Government

County touts high economic development, low unemployment

Wood County continues to see high economic development successes and a low unemployment rate, according to the report presented Wednesday during the annual meeting of the Wood County Economic Development Commission. The report, from WCEDC President Doug Miller, talked about the great success achieved with limited resources. “Over the past several years, we have attracted a number of businesses to Wood County,” Miller wrote in his report. Those newer businesses include Home Depot fulfillment center in Troy Township, the CSX intermodal facility in Henry Township, the Harmon Business Park in Rossford, and the FedEx Ground Hub in Perrysburg Township. “Scores of existing businesses choose to remain in Wood County and have or are expanding,” Miller continued. Those businesses include Phoenix Technologies, Northwood Industries, First Solar, Principle Business Enterprises, Schuetz Container, IMCO Carbide Tool, and Pilkington North America. “As a result, unemployment hovers around an amazing 4 percent,” Miller stated in his report. Much of the credit should go to the spirit of cooperation among elected officials, those appointed by elected officials, and community volunteers, he said. “Feedback we receive from developers and others from outside the area remains positive and often hear that the process is Wood County runs so much better than in other places,” Miller stated. In an effort to work with local communities to meet their needs, Wood County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Wade Gottschalk and other executive committee members often hold informal monthly breakfast or lunch meetings with entities. “The meetings serve as a way for attendees to update others on matters being faced, projects and other general information,” Miller said in his report. “The…


BGSU faculty union faces facts about higher ed funding

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bowling Green State University faculty association members and guests received an update on what to look for in the coming Ohio legislative session. The news presented by Sara Kilpatrick, Ohio Conference executive director of the AAUP and a BGSU graduate, and John McNay, the president of the AAUP Ohio Conference, discussed a range of issues from textbooks to the cost of intercollegiate athletics. Republicans, Kilpatrick said, have heavy majorities in both houses. That means they can override the governor’s veto. It also means they can pass bills as emergency measures. If approved as an emergency, that legislation is not subject to be challenged by a referendum. Still, Kilpatrick said, “it’s very difficult to manage a caucus with that many members.” While they are all Republicans, they represent a range of views. The key legislative players are State Senator Randy Gardner, who chairs the higher education subcommittee of the senate education committee. Kilpatrick said given his long service in both the Senate and the House, he is “well versed” on the issues. She advised those attending that as his constituents, they had “a good opportunity to bend his ear.” On the House side, Rick Perales chairs the subcommittee on higher education finance and Mike Duffey, chairs the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee. Kilpatrick said Duffey is a moderate and “the most well-informed” legislator on higher education issues. Perales, however, is still learning the ropes. While everyone is in agreement that the cost of higher education is an issue, the various parties’ diagnosis of the situations differ. McNay said that it was the AAUP that…


Local citizens fight to hang onto Affordable Care Act

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Minutes after news broke Thursday that the vote on a new health plan for the nation had been put on hold, local residents were celebrating the seventh birthday of the Affordable Care Act. Wearing birthday hats, holding balloons and blowing noise makers, the citizens presented birthday cards and decorated cupcakes to staff at U.S. Rep. Bob Latta’s office in Bowling Green. Others stood along North Main Street, bearing signs like the one stating, “Trump Care Doesn’t Care….it’s tax credits for the rich.” As cars drove, they sang “Happy Birthday,” with some following the last stanza with an optimistic “and many more.” One of the birthday party organizers, Sean Elliott of Bowling Green, said he was “relieved” that the Republican health care bill failed to advance on Thursday, though he realized the delay was likely to be brief. “It seems really unacceptable,” considering the millions of people it would leave uninsured. For Elloitt, it’s not just a matter of public policy. It’s personal. “It’s not just a statistic,” he said. Elliott’s 4-year-old son, Jacoby, has a rare chromosome disorder that has delayed his motor skills. He is unable to walk or to talk. The Affordable Care Act has helped with Jacoby’s medical bills – but the replacement bill could halt that coverage. “To see that program gutted would be devastating,” Elliott said. Inside Latta’s office, citizens asked Andy Lorenz, the representative’s district director, where Latta stands on the Republican health care bill.  Lorenz said his boss supported the bill when it came out of committee, but he wasn’t sure of his stance since…


