Government

Study: More farmers need to take steps to reduce phosphorus feeding toxic algae

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Many northern Ohio farmers have already taken steps voluntarily to cut down on toxic algae blooms – but not enough, according to researchers. The U.S. and Canada have agreed to cut phosphorus discharge into Lake Erie by 40 percent in the next decade. But that goal won’t be met unless more farmers make some changes, according to researchers from Ohio State University. The OSU project found that the following steps by farmers would help reach that 40 percent reduction in phosphorus discharge, which feeds toxic algae in the lake: Apply fertilizer below the soil surface. Plant cover crops which prevent rain from washing fertilizer into waterways. These crops are grown in fields that would otherwise go unplanted. Plant buffer strips, with grass or non-crop plants surrounding the fields. These also keep the fertilizer from going into ditches or creeks, and ultimately into the lake. The OSU study found that 39 percent of farmers in the Lake Erie watershed already use subsurface fertilization, 22 percent grow cover crops and 35 percent plant buffer strips. Those steps have all been taken on a voluntary basis by farmers. However, those efforts are not enough, according to the researchers. To cut the phosphorus discharge in Lake Erie by 40 percent, each of those three preventative steps must grow by at least 20 percent. “A lot of farmers have already taken the risk … to help move the needle,” Jay Martin, project leader and director of OSU’s Field to Faucet water quality program said recently, according to the Associated Press. “That’s really encouraging. But we need to accelerate.” When contacted this week, Martin expressed optimism that voluntary efforts by farmers in this region of Ohio can result in the difference needed. According to Martin, information from surveys of farmers in the Maumee watershed shows there is great potential for farmers to reach the needed levels of adoption. “The surveys we have completed show likely future adoption rates for these practices exceeding these needed levels,” Martin said. “It’s also important to note that many farmers have already adopted these practices, as demonstrated by current adoption rates of 39 percent for subsurface placement of phosphorus fertilizer and 22 percent for cover crops,” Martin said. “With continued and accelerated adoption of these practices, it appears we can reach reduction targets.” Martin predicted more farmers will get on board once they see the value of the buffer and fertilizer practices. “Our surveys also tell us that one of the most important factors farmers consider while evaluating these management practices is perceived efficacy,” Martin said. “Farmers are more likely to adopt practices that they are confident will be effective at reducing phosphorus leaving fields.” To prove the effectiveness, several agricultural groups have introduced programs to test and demonstrate how these practices work,…


BG financial forecast not as sunny for 2017

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s city finances had a particularly sunny year in 2016 with rising income tax collections and a one-time overlap in receipts. But the forecast for 2017 looks far less bright – with storm clouds looming in the near future. “In 2016 we had a really good year,” council member Bob McOmber said Thursday during the final council meeting of the year. “We already know in advance that 2017 is going to be more challenging.” McOmber forecasted “clouds on the horizon” that need to be addressed. So as the new year rolls around, the city is looking for an umbrella – a plan to increase city revenues – in expectation of next year’s clouds. The budget for 2017 lists revenue of $14,996,197 and appropriations of $15,623,253 – which means it has a deficit of $627,056. On Thursday evening, City Council approved the appropriations for 2017. The city’s overall revenue continues to be flat, while costs continue to escalate. While income tax revenue is up, the city continues to take hits from interest revenue, intergovernmental funds, estate tax losses, and the end to its cable franchise income. Local government funds shrank from 18 percent of the general fund a decade ago, to 7 percent now. Interest revenue slipped from 6 to 3 percent of the general fund. McOmber pointed out the end of estate tax revenues and the loss of half the local government funds that formerly helped the city’s budget. He expressed concern that the state may decide it wants the other half of the funding. Council member Sandy Rowland said the “clouds” looming over Bowling Green are no fault of city administration. “We know we have lost money – none of it under our control,” she said. “We’re doing an outstanding job with what we have.” Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter warned earlier this month that if steps aren’t taken to cut costs or find new revenue sources, the problem will only get worse. “We need a sustainable plan to bring our budget into alignment,” Tretter said. So ideas to raise revenue will be a priority item for discussion in the new year. City Finance Director Brian Bushong told council earlier this month that the deficit may not be as dire as it sounds. Historically, the city has spent 95 percent of its budget, and the income is usually a bit higher than projected. “It’s not as bad as it seems,” Bushong said. Capital requests in the budget that made the list for funding in 2017 include work on the municipal court roof; vehicle replacements for public works, police, fire and administration; tree trimming truck boom; and equipment such as a traffic sign maker. Not making the cut were refuse/recycling trucks which can cost up to $250,000, and some deferred maintenance items…


