Government

BG linemen to help get power back to Florida after Irma

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   With Hurricane Irma leaving most of Florida in the dark, cities across the nation are sending down electric workers to lend a hand. The city of Bowling Green sent three linemen – Trent Tyson, Randy McBride and Tim Brubaker – to the Tallahassee, Florida, area to help get power back to the region. The three men are planning to work in Florida for a week to 10 days. “We’ll see how that goes,” said Brian O’Connell, director of Bowling Green’s public utilities. “If they need more help, we may send another crew down to help.” Though the three linemen are acquainted with the work, they are expecting this to be unlike any disasters they have encountered up here. “There are just piles of debris everywhere,” O’Connell said – including power poles that are scattered around like pick-up sticks. “This is a much larger scale, and they’re not familiar with the system.” After cleaning up the torn down lines and poles, then new ones must be installed. “It’s just a major endeavor,” O’Connell said. Three years ago, Bowling Green needed help from other communities when a strong line of winds knocked down power poles along Dunbridge Road on the east side of the city. Like Bowling Green, Tallahassee is a member of the American Public Power Association. When one member is in trouble, others respond, O’Connell explained. “It’s a fairly common practice in the industry,” he said. “We just needed to keep enough people back to make sure we’re covered.” The linemen will help with reconstruction, by first taking care of down trees…


Citizens gather on Wooster Green to defend DACA

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Yvette Llanas, a lifelong Bowling Green resident and American citizen, never dreamed the threat of deportation would touch her family. Llanas found out last week she was wrong. “I never thought this would affect me,” Llanas said in an impromptu speech on the Wooster Green Sunday evening during a rally opposing President Donald Trump’s action to end DACA. “My daughter-in-law happens to be undocumented,” Llanas said. “The decision made this week just crushed my soul.” Her daughter-in-law came to America as a small child. “This is the only home she knows,” Llanas said. “She is part of our country,” as are her two children. “We are all immigrants here, somehow, some way,” Llanas said. About 60 local residents gathered in the Wooster Green to express their opposition to Trump’s announcement last week that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in six months if Congress doesn’t find a more permanent solution. Since it was enacted under President Barack Obama, about 800,000 immigrants who were children when they arrived in the U.S. illegally have received protections from the program. DACA allows young people brought to this country illegally by their parents to get a temporary reprieve from deportation and to receive permission to work, study and obtain driver’s licenses. Those signing up for DACA must show that they have clean criminal records. Their status is renewable every two years. “This is really targeting kids who were brought by their parents at a very early age,” said Beatriz Maya, of the La Conexion organization. “They don’t know any other life. It…


BG says ‘welcome’ in many different languages

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   On the day that “Dreamers” saw their American status slipping away, Bowling Green residents stood before City Council Tuesday and recited the city’s “welcoming and safe community” resolution in their native languages. “In April, we brought a resolution to City Council about Bowling Green being a welcoming community for immigrants,” said Rev. Mary Jane Saunders, head of the city’s human relations commission, working with La Conexion. The resolution proclaims “Bowling Green as a welcoming and safe community for immigrants and condemning any discrimination, harassment or unjustified deportation of immigrant residents of Bowling Green.” To show the significance of the resolution, one by one, a group of city residents read a portion of the resolution in Vietnamese, Indian, Hindi, German, Chinese, Italian, Spanish and English. The group also presented council with a “welcoming” poster designed by Ethan Jordan. Beatriz Maya, of La Conexion, said other translations will be added to the city’s website as they become available. “This is a work in progress,” she said. Mayor Dick Edwards praised the translations shared at the meeting. “What a special way of touching all of our hearts,” he said. When City Council adopted the welcoming resolution earlier this year, council member Daniel Gordon pushed for the effort. “I’m very happy with the language that we have here,” Gordon said. Though the issue of illegal immigrant deportations is national, the city wants to take a stand, he said. “Council does not support seeing their families ripped apart.” Gordon said the resolution was written specifically with the immigrant population in mind. The city had recently passed an…


