Government

Murder prompts calls for violent offender registry

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The murder of a 20-year-old University of Toledo student last week has spurred a call from Northwest Ohio citizens for a violent offender registry in the state. So State Senators Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, and Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, have begun working on a system that could better inform and warn the public about violent offenders in their midst. Citizens in the region asked legislators to consider such a registry following the murder of Sierah Joughin in Fulton County.  James Worley, the man charged with Joughin’s murder, was convicted of abduction in 1990 and served three years in prison. Gardner said he and Hite, who both represent portions of Fulton County, are responding to people outraged and horrified by the murder and the similarities to the previous abduction. “We are considering concerns and anxieties of citizens,” Gardner said. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 10,000 people had signed the petition asking for the registry. “This person obviously is a sick, disturbed individual,” he said of Worley. “The question is, are there any other unsolved murders around the state.” A violent offenders registry would at least make citizens aware of such offenders residing in their neighborhoods, Gardner said. To determine the best way to set up such a system, Gardner said he has spoken with four sheriffs, the Buckeye Sheriff’s Association, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and county prosecutors. “We’re doing our homework,” he said. “We are thinking about the most practical, best way to do this.” The system would probably work similarly to Ohio’s existing sex offender registry law. Several other states have violent offender registries, including neighboring Indiana. The senators will gain information from Indiana and other states as they begin working on an effective public registry process for Ohio. In Indiana, anyone classified as a sex or violent offender must register for 10 years. Those classified as sexually violent predators must register for life. According to Gardner and Hite, Ohio lawmakers…


Review of BGPD shows very low use of force, few citizen complaints

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News There were enough chairs set up in the Simpson building Tuesday to seat every citizen who had filed a complaint against the Bowling Green Police Dvision in the past three years. And there would be room for more. None of them showed up when a visiting accreditation team from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc.  set up shop to receive citizens’ comments. City Councilman Bruce Jeffers was there. He said the police force is “positively engaged with the community.” In a time when there are so many reports of clashes between police and citizens with violence “going in both directions,” he is “amazed” how the BG officers “deal with large number of partying students … without losing control or using excessive force.” Planning Director Heather Sayler was there as a resident to praise the department, especially the D.A.R.E. program. Fire Chief Tom Sanderson was there to lend his support to Chief Tony Hetrick and the officers. He and his crews see first-hand BG police officers’ ability to de-escalate tense situations, which allows EMS crews and firefighters to feel safe doing their jobs. That camaraderie between the fire and police divisions is not always the case, said Robert Johnson, a retired Illinois State Patrol lieutenant colonel. Also on the CALEA team was Capt. Brad Fraser, from Shelby, North Carolina. Lt. Daniel Mancuso serves as the BGPD’s accreditation manager. That wasn’t the only surprising thing they found in reviewing the BG police’s performance from 2013 through 2015. Over that period, Johnson said, Bowling Green officers never used their firearms, nor did they use their batons. He called that “pretty surprising… given the climate the police operate in.” “This is far better than I expect to see,” Johnson said. “I’m more used to seeing force used more frequently and use of greater force.” In that three-year period, BG police made 8,000 arrests, and used force in 71 of those. Not a single lawsuit related to…


County hears concerns about large dairy farms

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Milk does a body good. No one is disputing that. It’s the byproduct of the dairy cows that local officials are questioning. Last week, the Wood County Commissioners heard from three people about problems associated with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in the county. Those concerns included a full manure lagoon left behind when a large dairy went bankrupt, the damage caused on rural roads not built to handle mega dairy traffic, and the impact on Lake Erie when the manure reaches the lake and fuels algal blooms. Vickie Askins informed the commissioners that when the Manders Dairy went bankrupt about four years ago, it left behind about 10 million gallons of manure it its lagoon. Since then, about one million gallons have been trucked to the Campbell Soup plant and run through its digesters. That leaves about 9 million gallons of manure behind at the dairy, located at the corner of Rangeline and Maplewood roads, southwest of Bowling Green. “It’s been sitting there basically full,” Askins said. Federal law requires that the manure must be taken care of when a CAFO closes, Askins said. And Ohio EPA requires that no manure be applied to farm fields unless up-to-date soil samples and manure analyses are obtained. Askins, a self-motivated watchdog of mega dairies in Wood County, said neither has been done. The lagoon is nearly full, and no field application study documentation can be found. Yet, she has seen evidence of “manure irrigators” being constructed near the site. “Wait a minute,” she said. “No manure shall be applied till you have a valid plan.” Southeast of Bowling Green, another large dairy is causing headaches for Portage Township Trustee Dave Housholder. That dairy, at the corner of Portage and Bloomdale roads, recently received a permit to expand to 2,960 cows, Askins said. The township is already struggling to keep up with the wear and tear on the roads near the dairy, Housholder told the…


