Government

Two BG water towers to get fixes and facelifts

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Two of three Bowling Green water towers are about to get facelifts inside and out. That means they may even be spruced up with a color other than the current drab tan. “We may change it up a little bit,” said Brian O’Connell, director of the city’s utility department. The Bowling Green Board of Public Utilities voted Monday evening to do the preliminary work to hire engineering services for the water towers which were built in the 1980s. Both hold 1.5 million gallons. Last year, the western water tower off Mitchell Road, and Carter Park water tower were inspected for maintenance and upgrades, O’Connell said. The 2018 water and sewer capital improvement fund budget included $480,000 for the western water tower work. The 2019 budget will include money for the Carter Park water tower, O’Connell said. The improvements are intended to provide better water quality, extend the useful life of the water towers, and increase the safety accessibility for employees and contractors. Some of the recommended improvements include: Clean, prep and paint the exterior surface. Clean, prep and paint the interior wet and dry surfaces. Install a handrail and rigging rail on the roof. Increase diameter of roof hatch and access tube. Install an access ladder. Add a mixer with THM aeration removal system. The plan is to hire an engineer to prepare drawings and specifications for bidding the project as well as performing inspections of the work. The engineer may also have additional recommendations to consider, O’Connell said. The work is needed due to “normal wear and tear” on the water towers, O’Connell said. The current exterior of both older towers is tan with dark brown lettering reading “Bowling Green” and “Home of BGSU.” The city may consider a different color, similar to the newer water tower constructed on Newton Road. That tower is white with lettering in hunter green, O’Connell said. Bowling Green State University officials will be consulted to…


BG seeks old photos to give final salute to Veterans Building

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Board took a farewell tour of the Veterans Building in City Park Tuesday evening. Members pointed out items that won’t be missed when the building is torn down later this year – the carpeted walls, lack of ADA restrooms, buckling floors, water damage, inadequate electric, lack of air conditioning and crumbling block walls. There is no storage space, so tables and chairs are stacked in the open. There are holes that let varmints inside – including a skunk that visited during a recent rental. The demolition of the Veterans Building, Girl Scout Building and the Depot Building are all scheduled for mid-August. Then construction will begin on a new City Park building, which will have adequate space for programming, storage, air conditioning, ADA accessibility, and an attractive design that reflects the historic nature of City Park. On Tuesday evening, Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley reported to the board that requests for qualifications for the new building are due this week. “That will be very exciting,” she said. Though the aging Veterans Building has outlived its usefulness, Otley said the city still wants to pay homage to the role it played in the community – as a place where families celebrated birthdays, organizations held chili-cook-offs, and residents tried to jazzercise off some pounds. So Otley is asking that as local residents do their spring cleaning, if they come upon photographs of those special moments at the Veterans Building, that they share those photos with the Parks and Recreation Department. “So many life moments happened in this building,” Otley said. And she is hoping some of the old photos can be displayed in the new building. Otley asked that a couple park board members volunteer to look over the architectural plans for the new building as the project nears. “You are representatives of the community and have different takes on things,” she said. Once the buildings are…


