Government


Study looks at water options besides Toledo

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County needs water from the Maumee River or Lake Erie, but there may be a way to cut out Toledo as the middle man, according to the Water Source Evaluation Study commissioned by the Wood County Economic Development Commission. The study, presented to the Wood County Commissioners earlier this week was intended to ensure good water, at good rates, and give the county control over its own destiny, according to Jack Jones, of Poggemeyer Design Group which prepared the study. The study accomplished its intended goals by not only identifying water options for Wood County, but also by showing Toledo that viable alternatives exist. But as with anything as complicated as supplying water to a region, “the devil’s in the details,” which have yet to be ironed out, Jones said. The study identified three options for water in the northern part of Wood County, which now gets Toledo water distributed primarily by Perrysburg or the Northwestern Water and Sewer District. Those options are: City of Bowling Green’s water system with expanded reservoir space. Maumee River regional water plant with an intake and reservoir. Maumee River/Lake Erie Bayshore water intake, with a regional water plant and reservoir. Working with Bowling Green’s water plant “has the best implementation potential,” the study stated. The city water treatment plant is a state-of-the-art existing operation that already uses membrane treatment technology. A future reservoir is already being considered, and land has already been purchased for a plant expansion, the report said. All of the options would involve building a huge reservoir, possibly between 200 and 400 acres. Jones mentioned that some regions also use such large reservoirs as recreational sites. Wood County customers have long questioned the price of Toledo water, but also began to doubt the quality after the water crisis in the summer of 2014, when people were warned to not drink water from Toledo due to the algal blooms. “The Wood County Economic…


Science – not politics – needed to save Lake Erie

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Protecting the health of Lake Erie can be an emotional issue – but the Wood County Commissioners were advised Tuesday to stick to the science. Bob Midden, a biochemist at BGSU, asked to speak to the commissioners about the health of Lake Erie. He encouraged them to ignore the politics and focus on science when deciding what to do. “Science can play a very valuable role in addressing these things,” he said. But politics often get in the way, and make decisions suspect. “What’s more important is to find a way to reduce algal blooms,” Midden said. In the last month or so, the county commissioners have heard a request from environmentalists that they join other elected officials in the region seeking an “impaired designation” for Lake Erie. And they have heard from a local farmer requesting that they let the agricultural community continue to make improvements rather than adding more regulations. Midden did not push for either approach, but instead suggested that the commissioners look at strategies that have worked elsewhere. Do voluntary measures work, he asked. “This is a complex issue,” he said. “But also a very important and very urgent issue. We’ve got a lot at stake.” At stake are the economics of both the lake and agriculture. “We don’t want to sacrifice one for the other,” he said. Also at risk is the health of humans and animals. Midden said ingestion of the algal blooms can cause liver damage, gastrointestinal problems, and death to humans and animals. “It can kill people,” he said. And long-term exposure may cause cancer. Midden warned that a lack of action will lead to disastrous results. “We’ve got to get it under control,” he said. “You can consider Lake Erie to be a cesspool eventually if we don’t do anything.” The commissioners have seen people point fingers at farmers for the problem, and farmers point fingers at overflowing sewer plants. Again, Midden suggested…


Wood County jail now taking in Toledo inmates

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Starting Thursday, Toledo will be paying Wood County Justice Center $50,000 a month to save 25 beds at the jail for inmates from Toledo. A deal was struck late Tuesday night, resulting in Toledo sending anyone being sentenced for misdemeanors under the municipal code to be housed at the Wood County jail, located on East Gypsy Lane Road, Bowling Green. Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn, explained that Toledo officials turned south to this county for a solution to its inmate issues after an ongoing feud over charges to the city from the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio near Stryker. The city of Toledo missed a July 1 deadline to pay a $1.3 million quarterly bill for its share of beds at the regional jail. By intentionally failing to pay the bill for 228 of the facility’s 638 beds, the city set the scene to withdraw from using the regional jail. The jail agreement reportedly stated that entities that default on payments longer than 60 days will not be able to house inmates there. Wasylyshyn said Toledo’s failure to pay the bill at Stryker does not worry him. “Toledo will pay up front,” Wasylyshyn said Wednesday. So when the first Toledo inmate arrives at Wood County’s jail, Toledo will turn over a $50,000 check. That amount will guarantee the city 25 beds at the jail for the month. “I know they are going to pay it, because they are paying it in advance,” he said. On top of the monthly $50,000, Toledo will also pay Wood County $65 per day for each inmate and a $40 booking fee per inmate. Toledo will also pay for transportation costs to the county jail. “It’s a very good thing for Wood County,” Wasylyshyn said. “It’s a good thing for Toledo and for Lucas County,” since that county does not have room for the additional Toledo inmates. “It’s a good thing for the citizens of Wood County,…


