Weston waterline work begins Tuesday

The Northwestern Water and Sewer District will be replacing an existing six-inch diameter waterline on Center Street, from Main Street to Euler Road.  A small portion of waterline along Euler Road will also be replaced.  As part of the project, crews will also replace an existing four-inch waterline in Cygnet on Cygnet Road from I-75 to Elm Street.  The purpose of the project is to improve water quality and fire flow protection.  Work will be performed by Salenbein Trucking and Excavation.  This $338,000project will begin Tuesday, Oct. 2 and continue through December.  Restoration work will take place following substantial completion of the project in December.  This work is weather dependent and may not take place until the spring.  PROJECT IMPACT:  There will be a slight impact to traffic and local traffic to homes will be maintained.  There will also be scheduled water service interruptions.  All impacted homeowners will be notified in advance through door tags or automated phone call.

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$5 license tax goes unchallenged at public hearing

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Talk of raising taxes normally raises the dander of local taxpayers. But when the Wood County Commissioners held a public hearing Thursday morning on a proposed $5 license tax, no one showed up to complain. The commissioners took that as a sign that local residents realize the poor condition of county roads and bridges. The public will have one more chance to voice opinions during the second public hearing on the tax set for May 17, at 10 a.m., in the county commissioners’ hearing room. The new tax was requested by Wood County Engineer John Musteric, who is tired of just spinning his wheels on endless road and bridge repairs. The $5 permissive vehicle license tax will be used only for road and bridge expenses, Musteric said. “Every little bit helps,” he said on Thursday. According to local county officials, state and federal government have no appetite for raising gas taxes themselves. And the revenue brought in by gas taxes isn’t growing to meet expenses, since more fuel-efficient cars mean less gas is needed to traverse the state. But the state has given local governments the option of tacking on the new tax. “They recognized the stagnant funding of local transportation systems and that counties were struggling to keep up with the need for bridge replacements and road repair,” Musteric said. The proposed $5 increase is projected to bring in an additional $632,660 annually for road and bridge repairs. Musteric pledged to the commissioners that the additional funds would be used only on capital expenses, not on personnel or operating costs. Currently the state registration fee is $34.50, and the local permissive fees are between $15 and $20, depending on the community. The federal gas tax of 18.4 cents has not been increased since 1993, and the state gas tax of 28 cents has not been increased since 2005. “Our revenues have been stagnant,” Musteric said. Meanwhile, the cost of building and maintaining roads has continued to grow. Since the last state gas tax increase, the cost of asphalt has jumped 58 percent, steel has increased 35 percent, concrete has gone up 10 percent, and road paint has jumped 38 percent. “So we have to do something,” Musteric said Thursday. To deal with stagnant or declining revenue plus rising costs, some counties have enacted county road and bridge levies. Wood County has not. Some counties have dedicated a portion of their sales tax revenue for roads and bridges. Wood County has not. According to Musteric, the county engineer’s office has tried to do more with less. The office has reduced the number of employees from 52 in 2006 to 44 in 2018. He is also trying to turn over some of the smaller roads to township maintenance, and transfer bridges inside municipalities to their care. The operating budget for the engineer’s office has barely budged since 2006 when it was $7.6 million, to 2017 when it was $7.75 million. Musteric said the county is in an impossible position of catching up on road and bridge repairs. Following are some statistics about county bridges: County owns and maintains 441 bridges. Average age of the bridges is 41 years old. Bridges 50 years old or more: 149. Bridges 75 years old or more: 68….

