Government

City interviews consultants for neighborhood revitalization

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is one step closer to a revitalization plan for the northeast and southeast neighborhoods of the city. City Planning Director Heather Sayler reported to the city planning commission on Wednesday that interviews had been conducted with consulting firms interested in taking on the revitalization project. Sayler said it was very important that the proposals considered the community’s traits. “As a college town, we are a different animal than the typical community,” she said. It was also quite important that the consulting firm knows how to collect input from the neighborhoods, Sayler said. “How will they handle engagement with the community?” City council agreed earlier this year to contract with a consulting firm to develop a strategic revitalization plan for the northeast and the southeast quadrants of the city. Among other goals, the plan will look at fixing neglected and abused housing. When offering background information to the possible consultants, city officials said the east side has been impacted by its proximity to BGSU, “which has created a magnet for student rental properties.” “Over the years, the character of these neighborhoods has changed from single-family owner-occupied homes into an area dominated by rental properties geared toward students, compounded by aging stock and lowered property values,” the background information stated. For the northeast neighborhood, the challenge is to return the blocks to family-orientation, and modify infrastructure and regulations to promote the northeast blocks to BGSU graduate students, university staff, alumni and other families. The goals for the northeast neighborhood are: Stop and then reverse “apartmentalization” of houses. Improve livability and aesthetics. Encourage health and fitness. Allow transition uses and higher densities. The…


Inmates addicted to opiates will get drug to help them kick habits

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For some opiate addicts, the most dangerous time is right after being released from jail or a treatment facility. They fall in with old friends, then old bad habits. The risks are even greater at that point, since their bodies are no long accustomed to the opiate amounts they used before. When that tolerance for the drug is gone, deadly overdoses are more likely to occur. So Wood County officials are looking at offering inmates injections of one drug, in order to help them beat the addiction of another drug – opiates, with heroin being the most notorious of the drug group. “Heroin is a different beast than we’ve dealt with before,” said Cary Williams, executive director of the Northwest Community Corrections Center located in Bowling Green. To give inmates a better chance at kicking opiates, they will be offered one dose of Vivitrol, an injectable drug that acts as an “opiate antagonist. It limits the body’s ability to get high,” explained Charlie Hughes, program director of the corrections center. By reducing the cravings and the pleasurable effects of the opiates, Vivitrol gives addicts a better chance of kicking the drugs. “So life without drugs seems possible,” Hughes said. Williams, Hughes and Joni Bretz, of Wood County Adult Probation Department, presented a program on Vivitrol to the Wood County Commissioners on Thursday, and asked for the board’s support of offering the drug at the community corrections center. The commissioners supported the efforts and agreed to spending up to $25,000 for one year, which would cover at least 19 inmates from Wood County who qualify for the Vivitrol.  Of the 54 Wood County…


Tall grass keeps neighbors annoyed and city busy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence – but it may also be taller, which could get your neighbor a notice about grass and noxious weed violations. This is the time of year when spring rains bring on rapid grass growth, catching some homeowners unprepared or unwilling to deal with their grass and wayward weeds. “Spring is always the worst, with the onslaught of the rain,” said Jason Westgate, Bowling Green’s code enforcement officer. Westgate estimated the city has issued 10 to 20 grass and weed notices each day during the month of May. It’s like a summer version of the city’s snow shoveling ordinance. If landowners don’t take care of the property themselves, then the city will – and send the owners the bill. “During rainy spells, we try to give people time to catch up,” Westgate said. “But we had a lot of people calling to complain that neighbors haven’t mowed and the grass was getting knee-high.” The city’s tall grass and noxious weed ordinance sets the maximum allowed grass height at 8 inches, and prohibits particularly unruly weeds like wild mustard, musk thistle, giant hogweed and poison hemlock, as suggested by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. So like every other springtime, code enforcement has again been busy trying to remind residents of the rules. “It depends on when the warm weather comes and the rain hits. Then it becomes a perfect storm,” said Heather Sayler, city planning director. Several of the violations are reported by unhappy neighbors, and others are spotted by the code enforcement officer. Some involve foreclosed homes, others are rentals that…


