Small housing subdivision plan approved in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Planning Commission approved plans Wednesday evening for a small housing subdivision east of Peace Lutheran Church. The seven-lot subdivision will sit on the 3.5 acres between Pearl, Martindale and West Wooster streets. The backside of the development borders the homes on Western Avenue. The property, owned by David Maurer, will be called the Reserve at Martindale. The plan is to develop the subdivision in two stages, with the three lots along Pearl Street going first. The owner, represented by Dave Saneholtz of Poggemeyer Design Group, requested several waivers of subdivision rules and regulations. They were: Reduction of the 35-foot front yard setback to 25 feet. City Planning Director Heather Sayler said this was acceptable since many homes in that area have the small setbacks. In lieu of rear or side yard easements, the owner offered easements along the public right-of-way. Sayler said that was satisfactory. Delay of the waterline installation along Martindale Road until the lots along that road are created. Fire Chief Tom Sanderson said that was acceptable. Waiver from improving the existing street to the centerline. Avoidance of putting in sidewalks along the development since many streets in that area lack sidewalks. The sidewalks waiver request was the only one that met with opposition from city officials. “We do not support that,” Sayler said, explaining that bit by bit, the city has been trying to install sidewalks in residential areas. “We’ve been working hard to get sidewalks in wherever we can.” Sidewalks improve the walkability of neighborhoods and are there “for the benefit of the whole community,” Sayler said. The city now requires them with all new residential construction. Planning Commission member Judy Ennis supported sidewalks as a necessary safety feature. “We’re strongly in favor of sidewalks.” Saneholtz pointed out that while sidewalks exist on the south side of Pearl Street, they have not been installed on the north side in that area. And sidewalks are already located on the north side of West Wooster, but not the south side. He added that the owner isn’t sure if all seven lots will be developed, so requiring sidewalks on the first three would not provide a link to other sidewalks. The planning commission denied the sidewalk waiver, but agreed to all the others. Sayler said the subdivision project will come before the city again when construction plans are submitted. Also at the meeting, Sayler reported the city has received 311 zoning requests this year, compared to 312 for the same period last year. Single-family home permits have totaled 25 this year, compared to 23 last year at this time. She reported on other development in the city, including a new building for The Beat dance studio in the Bellard Business Park, an expansion of NovaVision in WoodBridge Industrial Park, and plans for a car wash at the former bowling alley site on South Main Street.        

Failing septic systems in county estimated at 6,000

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As many as 6,000 failing septic systems in Wood County are sending sewage into public waterways. That estimate is based on the fact that there are approximately 12,000 septic systems operating in the county, with the average life expectancy of the systems at 30 years, according to Wood County Health Commissioner Ben Batey and Environmental Division Director Lana Glore. Because aging and failing septic systems are a problem statewide, the Ohio Department of Health has suggested that local health departments examine every system. “They want all septic systems to be looked at,” Glore told the Wood County Commissioners Tuesday during a meeting on septic systems in the county. Though admirable, the plan is quite “grandiose,” Batey said, explaining that the Wood County Health Division can’t meet that goal unless they go on a hiring spree. “The state’s expectation that we check every system in the next five years – that’s just not feasible,” he said. The Wood County Health Division already has a septic system operation and maintenance plan, but it is on a much smaller level, Glore said. Inspections of systems are complaint-driven or prompted by real estate sales. The health division works with the county building inspection office on preventing problems by determining the best locations for septic systems and making sure space is left for replacement systems. The health division also partners with the county engineer’s office to help map out systems using GIS. “We’re working toward better use of technology,” Batey said. The health division also works with landowners to find the most reasonable solutions. “Our idea is always to work with the owners and give them the best options,” Glore said. “Our first goal is always working with homeowners and property owners.” While sanitary sewers are being extended to more rural areas of the county, there are still many areas years away from that option. Health district officials realize there are many older septic systems that were installed without permits and have never been inspected. “A lot of the older systems went into field tiles,” Glore said. If those older failing systems are inspected, and it can’t be proven that the sewage is going into a leachfield or a secondary system, then they have to be replaced. Septic system replacements can be quite costly, especially if bedrock is encountered. “The septic system is almost worth more than the house then,” Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said. But both Batey and Glore assured the commissioners that the health district works to help homeowners with the costs. For example, the district has staff who can design the systems, which can be a big cost savings to residents. The health district also uses grant funding to help homeowners with the costs. “We’re optimistic we should be able to expand that program,” Batey said. However, he cautioned that grant funding can’t handle all the expenses. “The need is always going to be more than the funding.” But he said as long as homeowners are making an effort, the health district will work with them. “We have always strived to help residents,” Batey said. “It’s not our job to penalize them. If you’re working with us, we’re more than willing to give extensions.”      