Ohio mayors see state stripping power from cities

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The voices of cities and towns in Ohio are being drowned out at the state level, according to mayors across the state. So city leaders throughout Ohio are teaming up to speak up for needs of municipalities. Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards shares the concerns voiced by the Ohio Mayors Alliance, which is made up of the state’s 30 largest cities. Edwards said he and other mayors see the state gradually dismantling the authority of municipalities bit by bit. “Little by little, by little” legislation is being passed that usurps the power of cities and villages, he said. For example, the state just passed bills that stop cities from banning concealed firearms in municipal buildings, from raising their minimum wages, from monitoring speed limits with cameras at intersections, and from keeping cell companies from placing mini towers on city structures. Edwards believes part of the problem is the declining number of people with municipal backgrounds going into state legislature. In the past, city government was often a stepping stone to state legislature positions. But that is no longer the case, he said. “There’s this attitude of many members of the general assembly,” Edwards said. “Sometimes I think it reflects a lack of understanding with local government.” So the Ohio Mayors Alliance was created to promote that understanding. “We don’t want to sound like we’re a bunch of whiners,” but the mayors want state leaders to know the value of strong municipalities, Edwards said. “Mayors and members of council understand and are collectively expressing increasing concern.” Some of the recent state legislation makes it easier for businesses to avoid local standards. That occurred with the mini cell tower legislation, which allows cell companies to skip local hearings on placements of the towers. The change gives local residents and governments little control, while allowing cell companies to avoid the time and costs of making sure they meet community standards. Edwards said State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, understands that issue and voted against the bill allowing the mini cell towers. “His vote really reflected that,” the mayor said. The mayor is hoping to see similar understanding on the part of State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, who served on Bowling Green City Council prior to be elected. Though Edwards said he normally tries to avoid making issues political, he believes Ohio Republican leaders seem to be straying from the party’s platform of keeping government close to the people. “I see that moving increasingly in a different direction,” he said. That direction was apparent when the state made drastic cuts to the Local Government Fund.  Bowling Green’s share of the slashing left the city with $800,000 less annually than a decade ago. Though always hopeful, Edwards doesn’t envision restoration of those Local Government Funds. “I…


Ditch cleanup stirs up conflicting interests

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Farmers between Bowling Green and Perrysburg don’t take kindly to their fields being flooded out by plugged ditches. But it appears that people living in neighboring housing developments also don’t take kindly to being told how to handle the ditches that meander through their backyards. The two sides of the issue butted heads last week during preliminary hearings on clearing two ditches in Middleton Township. The opposing sides did a lot of eye rolling and head shaking at each others’ testimony before the Wood County Commissioners. The proposed ditch projects, petitioned by farmers Gerald Moser and Doug Pratt, start on Five Point Road and head north through the River Bend housing subdivision. Flooding already occurs in the Five Point Road ditch area, and is expected to get worse once nearly 300 homes are constructed in the development. According to Wood County Engineer Ray Huber, the watershed for the projects includes 764 acres. “This office feels that the quicker the ditch in question can be placed under county care, the better,” Huber stated in his report to the county commissioners. “In other words, this would lessen the impact on developed lots and facilitate ditch construction where home construction has not started.” Prolonging the ditch cleanup will only exacerbate construction issues later, Huber said. But attorneys representing the River Bend development said putting the ditches under a county maintenance program is unnecessary. The homeowners association can properly maintain the ditches, they stated. “The assumption is government can do a better job” than the homeowners, attorney Jerome Parker said. “That’s not true.” Brian McCarthy, developer of River Bend, said clogged ditches have not been a problem. “We’ve maintained our ditches,” McCarthy said. However, Huber said such efforts by homeowner groups are often unsuccessful. Duane Abke, of the county engineer’s office, said McCarthy made the same claims with the nearby Emerald Lakes subdivision. But the ditches there often flood with rain, Abke said. And the developer points the finger at the homeowners association as responsible for any improvements. Middleton Township Trustee Fred Vetter repeatedly shook his head during the hearing as the attorneys and developer denied any responsibility for flooding issues. “We gotta look 30 years down the road on how that ditch will be maintained,” Vetter said. The ditches are already not flowing freely. “The last time that ditch got cleaned” farmers pulled out their checkbooks and paid for the work, Vetter said. But they shouldn’t have to foot the bill once 300 homes are added to the watershed, he said. The estimated cost for the Moser ditch project is $65,000, and the cost for the Pratt section is $42,600. Parker also said the county engineer’s office took the ditch projects beyond their original scopes to include the River Bend development. He and attorney Drew…