U.S. Senate candidate Joe DeMare serves as point man in Green campaign to upend the political status quo

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Joe DeMare, Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate, was a happy guy when he arrived for his interview with the BG Independent News. The results from the presidential election were in, and the Green Party candidate had won. That would be the Austrian presidential election, and the winning candidate was Alexander Van der Bellen. “It’s a good day to be a Green,” DeMare said. “Our first head of state.” The Bowling Green resident has set his sights on being the first Green in the U.S. Senate. In part his campaign was spurred by the requirements of the political system. In order to maintain its place on the Ohio ballot, the party must secure votes in a statewide primary race. DeMare’s candidacy was intended to achieve that. He noted that about half the registered Green voters who cast ballots in the March primary defected to the Democrats, most likely to vote for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. But, he said, for every Green who voted Democratic, two unaffiliated voters cast Green ballots. So the Greens came out stronger. DeMare expects that many of those Sanders-leaning Greens will return to the fold in November if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination. Jill Stein will be the party’s presidential candidate. DeMare, though, is running for more than strategic reasons. The incumbent, Republican Senator Rob Portman, “desperately needs to be replaced, and I intend to replace him.” The Republican Party doesn’t know enough about science to be entrusted with the environment, he said. He cited a recent rider on the defense appropriations bill that would weaken legislation on ocean-going vessels dumping their ballast into the Great Lakes. For him,…


ODOT buys 40 acres north of BG for $880,000

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Ohio Department of Transportation has purchased 40 acres north of Bowling Green with plans to build some type of “multi-use facility” there. The Wood County real estate transfers for May 12 showed that ODOT paid $880,000 for the property located on Ohio 582, east of Ohio 25, in Middleton Township. The cost of an average acre of farmland in Wood County is between $6,500 and $7,000. ODOT paid $22,000 per acre. Theresa Pollick, spokesperson for the ODOT District 2 Office in Bowling Green, said the agency is “looking into the possibility of a multi-use facility” being developed there sometime over the next 10 years. One of those uses could be a highway maintenance facility, Pollick said. When asked if ODOT is looking to move its offices from Bowling Green to the new site, Pollick just repeated that the acreage will be used for a multi-use facility. The newly purchased property, located on the north side of Route 582, is directly east of the Northwestern Water and Sewer District facility. The acreage, which is currently zoned agricultural, has easy access to Interstate 75 a couple miles to the east. ODOT is in the middle of major construction projects on I-75, including widening the highway to three lanes through Wood County. ODOT District 2 currently has two facilities in Bowling Green, with its offices at 317 E. Poe Road, and a maintenance facility on the west edge of the city at 13982 Mitchell Road.    


Bill makes public records more accessible to public

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Public records should be just that – public. For that reason State Rep. Tim Brown, R-Bowling Green, co-sponsored a bill making public records more accessible for Ohioans. Brown said he decided to co-sponsor Senate Bill 321 after hearing testimony from Ohioans who were blocked from getting public records by obstinate public officials. “No one should need to hire a lawyer to get public records,” Brown said. “It can be time consuming and costly to resolve these matters.” “We came up with a bill that works for people,” he said. Ohio already has a simple method in place for making an initial public records request that is not burdensome to a citizen. However, if the office or agency denies access to those public records, the person requesting them is “often faced with an uphill battle consisting of attorney fees and court dates.” Under Senate Bill 321, any person who believes that his or her public records request was improperly denied can file a challenge with the Court of Claims for $25 without the need to hire an attorney. The legislation also stipulates that the claim must be resolved within 45 days. If the matter proceeds to court, and it is determined that the public office or official acted in bad faith, the court can award court fees to the citizen who filed the records request. “Hopefully, it’s a step in the right direction,” Brown said. Two years ago, the Ohio Newspaper Association, along with the Ohio Coalition for Open Government and the Ohio Association of Broadcasters, sent out journalists in all of the state’s 88 counties to see how cooperative governmental entities were at…