Mayor gets audience with EPA about pipeline

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards finally got confirmation Tuesday that the Ohio EPA is at least listening to the city’s concerns about the Nexus pipeline that is proposed to run 700 feet from the city’s water treatment plant. During a conference call with Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler and Northwest Ohio Division EPA Chief Shannon Nabors, the issues raised by the city were discussed. Those same concerns also appeared in the “Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity” issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last month. “In much the same manner as the FERC document, today’s session with the Ohio EPA is in my view another significant indication that the issues raised by Bowling Green have been heard in both Columbus and Washington,” Edwards reported to City Council on Tuesday evening. “Today we heard from the Ohio EPA that their experts have carefully and methodically examined the environmental conditions of this construction and were reminded of the Ohio EPA’s commitment to the state’s waterways and environmental assets.” One of the mayor’s concerns was the monitoring of the pipeline construction. “All significant concerns raised by Bowling Green have been or are being addressed including specific and aggressive plans by both FERC and the Ohio EPA to develop site specific plans for monitoring the construction of the proposed pipeline,” he said. Lessons have been learned from the Rover pipeline construction, in which hazardous materials have been spilled along the route in Ohio. FERC will reportedly have field staff in Ohio for the Nexus project. And the Ohio EPA, in conjunction with its scientific and…


BG Council approves liquor license transfer with split vote

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Prudy Brott doesn’t mind healthy competition from new restaurants. As owner of Sunset Bistro on the west side of Bowling Green, she is comfortable with competing establishments. However, Brott is troubled by the different rules for the transferring of liquor licenses. Her statements to City Council Tuesday evening resulted in a split vote allowing a new restaurant to bring in a license from another community. When Brott opened up Sunset Bistro, she found getting a liquor license to be time consuming, frustrating and very expensive. In the end, she had to pay $50,000, “and I’ll be paying for it for years.” Brott said she was told she would have to wait until someone owning a liquor license in the city was ready to sell. “I was open for six months before I ever poured a beer in my restaurant,” she said. Liquor licenses are parceled out by the state based on community populations. All the available liquor licenses in Bowling Green for public dine in restaurants are already owned – though not all are in use. Some owners hold onto them as investment tools. She had inquired about purchasing a liquor license from another community, but said she was told that would not be allowed. So when Brott learned of a new pizza place moving to Bowling Green and bringing a liquor license from another community, she was troubled. “I’m not against them having a liquor license whatsoever,” she said. “I’m not against another restaurant in town.” Brott just wants to preserve the value of her investment – which she sees at…


Locals urge Congress to act to protect Dreamers

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Trump Administration’s announcement Tuesday that it would end protection for immigrants covered by the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, or DACA, has prompted local calls for legislators to step in to protect the so-called Dreamers. Once the announcement was made , Beatriz Maya, the executive director of La Conexion, pulled together a small contingent to deliver a letter to the Bowling Green field office of U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) calling for him to support the Dream Act that is now before Congress. That act would provide protection for these immigrants who were brought here as children by their parents who lacked proper documentation. The act would also provide them and other young immigrants with a path to become citizens. The letter read in part: “We demand that you and all members of Congress take immediate action to protect DACA recipients contributing to communities across the country. We urge you to co-sponsor the bipartisan Dream Act sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sem. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) that would provide a path to citizenship to 1.8 million immigrant youth who grew up calling this country home.” The letter noted it makes no sense in areas reporting labor shortages to deport people who have been educated and trained here. Maya said six people visited the office and spoke with David Wirt, Latta’s district manager, for about 20 minutes. She said they were told that given the announcement was just made, he had not had time to contact Latta to get his position on the matter. Maya noted in an interview later Tuesday that…


Wood County Commissioners make connections in D.C.