BG hears concerns about car crashes, snowy streets, parking tickets

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council spent a lot of time on transportation issues last week – not just the flashy topics of roundabouts and pedestrian walkways – but also the more mundane issues of downtown parking, snow removal on streets, and curves that may be contributing to accidents. Nathan Eberly, who lives on Sandridge Road just west of Avery Drive, told council that two curves on his stretch of the road seem to be sending quite a few motorists into his lawn. He asked that more signage be considered to notify drivers of the upcoming curves. “I end up with several people in my yard,” especially in the winter when the roads are a little slick, Eberly said. There was a period last year during a storm when four cars ran off the road into his yard in about an hour. Eberly told council he no longer puts his lighted Christmas deer in the yard since they are too often the victims of accidents. Eberly said he and his neighbors would like the city to consider placing more warning signs for the curves. He was instructed to take his concerns to Bowling Green Public Works Director Brian Craft. Also at last week’s city council meeting, Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter explained the need for residents to comply with rules for “snow streets.” She talked about how problems can snowball if cars are not removed from the street in a timely manner. She showed a photograph of a vehicle parked on a “snow street,” which kept the snowplows from clearing the street, which then kept the garbage and recycling trucks from picking up bins placed by the street. Emergency vehicles may also not be able to make it down unplowed streets. All “snow streets” in the city are marked with white and blue signs labeling them. “That’s how you know you live on a ‘snow street,’” Tretter said. All cul-de-sacs are also considered “snow streets” since they cannot be plowed with on-street parking. The complete list of “snow streets” and the rules that apply to them can be found on the city’s website. If the city declares a snow emergency sometime between 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., any vehicle parked on a “snow street” must be removed within two hours after the snow emergency is declared. If the city declares a snow emergency sometime between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., any vehicle parked on a “snow street” must be removed by 9 a.m. Vehicles remaining on the streets are subject to towing at the owner’s expense, and could possibly be subject to a citation. “We need everyone’s cooperation with that,” Tretter said. Even if a street is not listed as a “snow street,” parking vehicles off the street allows for a more efficient plowing process…


