Government

Daniel Gordon to pursue state representative seat

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   State Rep. Tim Brown’s decision to resign from the Statehouse has set the dominoes in motion. His departure has given the Wood County Democratic Party a glimmer of hope that it has a chance to take the state seat. The first local Democrat to officially state his interest in the legislative seat after Brown’s announcement is Bowling Green Councilman Daniel Gordon. But first, the Democrat currently on the ballot, David Walters, of Bowling Green, has to resign his place on the Democratic ballot for the Ohio State House of Representatives. And Sunday evening, Walters announced his plans to bail. “Tim Brown has been a dedicated public servant to the residents of Wood County for many years and has done a commendable job of representing the best interests of our county,” Walters stated in a press release. “However, like Representative Brown, I feel that my calling now lies away from elected office and so it has become imperative that we put forward a candidate who can continue his legacy of placing the interests of Wood County residents above partisan politics.” And that will make room for Gordon, whom Walters endorsed. “While I remain passionate about the issues affecting Wood County, I feel that there is a person better suited to represent our community than myself. That individual is Bowling Green City Councilman Daniel Gordon,” Walters said. But Gordon may be just one of several Democrats eyeing the seat. According to Mike Zickar, head of the Wood County Democratic Party, the process for finding a replacement candidate will be made in the next few days. The new candidates from both parties for the state representative seat must be filed with the Wood County Board of Elections by Aug. 15.  Any Democrat interested is encouraged to send a resume to mikezickar@yahoo.com. Gordon, in his third term as First Ward councilman, said he has been focused on making improvements in Bowling Green, such as the creation of Ridge Park, Complete Streets program, and neighborhood revitalization. However,…


Buckeye Boys State says farewell to BGSU

  By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Buckeye Boys State ended Sunday with the traditional call: “We’re adjourned.” Those words had special resonance at Bowling Green State University where the government education program has made its home for the past 39 Junes. Next year when the American Legion-sponsored program convenes, it will be at Miami University. The program’s board of trustees voted Thursday evening to approve a five-year contract to move the program to Miami University, dashing the hopes of locals who wanted to keep it here. The move had been rumored for weeks and had even been prematurely announced on two occasions earlier this year. The vote, said Boys state spokesman Jim Koppin, was not close. When all was said and down, it was a business decision. Despite a last-minute proposal matching Miami’s offer, “Bowling Green never came up with a proposal we could live it. As one local resident said, ‘it was too little, too late.’” Mayor Dick Edwards said on Friday he’d been told BGSU’s initial offer was an increase of 41 percent. Koppin said he’s been told the same figure. A jump in the cost of that magnitude would have been difficult for Legion posts around the state to absorb. All the delegates’ expenses are paid. It costs $300 to send a high school junior to the program. This year 1,250 were registered, though a few were not able to attend. The local posts pick up the tab, with some receiving corporate sponsorships to help cover the costs. Should that price tag go up to $400, he said, it would make it difficult, especially for a post like his own in Anna that has fewer than 100 members. “We just couldn’t have done it,” he said. “If we’d had to stay here under their costs, we would have curtailed the program.” And that’s not the direction Boys State is going, Koppin said. At the national Boys State meeting in Indianapolis last year, Ohio, which operates the largest program in the nation, was challenged to increase participation…


Kuhlman tries for court of appeals seat – sending local candidates scrambling for open seats

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Commissioner Joel Kuhlman has turned in an application for judge in the Sixth District Court of Appeals, sending more local candidates scrambling for seats. Kuhlman didn’t think much of it when some of his Wood County supporters approached him about filing for the ballot spot vacated when Court of Appeals Judge Jack Puffenberger withdrew his name on June 3. Kuhlman chalked it up to his local constituents being supportive. But then the push came from people outside Wood County, including encouragement from Lucas County’s handpicked candidate for the seat who declined the offer. So Kuhlman started taking a second look. “I’ve been struggling with it for the last couple days,” said Kuhlman, the lone Democrat on the county commissioner board. “I really like being a commissioner.” But after debating, he decided to take the chance. “I’m going to go for it,” he said Friday afternoon. Kuhlman’s decision has started a game of political musical chairs with potential candidates eyeing empty seats. “It’s a complicated mess right now,” said Mike Zickar, head of the Wood County Democratic Party. That’s because earlier in the week, Republican Tim Brown announced he was giving up his state representative position to take the top spot with the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments. “It’s like playing multiple games of chess right now,” Zickar said. Here’s why: Kuhlman is facing off with Republican Ted Bowlus right now for county commissioner. If Kuhlman is selected by the Sixth District’s eight central committee leaders for the court ballot, he has to give up his spot on the county commissioner ballot. That leaves a big opening for Democrats interested in running for county commissioner. The replacement for the ballot will be chosen by the Wood County Democratic Party, but will not serve unless elected, since Kuhlman will remain in the commissioner seat till the term expires in January. Meanwhile, both parties are eyeing the empty seat being vacated by Brown leaving for TMACOG. “I have not heard from anyone,”…



