Infrastructure

Gas smell forces evacuation of downtown BG businesses (updated)

Several businesses in the 100 block South Main Street in downtown Bowling Green have been evacuated because of a heavy odor of gas. They include Coyote Beads, Grounds for Thought, and Lahey Appliance & TV. (The businesses were back in operation on Friday.) Owners of all three said Columbia Gas teams were in their stores working on gas lines today. Laura Wicks, of Grounds for Thought, said that she noticed the smell shortly before 6 p.m. A Columbia Gas employee was on the scene, and told her and Gayle Walterbach of Coyote Beads that he needed to call in more help to handle the problem. Both women were complaining of headaches. Patrons from Grounds for Thought were waiting outside both in the front and rear of the businesses. Columbia Gas is in the process of replacing gassiness throughout the downtown.

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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…


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…


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…


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…


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…


Wood County looking at rough roads and old bridges

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s got some rough roads ahead, not to mention some bridges long overdue on being replaced. Wood County Engineer John Musteric took his road show to the crowded courthouse atrium Tuesday for the State of the County address. “It’s not good,” he told the crowd. The county has 245 miles of roads to maintain, plus 441 bridges with an average age of 41 years. More than 20 bridges have passed the century mark, with the granddaddy of them all being the 133-year-old bridge on Custar Road south of Sand Ridge Road. “We’re way behind, way behind,” Musteric said. Musteric drew a quick road map for the audience. Nearly three-quarters of the county’s roads are rated marginal or lower. Nearly half of those are ranked as poor or serious. Bringing those roads up to fair condition would cost an estimated $39 million. The county engineer’s office is studying pavement preservation practices. The lifespan of average pavement is 25 years. To catch up, the county would need to pave 35 miles every year – costing about $10.3 million each year. Instead, the county is spending about $1.1 million a year on paving. The county roads and bridges are at a crisis, Musteric said after the public address. “We’ve been in a crisis mode for a long time. We’ve got so much to take care of and maintain.” The engineer’s office is planning to draw the line at paving roads that have crumbling culverts underneath. Since there are about 2,500 culverts in the county, that could add up to quite a few road miles. When it comes to bridges, the county plans to replace four this year, costing about $1.2 million. That is just a drop in the bucket, with 441 bridges in Wood County. More than half are over 50 years old, and 52 bridges are ranked in poor or worse shape. The cost to replace those 52 would add up to $20.8 million, Musteric said. At the pace the county is going, it would take 90 years to replace all the bridges. The big roadblock to paving and bridge repairs is the lack of funding. The county engineer’s office gets funding from the state gas tax, license plate fees and a smaller portion from traffic fines. “It’s…