Government

Wasylyshyn a law enforcement liaison with Trump team

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn is helping the president-elect’s team plan policies for the Donald Trump presidency. Wasylyshyn, who was sworn in Tuesday evening as president of the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association, has been acting as a liaison between the National Sheriff’s Association and the Trump team. The sheriff hopes to have input on issues involving jails, surplus military equipment, and presidential responses to shootings by law enforcement officers. “I’ve always been very outspoken and not afraid to ask the difficult questions,” Wasylyshyn said this morning. “I’m very honored and humbled that I’ve been asked to be involved. It’s great for Wood County.” The sheriff, who recently won a fourth term, has been told to be prepared to go to Washington, D.C., on short notice. One of the initial items the sheriff’s association is being consulted on is the appointment of officials by the Trump team. “The Trump transition team has contacted us and they want input on appointments,” such as federal prosecutors, the attorney general, Homeland Security and U.S. marshals, he said. Wasylyshyn wants to make the Trump team aware of problems at jails, which is one of the “hottest issues” for law enforcement. According to the sheriff, 85 percent of all jails in the nation are run by sheriffs, and they are being overwhelmed by drug and mental health problems. “We need a serious discussion,” he said. “Jails are becoming detox facilities for people coming off heroin and other opioids. That is a drain on us.” Wasylyshyn also hopes to have input on decisions on mental health issues. “So many of the shootings” in the country involve people with mental health problems, he said. “We need to get help for these people before they go over the edge.” The sheriff wants to help convince the Trump administration to reverse the decision by President Barack Obama to limit the use of surplus military equipment by local…


Gardner says state testing changes are likely

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   State legislators have been listening to school officials concerned about too much testing for students with too little input from educators. On Tuesday evening, State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, said there is an “excellent chance” that school testing requirements will be changed. “I think there is substantial agreement” that changes are needed, he said when contacted by phone. That should be good news to the more than 300 school superintendents and board members who  rallied in Columbus Tuesday to ask state legislators to rework the graduation requirements in Ohio. Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci joined the “historic” rally Tuesday morning at the Statehouse. About half of the superintendents in Ohio took part in the rally to raise the issues of over-testing of students, inaccuracies of district “report cards” from the state, and graduation requirements. “Decisions continue to be made without the input of those on the ground and in the classrooms,” Scruci at the Bowling Green Board of Education meeting Tuesday evening after he returned from Columbus. Scruci said it was “disappointing” that no legislators attended the rally. “I did not see one legislator who felt compelled to come out to see what going on.” But it appears legislators have been listening. Gardner, who was just named Senate Majority Leader on Tuesday, said he has been meeting with the Senate Education Committee chairman and state school superintendent on changing the testing requirements for graduation. Gardner said some of the testing has been mandated by the federal government. However, the new Every Student Succeed Act grants states more flexibility, he said. “We want to grant more flexibility to local school districts,” he added. Over the next six months, Gardner said he expects meetings to be held with school superintendents, teachers, curriculum directors and school board members. “All will be at the table,” he said. That is exactly what school officials have been asking for – fewer tests…


Superintendents rally against state testing

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci joined a rally this morning against too much testing for students with too little input from educators. More than 300 school superintendents and board members joined forces in Columbus to ask state legislators to rework the graduation requirements in Ohio. “This is one of the first times superintendents have organized together to speak out,” Scruci said after the rally that was held during the annual meeting of the Ohio School Board Association. Also attending from Bowling Green was board of education member Bill Clifford. “It was a great opportunity for solidarity,” Scruci said. The concern is that the latest testing standards are expected to keep many students from graduating. The standards place too much emphasis on test taking – and not enough on daily learning, educators have said. “There needs to be some reform,” Scruci said. Educators are demanding that they be involved in the decision-making process for testing requirements. “We want the legislature to hear us and involve us in the decision-making,” Scruci said. Educators deserve to be part of a serious dialogue, he said. “We are working with kids every day.” Starting next year, students no longer will be required to pass the Ohio Graduation Test to receive a diploma. Instead, they will have to meet one of three options: earn 18 out of a possible 35 points on seven end-of-course exams taken during high school; get a “remediation-free” score on a college entrance exam; or obtain an industry credential indicating they are ready for a job. Across the state, school district officials have said that 20 to 50 percent of their students have failed the exams, meaning they are at risk of not graduating. Scruci said that most Bowling Green students would not be at risk of failing, but the system is still very wrong. “There still needs to be reform,” he said. Though he didn’t see any legislators…