BG water rates staggered to make easier to swallow

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s water rates are not bringing in enough to keep the water expenses afloat. A rate study by Courtney & Associates has found that revenues need to be hiked by 32 percent by 2022. If approved, those rate increases will be spread out over five years, with a 6 percent bump each year. While the 32 percent hike may sound big, even with the proposed rate increases, Bowling Green’s water rates will be much lower than those in some other communities in the region. The average homeowner currently pays a monthly water bill of $11.46. With the five-year increase, that bill will be $16 a month. That compares to monthly bills more than $50 in Perrysburg, Napoleon and Fremont. Though the total water revenue will need to be boosted by 32 percent over five years, the levels will be different for each category. Residential will be increased 44 percent over that period; commercial and industrial will go up 29 percent; wholesale will increase 28 percent; and hydrant costs will go up 143 percent. John Courtney, who presented the water rate study, said Bowling Green has been able to keep its water rates low because city officials decided years ago to use money from income tax revenues to help fund the city water system. “Your rates are still the lowest on the list,” Courtney told the Board of Public Utilities last week. “That’s awesome,” replied Mike Frost, president of the Board of Public Utilities. But the income tax fund made up 40 percent of the water rate expenses 10 years ago. That shrunk to 33 percent five years ago, and is now about 23 percent. “Your costs are going up,” Courtney said. The city has seen some growth in wholesale water sales to communities outside Bowling Green, but very little growth in water demands in the city. “Your sales have been fairly stable over the last several years,” Courtney said. The city has not increased its water rates since 2016. Meanwhile operating expenses continue to increase. At current rates, the different categories of water customers generate the following annual revenues: Residential, $1,025,800 Commercial/industrial, $2,307,100 Wholesale, $2,178,900 Hydrant, $35,900 The proposed rate changes called for: Phase-in increases over the next five years. Increase rates to result in an increase in revenue of approximately 6 percent each year. Increase the residential customer charge to recover projected billing and collection costs. Transition outside surcharge to 50 percent by test year 2022. “In your case, there’s justification for the outside surcharge because of the income tax,” Courtney said. Following is a breakdown of Bowling Green’s rates compared to other cities in the region. The average monthly water bill for residences in Bowling Green is $11.46. After five years of incremental increases, the average monthly bill will be $16. That compares to current monthly rates of $51.63 in Perrysburg, $50.55 in Napoleon, $50.50 in Fremont, and $19.16 in Findlay. The same is true of commercial water bills. Right now, the average monthly commercial water bill is $58.55 in Bowling Green. Five years of increases will boost that to $80.73 per month. That compares to $202.27 in Napoleon, $172.11 in Perrysburg, $170.34 in Fremont, and $84.82 in Findlay. Likewise with the industrial water bills, which average $567.33 in…

Overweight trucks weigh heavy on minds of county officials

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County roads took a beating from the Rover pipeline construction across the southern part of the county. So Wood County Engineer John Musteric wants to get an overweight truck program in place before more pipeline construction traffic rumbles over county roads and bridges. But while the program will keep an eye on pipeline transports, it was decided that it won’t target farm traffic. The Wood County Commissioners on Tuesday reviewed the proposed fees for an overweight truck program – with the ultimate goal of saving county roads and bridges from unnecessary wear and tear. “This is to protect our assets,” Musteric said. “We’re spending a lot of money to improve these roads and bridges.” At the same time, the engineer’s office is aware of many overweight loads using county roads and bridges. “We hope to God a catastrophe doesn’t happen,” with older bridges being weakened with every heavy load, Musteric said. The county has already posted signs notifying Nexus pipeline construction traffic of the route they are to take north of Bowling Green. The permit program will require the pipeline company to purchase permits for all of its trucks, and will allow the county to issue fines if the trucks stray from the assigned route that can better handle the heavy loads, Musteric said. “They better stay on those routes. They’ve been warned,” Musteric said. “If you get off those routes, you will pay.” The county learned a hard lesson from the Rover pipeline construction in the southern part of the county, Musteric said at a previous meeting. “Rover tore the heck out of the roads,” he said. Though the proposed overweight truck program has been unpopular with some, there are companies ready to pay for their permits, said Shane Johnson, of the county engineer’s office. For Nexus pipeline, the program will require more than 85 permits at a proposed $150 each. “They haven’t batted an eye,” Johnson said. But local farmers don’t feel the same. The initial proposal by the county engineer’s office called for an annual blanket permit for farm equipment of $100 each year. While all the other fees mirror amounts charged by the Ohio Department of Transportation for overweight traffic, the farm fees do not. The commissioners asked that the blanket farm fees be discarded. “You don’t want to be the farm police,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said. Grand Rapids area farmer Dan Potter said there would not be a meeting room big enough for all the unhappy farmers if the county enacted blanket fees. He explained that ODOT exempts all farm equipment driving down the road from overweight fees. No farm equipment weighs more than the maximum allowable weight of 80,000 pounds, Potter said However, some semi-loads of grain may be overweight. But there is no way for farmers to determine the weight of the loads. “We know that coming out of the field it’s impossible to tell,” Johnson said. But Musteric said many farmers can tell if their tractors or trucks are struggling under a heavy load. “They know when it’s overweight,” Musteric said. “I’ve got to believe they know when it’s overweight.” Commissioner Craig LaHote suggested that the new overweight load program information be given to local grain elevators, so they can inform…

