Wood County

Wood County ‘park rangers’ changed to ‘park police’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The shouted command, “Stop, park ranger,” just doesn’t carry the same authority as “Stop, police.” For that reason and others, the Wood County Park District’s rangers asked the park board Tuesday to change their title from rangers to police officers. The park board voted unanimously to do so. In the past, the county park rangers had law enforcement and maintenance roles. That has changed, and the rangers now perform strictly law enforcement duties. The park rangers are certified Ohio Peace Officers, and the name change would clarify their authority. “In making this change, we are hoping to clarify exactly what we do as certified peace officers working in the park district, and to help our employees, visitors and neighbors feel more secure while being in or near our properties,” the rangers’ proposal stated. “As rangers, we constantly encounter people who have no idea what a park ranger is or that we are law enforcement officers,” the proposal continued. “We have had people question our need for carrying a gun, if we have the same authority as law enforcement, and challenge us when we try to enforce park rules and laws.” The rangers also said when working with multiple agencies and dispatchers, it takes time to explain their authority. When rangers formally make a criminal charge in court, they sometimes have to remind court employees that they are certified peace officers. “We believe that because of the public’s inability to distinguish exactly what we are or what we do, eventually an incident may escalate the need for force and thus escalate the liability of the park district,” their proposal stated. Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger said Delaware County’s park system has changed the title of its rangers to police. “It clears up any vagueness to what their responsibility is,” Munger said. Ranger Mark Reef agreed. “This is so the public can identify that we have law enforcement authority.” Toledo Metroparks still refers to its officers as rangers, according to Scott Carpenter, head of public relations for the metroparks. “We like them being called rangers,” Carpenter said, adding that the officers do more than protect people, by also looking out for nature. Carpenter also noted that all national parks are patrolled by park rangers, not park police. Wood County Park District Chief Ranger Todd Nofzinger said the name change will not change the rangers’ roles. “It doesn’t change what we do. It doesn’t change our daily duties,” Nofzinger said. Board member Sandy Wiechman had a few logistical…

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County worried about taxpayer fatigue impact on levy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Concern about taxpayer fatigue has led to a request that the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services Board reconsider its proposed levy. The Wood County Commissioners have asked the board to consider other options for its November ballot issue. “We just want to make sure that what they put on the ballot, people will be in favor of,” Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said on Wednesday. “Our concern is – what if it doesn’t pass?” The ADAMHS board had asked that a 1.3-mill replacement levy be place on the ballot. In order for the issue to appear before the voters, the county commissioners have to certify the need for the levy millage. Last month, Tom Clemons, the executive director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, made his pitch to the county commissioners for the agency’s levy request. At that point, Herringshaw said that the commissioners had to discuss the levy request. “We want to make sure it is the right fit for Wood County and for the ADAMHS board,” Herringshaw said. The current 1-mill levy generates about $2.9 million. The levy replacement plus addition of 0.3 mills would bring in an additional $1.3 million. According to a letter from Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar to Clemons, the commissioners aren’t rejecting the request for the 1.3-mill levy. However, they would like the ADAMHS Board to consider other options. Those options, according to the letter, plus the original request are: 1.3-mill replacement levy for 10 years, which would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 approximately $45.50 a year. 1-mill replacement levy for 10 years, which would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $35 a year. Replacement levy at an amount between 1 mill and 1.3 mills for 10 years. Two separate levies, with one being a 1-mill replacement levy for 10 years, plus a new levy of 0.3 mills for five years. That lower levy would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $10.50 annually. If the opiate crisis is still creating a big demand for services after five years, the ADAMHS Board can put that small levy back on the ballot, the letter stated. Clemons said the additional funding is needed to keep up with growing needs for services. Some of the biggest issues include dealing with the opiate epidemic, providing more mental health housing, and improving crisis intervention services. At the same time as seeing rising costs for services, ADAMHS is…


New dental site won’t turn away uninsured patients

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   By the end of this year, people without dental insurance will have a place to turn for help in Wood County. “To be able to finally offer services is huge for us,” Wood County Health Commissioner Ben Batey said as he prepared for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new dental services expansion to Wood County Health Department’s Community Health Center. The dental clinic will have five exam chairs, offering services such as X-rays, minor surgeries and preventative care. Community health assessments have repeatedly shown unmet dental needs as a top health problem for local residents. The health department was able to secure nearly $900,000 from the federal government to cover the construction costs for the facility that extends off the east end of the health department at 1840 E. Gypsy Lane Road, Bowling Green. More than 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 – Dr. Jack Whittaker. 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. They often wait till the pain is unbearable, and the cost is escalated. Since then, the county offered a Band-Aid solution that has been a lifesaver to some residents. Once a month, the Smile Express parked its RV-size mobile dental unit outside the Wood County Health District to treat patients who otherwise would go without care. Though it made a difference in many lives, it was just scratching the surface of the unmet dental needs in the county. Every time the health district conducted an assessment of the county, the lack of dental services for low income residents ranked high on the list of needs. Wood County was not alone. In 2015, dental care was the top unmet health care need for nearly 157,400 children of all family incomes across the state, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Almost 486,000 children in the state lacked dental insurance, and nearly 340,000 had never been to a dentist. In Wood County that same year, 21 percent of children had not had a dental appointment in the past year, while more than 9 percent had never been to the dentist. Tooth decay is the…