BG residents and bicyclists clash over plans

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   There was a head-on collision Monday evening between city residents who want to safely bicycle in town, and city residents who want to hang on to their front yards and street parking. John Zanfardino, of City Council’s Transportation and Safety Committee, set the scene by explaining the long-awaited goal of creating bike routes in the city. “Everywhere I visit has bike lanes,” he said. “It seems to me a progressive concept we should consider.” The consultants working with Bowling Green on a community action plan asked about bike lanes during their initial visit to the city, according to council member Daniel Gordon. “The very first thing they noticed when they came to Bowling Green was a lack of bike lanes,” he said. “This is a national movement,” said council member Sandy Rowland. But plans to modify the first two streets for bikes met roadblocks Monday evening from neighbors who felt their concerns were being ignored. When City Engineer Jason Sisco presented the plan to widen sidewalks on the east side of Fairview to accommodate bikes, the neighbors asked why the bike lane wasn’t being placed on the west side along the golf course owned by the city. “Yeah,” several in the audience said loudly. Sisco said city officials had been worried about putting bicyclists too close to stray golf balls, but he added “there’s nothing that says it couldn’t be on the west side.” When given a chance to take the podium, several Fairview Avenue residents defended their front yards, and several Conneaut Avenue residents stood up for their street parking. “If you put a path in my yard on Fairview, you will be able to knock on my side door,” Faith Olson said. “That’s not fair to me as a long-time resident of Bowling Green.” Olson said she understood the frustration of bicyclists waiting from some accommodations in the city. “I understand you’re tired of talking, but you need to consider people on those streets.” One of those people is Francine Auchmuty, who lives on the far east block of Conneaut Avenue, where street parking is currently allowed. “We have six multiple units on Conneaut and Grove,” many with driveways that have room for only one or two vehicles. “There’s no way that would be fair to take away our parking,” she said. Another resident said she sees very few bicyclists on Fairview – but a bicyclist in the audience offered that could be because cyclists don’t feel safe on the street. The council members of the transportation committee said they knew the needs of bicyclists and homeowners might be at odds. “We knew every street we brought up would be a problem for someone,” Zanfardino said. But bike paths attract new residents, provide health benefits and reduce environmental pollution, he said. “It’s a way to attract new and young folks,” Zanfardino said. But Olson objected, saying her rights as an older resident shouldn’t be ignored. Bicyclist Penny Evans-Meyer said Bowling Green is behind other communities in making travel safe for cyclists. “We might be as many as three decades late with bike paths,” Evans-Meyer said. “It’s time we put aside some of our worries and say it’s the thing to do.” The city adopted a long range plan in 2007,…

