Government


House to vote to allow medical marijuana

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Listening to families who could find no other help for their children convinced State Rep. Tim Brown to support a medical marijuana bill for Ohio. Brown, R-Bowling Green, served on the committee studying medical marijuana, and is co-sponsor of House Bill 523 which is being voted on by House members today. “It’s been very eye opening to me to hear from patients and parents with children with seizures who have found no relief from anything except marijuana,” Brown said. Some of the children were having as many as 300 seizures a day prior to being treated with marijuana. “It just really pointed out that we as a society are behind the curve on this,” he said. Parents desperate to help their children have to break the law to give them the only medicine known to reduce their seizures, Brown said. “It’s the responsible way to do this,” he said of the legislation. House Bill 523 would allow doctors licensed in Ohio to recommend marijuana to their patients. The marijuana can only be legally produced by state licensed growers. “It doesn’t allow people to grow in their basements or backyards,” Brown said. Though the bill is expected to pass today with bipartisan support, it is facing criticism from both sides – those who think it’s too restrictive and those who are opposed to any marijuana use. Those supporting medicinal use are concerned this bill will take two years to implement, and doctors are required to fill out so much paperwork that it may discourage them from participating. But Brown defended those measures. “We want doctors to be licensed to do this and have a definitive relationship with the patients.” On the other side of the issue, the Wood County Prevention Coalition has taken a stand against legalization for any purpose, saying the bill is “disappointing and frightening.” “States which have legalized marijuana for either ‘medicinal’ or recreational purposes have seen an increase in youth substance use and abuse, earlier age initiation and decreased perception of harm,” according to Milan Karna, coordinator of the Wood County Prevention Coalition. However, Brown pointed out that states with legalized medicinal marijuana showed a 25 percent reduction in prescribed opiates. “To me, that is an extremely compelling fact. Opiates are highly addictive,” he said, calling them a “four-lane highway to heroin use. They are killing substantial numbers of…


Some feel sign sends wrong message about downtown BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News     Some Bowling Green citizens want to give the city a message – they don’t like the new message sign downtown. When a story was posted last week about new electronic signs being used by the city to communicate with residents, it created quite a stir of reactions on Facebook. Two electronic message signs have been erected, with one in front of the police station on West Wooster Street and the other by the public works area on East Poe Road. The negative comments were all aimed at the sign downtown in front of the police station. The sign was called ugly, a waste of money, distracting to drivers and detracting from the historic downtown. “So much for our quaint town,” one person wrote. “It really contrasts with the look of our downtown area. Did anyone consider aesthetics when this was approved,” another wrote. Some questioned the expense, with each sign costing $10,250, suggesting that the money would be better spent on paving or patrolling the city’s streets. “To me, the thing just doesn’t go with the style of that area downtown,” said resident and Realtor Andy Newlove. “We’ve got this vibrant downtown,” and then this sign goes up that looks like it ought to be selling hamburgers, he said. “To just throw that thing up there? It doesn’t look nice. Was it discussed?” Newlove said the city has worked to improve signage downtown and get rid of unattractive signs. While the new CVS also has an electronic message board, “at least that’s a private business.” The new LED signs will alert residents about such items as traffic changes for construction or special events in the community, and about seasonal services such as brush pickup. The sign in front of the police station may also make public service announcements on buckling up and not drinking and driving. The purpose of the signs was to better communicate with city residents, said Joe Fawcett, assistant municipal administrator. “The city has heard consistently from citizens and public officials that communication is very important,” Fawcett said Monday. So the signs were put in the city’s 2016 budget, and will replace the banners with printed safety reminders for drivers. “We view it as an addition to the weekly emails that go out to the city,” Fawcett said. “We know that some people don’t use social media.” So…


BG tries to sweeten smells from sewer plant

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Doug Clark takes it personally when people complain about the foul smells coming from the wastewater plant on the east side of Bowling Green. As superintendent of the Water Pollution Control Plant on Dunbridge Road, Clark is intensely proud of the violation-free operation that treated 2.2 billion gallons of wastewater and stormwater last year. He takes pride in the fact that nearly every step in the treatment is done with biological processes, not chemicals. Improvements at the plant have resulted in a 50 percent reduction in the total solids left from the process – creating a product the EPA has approved for sale to a local landscaper who blends the solids with topsoil and sand. None of the solids are applied to farm fields anymore. The finished liquid product looks like crystal clear water and meets EPA standards as it is sent down Poe Ditch to the Portage River. But there’s one thing that Clark gets prickly about – complaints about the stench from the plant. “It’s pretty amazing,” Clark said as he held up a cup of the clear finished liquid product that was the result of the very complex biological process at the plant. “We get it right a lot more than wrong. Yet the only thing we’re known for is odors every once in awhile.” Clark concedes that the odors are particularly pungent on some days, especially when the wind is coming from the north, sending the smell toward businesses along Dunbridge Road. “Typically, it’s wet heavy mornings when it’s most noticeable,” he said. “It’s those days when you smell it, it’s really bad. There’s no way to know if it’s going to be one of those days.” Though Clark said the staff at the plant does get accustomed to the smells, some days “we do notice it.” The wastewater plant has made several attempts to sweeten the smells emitted. It uses an aerobic digestion process with bacteria that helps consume the waste. “Our job is to provide the best environment for the bacteria to absorb it,” Clark said. “We have done a lot of work” to reduce the odors since Clark took over as superintendent in 2007. To lower the ammonia content, the wastewater is run through filters layered with large rocks, then smaller porous rocks, then root material. That process gets rid of some odors, but “quite…


BG erects two LED message signs

Bowling Green city officials have a new way of communicating with city residents. Two electronic message signs have been purchased, with one in front of the police station on West Wooster Street and the other by the public works area on East Poe Road. The signs will alert residents about such items as traffic changes for construction or special events in the community, and about seasonal services such as brush pickup. The sign in front of the police station may also make public service announcements on buckling up and not drinking and driving. The signs cost $10,250 each, according to Bowling Green Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett.  


