Government

Sales tax holiday extended for back-to-school items

State Rep. Tim Brown, R-Bowling Green, announced that the Ohio House passed SB 264, which designates the first weekend in August 2016 as a sales tax holiday for the purposes of back-to-school shopping. The legislation creates a three-day period in which certain school supplies are exempt from both state and county sales tax. The bill allows clothing up to $75 per item, and school supplies and instructional materials up to $20 per item, to qualify for the sales tax exemption. The intention of the sales tax holiday is to provide families a tax break on back-to-school shopping, while also stimulating economic activity for local businesses. “I applaud the General Assembly for continuing to pass legislation that makes back to school purchases more affordable for families.  The 2015 sales tax holiday spurred economic activity in Wood County and I support this reauthorization.  As my district additionally is rich in collegiate institutions, this tax holiday will also reduce some of the financial burdens our college students face,” Brown said. In the previous General Assembly, the legislature passed similar legislation to create a one-time sales tax holiday in 2015 as a way to explore the potential impact. According to the University of Cincinnati’s Economic Center, the sales total for that weekend was 6.48 percent higher than anticipated and led to $4.7 million in additional revenue for the state. The study also showed an increase of sales near Ohio’s borders, indicating that people from neighboring states came to Ohio to do their back-to-school shopping…


City office building bursting at its ill-fitting seams

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The city administration building is a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. No, it’s more like several square pegs trying to squeeze into that circular space. The building, at 304 N. Church St., started its life more than a century ago as a school, then was molded into a library, and in 1976 became the city administration building. So while its age poses some problems, the bigger issue is that the building was designed for educating children, not for administering city services. The result is a 17,000 square foot building with cramped offices, maze-like spaces and cobbled together technology. For years now, city leaders have discussed the possibility of a different municipal building, with the debate continuing on whether it should be a new building or a renovated existing site. Most seem to favor the offices staying downtown. But one conclusion that doesn’t get much debate is the need for different space. First, there’s the age issue. About 20 noisy air handlers are crammed between the original ceilings and the drop ceilings. Ultraviolet lights and air purifiers are used to reduce the mold problem. “It’s good mold, but mold none the less,” said Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said. Workers often find a powdery white coating from the drop ceilings on their desks, according to Public Works Director Brian Craft. “I thought it was snowing in my office the other day,” Fawcett said. Across the hall in the personnel…


BG strong and ready to take on challenges of 2016

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is making great strides in sustainable energy, has seen consistent job growth, and is making progress on some of the stickier issues in the community, Mayor Dick Edwards told the audience at the annual State of the City held this morning. And though some difficult issues await the city this year, the community is up to the challenge. “I often find myself reflecting why the mechanisms and processes of government in Bowling Green seem to work so well over the years,” Edwards said at the chamber sponsored event in the county library. “In my view, and one that is commonly held, it is the continuing ability to work together, to find solutions to perceived needs that seem to work and to think ahead, to anticipate needs.” The mayor praised the economic health of Bowling Green. “Our job growth continues to be one of the most robust of any city in the region and is integrally related to the city’s fiscal health,” Edwards said. He spoke of progress in the city’s effort to use renewable energy, saying the city will soon have “the largest solar field of any city in Ohio.” But challenges lie ahead. “We have a very full plate these days and some special challenges.” Those include: The “absolute must” passage of the park levy. The East Wooster Street corridor plan. Housing and neighborhood revitalization. Vehicular and pedestrian safety and the “new face” for the city at the new…


2015: A year in review in BG – Your tax dollars at work

(From the City of Bowling Green) For the City of Bowling Green, 2015 wasn’t unlike other years. Provide excellent services to the citizens of Bowling Green in the most cost effective manner possible. Below is a review of significant 2015 projects and a view of how your tax dollars are utilized in the community. Coordinating the replacement and repair of sidewalks was a significant accomplishment of the Public Works Department in 2015. The City’s 50/50 sidewalk program, which is a cost sharing program between the City and property owners, resulted in the replacement or repair of sidewalks on 26 properties in the City. In addition, as the impact of the Columbia Gas natural gas line replacement repairs were realized, the Public Works Department quickly swung into action to monitor the work and advocate for citizens in the construction area. As a result, 30 properties received new sidewalks. All the sidewalk work added up to roughly one mile of sidewalk replacement in 2015. A major responsibility of the Public Works Department is road maintenance. In that area, a significant project was conducted on Poe Road, between Mitchell and North Grove. Improvements included 1.89 miles of paving. Working with state and federal resources, the City contributed $298,000 of the $1.14 million total project cost. Numerous other infrastructure projects were completed in 2015 by the Utilities Department. The Electric Division completed street lighting upgrades to energy efficient LED fixtures on two major corridors – Mercer Road from East Wooster to East Poe Road…