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Commissioners took their local concerns to a higher power earlier this week. The three went to Washington, D.C., to meet with federal officials about issues that matter back here in Ohio. As part of an invitation to the National Association of Counties, 82 county commissioners from across Ohio spent the first part of this week making connections in the nation’s capital. “The purpose was for us to learn more about the federal departments and what they can do for us, and open the lines of communication,” said Doris Herringshaw, president of the Wood County Commissioners. Though governors and mayors are frequently on the guest list in Washington, D.C., this was reportedly the first time the focus was on county commissioners. This was an effort to reach more local grassroots government, Commissioner Craig LaHote said. The expenses for all three commissioners – Herringshaw, LaHote and Ted Bowlus – will be picked up by county taxpayers. Flights, hotel lodging and food added up to a total of about $1,500 – with the education and connections made by the commissioners well worth the expenses, they agreed when they talked Thursday after their three days in D.C. While there, the commissioners met with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Vice President Mike Pence, toured the White House and heard from Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump. “She’s an excellent speaker,” Herringshaw said of Conway. The commissioners met with representatives of 10 to 15 federal agencies, and were scheduled to meet with others, such as HUD Secretary Ben Carson, but several officials were…


BGSU’s Albert Dzur to receive medal for promoting democracy

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Dr. Albert Dzur, professor of political science and philosophy at Bowling Green State University, is the winner of the 2017 Laurence and Lynne Brown Democracy Medal from the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State University. The McCourtney Institute promotes rigorous scholarship and practical innovations to advance the democratic process in the United States and abroad. The institute awards the Brown Democracy Medal annually to honor the best work being done to advance democracy in the United States and internationally. “Albert Dzur’s work represents an important new frontier in democratic theory,” noted Dr. Michael Berkman, professor of political science and director of the McCourtney Institute, in announcing the 2017 Brown Democracy Medal recipient. “When partisan rancor is at an all-time high and confidence in democratic processes is at an all-time low, Dzur shows that democracy is still an effective and empowering way for citizens to address their common problems.” Dzur argues that some of the most innovative and important work in democracy is taking place face-to-face and is encouraged by power-sharing professionals who bring citizens into their decision-making processes. These “democratic professionals” co-create institutional cultures that lead to better decisions, increased trust and less “civic lethargy.” His most recent work focuses on how democratic professionalism can better manifest itself in the operation of our criminal justice system — from juries to prisons. He rejects the conventional wisdom that more expertise and less democracy are needed in criminal justice because of the links between a fearful public, demagogic politicians and mass incarceration. Instead, Dzur focuses on the more foundational problem of “repellent” criminal justice institutions that…


Net neutrality backers target Latta with billboard

From FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE Today (Tuesday, Aug. 29) digital rights organization Fight for the Future unveiled 3 more crowdfunded billboards targeting Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers,  Bob Latta, and Greg Walden, members of Congress who have publicly supported the FCC’s efforts to gut net neutrality protections that keep the web free from censorship, throttling, and extra fees. The three new billboards are the latest in an ongoing campaign focused on lawmakers who oppose Internet freedom. Earlier this month the group launched an initial round of net neutrality billboards targeting six different lawmakers in states across the country. The move comes just hours before the FCC’s final deadline for public input on their controversial plan to repeal net neutrality. With lawmakers still in their home districts, the billboards – paid for by hundreds of small donations – appear in three different states. Since the massive July 12th day of action, millions have contacted their representatives – who have oversight over the FCC – to ensure these key protections are not changed or removed. The billboards send a strong message to any Members of Congress contemplating support for the FCC’s plan to repeal net neutrality, which is currently being tracked through a “congressional scorecard” on BattleForTheNet.com. So far very few lawmakers have been willing to publicly support Ajit Pai’s plan, likely in light of polling that shows voters — including Republicans — overwhelmingly oppose it. The billboards encourage constituents to contact their elected representatives; for example, Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Greg Walden’s (R-OR) billboard in Medford, Oregon asks, “Want slower, more expensive Internet? Rep. Walden supports CenturyLink’s plan to destroy net neutrality. Ask him why: (541) 776-4646.” The…