Two BG water towers to get fixes and facelifts

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Two of three Bowling Green water towers are about to get facelifts inside and out. That means they may even be spruced up with a color other than the current drab tan. “We may change it up a little bit,” said Brian O’Connell, director of the city’s utility department. The Bowling Green Board of Public Utilities voted Monday evening to do the preliminary work to hire engineering services for the water towers which were built in the 1980s. Both hold 1.5 million gallons. Last year, the western water tower off Mitchell Road, and Carter Park water tower were inspected for maintenance and upgrades, O’Connell said. The 2018 water and sewer capital improvement fund budget included $480,000 for the western water tower work. The 2019 budget will include money for the Carter Park water tower, O’Connell said. The improvements are intended to provide better water quality, extend the useful life of the water towers, and increase the safety accessibility for employees and contractors. Some of the recommended improvements include: Clean, prep and paint the exterior surface. Clean, prep and paint the interior wet and dry surfaces. Install a handrail and rigging rail on the roof. Increase diameter of roof hatch and access tube. Install an access ladder. Add a mixer with THM aeration removal system. The plan is to hire an engineer to prepare drawings and specifications for bidding the project as well as performing inspections of the work. The engineer may also have additional recommendations to consider, O’Connell said. The work is needed due to “normal wear and tear” on the water towers, O’Connell said. The current exterior of both older towers is tan with dark brown lettering reading “Bowling Green” and “Home of BGSU.” The city may consider a different color, similar to the newer water tower constructed on Newton Road. That tower is white with lettering in hunter green, O’Connell said. Bowling Green State University officials will be consulted to see if they have a color preference and if they want the institution to be mentioned on the tower. “That lettering is not cheap,” O’Connell said. “We’ll see how they want to partner on this.” O’Connell said he is familiar with the community mural silhouettes painted on the Perrysburg water tower along Interstate 75. It looks good, but there’s more to consider, O’Connell said. “Cost is an issue,” he said.

Small towns count on big help from block grant funding

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Small town government can be short on glamour, and steeped in talk of storm drains, street repairs and sewer systems. Mayors and other officials from many of Wood County’s 26 municipalities recently made their preliminary pitches to get funding for projects that they cannot afford on their own. Listening to their proposals were officials from the Wood County Planning Commission – which is the first of several steps to get Community Development Block Grants. Dave Steiner, director of the planning commission, said this year’s funding level for the county overall is still unknown. The projects must serve areas with low to moderate income, or eliminate slum or blight conditions. And if communities are able to pitch in some matching dollars, they stand a better chance of getting funds. Bowling Green gets its own pot of CDBG money, but the other municipalities in Wood County compete for the county share. Following is a list of some of the project requests made earlier this month: Bradner: “We’re here to once again replace waterlines,” said Board of Public Affairs President Jim Smith. “All that we are replacing were put in by WPA,” meaning they are at least 80 years old. “As they continue to age, we’re constantly dealing with breakages,” he said. Village leaders would also like to put LED lighting in the town, plus update lighting in the village park. Custar: Mayor Renee Hartman said street improvements are needed on Custar Road, especially where it is damaged by heavy truck traffic near the grain elevator. “We are continuously filling the potholes,” Hartman said. “Very, very poor” sidewalks along Custar Road also need fixing, she said. Grand Rapids: Chad Hoffman, village administrator, said the town needs sanitary sewer work on the west side of the community, and sidewalk repairs throughout the village. Village leaders also plan to ask that Ohio 65 be rerouted out of the town, Hoffman said. “Since ODOT won’t maintain and repair it. Something’s got to be done there.” The wastewater treatment plant needs improvements, and new water regulations are looming. “EPA is telling everyone they need a backup water source. I don’t know where they expect us to find it,” Hoffman said. Haskins: Village Administrator Colby Carroll said funding is needed for the downtown area. “ODOT recrowned Route 64 to the point car doors are scraping the road,” he said. The town also needs an alternate access for the Logan Meadows subdivision, and is interested in building a storm shelter for those residents of the community without basements. North Baltimore: Village Administrator Allyson Murray said funding is needed for street reconstruction in the downtown area and throughout the town. The town needs to replace some waterlines and complete a loop for water stabilization. And funding would be helpful to aid the village in demolition of vacant and abandoned structures. Northwood: City officials would like to improve the intersection at Wales and Tracy roads, come up with a redevelopment plan for the former Woodville Mall, and revitalize the Biltmore and Brighton Gardens subdivisions. In the more distant future, the city wants to widen Wales Road, remove the drainage ditch along the road, and realign Wales Road. Pemberville: Mayor Gordon Bowman said the town was working on repairs to Water Street and College…