BG makes no promises to fight pipeline further

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council made no promises this week to continue the fight against the Nexus pipeline. Earlier this month, council voted unanimously to deny an easement request for the Nexus pipeline to cross 29 acres of city land located in Middleton Township, about 2.5 miles east of the city’s water treatment plant. Council’s stand was cheered by well over 100 pipeline protesters present at the meeting. But many realized that the excitement of a small community triumphing over a big pipeline company was likely just a temporary coup. This week at city council, Bowling Green resident Neocles Leontis asked council about the next steps planned to oppose the pipeline. The company does not yet have eminent domain authority, but is actively pursuing that power. Council President Mike Aspacher said he had not spoken with fellow council members or city administration about future actions to halt the pipeline. Though the unanimous vote against the pipeline was definitely a feel good moment for the city – council also has to face the hard realities of its budget. And that budget doesn’t leave room for a costly court battle against the natural gas line, Aspacher said. “My personal feeling is, I would be very reluctant to take any legal action to stop the process,” he said. Last week, city council and administration had its first look at the complete budget figures for next year. The budget is already tight, and a court fight would be costly, Aspacher added. During the last council meeting, council member Daniel Gordon said the pipeline company currently does not have eminent domain powers because it has not yet proven the benefits it would bring to Ohio communities. “I’d personally like to see them not get eminent domain,” Leontis said. However, City Attorney Mike Marsh has warned that any battle against eminent domain would be a futile and expensive venture. The 36-inch Nexus natural gas pipeline is proposed for 255 miles from fracking fields in eastern Ohio, across the state, to Michigan and ending in Canada. Along its route, it will pass through Wood County, north of Bowling Green, then go under the Maumee River downriver from the city’s water intake. Once it gets to Waterville Township, a compressor station is proposed. The city’s acreage is currently rented out for farming, and has two Toledo Edison electric easements already on it. The Nexus pipeline was planned adjacent to those easements. Nexus had agreed to pay the city $151,000 for the easement – but that was prior to city council’s rejection of the request. Council members Bruce Jeffers and Sandy Rowland both said they would be interested in seeing further information on safety and environmental concerns about the pipeline project. Prior to the vote against the easement, Jeffers said he was…


County approves 3% raises in 2017 budget

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s new budget for 2017 calls for 3 percent raises for about 430 employees and $300,000 to help Bowling Green build two roundabouts at I-75 and Wooster Street. The appropriations for next year total $43 million – about $2 million more than in 2016. “It generally reflects the current healthy status of the county and our revenue sources,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said of the budget. The pay raises add up to another $698,000 from the general fund. The 3 percent increases were approved for employees in all commissioners’ departments, as well as those in the prosecutor’s, recorder’s, court security and public defender’s offices. A 3 percent increase will also be given to all remaining elected officials and general fund departments to distribute as they see fit. The funding to assist Bowling Green with the roundabouts was made after city officials asked the county for $1 million to help pay for the traffic circles. That request was later lowered to $750,000, Kalmar said, with the county ending up giving $300,000. “They felt that was a reasonable amount,” Kalmar said. The appropriations include $1 million in the permanent improvement fund, in an attempt to rebuild that fund. “It is the fund that helps us care for county facilities,” Kalmar said. The county also created a new fund to pay the cost of vacation and sick leave when employees retire, and to help cushion the effect of the 27 paycheck year that occurs every 12 years. Following are some of the bigger budget items for next year: $312,000 to replace and realign all the parking lot and exterior lighting at the East Gypsy Lane Complex. The LED lighting is expected to provide a significant savings on energy and maintenance costs. $219,664 to purchase six road patrol SUVs for the sheriff’s office. $323,700 for ongoing support of the information technology system for all county offices. $139,150 for the county office building northwest paver roof. $100,000 for hot water boilers at the jail. $73,510 for new carpeting in the prosecutor’s office. $60,000 for three new vehicles for the Department of Jobs and Family Services. $60,500 for a landfill loader. $60,000 for a new bus for Wood Haven Health Care. The commissioners also approved the addition of two full-time positions in the prosecuting attorney’s office. “Because of the ongoing cost of employees we are tightfisted with regard to new requests,” the commissioners’ letter about the budget stated. However, increased caseloads in the civil and criminal divisions of the prosecutor’s office led the commissioners to approve $139,123 to support one civil assistant prosecutor and one criminal assistant prosecutor. The sheriff’s request for an expansion of the booking area at the jail is not in the budget, but Kalmar said the commissioners are planning ahead for the…


