Wood County

Two local men lost lives in worst U.S. Navy loss in WWI

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the world celebrated the 100 anniversary of the conclusion to the “war to end all wars,” local residents remembered two of the 70 Wood County men killed in World War I. The soldiers – one from Tontogany and one from Bloomdale – lost their lives to a German U-boat commander trying to improve his lackluster war record in the waning days of the war. The story of the local “boys” lost at sea was told Saturday by Wood County Historical Center Education Coordinator Michael McMaster during the annual brunch meeting of the historical society membership. The two local men were aboard the USS Ticonderoga, a steamship used to transport cargo by the U.S. Navy. The ship was built in Germany, but was seized by the U.S. in 1917, turned over to the Navy and converted to transport soldiers and horses to the war raging in Europe. Nearly half of the men on board were from Northwest Ohio, McMaster said. “They were chosen to take care of the horses,” he said. One of the men was Charles “Clint” Lybarger, of Washington Township. His name is memorialized in the name of the Lybarger-Grimm American Legion Post in Tontogany. The other is Milan Lee Long, of Bloomdale. Both men were on their way to replenish U.S. Army artillery troops in France in the early autumn of 1918. They were among more than 250 soldiers on the USS Ticonderoga as it joined part of an armed convoy of about 40 ships headed to Europe. Sometime during the night of Sept. 29, the Ticonderoga had engine trouble and fell behind the convoy. The ship commander, James Jonas Madison, blamed the problems on “bad coal.” The next morning, those on the Ticonderoga saw the German submarine U-152 running on the surface. For two hours, the Germans fired upon the U.S. transport ship. Nearly every person on the Ticonderoga was wounded, McMaster said. The USS Galveston, the protector of the convoy, reportedly had so many crew members sick with the Spanish flu, that the ship was unable to get back fast enough to defend the Ticonderoga, McMaster said. At 7:45 a.m., the Ticonderoga sunk along with much of its cargo of men and horses. A total of 213 sailors and soldiers died, while 23 survived on life rafts. Two were plucked from the water by the German submarine and held as prisoners of war. “It was the greatest loss of life in the U.S. Navy in World War I,” McMaster said. The Ticonderoga’s commander lost a leg during the battle and later succumbed to his injuries in 1922. Local newspapers told of the loss of the two Wood County boys – Lybarger and Long. The stories claimed the two were doomed as the Germans shelled the life rafts. The commander of the German U-boat, Adolf Franz, had finally succeeded in sinking a ship. Prior to the Ticonderoga, Franz had been unable to sink even non-military ships – despite the fact he had been commanding the most powerful submarine in the German Navy, McMaster said. It was less the two months later that Armistice Day declared the end to World War I. McMaster and Wood County Historical Museum Director Kelli Kling urged people who had not yet visited the…

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Belly dancing? Dinner theater? New senior center full of new ideas

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The public got a chance to ask questions about the new senior center plan on Tuesday. Will there be room for gardening? What about a stage for dinner theater? And will one of the activity rooms be large enough for belly dancing? With far more than bingo and shuffleboard – this may not be your grandparents’ senior center. The schematics showed a building more than twice the size of the current senior center, with more space for programs, an adult day care area, and a community storm shelter. The price tag is expected to be about $6 million. The new 35,000-square-foot senior center, designed by Duket Architects, will be located at the site of the former school administration building between South Grove and Buttonwood streets, south of West Wooster Street. The new facility will replace the 14,500-square-foot center currently housed in the 104-year-old building on North Main Street that formerly held the post office. The architects for the project – Jerry Voll and Jeff Brummel – did their best to answer questions from a roomful of interested people of all ages. They were curious about the size of the new gift shop, the number and size of restroom stalls, the space to display artwork, the capacity of the elevator, and the dining room acoustics. One of the questions was shouted down by a senior playing a game of pool on the balcony upstairs with three of his buddies. “Where does the pool table go?” he asked. Denise Niese, director of the senior center, took the pointer and showed him exactly which activity room the pool table would take. But she stipulated with a smile that with the new facility, she expected to hear fewer swear words from the pool players. As for space for belly dancing – the answer was probably. “I’m not sure how much room is needed for belly dancing,” Brummel confessed. The new senior center will have between 80 and 100 parking spaces, will have one-story and two-story sections, and will be designed to fit in with the early-century residential area in which it will sit. The first floor of the senior center will have two main entrances covered for weather protection. There will be a dining and multi-purpose room that can seat up to 200 people – compared to the current dining room which can hold 114. Also on the first floor will be five activity rooms of varying size, public restrooms, skylights to let in natural light, and an elevator. The first floor will also have a lounge area that may double as a library, with a gas fireplace, coffee, and a gift shop. Also on the first floor will be an adult day care space, with its own entry. There will be outdoor patios off the multi-purpose room and off the adult day care. The second floor will have room for administration offices, social services, activity rooms and office space for the BGSU Optimum Aging Institute, which will be teaming up with the senior center at the site. The basement will have a storm shelter able to hold about 250 people, with direct access for the community, and a generator in case of a power outage. “It’s for anybody who might not have a basement and…