Community engagement secret sauce in moving BG forward

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The city is moving to make progress on many fronts, and two members of council credit citizen involvement with helping set the agenda. Daniel Gordon, who represents Ward 1, and John Zanfardino, who represents Ward 2, both on Bowling Green’s east side, held a meeting for their constituents Monday night at the Wood County Library to discuss the issues facing the city. “BG has some really engaged folks,” Zanfardino said. “That’s incredibly important.” He cited the efforts of the People of Engagement Bowling Green, a project founded last year to bring information to residents and bring those residents into the process. Several members were in attendance. Zanfardino also noted the weekly bike rides that are being held to raise awareness of the need for accommodations for bike rides. Students also have been active picking up trash in the neighborhoods on the south side. Sean Herman, who works with The Common Good, was on hand. “All our efforts are important and are moving the city forward,” Zanfardino said. One issue that has recently gotten a boost, he said, was the need to look at how to revitalize housing, especially on the east side of town. The city has just allocated $90,000 to hire a consultant to advise it on the issue. “The city council has put it in the forefront,” Gordon said. Zanfardino said for the 11 years he was on council the issue was not even acknowledged “until last year.” The effort follows up on the development of the city’s land use plan. It takes “the housing aspect of it and actualizes it,” he said. The public forums on a five-year plan for the…


Wood County Health District earns national accreditation

Wood County Health District is proud to announce that it has achieved national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board, demonstrating the capacity to provide the highest quality of services to the approximately 129,000 people it serves. “This achievement validates the dedication and hard work of our staff, the extraordinary support of our community partners, and the commitment of our Board of Health to improving the health and quality of life in Wood County,” said Health Commissioner, Ben Batey. “Accreditation is the gold standard for health departments and it is an honor to be recognized for our commitment to quality and the incredible effort our staff puts forth every day to improve and protect the health of our community.” To receive national accreditation, a health department must undergo a rigorous, multi-faceted, peer-reviewed assessment process to ensure it meets or exceeds a set of public health quality standards and measures. “The work we’ve done to get to this point was an opportunity for us to examine our entire organization from the inside out,” said Amy Jones, Director of Health Promotion and Preparedness and acting Accreditation Coordinator. “It’s been an incredible process to be able to demonstrate our ability to provide Wood County with high quality public health,” she added. Public health departments play a critical role in protecting and improving the health of people and communities. Across the nation, health departments provide a range of services aimed at promoting healthy behaviors; preventing diseases and injuries; ensuring access to safe food, water, clean air, and life-saving immunizations; and preparing for and responding to public health emergencies. “Whenever you see our seal of accreditation, you will know that Wood County Health District has…


BGSU researchers release report on police crime, schedule webinar to discuss findings

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Two Bowling Green State University researchers recently concluded a National Institute of Justice-funded study on police crime, the report of which will be released by the NIJ June 6. The study provides insights into the nature and extent of police crime in the United States, what factors influence how a police organization responds to arrests of officers, and how to foster police integrity by exploring whether police crime and officer arrests correlate with other forms of police misconduct. Philip Stinson, J.D., Ph.D., and John Liederbach, Ph.D., both associate professors in criminal justice, will share findings from their study in a June 23 webinar, “Police Integrity Lost: A Webinar to Discuss Findings from a Multiyear Study of Law Enforcement Officers Arrested.” In the course of their research, Stinson and Liederbach analyzed data on 6,724 arrests over a seven-year period (2005-2011). These arrests involved more than 5,500 individual sworn law enforcement officers who were employed by more than 2,500 nonfederal state and local law enforcement agencies located in 1,205 counties and independent cities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Participants can learn more by registering for the free webinar scheduled for 1 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 23. Registration is available at http://www.bgsu.edu/pilwebinar The webinar is supported by Award No. 2011-IJ-CX-0024, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in the webinar are those of the presenters and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.