BG residents asked to conserve electricity Monday

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After a weekend of blasting air conditioning, Bowling Green electric customers are being asked to cut back on their electricity use on Monday afternoon. The city utility department is asking residents to voluntarily hold off on doing laundry, cooking and set air conditioners at a higher temperature. It’s not that the electric system can’t handle the demands, according to Utilities Director Brian O’Connell. And it’s not that there are any risks of blackouts or rolling brownouts due to the peaking power usage. It’s not about the power. It’s about the money. Customers are being asked to conserve power Monday from 2 to 6 p.m. so the city can save on electricity costs next year, O’Connell said. “There’s plenty of power available and the grid is in good shape, but if we can conserve during these peak hours, the city can save on transmission and capacity costs next year,” the city released in a statement. “Lowering the peak demand will help keep the city’s electricity rates low.” Though the temperatures are expected to be higher on the weekend, residents are being asked to conserve on Monday, when industries will be an additional pull on the electric grid. Bowling Green’s electric rates are based on a transmission charge and a capacity charge, O’Connell explained. The transmission charge for next year will be calculated based on the city’s peak energy consumption this year. “So what we are paying this year is based on last year’s peak,” he said. The capacity charge is based on the average of a particular hour of electric usage during the top five peak days. “When customers can cut back on peak days, that can reduce the charge for next year,” O’Connell said. This is first time since O’Connell became utilities director in 2011 that the city has made such a conservation request of its residents. Customers are being asked to: Shut off lights when not needed. Unplug small appliances and…


City makes slow and steady progress on land use plan

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Progress on land use issues in Bowling Green is a marathon – not a sprint, according to City Council member Bruce Jeffers. For those who doubt that progress is being made by the Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee, Jeffers reported otherwise during Monday’s council meeting. “We are continuing to move forward, slowly and deliberately, with planning a variety of improvements for Bowling Green,” he said. The council, mayor, administrative staff and citizens are helping to implement actions listed in the land use section of the city’s comprehensive land use plan. “I wanted people to know we are not sitting on our thumbs,” Jeffers said. So far, the efforts have focused on zoning, streets, neighborhoods and general aesthetics. Jeffers listed proof of this as the rezoning of properties along East Wooster Street in the downtown area, street improvements further east on Wooster Street with roundabouts planned at the I-75 interchange, and Complete Street enhancements being discussed all along East Wooster. The city is also working to revitalize neighborhoods, and has selected a consultant to help devise a plan. That plan will include public/private partnerships, coordinated financial incentives and the changing of some subdivided homes back into single-family owner occupied houses. Residents will be asked to participate in those plans. Jeffers also mentioned the garbage bin issue being worked on now by council. “Aesthetic regulations are more elusive than we might first expect,” he said, listing future aesthetic issues to tackle such as building maintenance, landscaping and excessive clutter. “A very thorny issue, which many people mention, is signs,” he said. Signs have been discussed by city officials for at least 40 years. An existing city ordinance states, “without adequate regulations and design standards, signs are a nuisance.” But Jeffers said that the city needs to pursue goals that are attainable. “We have to pick the items we can most likely be successful with,” he said, suggesting the city “focus on big picture…


Public forum planned on bike lanes in BG

Bowling Green City Council’s Transportation and Safety Committee and the city’s Bicycle Safety Commission are teaming up to hold a forum for the public asking for  input on what locations should be prioritized for implementing bike lanes. The forum will be July 26, at 6 p.m., in the public library.