Portable scales may be used to deter overweight trucks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County officials tired of roads being beat up by overweight trucks may start using portable scales to snag those heavy loads. Wood County Engineer John Musteric and Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn made a pitch to the county commissioners Thursday morning about setting up an overweight vehicle permit program using scales that can easily be transported throughout the county. The goal isn’t to make money off of permits and fines, Musteric said, but rather to discourage heavy trucks from breaking up county roads. Overweight truck traffic is increasing on interstates, so it’s only natural that to reach their destinations, those trucks have to use smaller county and township roads. While most trucking companies get permits with ODOT for overweight loads, they often neglect to get permits at the local level, Musteric said. Last year, Ohio issued 367,332 permits for overweight trucks. When detailing their routes, those trucking companies identified 46,034 loads that traveled through Wood County. Yet only 57 permits were issues for Wood County, Musteric said. The legal limit on Ohio roads is 80,000 pounds. Some of the heavy trucks weigh as much as 165,000 pounds. “Some of those people aren’t going to be happy,” Wasylyshyn said. Permits can be purchased per truck, per route traveled. “If they get off that route, and they get nailed, they pay hefty fines,” Musteric said. But Musteric stressed the goal isn’t to make money, but to control which roads overweight trucks travel. “Believe me, this is not a money grab for us,” he told the commissioners. The county’s roads and bridges are in “dire straits” and suffer from heavy loads. So part of the permitting program will be educational – with efforts made to direct overweight traffic to more suitable routes. The sheriff and engineer suggested that Wood County use portable scales as part of that educational process. “ODOT has three portable scales just waiting to be used, at no cost,” Musteric said. Construction of the Rover pipeline across southern Wood County has taught the engineer’s office a painful lesson, Musteric said. “Rover tore the heck out of the roads,” the engineer said. Signs have already been posted to keep Nexus pipeline construction trucks on roads that are better able to handle the heavy loads. “They better stay on those routes. They’ve been warned,” Musteric said. “If you get off those routes, you will pay.” A sheriff’s deputy could be trained to use the scales, which can handle trucks with up to 15 axles. The sheriff’s office gets complaints about trucks suspected of carrying heavy loads. A dump truck heaped high with stone is likely too heavy for local roads, Wasylyshyn said. “You can pretty much guarantee that truck is overweight,” he said. But without scales, his deputies can’t prove the truck is in violation. “I do get a lot of complaints about overweight trucks,” Wasylyshyn said. “But there’s very little I can do.” The sheriff also has safety concerns, since trucks designed to handle 80,000 pounds, but carrying 160,000 pounds, cannot stop or make turns as expected. Trucks under the 80,000 pound weight limit will not need to buy permits. And there is a 7.5 percent leeway allowed for farm trucks. “The whole idea is to educate our drivers,” Wasylyshyn said. “It’s…