Government

BG picks three streets to make bike-friendly

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Engineer Jason Sisco admitted the city map showing a handful of yellow streets as possible bike routes didn’t look like much. But it was a start – and that’s what bicyclists have been seeking for years. During a Complete Streets meeting held by the Transportation and Safety Committee prior to the City Council meeting Tuesday evening, the first steps were introduced to make a few streets more accommodating for bicyclists. Complete Streets is a concept that calls for roads to be safe and accessible for all modes of travel – including bikes. The city adopted a long range plan in 2007, identifying several streets to become more bike-friendly. But that’s where it stopped when money got tight. “It went on the back burner,” city council member Sandy Rowland said. A community meeting this past summer brought together cyclists talking about the risks of riding in Bowling Green. They identified several streets they would like to see improved for bicyclists. “We certainly had a loud and clear message,” Rowland said. “They were tired of waiting.” Council member Daniel Gordon agreed, saying the city needs “at least one street we are working on in earnest.” And council member John Zanfardino said bicyclists have told him they will gravitate to safer roads – and any improvements are better than doing nothing. The Bicycle Safety Commission helped by narrowing down the street list to the top six that should be made more bike-friendly. Those streets were Conneaut, Fairview, Court, Clough, Pearl and Maple. During Tuesday’s Complete Streets meeting, that number was narrowed further to the top three. Conneaut and Fairview were selected because those streets are on the city’s paving project list for next year. Court was selected because of its link between the university and the downtown. “It’s a starting point, something manageable,” Sisco said. But they aren’t cheap. The city applied for funding to resurface Conneaut and Fairview in 2017. However, officials did not include any bicycle accommodations in the project. So, the city will have…


Green space plan gets first reading green light

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   With so much debate swirling around the marijuana moratorium Tuesday evening, a long-awaited step by Bowling Green City Council almost went unnoticed. City Council gave the first reading to a resolution declaring the city’s property at 215 W. Wooster St. as open public space. With no debate and no fanfare, the property at the corner of South Church, West Wooster and South Grove streets was officially declared as open space. The resolution states the property, formerly the site of the city junior high, is to be developed in consideration of the concept design prepared by the Green Space Task Force. At least seven members of the Green Space Task Force sat quietly in the council chambers Tuesday evening, waiting to see what would become of their plan. They left without comment, knowing that their efforts were not in vain. The task force’s plan was originally presented to city council nearly a year ago. But the plan seemed to stall out at that point, and council decided to do further study on the site in case a new city building could share the property with a community green space. Though a study showed it was possible to combine both a new city building and green space on the acreage, the bulk of the public pressure came from citizens who wanted the site to remain undeveloped, except for a few town square features. Mayor Dick Edwards also threw his weight toward the preservation of a green space for public use. So on Tuesday, in the shadow of the medical marijuana moratorium debate, City Council gave its first reading to the resolution setting aside the location as green space, and supporting the task force’s proposal. The task force’s plan calls for a multi-purpose commons space with wide walkways leading to a large gathering space. The space would include street lighting that would match the rest of the downtown lights, benches, shade options of either sails or umbrellas, a defined brick entrance on the northeast and northwest corners, bicycle racks and…


Medical marijuana moratorium fails to get enough votes

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council needed six votes Tuesday to enact a moratorium on medical marijuana growing and sales. It got five. So on Thursday, it will be legal for people to get zoning permits to sell medical marijuana in the city – with no state regulations on the growing, processing and retail sales. The state legislature passed the medical marijuana bill earlier this year, making Ohio the 25th state to legalize marijuana use for medicinal purposes. State officials assured that regulations would be in place by the time the bill went into effect – which is this Thursday. But as of Tuesday, there were still no standards set by the state. So several communities are enacting temporary moratoriums on medical marijuana cultivation, processing and retail dispensary facilities. “We’ve been watching the state for weeks, waiting for some rules and regulations,” City Attorney Michael Marsh said. “There still aren’t any.” So “rather than have a free-for-all,” Marsh presented legislation asking that council put a hold on medical marijuana sales in the city until the state sets regulations. But to have that in place by Thursday, when medical marijuana becomes legal, city council needed to give the resolution three readings on Tuesday evening. And that required support by six council members. Since Bob McOmber was absent from the meeting, that meant all the council members present had to support the three readings. Five supported the moratorium, but one – Daniel Gordon – did not. “I don’t feel comfortable rushing this through tonight,” Gordon said. But some others on council saw it differently. “I don’t want to rush through and put something in place with no regulations,” Scott Seeliger said of marijuana businesses. Seeliger said he was “sympathetic to people who could use it this week. But are we ready to handle this the right way?” The topic evoked a lot of emotion from council members. Sandy Rowland said she recently lost a brother who might have benefitted from medical marijuana. “I just saw my loved one die about 10…