Child abuse reports spike, another investigator to be hired

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When child abuse reports jumped in February, it was hoped the spike was just a blip. But then came May. “February set the all time high for Job and Family Services investigations in a month,” said Dave Wigent, director of the Wood County agency. “But in May, we broke the record we set in February.” Children’s Services has gone through brief spikes in the past, Wigent said. “This is going on a five-month trend.” Last year, the agency investigated 718 child abuse and neglect cases. The average has been 60 to 70 cases a month. But this year, the numbers were hitting 80 to more than 90 a month. In order to deal with the increase in child abuse cases, the office needs another investigator, Wigent told the Wood County Commissioners on Thursday morning. While the current staff can handle the increase for a month or two, the continued demands are too much for the present staff. The workload is being spread amongst the six current investigators and others on the Children’s Services staff. “All these folks are busy to start with,” Wigent said. Wigent presented graphs to the commissioners showing the average number of investigations handled per worker per month at other county Children’s Services agencies in Ohio. Of those listed, Wood County had the second highest workload, with each worker handling 13.6 investigations a month. Licking County was higher with 16 per worker, and Allen County was the lowest with nine per worker. “It’s pretty easy to say these seven people are the tip of the spear for us,” Wigent said of the child abuse investigators. They have a dangerous and emotionally draining job, he added. Wigent said Wood County Children’s Services “runs lean,” compared to some other counties, such as Marion County, which has about half the population of Wood County but about twice as many investigators. The agency has enough in reserves, along with state and federal funding, to pay for the new position, he said. Wigent also…



Tim Brown leaving Statehouse, but sticking with public service

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   State Rep. Tim Brown, R-Bowling Green, is stepping down from the Statehouse to return to his roots. Brown was hired as director of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments on Wednesday. The move ends his 27-year career in government, but returns him to grassroots public service that he found most rewarding. “It was the time I spent with Jim and Alvie, at the local level, that I enjoyed most,” Brown said referring to his years as Wood County commissioner with Jim Carter and Alvie Perkins. “Now I’ll have a chance to do it again,” Brown said this morning. “It’s the local stuff that matters to people. It kind of feels like I get to come home to those issues again. The public service isn’t ending on my part.” The decision to give up the Statehouse for the TMACOG leadership position was tough. “It’s bittersweet,” he said. “This path provides me with the opportunity to do the work I really enjoy doing.” Brown will probably start his new job in mid-July. His salary has not yet been set. Brown started his career in public service working for Congressman Paul Gillmor for eight years. He then served as county commissioner for 15 years, and is now in his fourth year as a state representative. He was not looking for a new job, but was approached by a few people about the difficulty TMACOG was having filling the top position. “The more we talked, I realized this is the work I enjoy. It turned out to be a remarkable opportunity,” he said. “It’s an opportunity I just couldn’t say ‘no’ to.” Though Brown was not being pushed out of office yet by term limits, that reality did play a part in his decision. “Here I am, four years into the job, and my eligibility is half over,” he said. That realization was combined with the rare opening for such a job as director of TMACOG. “It’s not a position that comes along very often,”…


Tim Brown named president of TMACOG

State. Rep. Tim Brown, R-Bowling Green, was selected Wednesday to be president of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments. Brown will replace Tony Reams, who is retiring. Brown, whose salary is being negotiated, may start as early as July 1. Brown, 53, was first elected to the Ohio House in 2012. He was appointed a Wood County commissioner in 1997 and subsequently elected. Brown said it would be up to Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, to determine the process to fill Brown’s seat in the House.