BG moves on roundabouts & pedestrian crossings

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Motorists and pedestrians will be getting some relief on East Wooster Street with plans moving ahead for two roundabouts and two pedestrian crossings. Bowling Green City Council voted unanimously Monday evening to work with ODOT on roundabouts at the I-75 intersections on Wooster Street and on two pedestrian beacons on East Wooster Street to help people cross the road near the Stroh Center and near McFall Center. Though some who spoke at council are still skeptical of roundabouts, the traffic devices can reduce fatalities by more than 90 percent, cut injuries by 76 percent, and reduce all crashes by 35 percent, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Those safety factors helped convince council to approve the plans. While the roundabouts faced some concerns from local residents – the pedestrian crossings encountered no roadblocks. The crossings will have buttons for pedestrians to push, which will activate red lights. Motorists will be required to stop, explained Bowling Green Public Works Director Brian Craft. “They’ll no longer be running across five lanes,” Craft said about pedestrians trying to get across Wooster Street near the Stroh Center. They will no long be “hanging out in the middle of the street,” trying to make it to the other side. ODOT is investing $368,000 in the pedestrian crosswalks, with officials hoping to study the crossings in high traffic areas. The lights, called pedestrian hybrid beacons, will make it much safer for walkers, Craft said. ODOT is also sinking money into the roundabout project, committing $750,000 in safety funding, engineering and design. Sandy Wiechman, of Wood County Safe Communities, offered data to “ease some of the concerns and fears of roundabouts.” In 2013, Wooster Street between Mercer and Dunbridge roads saw 70 crashes, with 22 injuries. Based on the statistics from the Federal Highway Administration, the number of crashes could have been cut by 35 percent and the injuries suffered could have been cut by 76 percent. “With the roundabouts, a lot of that would be reduced,” Wiechman said. Roundabouts lead drivers to reduce their speeds, so any crashes that occur cause fewer injuries and less property damage. Wiechman said Perrysburg Township officials also got “a lot of pushback” about the roundabout recently installed on Roachton Road and Ohio 199. But officials are pleased with the rotary. “It’s great,” she said. Bowling Green resident Bud Henschen repeated some of his concerns that he voiced at the last city council meeting about roundabouts. “I hear about how great they are,” Henschen said. But he just isn’t sold on the concept. He voiced concerns about the roundabouts slowing down traffic, on them being difficult to enter, and creating traffic jams. After hearing the safety data, Henschen said he was still concerned about how the cost may affect his company. If the…


No limping along for Ohio’s lame duck session

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Lame duck legislatures don’t exactly limp along as the name implies at the end of the year. Instead, some make a sprint to pass sweeping legislation as the final days of the year tick away. During the past few weeks, Ohio’s lame duck legislatures managed to cram through dozens of bills that may not have stood a chance earlier in the year. The bills placed tight restrictions on abortions, allowed concealed guns on college campuses, forbid municipalities from raising minimum wage, and threw out renewable energy mandates. Pretty weighty stuff to rush through without the customary review process. By time the lame ducks were done, dozens of bills were passed by the Ohio House and Senate during the final three voting days of the 131st General Assembly, ending with a marathon session that started early one afternoon and concluded the next day in the wee hour of 3 a.m. That doesn’t sit well with State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green. “It is extremely difficult to handle 40, 60, 80 amendments and bills in the matter of two weeks,” he said. “We had more decisions that shouldn’t have been done,” in this past lame duck session, Gardner said last week. “Typically, it’s the amendments,” that are the biggest problem. “That’s the challenge in lame duck – to sort out what has to be done, what should be done, and what shouldn’t be done.” One of the bills missing from the list was a proposal to ban lame duck sessions – the flurry of legislative work every two years when members of Ohio’s House of Representatives have either been re-elected, defeated or relinquished their seats. Only about eight state legislatures allow bills to be passed during the lame duck session. But to be fair, only eight states have legislatures that meet throughout the entire year. Some state’s regular sessions are quite limited, such as Florida which convenes on March 3 and adjourns May 1, Utah which operates from Jan. 26 to March 12, and Virginia from Jan. 14 to Feb. 27. Those legislatures can reconvene later in the year, but only for specific topics. The term “lame duck” was reportedly created in the 18th century Britain to describe bankrupt businessmen. The term compared their diminished power to a bird injured after being shot. But in Ohio, the lame duck sessions seem to instead have a burst of energy to get bills passed that would otherwise be dropped from the schedule at the end of the year. The final couple weeks are used as the last ditch effort to get some controversial bills passed. “The bills die” if they aren’t passed by Dec. 31, so a rush begins to cram them through. “Legislators would rather not lose some of the progress that they have made,”…