Flat finances: BG city income remains stable

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s city income is steady – and that’s good … well, kind of. “The good news is, it’s very stable,” said City Finance Director Brian Bushong. “The bad news is, it’s very stable.” Bushong gave the pre-budget overview for 2017 to council members Monday evening. Moody’s has again given the city a strong credit rating of Aa2, which is slightly higher than the Aa3 rating given to most cities nationally. And due to state changes in due dates for income tax, Bowling Green is experiencing a one-time windfall in that revenue placing them about $1.5 million ahead of where planned. “This is a wonderful year for income tax,” Bushong said. Since much of the city’s income tax revenue is already divvied up, these one-time dollars will benefit each of those funds. The income tax collected is distributed as follows: 37.5 percent for general fund. 25 percent for sewer and water capital fund. 18 percent for fire fund. 7 percent for police fund. 6.25 percent for capital fund. 3.75 percent for street repair fund. 2.5 percent for recreation fund. Income tax revenue has continued to grow in the city, increasing an average of 4.89 percent annually since 2011.  The city benefited from new and expanding businesses, such as Betco, Cooper Standard and Kroger. “The economic outlook from an income tax standpoint looks very positive,” Bushong said. However, the general fund revenue paints a less positive picture. That average growth in the general fund revenue was just 0.65 percent since 2011. The factors leading to the miniscule growth include loss of various sources of state funding, declining or flat court fines and other revenue, ambulance fees, kilowatt tax, and the upcoming loss of the cable franchise fee. “The general fund has been flat,” Bushong said. The city has managed the flat revenue and increasing costs through financial and debt policies, healthcare increases for employees, prioritizing projects and deferring…


Voters support BG parks and county seniors

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Local voters proved once again Tuesday that they appreciate their parks and they care about senior citizens. The Bowling Green Parks and Recreation 2-mill, five-year levy passed by a healthy 69 percent, with a vote of 8,545 to 3,802. And the Wood County Committee on Aging’s renewal of a 0.7-mill, five-year levy for senior services passed by a solid 76 percent, with a vote of 46,428 to 14,760. “We’re very thankful for our citizens who have traditionally supported parks,” said Kristin Otley, director of the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. “They understand it’s a quality of life issue.” Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department plans to use the levy funds to maintain the park lands, facilities and programs already in place. Passage of the levy will allow the city to catch up with maintenance work, like replacing roofs on park buildings. “Now we know for the next five years what we have coming in,” Otley said. The city has 11 parks covering 373 acres – well above the national average for a community this size. Those public parks were one of the biggest factors in Bowling Green recently being ranked one of the top 10 places in the nation to raise a family. The parks offer a variety of settings: Garden, nature, athletic and passive. The levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home in the city $61.25 a year. That is $18.25 more a year than the previous levy. The parks and recreation department had not asked for increased levy millage for 16 years. But during those 16 years, the parks have done a lot of growing, with additions such as Simpson Building and Garden Park, City Pool and Waterpark, Community Center, Ridge Park, Skatepark, Dunbridge Soccer Fields, BG Athletic Fields, Black Swamp Preserve, more trails at Wintergarden, and expanded programming for fitness, aquatics and other events. “We’re feeling great,” said Jeff Crawford, president…


Republicans sweep Wood County contested races

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County elected only Republicans in contested races Tuesday. The victorious and the defeated gathered in downtown Bowling Green as the results rolled in – separated by the brick wall between Mr. Spots and Howard’s. The mood among the Democrats at Howard’s was subdued and disbelieving. The atmosphere among the Republicans at Mr. Spots was joyous and confident. After victory speeches by the Republicans, the Northern Wood County Republican Party Chairman Aram Ohanian told the party faithful as they left, “you can wave at Howard’s where the Democrats are.” There were no tight races. Theresa Gavarone solidly beat Kelly Wicks for the state representative seat. Dr. Ted Bowlus unseated Wood County Commissioner Joel Kuhlman – meaning for the first time in several decades the three commissioners will all be Republicans. Matt Reger won the judge seat, Mark Wasylyshyn was re-elected as sheriff, Craig LaHote was returned as county commissioner, and Jane Spoerl won handily as county treasurer. The only Democrat to win was Julie Baumgardner who ran uncontested for the county recorder’s seat. Wood County voters also re-elected Republicans Bob Latta to the House of Representatives, Randy Gardner to the Ohio Senate, and swung their weight for Rob Portman in the U.S. Senate, and Donald Trump in the White House. “What a big night,” Latta said. “I saw candidates work 110 percent. It paid massive dividends here.” In particular he praised Gavarone. “She gave everything of herself and the results tonight prove it,” Latta said, as Fox News was broadcasting election results on the big TV screen behind him. The most bitter fight was won by Gavarone, who took the race with 59 percent of the vote. She credited hard work for her victory. “I had so much support. We knocked on over 32,000 doors since Aug. 11,” she said. “I’m so honored the people of Wood County have put their faith in me, and I can’t…


