side.” When given a chance to take the podium, several Fairview Avenue residents defended their front yards, and several…


Council doesn’t want to be kept in dark on solar project

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials don’t want to darken the bright future of massive solar field being built on city property, but Council members demanded answers Monday evening to some troubling questions on the project. Concerns have been raised about the percentage of Ohio workers used on the site and the fact that they are not being paid prevailing wages. Council President Mike Aspacher said he received an email from an AMP official in early September saying that prevailing wages would be paid to workers on the project. However, since then it has been reported that is not the case. “There’s some conflicting information,” Aspacher said. Council member Bruce Jeffers also expressed his frustration. “I assumed throughout this project that people would be paid prevailing wage.” The issue is complicated by the fact that Bowling Green owns the property for the solar field at the corner of Carter and Newton roads, northeast of the city. But the solar field is an AMP project, which has contracted with NextEra, which has contracted with Blattner Energy. Bowling Green Utilities Director Brian O’Connell said the city is hosting the solar field and buying energy from it, but not directly connected to the construction. “We’re somewhat removed from the construction,” he said. Neither the agreement with AMP nor the tax abatement granted to NextEra require the prevailing wages be paid or that union labor be used. If the project were the city’s, that would be different, O’Connell said. “We do have a prevailing wage requirement.” But in this…


Debate is over – green space to remain green

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It’s official. “Wooster Green” will remain a green gathering space for Bowling Green citizens for generations to come. After years of debate, City Council voted unanimously Monday evening to preserve the 1.7 acres at the corner of West Wooster and South Church streets as green space. The vote was met with a round of applause from those in the council chambers. The action was welcomed by those who spent months planning out a concept for the community space. “I thought all along it would pass,” Eric Myers, who led the task force to come up with a plan for the property, said after Monday’s council meeting. “Hopefully we can continue the momentum for fundraising.” Mayor Dick Edwards, a supporter of the green space concept, said he plans to convene the Green Space Task Force on Oct. 11 to discuss the next steps. 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. “It’s finally happening tonight,” Council member Sandy Rowland said. “It’s been a great journey. That property has just been waiting” to become a community gathering space. “I’m supporting this with all my soul and my heart,” she said. “I knew I would support this since the junior high was torn down.” Rowland said the new community space will help attract families to live in Bowling Green. “We will have a fabulous public space.” The task force’s plan was originally presented…


BG rejects moratorium on medical marijuana

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council split 4-3 Monday evening on enacting a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana cultivation, processing and retail dispensary facilities. So despite a request from the city attorney and city planner, the moratorium was scrapped. Council members Daniel Gordon, Bruce Jeffers, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino voted against the moratorium, while Mike Aspacher, Bob McOmber and Scott Seeliger voted in favor. After the meeting, City Planner Heather Sayler said her office has received two phone calls from prospective medical marijuana representatives asking where they would be allowed to do business in the city. As it is now, a retail operation could go in commercial zoned areas, a processing operation could go in industrial, and growing could occur in agricultural zoned areas. The state legislature passed the medical marijuana bill earlier this year, making Ohio the 25th state to legalize marijuana use for medicinal purposes. But few community regulations have been established, so several municipalities 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 last month when the issue first came before council. 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. Marsh added that the city does not have qualified personnel to set regulations for growing, processing or selling pot. But Gordon said he was not willing to add further…


Clinton vows to stay true to blue collar Americans

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Hillary Clinton made her pitch to the blue collar crowd in Toledo Monday – to people who pay their taxes and expect their elected officials to do the same. Clinton hit hard on the latest news that her opponent Donald Trump has likely not paid federal taxes for nearly two decades. She looked at her supporters gathered in the Amtrak station in downtown Toledo, and told them she understands them. “We believe in honest pay for honest work,” she said, mentioning her dad who printed drapery for a living. “He believed in hard work. He passed that on to me.” Those in the crowd appreciated her steady dedication to family and worker causes. Jennifer Rogers, of Toledo, said she likes how Clinton relies on her experience and her heart. “I think Hillary knows more about the world situation than any president we’ve ever had. I think the Republican party has done a real witch hunt and she’s stood her ground.” Larry Robinson, of Bowling Green, admitted he was not a huge Hillary fan. “I’m against Donald Trump,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t trust him to stick to his word.” So Clinton will likely win with Robinson by default. “When it comes time to vote, I’ll probably pull the lever for Hillary,” he said. Andrew Heller, of Toledo, had no doubts. “I think she’s obviously the only candidate qualified for the job.” He then looked at his two young daughters to explain another reason why he wouldn’t support Trump. “It’s despicable how he…