County tries to track down public assistance fraud

May is Public Assistance Fraud Awareness Month in Ohio, and Wood County Job and Family Services is spreading the word that “Fraud Costs All of Us.”  During the month of May, five Wood County pizza restaurants will be handing out pizza cutters with the Wood County fraud reporting phone numbers printed on them to their pizza customers. David Wigent, Director of Wood County Job and Family Services, advised, “We are trying to reach members of the general public who may not know about our department or how to contact us if they have concerns about possible public assistance fraud.  The pizza restaurants chosen to participate are in various locations around Wood County.” In 2015, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services disbursed about $2.5 billion in SNAP food assistance, $259 million in Ohio Works First cash assistance and $573 million in child care subsidies. Individuals who mislead caseworkers or lie on an application for benefits account for a very small percentage of the funding disbursed, but the department takes even the smallest fraud cases very seriously. Wood County Job and Family Services was recently recognized by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services for their Excellence in claims management.  Wood County Job and Family Services ranked 3rd among all Ohio Job and Family Services in the number of food assistance overpayment claims established in 2015, and 5th in the recovery of these claims.  In 2015, a total of $151,077.65 in improperly obtained benefits were repaid. Individuals found to…


Earth Week opens with Creation Care Celebration

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Creation Care Celebration, which marked the beginning of Earth Week activities in Bowling Green, focused on the possibilities. Honored by the Black Swamp Green Team, the event’s sponsors, were those who were already making a difference locally, and statewide. The keynote speaker spoke about what churches could do to preserve the environment. And a series of workshops were offered on household options for taking action. Stumbling blocks were mentioned – the state’s renewable energy standards are on hold. But the two state legislators in attendance State Senator Randy Gardner and State Representative Tim Brown, both Republicans said they were in favor of lifting the hold on them and letting them take effect. The keynote speaker Greg Hitzhusen of Ohio State University’s School of Environment & Natural Resources, spoke of a pastor in Idaho who took the initiative to put saving the environment at the center of his church’s mission. He discovered, Hitzhusen said, less resistance than he expected. Now 10 years later he’s experiencing fierce backlash to his efforts. “How do we overcome these obstacles?” Hitzhusen wondered. The speaker, who is involved in the Interfaith Light and Power movement, focused his talk on what works. “Build on your strengths,” he said. That means finding what expertise is within the congregation that can spearhead efforts. The United Church of Christ in Sylvania used the expertise of Al Compaan, a leading researcher in photovoltaics, to initiate a solar project. “Do what makes sense for your…


Wood County Library sets limits on unattended children

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The library is a great place for kids, a safe space for kids, but it’s not a day care center and the staff members are not babysitters. The Wood County District Public Library approved a policy Tuesday that clarifies just how employees will deal with unattended children. The policy, said Library Director Michael Penrod, was drawn based on guidelines from Child Protective Services. The library staff needs to know, he said, what to do if they have a 6-year-old running around and the parent is two miles away at home. Penrod said that in discussions with parents, staff has been told that there are no guidelines. Now there are. From birth to age 7, the parent or guardian, must be “in the immediate vicinity.” There was some discussion whether that should be more precisely defined, but Penrod said short of getting measuring tape out, that may prove to be too restrictive. “You’ve got to be able to see them,” Board president Brian Paskvan said For children 8 or 9, Penrod said, the parent needs to be in the building. Those 10, 11 and 12 years old can use it on their own. Here the issue becomes transportation. “If a child is not able to leave the library without an adult, they should not be in the library without an adult,” Penrod said. Also, if a child needs to wait for a ride at closing time, the staff will call the police to provide transportation…


County trying to keep up with bridge repairs

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It takes an awful lot of bridges to crisscross the drained Great Black Swamp’s ditches and creeks – 441 bridges to be exact. And it takes an awful lot of money to keep those bridges in good repair. So once again Tuesday, officials from the Wood County Engineer’s Office came to the county commissioners to seek funding for bridge design. Since the county began receiving casino tax revenue, the commissioners have dedicated those funds to bridge design. Last year, $615,997 was put toward design costs. The actual bridge construction is then funded by the engineer’s office. Even with that, it’s difficult to keep up with repairs, according to Joan Cherry, of the engineer’s office. All bridges in the county are inspected annually and then appraised on a scale of 0 (failed) to 9 (excellent), she explained. Last year’s inspections found one bridge in failed condition; 4 critical; 15 serious; 52 poor; 45 fair; 78 satisfactory; 110 good; 88 very good; and 48 excellent. “I would love for all of them to be a 4 or higher,” Cherry said. The rankings continue to slip as the years pass. Once they hit the “serious” 3 ranking, “they start to go on the replacement list.” Construction costs also continue to rise each year, with a small box culvert bridge costing about $150,000. The average bridge costs $350,000 to replace, while the larger structures can cost close to $1 million, Cherry reported. With the minimum lifespan…