BG utilities director receives national award

Submitted by City of Bowling Green The Director of Public Utilities for the City of Bowling Green, Brian O’Connell, has been named the 2016 Robert E. Roundtree Rising Star Award recipient by the American Public Power Association. Mayor Richard Edwards stated, “Bowling Green is fortunate to have such a talented, thoughtful, and dedicated person leading our Utilities Department and working closely with the City’s independent Board of Public Utilities. Brian deserves this recognition and this award reinforces what we have known about him for a long time.” O’Connell has served as the Director of Public Utilities since 2011. He began his career with the City in 2004 in the Engineering Division. He has a passion for public power issues at the federal, state and local level, and regularly attends the APPA National Conference and Legislative Rally. He represents Bowling Green as well as 14 other municipal electric systems on the American Municipal Power Board of Trustees. Under Mr. O’Connell’s leadership, Bowling Green is on track to achieve a balanced portfolio that is responsible, sustainable, and derived by nearly 37 percent from renewable sources such as wind, hydro, and soon to be solar. Bowling Green’s rates remain competitive with the local investor-owned utility, and the system has a strong credit rating from AMP. O’Connell received the Roundtree Rising Star award at the Association’s national conference in Phoenix, AZ.


ODOT details road projects in Wood County

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Construction projects on Interstate 75 and surrounding roads have drivers tied up in knots – or stalled in traffic. “It looks like hell out there,” Wood County Commissioner Joel Kuhlman said during a meeting with Ohio Department of Transportation officials Tuesday morning. Every time he drives on I-75, which is being widened to three lanes in each direction, Kuhlman is amazed at the complexity of the project. “It could be way, way worse,” he said. The commissioners were told by ODOT officials that the widening project is on schedule, with the stretch of I-75 between Devils Hole and Oil Center roads expected to be done by the end of November. “Essentially, we’re where we need to be,” said Brian French, engineer on the project. But until it’s done, the disruptions to drivers will continue, with closures in the Perrysburg area expected till September, then closure of the southbound ramps for Route 582 planned after that. ODOT is trying to stagger road closures and detours. “We certainly appreciate 75 being widened. All of your predecessors talked about it,” Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said. “Even though we get caught in traffic jams,” Herringshaw added. But Todd Audet, deputy director of ODOT District 2 office in Bowling Green, isn’t apologetic about the congestion caused by the construction project which came sooner than expected due to early funding. It would have been irresponsible for the district to not snap up the construction dollars when they were offered, he said. “Funding became available and we’re doing as much as we can,” Audet said. The entire I-75 project should be completed in two to three years. Then the increasing interstate traffic will flow more easily. Layth Istefan, highway management administrator, said I-75 is “important to our local economy. Most of our goods and services are transported on interstates.” And once it’s complete, the snarled roadway will be a distant memory. “I’ve got to believe five to 10 years from now, people will say, ‘Remember when this was two lanes?’”…


Patient advocate bill signed in Ohio law

One of the most comprehensive patients advocate bills in the nation was signed into law at the Ohio Statehouse Monday, according to State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green. Gardner sponsored Senate Bill 129, known as the Prior Authorization Reform Act, to require faster turnaround times for patients and medical providers to receive health care coverage decisions from insurance companies. “This bill begins a new era when patients can receive health care in a more timely manner – the same health care they expect, deserve and have paid for,” Gardner said Monday.  “We need a more modern, accountable and cost-effective prior authorization process in Ohio.  Soon we will.” Gardner said the Ohio State Medical Association had approached him to sponsor the bill. “I agreed with them we need a better system,” he said. “I’ve always been one who wanted to strengthen the doctor-patient relationship.” Nearly 80 health care providers and patient advocate organizations, including the American Cancer Society, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, several mental health organizations, the Cleveland Clinic and numerous other hospitals supported the bill. The lead supporting organization, the Ohio State Medical Association, said the bill is one of its top priorities during the current session of the General Assembly. “Senate Bill 129 has a number of provisions that will make the prior authorization process more transparent, more fair, and more patient-focused,” said Tim Maglione, senior director of government relations for the OSMA. Gardner said the bill was quite complicated, involving several medical organizations and tackling multiple provisions. “Most states have done one or two provisions at a time,” he said. Highlights of Senate Bill 129’s numerous reforms include: Requires a new electronic web-based prior authorization process designed to end the costs and time lost with the current fax and phone call system. Provides for a 33 percent reduction in the time allowed for insurers to decide prior authorization requests and a 67 percent reduction in decision time for appeals of denied requests. Mandates that insurance companies disclose to medical providers all necessary information and documentation that a provider…


County housing analysis reveals lack of affordable rentals and lack of public transportation