Jail inmate in hospital after beating in visitation area

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   An inmate at the Wood County jail is in St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo after being beaten by another inmate last week in the visitation area of the jail. Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said Sunday afternoon that the two inmates were in the visitation area when one punched the other in the back of the head. “We got the victim medical attention immediately and are pressing felony charges against the inmate who beat him,” Wasylyshyn said. Operations Captain Terry James said this morning that Jesse Perez, 36, Toledo, and Franklin Socha, 26, Berea, were having a disagreement Thursday in the visitation area of the jail, when Perez allegedly punched Socha in the back of the head. James said Perez, who was in the jail for domestic violence, punched Socha “several” times. Socha, who was in the jail for felonious assault, was visiting with his mother at the time. Socha was taken to Wood County Hospital, then transferred to St. Vincent in Toledo. The hospital would not release his condition this morning. No jail staff was in the visitation area when the fight occurred, James said. That is not unusual, according to James, who said two deputies were monitoring the area from the room next door. “They saw it and called for backup,” James said. The staff was in the visitation room “very quickly,” James said after watching video of the incident. “I was pleased with how fast we were in there.” Felony assault charges against Perez will be presented…


Fewer BG residents stashing trash in recyclable bins

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is trying to use the carrot and not the stick to teach residents about the new garbage rules. But it turns out they are also having to explain that carrots and sticks belong in the trash, not in recycling. The problem came to a head a few weeks ago, when the Wednesday recyclable collection route on the east side of the city consisted of 35 percent trash, according to Ken Rieman, of the Bowling Green Recycling Center. It was believed that the increase in the garbage in recyclable bins was an unintended consequence of the new city ordinance requiring that garbage bins be closed when being picked up. Rieman surmised that residents with overflowing trash bins were stashing the trash in the recyclable bins instead. However, as of last Wednesday, the trash in the recyclable bins had dropped to 20 percent from the peak of 35 percent, Rieman said. “It appears the city education efforts have had some success,” he said. Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said the 35 percent was “an alarming rate.” So the city started a strong education push for residential areas close to BGSU, where it was thought that students might not realize the difference between the green garbage bins and the blue recycling bins. Bright green stickers are being placed on bins that are being used improperly. However, if the education isn’t enough, the city can cite citizens for putting trash in their recycling bins. “Obviously, that is a last resort for the city,” Fawcett said….


Simpson Building parking lot to close for work

The City of Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department wants to make the public aware that the Simpson Building parking lot will be closed Tuesday, Oct. 4 – Thursday, Oct. 6. The parking lot will be milled, paved and striped during this time. For questions or more information call 419-354- 6223 or visit the city website at www.bgohio.org and click on parks and recreation.



BG solar project faces scrutiny over hiring practices

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A shadow of doubt has been cast over the hiring practices at the massive solar field being built northeast of Bowling Green. Claims have been made that the project is not adhering to the requirement that 80 percent of those employed at the site be Ohio residents. That percentage was a primary factor in the Wood County Commissioners approving a tax abatement for the project. And concerns have been expressed by city officials that there was an expectation that the project would pay prevailing wages. Officials from the electric subcontractor at the site, Blattner Energy, and the contractor for the project, NextEra Energy, both strongly defended their compliance with the 80 percent rule. However, they also clarified that the project has no requirement to pay prevailing wages. The giant solar project has been welcomed as good for the environment and good for the area’s reputation since it will be the largest solar field in Ohio. The project is located on 165 acres owned by the City of Bowling Green at the southeast corner of Carter and Newton roads. The solar array will consist of 85,680 panels that will track the sun from east to west everyday for maximum power generation. But from the beginning, the solar project stirred up a bit of controversy. The Wood County Commissioners initially refused to grant the requested 30-year tax abatement for the $43 million project until their questions were answered. The tax abatement request for the solar field was unlike those that normally come before the…