Distracted driving – simulator teaches safety behind the wheel

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   With no warning, a car strays into the neighboring lane. “Is this not Bowling Green,” said Sandy Wiechman, Wood County Safe Communities coordinator. “You really have to pay attention.” The driver manages to avoid a collision, but seconds later, a dog runs into the street. She slams on the brakes, but it’s too late. “She just killed a dog,” Wiechman said. In this instance the dog and the driver are fine, since the crash occurred on Wood County Safe Communities’ distracted driving simulator. The simulator gives drivers an idea of the distractions out on the road, without the threat of injuries. The “driver” sits behind the steering wheel, with control of the wheel, the gas pedal and the brake. But there is much the driver has no control over. “You’ve got distractions all over the place,” Wiechman said. There’s a soccer ball that rolls out on the street, fire trucks approaching, construction cones, sun glaring into the windshield, school buses stopping, dogs and cats dashing into the road, pedestrians and bicyclists. And then there are the distractions inside the vehicle. There’s an annoying passenger who keeps asking the driver to make a call or text for him. In Wood County, about 4.5 percent of car crashes are blamed on driver distraction. In 2017, drivers reported the following distractions: Cell phone, 25; texting or emailing, 5; other electronic communication device, 7; electronic devices such as navigation devices, DVD player or radio, 39; others inside the vehicle, 99; and external distractions outside the vehicle, 84. Wiechman said the distractions go far beyond texting. Some people try eating lunch, check out the neighbor’s yard, or look to see if they know the bicyclist as they pass. “I refuse to do it just on texting. There are just so many things that can happen,” she said. “You never know when a kid is going to dart out into traffic,” Wiechman said. “One time can ruin your life and someone else’s life.” Even conversation in the car can be distracting. “You just have to pay 100 percent attention,” she said. It isn’t long before the “driver” is cut off by another car, swerves to avoid that vehicle and then hits an oncoming vehicle head-on. The simulator screen then gives the driver a view of the EMS crew standing over as an air ambulance lands nearby. The driving simulator is more important now, Wiechman said, since schools no long offer drivers education, and most students take driving classes online. “They think they are more in control than they really are,” she said. The simulator can also be used to show drivers the challenges of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. “It simulates drunk for you,” Wiechman said. After the motorist crosses into oncoming traffic, a police officer pulls the car over and asks for a driver’s license. Upon smelling alcohol in the car, the officer then asks the driver to exit the vehicle to do a field sobriety test. The driving simulator was purchased in 2017 with donations from the Bowling Green Dancing with the Stars event and from the Rossford Police Department. “We’ve been using it non-stop since,” Wiechman said. “This is just invaluable to me.” The simulator is usually used with students…


County park district hits bullseye with archery range

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The latest park hit the bullseye for archers in the Wood County area. On Tuesday, the Wood County Park District held its monthly meeting at the new Arrowwood Archery Park, located on Linwood Road, southeast of Bowling Green. The park adds archery to the activity list of canoeing, biking, fishing, hiking, hunting, kayaking and rock climbing offered by the park district. “It shows the diversity of the Wood County Park District and the diversity of the staff,” said Denny Parish, chairman of the park board. Parish said he is proud of citizen support and staff making the variety of activities possible. Park district Executive Director Neil Munger agreed. “The idea for this archery range actually came from public input,” Munger said. (A grand opening will be held Sunday.) After the meeting, park board members were given a chance to try their skills at the new archery range. Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the park board got its annual visit from former park board member and current park patron Frank McLaughlin about the need for more bike accommodations by the county park district. McLaughlin said he was out on the Slippery Elm Trail again this past weekend. He said he can’t imagine any park in the county getting more use. “It’s like a freeway out there on Saturdays and Sundays,” he said. While the trail from Bowling Green to North Baltimore is great, more would be nice. “We could certainly use something from Bowling Green to Perrysburg,” McLaughlin said. Munger mentioned that as a member of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments bicycle committee, the park district has learned of possible plans to use Hull Prairie Road to connect Bowling Green and Perrysburg. McLaughlin noted the narrow nature of Hull Prairie. Wood County is also falling behind on connecting the Chessie Circle and North Coast trails, he said. A bike trail already stretches from Lorain to eastern Wood County, then picks up again in Lucas County heading west to Archbold. McLaughlin mentioned the park district owns land that could be used for a bike trail in the Perrysburg Township area. “It would be nice to see that happen,” he said. “This is the one missing piece,” he said of the east-west bike trail across northern Ohio. Munger said the park district is trying to use a regional approach on bike trails, and will continue to look for grant funding for such projects. The board also agreed to increase park shelter house rental rates to $40 per day. Munger said the rates had been $25 for the last 27 years or so. Other area shelter house rental rates are $30 to $80 for four hours. The park district rentals are all for full days. “It’s still a bargain,” board member Tom Myers said of the new $40 rate. “All of our shelters have electric, so if you bring a crockpot for a reunion,” there’s plenty of power, Munger said. “We’ve got some really good facilities.” In other business at Tuesday’s meeting: Munger mentioned the unexpected death of former park ranger Doug Carr. Board member Bill Cameron asked the district to consider some effort to remember Carr. Park police responded to board member Sandy Wiechman that the number has dropped of the people trespassing from…


