Leontis pushes for fire inspections of rental properties

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Neocles Leontis wants renters in Bowling Green to know the city has no required fire inspections for apartments. “There is no legal requirement in BG for fire safety inspection or health inspection of older houses that have been divided up into apartments before they are put on the market for rental,” Leontis said during the public participation time at City Council Monday evening. “There is also no requirement that electrical wiring in older rental properties meet modern electrical codes,” he said. “Thus, many older properties in BG lack proper grounding, posing hazards for electrical shock or electrical fires.” Leontis, a chemistry professor at Bowling Green State University, said he became aware of the situation when some of his students complained about a house they were renting. He advised them to request a fire safety inspection by the city fire division. The inspection found 13 violations, he said. “The electrical hazards constitute an immediate fire hazard and shock hazard to the occupants,” Leontis said, reading from the fire division report. “The electrical service and interior wiring are sub-standard and must be upgraded.” Since the city has no fire inspection requirements, there is no way to know if similar problems exist in other older rentals, he said. “How many other renters find themselves in similar situations? At present we have no way of knowing because the city does not require landlords to register their properties or to subject them to regular inspections to prove that they conform to basic standards of human habitation,” Leontis said. Leontis said his step-daughter was awoken by the fire division in 2011 when a fire started in an apartment next to hers. It was discovered the water heaters in the building were located in the bedroom closets of each apartment. “At the time, I was unaware that there is no requirement for regular fire safety inspections in BG, and it did not occur to me to request a fire report to find out whether the owners had been cited for fire violations that led to the fire,” he said. Leontis said he recently asked for a copy of that fire report, but was told the fire reports are destroyed after five years. He asked that City Council request all fire reports be saved electronically, and put online for the public to view. “In this age of electronic reports, there is no reason to throw away historical reports that can help us to understand the nature and extent of the problems we have to solve,” Leontis…

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Driving New Year’s revelers home helps keep party-goers safe

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News At the exact moment many people in Bowling Green were toasting in the new year, volunteers were driving home a young woman too drunk to stand on her own. Donna Foster spotted the woman downtown being propped up by her friends. So Dennis Gaster swung the van around to go back to offer help. The woman was too wasted to know what was happening. But her two friends jumped at the chance to get a free ride home to their apartment complex on Napoleon Road. “You will really take us home for free,” one of her friends asked. “You guys are awesome.” The three piled into the van, and a plastic garbage bag was pulled out in case the one woman became sick again. Foster chatted with the passengers – without a hint of judgment. “You sweet angel,” she said to the drunk woman. Foster and Gaster offered to take the group to the hospital rather than to their apartment, but they declined. Foster cautioned the friends to not leave their intoxicated roommate alone – and they agreed. This New Year’s Eve was the sixth time for Foster, and the first for Gaster, to help with the Safe Communities program that offers free rides to people who shouldn’t be driving home themselves. “It’s nice to take them home and know that they’re safe,” Foster said as she and Gaster headed to their next call. The calls were coming in quickly after midnight – one person at Domino’s Pizza, three behind Jimmy John’s, four at Taco Bell, two at a laundromat, two behind the library, and another four at Quarter’s Bar. By the end of the night – around 4 a.m. – the volunteers in van had taken home 83 partiers. The heaviest requests for rides came between 2 and 3 a.m. The only calls rejected are for people who want to be transported from one party or bar to another. “Sometimes they want us to take them to a party, but we can’t do that,” Foster said. “We have to get them home safe.” From their Napoleon Road drop, Foster and Gaster were called to a party on Hunter Court, over in the “bird streets” neighborhood. There they picked up a young couple – the girl with a sparkly New Year’s Eve tiara on her head, and the boy carrying a crockpot. “Hi guys. Did you have a nice party?” Foster asked, striking up a conversation. “What’s in the crockpot?” she asked. Buffalo chicken dip, the boy replied….

