Government

Area around solar field may be restored to natural habitat

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials hope to save on mowing expenses and provide wildlife habitat all in one plan. Instead of mowing the open grassy areas surrounding the solar field on Carter Road, city officials are suggesting that the acreage become a pollinator habitat. The Board of Public Utilities was presented with the proposal Monday evening by Brian O’Connell, director of public utilities for Bowling Green. While mowing the 12 acres around the solar field doesn’t require a lot of time, it is an expense the city could avoid, O’Connell said. Daryl Stockburger, assistant utilities director, began looking for ways to reduce maintenance and enhance the solar site. He talked with representatives of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service about a grant to help convert the grassy areas into a pollinator habitat as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the Maumee Area of Concern. The habitat restoration would increase native habitat – such as vegetation, migratory birds and bees – and improve water quality in the watershed, O’Connell said. An agreement would likely require a commitment by the city to allow the pollinator habitat to remain for possibly five to 10 years. That would not be a problem, O’Connell said, since the solar contract has a longer term and there are few options for the narrow strips of land outside the solar field. It has been suggested that the Wood County Park District could maintain the habitat restoration area over the life of the grant. The project could provide educational opportunities for…


BG candidates talk rentals, roundabouts, schools & streets

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green council candidates were asked to take stands on substandard rental housing, roundabouts, the school levy, streets and more Sunday evening. This year’s election is crowded with 12 candidates for Bowling Green City Council. So the candidate forum, sponsored by the Bowling Green League of Women Voters, gave some city residents their first glimpse at those on the ballot. They are: At-large council – Six are running for two seats: Holly Cipriana, Nathan Eberly, Beverly Elwazani, Carolyn Kawecka, Gregory Robinette and Sandy Rowland. Kawecka was not present. First Ward: Daniel Gordon and Hunter Sluss. Sluss was not present. Second Ward: Kent Ramsey and John Zanfardino. Ramsey was not present. Third Ward: Michael Aspacher is running unopposed, so he did not participate in the forum. Fourth Ward: William Herald and Scott Seeliger. Following are the answers given by candidates to citizens’ questions. Cipriani, a Democrat who works as an academic adviser at Bowling Green State University, believes she can be a voice for residents of the city. She said she can offer a “fresh perspective” on issues and isn’t afraid to take action to solve problems. Cipriani said she is “very passionate” about the Complete Streets program as a way to promote safety for bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists. She would like to use already conducted research to identify areas of the city were bike lanes can be added. As for the city’s budget difficulties, Cipriani wants to make sure state leaders realize the impact of the money cut to local government budgets….


BG and county may team up for ‘community solar’ field

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green and Wood County may be teaming up on bright idea for the area. The city has approached the Wood County commissioners about using county land for another solar field. There are currently 70 open acres on the north side of East Gypsy Lane Road, between Interstate 75 and Wood Lane. Fifty acres are owned by the county and 20 by the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities. If the solar field becomes a reality, it would likely be a “community solar” project – which means Bowling Green residents and businesses could sign up to be part of the project and get their electricity from the solar field, said Brian O’Connell, director of public utilities for the city. That would make this different from the 165-acre solar field recently constructed on city land at Carter and Newton roads northeast of Bowling Green. Bowling Green gets a portion of the power generated at that solar field – enough to supply nearly 5 percent of the city’s energy needs. By building a “community solar” project, all of the energy created at the proposed site could be used to power Bowling Green, O’Connell said. The city’s proposal was presented to the Wood County commissioners last week. It would require the county to commit the acreage to the project for 30 years. The property is currently rented out as farmland. The commissioners were interested in the idea, said Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar. “They said they were willing to consider it. We don’t see any…