Ohio scores $2 million in federal $ to address opioid epidemic

From Office of U.S. REP. MARCY KAPTUR Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH-9) today (Aug. 31, 2016) announced that Ohio will receive nearly $2 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under three health-related programs to address the statewide epidemic of opioid misuse and overdoses. The awards announced today were made by two agencies within HHS, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which focus on opioid misuse and overdoses.  Ohio was selected for three separate programs and will receive a total of $1,998,455 out of $53 million allocated nationwide to 44 States, four tribes and the District of Columbia to “improve access to treatment for opioid use disorders, reduce opioid related deaths, and strengthen drug abuse prevention efforts. In addition, funding will also support improved data collection and analysis around opioid misuse and overdose as well as better tracking of fatal and nonfatal opioid-involved overdoses.”   “This is welcome news, of course. Any additional resources are a help,” said Congresswoman Kaptur. “But this is an epidemic, and it’s getting worse, based on what I have been told by medical professionals and law enforcement officials in northern Ohio.  Everyone acknowledges this isn’t enough – everyone except the Republicans in Congress, that is.” In Ohio, deaths and overdoses from heroin and opioids have reached epidemic proportions.  According to data released last week by the Ohio Department of Health, opioid overdoses killed a record 3,050 people in Ohio in 2015, more than one-third of them from fentanyl, a super-potent opiate often mixed with heroin. When the data includes heroin and opioids, Cuyahoga County has seen 1,386 people die from overdoses between 2010 to 2015. Deaths in 2016 are expected to exceed 500 in number, nearly double the total from 2015, according to William Denihan, the chief executive officer of the Cuyahoga County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board. In Lucas County, 113 people died of heroin or other opioid overdoses in…


BG residents want action on neighborhood plan

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   By the end of the evening, each table was cluttered with huge sheets of paper listing ideas to revitalize neighborhoods in Bowling Green. The suggestions were widely varied, but linked by one common desire of local residents – they want action. “How many of you are sick of planning and want to see something happen?” asked Adam Rosa, from the consultant group Camiros, from Chicago. The question caused hands to shoot up around the Crim Elementary cafeteria, where nearly 100 people had gathered Tuesday to participate in the process. Rosa then showed an image from the “Animal House” movie. “This is kind of the opposite of what we are going for,” he said. Instead, the goals are to increase the livability, opportunity, vitality and education of the community. And to do that, the Camiros consultants need community input. “This is all about you telling us about your neighborhood,” Rosa said during the first public meeting of the revitalization process. The Bowling Green Community Action Plan will focus on the East Side of the city, where the needs have been identified as the greatest. But the plan will be applied to all areas of the city, Rosa said. Camiros has worked with the special challenges faced by university communities elsewhere, such as the homes to Notre Dame, Indiana State, University of Chicago, Bradley University and Lawrence University. The city of Bowling Green was compared with Kent – showing very similar demographics in population, income levels and percentage of student rental units. Though the statistics were almost identical, the photographs from the two communities showed very different uses of open space, business sites and areas uniting the city to the campus. The photos from Kent showed a bike boulevard to connect the community and university, a “Poetry Park” on open space, and attractive businesses. During their initial observations of Bowling Green, the consultants noted a very livable urban area that creates and preserves the…


Ashley Furniture plans store on South Main Street

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A home furnishings store is looking to make a home here in Bowling Green. Ashley Furniture has applied for a zoning variance to put up a large sign at 816 S. Main St., in the same strip of stores as Big Lots and Subway. The location was formerly a Hallmark store. “They just want a larger sign to be seen from the road,” said Bowling Green Planning Director Heather Sayler. The variance request will go before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Sept. 14, at 7 p.m., in the city Administrative Services Building, at 304 N. Church St. Ashley Furniture has had a warehouse in Bowling Green for several years. The warehouse, located in Bellard Business Park on the north end of the city, is currently undergoing an expansion to double its size, Sayler said. The retail Ashley Furniture site is leasing the South Main Street space from Southwood Plaza LLC/Tolson Enterprises, in Toledo. “Having a filled-in space is wonderful,” Sayler said Friday morning. And having a retail store in the same community as the warehouse will make it more convenient for customers, she added. Also moving into the same strip of stores is a Rapid Fire Pizza restaurant, which will be located just to the south of Ashley Furniture. The zoning variance for Ashley Furniture was requested by Advance Sign Group, to allow the construction of a wall sign that would be 191.42 square feet in size, which is 79.42 square feet larger than allowed in the city’s B-2 general commercial zoning district. The request also asks for permission for the sign to extend 4 feet, 2 inches above the roof line, which is not allowed under zoning. The application stated that since the façade of the building is being remodeled for the furniture store, the larger sign will be better suited to the scale of the new façade. The sign on the building, reading “Ashley Homestore Select,” will be the…