Council doesn’t want to be kept in dark on solar project

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials don’t want to darken the bright future of massive solar field being built on city property, but Council members demanded answers Monday evening to some troubling questions on the project. Concerns have been raised about the percentage of Ohio workers used on the site and the fact that they are not being paid prevailing wages. Council President Mike Aspacher said he received an email from an AMP official in early September saying that prevailing wages would be paid to workers on the project. However, since then it has been reported that is not the case. “There’s some conflicting information,” Aspacher said. Council member Bruce Jeffers also expressed his frustration. “I assumed throughout this project that people would be paid prevailing wage.” The issue is complicated by the fact that Bowling Green owns the property for the solar field at the corner of Carter and Newton roads, northeast of the city. But the solar field is an AMP project, which has contracted with NextEra, which has contracted with Blattner Energy. Bowling Green Utilities Director Brian O’Connell said the city is hosting the solar field and buying energy from it, but not directly connected to the construction. “We’re somewhat removed from the construction,” he said. Neither the agreement with AMP nor the tax abatement granted to NextEra require the prevailing wages be paid or that union labor be used. If the project were the city’s, that would be different, O’Connell said. “We do have a prevailing wage requirement.” But in this case, the city has no control over the wages paid on the project. But Aspacher was not satisfied. “The fact of the matter is it’s being built on Bowling Green property. So I think it’s a Bowling Green project.” The other issue is the workforce on the project. NextEra was granted a tax abatement by the county commissioners on the project on the condition that 80 percent of the labor used on the site would be from Ohio. O’Connell said NextEra actually bumped up that requirement to 82 percent Ohio labor in its contract with Blattner. And as of the last update, Blattner reported 85 percent Ohio labor on the project. But accusations have been raised that some workers are just setting up temporary residence in Ohio for the length of the solar project. Aspacher asked who is responsible for reviewing those labor stats. O’Connell responded that NextEra is reviewing Blattner’s reports. Those numbers may not be made public till next spring. “It’s conceivable that the project will be complete” before the city can check the stats on workers from Ohio, Aspacher said. Aspacher also expressed frustration over the fact that local contractors are not being used on the project. He mentioned the meeting earlier this year when council approved plans for the solar project and he expressed his hopes to AMP officials that local contractors be considered for the job. “It appears that fell on deaf ears,” he said, mentioning two area contractors with considerable experience handling big solar projects. “They were not even approached.” O’Connell said the drainage tile at the site is being done by a local contractor. He also noted that a job fair was held in Bowling Green. About 60 potential workers attended, and 14…

Debate is over – green space to remain green

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It’s official. “Wooster Green” will remain a green gathering space for Bowling Green citizens for generations to come. After years of debate, City Council voted unanimously Monday evening to preserve the 1.7 acres at the corner of West Wooster and South Church streets as green space. The vote was met with a round of applause from those in the council chambers. The action was welcomed by those who spent months planning out a concept for the community space. “I thought all along it would pass,” Eric Myers, who led the task force to come up with a plan for the property, said after Monday’s council meeting. “Hopefully we can continue the momentum for fundraising.” Mayor Dick Edwards, a supporter of the green space concept, said he plans to convene the Green Space Task Force on Oct. 11 to discuss the next steps. 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. “It’s finally happening tonight,” Council member Sandy Rowland said. “It’s been a great journey. That property has just been waiting” to become a community gathering space. “I’m supporting this with all my soul and my heart,” she said. “I knew I would support this since the junior high was torn down.” Rowland said the new community space will help attract families to live in Bowling Green. “We will have a fabulous public space.” 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 the study showed it was possible to combine both a new city building and green space on the acreage, public pressure came from citizens who wanted the site to remain undeveloped, except for a few town square features. Edwards also threw his weight toward the preservation of a green space for public use. Though the green space concept got unanimous support Monday evening, it was not without some regrets. Council member Bruce Jeffers said he still believes the property would be a wonderful site for a new city building and would have ample room to share for an outdoor community space. “But I see that my view is in the minority,” Jeffers said. “It is a beautiful space and it will continue to be a beautiful space.” Council member Bob McOmber said he understood public frustration over the slow pace of the process. “That would not be unfair,” he said of the criticism. “It just took a while to sort things out.” And council member Daniel Gordon said Monday’s vote should resolve any questions about the future of the site. “I hope this puts to rest” any community concerns. 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 trees. The plan…

BG rejects moratorium on medical marijuana

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council split 4-3 Monday evening on enacting a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana cultivation, processing and retail dispensary facilities. So despite a request from the city attorney and city planner, the moratorium was scrapped. Council members Daniel Gordon, Bruce Jeffers, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino voted against the moratorium, while Mike Aspacher, Bob McOmber and Scott Seeliger voted in favor. After the meeting, City Planner Heather Sayler said her office has received two phone calls from prospective medical marijuana representatives asking where they would be allowed to do business in the city. As it is now, a retail operation could go in commercial zoned areas, a processing operation could go in industrial, and growing could occur in agricultural zoned areas. The state legislature passed the medical marijuana bill earlier this year, making Ohio the 25th state to legalize marijuana use for medicinal purposes. But few community regulations have been established, so several municipalities 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 last month when the issue first came before council. 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. Marsh added that the city does not have qualified personnel to set regulations for growing, processing or selling pot. But Gordon said he was not willing to add further burden on ill people who could benefit from medical marijuana. On Monday evening, Gordon reaffirmed his opposition to a moratorium. “I continue to feel the legislation is unnecessary and counterproductive,” he said. Council President Mike Aspacher noted last month that Bowling Green applies rules to tattoo businesses, dance establishments and grocery stores. “I think it would be irresponsible,” to not do the same with marijuana, he said. Sayler said her office is waiting for some direction from the state. “It’s new to everyone. We don’t have any guidance yet.” But Gordon said the greater error would be to deny the drug to people in need.  