County gives BG $300,000 for roundabouts at I-75

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Commissioners have kicked in $300,000 for roundabouts being planned at the Interstate 75 interchange in Bowling Green. The commissioners presented the check Thursday morning to Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards. “I know these decisions aren’t easy to come by, with all the competing demands” for funding, Edwards said to the commissioners. But Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said the impact of the interchange improvements will reach beyond Bowling Green. “It’s important for all of us,” she said. The roundabouts planned for the interchange on East Wooster Street are intended to make traffic move more smoothly and reduce accidents. Work on the necessary infrastructure for the project will begin in 2018, according to Bowling Green Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter. The actual road paving work is planned for 2019, she said. “It’s got a lot of moving parts,” Tretter said of the project. Edwards thanked the commissioners for their “spirit of collaboration.” “We appreciate you recognizing the import of this,” he said, referring to Bowling Green as the capital of Wood County. “We do have this very important corridor coming in off 75. This will make a huge difference.” The improvements are even more needed with the expansion of the Wood Bridge industrial park off Dunbridge Road, the mayor said. “We do work together really well in Wood County,” Herringshaw said. “We actually communicate and talk about our issues, and solve our issues.” Bowling Green Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said the local share is due to the Ohio Department of Transportation in…


Second BG council member against charter amendment

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A second Bowling Green City Council member has come out in opposition to the proposed charter amendment which is aimed to stop pipelines and protect a healthy climate and environment. Just as Monday’s council meeting was coming to a close, Bruce Jeffers asked to speak his mind on the ballot issue. Last month, council member Bob McOmber spoke out in opposition to the charter amendment. Jeffers said the city has taken all the steps possible on the pipeline issue. City Council rejected an easement request for the Nexus pipeline. And Mayor Dick Edwards bought in a panel of experts to discuss the risks involved with the pipeline proposed so close to the city’s water treatment plant. The mayor also reached out to the Ohio EPA and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which responded to specific concerns expressed by city officials. “We in Bowling Green are not the experts on pipelines,” Jeffers said. That is FERC’s job, he added. “It is beyond our expertise and power.” Jeffers said the proposed charter amendment would be difficult to work with and is too far-reaching. “I find the amendment cumbersome,” he said. “And there’s almost no chance of it standing up in court.” Earlier in the meeting, City Attorney Mike Marsh was asked about the status of the proposed charter amendment. The issue is still waiting for a ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court, he said. But because the Wood County Board of Elections could not wait for the decision, the charter amendment is already on…



La Conexion raises funds to assist DACA dreamers

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News In a time when businesses are lamenting a lack of workers, the members of La Conexion de Wood County’s Immigrant Solidarity Committee wonder why some people want to make it hard for immigrant laborers to stay here. In its most recent action, the committee launched a fundraising campaign to help those with DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – status stay in the country. The campaign was successful in raising the money to help two local men renew their DACA status. That paperwork costs $495 and must be filed every two years. One of the men Rudy Cruz of Pemberville attended a recent committee meeting to speak about his situation. Cruz came with his parents from Guatemala when he was too young to remember. He also has younger siblings who were born here. Cruz grew up in Pemberville, attended Eastwood schools, and attended Penta Career Center to study carpentry. He graduated in 2016. He now works for Rudolph-Libbe. Recently he spent a week working in Marathon, Florida, helping repair damage from Hurricane Irma. He said he was grateful for the committee for its support. La Conexion is “a nice organization that helps.” Another man who works at a local factory also received support. These are the kind of skilled workers local employers say they need, said Beatriz Maya, the executive director of La Conexion. Immigrants work in all sectors of industry, both low skill and high skill, not just in agriculture. “This is becoming a critical issue,” Maya said. “If we don’t address…


Scruci responds to anonymous mailer about bond issue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci has been talking himself hoarse about the school bond issue on the November ballot. Monday evening he took the pitch to Bowling Green City Council. In the audience were several teachers and school board members showing their support. But in addition to explaining the 6-mill bond issue, Scruci also had to spend time dispelling what he called untruths in an anonymous mailer being sent out to district residents. The mailer criticized the school district for not being open about the tax issue, and for not being honest about the costs to taxpayers. Scruci did not hold back. “I hope when you and your neighbors get this, you put it where it belongs, and that’s the trash,” he said. “It’s not worth the paper it was printed on.” “We’ve been transparent from day one,” said Scruci, who has been making almost daily presentations about the bond issue. The superintendent said the numbers printed on the mailers were false – painting a far worse picture of how much taxpayers will owe if it passes. That’s just not right, he said. “You can mess with me, but this is messing with the kids,” Scruci said. Though the mailers are from an anonymous source, a few people in the City Council audience believed Bowling Green businessman Bud Henschen may have been behind the material. When called after the council meeting, Henschen said that he was the person who sent out the 8,400 mailers. His motivation was simply to alert the public…