Survey of BG houses shows increase in deficiencies

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A housing survey in Bowling Green has found 795 primary deficiencies among homes – a 26 percent increase since the last survey five years ago. The deficiencies included such problems as faulty roofs, chimneys or foundations. The housing survey is performed every five years by the Wood County Health District. A sanitarian, Julie Nye, viewed each home in the city in 2016. “She walked past every one of the houses in Bowling Green,” Health District Environmental Director Lana Glore said of Nye. “I don’t think we found anything alarming,” Glore reported Monday evening to Bowling Green City Council. However, the survey showed that while the number of houses barely grew in the city, the number of deficiencies saw greater increases. That is probably to be expected, said council member Bob McOmber. “Everything is five years older,” he said. “I’m not surprised.” Each home was surveyed based on 14 primary and 10 non-primary categories. Primary categories included: Roofs, siding conditions, stairs and railings, windows, foundations, driveways, public walkways, chimneys, porches, doors, accessory structures, soffits and roof edging, private walks, and exterior sanitation. The non-primary categories included: Paint, attached garages, grading or draining, yard maintenance, siding type, gutters and downspouts, garage conditions, dumpsters, starlings and pigeons, and address present. Homes found to be substandard in two or three primary categories were classified as “deficient.” Homes found to be substandard in four or more primary categories were classified as “neglected.” A total of 5,546 homes were surveyed, with 795 having primary deficiencies. Those classified as “deficient” included 130 homes. Those classified as “neglected” included seven…


Higher ed, faculty are under fire, union president says

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Higher education has been dealing with challenges for a awhile. “Basically for quite some time it’s been open season on public education,” Rudy Fichtenbaum, national president of the American Association of University Professors, told a gathering of union members and guests last week. Those include attacks on unions, funding reductions, challenges to tenure, increased use of part-time instructors, and changing rationale for funding. Fichtenbaum’s talk for the first part of a session that included a review of legislative action pending in Ohio. (A story on that presentation will be forthcoming from BG Independent News.) “Many of these problems stem from ill-conceived policies implemented over the last 30 years on a bipartisan basis,” he said. But those threats on all fronts have escalated since the November election. “His presidency represents the greatest threat to academic freedom since the McCarthy era,” Fichtenbaum said. “Actions show this not an exaggeration.” Trump’s election has emboldened followers to threaten others. “The AAUP continues to make a distinction between speech and action,” he said. .”We’re talking about actions that threaten people, burning a mosque, painting swastikas, yelling at people, pushing people into the street because of the color of their skin or their religion. … We oppose discrimination on the basis of race gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national origin. We’ll fight for a welcoming learning environment where all people can freely and safely learn.” The AAUP, he said, is supportive of the idea of sanctuary campuses. Tightening restrictions on immigration has an effect on international students, about 10 percent of whom come from majority Muslim countries, he said. He…


BG planning pipeline panel to clear up questions

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials want to dig deeper into the Nexus pipeline proposed near the city water treatment plant. On Monday evening, Mayor Dick Edwards talked about his continued efforts to contact people with geological expertise about the project. And he supported a suggestion by council member Daniel Gordon to host a public forum with experts on the topic. Gordon noted the different perspectives presented to city council by various geologists, and the need to find facts. “We will proceed on that basis to look at the science and the facts,” Edwards said to city council. “There are a bunch of unknowns out there.” No date or location has been set yet for a pipeline panel discussion. Council member Bruce Jeffers asked if Nexus officials might attend the meeting. Edwards said the pipeline company has had ample opportunity to make its pitch for the natural gas line. He added that “it’s been frustrating,” getting information from the company. “They’ve had every opportunity to make their case in Washington,” the mayor said, adding that the purpose of the panel discussion will be to sharpen the focus on facts. “They’ve had every opportunity to come in and share information.” Council member Bob McOmber echoed that inclination. “I’m not particularly inclined to want them” at a panel discussion, he said. The public event is not intended to be a debate between advocates of opposing sides, but a panel discussion to get to the facts, McOmber said. Edwards suggested that an impartial moderator be used for the discussion. “I think we need to be open and objective,”…


Rally at Latta’s office planned to mark birthday of Obamacare

Concerned citizens in Ohio Congressional District 5 will rally at Representative Bob Latta’s Bowling Green office and meet with staff to express support of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on its seventh anniversary.  The rally and meeting will take place on March 23 from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. at 1045 N. Main Street, Bowling Green. The “ACA Birthday Party” is being led by Indivisible District 5 and is one of many such events taking place in nearly every district across the state on Thursday. Rep. Latta still has not held a public, in-person town hall to hear constituents’ concerns about the House Republicans’ healthcare replacement bill – which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will result in 24 million Americans losing healthcare coverage over the next 10 years.