BG citizens gush over their parks, but push for more on ‘park poor’ side of city

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green residents love their parks – so much, they had no trouble rattling off three pages of positive comments gushing about the gardens, trails, playgrounds, pool and more. But when the time came to identify weaknesses, they listed off plenty of problems, or opportunities for improvement, depending on the point of view. Citizens were asked Wednesday evening to list strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department during the fifth and final focus group. The ideas presented will be considered during the formation of the parks department’s five-year plan. The most glaring weakness seemed to be the “park poor” east side of the city. Children from a large chunk of the southeast corner of the city have to cross major streets or the railroad tracks to get to a park some distance away. Resident Tom Kleine suggested that the city look into buying the former South Main School playground property. “Children could use that space,” he said. But instead, “children are left to the streets and the alleys.” The old schoolyard has playground equipment, a basketball court and a place to play kickball, all surrounded by fences. But neighborhood children have not been able to resist the chance to play. “Kids are jumping the fence,” to get into the playground, resident Jon Herald said. Another resident pointed out that while community support has been strong over the years, nearly all the funds raised have gone toward parks on the west side of town. Another “weakness” identified is the city’s rental of more than 60 acres to the county club for a golf course. Resident John Calderonello…


BG citizens to be surveyed on bicycle use

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   To get more public input on how Bowling Green streets can better accommodate bicyclists, an online survey may soon be peddled out to local residents. Members of the Bowling Green Bicycle Safety Commission agreed Tuesday evening to first hold a public forum, then send out a survey to collect citizen input. The effort is part of the Complete Streets program being worked on by the city. That program calls for streets to be more safe and welcoming for all forms for transportation, including bicyclists. The commission hopes to hold the forum sometime in June. It was suggested that the city publish the 2007 transportation plan highlighting recommended bike routes through the community, so people can react to those routes at the forum and on the surveys. The survey is intended to reach a broad spectrum of the community to learn their priorities for bicycling in the city, according to commission chairman Rob Kleine. Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the commission voted unanimously to name Bob Midden as “Spokes”person of the Year for 2016.  Midden rides his bicycle to work at Bowling Green State University most days, except when the weather is icy or snowy. And he always wears his helmet when riding. The nomination form submitted for Midden, said he supports bicycling because it saves money, improves the environment and is good exercise. In response to previous concerns being expressed about a lack of bike racks at key places throughout the city, Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley reported that she now has about 10 new racks to be stationed in the community. Three places being considered for the racks are…


Trump’s success stumps some local Republicans

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   At a time in the election process when party faithful normally rally around their presidential candidate, this year’s non-traditional frontrunner is causing some Republicans to casually distance themselves or outright reject the candidate. So where do some local Republican leaders stand on Donald Trump? State Sen. Randy Gardner, State Rep. Tim Brown and Wood County Republican Executive Committee Chairman Mike Marsh stepped delicately around the issue, not voicing support but not burning any political bridges. “Interesting,” Gardner said when asked about his opinion of Trump. “Politics is always about choices,” he said. “This is clearly a much different set of choices than the American people have faced before.” Gardner acknowledged this election year is unlike any other in recent history. “I’ve always been able to support the Republican nominee,” he said. So does that mean Gardner will back Trump? “Ask me when there’s a nominee,” he said. Brown said he was supporting John Kasich as the nominee. “My candidate was the governor,” he said. “I think he would have had much broader appeal.” But now that Kasich is out, where does that leave Brown? “I could more than live without his third grade bullying,” he said of Trump’s conduct. “I don’t understand that. My wish is he would develop a better sense of decorum.” But Brown does understand why Trump is winning over voters – and will walk away with more Republican primary votes than any other GOP candidate in history. “That’s a powerful statistic,” Brown said. “I get how he taps into the sentiments of the people,” he said. “I get that he’s tapped into some people’s anger” on issues such…