Ohio voters have chance to draw line on gerrymandering

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Joan Callecod doesn’t want the next map of Ohio congressional districts to be drawn up like the current lines – in a hotel room, away from the public view. Ohio’s current congressional district lines were devised in a hotel room, called “the bunker,” Callecod said Tuesday evening during a presentation on Issue 1 appearing on the May 8 ballot. Callecod, a member of the League of Women Voters in Bowling Green, explained the need for Issue 1 to pass in order to get rid of gerrymandering in Ohio’s congressional districts. Gerrymandering is the manipulation of congressional district lines to benefit one political party or the other. In the current case, since the Republicans were in control when the lines were drawn after the last U.S. Census, the GOP benefits. “In partisan gerrymandering, the legislators choose their voters. The voters don’t choose their legislators,” Callecod said. Issue 1 would require the process of drawing lines to be transparent, and require bipartisan support of the changes. The process would also limit the cases where cities, villages or townships are divided into separate congressional districts. Ohio state districts already went through redistricting reform in 2015. The issue on the May ballot covers the U.S. congressional districts for Ohio. Regardless of which party benefits from gerrymandering, the system is wrong, Callecod said. Under the present congressional lines, only 3 percent of the 435 congressional districts have truly contested elections, she said. “To me, that’s disgraceful,” Callecod said. Ohio’s current process allows the majority party to dissect counties and cities to create districts that favor the party in power. Under the existing map, drawn by Republicans in 2011, the GOP holds 12 of Ohio’s 16 seats while only winning 56 percent of the votes. Callecod is hopeful that ballot issue will be approved by Ohio voters. “We are not aware of any opposition,” she said. Here’s how the new plan would work: The General Assembly has an…


Public hungry for solution as food truck talks continue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials hope to recreate the winning recipe used by other communities where food trucks co-exist with brick and mortar restaurants. A group of three council members – Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino – has now held four meetings on the topic of food trucks. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, at 4 p.m., in the city council chambers. “I really would like us to start to put some meat on this,” Herald said about food truck regulations. During last week’s meeting, Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter explained the city’s current process for allowing food trucks on private property. At the committee’s request, Tretter also outlined public owned lands, such as city parks and parking lots – areas that could potentially be used for food trucks under new regulations being considered. Tretter also outlined the city’s special event permits, such as those used for food vendors at the annual Black Swamp Arts Festival. The 14-page permit is extensive, and sets requirements on insurance, litter control, security, locations, host organizations, parking and other issues. The Wood County Health Department inspects the actual food service operations. “This is a very extensive permit process,” Tretter said. “This is like gold,” Herald said. “It’s so comprehensive, there’s nothing left out.” Zanfardino questioned if the food vendors will have to avoid the downtown area, due to concerns from brick and mortar restaurant owners. He also suggested some pilot projects, “to see if it truly works for vendors who want to serve Bowling Green.” Both Zanfardino and Rowland pointed to food truck information from the National League of Cities. “There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel,” Rowland said, suggesting that Bowling Green also build on the success of communities like Perrysburg and Toledo that allow food trucks. “We know there were trials and tribulations at the beginning, but it works well now,” Rowland said. Rowland pushed back at the idea that food trucks should avoid…


County steers toward $5 license fee for roads, bridges

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Engineer John Musteric is tired of just spinning his wheels on endless road and bridge repairs. So on Thursday, he asked the Wood County Commissioners to consider tacking on another $5 permissive license plate fee to raise money for road and bridge maintenance. The commissioners seemed open to the proposal. “He’s done his homework,” Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said. “Our roads and bridges do need some attention.” The commissioners will be required to hold two public hearings before they make a decision on the permissive license fee. But Commissioner Craig LaHote said he believes most local residents already know the county’s infrastructure needs help. “People realize the roads are in bad shape,” he said. Musteric and the commissioners looked at a map of county roads – with several of the routes colored red or orange, indicating serious or poor road conditions. “We’re never catching up,” Musteric told the commissioners. “We do all these studies of where we should put our money. You try to spend your money where the most people will benefit from it.” The county engineer feels his office is in a Catch-22 situation. What’s the use of spending money to fix bridges, he said, “if you’ve got crappy roads going to them?” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said state and federal government have “no appetite” for raising gas taxes themselves. And the revenue brought in by gas taxes isn’t growing to meet expenses, since more fuel-efficient cars mean less gas is needed to traverse the state. “It makes the revenue generated remain flat,” Kalmar said. The proposed $5 increase is projected to bring in an additional $632,660 annually for road and bridge repairs. Musteric pledged to the commissioners that the additional funds would be used only on capital expenses, not on personnel or operating costs. Currently the state registration fee is $34.50, and the local permissive fees are between $15 and $20, depending on the community. The Ohio…