Recycled tire material tried on buckled sidewalks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is trying out a new product that may put a slight spring in the step of walkers as well as help trees along city sidewalks. Buckled up sidewalk pavement is being replaced by a product made from recycled tires. The first experiment with the rubber surface sidewalks is being tried on a small section of Eberly Street, where  tree roots had buckled up the paved sidewalks, said Bowling Green Public Works Director Brian Craft. Craft explained to city council Monday evening that the recycled tire product is flexible with expanding tree roots, and with the ground as it freezes and thaws in the winter – “where concrete will break.” The rubber will not only help trees by allowing their roots to grow without buckling the concrete, but it will also be beneficial to walkers. It should reduce the trip hazards of broken pavement, and it will allow the water to run into the ground rather than gathering on the pavement and freezing in winter. “It’s a way to save the trees and not damage the roots,” Craft said. The city may try the rubber material next on some sidewalk sections on North Maple Street. The recycled tire product costs about $6 a square foot, which is comparable to concrete. However, the rubber takes more labor and time since it has to be mixed as it is applied. “The pace is slower,” Craft said. But it is probably worth the expense, “if it saves you from taking down a perfectly healthy tree,” whose roots are causing upheaval with concrete sidewalks. The city may also try the rubber material in the downtown area next to the bricks around trees. The material may work well to slope up around the trees, Craft said. “It’s good for the environment,” he said. And “it’s really going to wear well.” Craft does have some concerns about snow removal on the rubber, but will wait and see…


County warms up to solar field tax exemption

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The future looks bright once again for the solar field planned by the city of Bowling Green. Tuesday morning, the Wood County Commissioners approved the tax break requested for the largest solar field planned in Ohio. The approval came one day after the work at the site was scheduled to begin – since the commissioners refused to grant the 30-year tax abatement for the $43 million project until their questions were answered. Though it took longer than hoped, the delay will not negatively impact the project which is set to be completed by the end of this year, said Daryl Stockburger, of the city’s utility department. “At this point, the project can keep its schedule,” Stockburger said Tuesday after the commissioners met. “We are only a day behind.” Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards said he understood the commissioners’ desire to get their questions answered. But he was also relieved that the project could now move forward. “It’s a wonderful project,” Commissioner Craig LaHote said. “It would be a great gem to have here.” But the commissioners refused to be rushed into approving the tax break. “We’ve had less than two months to look at it,” LaHote said. “This abatement is unique,” he said. The county has granted tax breaks to private companies before, but this request is different in its size and duration, granting an exemption of $7.3 million over the first 15 years. Most tax abatements are based on the number of jobs created by a business. But this request differs there as well, since there will be no jobs beyond the construction period. “It’s been hard for us to get numbers,” LaHote said. Consequently, it was difficult to weigh the impact of the tax abatement. “The more we looked into this, the more questions came up.” LaHote said the delay on the tax abatement might have been avoided if the commissioners had been given more time to consider the request….


BG debates trash bin enforcement – issue fines or confiscate cans?

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council wants to make sure that once a garbage bin ordinance is passed, that it is enforceable. So on Monday evening, council debated whether violators should face fines or have their trash cans confiscated. Council member John Zanfardino expressed concerns about the penalty portion of the ordinance. He is in favor of ordering violators to pay fines when problems are spotted. Waiting to confiscate the cans on garbage pickup day would be like arresting someone for walking around with an open bottle days after the violation, he said. He asked that the city warn residents for first violations, then issue fines for additional violations. “To me, that’s a very laborious way to address it,” Zanfardino said of city workers confiscating the cans. Council member Sandy Rowland shared concerns about the city taking away garbage bins from violators. “I just don’t think it’s going to work for enforcement,” she said, voicing concerns about city workers entering private property. But Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter said the cans would only be removed from property when they are sitting by the street on pickup day. “We don’t want people to go on private property. We own the right-of-way,” City Solicitor Mike Marsh said. The city already confiscates trash cans that are left at the roadside for several days. Residents then have to pay $50 to get them back. Council member Bruce Jeffers said confiscation of a trash bin sends a strong message. Marsh cautioned that fines cannot be levied against residents without a citation being issued. “There isn’t a way to fine someone without citing them first,” he said. Council members suggested that a violation to the new garbage bin ordinance be a civil infraction. Zanfardino said the most egregious trash violators will just tidy up their yard on trash day and continue breaking the rules the other six days of the week. Other college towns, like Kent, fine people for violations, he…