Safe Communities warns about holiday driving dangers

From SAFE COMMUNITIES OF WOOD COUNTY Safe Communities of Wood County announced today that there have been 13 fatal crashes in Wood County, compared to the 13 last year at this time. This is a number that is completely preventable. *** This holiday season, Safe Communities is teaming up with U.S Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to remind all drivers about the dangers of drinking and driving. With the holiday festivities and extra office parties taking place, it’s essential to plan a sober ride home before ever leaving for the event. This holiday, as you head out for a night of merrymaking, remember: Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving.The holidays should be a time for celebrations and make memories, not a time of nightmares for families. Unfortunately, alcohol at many holiday events contributes to the number of impaired drivers on our roadways. Spread the message: Even one drink is one drink too many. If you feel buzzed, you are already drunk.Remember these tips to avoid an OVI and keep our roads safe: Remember it is never okay to drive drunk. Even if you’ve had only one alcoholic beverage. Plan Ahead! You know whether you’ll attend a party. If you plan to drink, plan for a sober driver to take you home. Is it your turn to be the designated driver? Take your role seriously – Your friends are relying on you! Download NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app, available on Google Play for Android devices, and Apple’s iTunesStore for iOS devices. SaferRide allows users to call a taxi or a predetermined friend and identifies the user’s location so he or she can be picked up. Have a friend who is about to drink and drive? Take the keys away and make arrangements to get your friend home safely.

BG budget flat – so nothing flashy planned for 2019

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ideally, budget forecasts should not look like abstract art. But despite a couple funds showing diverging lines, Bowling Green’s city budget is pretty solid – almost boring. And boring is good. “I think this is a really solid budget,” City Council President Mike Aspacher said last week at a city finance meeting. “There’s not a lot of glamorous ideas,” but it does maintain core services and plans ahead for future projects, he said. Mayor Dick Edwards agreed the 2019 budget wasn’t flashy, but could be described as a “continuation type budget.” City Council and department heads gathered last week for a presentation on next year’s budget by Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter. “The revenue for 2019 in the general fund is flat,” Tretter said. The end of some grant funding was balanced out by an increase seen from the new garbage/recycling fee, income tax revenue being up a bit, a workers compensation refund, and interest income which “continues to come in very well.” The proposed revenue for the city’s general fund in 2019 is $16.4 million. The projected expenses are greater, at $16.6 million. The general fund balance expected in 2019 is $3.1 million – lower than the city’s targeted fund balance of $4.1 million. But Tretter assured council members that the city will not need to make cuts in core services. “We will be able to continue maintaining the core services of the community,” she said. City officials also plan to provide funding for some expenses suggested in the new Community Action Plan, for items like a zoning ordinance review, and microgrants to the community. And the city continues to put aside some money in each annual budget for 2021, when the city will have 27 rather than 26 pay periods. Tretter said the city is not creating any new employee positions for next year. However, she mentioned that the city expects several retirements next year – especially in the police and fire divisions. The city hired several fire and police employees in the 1990s after the passage of a couple safety levies. Some of those employees are now reaching retirement age. The positions will be replaced, she said. Tretter also talked about various city funds. The street construction and maintenance fund is “particularly challenging to us.” The graph showed a “big red spike” last year for a paving program, followed by flat revenue and a decreased balance. The parks and recreation fund is being affected by plans to demolish older buildings in City Park and replace…

Bus safety – dealing with defiant & distracted motorists

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Local bus drivers fear their routes are just accidents waiting to happen. One driver, whose route travels U.S. 20, decided to keep track one year of the vehicles that illegally passed her bus when it was stopped for students. “I quit counting at 77,” she said. Bowling Green school bus drivers have reported 44 motorists illegally passing so far this year. Perrysburg has reported 38. “It’s just a blatant disregard for the law,” one bus driver said. State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, met on Friday with local school superintendents, school transportation directors and bus drivers at Bowling Green High School. Gardner had heard concerns about drivers illegally passing stopped buses, and decided to talk to the people who deal with it daily. “We ought to talk to the people on the roads,” he said. Attending the meeting were representatives of Bowling Green, Eastwood, Elmwood, Otsego, Lake, Perrysburg, Rossford and Anthony Wayne school districts. They discussed changes that might make drivers more likely to comply with the law – stiffer penalties, cameras catching them in the act, or more education. School buses are a safe mode of transportation, according to the National Highway Safety Board, Gardner said. School buses log about 5.7 billion miles a year, and are 50 to 70 times safer than other forms of transportation, he said. “It’s the safest way to transfer your children to school and home again,” Gardner said. However, defiant and distracted drivers sharing the road are posing risks for buses. “Obviously, it’s a nationwide problem. Everybody here knows it,” said Toby Snow, transportation director for Bowling Green City Schools. Bus drivers talked about motorists that speed up to pass buses preparing to stop. “They don’t want to wait, so they increase their speed and run your yellow lights,” one driver said. Another driver said it’s almost a daily problem – and she’s too busy watching the road and children to identify the offending vehicles. “I don’t have time to look at that license plate.” The offenders range in age from 16 to 96. They pass stopped buses on sunny days and snowy days. “Motorists are just not following the law,” Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci said. Gardner, the administrators and the drivers discussed ways to reduce the incidents – whether through equipping the buses with more cameras and lights, passing legislation that would increase penalties for repeat offenders, or doing more to educate drivers. So far, Bowling Green is the only local district that has installed the exterior cameras…