Bringing solar power out of the dark ages

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ohio may be the nation’s leading solar manufacturer, but some state leaders’ attitudes about solar are back in the dark ages, according to Bill Spratley, executive director of Green Energy Ohio. However, Bowling Green could be a “game changer” – building the largest solar field in the state. “Next year, Bowling Green, Wood County will be the mecca.” It’s appropriate that Bowling Green take the lead, Spratley said, since the city was the first to erect utility scale wind turbines in 2003. Maybe the Bowling Green solar field can convince politicians that harnessing the power of the sun is no longer radical. “They still think solar is out in the future. Solar is here now,” Spratley said. “We’ve got to get past these buggy whip manufacturers.” Spratley said he runs into solar investors around the country, curious about Ohio’s reluctance to support solar power. “What the hell is happening in Ohio,” he said they ask him. The state legislature has frozen Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, he said. Consequently, renewable energy comprises just 3 percent of the overall mix of electricity sources in the state. “We need to send a message to free the hostages in Columbus,” he said of possible solar funding to “get power to the people.” Spratley was one of many speakers at the “Building Big Solar Across Ohio” conference in Bowling Green on Thursday. He was joined by leaders of renewable energy companies, representatives of solar companies, officials from communities using solar power, and green energy advocates. Solar power used to be “for off-the-wall hippies,” said David Dwyer, president of American Renewable Energy. But that is no longer the case. For those unable to access solar power on their roofs, community solar was created, according to Mark Wilkerson, of Clean Energy Collective. “Solar had to transcend politics,” said Wilkerson, who has worked in the solar industry for more than three decades. “It’s the extension of the American dream.” And…


Farmer asks county to not declare Lake Erie ‘impaired’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Mark Drewes tried to convince the Wood County Commissioners Tuesday to not fall for claims by city folk that farmers don’t care about the region’s water. He asked that the commissioners not jump on board with other regional officials asking that Lake Erie be designated as “impaired.” The self-professed “simple farmer” sat down in front of the county commissioners and handed out his charts showing phosphorus runoff rates, county livestock populations and maps of extensive soil sampling on his farm. The water issue became a very public matter in 2014 when the algae rendered Toledo water undrinkable for a few days. But according to Drewes, who farms near Hoytville in the southwest corner of Wood County, the water issue had already been a hot topic for the agricultural community. “We’ve been talking about it for years,” he said. “This problem is the No. 1 problem we face as farmers in Wood County.” But declaring the lake “impaired” will only make matters worse, the farmer said. “That is a very drastic measure,” said Drewes, who farms corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. He also works closely with large livestock operations, and serves on the Ohio Corn Growers Board. Drewes said he was troubled to see Toledo Councilman Mike Ferner ask the commissioners to help declare the lake as impaired, while implying that farmers don’t care about the water. “That’s absolutely incorrect,” he said. Drewes’ family has farmed the land for generations – and plans to continue for many more. So the water quality is important to them as well. “It’s something we think about every day,” he said. Both commissioners Joel Kuhlman and Craig LaHote asked Drewes how the “impaired” designation would hurt farmers – especially if they are already doing all they can to reduce algal blooms. If the lake is declared impaired, scientific studies will be conducted to determine where the phosphorus is originating. “We want to know where it’s coming from,…