BG to make ‘welcoming’ resolution more inclusive

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council was seconds away from voting on an inclusion resolution Monday when the lone Republican on council stopped the process – to make the resolution more inclusive. The resolution proclaims the city is a welcoming, safe and inclusive community for all residents, including immigrants, refugees and people from diverse races, ethnic backgrounds, cultures and religions. Council had minutes earlier discussed waiving the rules and giving the resolution its second and third readings Monday evening, then proceeding to a vote. But council member Bob McOmber stopped the process. He mentioned the public comments made earlier in the meeting by citizens who wanted the LGBT community and people with disabilities included in the resolution. “I’m not comfortable with it the way it is,” McOmber said. “I’d rather err on the side of being overly inclusive.” Others on council agreed, and the resolution was tabled so it could be reworded and come back before council at its next meeting. The resolution has its roots in local concerns about national treatment of immigrants. Council member Daniel Gordon said it was the first step on the city’s path toward becoming a “welcoming community” for immigrants. Gordon said the resolution was written specifically with the immigrant population in mind. He noted the recently passed anti-Islamaphobia resolution also didn’t include the LGBT community, which is already protected under a city ordinance. But two community groups which had worked on the latest resolution – La Conexion and the Human Rights Commission – both agreed that expanding the wording to include more people was a good idea. “We…


Parking kiosks take too much time, many drivers say

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As she fumbled with the parking kiosk machine, Jennifer Bechtold reminisced about the good old days when she used to live in Bowling Green. “I liked when I could use good old-fashioned change,” in the parking meters. But last week, she stood out in chilly weather with her 4-year-old daughter, who wasn’t feeling well, trying to figure out the parking kiosk the downtown lot. “It’s very cold,” she said. Waiting behind her was Rena Blazek, a graduate student at Bowling Green State University. “I hate standing out in the winter. It sucks – and I’m from Wisconsin,” Blazek said. When Blazek finally made it up to pay at the kiosk, the machine repeatedly spit out her coins before accepting one. Next in line was Jacob Weinmann, of Grand Rapids. “I had to wait a good 10 minutes,” to pay at the kiosk, Weinmann said. Yet, he was the most patient of those in the line, since he believes the kiosks make sense so the parking meters don’t have to be removed for the Black Swamp Arts Festival each year. Next was Kim Jacobs, of Napoleon, who didn’t realize she needed to know her license plate number in order to pay for parking. “Nope, that was a surprise,” Jacobs said, adding that she was lucky enough to be able to read her plate from the kiosk. Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said he is aware that the new parking kiosks are not getting rave reviews from some motorists. “We certainly are trying to monitor the situation,” Fawcett said. The city’s parking technicians have…


BG residents worried about lead can zoom in on waterline map

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   With a few clicks on a map, Bowling Green residents can now zoom into their addresses to see what their waterlines are made of. The water service lines map is now posted on the city of Bowling Green’s website, http://www.bgohio.org/. Once on the website, residents can click on the water spigot to pull up information on the city waterlines and on the lines going into each residence. “I don’t want to scare anyone that we have a lead problem. We don’t,” Bowling Green Director of Public Utilities Brian O’Connell said earlier this week to the Board of Public Utilities. But as a water provider, the city of Bowling Green must now submit a waterline map to the Ohio EPA, showing the type of lines supplying homes – copper, galvanized iron, plastic or lead. That map must be updated every five years. O’Connell explained that the city is responsible for the portion of the waterline that extends to the curb stop, but the portion of the line going into the residence is the homeowner’s responsibility. So while O’Connell is confident the lead lines in the city’s portion have been replaced, the same cannot be said of the portions that are the responsibility of homeowners. “We are not aware at this time of any lead lines” installed by the city, he said. Since 1967, the city service lines were all required to be copper or plastic. Prior to then, lead lines were allowed, but in the 1990s any known lead service lines were replaced. The electronic map shows a color-coded circle at each residence….


Funding defended for programs Trump wants to slash

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   While President Donald Trump’s administration is attacking the value of federally funded community programs, the proof is right here in Wood County. Local officials suggested the administration look at the seniors kept in their homes by the Meals on Wheels program, the children nourished through the WIC program, and the small villages improved through the CDBG program. When Trump’s budget proposal was unveiled Thursday, the winners were the military and border control. The losers were the arts, the environment, the poor, the elderly and the very young. And the cuts weren’t made with a scalpel, but with a guillotine. Local officials who normally make tempered responses to hot button political issues could no longer bite their tongues. When Mick Mulvaney, the president’s budget director, said the Meals on Wheels cuts were justified because the program was “just not showing any results,” the comments pushed Denise Niese past her normally polite poise. “I heard that last night and I was appalled,” said Niese, executive director of the Wood County Committee on Aging. The local Meals on Wheels program is not as dependent as some areas on the federal funding, but it is vital to local residents, serving 132,000 meals last year. Sometimes it’s difficult to collect hard data on social services, but Niese said the proof is in the pudding – and all the other menu items. “We do know that people with home-delivered meals can maintain themselves in their homes at a much lower cost than going into long-term care,” she said. Considering the fact that the local Meals on Wheels cost…


