Government

ATM in Meijer parking lot approved by city planning commission

Bowling Green Planning Commission approved plans Wednesday evening for a Huntington Bank ATM to be constructed in the Meijer parking lot on East Wooster Street. The standalone drive-up ATM under a canopy will be located in the southwest corner of the parking lot, behind the Meijer gas station. A Huntington branch is already located inside Meijer, but the branch further in town on East Wooster Street has been closed. Also at the meeting, the planning commission heard a request for the annexation of 6.2 acres between 1502 and 1518 Napoleon Road. The property is currently in Center Township. Petitioning for the annexation are Steven and Marcia Seubert. A public hearing on the request will be held at the next planning commission meeting on June 1. Planning Director Heather Sayler updated the commission on projects going on in the city, including the battery-wholesale store being built in front of Woodland Mall, the Burger King in front of Home Depot, and the Fairfield Inn on East Wooster that is expected to be open by October.


Community ride promotes need for improvements for bicyclists

  By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Thursday’s community bike ride is more than a pedal to the park. The organizers have some serious points to make about the need to make Bowling Green a better place for bicycling.               The second Community Ride will begin Thursday at 5 p.m. at the fountain in front of the Administration Building on the Bowling Green State University campus.  The riders will head west toward downtown, traveling eventually to Main Street, before reaching their destination, the green space at the corner of Church and West Wooster streets. The first ride came after Lily Murnen, president of the Environmental Service Club, was talking to Rick Busselle, a BGSU faculty member and bicyclist. Busselle was upset by a couple incidents. A student was struck while bicycling near the CVS on East Wooster Street, and then was ticketed for riding on the sidewalk. Busselle himself took a spill while trying to navigate past that spot. His accident occurred in part because he was unsure at what point cyclists were allowed to ride on sidewalks. The city lacks both clarity in the rules governing bicyclists and the bike lanes needed to make riding in the city safer, he said. Yet, the city officials didn’t really seem to think it was a problem. He and Murnen discussed a mass bike riding event. These can involve a large group of bicyclists taking over the streets and, at times, violating traffic laws. Instead they decided that it would be best to have the bicyclists adhere to the rules of the road, which in some instances may cause a greater inconvenience to drivers. People, Murnen said, feel safer navigating the city’s streets in groups. Murnen was in charge of putting together a list of events for Earth Week, so she decided a community ride would fit right in. The first ride attracted 25 riders, despite a change in the day of the ride. Murnen said the ride attracted “a really nice mix” of students, faculty…


County auditor mails out Homestead Exemption Renewals

Approximately 9,100 Homestead Exemption Renewals have been mailed according to Michael Sibbersen, Wood County Auditor. These renewal forms are mailed to all taxpayers who currently have the Homestead Exemption on their residence. If there are no changes in the Homestead applicant’s status the form need not be returned. New applicants wishing to apply for the Homestead Exemption for real estate and manufactured homes must meet the following qualifications: applicants must be at least 65 years of age on or before December 31, 2016 or permanently disabled as of January 1, 2016 and have an Ohio Adjusted Gross Income of less than $31,500 per year. Applicants must also own and occupy the home as their principal place of residence as of January 1, 2016. A person has only one principal place of residence, therefore, the law allows for only one exemption per person. Homeowners who were receiving the Homestead Exemption as of January 1, 2013 or prior are not subject to the income verification and do not need to take any action to continue receiving the exemption. Homeowners who were receiving the Homestead Exemption after January 1, 2014 are subject to income verification each year and should return the form if the 2015 Ohio Adjusted Gross Income is over $31,500. Homeowners needing assistance with the renewal form may contact the Auditor’s Office at: 419-354-1925, Toll Free: 866-860- 4140, wait for the operator and ask for extension 1925, or via email bgraber@co.wood.oh.us. Homeowners who need a new application form may visit the website at www.co.wood.oh.us/auditor to print a copy of the new application form or contact the Auditor’s Office to request one by mail.