BCI Lab recognized for energy efficient design

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Bowling Green State University President Mary Ellen Mazey announced today that the BCI laboratory on the BGSU campus has earned the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification. “Opening the new BCI lab at Bowling Green was an exciting milestone. It added the latest technology and increased capacity to help the crime-fighting efforts of Ohio’s law enforcement agencies,” said Attorney General DeWine. “And this certification confirms that this important work is being done in a facility that is environmentally friendly and energy efficient.” “We’re proud to have the BCI facility on our campus for the opportunities it offers our students and faculty, and especially pleased that it reflects our goal of achieving carbon neutrality and being a good environmental role model for the citizens of Ohio,” BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey said. LEED certification comes from the U.S. Green Building Council – a national green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. The LEED certification encompasses numerous categories of energy efficiency and environmentally sound design. For example, the BCI lab is expected to be 14 percent more energy efficient than the standard building baseline, thanks to its HVAC and lighting units, in addition to its windows and insulation. Water consumption is estimated to be more than 40 percent below the standard baseline. In building the 30,000-square foot facility, which opened in 2014, more than 20 percent of the materials cost went toward…


Scooby Doo, Chief Wiggum, Professor Snape get votes for Wood County sheriff

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Some people take voting very seriously. Others, not so much. Some apparently see it as an opportunity to show their creative side. In the primary election earlier this month, Wood County residents voting on the Democratic ballot were given the chance to fill in a write-in candidate for sheriff. Retired deputy Ruth Babel-Smith was running as a write-in candidate, but many voters were thinking way outside the box. Some voters at least stuck with people with law enforcement experience – however questionable it might be. Getting one vote each were Barney Fife, the bumbling deputy from Mayberry RFD; Chief Wiggum, the lazy incompetent police chief in The Simpsons, and Roscoe P. Coltrane, the corrupt sheriff from the Dukes of Hazzard. “I was just disappointed Boss Hogg didn’t get it,” said Mike Zickar, of the Wood County Board of Elections. A few cartoon type characters garnered single votes like Alfred E. Newman, of Mad magazine covers; Fred Flintstone, of the prehistoric town of Bedrock; and Scooby Doo, the canine with the mystery solving gang of meddling kids. Mickey Mouse got 4 votes – 5 if you count the voter who just wrote “Mickey.” Garnering one vote was Disney’s Sheriff Callie, an animated cat who rides a blue pony enforcing the “Cowpoke Code” in the Old West. Some voters went big, writing national political figures like Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Some preferred to stay local, casting votes for Chip Myles, of…


Streets to be closed for waterline work

On Monday, March 28, B.Hillz Excavating will begin work on the waterline located on Clough Street between South Prospect and South Summit streets. During this work, the following traffic changes will occur: South Summit Street.: No parking will be allowed on the 100 block of South Summit Street, Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. By 10 a.m. on March 28, two-way traffic will be allowed on this block, which is a change from the normal one-way (southbound) traffic. Two-way traffic will remain through Wednesday, March 30, depending on weather and progress of work. Clough St.: On Monday, March 28, 7 a.m. Clough Street will close from South Main to South Summit Street to install a new valve in the Clough/Prospect intersection. Once work is complete in the intersection, Clough Street from South Main to South Prospect will re-open along with the South Prospect/Clough intersection. Clough Street, from South Prospect to South Summit, will remain closed to thru traffic Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. After 6 p.m., this portion of Clough Street will open to westbound traffic only. Residents are encouraged to call the Public Works Department (419-354-6227) or visit the city’s website for more information or with questions.


State of Wood County – steady and solid

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s annual checkup showed a healthy region with more jobs being created, more teamwork being touted, and more tax revenues coming in to support services. The state of the county address, held this morning in the courthouse atrium, painted a rosy picture of the past year and the one ahead. “The past year was one of progress and change in Wood County,” said Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw, who presented the program with fellow commissioners Joel Kuhlman and Craig LaHote. Finances are staying steady. “Throughout the recession, Wood County remained fiscally strong,” Herringshaw said. Increases in revenue from property tax, sales tax and the casino tax are helping to compensate for loss in revenue from Local Government Funds and investment income. The commissioners recently approved a budget with annual appropriations totaling $40,628,105 – nearly $900,000 more than the previous year’s appropriations. Those solid finances have allowed the county to pay cash for some capital projects, such as the $2.9 million jail expansion and $1 million updates at Wood Haven Health Care. It has also allowed the county to retain its good bond rating, Herringshaw said. The commissioners have made wise use of the casino tax revenue, she said, by using it to fund bridge designs. This year, the revenue will pay for seven bridge projects throughout the county. Kuhlman listed off successes at several businesses in the county, with many new jobs being created. Those included First Solar which is adding…