BG seeks new sources of revenue to help balance city budget

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green will usher in the new year looking for some new ways to bring revenue into the city coffers. While income tax revenue is up, the city continues to take hits from interest revenue, intergovernmental funds, estate tax losses, and the end to its cable franchise income. Local government funds shrank from 18 percent of the general fund a decade ago, to 7 percent now. Interest revenue slipped from 6 to 3 percent of the general fund. “That is somewhat eye-opening,” said Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter, as she reviewed the city budget with council and department heads on Wednesday. “That makes us somewhat vulnerable” with 50 percent of the budget now coming from income tax revenue. So overall revenue continues to be flat, while costs continue to escalate. In fact, the budget lists revenue of $14,996,197 and appropriations of $15,623,253 – which means it has a deficit of $627,056. Tretter warned that if steps aren’t taken to cut costs or find new revenue sources, the problem will only get worse. “The revenue in the general fund has been flat for a number of years,” and additional revenue isn’t likely unless the city identifies other sources, she said. “We need a sustainable plan to bring our budget into alignment,” Tretter said. Specific ideas to raise revenue were not presented at the budget meeting on Wednesday, but both Tretter and Mayor Dick Edwards said revenue generation will be a priority item for discussion in the new year. “We need to get serious about having those discussions,” Council president Mike Aspacher said. City Finance Director Brian Bushong told council that the deficit may not be as dire as it sounds. Historically, the city has spent 95 percent of its budget, and the income is usually a bit higher than projected. “It’s not as bad as it seems,” Bushong said. Council member Bob McOmber recalled during good economic years when the city’s year-end balance was as high as $4 million. During the recession, that balance dipped down to $1.9 million. And the city has minimal discretionary money in the budget, he added. McOmber pointed out the end of estate tax revenues and the loss of half the local government funds that formerly helped the city’s budget. He expressed concern that the state may decide it wants the other half of the funding. “They sure took half of it away from us quick enough when they got in a bind with their own budget,” he said. “Thank goodness the income tax revenues have been as strong as they have,” McOmber said. Council member Sandy Rowland noted how the city has done well “in good times and in bad times” – maintaining services and providing safety. “We just have to be vigilant on a constant basis,” McOmber…


It’s beginning to look a lot like … time to shovel

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Mail carriers, dog walkers and kids trudging to schools aren’t the only ones who want sidewalks cleared of snow in Bowling Green. The city wants sidewalks cleared within 24 hours after snowstorms stop. And if homeowners don’t shovel their sidewalks, the city will do the work and send them the bill. This is how it works. If a citizen complains or if the code enforcement officer sees a snow-covered sidewalk, the city will send a contractor out to clear the walkway. The homeowner will then be sent a bill for about $65. If the bill isn’t paid, the charge will be placed on the property’s taxes. If the city has to return to the same property later in the winter, the owner will be charged the snow removal rate, plus receive a civil citation. The citation fines start at $50 and increase each time, with a maximum penalty of $150. The sidewalk regulations started out of a concern for children walking to school. “The focus was to keep kids safe walking to school, to keep them off the streets,” said Brian Craft, director of the city’s public works department. About six years ago, city officials added another step to the process after being accused by a resident vacationing in Florida of charging him improperly. So now, the city takes “before” photographs of the snowy sidewalks and “after” photos of the cleared walkways, Craft said. City officials would much rather landowners clear their own walks – but they also have an obligation to provide safe walking surfaces in the community. “We’re wanting to work with the residents as much as possible,” said Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett. The city has had the snow removal ordinance for years, but initially hoped that residents would just comply. That didn’t happen, Craft said. “People would call and say, ‘Why do you have this rule if you aren’t enforcing it?’” Craft recalled. So in 2008, the city changed its system. The city started clearing walks, charging residents, and issuing citations. In most cases, that did the trick. “People have changed their behavior,” Craft said. The policy is reinforced each year by city announcements and by peer pressure from neighbors, Craft added. “It’s common knowledge that you should shovel your sidewalk,” he said. Of course, there is a learning curve each winter. “Every year we get new residents,” said Heather Sayler, city planning director. The city checked on a few citizen complaints this past Wednesday, but found the sidewalks had been cleared, Sayler said. Because of last year’s uncommonly snow-free winter, the city did not have to shovel or cite any property owners, Craft said. Anyone wanting to report uncleared sidewalks may call the city public works office at 419-354-6227 or the city planning office at 419-354-6218.


