Wood County

Wood County honors 12 officers who died in line of duty

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News As local official gathered to honor law enforcement members Wednesday, they listened to the story of the first law man gunned down in Wood County more than a century ago. Standing on the steps of the Wood County Courthouse, Wood County Common Pleas Judge Matthew Reger talked about the first jury trial held in the courthouse in 1896. The case involved Thomas Jones – who was found guilty of murdering North Baltimore officer Jesse Baker. Jones and a couple other men of low moral standing had already robbed some safes in Jerry City. “Remember, this was an area flush with oil,” Reger said. While that oil created economic development, “it also attracted a criminal element,” the judge said. After safe-cracking in Jerry City, Jones and the two other men set their sights on the post office in North Baltimore. Newspaper accounts differ as to whether the men intended to steal postage stamps or break into the safe. But during the nighttime heist, a postal employee happened upon the robbery. The three men ran, and the postal worker found officer Jesse Baker, who was patrolling Main Street in North Baltimore. Baker, age 35, had been on the night watchman job for just six months, but he had his trusty canine with him – a bulldog named Jack. Baker found the culprits and ordered his dog to attack. Jack was able to bite Jones, but was then shot and killed by the man. Jones then turned his gun on Baker. The first two shots missed the officer, but the third went through his left eye, Reger said. Realizing he was mortally wounded, Baker asked to be taken home to his wife. He died about three hours later, around 5 a.m. Colors presented at law enforcement memorial service A manhunt ensued for Jones and the other two men, who were found outside Findlay. The jury found Jones guilty of murder. Reger reflected that Baker likely had little training, and no firearm. Yet he was committed to his job of protecting his community. “Jesse Baker is the first known officer killed in the line of duty in Wood County,” the judge said. “That is that same dedication I have seen from law enforcement every day.” Though they face circumstances where their lives are in peril, law enforcement officers do not buckle, he said. “Police officers remain stalwart…

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Charter Steel – maker of giant ‘Slinkies’ – is county corporate citizen of year

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Tucked away in the southeast corner of Wood County is manufacturer making giant rolls of steel rods. “Many of you’ve seen our product. They look like ‘Slinkies’ in the back of trucks,” said Brian Holzaepfel, operations manager of Charter Steel. Each of those “Slinkies” weighs between 4,500 and 5,600 pounds. The company, located off U.S. 23 near Risingsun, has been named Wood County Corporate Citizen of the Year for 2019. The company, which moved to Wood County in 2000, was recognized during the annual dinner meeting of the Wood County Economic Development Commission Thursday evening. Wood County Economic Development Commission dinner meeting Charter Steel first moved here to set up a distribution center in order to better serve its customers in the Midwest with just-in-time deliveries. But it has become so much more, Holzaepfel said as he accepted the award. As of last year, the Charter Steel location in Wood County had 130 employees working in the 365,000 square foot plant. The site processed 512,097 tons of steel, and shipped 201,954 tons of the steel rods. “The continued drive for growth is very apparent in the Charter Steel company,” Holzaepfel said. The local facility is equipped with a chemical cleaning line, mechanical descaling, annealing furnaces and wire-drawing equipment to clean, anneal, draw, coat and distribute hot-rolled coils from Charter Steel’s rolling mills. When introducing the company, Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw noted the firm was a fourth generation privately held company. Established in 1936, one of the company’s founders was instrumental in creating Frigidaire, the first self-contained refrigerator. “They have always been a forward thinking company,” Herringshaw said. Charter Steel The company has revenues exceeding $1.1 billion, and employs more than 2,150 people in 11 locations. Charter Steel is known for placing great trust in their employees, and not requiring them to punch a timeclock, she said. The company is the leading producer of wire rod in the U.S. “We are a growth organization with a strong emphasis on customer intimacy and employee engagement,” Holzaepfel said. The company has a philosophy in teamwork and trust, and invests in ideas presented by employees. “We empower them so they can make changes and have an impact.” Charter Steel also believes in safety, one of the company owners stated in a video shown at Thursday’s program. “We want every worker to go home the same way…