Bike tour of BG opens eyes to some solutions

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Maybe Bowling Green doesn’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a scattered patchwork of bike lanes to make city streets more friendly to cyclists. Maybe the four-wheeled and the two-wheeled motorists just need to learn how to co-exist on the roads. On Monday, two groups of city leaders took bike tours of the community. They rode quiet residential streets like Eberly, and busy four-lane streets like Main Street. “No one ever honked at us,” said Catherine Givres, an educator with YaY Bikes, whose mission is to get “more butts on more bikes, more often.” The ride was an eye-opening experience for several of the bicyclists. “I’ve cycled for over 60 years, in multiple countries,” said Steve Langendorfer, president of the city’s Bicycle Safety Commission. “I bike thousands of miles every year.” During those years, he has consistently hugged the edge of the road – trying to be courteous to motorists and trying to take the safest spot on the road. But on Monday, Langendorfer and the others rode a few feet into the road, about where the passenger tire of a car would travel. “It was fascinating,” he said. Cars did not whiz by just a few feet from the bicyclists. When the ongoing lane was clear, the cars swung wide around to pass. That’s one of the keys, said Givres. Bicyclists should not think of themselves as in the way of traffic. “You are traffic,” she said. “It is not rude to take up space on the road.” Ohio law considers bikes as “street legal vehicles.” They have the right to take up space on the road – and the responsibility to follow the same rules as motorized vehicles. They are allowed to ride two abreast on the road, and are permitted on any roads except highways. “They are not impeding traffic. They are traffic,” Givres said. In addition to bicyclists needing to learn their…


BG urged to deny pipeline easement request

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials were urged Monday evening to stand up to the pipeline proposed to cross city property north of the community. City Council was asked to protect water for local residents, show solidarity with those protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, and not add to the demise of the planet with more carbon in the air. But city officials said fighting the pipeline will ultimately cost the city money and do nothing to stop the natural gas line. Bowling Green Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell said Nexus pipeline is seeking an easement across 29 acres of city land located 2.5 to 3 miles east of the water treatment plant. “We are one of many properties this pipeline is going to go across,” on its way from fracking wells in eastern Ohio, he said to council. The city’s acreage is currently rented out for farming, and has two Toledo Edison electric easements already on it. The Nexus pipeline would be located adjacent to those easements, O’Connell said. As the natural gas pipeline continues west, it is proposed to go under the Maumee River, south of Waterville, downriver from Bowling Green’s water intake. Council member Sandy Rowland asked O’Connell if he has concerns about the pipeline harming Bowling Green’s water. “Is our water going to be safe?” she asked. O’Connell said he is not concerned since the line will be some distance from the water plant, and downriver from the city’s water intake when is goes under the Maumee River. “I’m not concerned about water quality issues at the water plant,” he said. The area where the pipeline is buried will not be farmed for two years. After that, it will go back into crop production, O’Connell said. “We don’t have any say over where they run the pipeline,” he said of Nexus. The pipeline company has the authority to use eminent domain to get access to land, he…


BG lease of city land for golf course questioned

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The golf course in the center of Bowling Green has long been a source of community pride and more recently a source of complaints of privileged use of public property. The city’s lease of the 60 acres to Bowling Green Country Club expires in 2025. The terms of the lease allow the city to terminate the lease anytime after 2015, with two year’s prior notice required. City officials recently received a detailed letter on the golf course lease, suggesting that the city view its options before the 2025 deadline. The request came from Bowling Green citizen Lynn Ackerson, who previously asked questions about the site at a park and recreation board meeting. “Raising the topic of the BG Country Club lease of 80 percent of City Park sometimes causes voices to raise and strong emotions to emerge,” Ackerson wrote to city officials. The nine-hole country club course is one of three golf courses in the city. “The BG Country Club Golf Course is apparently an important part of BG’s history,” she continued. “The semi-private BG Country Club is also perhaps one of BG’s best kept secrets and frankly a mystery to those that are newly aware of this gem and its relationship to our wonderful network of parks.” Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards responded with a history of the site, explaining that City Park was the original Wood County Fairgrounds. “The current arrangement indeed goes back that far,” Edwards wrote. The Wood County Agricultural Society sold the land to the city in 1928, with some records indicating that the lease arrangement predates the sale, the mayor said. The country club owns the roughly 1.5 acres where the pro shop and restaurant sit on the north end of the golf course. “This nearly 100-year private-public partnership has worked well for Bowling Green residents,” Edwards wrote. “They have benefited from a golf course for recreational purposes at reasonable rates…