BG parks and rec sets course for next five years

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The five-year master plan for the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation is not “sexy.” But what it lacks in sex appeal, it makes up for in substance. Much of the plan focuses on maintaining the current parks – paving parking lots and fixing roofs. Nothing too flashy. Woody Woodward, executive director of the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association, complimented the park and rec board Tuesday evening for its new plan. “It matters. It helps set a course for you for the next five years,” Woodward said. He disagreed with the description that the plan lacked pizzazz. In fact, the plan has a quality that several communities neglect. “This plan gives you some time to breathe,” and take care of what the city already has, he said. “We spend so much time thinking what the next thing is, that we forget to take care of what the last thing was.” “It ensures that this community has the facilities necessary to make lives better,” Woodward said. The master plan was completed after a series of public forums was held earlier this year to collect community input on the parks. The forums were led by Shannon Orr, political science professor at Bowling Green State University. Orr said she has led forums many times in the past, but encountered something unusual at the park and rec meetings. “I’ve never run a forum where people were so enthusiastic and positive,” she said. The participants praised the friendliness of the park staff, variety of programs, reasonable prices, and…


BG Tree Commission gets to root of tree issues

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Bowling Green Tree Commission gathered for a meeting last week under a tree dedicated to a former member, Walt Ferrell. The tree, a three-flowered maple, was planted in the city’s arboretum located to the west of the city’s fire station on Pearl Street. The plaque at the base of the tree honors Ferrell, a 10-year member of the city tree commission, who graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture. “He was a good man,” said Bob Manley, a member of the tree commission. As they stood under the young tree, the commission continued its monthly meeting with the city’s arborist Grant Jones. They discussed the stress that the summer’s hot, dry conditions placed on trees – especially young trees trying to get established. “A lot of those really struggled,” Jones said. The city is currently doing a lot of pruning of trees for overhead power line clearance, and some trees are being removed in the area of Madison and Lorraine streets due to work on water and sewer lines. Jones assured tree commission members that the city was planting more trees that it was removing. Approximately 120 trees were planted in the spring, and another 88 are planned for this fall. The group also discussed the city’s new efforts to give tree roots a little more wiggle room by using a sidewalk surface that is rubbery and moves a bit rather than cracks from root pressure. The tree commission also discussed educational efforts in the city. Jones…


Big dairy blamed for busting up rural roads, draining township road budget

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Dave Housholder and his fellow Portage Township Trustees are tired of patching township roads only to have them broken and rutted a few months later. “I’m getting a lot of heck from the citizens,” Housholder told the Wood County Commissioners Thursday morning. The problem, according to Housholder, is that the MSB Dairy, a concentrated animal feeding operation with 2,100 cows, is beating up the surrounding roads with frequent use. Any other type of industry causing such heavy traffic could be held responsible for the road wear and tear, he said. But because of agricultural exemptions, the dairy has no such obligations. Portage Township resident Mike Billmaier joined Housholder to explain the problem to the commissioners. In his previous work as a contractor, Billmaier said he was held responsible for road damages. “It was our job to maintain the roads and cleanup our own messes,” he said. If he didn’t comply, “I would have been fined or put out of business.” The two men explained that the roads surrounding the dairy – Bloomdale, Portage, Emerson, Cloverdale and Greensburg – have suffered great degradation. Bloomdale Road, in front of the dairy, was repaired eight weeks ago and now is so torn up, Billmaier won’t drive down it. “I was literally appalled by the amount of damage,” Billmaier said. “It dumbfounds me that this much damage is allowed to go on.” Housholder asked the commissioners to help the township deal with the ongoing problem. First, he asked that they take a drive down past the…