Clinton vows to stay true to blue collar Americans

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Hillary Clinton made her pitch to the blue collar crowd in Toledo Monday – to people who pay their taxes and expect their elected officials to do the same. Clinton hit hard on the latest news that her opponent Donald Trump has likely not paid federal taxes for nearly two decades. She looked at her supporters gathered in the Amtrak station in downtown Toledo, and told them she understands them. “We believe in honest pay for honest work,” she said, mentioning her dad who printed drapery for a living. “He believed in hard work. He passed that on to me.” Those in the crowd appreciated her steady dedication to family and worker causes. Jennifer Rogers, of Toledo, said she likes how Clinton relies on her experience and her heart. “I think Hillary knows more about the world situation than any president we’ve ever had. I think the Republican party has done a real witch hunt and she’s stood her ground.” Larry Robinson, of Bowling Green, admitted he was not a huge Hillary fan. “I’m against Donald Trump,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t trust him to stick to his word.” So Clinton will likely win with Robinson by default. “When it comes time to vote, I’ll probably pull the lever for Hillary,” he said. Andrew Heller, of Toledo, had no doubts. “I think she’s obviously the only candidate qualified for the job.” He then looked at his two young daughters to explain another reason why he wouldn’t support Trump. “It’s despicable how he talks about women.” One speaker suggested it would be fitting for the Glass City to help Clinton shatter the “glass ceiling.” U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, joined in heaping praise onto Clinton. “No matter what gets thrown her way, she keeps chugging along,” Kaptur said. “She gets things done.” One of those things was very meaningful to Toledo, when Clinton voted to save the auto industry. Clinton talked about those tough times, when people were losing their jobs, their homes, their savings. “In 2009, you were in the eye of the storm,” she said to the Toledoans. She used Trump’s words against him, reminding the crowd that he didn’t stand for the auto industry bailout. “He would have let you twist and fall,” she said. “But you never gave up,” she said to the crowd, many of them UAW members. And “America came to the rescue” – not Trump, she added. And now, Chrysler has announced that it will be building the next generation of Jeep Wranglers in Toledo. “I will always stand up and fight for you,” she promised. Like the crowd, Clinton said she wants to focus on “kitchen table” issues. “The ones that keep you up at night,” she said. Like the cost of prescription drugs, the affordability of college, and how to get ahead with hard work. The American Dream, she said, “should be big enough for everybody.” She promised to fight against the powerful protecting only their self interests. She vowed to plug the loopholes that help the rich get richer and allow them to send jobs overseas. “We will rebuild the working class,” she said. Companies should feel responsibility to their workers, customers and their country – not just to their shareholders, Clinton said….

Jail inmate in hospital after beating in visitation area

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   An inmate at the Wood County jail is in St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo after being beaten by another inmate last week in the visitation area of the jail. Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said Sunday afternoon that the two inmates were in the visitation area when one punched the other in the back of the head. “We got the victim medical attention immediately and are pressing felony charges against the inmate who beat him,” Wasylyshyn said. Operations Captain Terry James said this morning that Jesse Perez, 36, Toledo, and Franklin Socha, 26, Berea, were having a disagreement Thursday in the visitation area of the jail, when Perez allegedly punched Socha in the back of the head. James said Perez, who was in the jail for domestic violence, punched Socha “several” times. Socha, who was in the jail for felonious assault, was visiting with his mother at the time. Socha was taken to Wood County Hospital, then transferred to St. Vincent in Toledo. The hospital would not release his condition this morning. No jail staff was in the visitation area when the fight occurred, James said. That is not unusual, according to James, who said two deputies were monitoring the area from the room next door. “They saw it and called for backup,” James said. The staff was in the visitation room “very quickly,” James said after watching video of the incident. “I was pleased with how fast we were in there.” Felony assault charges against Perez will be presented to the grand jury on Wednesday. Almost all inmates at the Wood County Justice Center are permitted visitation. “All inmates, unless they are in discipline, are entitled to visitation,” Wasylyshyn said. The sheriff is hoping to change to video communication in the future, so the inmates stay in their jail areas, and their visitors communicate with them similar to Skype.  