BG Council approves plan for largest solar field in Ohio

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The future is looking pretty bright for Bowling Green’s solar field project, with city council voting unanimously Monday evening to approve plans to install the largest solar field in Ohio. Concerns were expressed by a neighbor of the site about the loss of prime farmland. But her concerns were not enough to throw shade on the project. “This looks like a really good addition to the Bowling Green energy portfolio,” said council member Bob McOmber. “I don’t see any minuses with this.” The solar project had been stalled since last summer. Now, if all goes as planned, an estimated 2,900 homes in the city will be powered by sunlight starting next year. “I appreciate the project moving forward. Environmentally, it’s a good thing,” council member Bruce Jeffers said. “I’m really happy to see this happen.” The solar field is expected to produce more power than originally planned. The initial plan called for 110 acres to be used on the city’s 317 acres located at the southeast corner of Newton and Carter roads, northeast of the city limits. The city was in line to get 10.5 megawatts from the solar field, according to Brian O’Connell, director of utilities for BG. However, instead of fixed mounted panels, the new plan calls for single axis tracker panels, which will rotate and follow the path of the sun as it moves through the sky. The rotating panels will take up 35 more acres and cost more to install, but they will increase power production, he said. The solar field will generate 20 megawatts, with Bowling Green getting 13.74 megawatts of the power for its customers. With the addition of the solar power to the existing wind and hydro sources already used by the city, Bowling Green will get close to 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources starting in 2017, O’Connell said. “It certainly is a good thing for the city,” council president Mike Aspacher said. The solar field was initially planned for the western…


Sales tax holiday extended for back-to-school items

State Rep. Tim Brown, R-Bowling Green, announced that the Ohio House passed SB 264, which designates the first weekend in August 2016 as a sales tax holiday for the purposes of back-to-school shopping. The legislation creates a three-day period in which certain school supplies are exempt from both state and county sales tax. The bill allows clothing up to $75 per item, and school supplies and instructional materials up to $20 per item, to qualify for the sales tax exemption. The intention of the sales tax holiday is to provide families a tax break on back-to-school shopping, while also stimulating economic activity for local businesses. “I applaud the General Assembly for continuing to pass legislation that makes back to school purchases more affordable for families.  The 2015 sales tax holiday spurred economic activity in Wood County and I support this reauthorization.  As my district additionally is rich in collegiate institutions, this tax holiday will also reduce some of the financial burdens our college students face,” Brown said. In the previous General Assembly, the legislature passed similar legislation to create a one-time sales tax holiday in 2015 as a way to explore the potential impact. According to the University of Cincinnati’s Economic Center, the sales total for that weekend was 6.48 percent higher than anticipated and led to $4.7 million in additional revenue for the state. The study also showed an increase of sales near Ohio’s borders, indicating that people from neighboring states came to Ohio to do their back-to-school shopping and take advantage of the sales tax exemption, Brown said. Provided that Governor John Kasich signs the legislation, the bill will take effect in time for the sales tax holiday to take place from Aug. 5-7 of this year.


City office building bursting at its ill-fitting seams

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The city administration building is a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. No, it’s more like several square pegs trying to squeeze into that circular space. The building, at 304 N. Church St., started its life more than a century ago as a school, then was molded into a library, and in 1976 became the city administration building. So while its age poses some problems, the bigger issue is that the building was designed for educating children, not for administering city services. The result is a 17,000 square foot building with cramped offices, maze-like spaces and cobbled together technology. For years now, city leaders have discussed the possibility of a different municipal building, with the debate continuing on whether it should be a new building or a renovated existing site. Most seem to favor the offices staying downtown. But one conclusion that doesn’t get much debate is the need for different space. First, there’s the age issue. About 20 noisy air handlers are crammed between the original ceilings and the drop ceilings. Ultraviolet lights and air purifiers are used to reduce the mold problem. “It’s good mold, but mold none the less,” said Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said. Workers often find a powdery white coating from the drop ceilings on their desks, according to Public Works Director Brian Craft. “I thought it was snowing in my office the other day,” Fawcett said. Across the hall in the personnel and clerk of council office, sloping floors cause a problem. One employee couldn’t use a plastic sheet under her office chair because of the uneven floor. “She’d roll backward” and had to constantly pull herself back to her desk, said Personnel Director Barb Ford. And power access is less than ideal, with masses of cords plugged into inconvenient locations. The old construction is not energy efficient, with the south side sweltering in the afternoon sun while the north side of the building is freezing, Craft said. “There are literally days…