After years of resistance, EPA says Lake Erie ‘impaired’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Since the green algae scare in 2014 that resulted in the Toledo area being warned to not drink the water, the Ohio EPA has insisted that Lake Erie would not benefit from being declared “impaired.” But this afternoon, the EPA released a report stating the lake’s status should be changed to “impaired.” The battle has been between the state – which didn’t want the region to suffer economically from being named “impaired” – and environmentalists, who said the lake would improve only if the source of the harmful algae is identified – and the farming community that didn’t want all the blame for the algae, and didn’t want more regulation of their practices. In Thursday’s announcement, the EPA is proposing the open waters of Lake Erie’s Western Basin be designated as impaired for recreation and drinking water. This includes the area of the lake from the Michigan-Ohio state line to the lighthouse in Marblehead. The shoreline areas of the western basin and drinking water intakes had already been designated as impaired. This first assessment of Lake Erie included input from Bowling Green State University, Ohio State University Sea Grant College Program, University of Toledo, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. EPA. The report identifies a science-based process for assessing impairment from harmful algae of the western basin open waters. “While designating the open waters of the Western Basin as impaired does not provide, as some suggest, a magic bullet to improve the lake, the state remains committed to our obligations under the Clean Water Act and to examine emerging science and practices that we can put in place to help improve it,” Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler stated in the report released today. The news was welcomed by area environmentalists, who have insisted for years that Lake Erie would only get worse if the sources of the harmful algae aren’t identified and limited. The “impaired” status will require such studies. While…


BG firefighter and wife recognized for saving man’s life

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   An off-duty Bowling Green firefighter and his wife were given standing ovations in the City Council chambers Monday evening, for saving a man’s life. Steve and Dawn Tyda stopped a man from jumping off the East Wooster overpass at Interstate 75 last month. The Tydas were on their way home from Columbus, when they pulled off I-75 around 11 p.m. They saw a man standing on the overpass, facing the highway. Steve Tyda turned the vehicle around and went back to the overpass and pulled up next to the man. Dawn Tyda asked the man if he was OK. The man reportedly said, “I’ll be OK in about four seconds when I jump.” “Tyda’s years of service as a firefighter and a paramedic told him he needed to act quickly,” Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said as he retold the story during the council meeting. So Dawn Tyda offered to talk or pray with the man, who turned back to the highway below and leaned over the side. Meanwhile Steve Tyda came up behind the man and tackled him to keep him from going over onto I-75 below. Tyda held him down until police arrived. The man, a 49-year-old Bowling Green resident, was taken to Wood County Hospital where he was checked out by Behavioral Connections. He was transported to Flower Hospital in Sylvania for evaluation. Fawcett commended Steve Tyda for his “selfless and valorous act.” He presented the firefighter with a distinguished service award, for taking a substantial risk to himself to save another person despite the fact Tyda was off-duty at the time. Mayor Dick Edwards also presented a commendation to Dawn Tyda for her efforts in saving the man’s life. “She distinguished herself from the average citizen,” Edwards said. Dawn Tyda put herself at great risk, “buying valuable time,” the mayor said. “Her actions resulted in saving a life.” After the commendations were presented, the mayor noted the number…


City charter changes: Non-partisan council races? Four-year council terms?