Fewer BG residents stashing trash in recyclable bins

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is trying to use the carrot and not the stick to teach residents about the new garbage rules. But it turns out they are also having to explain that carrots and sticks belong in the trash, not in recycling. The problem came to a head a few weeks ago, when the Wednesday recyclable collection route on the east side of the city consisted of 35 percent trash, according to Ken Rieman, of the Bowling Green Recycling Center. It was believed that the increase in the garbage in recyclable bins was an unintended consequence of the new city ordinance requiring that garbage bins be closed when being picked up. Rieman surmised that residents with overflowing trash bins were stashing the trash in the recyclable bins instead. However, as of last Wednesday, the trash in the recyclable bins had dropped to 20 percent from the peak of 35 percent, Rieman said. “It appears the city education efforts have had some success,” he said. Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said the 35 percent was “an alarming rate.” So the city started a strong education push for residential areas close to BGSU, where it was thought that students might not realize the difference between the green garbage bins and the blue recycling bins. Bright green stickers are being placed on bins that are being used improperly. However, if the education isn’t enough, the city can cite citizens for putting trash in their recycling bins. “Obviously, that is a last resort for the city,” Fawcett said. “We’d rather work with them than fine them.” The new rule requiring the lids to be closed on garbage bins was to prevent pyramids of trash from becoming litter in neighborhoods, and to prevent the garbage bin lids from being broken off by the automatic arms that pick up the bins and dump them in the truck. In cases where city residents need extra space for garbage, additional bins may be acquired from the city public works office, Fawcett said. “The city is willing to work with people. You just need to reach out to us and tell us what you need,” he said. Though the amount of trash in recyclables has dropped in recent weeks, Rieman pointed out that 20 percent trash is still an unacceptable amount. More than 30 bags of garbage were removed from recyclable materials on Wednesday, as compared to four or five bags on other pickup days. “Any bag of garbage mixed with recyclables is a problem,” Rieman said. “Those that break open are an even bigger problem because the garbage goes up the line and has to be picked off by hand.” Rieman said he rode along on a recycling truck two weeks ago on a Wednesday. The drivers were leaving behind bins that had obvious problems, and were recording addresses of those homes where bags could be seen entering the hopper. The recycling center staff is also continuing to pull out names on mail or other items from garbage bags, so those people can be contacted by the city. “The city is notifying offenders. This is an ongoing process that should educate more people and will identify repeat offenders,” Rieman said. “We really appreciate the city’s efforts to clean things up.” The goal is…

Simpson Building parking lot to close for work

The City of Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department wants to make the public aware that the Simpson Building parking lot will be closed Tuesday, Oct. 4 – Thursday, Oct. 6. The parking lot will be milled, paved and striped during this time. For questions or more information call 419-354- 6223 or visit the city website at and click on parks and recreation.