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A new analysis of housing in Wood County revealed the same problems as past studies – too few affordable rentals and a lack of public transportation which doesn’t allow people to access less expensive housing. Dave Steiner, director of the Wood County Planning Commission, shared the latest Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing with the county commissioners on Tuesday. The study is required every five years in order for the county to get Community Block Grant Funding from HUD. The massive report digs into the county’s demographics, and looks at areas where fair housing opportunities can be furthered. Steiner said the report points out three areas needing improvement. First is the lack of affordable rentals, which are limited primarily to Bowling Green. Few low rent properties are available outside of the city, he said. Second is the lack of public transportation, which is especially detrimental in small villages. Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw mentioned the new Net Plus transportation program which should be in operation by the end of last week. However, that program is to provide rides to doctor’s appointments, not to the grocery story or social visits. “It does keep people in small towns kind of isolated,” Herringshaw said of the lack of public transportation. With Wood County being the seventh largest county geographically in the state, efforts to provide comprehensive public transit have stalled. “There’s no easy solution to that,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said. Steiner agreed. “I have yet to find a solution,” he said, adding that the need for public transportation will continue to grow. “With the aging population, that is going to be a bigger problem.” The third issue identified in the housing study was the fact that many people are not aware of their rights when renting a home. For example, Steiner said, if a doctor has determined that a person needs a service animal, that person cannot be denied from having a service animal in their rental. “People don’t always know their rights,”…


BG transfers land for potential buyer, The Beat Dance Company

Bowling Green City Council authorized the transfer of 2.3 acres in Bellard Business Park to the Bowling Green Community Development Foundation, Monday evening, in lieu of dues for economic development purposes. The foundation has a potential buyer for the acreage, The Beat Dance Company, which offers youth dance and gymnastics programs. The transfer of this property to the foundation and sale would result in approximately $25,300 credit towards the city’s annual community development foundation dues.


Buckeye Boys State convenes at BGSU

More than 1,200 young scholars from throughout Ohio will be at Bowling Green State University Sunday,June 12, through Sunday, June 19, for American Legion Buckeye Boys State. Students learn about city, county and state government by creating a mock government. City, county and state officials, along with American Legion volunteers, typically take part. Participants at Buckeye Boys State are also eligible for the BGSU Buckeye Boys State Achievement Scholarship. The automatic $1,000 scholarship for Boys State participants is renewable yearly and may be combined with other university scholarships. Buckeye Boys State was founded in 1936 and has been held at BGSU since 1978. In a letter this week to staff and faculty President Mary Ellen Mazey stated: “We’re committed to doing everything we can to continue this great collaboration.” She continued: “Buckeye Boys State and the dozens of summer conferences and camps we host give us the opportunity to showcase our campus and provide prospective students and their families with a taste of the BGSU experience. Our incoming freshman class includes 68 alumni from last year’s Boys State.


Sign language – variance granted for hotel LED sign

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A variance was granted Wednesday evening which will help a local business owner compete with the big flashy signs closer to the interstate. The Bowling Green Zoning Board of Appeals voted to grant a variance for a new larger LED sign for the Best Western hotel at 1450 E. Wooster St. The variance was requested by Harmon Sign to allow an 18-foot tall and 58.8-square-foot sign, which would encroach 17 feet into the 25-foot front yard setback. Nelson Pixler, of Harmon Sign, said the new electronic message sign is all part of a rebranding effort at the Best Western location. The new sign will not be any taller than the current sign, and will allow the owner to use the existing foundation. “It certainly will spruce up the area with the new look,” Pixler said. The hotel also has a very tall pole sign that was granted a variance in 1991, according to City Prosecutor Matt Reger. Paul Bishop, the son of Best Western owner Jake Bishop, explained the effort to rebrand the hotel, locally called the Falcon Plaza. Approximately $400,000 has already been spent on renovating the common areas, conference rooms, lobby and breakfast area. “I’m very proud of what we’ve done,” Bishop said. Next on the list is upgrading of all the individual hotel rooms, which should be completed next year. Though part of Best Western, the hotel will retain its local flair as the Falcon Plaza. “We intend to keep that as part of the identity,” Bishop said. Not only will the new LED sign be more noticeable to motorists, but it will no longer require the messages to be posted by hand, Bishop said. However, the Falcon Plaza will continue to post localized messages – which the community seems to appreciate, he said. Bishop explained that the new signage is needed to stand out with all the other signs closer to the Interstate 75 interchange. “When you are coming west, we are competing with signs to the east…