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Citizens are speaking up on changes they might like to see in the Bowling Green City Charter. Should council races be non-partisan? Should all council terms be four years? Should it be easier for citizens to have input on environmental and health issues? Should the charter address rental housing standards? Not a single citizen showed up for the first public meeting on updating the city charter. But on the second meeting, Thursday evening, there were seven citizens, several charter review committee members, council members and city administration officials. The city charter documents how city government is run. It was adopted in 1972, then reviewed in 1990 and 2001. A 17-member citizen committee is currently collecting public input, discussing possible revisions, then will make recommendations for changes to City Council. The changes must be approved by Bowling Green voters in the November election for them to become part of the charter. “Each individual section has to be voted on separately,” said Shannon Orr, one of the co-chairs of the charter update committee with Jeff Crawford. Orr explained that another public meeting will be held once the committee has come up with its suggested revisions. The city charter can be viewed on the city website, and citizens can submit their ideas through email or by contacting a committee member. At last week’s meeting, citizen Stu Stearns, who served on the charter review committee in 2001, said a May deadline for getting the revisions to City Council may be too tight of a timeline. “Most people don’t even know what’s in the charter,” Stearns said. Orr agreed the timeline was ambitious – but also necessary since the revisions must go to council by May to get the changes on the November ballot. She assured Stearns and others that citizen input is being sought. “We’re giving the public plenty of opportunities,” Orr said, noting the city website where comments can be submitted. “It’s really easy for…


Small towns count on big help from block grant funding

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Small town government can be short on glamour, and steeped in talk of storm drains, street repairs and sewer systems. Mayors and other officials from many of Wood County’s 26 municipalities recently made their preliminary pitches to get funding for projects that they cannot afford on their own. Listening to their proposals were officials from the Wood County Planning Commission – which is the first of several steps to get Community Development Block Grants. Dave Steiner, director of the planning commission, said this year’s funding level for the county overall is still unknown. The projects must serve areas with low to moderate income, or eliminate slum or blight conditions. And if communities are able to pitch in some matching dollars, they stand a better chance of getting funds. Bowling Green gets its own pot of CDBG money, but the other municipalities in Wood County compete for the county share. Following is a list of some of the project requests made earlier this month: Bradner: “We’re here to once again replace waterlines,” said Board of Public Affairs President Jim Smith. “All that we are replacing were put in by WPA,” meaning they are at least 80 years old. “As they continue to age, we’re constantly dealing with breakages,” he said. Village leaders would also like to put LED lighting in the town, plus update lighting in the village park. Custar: Mayor Renee Hartman said street improvements are needed on Custar Road, especially where it is damaged by heavy truck traffic near the grain elevator. “We are continuously filling the potholes,” Hartman said. “Very, very poor” sidewalks along Custar Road also need fixing, she said. Grand Rapids: Chad Hoffman, village administrator, said the town needs sanitary sewer work on the west side of the community, and sidewalk repairs throughout the village. Village leaders also plan to ask that Ohio 65 be rerouted out of the town, Hoffman said. “Since ODOT won’t maintain and repair…


Portable scales may be used to deter overweight trucks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County officials tired of roads being beat up by overweight trucks may start using portable scales to snag those heavy loads. Wood County Engineer John Musteric and Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn made a pitch to the county commissioners Thursday morning about setting up an overweight vehicle permit program using scales that can easily be transported throughout the county. The goal isn’t to make money off of permits and fines, Musteric said, but rather to discourage heavy trucks from breaking up county roads. Overweight truck traffic is increasing on interstates, so it’s only natural that to reach their destinations, those trucks have to use smaller county and township roads. While most trucking companies get permits with ODOT for overweight loads, they often neglect to get permits at the local level, Musteric said. Last year, Ohio issued 367,332 permits for overweight trucks. When detailing their routes, those trucking companies identified 46,034 loads that traveled through Wood County. Yet only 57 permits were issues for Wood County, Musteric said. The legal limit on Ohio roads is 80,000 pounds. Some of the heavy trucks weigh as much as 165,000 pounds. “Some of those people aren’t going to be happy,” Wasylyshyn said. Permits can be purchased per truck, per route traveled. “If they get off that route, and they get nailed, they pay hefty fines,” Musteric said. But Musteric stressed the goal isn’t to make money, but to control which roads overweight trucks travel. “Believe me, this is not a money grab for us,” he told the commissioners. The county’s roads and bridges are in “dire straits” and suffer from heavy loads. So part of the permitting program will be educational – with efforts made to direct overweight traffic to more suitable routes. The sheriff and engineer suggested that Wood County use portable scales as part of that educational process. “ODOT has three portable scales just waiting to be used, at no cost,” Musteric said….