Safe Communities urges caution as time changes

From SAFE COMMUNITIES OF WOOD COUNTY Safe Communities announced today that there have been 11 fatal crashes to date compared to the 13 last year at this time. *** As the end of the year approaches, we are now reaching the time of the year everyone enjoys Daylight Savings Time. However, this one-hour change may have negative effects when it comes to road safety. According to the National Safety Council, the risk of being in a fatal crash is three times greater at night. Therefore, with night approaching sooner and the days getting shorter, please take extra caution when driving in the dark. Along with being more cautious at night, every driver should know the warning signs of, and how to avoid, drowsy driving. Having trouble keeping your head up, nodding off, veering into another lane or onto the rumble strip, and frequent yawning — are all signals that you are too drowsy to drive safely. Drowsy driving is estimated to contribute to 1.2 million collisions annually, resulting in potentially 5,000 to 8,000 fatalities per year. Despite these risks, experts agree that drowsy driving is far too prevalent. Lack of sleep slows reaction time, impairs judgment, and increases the risk of dozing off while driving. As we fall back and head towards winter, follow these tips to reduce accidents after the clocks change: • Keep your regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time you normally would, so you can benefit from that extra hour of sleep. • Before you pull out of the driveway, clean your headlights, brake lights and signal lights. • Give yourself plenty of time, time to get where you need or want to go. • Approach all crosswalks, intersections and transit stops with caution, as it will be harder to see pedestrians and cyclists • Heed the speed limits and adjust your speed accordingly to the weather conditions. • Maintain a safe following distance so you’re prepared to react under any situation

BG school bus cameras catch people passing illegally

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   School buses in Bowling Green are now equipped with their own type of red-light cameras. So far this school year, at least 19 vehicles have illegally passed Bowling Green City School buses stopped for picking up or dropping off children. So the district is investing in cameras mounted on the bus exteriors to catch drivers illegally passing stopped buses. Wednesday morning, Bowling Green City Schools Transportation Director Toby Snow stood outside Kenwood Elementary as the buses conducted annual emergency evacuation drills during National Bus Safety Week. But Snow is aware that one of the biggest threats comes from other vehicles sharing the road with school buses. About three years ago, the district put external cameras on three buses that were experiencing the most problems with red light runners. But then the number of vehicles running past stopped buses jumped this year, Snow said. He reported 18 to the school board earlier this month. That number has since grown to 19. “I just decided it’s a good thing to see from all of them,” Snow said of buying additional cameras. So far, 11 buses are equipped with the cameras – which cost about $750 each. Seven more cameras are on order. The district has a total of 20 school buses that carry about 1,300 students to and from school each day. The law requires drivers to stop for school buses when the red lights are on and the stop sign is extended on the side of the bus. Vehicles are required to stop at least 10 feet away from the bus. The bus drivers put yellow lights on first to warn drivers that a bus stop is approaching. If the bus is on a four-lane road, just the vehicles headed the same direction as the bus are required to stop. Bus drivers are asked to identify the vehicle, license plate and give a description of the driver for vehicles passing them illegally. But that is asking too much for drivers who are also watching a busload of children, Snow said. “It’s almost impossible,” he said. So the cameras help do the job. They are mounted at an angle so they catch license plates of passing vehicles. “We’ve had them catching them as fast as 50 mph,” Snow said. And they are able to capture license plates in daylight or darkness. “The driver can now concentrate on the children,” he said. Bowling Green is not alone having problems with drivers not stopping for buses. “It’s a nationwide issue.” Earlier…