NSG Pilkington may build new glass plant in Wood County

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Troy Township is on the list of possible sites for a new glass plant estimated to cost close to $300 million to build and furnish. Earlier this week, paperwork was filed at the Wood County Commissioners’ Office from NSG Pilkington Glass requesting an enterprise zone agreement that would give the company a 100 percent tax abatement for 15 years. “This is not a done deal by any means,” said Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission. “They are still investigating other sites.” The Wood County site making the short list of locations for the new plant is off Pemberville Road, just south of Garling Road, Gottschalk said. The location is south of the massive Home Depot warehouse off Pemberville Road. The paperwork states that NSG Pilkington will create 150 jobs at the new 511,000-square-foot plant, according to Sandy Long, clerk of the county commissioners. The total investment at the site is estimated at between $260 million and $294 million, including the construction, machinery, fixtures and inventory for the new float glass facility. Todd Huffman, plant manager at the Rossford NSG facility, said Thursday that the company recently developed a new type of glass coating. The new transparent conductive oxide coating is thinner and lighter while being durable and resistant to chemicals. It can be widely used for solar cells, buildings, cars and various electronics and medical devices. The Rossford plant will continue its production, but a new plant is needed to produce the transparent conductive oxide coating glass. “We are going to be expanding in North America,” Huffman said, not elaborating on how many sites are under consideration. The request for tax abatement is just one item on a long list of criteria the company is considering for a new location. The location will be somewhere close to Toledo, Huffman said. “We need to be making glass for our customers in the fourth quarter of 2020,” he said. That means construction must start in the spring of 2019, Huffman explained. Gottschalk said he is hoping the Troy Township location makes the cut for the new plant. “It’s a great local company,” he said of NSG Pilkington. “We’d love to land this company in Wood County.” “This is yet another example of the attractiveness of Wood County for economic development,” Gottschalk said. “We hope to get another big win for Wood County.” Earlier this year, NSG Pilkington was named Wood County Corporate Citizen of the Year, during the annual meeting of the Wood County Economic Development Commission. The company, one of the largest manufacturers in the glass industry, started out as Libbey-Owens-Ford – the last names of three inventors in the glass business – Edward Drummond Libbey, Michael Joseph Owens and Edward Ford. The earliest roots reach back to 1818 in England. The mission of NSG Pilkington is to produce quality glass with world-class yields, Huffman said. The company has 350 employees at its highly robotic float glass and advanced assembly plant in Rossford, and another 120 engineers and finance employees at its Northwood location. The company sells to automotive customers around the world, as far away as South Korea and Turkey. The glass is also used in architecture as windows and shower doors, Huffman said. Some of the…