Wood County looking at rough roads and old bridges

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s got some rough roads ahead, not to mention some bridges long overdue on being replaced. Wood County Engineer John Musteric took his road show to the crowded courthouse atrium Tuesday for the State of the County address. “It’s not good,” he told the crowd. The county has 245 miles of roads to maintain, plus 441 bridges with an average age of 41 years. More than 20 bridges have passed the century mark, with the granddaddy of them all being the 133-year-old bridge on Custar Road south of Sand Ridge Road. “We’re way behind, way behind,” Musteric said. Musteric drew a quick road map for the audience. Nearly three-quarters of the county’s roads are rated marginal or lower. Nearly half of those are ranked as poor or serious. Bringing those roads up to fair condition would cost an estimated $39 million. The county engineer’s office is studying pavement preservation practices. The lifespan of average pavement is 25 years. To catch up, the county would need to pave 35 miles every year – costing about $10.3 million each year. Instead, the county is spending about $1.1 million a year on paving. The county roads and bridges are at a crisis, Musteric said after the public address. “We’ve been in a crisis mode for a long time. We’ve got so much to take care of and maintain.” The engineer’s office is planning to draw the line at paving roads that have crumbling culverts underneath. Since there are about 2,500 culverts in the county, that could add up to quite a few road miles. When it comes to bridges, the county plans to replace four this year, costing about $1.2 million. That is just a drop in the bucket, with 441 bridges in Wood County. More than half are over 50 years old, and 52 bridges are ranked in poor or worse shape. The cost to replace those 52 would add up to $20.8…


Wood County healthy, but facing some challenges

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s finances are strong – but they are facing some heavy lifting in the next few years. The county is staring down a potential $4.2 million bill for new voting machines, $6 million to renovate the booking area of the county jail, and more than it can afford to fix its road and bridge repairs. But the county commissioners assured their audience at the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce’s State of the County Address on Tuesday that Wood County government is quite healthy. The combination of conservative spending and the highest ever sales tax revenue of $21.7 million last year has positioned the county on solid ground, Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said. Business looking bright Wood County businesses are thriving, with many upping production and updating machinery, Commissioner Craig LaHote said. The issue now is the shortage of employees to fill new positions. “That’s a good problem to have,” he said. LaHote specifically mentioned growth at First Solar in Perrysburg Township, and a $16 million expansion promising 100 jobs at Continental Structural Plastics in North Baltimore – a company that was considered close to failing a few years ago. The numbers at county building inspection reached a record high, Wood Haven Health Care has seen major renovations, glass recycling was reinstated last year, and permanent satellite recycling stations will be opened this summer. Efforts are underway to establish the Toledo Area Water Authority, which would regionalize the Toledo system and potentially serve the northern part of Wood County. “As commissioners, we believe a cooperative approach is best,” LaHote said. However, if Toledo fails to approve the project, Wood County has other options, he added. Expenses on the horizon All electronic voting machines in Ohio must be replaced by the 2020 election. That comes with a hefty price tag of $4.2 million. The commissioners are working with state legislators to find state funding to help with the expense. The county is also facing…