Communities caught in middle of tax tug-of-war

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As Ohio Gov. John Kasich boasts about digging the state out of a deficit and cutting taxes, local government officials see little to brag about. To them, the state’s strategy was not tax cuts, but “tax shifts,” putting the burden onto municipal, township and county governments. The changes in tax revenue have affected every community in Wood County. On the larger side, Bowling Green has lost $964,764 in annual income, and Perrysburg has lost even more at $1,154,451. On the smaller side, Pemberville lost $43,924 a year, Weston lost $41,335, and Haskins lost $5,368, according to the Ohio Department of Taxation. “This is putting the pressure on communities to raise those taxes,” said Kent Scarrett, director of communications for the Ohio Municipal League. “The state says we are cutting taxes left and right,” Scarrett said. “The fact is, that burden is put on local communities.” The three changes made by the state are: Elimination of Ohio estate tax, which is also called the “death tax.” Eighty percent of this money had gone to local communities. Bowling Green lost an estimated $382,848 a year. Big cuts in the state’s Local Government Fund, which made up sizeable portions of county, municipal and township budgets. The LGF was created during the Depression when the sales tax was enacted to share money with grassroots government. Bowling Green lost $563,480 a year. Elimination of local property taxes on business machinery and inventory, also called the CAT tax. The state had a planned phase out of the tax over a period of time, but hastened the cuts. Bowling Green lost $18,436 a year. Those cuts have some communities struggling to keep vital services, such as fire stations open, and are considering more reductions in city services, Scarrett said. “That’s the disconnect that’s going on,” he said. “You’re just shifting the burden.” Across the state, communities are trying four main strategies to handle the funding cuts, according to Scarrett. The first is natural attrition, “especially in safety areas like police and fire,” he said. “A lot of communities aren’t filling those positions.” Next is increasing fees and service charges, for such items as trash pickup, utilities or permits. More communities are also looking at reducing or eliminating tax credits for residents who work outside the municipality. And finally, “the last resort many communities look for” – tax increases, Scarrett…


Health district to build dental center that won’t turn away uninsured

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Health District has given local residents something to smile about. The district’s Health and Wellness Center has been awarded $824,997 to build a dental center to serve Wood County residents regardless of their ability to pay, according to Wood County Health Commissioner Ben Batey. The district had applied for two projects, one to build a new center and one to renovate existing meeting rooms. The new center was funded. There is also still a chance the health district will receive funds to help pay for dental staffing needs. The health district has been trying for decades to address dental needs. “This is a huge leap forward in meeting this,” Batey said. “It truly will be a benefit to our residents who are uninsured for dental or who have Medicaid, but can’t find a dental provider who will accept them as patients. It will be a whole new challenge, but we look forward to continuing to expand services to give our residents the greatest options for good health.” The dental clinic will be an expansion of the existing Health and Wellness Center that is part of the health district offices at 1840 E. Gypsy Lane Road, Bowling Green. The dental clinic will have at least four patient chairs and will offer full services. “Just like your typical dental office,” Batey said. “It’s very exciting,” said Diane Krill, CEO of the health and wellness center. Krill said the need for dental services is great. “I just think with the community health assessment, it showed there was a dental need here.” Many Wood County families cannot afford dental care for their children, or cannot find dental offices willing to accept Medicaid patients. “We still see a lack of access for those individuals,” Batey said last year. “That’s still a spot where Wood County struggles.” About a decade ago, local officials who cared about public health and about children met at the county health department to discuss the lack of dental care for local children. At that point there was one dentist in the county who freely accepted Medicaid patients. The problem wasn’t an easy fix with a clear culprit. Dentists are reimbursed at a lower rate by Medicaid than through private insurance. And the Medicaid patients often have significant dental needs because they have delayed treatment due to the expense. “That’s the first…


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 and community members. The 25-minute ride went west on Wooster, turned right onto North Grove, left on Conneaut, right onto Fairview, right onto West Merry, right onto North Main Street and then proceeded to the Four Corners, where the group took a right onto Wooster and then a left on South Grove and the green space. The route, Murnen said,…


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 section of the city’s farm acreage. However, to reduce disruption and concerns for neighbors, the solar panels will be constructed in the middle of the acreage, with farmland left on both the east and west ends. However, neighboring farmer Carol Riker expressed concerns about the loss of quality farmland, the route of the transmission lines, noise, lighting and drainage. “We’re…


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 when the air conditioning is running when the boiler is on,” he said. And speaking of the boiler, “Big Bertha,” as she is nicknamed, is “horribly inefficient,” Craft said. He likened the 60-year-old boiler to a Model T car. And like other areas of the city building, officials are reluctant to invest money in updates if the building will be…


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 income tax revenue has been countered by the decrease in Local Government Funds and the elimination of estate taxes. Tretter asked City Finance Director Brian Bushong to characterize the health of the city finances, to which he replied, “the outlook is stable with cautious optimism.” The city has several projects planned for 2016, including utility improvements and other infrastructure work….


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, age, or corrosion. Existing combined sewers were replaced on North Grove, between Wooster and West Evers, and on West Evers, between North Grove and Fairview. A major aim of the city is diversification of electric power sources to remain flexible and cost effective. Part of this strategy is utilizing various forms of renewable energy. To that end, the Utilities Department…