Utopia pipeline uses existing line to cross Wood County

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   One of the three pipelines crossing through Wood County found a different route – allowing it to transport its product without digging a single new trench through local fields. Rather than plowing its own route through the county, the Utopia pipeline built by Kinder-Morgan ended up using an under-utilized existing pipeline to pump ethane from the east side of Ohio to Sarnia, Ontario. “You’re not going to see that,” Allen Fore, Kinder-Morgan public affairs vice president, said recently as he sat in Kermit’s Restaurant and looked outside at the torn up pavement for the Columbia Gas project in downtown Bowling Green. The $540 million Utopia pipeline, which is capturing the gas being flared away from fracking in southeastern Ohio, has been in operation since January. But before Kinder-Morgan officials found the existing line to use, its route for the Utopia pipeline ran into court battles from Wood County landowners. Last year, local landowners who dug in their heels against Utopia’s eminent domain efforts won the battle to keep the pipeline from crossing their properties. Maurice Thompson, of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law which represented 26 Wood County landowners, said the use of existing pipelines is the best solution. “That’s what we’ve argued all along,” Thompson said. “Use existing pipelines instead of taking more land.” The proposed Utopia line would have run 21 miles through Wood County – south of Pemberville, then north of Bowling Green, then crossing the Maumee River south of Waterville. It would have affected 67 landowners on 117 tracts of land. “Sometimes these things start as adversarial and end in a good way,” Fore said. Meanwhile, two other new pipelines have been constructed through Wood County in the past year. The Rover pipeline cuts through the southern portion of the county, and the Nexus pipeline runs north of Bowling Green. The repurposing of a pipeline worked well for Kinder-Morgan and local landowners. The project started with 147 miles of pipeline being constructed from Harrison County to Seneca County. There the new line connected with the repurposed pipeline for 77 miles through Sandusky, Wood and Lucas counties. “It can work,” Fore said. “This was a real win-win for everyone.” There are more than 2 million miles of pipelines already buried across the U.S., according to Fore. “If you can utilize existing infrastructure, there’s a benefit. There’s more certainty,” he said. By using 77 miles of an existing pipeline, Kinder-Morgan avoided construction headaches, and landowners didn’t have acreage dug up. The environment also benefited, Fore said. The existing pipeline from the Clyde area through Wood County, eliminated the need to cross 103 streams, 16 wetlands, and 42 archaeological and cultural sites. “It lessened the environmental impact,” he said. Repurposing old pipeline also means no repaving of roads, and no restoring of land for owners after construction.   The older pipeline was built in the 1970s, and was in good condition, Fore said. “Pipelines don’t have an expiration limit,” he said, adding that the line was thoroughly tested before Kinder-Morgan bought it. “We did our due diligence before purchasing it to make sure it’s good.” According to Fore, the use of an existing under-utilized pipeline did not save Kinder-Morgan a great deal of money. An estimated 25 percent of the landowners…


Mountain biking park and path explored along Slippery Elm Trail

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Park District is hoping to hitch a ride on the off-road mountain biking craze. On Tuesday, the park board voiced support for a proposal to create pump tracks in Rudolph and a mountain bike trail in the savanna area along the Slippery Elm Trail. Park naturalist Craig Spicer presented a proposal for both concepts during the monthly park board meeting held at Harrison Park in Pemberville. The mountain biking park and trail would help the district attract teens and young adults. A survey conducted earlier this year showed only 6 percent of the county park users were college student age. All parks suffer from the same difficulty luring teens and young adults, Spicer said. “They are one of the most finicky audiences,” he said. According to Spicer, off-road and sport biking are growing in popularity. “This is a good opportunity to ride that wave,” he said. The creation of an off-road biking park in Rudolph, and a trail north of the community would also be an investment in a county park in the southern part of Wood County. Currently just five of the county’s 20 parks are south of U.S. 6. “There’s a little bit of imbalance there,” Spicer said. The proposed park would be located in the one-acre area already owned by the park district along the Slippery Elm Trail, just south of Mermill Road. The park board voted last month to have unused farm silos removed from the property. A proposal created by Pump Trax USA shows a park with a “strider” track for little kids, a beginner track, an intermediate and advanced track, and a skills trail for mountain biking. The area would have parking for 30 cars, a bike fix-it station, and a covered shelter house. “This project fits our mission,” Spicer said. “I think it will attract people for years to come.” Maintenance of the park would be similar to the neighboring Slippery Elm Trail, since the bike park courses would be constructed of cement or asphalt. Don DiBartolomeo, of the Right Direction Youth Development Program, told the board he would offer programming for free at the bike park. DiBartolomeo is in the ninth year of running the non-profit youth support program Right Direction, and organizes programming at the skate park in Bowling Green City Park. “Having something like this skills track is huge,” DiBartolomeo told the board. Toledo Metroparks has talked about such an off-road biking program, but has yet to establish one, he said. “This would put you on the map. Nobody’s done it yet,” DiBartolomeo said. Those working on their off-road skills could then try out their new talents in the Rudolph Savanna, located a half-mile north on the Slippery Elm Trail, Spicer said. “The nearest mountain bike trail is in Swanton,” he said. Spicer showed a rough sketch of how a three-mile single-track mountain bike trail could wind its way through the 50-acre savanna area. Park staff have found no evidence of endangered plants in the savanna, and a single-track trail will cause “minimal damage” to the area, he said. Spicer had no cost estimates for either the off-road bike park or trail, but said there are grant opportunities available. “We’re just at the beginning of this,” he told the…