Park levy need not questioned, but more millage may pose problems

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   BG officials did not question the need for a new parks and recreation levy Monday evening. They did, however, question the chances of the millage increase passing on the November ballot. City council’s finance committee listened to BG Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley as she made the pitch for a 2-mill property tax levy lasting five years. Since the proposed levy is an increased amount from the current 1.4-mill levy, the council committee felt the need to scrutinize the request. Otley explained that the parks and rec program has not seen a levy increase in 16 years. In the meantime, the program has grown in acreage, facilities and programming. “We’ve added so much in 16 years,” Otley said. “The things we added were all things the community was asking for and wanted to see.” Also during that 16-year period, several maintenance projects were deferred. “A lot of things have been put off,” Otley said. For example, the Veterans Building in City Park is in great need of repairs. The parking lot at Simpson Garden Park has serious pothole problems. The park land has grown to 333 acres, including the new Ridge Park. And the 10-year-old community center is in need of maintenance. The three members of the finance committee, Robert McOmber, Michael Aspacher and Theresa Charters Gavarone, did not dispute the need for the additional millage. But they expressed concern that if voters don’t support the levy, that the department will…


Large item trash pickup this week

A large item pick-up, to collect items which are too heavy or of such composition or configuration that they cannot be placed in the regular weekly  refuse collection containers, will be held this week. All items should be placed curbside on Monday to ensure pick-up.  There will only be one pick-up for each location and, once the crews leave a street, they will not return. NOTE: Pickup is by WARD and NOT by your normal refuse collection day. City Crews will collect the Large Items throughout the City independent of the normal refuse collection schedule. As with the City’s residential refuse collection program, this special collection is only for one and two family dwellings on public streets, per city ordinance. Mattresses/box springs will be collected for an additional fee. The fee is $25 for the first mattress or box spring and $15 per mattress or box spring thereafter up to a total of 3. The fee must be paid prior to collection at 304 N Church St- Public Works. Phone: 419-354-6227. Note that refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and dehumidifiers are not eligible for collection.  By law, the city is not authorized to pick up building materials, construction or demolition refuse, sod, and rocks.  For a fee, property owners may dispose of these items at the Wood County Landfill on State Route 6. Additional information can be found at www.bgohio.org.


Wood County voters support Kasich and Sanders; Reger wins Republican primary for judge seat

By BG Independent News Wood County voters joined the rest of Ohio in helping hand Ohio Gov. John Kasich a win in his race for the Republican presidential nomination. On the Democratic side, Wood County voters gave more support to Senator Bernie Sanders, though Hillary Clinton captured the state overall. Of Wood County’s 89,280 registered voters, 36,640, or 41 percent, cast ballots for the primary . Here is how Wood County voted in the primary election. DEMOCRATIC BALLOT President (delegates-at-large and alternates-at-large to national convention) Hillary Clinton: 6,108 (45.76%) Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente: 75 (0.56%) Bernie Sanders: 7,165 (53.68%) United States Senate Kelli Prather: 1,628 (13.47%) G. Sittenfeld: 3,006 (24.86%) Ted Strickland: 7,456 (61.67%) Fifth U.S. Congressional District James Neu Jr.: 9,346 Justice of Ohio Supreme Court John P. O’Donnell: 8,383 Justice of Ohio Supreme Court Cynthia Rice: 8,584 Second Ohio Senate District Kirk W. Halliday: 8,473 Third Ohio House District David Walters: 8,585 Sixth District Court of Appeals Jack R. Puffenberger: 8,278 Sixth District Court of Appeals Mark L. Pietrykowski: 8,697 Wood County Common Pleas Judge Steve Long: 8,569 Wood County Commissioner (term commencing 1/2/2017) Edward A. Kolanko: 7,902 Wood County Commissioner (term commencing 1/3/2017) Joel M. Kuhlman: 8,754 Wood County Recorder Julie L. Baumgardner: 9,232 Wood County Sheriff Ruth J. Babel-Smith (write-in): 684 Wood County Treasurer Jason Hartigan: 8,708   GREEN PARTY BALLOT United States Senate Joseph R. DeMare: 74   REPUBLICAN BALLOT President (for delegates-at-large and alternates-at-large to national convention) Jeb Bush: 74 (0.33%) Ben Carson:…