Home Depot – big building, big workforce handle big chunk of dot-com sales

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Just about every detail of the Home Depot Direct Fulfillment Center in northeastern Wood County is massive. Walking around the perimeter of the store would put 1.3 miles on your pedometer. The site is staffed by 572 hourly employees and 68 salaried staff – all who wear the recognizable orange Home Depot aprons. The facility also uses about 45 contracted employees for services such as security and tech maintenance. Towering racks allow products to be shelved 33 feet high. Employees use 170 hydrogen fueled forklifts to move the items after customers order them online. On the average day, the facility in Troy Township ships out 28,000 to 30,000 units. That could be anything from a drill bit to patio furniture. The number of shipped units could jump as high as 70,000 on Black Friday. On this past Friday, the Wood County Economic Development Commission and Wood County Commissioners visited the vast Home Depot facility for the annual “state of business” tour. They learned that the distribution center grew a bit this year – adding 32,000 locations for different products to the 300,000 locations already existing in the facility. The company made a $4 million investment this year in fire suppression, electrical and expanded racking. And the local site saw its annual sales increase by 9 percent. The Home Depot facility, which sits in the middle of farm fields in Troy Township, handles 40 to 45 percent of the company’s dot-com business. Currently about 6.4 percent of Home Depot sales are online. Despite…


Cuts to services for people losing vision are short-sighted

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   State cuts in services for older adults with vision problems are being called short-sighted by a local agency who serves people in the region with vision impairments. Adults 55 and older, with mild or moderate vision problems, will no longer be eligible for vision rehabilitation services through Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Independent Living Older Blind program. That means the services that help adults adapt as their sight fails will no longer be funded. The Sight Center in Toledo currently helps area residents learn to live independently as their eyesight worsens. “There’s a transition, and the earlier you can make that transition, the better,” said Tim Tegge, of the Sight Center. Tegge, of Bowling Green, has lived his entire life with vision problems. People who experience loss of vision later in life are often terrified about the changes they face. “I see people every day who come in who have the gut punch of losing their sight,” Tegge said. The three Sight Centers across the state have been a major resource for those people, he added. But less than a month ago, the state OOD “blindsided” the Sight Centers by announcing that older adults with mild and moderate vision problems would no longer qualify for services. That decision makes no sense, Tegge said, since addressing vision loss early, while people still have some vision, is the best method. “It’s a missed opportunity,” he said. Several Wood County residents will be affected by the change. The Sight Center in Toledo historically serves around…


City government may find room to grow right next door

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Members of the new Citizens Academy got a course Tuesday evening on city history, the branches of city government and the city finances. But the highlight of the class was the field trip. They wedged their way into cramped offices, squeezed through maze-like areas, and marveled at tangles of wires and mountains of boxes in the City Administration Building. Many in the Citizens Academy, made up of city commission members and local media, had heard stories about the city building, but few had seen the conditions in person. So the question naturally came up – is the city still talking about a new administration building? The answer was an emphatic “yes.” The city building, at 304 N. Church St., started its life more than a century ago as a school. It then was turned into a library, and in 1976 became the city administration building. The result is a 17,000 square foot building with cramped offices, maze-like spaces and cobbled together technology. But after years of discussion, the solution, it seems, may be right next door. Earlier this year, city officials announced that property at 140 S. Grove St. would be donated to the Wood County Senior Center for a new facility. The property was previously the setting of the school administration building. The new site would allow for a much larger senior center and for a building actually constructed for that purpose, instead of the retrofitted post office that had been used as a senior center for years. The move from…


Two sides at odds over proposed BG charter amendment

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Words matter. The proposed Bowling Green charter amendment is intended to give the community rights to a healthy environment and livable climate. But while that may be the intent, critics say the words go far beyond those reasonable rights. The wording of the charter amendment may be difficult for voters to digest. The supporters interpret it as giving citizens a right to peaceably protest projects such as the Nexus pipeline that is planned near Bowling Green’s water treatment plant. But others see the wording as so open to interpretation that it goes far beyond what most city residents would want. It hardly seems possible the two sides of the Bowling Green charter amendment issue are talking about the same two pages of text when they describe the proposal. Lisa Kochheiser and Brad Holmes, of the Bowling Green Climate Protectors, see the charter amendment as a way for citizens to intervene if the city does not adequately protect its citizens from harm to their environment. “We’re not trying to overthrow the government. We want to strengthen our government by adding to citizen rights,” Holmes said. The majority of people don’t want pipelines in or near their communities, he said. “This is going to be the most tangible way of people legally protesting.” City attorney Mike Marsh doesn’t want pipeline in the city either. And if there were a ballot issue to not allow Nexus on city land, he would support it. But the charter amendment goes far beyond that, he said. “It’s a…