BG water may become emergency backup for Perrysburg

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It was just over three years ago that residents in northern Wood County were ordered not to use their water for three days. Any customers getting Toledo water were warned that algal blooms had made the water dangerous to drink. Meanwhile, Bowling Green water customers continued consuming their water with no risks. The crisis to the north prompted a water study to determine if such a crisis occurred again, if Bowling Green could supply the water needs of Perrysburg and the Northwestern Water and Sewer District. The answer appears to be yes – with some new infrastructure. The emergency water supply interconnection study was funded by a Local Government Innovation Grant from the state, with local matches from Bowling Green, Perrysburg and the district. The study, conducted by Poggemeyer Design Group and presented by Linda Amos and Denise Plummer Monday evening to the Bowling Green Board of Public Utilities, found the following existing conditions: Bowling Green has 130 miles of water main, 1,342 fire hydrants, three water towers, and a 170-million gallon reservoir. Its water supply is 9.1 million gallons a day in the winter and 11.1 million gallons a day in the summer. The demands on the system average 6.5 million gallons a day. Perrysburg has 122 miles of water main, 1,736 fire hydrants, four water towers, and two pressure zones fed by two booster pump stations at two clear wells. The demands on the system average 2.7 million gallons a day. The Northwestern Water and Sewer District has 429 miles of waterline, 3,581 fire hydrants, two ground water storage, seven…


FERC approves Nexus pipeline – BG opposition not giving up

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Nexus pipeline has been granted federal approval to be constructed across Ohio – but local officials and activists still aren’t giving up their hopes to get the route changed. Late on Friday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the construction of the 36-inch high-pressure pipeline to carry natural gas from shale fields in Appalachia across northern Ohio and into Michigan and Ontario, Canada. The $2 billion Nexus pipeline, stretching 255 miles, will be capable of carrying 1.5 billion feet of gas per day. But Bowling Green officials and local activists have expressed concerns about the close proximity of the proposed pipeline to the city’s water reservoir next to the Maumee River. Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards, who has been asking the Ohio EPA to consider the risks to the city water treatment plant, still hopes the state agency can intervene. “It still has to be certified by the Ohio EPA,” Edwards said Sunday afternoon. City officials are scheduled to have a conference call with Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler and his staff next week. The agency has promised the mayor that they are conducting a systematic review of concerns submitted by Bowling Green officials. “They are painfully aware of what has happened with the Rover pipeline” in other areas of Ohio where hazardous material spills have occurred, Edwards said. The mayor insisted that the Nexus plans are not final. “We’ve tried to protect the interest of Bowling Green as it relates to the water treatment plant,” with the pipeline proposed to be buried 700 feet away. “I’ve always said that was not…


New property value appraisals to be open for inspection

Wood County Auditor Michael Sibbersen announced Friday that the 2017 reappraisal values have received State approval. County wide residential properties have received an average increase of 9.67 percent. Ohio law requires that each county in the state conduct a reappraisal every six years. Generally in every third year following a revaluation a “triennial update” of values by neighborhood is mandated to better reflect the current market conditions. Wood County experienced a residential net zero value change for the 2014 Triennial update at the recommendation of the Ohio Department of Taxation, due to studies indicating that recent sales were close to existing values from the prior 2011 reappraisal. As a result no county wide revision of values has occurred in six years. Sibbersen indicated that it is important to remember that each property is reviewed individually, so one parcel may increase more than the average and another less due to location, desirability, and condition. An increase in value does not necessarily compute to a comparable increase in tax. Ohio Legislation ensures that approximately the same amount is collected each year for the voted millage. Therefore, levy millage rates will be factored up or down by the Department of Taxation so that the total amount collected will remain consistent with the amount originally voted. “This is an important concept to understand because the reappraisal law is designed to equalize all values among taxpayers, not to enhance revenue for the taxing authorities: in other words this is not a means of raising taxes or lowering taxes, it’s a re-balancing of the tax value burden among individual properties and classes,” Sibbersen stressed. However, there…