BG solar project faces scrutiny over hiring practices

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A shadow of doubt has been cast over the hiring practices at the massive solar field being built northeast of Bowling Green. Claims have been made that the project is not adhering to the requirement that 80 percent of those employed at the site be Ohio residents. That percentage was a primary factor in the Wood County Commissioners approving a tax abatement for the project. And concerns have been expressed by city officials that there was an expectation that the project would pay prevailing wages. Officials from the electric subcontractor at the site, Blattner Energy, and the contractor for the project, NextEra Energy, both strongly defended their compliance with the 80 percent rule. However, they also clarified that the project has no requirement to pay prevailing wages. The giant solar project has been welcomed as good for the environment and good for the area’s reputation since it will be the largest solar field in Ohio. The project is located on 165 acres owned by the City of Bowling Green at the southeast corner of Carter and Newton roads. The solar array will consist of 85,680 panels that will track the sun from east to west everyday for maximum power generation. But from the beginning, the solar project stirred up a bit of controversy. The Wood County Commissioners initially refused to grant the requested 30-year tax abatement for the $43 million project until their questions were answered. The tax abatement request for the solar field was unlike those that normally come before the commissioners. First, the amount is massive, giving a tax break of $7.3 million over just the first 15 years. Second, the abatement duration is 30 years, compared to the customary 10 to 15 years. Third, there is no ongoing employment, which is the basis for most tax breaks. Construction of the solar field will employ about 85 people from July 18 to Dec. 31. And while 80 percent of those people are required to be Ohio residents – there is no requirement that they come from Wood County. Fourth, regular tax abatements require that school districts be “made whole” by the business getting the tax break, but this agreement does not. The company will pay some money to local taxing authorities “in lieu of” the tax breaks, but not the entire amount. The commissioners also voiced concerns that the solar array will be built using panels from Hanwha, a South Korean company – not Wood County’s First Solar company. However, it was made clear that without the tax break, the solar field would not be built here by NextEra and AMP. The commissioners approved the tax abatement. Despite concerns about the project not using local solar panels, they were pleased that the jobs would at least have a potential local benefit, Commissioner Joel Kuhlman said. But when Kuhlman started asking questions a few weeks ago about the 80 percent Ohio workforce, the answers he got were less than satisfying. “It is part of the abatement agreement,” Kuhlman said, explaining that he contacted NextEra officials for specifics. “They did not give me any statistics about how many of the people were from Ohio. I have not been given any proof they have met that requirement at this time.” Bowling Green City…

BG parks and rec sets course for next five years

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The five-year master plan for the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation is not “sexy.” But what it lacks in sex appeal, it makes up for in substance. Much of the plan focuses on maintaining the current parks – paving parking lots and fixing roofs. Nothing too flashy. Woody Woodward, executive director of the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association, complimented the park and rec board Tuesday evening for its new plan. “It matters. It helps set a course for you for the next five years,” Woodward said. He disagreed with the description that the plan lacked pizzazz. In fact, the plan has a quality that several communities neglect. “This plan gives you some time to breathe,” and take care of what the city already has, he said. “We spend so much time thinking what the next thing is, that we forget to take care of what the last thing was.” “It ensures that this community has the facilities necessary to make lives better,” Woodward said. The master plan was completed after a series of public forums was held earlier this year to collect community input on the parks. The forums were led by Shannon Orr, political science professor at Bowling Green State University. Orr said she has led forums many times in the past, but encountered something unusual at the park and rec meetings. “I’ve never run a forum where people were so enthusiastic and positive,” she said. The participants praised the friendliness of the park staff, variety of programs, reasonable prices, and clean facilities. “I hope you appreciate how unusual that is,” Orr said. “What really came out of these forums is how the community feels about parks and rec.”   The forums covered youth programs, nature parks, garden parks, active parks, fitness and aquatics. Three items repeatedly asked for by residents were an indoor pool, a walkway to the community center, and more activities for ages 12 to 16. Park and Recreation Director Kristin Otley presented the five-year master plan, explaining it is a “living, breathing, fluid document.” The goal is to “focus on maintaining and taking care of our parks, programs and facilities, while being aware and open to new opportunities.” The plan identifies needs at the 11 parks, at all the buildings, and with the programs. Not all of the improvements will come out of the budget, since there may be opportunities to access funds elsewhere or to get donations, Otley said. Some of the bigger, more visible projects include a renovated or new Veterans Building in City Park, a completed trail from the community center to the middle-high school complex, and a speed slide at the aquatics center. The slide would help “keep things exciting to keep the numbers up,” at the pool, Otley said. ADA issues will continue to be addressed in all the parks and facilities. Lighting upgrades will be made where necessary, and rental policies will be reviewed. Efforts will be made to upgrade online registration, create a land acquisition policy, and create a book of donation opportunities. Following are the plans for each of the city’s parks: BG Athletic Fields next to the community center: Open the four acres of game fields. Work on building an outdoor obstacle course on four acres on the…