Gavarone and Wicks face off for state rep seat

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The race for the statehouse has disappointed many Wood Countians with its nasty tone. To rise above that low road, this story looks at where the candidates stand on issues……. Two downtown Bowling Green business owners have set their sights on the state representative seat for Wood County. One shop sells coffee on South Main Street, and the other sells Philly steak sandwiches on North Main Street. But that’s where the similarities end. Theresa Gavarone, who joined her husband as co-owner of Mr. Spots in 2010, has been an attorney for 22 years, and has served on Bowling Green City Council for two and a half years. She was appointed by the Republican party to the state representative seat this past summer when Tim Brown stepped down. Kelly Wicks opened Grounds for Thought in 1989, and was selected by the Wood County Democratic Party to run for the vacated seat. He is one of the founders of the Black Swamp Arts Festival, served as past president of Downtown Business Association, on the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and Recycling Task Force. Gavarone sees reducing taxes and regulations as the road to bringing more business to Wood County. “We want to keep Wood County working,” and cutting regulations would make compliance easier for businesses, she said. “If we can bring businesses here and create an environment – that will allow them to thrive and grow.” During her stint on city council, Gavarone has said she helped bring 1,000 jobs to the city. “I was part of a team,” she said. Wicks doesn’t view regulations as the enemy, since many are there for purposes like keeping employees and the public safe. He does see ways, however, that red tape can be cut for businesses trying to get permits. “I’ve always tried to help create jobs in the community by helping new businesses,” he said. “As a small business…


Grants to be awarded to public safety projects in local communities

State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, has announced that the Local Government Innovation Council will begin accepting applications for the second round of the Local Government Safety Capital Grant Program. Initiated by the Ohio House of Representatives and included in the state operating budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, these grants can help to fund public safety projects in local communities throughout Ohio, including those in the 3rd House District. Funding for eligible projects must be used for purchasing vehicles, equipment, facilities and/or systems utilized by police, fire, and/or EMS providers to enhance public safety. The total request amount for projects is $100,000 per individual political subdivision. The first round of the application process began in February of this year, with awards being made in May. Applications for the second round must be submitted online and will be accepted through Jan. 6, 2017. The date for when the approved grants will be announced is to be determined, with the Local Government Innovation Council as the final approver of all grants. More information on the application process can be found here: www.development.ohio.gov/bs/bs_lgscgp.htm.


Wasylyshyn and Babel-Smith in race for sheriff seat

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Both candidates for Wood County Sheriff want to keep local residents safe – but they have different ideas of how to achieve that goal. Democrat Ruth Babel-Smith, a retired lieutenant with the sheriff’s office, who teaches at Owens Community College, is promising “public safety not politics.” She has her master’s degree in criminal justice administration and is pursuing her doctorate. Republican incumbent Mark Wasylyshyn has held the job for 12 years and if re-elected he will be the longest serving sheriff in Wood County history. He serves on the board of directors of the National Sheriffs Association and if re-elected he will become the president of the Buckeye Sheriffs Association. Wasylyshyn points to a well-operated, cost-effective county jail, and well-trained road deputies keeping the county safe. But Babel-Smith is critical of both the jail and the road operations of the department. If elected, her first goal would be to conduct a task analysis of each area to make sure personnel are being put to use the best way possible. She said too many road patrols are focused on areas that already have their own law enforcement coverage. That means residents in some southern areas of the county wait “upwards of 40 minutes for a deputy to respond.” Babel-Smith thinks there may be a need for more staff, but definitely is a need to shuffle staff around to areas of greater needs. “People just don’t feel safe,” she said. Reassigning staff would also help with staff morale, she said. “I would like to work on picking up the morale. I want to create an environment where people want to stay,” she said, citing a lack of longevity in the sheriff’s office. Longevity in staff is not lacking, according to Wasylyshyn. “I’m very proud of the deputies we have,” he said. In addition to patrolling roads and responding to emergencies, the deputies perform community services like funeral escorts. The…


Kolanko and LaHote have roots in grassroots govt.