BG strong and ready to take on challenges of 2016

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is making great strides in sustainable energy, has seen consistent job growth, and is making progress on some of the stickier issues in the community, Mayor Dick Edwards told the audience at the annual State of the City held this morning. And though some difficult issues await the city this year, the community is up to the challenge. “I often find myself reflecting why the mechanisms and processes of government in Bowling Green seem to work so well over the years,” Edwards said at the chamber sponsored event in the county library. “In my view, and one that is commonly held, it is the continuing ability to work together, to find solutions to perceived needs that seem to work and to think ahead, to anticipate needs.” The mayor praised the economic health of Bowling Green. “Our job growth continues to be one of the most robust of any city in the region and is integrally related to the city’s fiscal health,” Edwards said. He spoke of progress in the city’s effort to use renewable energy, saying the city will soon have “the largest solar field of any city in Ohio.” But challenges lie ahead. “We have a very full plate these days and some special challenges.” Those include: The “absolute must” passage of the park levy. The East Wooster Street corridor plan. Housing and neighborhood revitalization. Vehicular and pedestrian safety and the “new face” for the city at the new Interstate 75 interchange. Maintenance of a vibrant downtown. Finding a new home for municipal government offices in the downtown. Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter talked about the safety and quality of life in the city – much of it funded through the city income tax. The 2 percent income tax, which supports the general fund and the sewer and water capital fund, has grown from $15.6 million in 2011 to $19.2 million this year. “Bowling Green businesses are doing well and employment is robust,” Tretter said. But the increase in the…


2015: A year in review in BG – Your tax dollars at work

(From the City of Bowling Green) For the City of Bowling Green, 2015 wasn’t unlike other years. Provide excellent services to the citizens of Bowling Green in the most cost effective manner possible. Below is a review of significant 2015 projects and a view of how your tax dollars are utilized in the community. Coordinating the replacement and repair of sidewalks was a significant accomplishment of the Public Works Department in 2015. The City’s 50/50 sidewalk program, which is a cost sharing program between the City and property owners, resulted in the replacement or repair of sidewalks on 26 properties in the City. In addition, as the impact of the Columbia Gas natural gas line replacement repairs were realized, the Public Works Department quickly swung into action to monitor the work and advocate for citizens in the construction area. As a result, 30 properties received new sidewalks. All the sidewalk work added up to roughly one mile of sidewalk replacement in 2015. A major responsibility of the Public Works Department is road maintenance. In that area, a significant project was conducted on Poe Road, between Mitchell and North Grove. Improvements included 1.89 miles of paving. Working with state and federal resources, the City contributed $298,000 of the $1.14 million total project cost. Numerous other infrastructure projects were completed in 2015 by the Utilities Department. The Electric Division completed street lighting upgrades to energy efficient LED fixtures on two major corridors – Mercer Road from East Wooster to East Poe Road and West Poe Road from North Main Street to Haskins Road. LED lighting is becoming the standard as older, less efficient High Pressure Sodium lighting is replaced. The Water Distribution and Wastewater Collection Division completed five sewer relining projects. These included certain sewers on Hillcrest, Buttonwood, and Main Street as well as in City Park and City Parking Lot #2. The relining of sewers and manholes is done to prevent infiltration of groundwater into the system and reinforce the strength of the sewer structure that may be damaged by roots,…


County tries to track down public assistance fraud

May is Public Assistance Fraud Awareness Month in Ohio, and Wood County Job and Family Services is spreading the word that “Fraud Costs All of Us.”  During the month of May, five Wood County pizza restaurants will be handing out pizza cutters with the Wood County fraud reporting phone numbers printed on them to their pizza customers. David Wigent, Director of Wood County Job and Family Services, advised, “We are trying to reach members of the general public who may not know about our department or how to contact us if they have concerns about possible public assistance fraud.  The pizza restaurants chosen to participate are in various locations around Wood County.” In 2015, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services disbursed about $2.5 billion in SNAP food assistance, $259 million in Ohio Works First cash assistance and $573 million in child care subsidies. Individuals who mislead caseworkers or lie on an application for benefits account for a very small percentage of the funding disbursed, but the department takes even the smallest fraud cases very seriously. Wood County Job and Family Services was recently recognized by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services for their Excellence in claims management.  Wood County Job and Family Services ranked 3rd among all Ohio Job and Family Services in the number of food assistance overpayment claims established in 2015, and 5th in the recovery of these claims.  In 2015, a total of $151,077.65 in improperly obtained benefits were repaid. Individuals found to be committing fraud are removed from the program, must repay any improperly obtained benefits, and may face criminal charges and jail time. Residents of Wood County may report suspected public assistance fraud by calling Wood County Job and Family Services at (419) 373-6964 or (419) 373-6950 or going to www.jfs.ohio.gov/fraud.