County park district sets $4.7 million budget for 2017

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   This past year, Wood County Park District built a staircase into an old stone quarry, constructed boardwalks in two nature preserves, repaired a park ravaged by an ice jam, and moved 110-ton one-room school. But there is more work to be done – more than $1 million in capital improvements next year. The money will be spent on items like new restrooms, trail surfaces, playground equipment and an archery range. On Tuesday, the park board approved the district’s 2017 operating budget totaling $4,733,909. Among the larger capital improvement projects in the budget are: $160,000 for new restrooms at William Henry Harrison Park. $72,000 for roof replacement of the Otsego Park Stone Hall. $46,500 for an archery range and parking at the Wood County Historical Center. $108,650 for surface treatment on the Slippery Elm Trail. $59,000 for parking lot construction at Baldwin Woods. $60,000 for field tiling at Carter Historic Farm. $171,000 for parking lot and driveway at Bradner Preserve. $30,000 for playground equipment at Cedar Creeks Park. $10,000 for trail construction at W.W. Knight Preserve. The biggest investment will be made in Bradner Preserve, totaling $338,000. The plans call for the asphalt parking lot and driveway, rules signs, boardwalk construction, site lighting, interpretive center furnishings, garage/picnic shelter conversion, greenhouse/porch renovation, large grill and trash cans. The equipment costs increased a bit in next year’s budget. In the adventure programming area, costs will be incurred for the new archery range supplies ($3,850), the river kayak and canoe program ($15,000) and rappelling supplies ($2,500). Increases are also seen in the salaries, with raises approved earlier this year by the park district board. The staff salaries totaled $1,175,083 in 2016, and will be bumped up to $1,297,994 for 2017. The budget also calls for the addition of part-time staff, including a seasonal adventure position, a part-time naturalist, and a part-time farm specialist. The total estimated revenue for 2017 is $7,128,324. That revenue includes $4,154,926 in a beginning balance for the year, $2,839,231 from the 1-mill tax levy, and $134,167 from donations, fees, rentals and interest revenue. Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the park board discussed the use of funds from the ODOT Roadway Fund Pavement Preservation Project. The park district has $47,207 left in the fund, which will be used next year to pave areas in the W.W. Knight Nature Preserve, the Portage Road parking lot for the Slippery Elm Trail, and William Henry Harrison Park. The money not used in 2017 will be carried over till the next year. The board also went into executive session to discuss land acquisition, but took no action. In other business, the board also appointed Tim Gaddie to be the park district’s representative on the Wood County Historical Society Board.  


Demolition permit sought for former Pharm store

After years of sitting vacant, there is some action at the former Pharm store on North Main Street, in Bowling Green. The plan isn’t to renovate the site – but rather tear it down, according to Heather Sayler, planning director for the city of Bowling Green. The owner of the old Pharm site, at 1044 N. Main St., has requested a demolition permit from the city. Future plans for the site, just north of the Dollar Store, and south of Parkview Drive and Huntington Bank, have not been submitted to the city. The owner of the property, Isaac Property Holding Co., of Bryan, was not available to answer questions about plans for the site. The store has been vacant for about a decade. Prior to it being used as the Pharm, it was a FoodTown grocery store. According to Sayler, over the years businesses have expressed interest in the building, but nothing transpired. “They never seemed to pan out,” she said. “A lot of it probably has to do with the condition of the property.” The demolition permit is still waiting for the city’s approval.