Makers of adult incontinence products to expand

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It’s a sad fact of life. As the nation’s population gets grayer, they have a greater need for adult absorbent products for incontinence. That means more business for a Wood County company that has been meeting those bladder control needs for more than 40 years. So the company, Principle Business Enterprises, is looking to expand in response to greater demands. The company, located north of Bowling Green, near Interstate 75 and Devils Hole Road, is planning a $4 million expansion which would add 47,000 square feet to the existing building. On Tuesday, the Wood County Commissioners approved an enterprise zone agreement with the company for 100 percent real and personal property tax abatements over 10 years. Principle Business Enterprises currently employs about 235 people, and will create at least five new jobs with the expansion. That estimate is very conservative since each new line at the plant will employ six or seven people. The firm produces various products for incontinence, including “Tranquility” and disposable swimwear, and footwear like Pillowpaws and slipper socks. “We are really making a difference in the lives of people with difficult physical challenges,” said Chuck Stocking, CEO of the company. “The bad news is people need our products,” Stocking said Tuesday to the commissioners. The good news is, the company is continuing to work on meeting the demands for adult absorbent products and wound care items. “We’ve had such consistent growth,” said Larry Jones, CFO of Principle Business Enterprises. “As the boomers shift into that period of their lives” when they have more physical needs, the company is expanding to meet them. “It’s a good problem to have,” Jones said of the company’s need to expand. Stocking also told the county commissioners that the company is now working with the Veterans Administration. “It took us seven years to crack the code on how to do business with the Veterans Administration,” he said. “We have a team working on…


Ohio’s cottage food rules focus of seminar, Sept. 26

From CENTER FOR INNOVATIVE FOOD TECHNOLOGY Implications to recent changes in Ohio’s cottage food laws will be the topic of discussion at a seminar hosted by the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT), Monday, Sept. 26, 2016 from 4 – 5:30 p.m. at the Northwest Ohio Cooperative Kitchen (NOCK). Dennis Delong, R.S., food safety specialist, Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), will discuss the new regulations and its relevance to local food producers. The new regulations primarily address the criteria and definitions for cottage food operations, labeling, sampling, food items allowed and prohibited.  Cottage food producers are prohibited from producing potentially hazardous foods.  They are allowed to produce the 20 items listed in the cottage food regulation. Ohio regularly ranks in the top 10 for most farmers markets in the nation, and Delong will also explain changes for such venues including what can and cannot be sold at farmers markets. These processing procedures will be explained within the NOCK – a kitchen-based setting that educates and advises entrepreneurs interested in starting a food business.  Food-related business owners, aspiring entrepreneurs, and those who are producing a product to sell at markets and/or other retail establishments are encouraged to attend. The cost is just $25/person or $20/person for group of two or more (pay online, or cash/check at the door) which includes great networking opportunities and light refreshments.  Advanced registration is preferred.  The NOCK/AIF is located at 13737 Middleton Pike (St. Rt. 582) in Bowling Green, Ohio. Visit ciftinnovation.org to register and pay online, or contact 419-535-6000, ext. 140 or rsvp@ciftinnovation.org.


Gavarone gets quick course on county issues

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s new state representative got a lesson in county government last week from advocates who fight on behalf of counties all across Ohio. State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, met with members of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio and Wood County’s commissioners to learn about challenges faced by county governments. They wanted to make sure Gavarone, a former Bowling Green City Council member, doesn’t forget about counties as she takes her post in Columbus. “That’s why I’m here. I want to know what’s going on,” Gavarone said to CCAO officials. The top priorities right now include replacing voting equipment, preserving sales tax, responding to the opiate epidemic, and funding infrastructure. Gavarone said she has a special interest in opiate and mental health issues, which are putting demands on county jails and child protective services. As much as 70 percent of the jail population has some type of addiction or mental health issues, according to John Leutz, CCAO legislative counsel. “Wood County’s not exempt, that’s for sure,” Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said. “I look forward to working with you on this,” Gavarone said. She was cautioned by CCAO officials that it takes more than verbalized support to move issues like this forward. It takes financial support as well, said Brian Mead, policy analyst with CCAO. “If it’s a passion for you, fund it as well,” Mead said. “It’s not going to succeed if there’s not funding for it.” Counties also need help funding new voting equipment, which was purchased after the “hanging chad” controversy with punch card voting machines. “We’re now to the end of the useful life of that equipment,” said Suzanne Dulaney, executive director of CCAO. The goal is to have the next generation of electronic voting machines in place by the 2020 presidential election. “We simply don’t have the money to pay for this ourselves,” Dulaney explained. Wood County has 500 voting machines, plus another 100 for…