Veterans memorial area to be expanded on courthouse grounds

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Wood County officials and veterans believe those who gave their lives for their country deserve better. So nearly two decades after it was first proposed, plans are underway to expand the veterans memorial area in front of the Wood County Courthouse. Though the plans aren’t completed, and the fundraising has yet to begin, a preliminary proposal for the area was presented Thursday to the county commissioners by Rob Eaton, head of courthouse complex security, and Steve Blausey, head of county maintenance. “It’s such a small area out there, they can’t hold ceremonies,” Eaton said of veterans groups. “We want a presentable, honorable area.” Some of the monuments to veterans are quite worn by the weather, and some recent wars are not recognized in the current memorial area on the west corner of the lawn in front of the courthouse. Eaton and Blausey hope the project can be completed in time for the county’s bicentennial in 2020. The estimated cost for the project is $300,000. The preliminary plans call for the cleaning and moving of the existing monuments on the grounds, plus the addition of others. The memorial area will remain on the west side of courthouse front lawn, but will be expanded. A retaining wall with wrought iron fence is proposed along the North Prospect Street sidewalk. Lining that area will be six monuments – one for Civil War veterans, one for World War I and World War II, one for the Korean War, one for the Vietnam War, and one for Persian Gulf wars. Space will be left for a memorial to future wars. Currently there is no monument for post 9/11 veterans. “We need to honor those veterans,” Eaton said. “And we need the ability to expand. Unfortunately, there will be future conflicts.” Further to the east in the veterans memorial area will be a Gold Star memorial and the Congressional Medal monument. Benches are planned along the sidewalk leading to the courthouse, and a couple picnic tables are planned for under the large tree near the courthouse. “We’re saving the big tree,” Blausey told the commissioners. The city arborist inspected the tree and said it’s good for another 50 years, he added. However, some of the smaller ornamental trees will have to be removed. Plans call for the entire memorial area to be concrete, possibly stamped or colored. “It’s going…


What drives you crazy as you drive local roads – planners want to know

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Local motorists had the chance to vent about issues that drive them crazy as they drive through Wood and Lucas counties. Maybe it’s traffic congestion or getting stuck at railroad crossings. Maybe it’s potholes or not enough public transportation. Every five years, the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments updates its long-range transportation plan. But in order to do that, the organization needs to hear from the public. So on Thursday, a meeting was held at the Wood County District Public Library for anyone wanting to talk transportation. To keep up with transportation needs, the region must have public input, patience in the process, and more funding to design and construct infrastructure. All seem to be in short supply at times. Maps lined the room, showing some of the transportation issues tracked by TMACOG, such as: Top 50 crash intersections in the two counties. Among those were the intersections at Wooster and Main streets, and at Gypsy Lane and South Main streets in Bowling Green, plus Roachton Road and Ohio 199 in Perrysburg Township.Top 50 crash sections of roads, which included a section of Ohio 25 between Roachton and Eckel Junction; East Wooster Street from Dunbridge to Mercer roads in Bowling Green; Ohio 51 in Lake Township; Ohio 420 from the turnpike to Genoa Road; and Superior Street between Glenwood and Oregon roads in Rossford.The most congested roadways, which include Main Street and Wooster Street in Bowling Green, and U.S. 20 from Lime City to Perrysburg.Roadways with high percentages of daily commercial vehicle traffic, including U.S. 6, Ohio 199 and Interstate 75.Railways crossing the region.Bike trails and lanes.Sidewalks.Public transit options, including TARTA and Perrysburg Transit. The long range plan addresses all these modes of transportation. “In order for it to be a successful plan, we really need input,” said Dana Doubler, transportation planner with TMACOG. The planners also need patience – since some projects take decades to complete. “This is a starting point,” Doubler said. “It’s getting your foot in the door.” “None of these projects happen overnight,” said David Gedeon, vice president of transportation at TMACOG. “They take a long time to develop.” But lately, the question has been where the money will come from for big transportation projects. “There is no money for major new projects,” the Ohio Department of Transportation has been telling entities, Gedeon said. “They didn’t even take…


Wall of ice closes Buttonwood Park through walleye season

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News After viewing photographs of a massive ice wall towering over park staff, the Wood County Park District Board voted unanimously Tuesday to keep Buttonwood Park closed until further notice. The park, located along the Maumee River in Perrysburg Township, is a popular fishing spot during the annual walleye run every spring. But it looks like anglers will have to find other places to cast their lines this year. “There’s a lot of ice there and it’s going to take a long time to melt,” Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger told the board as he showed them photos of the ice bank covering much of the park. The ice came on shore last month when high winds and frigid conditions pushed massive ice floes into the park along the Maumee River. Township road crews have cleared a lane into the park – just wide enough for a pickup truck to squeeze through, Munger said. Many of the trees in the park have had their bark rubbed off by the ice chunks. “A lot of trees are scarred,” Munger said. “There’s no doubt we’re going to be losing some trees this year.” Some whole trees were swept away by the ice and are now part of the ice wall left behind. “It’s just kind of an eerie feeling out there,” he said. Park staff walks along shore, with ice bank towering over them. Munger estimated it would be May or June before the ice bank melts. The rain that has fallen recently has just frozen into the ice wall. The ice masses also took out the parking area at Buttonwood Park. “We pretty much lost the parking lot. The gravel was washed out,” he said. And the ice chunks bent the steel sign for the park. “The ice just really ripped it apart,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to be done.” And it can’t be finished in time for walleye season this spring, Munger said. “We’ve closed the park for the time being,” he said. After seeing photos of the damage and the lingering ice masses, the board made it official that no one should use the park until the board decides otherwise. “Anyone who goes down there will be trespassing,” he said. Walleye fisherman will likely be upset, but the site is just not safe, the board agreed. Munger also…