BG helps citizens lacking housing, transportation

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green has used just over $700,000 in grant funding to help local residents make housing repairs, pay for housing for homeless, and help those most in need with transportation. The funds, from the Community Development Block Grant program, are used by the city to help low and moderate income citizens who lack adequate housing and transportation. “The value is remarkable,” said Tina Bradley, the city’s grants administrator. For example, earlier this month, the program helped install a furnace in a home where the old furnace broke down right before winter hit. “A family who would have been without heat, we were able to meet that need,” Bradley said. In the past year, the CDBG program, assisted by the Business Revolving Loan Fund, assisted low and moderate income families by using $701,640 to pay for: 17 housing repairs. 84 more adults (elderly and disabled) were issued B.G. Transit ID cards, providing them with access to half-priced fares. 129 people who were homeless were transitionally housed. 7 jobs were created/retained as a result of Business Revolving Loans. Fair Housing education and outreach. Bradley explained that the housing repairs include items that involve health and safety issues, for families of low and moderate incomes. The transit cards help elderly and people with disabilities to get to destinations such as grocery stores, medical appointments and social events. The transitional housing is provided by partnering with the Salvation Army. “They do most of the heavy lifting,” Bradley said, by working to arrange up to two weeks lodging at local hotels. During that period, the people are hooked up services such as Wood County Department of Job and Family Services to help with job and home searches. The transitional housing requests are often greater than the funds available, Bradley said. “We always exceed that number. There’s tremendous need,” Bradley said. “We plan to keep doing it.” The Business Revolving Loan Funds require participating businesses to create or retain one job for every $50,000 loan. The jobs employ people of low and moderate income. “Sometimes they create even more than that,” Bradley said of the jobs program. Fair housing education and outreach is also part of the CDBG program. “We are the point people over here if someone has a concern that is fair housing,” she said. Unlike other communities, which lose funding because of not meeting grant requirements, Bowling Green makes sure to make deadlines. “We have never been untimely,” Bradley said. However, the funds fail to pay for all the needs. “We’ve been able to spend our money down. Sadly, there are still people who have needs.” For those needs not met, Bowling Green officials try to fold the requests into the next year’s grant program or look for other funding resources. To learn more about…


Yemeni family fought to make it to U.S….now worried if they are safe here

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Mohammed Al-Dailami gave up his career and all his possessions to get his family out of war-torn Yemen. Now he worries that he has brought his wife and children to a country where they are not wanted. Al-Dailami, who created a language center and taught English in his homeland of Yemen, was one of 19 teachers selected from around the world to be part of the Teaching Excellence and Achievement program at BGSU in 2014. It was that visit to Bowling Green that convinced him that this would be a good place for his family. It also convinced BGSU that Al-Dailami would be a good fit for the English as a second language program here. So Al-Dailami was asked to teach and take classes here starting in the fall of 2015. It seemed like a perfect way to continue his education and to get his family out of Yemen, where bombings by nearby Saudi Arabia were making life very difficult. “The situation has gotten worse and worse,” Al-Dailami said. Saudi Arabia is bombing everything, “from humans and rocks, as they say in my country.” The American Embassy was shuttered, the airport in the capital city of Sanaa was destroyed and the seaport was closed. “They tried to destroy anything vital to the people.” There are no jobs, no electricity, no water and almost no gas. Al-Dailami had to wait three days each time he needed gas. “Life had stopped,” he said. “The middle class had become poor.” Despite peace talks, the bombings by Saudi Arabia forces continued. “We have a lot of oil in our country. They don’t want us to find it,” Al-Dailami said. “They are killing us.” But now that Al-Dailami, his wife (an Arabic language teacher in Yemen) and three daughters (ages 10, 6 and 3) are safely in the U.S., he worries about the hatred stirred by President-elect Donald Trump toward Muslims from other lands. “I don’t know what makes people hate so much,” Al-Dailami said. “I am a human being.” He fears Trump’s characterization of Muslims as terrorists. “My life, my wife and my kids are in danger again,” he said. “I hope that this is not true.” That is a tough realization, considering Al-Dailami and his family gave up everything they had worked for in Yemen to come to America. He remembers nearly every detail of the horrific journey his family endured to reach Bowling Green. Al-Dailami was told that when the Sanaa airport was repaired for flights, he would need to act quickly, leave everything behind, and be willing to spend his life’s savings on the journey. “You need to prepare yourself and your family in one night,” he said he was told. “It was the matter of saving the life of my family.” When…