BG’s new arborist has deep rooted love of trees

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s new arborist is a big believer in diversity. That’s one of the reasons he was attracted to the city – its diversity of trees. Grant Jones, who was working at the botanical Longwood Gardens outside Philadelphia, knew of Bowling Green’s reputation as a tree hugging community. “I’ve always heard good things about Bowing Green and its commitment to trees,” he said. Jones shares that commitment – though he could do without the messy mulberry tree he has to park under at his temporary home. Since arriving on the job on June 1, Jones has been getting to know Bowling Green’s people and its trees. “There’s a really nice grove of old oak trees,” he said about the huge trees in City Park. “They look like they are doing pretty well right now.” “I think that’s one of the things I like about trees,” they take time to reach their potential, he said. “They’re not something that’s instant.” Unlike Nebraska, where he grew up, Bowling Green has a wealth of maple, oak, honey locust, crab apples and pear trees. “There’s not a lot of trees in Nebraska, so I got to appreciate the trees we had,” Jones said. And unlike many cities, Bowling Green has a tree inventory that tracks all the city-owned trees in the parks, cemetery and right-of-ways between sidewalks and streets. “That’s important,” Jones said. As tree diseases come and go, an inventory allows the community to track its susceptible trees and replace them with types that can withstand the diseases. A few years ago, it was the emerald ash borer that wiped out ash trees. The latest potential threat seems to be the Asian longhorn beetle. “They like maples, which is unfortunate because maples are good trees,” Jones said. But unlike the ash borer, it appears the longhorn beetle can be stopped by treating trees. “It would be nice to avoid that,” he said. Jones said he’s…


Health center doesn’t turn any patients away

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Navigating health care systems can be a scary process, especially for those people who lack adequate insurance. But local residents who have put off medical care for fear of another bill they can’t afford will not be turned away at the Wood County Community Health and Wellness Center. “We are looking at the whole person” and that includes offering services on a sliding fee scale so they are affordable to all, said Diane Krill, director of the center located inside the Wood County Health District at 1840 E. Gypsy Lane Road, Bowling Green. “No one is turned away for services,” Krill said. The health and wellness center provides primary care for all ages, with Dr. Steve Dood as chief medical officer and Katie Barricklow as family nurse practitioner. “It’s care for infants through everyone,” Krill said. The center offers STD testing, women’s health care, senior health care, behavior health services and social work services. An in-house pharmacy allows patients to get their prescriptions filled on site. “They can get all of their needs met,” Krill said. The center is a lifesaver for many patients who have put off dealing with health issues, said Rhonda Stoner, social worker at the site. “They’ve let their health go for so long, by the time they come to us there are a lot of health needs,” Stoner said of some patients. “We see the smiles on their faces now. Before they thought there was no hope,” she said. “We see the healing in that old wound.” The center focuses on treating the entire person, Krill explained. So in addition to tending to physical needs, the center also has a behavior health specialist to help with mental health needs such as anxiety, depression and everyday life struggles. “Evidence shows that physical and mental needs are really integrated,” Krill said. “We do feel behavioral medicine is important.” The services are “patient-centered,” and based on community health assessments of…


Water study searches for non-Toledo options

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The suspect quality and high price of Toledo water has prompted Wood County to search for other sources of water for its customers now dependent on Toledo. A study paid for by the economic development commission identified three alternate sources of water for Wood County users. The three primary scenarios identified in the study, which was released Friday, were: 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. 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. So a study was conducted to look at other options. “The Wood County Economic Development Commission believes the national attention on the water crisis brought into question the potential impacts on future economic development attraction and retention effects for Wood County,” a release on the study results stated. The cost of Toledo’s water to users outside the city limits also prompted the study. “There’s a big upcharge for the suburbs,” said Wade Gottschalk, executive director for the Wood County Economic Development Commission. “We asked, are there other alternatives that are economically feasible?” “The answer is – yes,” Gottschalk said. The options would relieve Wood County customers’ dependency on Toledo water, said Jerry Greiner, executive director of the Northwestern Water and Sewer District. The contract between many Wood County users and Toledo for water expires in 2024. So this study gives time for action to be taken to create other sources. “A water plant might take five or six years to get up and running,” Gottschalk said. “Ideally, we’d like to see some sort of regional water agreement.” The current Wood County usage from Toledo is approximately 5.5 –…