Earth Week opens with Creation Care Celebration

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Creation Care Celebration, which marked the beginning of Earth Week activities in Bowling Green, focused on the possibilities. Honored by the Black Swamp Green Team, the event’s sponsors, were those who were already making a difference locally, and statewide. The keynote speaker spoke about what churches could do to preserve the environment. And a series of workshops were offered on household options for taking action. Stumbling blocks were mentioned – the state’s renewable energy standards are on hold. But the two state legislators in attendance State Senator Randy Gardner and State Representative Tim Brown, both Republicans said they were in favor of lifting the hold on them and letting them take effect. The keynote speaker Greg Hitzhusen of Ohio State University’s School of Environment & Natural Resources, spoke of a pastor in Idaho who took the initiative to put saving the environment at the center of his church’s mission. He discovered, Hitzhusen said, less resistance than he expected. Now 10 years later he’s experiencing fierce backlash to his efforts. “How do we overcome these obstacles?” Hitzhusen wondered. The speaker, who is involved in the Interfaith Light and Power movement, focused his talk on what works. “Build on your strengths,” he said. That means finding what expertise is within the congregation that can spearhead efforts. The United Church of Christ in Sylvania used the expertise of Al Compaan, a leading researcher in photovoltaics, to initiate a solar project. “Do what makes sense for your community,” he said. Even simple measure can help. Saving money on energy can help a church keep its doors open and support its other missions, he said. “When we learn about energy savings in our houses of worship,” he said, “we can learn to save energy in our households.” But he faced his own obstacles in pursuing his vocation of blending faith with environmentalism. Raised a Presbyterian, he had a beloved pastor warn him about the “blue demon.” The pastor was concerned that concentrating on environmental ministry would lead to…


Wood County Library sets limits on unattended children

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The library is a great place for kids, a safe space for kids, but it’s not a day care center and the staff members are not babysitters. The Wood County District Public Library approved a policy Tuesday that clarifies just how employees will deal with unattended children. The policy, said Library Director Michael Penrod, was drawn based on guidelines from Child Protective Services. The library staff needs to know, he said, what to do if they have a 6-year-old running around and the parent is two miles away at home. Penrod said that in discussions with parents, staff has been told that there are no guidelines. Now there are. From birth to age 7, the parent or guardian, must be “in the immediate vicinity.” There was some discussion whether that should be more precisely defined, but Penrod said short of getting measuring tape out, that may prove to be too restrictive. “You’ve got to be able to see them,” Board president Brian Paskvan said For children 8 or 9, Penrod said, the parent needs to be in the building. Those 10, 11 and 12 years old can use it on their own. Here the issue becomes transportation. “If a child is not able to leave the library without an adult, they should not be in the library without an adult,” Penrod said. Also, if a child needs to wait for a ride at closing time, the staff will call the police to provide transportation if the ride hasn’t arrived within 15 minutes. Penrod said there have been instances when a staff member has had to wait 45 minutes for a parent to pick up their child. If a sibling is watching the children, that child must be at least 13 and know they are responsible. Teens over 13 can use the library on their own, and are treated as adults and are expected to act as adults. The board also set rates for the meeting rooms in the library, including the new one on…


County trying to keep up with bridge repairs

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It takes an awful lot of bridges to crisscross the drained Great Black Swamp’s ditches and creeks – 441 bridges to be exact. And it takes an awful lot of money to keep those bridges in good repair. So once again Tuesday, officials from the Wood County Engineer’s Office came to the county commissioners to seek funding for bridge design. Since the county began receiving casino tax revenue, the commissioners have dedicated those funds to bridge design. Last year, $615,997 was put toward design costs. The actual bridge construction is then funded by the engineer’s office. Even with that, it’s difficult to keep up with repairs, according to Joan Cherry, of the engineer’s office. All bridges in the county are inspected annually and then appraised on a scale of 0 (failed) to 9 (excellent), she explained. Last year’s inspections found one bridge in failed condition; 4 critical; 15 serious; 52 poor; 45 fair; 78 satisfactory; 110 good; 88 very good; and 48 excellent. “I would love for all of them to be a 4 or higher,” Cherry said. The rankings continue to slip as the years pass. Once they hit the “serious” 3 ranking, “they start to go on the replacement list.” Construction costs also continue to rise each year, with a small box culvert bridge costing about $150,000. The average bridge costs $350,000 to replace, while the larger structures can cost close to $1 million, Cherry reported. With the minimum lifespan for a bridge being 50 years, and more than 70 bridges currently ranked at “poor or worse,” Commissioner Craig LaHote asked if the county needs to plan accordingly. “Should we be anticipating we will have to fund this at a higher level in coming years?” That’s hard to determine, Cherry said. “Some years you may only get a handful that drop down” in the ratings. Top on the list of structures needing replacement are the following bridges. The estimated cost for designing all these bridges is $995,000. Poe Road east…