Sibbersen served county 40 years in taxing position

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Mike Sibbersen started out at the Wood County Auditor’s Office in a summer job, testing local gas pumps and checking store scales for accuracy. “I remember doing Beeker’s” general store in Pemberville where the scales weighed penny candy. At the end of the summer, Sibbersen was offered two jobs – one teaching and one continuing at the auditor’s office. He took the latter. That was 40 years ago. For the last 24 of those years, Sibbersen has been county auditor – the tax man some people love to hate. “The news you have to convey is not always what people want to hear,” he said. In many ways Sibbersen is the opposite of his predecessor, Harold Bateson, who was boisterous and often confrontational. Sibbersen is measured, certain and exact – on everything from numbers to words. “I have the reputation around here of being a frustrated editor,” he said. “Words are important.” The job has changed a great deal in the past four decades – much of it due to technology and revisions in tax law. When Sibbersen started, in addition to checking weights and measures, he also had to inventory lock boxes of deceased residents for the Department of Taxation. “When I came here, we were still doing personal property tax,” that has been phased out by the state, he said. Now the office inspects all the store checkout scanners in the county to make sure they are accurate. They also have to be on the alert for credit card skimmers….


BG considers policies for use of Wooster Green site

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The design for the new Wooster Green has been determined, so the city is working to nail down rules for how the space can best serve its role as a public gathering place. The goal is for the open space at the corner of West Wooster Street and South Church Street to enhance the quality of life for Bowling Green residents, welcome visitors to the city, and increase commerce in the downtown. It has been recommended that the space be free and open to the public, except when previously reserved. The recommended rules (or policies) are as follows: – Amplified music or sound shall not be used unless previously authorized by the governing board. Such use shall not occur past 10 p.m. on weekdays (Monday-Thursday and Sunday) and 11 p.m. on the weekend (Friday and Saturday). These times may be amended by the governing board. – The sale and use of alcohol shall be done in accordance with applicable city ordinances and with the Ohio Revised Code. –  No one may use the space between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., unless previously authorized by the governing board or the municipal administrator. –  Vehicles shall remain on the access road, or another designed vehicular point-of-entry, unless authorized by the municipal administrator or governing board. –  Those reserving or using the space shall not drive any stakes or rods into the ground unless authorized by the municipal administrator. Restriction of this type of activity is recommended to protect underground infrastructure. –…


Search for citizen study leads Harvard grad to BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Jamie Piltch’s search for the true definition of a good citizen brought him to Bowling Green. Piltch, 23, is on a trek through the so-called rust and sun belts of the U.S. to discover whether Americans still care about being good citizens. His journey started in Washington, D.C., in May, then on to Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, then Bowling Green. From here, the recent Harvard grad was headed to Detroit, Saginaw, South Bend, Chicago, then onto Wisconsin and Iowa before heading south. Along the way, Piltch, is interviewing all types of people about their views on citizenship. Some of those interviews – including some done here in Bowling Green – are being posted on his blog   www.citizensstory.com. He sat down at Grounds for Thought and talked with business owner Floyd Craft and city attorney Mike Marsh. While in Bowling Green, he also spoke with an Afghanistan war veteran, a soon-to-be naturalized citizen, and a secretarial assistant at BGSU. Their views on citizenship can also be found on Piltch’s blog. Piltch, originally from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, hasn’t always fascinated by the meaning of being an American citizen. “Like most young people, I spent the first 20 years of my life mildly disinterested in politics. I voted in the 2012 presidential election, a moment of personal pride. But, outside of getting my license, I didn’t really interact with the government. I never voted in a local election and rarely thought about my town’s needs. I didn’t even consider doing those things.” However, he is the…