On this Labor Day, it’s laborers that the region is lacking

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   On this Labor Day, as many of the nation’s workers take a day off from the job, the Northwest Ohio region is facing new type of labor problem. This region is short on workers. Help wanted signs and ads linger longer now as employers struggle to find people to fill openings. It’s no longer that workers aren’t trained for the job openings – it’s that there just aren’t enough workers to fill them. “There are gaps in the workforce, as we all know,” Carolyn Rodenhauser, talent acquisition manager for the Regional Growth Partnership, said last week during a meeting with the Wood County Commissioners. In recent years, the big labor issue was the lack of people trained for the right jobs – truck drivers, welders, mechanical and industrial engineers, and other skilled manufacturers. But that is no longer the case, according to Mike Jay, director of strategic networks with Regional Growth Partnership. The region responded to those shortages by setting up training opportunities, so people have the necessary skills. “Now it’s we don’t have enough bodies,” Jay said. Part of the problem is the exodus from the Northwest Ohio region by high school and college graduates. Chase Eikenbary, regional project manager with JobsOhio, suggested that retention could be improved if graduate tracking data is collected, possibly by Bowling Green State University. “How do we keep them here,” Rodenhauser said of students after high school or college graduation. “Ideally, that helps all of us if they stay in the region.” Efforts are being made to attract more workers to the region, then streamline the process to get them into the system. Rodenhauser said she has been working with Mary DeWitt, of Wood County JobSolutions, to come up with answers. “How can we make the system in Ohio better – that’s the goal,” Rodenhauser said. “Getting more people in the funnel, better trained – so that we can expedite things when we get a major employer.” Also at the meeting with the county commissioners, the Wood County Economic Development…


Juvenile offenders garden harvests more than food

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The community service garden being grown by juvenile offenders is helping kids clean up their lives as they get their hands a little dirty. The Wood County Juvenile Court garden, now in its fifth year, is harvesting benefits for the youth, local food pantries and families in need of fresh vegetables. As of last week, this year’s harvest was up to 3,140 tomatoes, 2,000 banana peppers, 750 mini bell peppers, 58 zucchini and 35 squash. But more importantly, the community service work garden is planting seeds in the youth working it. “It’s the ‘teach a kid to fish idea,’” said Ronda Downard, who cultivated the gardening idea with Lora Graves, both co-directors of the juvenile probation department. “It’s educating them as they are doing something for the community,” Graves said. For years, the juvenile court’s community service program offered offenders a chance to put in their hours by picking up trash. But the value of that was pretty limited, said Wood County Juvenile Court Judge Dave Woessner. “This has a benefit that reaches out to a lot of learning,” the judge said of the garden. So every Saturday, spring through early fall, juvenile offenders who were ordered to pay fines, court costs, or restitution, show up at the garden next to the juvenile court and detention center, to put in their hours. These are kids in trouble for offenses like truancy, unruly behavior, theft, underage consumption, drug offenses and delinquency. More than 80 youth have worked on the 40-foot by 32-foot garden so far this year. “A lot of these kids had never been in a garden,” Downard said. “They had no idea when they saw the food, where they came from,” Graves said. But the youth quickly picked up skills and voiced their preference for gardening over picking up trash. “They are a lot happier doing it than trash work ,” Graves said. “Even when we had them shoveling manure, they were happy.” As the season progresses, the youth feel success being able to reap the…