BCI Lab recognized for energy efficient design

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Bowling Green State University President Mary Ellen Mazey announced today that the BCI laboratory on the BGSU campus has earned the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification. “Opening the new BCI lab at Bowling Green was an exciting milestone. It added the latest technology and increased capacity to help the crime-fighting efforts of Ohio’s law enforcement agencies,” said Attorney General DeWine. “And this certification confirms that this important work is being done in a facility that is environmentally friendly and energy efficient.” “We’re proud to have the BCI facility on our campus for the opportunities it offers our students and faculty, and especially pleased that it reflects our goal of achieving carbon neutrality and being a good environmental role model for the citizens of Ohio,” BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey said. LEED certification comes from the U.S. Green Building Council – a national green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. The LEED certification encompasses numerous categories of energy efficiency and environmentally sound design. For example, the BCI lab is expected to be 14 percent more energy efficient than the standard building baseline, thanks to its HVAC and lighting units, in addition to its windows and insulation. Water consumption is estimated to be more than 40 percent below the standard baseline. In building the 30,000-square foot facility, which opened in 2014, more than 20 percent of the materials cost went toward recycled products. At the same time, construction waste was recycled or reused, diverting more than 90 percent of construction waste from landfills. Indoor air quality is enhanced through the use of low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) finishes, such as paint and sealants. BCI laboratory services include: Chemistry; Evidence receiving; Firearms and Toolmark Examination; Forensic Biology; Latent Print Analysis; and Trace Evidence Analysis. Investigative services include: Crime Scene Unit; Crimes Against Children Unit; Criminal Intelligence Unit; Special Operations Unit; Special Investigations Unit; and polygraph examination. In addition to the building, the…


Scooby Doo, Chief Wiggum, Professor Snape get votes for Wood County sheriff

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Some people take voting very seriously. Others, not so much. Some apparently see it as an opportunity to show their creative side. In the primary election earlier this month, Wood County residents voting on the Democratic ballot were given the chance to fill in a write-in candidate for sheriff. Retired deputy Ruth Babel-Smith was running as a write-in candidate, but many voters were thinking way outside the box. Some voters at least stuck with people with law enforcement experience – however questionable it might be. Getting one vote each were Barney Fife, the bumbling deputy from Mayberry RFD; Chief Wiggum, the lazy incompetent police chief in The Simpsons, and Roscoe P. Coltrane, the corrupt sheriff from the Dukes of Hazzard. “I was just disappointed Boss Hogg didn’t get it,” said Mike Zickar, of the Wood County Board of Elections. A few cartoon type characters garnered single votes like Alfred E. Newman, of Mad magazine covers; Fred Flintstone, of the prehistoric town of Bedrock; and Scooby Doo, the canine with the mystery solving gang of meddling kids. Mickey Mouse got 4 votes – 5 if you count the voter who just wrote “Mickey.” Garnering one vote was Disney’s Sheriff Callie, an animated cat who rides a blue pony enforcing the “Cowpoke Code” in the Old West. Some voters went big, writing national political figures like Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Some preferred to stay local, casting votes for Chip Myles, of Myles Pizza; Daniel Gordon, a Bowling Green councilman; and Jim Weinandy, a local attorney. A few voters put their confidence in celebrity figures who had proven their power on stage or screen, such as Professor Snape, from Harry Potter’s Hogwarts; Jean-Luc Picard, captain on Star Trek: The Next Generation; and shock rocker Alice Cooper. Some write-ins had pizzazz, but seemed to lack any political seriousness, like Hypnotoad, the large toad with oscillating eyes and a droning hum from Futurama; Vermin Supreme, a presidential candidate who wears a wizard hat and…


Streets to be closed for waterline work

On Monday, March 28, B.Hillz Excavating will begin work on the waterline located on Clough Street between South Prospect and South Summit streets. During this work, the following traffic changes will occur: South Summit Street.: No parking will be allowed on the 100 block of South Summit Street, Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. By 10 a.m. on March 28, two-way traffic will be allowed on this block, which is a change from the normal one-way (southbound) traffic. Two-way traffic will remain through Wednesday, March 30, depending on weather and progress of work. Clough St.: On Monday, March 28, 7 a.m. Clough Street will close from South Main to South Summit Street to install a new valve in the Clough/Prospect intersection. Once work is complete in the intersection, Clough Street from South Main to South Prospect will re-open along with the South Prospect/Clough intersection. Clough Street, from South Prospect to South Summit, will remain closed to thru traffic Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. After 6 p.m., this portion of Clough Street will open to westbound traffic only. Residents are encouraged to call the Public Works Department (419-354-6227) or visit the city’s website for more information or with questions.