Wood Lane makes preliminary pitch for November levy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Many groups come to the Wood County Commissioners to get the board’s blessing before putting a levy on the countywide ballot. Very few are able to report that they will be asking for lower millage than in the past. Wood Lane Superintendent Brent Baer explained the situation to the county commissioners on Thursday. Over the last decade, the agency serving people with developmental disabilities has been able to trim back its levy collections. The board has rolled back its current 2.95-mill levy on multiple years – including collecting just 50 percent of the millage this year. However, more people with developmental disabilities are seeking more services to live their lives. That means the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities will likely be on the ballot this November. But instead of going for the same millage, Wood Lane will likely ask for a lower amount, possibly 2.45 mills. “We believe that allows us to be fiscally responsible” and continue to provide quality services, Baer said to the commissioners. The Wood Lane board will discuss the millage at its June 21 meeting, then come back to the county commissioners to get their blessing for the ballot. “Your services certainly do make a difference to families in Wood County,” Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said. “We hear that over and over.” As of earlier this year, Wood Lane was serving 1,007 people. Broken down into age groups, those served are: 114 age 0-2; 95 age 3-5; 316 age 6-22; 171 age 22-30; 124 age 31-40; 74 age 41-50; 86 age 51-64; 27 age 65 and older. Baer explained that Wood Lane has seen “significant growth” in those being served, especially among the very young. “We start at birth with early intervention services,” he said. More people needing services means more staff to serve them. “We’ve had pretty significant growth in the overall level of staff,” Baer said. More early intervention is needed for children with autism, and for children affected by the opioid crisis, he added. As the children age, Wood Lane School gets involved for youth up to the age of 22. “Anyone who runs a school for people who have significant developmental disabilities has additional costs,” Baer explained. But Wood Lane has no intention of not offering school services. Without them, children would be placed back in their home schools – which would just shift the costs to those districts. Or they would be cared for at home, where little socialization is offered. “We just can’t let that happen,” he…


County approves $5 hike in license plate fee

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Wood County Commissioners unanimously Thursday (May 17) voted to increase the cost of getting a license plate by $5. This will bring the county portion of the fee to$20 or $25 depending on the community. The state fee is $34.50. County Engineer John Musteric said the Permissive License Fee increase will generate an additional $632,660. That money will all go to road and bridge projects, he said, not for personnel or operating expenses. The county, he said, is facing a shortfall of about $3.7 million meet the needs of county road and bridges. “This will only be a drop in the bucket, but every little bit helps,” Musteric said. After a study of road conditions, the engineer’s office determined 74 percent of the county roads are in marginal or worse conditions. To address all that work, would take about $6 million a year. The office now spends $2.3 million. Also, 52 of the county’s 441 bridges, which have an average age of 41 years, are in poor or worse conditions. To catch up, the county would need to replace nine bridges annually, at about $400,000 each. That’s double what it can do. This comes at a time when the cost of materials is increasing. Musteric said his office has tried to make cost savings where it could, including not replacing employees who leave and doing in-house work that had been outsourced. One county resident Wade Kemp commented on the license fee increase. He said he supported it but wondered why he had to pay the same amount for his motorcycles as for his truck or his neighbor had to pay for a recreational vehicle. That is set by the state, assistant county prosecutor Linda Holmes said. Commissioner Craig LaHote noted that if the state allowed the county to levy an additional 3.2-cent-a-gallon gas tax, it would provide the revenue needed to fully fund the road and bridge repairs. Given the fluctuating price of gas, people wouldn’t even notice it Musteric said. Kemp noted that as federal fund economy standards go up, and people use less gas that will take a bite out of revenues from the gas tax. Musteric said that’s especially true with the increasing popularity of electric cars, and hybrids. LaHote said some states charge more for a license plate for an electric vehicle. California, Musteric said, charges by weight for registering vehicle. Board President Doris Herringshaw said that the commissioners did receive a couple telephone calls on the issue, both in favor of the increase….


More levy funds sought for opiate, mental health services

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Tom Clemons would love to not have to ask Wood County voters for more money. But then he would also love if the opiate crisis weren’t killing people, and if the state and federal government would not have cut funding. So on Tuesday, Clemons, the executive director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, made his pitch to the county commissioners for the agency’s levy request. The board will be seeking a replacement 1-mill levy plus and an additional 0.3-mill levy. The levies will be on the November ballot. Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said that the commissioners will have to discuss the levy requests before deciding whether or not they will get their blessing as the levies go on the ballot. “We listened to what he had to say,” she said of Clemons’ presentation. “We’re still at the point where we’re absorbing what he had to say. We’ll be discussing it. We want to make sure it is the right fit for Wood County and for the ADAMHS board. The current 1-mill levy generates about $2.9 million. The new levies will bring in an additional $1.3 million. Clemons said the additional funding is needed to keep up with growing needs. “First and foremost, we think the opiate epidemic is costing us a little over $700,000 a year,” Clemons said last week. The costs include inpatient and outpatient detox services, recovery housing, clinical services for the Vivitrol program in jail, services for addicted women who are pregnant, help with the Addiction Response Collaboration, short-term residential treatment, help providing medication like Naloxone, outpatient programs, and school-based prevention programs. “It’s touching everyone,” Julie Launstein, ADAMHS finance director, said of the opiate crisis. But it appears that Wood County’s opiate programs are working according to Chris Streidl, manager of clinical programs with ADAMHS, who explained that this county has a significantly lower death rate than those being seen in Lucas and Hancock counties. “We see the numbers,” Clemons said. “This epidemic is not going to go away any time in the near future.” At the same time as the opiate crisis, the ADAMHS board still needs to deal with other mental health, alcohol and drug addiction issues. “We’re going to have to look at doing some more mental health housing,” Clemons said. That will include more 24/7 supervised housing and more independent housing. The agency also sees the need to improve crisis intervention services. “We have had more deaths due to suicide in the last three…


$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…