BG Tree Commission gets to root of tree issues

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Bowling Green Tree Commission gathered for a meeting last week under a tree dedicated to a former member, Walt Ferrell. The tree, a three-flowered maple, was planted in the city’s arboretum located to the west of the city’s fire station on Pearl Street. The plaque at the base of the tree honors Ferrell, a 10-year member of the city tree commission, who graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture. “He was a good man,” said Bob Manley, a member of the tree commission. As they stood under the young tree, the commission continued its monthly meeting with the city’s arborist Grant Jones. They discussed the stress that the summer’s hot, dry conditions placed on trees – especially young trees trying to get established. “A lot of those really struggled,” Jones said. The city is currently doing a lot of pruning of trees for overhead power line clearance, and some trees are being removed in the area of Madison and Lorraine streets due to work on water and sewer lines. Jones assured tree commission members that the city was planting more trees that it was removing. Approximately 120 trees were planted in the spring, and another 88 are planned for this fall. The group also discussed the city’s new efforts to give tree roots a little more wiggle room by using a sidewalk surface that is rubbery and moves a bit rather than cracks from root pressure. The tree commission also discussed educational efforts in the city. Jones recently held a diagnostic program to help city residents determine if their trees were healthy or suffering with problems. Another program is planned on Oct. 8 that will focus on soils. The workshop will look at the difference between sandy and clay soil, and organic matter compaction. “Hopefully, we’re going to be able to be outside for it,” Jones said. Another seminar is planned in November on using leaves for mulch. The program will be modeled after a town located north of New York City, where the community follows the “love ‘em and leave ‘em” approach to leaves. Rather than having the city pick up leaves, residents are encouraged to use them as mulch. Landowners are instructed how to mulch leaves with their mowers, Jones said. “That way, you are returning those nutrients to the soil rather than having them hauled away.”

Big dairy blamed for busting up rural roads, draining township road budget

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Dave Housholder and his fellow Portage Township Trustees are tired of patching township roads only to have them broken and rutted a few months later. “I’m getting a lot of heck from the citizens,” Housholder told the Wood County Commissioners Thursday morning. The problem, according to Housholder, is that the MSB Dairy, a concentrated animal feeding operation with 2,100 cows, is beating up the surrounding roads with frequent use. Any other type of industry causing such heavy traffic could be held responsible for the road wear and tear, he said. But because of agricultural exemptions, the dairy has no such obligations. Portage Township resident Mike Billmaier joined Housholder to explain the problem to the commissioners. In his previous work as a contractor, Billmaier said he was held responsible for road damages. “It was our job to maintain the roads and cleanup our own messes,” he said. If he didn’t comply, “I would have been fined or put out of business.” The two men explained that the roads surrounding the dairy – Bloomdale, Portage, Emerson, Cloverdale and Greensburg – have suffered great degradation. Bloomdale Road, in front of the dairy, was repaired eight weeks ago and now is so torn up, Billmaier won’t drive down it. “I was literally appalled by the amount of damage,” Billmaier said. “It dumbfounds me that this much damage is allowed to go on.” Housholder asked the commissioners to help the township deal with the ongoing problem. First, he asked that they take a drive down past the dairy – which is in the process of expanding to nearly 3,000 cows. “When you come out to the sticks” to campaign for votes, take a drive down those roads, he suggested. “A lot of life has been taken out of them this year,” he said. “The lifespan of these roads is being shortened.” Second, Housholder asked the commissioners to use their weight to push for changes through state legislators or the County Commissioners Association of Ohio. “Please try to crank up the volume,” he said. Both Housholder and Billmaier said the large dairies should not fall under agricultural exemptions, which were originally intended to help smaller farmers. Traditional dairies had anywhere from 25 to 60 cows – not the thousands allowed in CAFOs. “If they want to hide that under the agriculture umbrella,” that just isn’t fair, Housholder said. “That’s not an agricultural use, it’s an industrial use,” Billmaier said of the mega farms. Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar noted that industries would be held liable for the road repairs. “I can come after a trucking company. I can’t come after this,” Housholder said. And with other types of businesses, the township can require them to locate in areas zoned for industry that are better equipped to handle heavy traffic. Numbers from the Portage Township road supervisor showed that the township regularly spends 35 percent more on road repairs in the vicinity of the CAFO. “We lack the resources to keep up,” Housholder said. “We basically have exhausted all we have for roads.” With winter coming, and Bloomdale Road ripped up, Housholder said he isn’t sure how the pavement can be plowed. “I think I’m going to have a lot of upset phone calls this winter.” Billmaier suggested that…