Solar project faces more questions from county

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Commissioners threw some shade on Bowling Green’s plans Thursday to build a solar array to help power the city and other communities. Work was to begin on the largest solar field in Ohio in a couple days. But that is unlikely now since the county has not yet approved the 30-year tax abatement requested for the $43 million project. The commissioners continued to question the rushed timeline of the project, which would build a 20 MW solar array on city acreage northeast of the city. “How necessary is this aggressive timeline?” Commissioner Joel Kuhlman asked. “Critical,” responded Brian O’Connell, director of public utilities for the city. “There can be no delay.” If the county does not approve the tax exemption, the solar project will be unaffordable for NextEra Energy and AMP, which are working on the project, according to O’Connell. “It is likely that this project will be canceled due to the increased costs,” he said. “This project is bigger than just a Bowling Green site,” O’Connell said. There are 26 proposed sites in AMP member communities across five states. Six of those sites, including Bowling Green’s, are planned to be completed by the end of 2016. “It is difficult to make solar generation projects cost effective without utilizing all of the tax advantages available,” O’Connell said. So the state is allowing projects like this to be exempt from property taxes as long as they meet criteria. If the city were to own the solar power generating system, it would not pay property taxes, it was noted. But Kuhlman pointed out that the tax breaks will be benefiting a private company – not the city in this case. “This is a private entity that is going to be operating the solar field,” he said. “That’s why we’re asking these questions.” “We are talking about a private entity that is asking for a substantial tax break, that is trying to…


Charters Gavarone to fill Statehouse seat, vacate BG Council seat

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Theresa Charters Gavarone has been selected by a Statehouse screening panel to take the state representative seat vacated by the resignation of Tim Brown. That means the statehouse will gain a member and Bowling Green City Council will lose a member. Speaker of the Ohio House Clifford A. Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, announced this evening that the screening panel for the 3rd House District seat unanimously recommended Charters Gavarone for the appointment. She will fill out the remainder of Brown’s term through the end of this year. Other Wood County Republicans who were screened for the seat were Haraz Ghanbari, of Perrysburg, and Ed Schimmel, of Northwood. “I believe Theresa Charters Gavarone is an incredibly solid choice to represent the citizens of Wood County in the Ohio House of Representatives,” said Brown, who is leaving the Statehouse for the top job at the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments. “As a member of city council, she has already established herself as someone capable of working in a bipartisan manner for the benefit of Wood County’s citizens.  Her experience as a small business owner, an attorney, and an elected official will enable her to represent the people of Wood County extremely well.” The screening panel decision is the first step toward filling the seat. The Ohio House Republican Caucus will vote on the screening panel’s recommendation and swear in the new member on Aug. 2. The Wood County Republican Party’s Central Committee is meeting this Thursday evening in Bowling Green to pick the name to appear on the November ballot in place of Brown’s. Bob Mack, head of the Central Committee, expects that person to be Charters Gavarone. “That would make the most sense,” he said Wednesday evening. In cases like this, the other candidates not selected often “show solidarity” and back out of the race, Mack said. Brown agreed. “I would expect that the committee will replace my name with hers.” And that means…


Wood County jail may start housing Toledo inmates

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Justice Center may have the key to Toledo’s inmate issues. That means the county jail in Bowling Green may soon be housing up to 25 people a day arrested in Toledo for misdemeanors. According to Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn, Toledo officials turned south to this county after an ongoing feud over charges to the city from the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio near Stryker. “They were looking at their options,” Wasylyshyn said on Saturday. The sheriff said the Wood County jail could house at least 25 misdemeanor inmates for $65 a day, plus an initial booking fee. That is the same amount charged for overflow inmates from other neighboring counties. “I told them I could easily handle 25,” Wasylyshyn said. “I didn’t want to over-count – so we have room for our inmates.” However, the sheriff said that number from Toledo could possibly grow since the recently completed expansion of minimum security housing at the Wood County Justice Center has created the room for 224 inmates overall at the jail. As of last Friday, the county jail had 142 inmates. Based on the low estimate of 25 inmates from Toledo a day, the county jail could bring in an extra $600,000 a year, Wasylyshyn said. “It’s good for Wood County,” he said. “We have the bed space, so it’s a great thing for Wood County to get some of the money back that was spent on the expansion.” Prior to the expansion, which was estimated at around $3 million and which included more than the inmate housing areas, the jail had 149 beds. The deal with Wood County Justice Center may work for Toledo for a variety of reasons. First, the county jail on East Gypsy Lane Road in Bowling Green, is quite a bit closer to Toledo than Stryker, and costs less per day per inmate. Second, the city is in the midst of a dispute with the…