Available liquor licenses for restaurants all dried up in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Liquor licenses are hard to come by in Bowling Green. Just ask Ross and Peter Wiley, who are trying to open a Rapid Fired Pizza restaurant in town. The state parcels out liquor licenses based on community populations. In Bowling Green, all the available licenses for beer, wine and liquor are already issued – except for some still available for carryouts and places of private memberships. Since there are no more available liquor licenses for sit-down establishments for the public in Bowling Green, any new business wanting to serve liquor needs City Council’s blessing in order to purchase a license from another community and use it here. So that leaves the Wileys at the mercy of City Council to allow the company to buy an available liquor license from another city and use it at a Rapid Fired Pizza shop opening soon at 852 S. Main St. The restaurant business, founded in Dayton, already has 20 locations. It specializes in a set up where customers pick out their pizza crusts, sauces and toppings, then have it cooked in three minutes. The Wileys would like to offer craft beer with the pizza. Ideally, the Wileys would like to serve local craft beers through a process called “I Pour It.” The self-pour process scans the customer’s driver’s license for age and weight. The process is used successfully at other locations, they told City Council Monday evening. But some council members voiced concerns about allowing another liquor license in the city. Once the liquor license is transferred to the Bowling Green location, it can then…


Portage River cleanup opens floodgates to complaints

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ten years after the petition was filed, the Portage River project will finally be moving forward. But not everyone along the river is happy about how it will affect their land and their wallets. More than 80 people crowded outside the Wood County Commissioners Office on Tuesday for the final hearing on the river cleanup. Some had waited a decade for the project to be approved.  Others, however, were unhappy about paying for the project, didn’t want county workers on their land, and worried that the cleanup upstream will cause more flooding downstream. But as the hearing came to a close, the county commissioners from all three counties involved voted in favor of the river cleanup. The project is the biggest river project undertaken in Wood County in terms of area, according to Wood County Engineer John Musteric. It follows 46 miles of the south and east branches of the Portage River, covering 111 square miles of watershed in Wood, Hancock and Seneca counties, affecting about 8,200 parcels of land. While the size of the project is great, the scope is not. There will be no digging, no widening, no channelizing. The river branches will be allowed to keep their meandering paths. The work will only remove logjams and trees leaning into the river. The cleanup of the Portage River branches is intended to reduce future flooding. The estimated cost of the project – $658,914 – will be divided among the landowners, based on the benefits their properties are expected to experience. When county engineer staff walked the river routes after the…


BG Council approves pipeline charter amendment for ballot

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The petition to get a pipeline issue on Bowling Green’s November ballot cleared another hurdle Monday evening, when City Council voted unanimously to submit the petition to the Wood County Board of Elections to put the issue on the November ballot. But council member Bob McOmber cautioned that unanimous support of putting the issue on the ballot did not mean City Council endorsed the measure. Council’s action was simply a formality to get the matter on the ballot, he said. This was the second hurdle passed by the pipeline petition. The first was cleared Friday – just barely. A total of 1,230 signatures were collected on the petition. By law, to make it on the ballot, the petition needed 714 valid signatures. It had 715. But two other hurdles remain. One involves timing. There is some question if the pipeline petition was filed too late. There are different deadlines depending on the type of petition, so that issue will likely be decided by the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office. The other involves content. It’s possible the petition won’t make the November ballot because it asks for powers that the city may not have the authority to give. Under Ohio House Bill 463, passed last year, the petition may not be within the purview of the city and may create constitutional conflicts. City Attorney Mike Marsh said it will be up to the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office – not the city – to rule whether or not the petition was filed on time, and if the language of the charter amendment meets standards. Three…