Wood County on solid footing – bond rating bumped to Aa1

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News The Wood County Commissioners have achieved an enviable ranking – moving from an already respectable Aa2 ranking to an Aa1 rating from Moody’s Investors Service. Thanks to the county’s cash reserves, large and diverse tax base, and low debt burden, Moody’s made the decision to upgrade the county just this week. That’s the best rating ever achieved by the county, and will put the county in a favorable position with investors. “It’s great news for the county,” Wood County Auditor Matt Oestreich said. Helping to bump up the county’s rating was the new pipeline tax revenue coming into the county. Rover Pipeline recently became the largest taxpayer in the county, with an assessed value of $57.5 million. “A diverse tax base is great for everybody,” Oestreich said. This was just one of many positive pieces of news shared Wednesday at the annual State of the County Address, sponsored by the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce and held in the county courthouse atrium. Commissioners Doris Herringshaw, Ted Bowlus and Craig LaHote recognized the continued solid strength of the county. “Wood County has remained fiscally strong due to our continued conservative approach to budgeting which ensures that there are sufficient resources to cover all of the county’s mandated services for citizens,” Herringshaw said. Last year, sales tax revenues brought in a record amount just shy of $22 million. The county adopted a budget of $46.4 million, which was about $1.8 million more than the previous year. “Wood County has been financially resilient due to responsible spending and the cooperation of the elected officials, along with growth in sales tax revenue,” she said. “This has allowed us to pay cash for certain capital projects instead of borrowing.” Wood County Commissioners Ted Bowlus, Craig LaHote and Doris Herringshaw at State of the County Wednesday morning The county commissioners presented several updates to those filling the atrium. Roads and bridges The county is trying to invest more in road and bridge maintenance, LaHote explained. Two actions have been taken in the past year – increasing the county’s vehicle license fee by $5 and creating an overweight vehicle program. The license fee increase is bringing in about $650,000 more a year. The commissioners are sending about $6.5 million more toward roads and bridges, including $2.1 million from the general fund, $1.8 million from building inspection, $300,000 in conveyance fees…


Wood County working on countywide Code Red alert system

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Starting today, Wood County has a countywide “Code Red” alert system. But it will take months before the system is completely up and running. The county commissioners voted Thursday to fund a portion of the phone alert system. At the request of Wood County Emergency Management Agency Director Brad Gilbert, the commissioners agreed to pay $23,000 for the system. The total cost for the system is $46,000 – so the other half will be picked up by entities already paying for the system individually that are now joining the countywide alert system. The alerts will notify local residents of such events as bad weather headed this way or a hazardous material incident in their area, Gilbert said. Wood County is one of just a few Ohio counties that don’t already have a countywide notification system, Gilbert said last November when the idea was first introduced to the county commissioners.. All landlines in the county will automatically be hooked up for the Code Red alerts. Cell phone users will have to register for the notifications. People will also be able to choose different options of which alerts they wish to receive. That means it will take several months before the new areas not already served by Code Red will get notifications. A public information push will be made to spread the word about the program. “It’s going to be a slow roll out,” Gilbert said. The seven governmental entities that are already using Code Red are Northwestern Water and Sewer District, Perrysburg City, Perrysburg Township, Rossford, Lake Township, Walbridge and Pemberville. Those entities already had separate contracts with Onsolve Communication, the company providing Code Red alerts. So by teaming up with the county, it will not only augment the service but also reduce their costs, Gilbert said. The program will also be opened up to any other municipality or township that wants to join to post their own alerts. Those communities that become “sub-users” of the Code Red system can activate alerts on their own for residents in their area. The system can be used for non-emergency, yet helpful information such as notification of leaf collections or road closures. The system also has the benefit of allowing “geocoding,” so the alerts can be sent out to very specific areas. In the case of weather or hazardous material incidents, the alerts can go out to…