Food truck rules leave bad taste for vendors

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s mobile food vending ordinance is not exactly a recipe for success for food trucks. Mac Henry would like to open a food truck business in Bowling Green, but told City Council Monday evening that its ordinance is too restrictive. Henry, who lives just outside the city, said the ordinance limits hours of operation to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and restricts food trucks to 150 feet from the throughway. The rules are “not very conducive to opening a food truck in this town,” he said. Henry said food trucks are currently “a big part of the culinary innovation” going on in the nation. City Council president Mike Aspacher said council is the body that would have to make any changes to the ordinance. He added that modifications would only be made after the ramifications are studied. Council member John Zanfardino agreed with Henry that changes were in order. “Right now our ordinance is totally prohibitive, if you get right down to it,” he said, mentioning the growing trend of food trucks. “I think it’s a coming thing.” Council member Sandy Rowland noted the success of food trucks in Perrysburg, where the businesses set up one evening a week. “It might be an opportunity to provide people with something to do,” she said. After the council meeting, Henry said he doesn’t have a food truck operation now, but would like to get one started. “I’d like to get into it,” he said. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to try something like that in my hometown.” Henry said he realized mobile food businesses can be a “touchy subject,” since they are seen as competition for brick and mortar restaurants already in business. But food trucks offer young people a chance to break into the business, he said. “Ultimately, if you’re a young individual and you don’t have that much capital, it’s a good way for Bowling Green to give…


Pipeline attempt to use eminent domain protested

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Eminent domain often allows pipeline companies to plant their lines where they wish. The only point left to dicker is the amount they have to pay landowners to cross their property. But the pipeline case being heard in all three common pleas courts in Wood County is different. Unlike pipelines that are sending gas to companies that supply energy for public consumption, the Utopia pipeline proposed by Kinder Morgan would be sending ethane, a byproduct of the fracking industry, to a private plastics company in Ontario. Kinder Morgan is planning to start construction later this year on the $500 million ethane pipeline from shale sites in southeast Ohio to Canada. The proposed Utopia line would run south of Pemberville, then north of Bowling Green, then cross the Maumee River south of Waterville. Kinder Morgan claims the company has the power of eminent domain to bury the pipeline in 21 miles of Wood County. “Our position is they absolutely do not,” said Andy Mayle, an attorney working with Maurice Thompson of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law. According to Thompson, a private pipeline company’s taking of land for its own gain violates the Ohio Constitution’s strict protection of private property rights. Thompson and Mayle represent 16 families in Wood County who are contesting the eminent domain claims of the Texas-based pipeline company. The case is being heard by all three common pleas courts in the county because Kinder Morgan has sued so many landowners, Thompson said. The landowners’ arguments are two-fold, Thompson explained. First, the private pipeline will provide no public use so it does not qualify for public domain authority. Second, the pipeline company did not explore alternative routes as suggested. The local families have asked that the pipeline company consider placing the line along road right-of-ways, to avoid going through farm fields or housing lots. The Wood County commissioners have also asked the company to consider routing the pipeline along highways…


Seeliger wins BG City Council Fourth Ward seat

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The retired football coach beat out the environmental attorney, political finance director, Realtor/chef, and scientist Monday evening to score the open seat on Bowling Green City Council. Scott Seeliger won unanimous approval Monday evening from council to fill the Fourth Ward seat vacated when Theresa Gavarone was named a state representative. He was sworn in after the vote, and took his seat with council for the remainder of the meeting. Five people presented themselves to council as candidates for the empty spot – Seeliger, Will Airhart, Jeff Dennis, Eric Eberly and William Herald. A sixth candidate, Jeremy Adams, withdrew his name prior to the meeting. Seeliger described how he came to Bowling Green in 1979 with his wife, Karen, and two daughters. He came for his dream job working with the BGSU football team, and never left. He later served as director of corporate development at BGSU, then as athletic director and football coach with Bowling Green City Schools. “This town, this city is everything I could possibly hope for my wife and I to grow and raise a family,” he said. Now retired, Seeliger said he would like to give back to the community. “Now I have time and I have a passion. I want to serve this community,” he said. His strength, he said, rests in working with other people. “I know the value of teamwork.” In serving the Fourth Ward, Seeliger said the most important goal is to preserve property values, strong schools, and city services. “The quality of life is the most important thing.” In serving the entire city, Seeliger noted the importance of working on the East Wooster corridor. He referred to it as the city’s “front porch,” with the need to make a good first impression. Before voting, city council discussed the difficulty making a decision, since so many good candidates applied. Airhart, an environmental attorney with Marathon, previously lived in Nashville and Houston, and moved…