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Communication is a major focus of Ed Kolanko and Craig LaHote, two candidates running for the same open seat in the Wood County Commissioners Office. Both men know what it’s like to be on the other end of county government – with Kolanko currently serving as mayor of Walbridge, and LaHote serving as Perrysburg Township Trustee prior to being selected to fill the county commissioner seat when Jim Carter retired. Kolanko, a Democrat who works in the financial advising business, served on Walbridge Council for six years prior to becoming mayor. “I’ve always felt, and still do feel, there’s a huge disconnect between county officials and local communities,” he said. The areas south of U.S. 6 and north of Perrysburg have little contact with county officials, Kolanko said. He would like to bridge that gap. LaHote, a Republican who served three terms as Perrysburg Township Trustee and now serves as county commissioner, said the commissioners travel throughout the county to talk with and listen to local residents. The commissioners hold regular town meetings in far-reaching villages and townships, attend county-wide township and mayoral meetings, meet with chambers of commerce groups throughout the county, attend economic development breakfasts and luncheons will local leaders, and visit senior centers. “We get feedback,” said LaHote, a former information technology consultant. “There’s a lot of outreach. There is always more that can be done, I’m sure.” But Kolanko said the only time small towns see county commissioners is for a ribbon cutting, parade, or town hall meeting. “The only outreach I’ve witnessed is a town hall meeting, which is more of a feel-good thing,” he said. “I think a commissioner needs to be engaged more. You should go to a council meeting when you don’t have to, go talk to a mayor.” As president of the Wood County Mayors Association, Kolanko said “my peers respect my leadership.” “I listen to what the…


Wicks may face fine for late financial disclosure (Updated)

Editor’s note: Kelly Wicks was not assessed a late fee for not filing the financial disclosure form because officials at the Wood County Board of Elections reported that it is “likely” he was never sent the form. 12/16/16)   By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Kelly Wicks was put on notice that his campaign failed to submit the required financial disclosure statement on time to the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee. Wicks, the Democratic candidate for Wood County’s state representative seat, may face a fine as a result of the failure to file a timely report. The Joint Legislative Ethics Committee oversees ethics for members and candidates of the Ohio House and Senate. State law requires independent candidates to file their ethics report with the commission 30 days before an election, so the public has access to candidates’ financial disclosure information prior to casting their vote. Neglecting to follow state ethics law puts the public at a disadvantage when it comes to learning more about a given candidate, according to the Ohio House Republican Organizational Committee. “Of all people, Wicks ought to be aware of the state’s ethics laws, having run for the same 3rd District seat four years ago,” said OHROC spokesman Brad Miller. “Failure to submit the financial disclosure statement should give the public pause that Wicks is perhaps trying to hide something from voters.” Wicks responded Tuesday that the problem occurred because the Wood County Board of Elections did not provide his campaign with the notice that the document was required. “This is an administrative issue between the Wood County Board of Elections and the Secretary of State,” Wicks stated. As soon as he got the notice from the ethics commission, the paperwork was filed, he said. “This is the perfect example of a lot about nothing,” Wicks said. Wood County Board of Elections Director Terry Burton said he is not certain whether or not the letter was sent out to the…


Nothing simple about creating city bike lanes

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The effort to put bike lanes in Bowling Green hit another bump in the road Tuesday evening. This bump came in the form of memo from the city suggesting that any bike lane initiatives be addressed by the Council Committee of the Whole. “This may slow things down,” said Council member Sandy Rowland during the Complete Streets meeting. “I’ve talked to people who are sick and tired of just talking and want to get things done.” Last month, the three-member Transportation Safety Committee (John Zanfardino, Daniel Gordon and Rowland) discussed plans for bike lanes on Conneaut and Fairview avenues. The decision was rushed due to time constraints for the bidding and funding process. This week, the memo, signed by Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter, suggested that the process should include all council members in the discussion. She pointed out that the city’s road paving schedule should drive the timeline of any bike lanes or other “complete street” modifications. But Rowland noted that schedule could delay the six streets selected for bike lanes – and could result in the last street – Clough – not being made bicycle-friendly for 20 years. Zanfardino was disappointed that the memo seemed to imply the city would only consider bike lanes on six streets. “There were 20 streets at first that were earnestly being considered,” he said. But in an effort to set a reasonable goal, the efforts were narrowed to six streets – Fairview, Conneaut, Court, Pearl, Maple and Clough. So Zanfardino suggested that as the city looks at which streets to pave each year, that bike lanes be discussed for all of them. “If not, I think we really are more than slowing it down,” he said. “We don’t need to be hasty, but we need to earnestly move ahead.” Rowland agreed. “Every street that’s repaved should be a Complete Street,” she said. Gordon said the planning consultants working with the…