Gardner and Brown talk about marijuana, wind energy and roundabouts

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s state legislators fielded questions about marijuana, roundabouts and windfarms Friday morning from local residents. State Sen. Randy Gardner and State Rep. Tim Brown, both R-Bowling Green, presented a legislative update to members of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce. The talk covered a wide range of topics on health, energy and transportation. Gardner reminded those present that he and Brown value direct contact from their constituents and make an effort to be “very accessible” to citizens. Brown said it’s good for the public to be aware of state legislative efforts. “The more sunshine we have on these deliberations the better it is for all of us,” he said. Following are some of the issues discussed. Windfarms Brown talked about a wind energy bill that currently calls for setback requirements that make wind farms “next to impossible.” Under the current language in the bill, the majority of the wind turbines at Ohio’s largest windfarm would not be allowed. “Their right to have them has been stripped away,” Brown said, adding that he is working to change that. Some businesses are reluctant to locate in Ohio because the state doesn’t do enough to promote clean energy, he added. “We have businesses who want to be in our state and say, ‘No,’” such as Amazon, Brown said. “They demand renewable energy.” Gardner said Ohio needs to look at making use of renewable and natural resource energy. “I think there’s an ‘all of the above’ policy,’” he said. Orange barrels Ohioans should not expect relief from road construction anytime soon, Brown said. “I hear more about this from people than anything else.” The state…


BG parks great for activity, but buildings need some work

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s parks give patrons plenty of chances to flex their muscles while walking, playing ball, skateboarding, swimming or climbing playground equipment. But there is room for improvement, according to the citizens attending the park forum this week focusing on the city’s active parks – City Park, Carter Park and the newest, Ridge Park. “I think we have a pretty good park system,” citizen Les Barber said. The parks scored an “A” for activity options, but got lesser grades for park buildings, ballpark drainage, and parking availability. Citizens were asked for input on the Veterans Building in City Park, and the teepee shaped shelters in Carter Park. Kristin Otley, director of the BG Parks and Recreation Department, explained that the teepee-like shelters may be removed and replaced with new shelter houses. No one present objected to that change. Otley also said that the Veterans Building has several problems, including not being ADA compliant and structural leaks. The three options being considered are to renovate the building, tear down the building and leave open space, or tear down the building and replace it with a new structure. “Seems like we ought to keep some kind of facility there,” resident Ellen Dalton said. She suggested balancing the cost of renovations versus replacement. Valerie Brinkhoff asked about the water tower in Carter Park, which was originally designed to have a theater in the bottom below the water storage. That space is currently being used for storage, but Brinkhoff asked if it could possibly be opened up for community events. Also involving Carter Park, a concern was voiced by Diane Biems, president of the girls fast…


Wood County tries to ease growing pains

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County faces inevitable growing pains over the next couple decades. So a new land use plan is examining how the county can ease those pains by saving prime farmland, directing development, protecting waterways, and possibly establishing an energy corridor for pipelines. Input on the planning process was sought Wednesday evening. “Do you all feel this is the right direction for us to be heading,” asked Emily Crow, the consultant working with the Wood County Planning Commission on the land use plan. “We’re trying to balance the discussion where there are pressures for growth.” The countywide plan is just the first step. Then the townships will be asked to implement the vision through zoning. “That’s where the rubber meets the road and things actually happen,” Crow said. To prepare for the future, the plan first gives a snapshot of Wood County today. Agriculture continues to be the biggest land use, with more than 76 percent of the acreage in the county used in farming. Commercial uses are located primarily along major transportation corridors. Then projections were made for the future. By 2050, the county’s population of 125,488 is expected to increase anywhere from 5,840 on the conservative side to 21,810 on the high side. Employment, now at 53,638 jobs according to the 2010 Census, may grow by as many as 39,849 jobs by 2050. “You are gaining a lot more jobs than you are population,” Crow said. The biggest growth is expected in retail trade and warehousing. The county is already facing housing demands that aren’t being met, she said. In 2014, the county had 53,840 houses, with approximately 7 to 9…