Food truck meeting gives BG officials a lot to digest

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The committee studying food trucks in Bowling Green got a heaping serving of advice from a wide range of food providers Monday evening. They heard from the owners of a burger bar, family diner, fast food site, and the chef at a country club. They also heard from food truck owners who sell everything from perch and grilled cheese, to grilled lamb chops and lobster macaroni & cheese. And all of them seemed to want to find a way that brick and mortar restaurants can not only survive, but can benefit from having food trucks in the city. “I’m here to find out how we have to adapt to compete,” said George Strata, who owns Beckett’s Burger Bar and Call of the Canyon with his wife, Phina Strata. “Competition is good,” as long as it’s fair, he added. A current city ordinance allows food trucks on private property, but not on public property within 150 feet of a right-of-way. A committee made up of Bowling Green City Council members Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino, is studying if those rules should be changed to make it feasible for food trucks to set up in the city. Herald asked for input on where trucks should be allowed, the specific hours of operation, the duration of operations, and how many locations may be used? Food truck operators abide by a “code of the road,” Herald said, but some specific rules may be in order. “We’re in the process of trying to see what’s feasible in town,” Zanfardino said. Russ Courtney, owner of Rusty’s Roadtrip which sets up weekly in Perrysburg and once a year at the Black Swamp Arts Festival in Bowling Green, suggested that the rules not be made too restrictive. “If the law gets convoluted enough, people will say, ‘Forget it,’” Courtney said. The city of Perrysburg has no rules limiting the days of operation, said Phil Barone, owner of Rosie’s…


BG may bump up speed limits on both ends of Poe Road

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Motorists who find their gas pedal getting a little heavy on the far east and west ends of Poe Road may not have to worry as much about speeding tickets there in the future. Bowling Green City Council heard the first reading of an ordinance changing the speed limits from 35 to 45 mph on West Poe Road from Lafayette Boulevard to the city limits, and on East Poe Road from North College Avenue to Mercer Road. The change was suggested by the city traffic commission. Before any speed limits can be modified, traffic studies must be conducted, Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett explained after Monday’s meeting. The studies on both ends of Poe Road were based on ODOT guidelines of looking for the 85th percentile speed of traffic – which is the basic factor in setting speed limits. This is the speed that 85 percent of the drivers were at or below based upon the study, and has been determined by ODOT to be the speed at which the “average” driver feels comfortable driving in that area. The speed studies also consider factors such as the number of driveways, number of crashes and traffic volume. The data collected showed that a speed limit increase was warranted in both sections of Poe Road. Police Chief Tony Hetrick said bumping up the speed limits makes sense. “It seems logical, it’s a reasonable speed to be traveling,” Hetrick said after the meeting. Few speeding tickets are handed out in those sections of Poe Road, though they were previously pretty common in front of the Wood County Airport. “Poe Road used to be a pretty easy mark for speeders,” the chief said. The speed limit ordinance will get two more readings by City Council before being voted upon. In other business, council member Bruce Jeffers addressed those present about gun violence in schools. “I’m well aware it’s not in our purview,” Jeffers said. He praised…


BG Council committee chews on food truck information

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green residents are hungry for food trucks in the city. And Phil Barone thinks he has a menu that might please their palates. Barone, who has owned Rosie’s Italian Grille in Toledo for 36 years, has a food truck that serves customers in Perrysburg and Toledo. “To be honest about it, I’ve been looking in Bowling Green,” said Barone, who is a BGSU alumnus. But Bowling Green’s food truck rules are too restrictive, he told city officials Saturday during a work session examining the city’s food truck ordinance. No food vendors are allowed on public property – unlike other communities where food trucks can set up in parking lots or in street parking spots. The city of Toledo first balked at changing its ordinance, Barone said. “I got a lot of flack. The restaurants didn’t like us there,” he said. But the food trucks have transformed St. Clair Street every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon during lunch time. Now instead of just a handful of people venturing out to eat on St. Clair, the food trucks draw about 1,500 during lunchtime. “People come out like ants. It’s fun to watch,” Barone said. Barone heads up a food truck association which has 11 members. Their menus offer items like grilled baby lamb chops, lobster mac and cheese, cauliflower crust pizza, Cuban food, steamed mussel salad, perch, cappuccino, and ice cream. “Food trucks aren’t just serving corn dogs,” Barone said. The committee examining Bowling Green’s food truck rules – made up of council members Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino – has heard from citizens wanting food truck options, from local business owners concerned about the impact on their livelihoods, and from prospective food truck owners who would like to set up their mobile shops here. “I’m hearing from a lot of people,” Rowland said. “The citizens say ‘Yes, we want them.’” Some downtown businesses also would like to see food trucks. “We…