BG to try for medical marijuana moratorium

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Earlier this year, state legislators approved a medical marijuana bill, making Ohio the 25th state to legalize marijuana use for medicinal purposes. But when House Bill 523 goes into effect next Thursday, city officials hope to have their own medical marijuana restrictions in place. On Tuesday, Bowling Green City Council’s agenda shows the first reading of a resolution imposing a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana cultivation, processing and retail dispensary facilities in the city. When the legislation was passed in June, the state cautioned it could take up to a year to be fully implemented. “Like the state, the city of Bowing Green also needs time to work on its regulations as they relate to medical marijuana,” the resolution explanation states. The city resolution would impose a year-long moratorium on medical marijuana growth, processing and sales. The moratorium will also cover the submission, consideration and approval of all applications for special permits, use permits, building permits and other permits from the planning or zoning departments for cultivating, processing or retail dispensing of medical marijuana. House Bill 523 includes a provision allowing municipalities to adopt resolutions to prohibit or limit the number of cultivators, processors or retail dispensaries licensed under the new law. The city planning department will be directed to begin research and come up with recommendations “necessary to preserve the public health, safety and welfare through regulatory controls for medical marijuana growing, processing or sales.” The resolution is proposed to go into effect immediately as an emergency measure and to be in place prior to House Bill 523 going into effect on Sept. 8. “Note that implementing this legislation is not a long-term decision for the city,” according to the legislative package that went out to all council members for Tuesday’s meeting. “It simply provides the time that we need to fully vet this issue. As stated, there are many issues the city needs to consider related to this matter. If this is not passed, there will be no regulations on Sept. 8 and could be…


Kaptur: Dana project example of business & government working together

From U.S. REP. MARCY KAPTUR  Yesterday (Aug. 31, 2016)  Dana Corporation broke ground for an $70 million, 200,000 square foot expansion to triple the size of its new facility in Toledo and create 300 new jobs. It’s a great story, about a storied American company with long local roots. Dana will make axles for the new version of a great American brand, the Jeep Wrangler, on the site of the old Jeep and Willys Overland plant, restoring it from brownfield status. How this came to be is a story about the proper role of government, and how a local community, its leaders and citizens, and private business can join together and work collaboratively for mutual benefit. It wasn’t that long ago when the American auto industry was flat on its back, in bankruptcy, with serious doubts about its very survival. There were some who wanted to give up on the American auto industry and its two million workers.  They chose the easy path, turned their backs, choosing ideological purity over pragmatism.  They voted against providing a funding bridge that was necessary to retool and rebuild the American automobile industry, the backbone of the American economy – and our region’s economy. But the rest of us weren’t going to concede our future.  We weren’t going to simply give up and foreclose on it.  We organized; we planned and made our best case; we fought; we won. Thanks to our efforts, the American auto industry is back, better than ever. I am proud of my role as a leader in the fight on behalf of Toledo’s economy — its auto workers, the auto manufacturers, and its suppliers, like Dana, which has supplied Jeep Wranglers with axles since before World War II. I am honored to have secured the first federal funding necessary to purchase the property and then to arrange funding for the clean-up of the 110 acres of the Overland Park brownfield site. With the Port Authority’s leadership we transitioned the property to a clean, workable manufacturing site. Were it not for securing those federal funds…


BG to hold large item refuse pickup starting Sept. 12

Bowling Green will hold its large item refuse pickup starting on Sept. 12. The large item pickup is conducted to pick up furniture, appliances and similar household items which are too heavy, or too large to be handled by the refuse trucks. Refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners and dehumidifiers will not be picked up by the city refuse crews. Mattresses and box springs will be collected for an additional fee. The fee is $25 for the first mattress or box spring and $15 per additional mattress or box spring up to a total of three. The fee must be paid prior to collection at 304 N. Church St., in the public works office, phone 419-354-6227. This service is provided anytime of the year, not just at large item refuse collection. Items must be placed curbside by 7 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 12, to ensure pickup. Items may be placed curbside no earlier than 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11. Pickup will start in Ward 1 and proceed through all four wards. Once the crew leaves a street, they will not return. Pickup is by ward and not by the normal refuse collection day. The city crews will collect the large items throughout the city independent of the normal refuse collection schedule. Additional information can be found at www.bgohio.org /Public Works Division. This is not an unlimited refuse collection. As with the city’s normal residential trash pickup, the large item collection is only for one- and two-family dwellings and is not for those places presently served by private trash haulers. By law, the city is not authorized to pick up building materials, construction or demolition refuse, sod, rocks or yard waste. Property owners make take these items to the Wood County Landfill for a fee.



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 Development Commission believes the national attention on the water crisis brought into question the potential…


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 that the commissioners look at science for the answer. “I’m an evidence guy,” he said….


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, who I answer to,” Wasylyshyn said. That’s because Wood County recently spent $3 million on…


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 2015, with roughly 3,000 reported non-fatal overdoses, according to law enforcement sources.   Ohio will…


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 feeling of community. They noticed a walkable city, with historic qualities and strong businesses. But…


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 only sign for the new business. Ashley Furniture currently has retail locations in Findlay and…