Sheriff says jail booking area needs expansion

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A few years ago, Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn had to make a choice – add more beds to the county jail or add more space to the jail booking area. The jail expansion was priced at about $3 million and the booking area reconfiguration was priced at about $5 million. And since the county was already spending money by paying other counties to house Wood County’s overflow inmates, the 75-bed jail expansion project won out. When Wasylyshyn took over as sheriff, the county was spending about $500,000 a year on housing prisoners elsewhere. “Let’s stop the flow of Wood County money,” the sheriff remembered thinking. The decision paid off, with Wood County jail being able to house all of the local inmates plus bringing in an extra $130,000 last year for housing prisoners from other counties. But now, Wasylyshyn would like to revisit the booking area project. He had requested $5,000 from the county commissioners to have an architectural firm look at reconfiguring the booking area to add more holding cells and move the medical area closer to booking. The commissioners rejected that request, saying new Commissioner Ted Bowlus should be able to review the request. So on Thursday, the sheriff was back before the commissioners, asking again for the $5,000 to get new drawings for an expanded booking and medical area. The sheriff also hopes to get a cost estimate for the project, predicting it will be higher than the $5 million estimate a few years ago. The commissioners listened to Wasylyshyn’s proposal, but made no decision. The sheriff and…


State universities face tough battles in Columbus, Mazey says

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News President Mary Ellen Mazey apologized for being the bearer of bad news to the Bowling Green State University Faculty Senate, Tuesday. A storm front is approaching the university from Columbus, and though Mazey said she hopes the worse effects could be forestalled, she knows it won’t be easy. “We have our work cut out for us” she said of the state budget. Gov. John Kasich’s proposal calls for a 1-percent increase in state support in the first year of the biennial budget and no increase in the second. This would be paired with a freeze on tuition and freeze. Now it’s up to the House to fashion its proposal. Mazey said the state’s university presidents were focusing on three areas as the House begins working on the higher education budget. Mazey seemed confident that a proposal that would shift the cost of buying textbooks from students to the university was fading. “I think we’re making progress,” she said. The proposal to have university pay for textbooks in exchange for levying a new $300 annual fee “does not seem to be getting a lot of traction in the House,” she said. The governor’s plan, Mazey said, is not academically sound. Also the financing was not adequately researched. It would not benefit all students and would create a new bureaucracy to administer. The state’s university provosts have shaped an alternative policy that would require universities to submit a plan to reduce textbook costs by fall, 2018. In the meantime university officials would gather the data needed to formulate that plan. The plans would involve hiring professional…


More children becoming victims of parent opiate abuse

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Not long ago, an 8-year-old girl was taken into custody by Wood County Children’s Services knowing how to shoot up heroin. The girl hadn’t done it herself, but she had watched her mom do it in the car, using the seatbelt to tie off her arm. The young girl was one of many taken in by Children’s Services last year due to the opioid epidemic. “There are kids who have witnessed overdoses. We’ve had some who have witnessed their parents die,” said Brandy Laux, assessment supervisor at Wood County Children’s Services. The number of child abuse and neglect investigations conducted in Wood County by Children’s Services jumped from 718 in 2015 to 894 in 2016. Many of those cases were due to parents abusing opioids, said Sandi Carsey, protective services administrator for the county. At least a third of the cases have been related to heroin and opiate abuse – though it’s probably higher than that, according to both Carsey and Laux. Wood County’s numbers are actually lower than some counties in southern Ohio, where pill mills were located. Opioids are involved in an estimated 80 percent of the cases in some of those counties. The addicts come in all socio-economic groups. “It’s not just the lower income families,” Carsey said. “It’s soccer moms, too.” And because heroin and opiates are so hard to kick, the children are likely to be removed from their homes. “In the last year, year and a half, we’ve had a lot more kids go to relatives,” Carsey said. Normally, Children’s Services works with the parents to…


Trail sealant to last longer, seal faster, be less slippery

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Slippery Elm Trail will soon be sealed with a product that promises to last longer, seal faster, and be well, despite the trail’s name, less slippery. The Wood County Park District Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to pay $119,552 to seal the 13-mile trail from Bowling Green to North Baltimore. The price includes striping of the trail at intersections along the route. The product being used this time is called Onyx, by Strawser Construction in Columbus. Ned Fairbanks, the park district maintenance specialist, said the product has a proven record of creating a stronger surface that will last longer. The sealing product also remains black since it does not fade in the sun like other sealants used in the past. That will help with melting the snow, since the district does not salt or plow the Slippery Elm Trail. The Onyx also has a quick setting time, meaning less time that the trail would have to be closed to users, Fairbanks said. “Within a matter of hours, it’s usable,” he said. That’s a real plus, said Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger. “As soon as they sealcoat it, we’ve got people chomping at the bit to use it,” he said. And unlike some other sealants, the Onyx provides a non-slick surface. “We wanted to make sure we weren’t using something that if someone is rollerblading and it’s wet, that they’re down,” said Jeff Baney, assistant director of the county park district. The sealant also comes with a one-year warranty. Baney said sealants used in the past on the 12-foot wide…