Wood County

County park district programs think outside boring boxes

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News The Wood County Park District’s programs extend outside the box – way beyond anything remotely resembling a box. Take for example the black frog beer and trivia event, the “M-archery Madness” and program on the Valentine’s Day view from the perspective of wildlife. “Those are a little more non-traditional programs,” said Jim Witter, park district program coordinator and the brainchild behind many of the less conventional looks at nature. Public surveys about the park programming have shown appreciation for the variety of activities offered. Some programs draw in crowds, such as the eclipse program that attracted 70 people, and the upcoming owl program that was capped off at 100. “We continue to get incredibly positive responses,” about programs, Bob Hawker, vice president of the park board, said Tuesday during the monthly park board meeting. Part of the attractions come with the particular parks – rock rappelling at Sawyer Nature Preserve, canoeing at W.W. Knight Preserve, and bicycling on the Slippery Elm Trail. “There’s a whole variety of adventure activities that continue to be liked,” Hawker said. But it goes beyond making the most of the rocks, water and trails in the parks. Much of the popularity is based on the park district programming staff’s ability to take a wacky look at wildlife and a non-conventional view of nature. “The staff continues to embrace what our constituents want,” Hawker said. “So far the results are overwhelmingly positive.” Some people are just naturally attracted to nature – so no creativity is needed. Those “nature nerds” will show up for programs on plants and animals. But others require a little ingenuity to lure them in. That’s where Witter and the programming staff gets to wander off the beaten path. Some programs teach skills – some more useful than others – such as how to use a compass, how to build a fire, or how to make a fly for fishing, “We try to think of things more outside the box to get more non-traditional folks out there,” Witter said. “We just have to decide how far outside the box.” The theory is, if a wacky programs gets people to the parks, they just might come back again. Some of the programs offer more “domestic” skills – like making Native American moccasins and reviving the lost art of mending clothes. Then there’s cooking – the old-fashioned way – like pickle making, and the upcoming class on making (and tasting) ricotta. Like many classes, that one is already full but has a waiting list. For the artistic types, there have been programs on decoy carving and painting, scarecrow making, pumpkin carving, and the upcoming program on snowman art – which could be difficult this season. For animal lovers, the list is long. There are chances to participate in frog monitoring, to learn to…

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Wood County manufacturing sees $750 million investment this year

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Wood County saw $750 million invested this year in industries making fresh hamburger patties, glass for solar panels, auto parts and more. “That is a record as far as I can tell – and by a lot,” Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, said Wednesday during a commission meeting. The investments spread from the far north to the far south of the county. West of North Baltimore, the NorthPoint Development Co. announced plans to construct a logistics development near the CSX rail hub. “There’s a lot to be done still,” but the project is progressing, Gottschalk said. And the CSX hub is also expecting to start doing more business, and serving a wider geographic area, he added. In the village of North Baltimore, Continental Structural Products is expanding its auto parts production. “They were slated to close during the recession, and they are now coming back with a vengeance,” Gottschalk said. The plant is on track to rival its highest production back when it was supplying parts for Fieros, he said. And just east of North Baltimore, the Equity Meats plant has made the shift from frozen patties to fresh hamburger patties. Anyone ordering a McDonald’s quarter-pounder in the Northeast U.S. will get a taste. “It’s coming from Wood County,” Gottschalk said. In the northern part of the county, NSG-Pilkington has secured all the necessary local regulatory approvals for its plant in Troy Township. The plant, which will manufacture float glass for the new First Solar plant, is expected to be in operation in 2020. “That’s a big project,” he said. The new First Solar plant in Lake Township is also progressing well. “It’s an absolutely massive facility out there,” Gottschalk said.. In Perrysburg Township, the expansion of the Walgreens distribution center is underway. The project is expected to create 350 new jobs. “It’s a big project and good for long-term,” he said. Retention visits from the Wood County Economic Development Commission have also found operations well at Biofit near Haskins, and Jerl Machine in Perrysburg. The O-I site in Perrysburg is “doing very well” and considering an expansion of its research and development area, with a focus on training. “Changing over from one thing to another is not a simple process,” Gottschalk said. Gottschalk reported to commission members that announcements of more investments in Wood County may be coming soon. “There are a couple other very large projects in the region,” he said. He also told members that he recently traveled with other Ohio economic development officials to Atlanta, Georgia, to make a pitch to a German battery company. “It’s a good project, if we could get it here in Ohio,” he said.


Ukraine delegation here to learn, while crisis looms at home

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the Ukrainians walked in the courtroom, they noticed something was missing – a cage for the accused. “No cage,” explained Wood County Common Pleas Judge Matthew Reger. “We would never have a cage.” In fact, several efforts are made in U.S. courts to ensure the defendant gets a fair trial, the judge said. “The defendant can’t be in shackles,” Reger said, as the translator put his words into Ukrainian. “They can’t be in anything but street clothes.” The Ukrainian Parliament members toured the courthouse on Sunday as part of the Open World Leadership Center’s effort to allow the Ukrainian delegation to learn about U.S. government. During their stay in the Toledo area, they also met with Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn – who is of Ukrainian descent – and the Wood County Commissioners. The number of of delegates was fewer than planned, since some of the parliament members stayed home because of the recent conflict with Russia. Last month, Russia seized some Ukrainian ships and sailors in a reported attempt to take over a vital sea route. Twenty-four Ukrainian sailors are still being held in a Russian prison. Bill Hilt, of Perrysburg, said the visiting Ukrainians are quite worried about the Russian aggression and the world’s slow response to defend their nation. “They’re very upset about what they deem as Russian aggression,” said Hilt, who is part of the World Affairs Council of Northwest Ohio hosting the Ukrainians. “They are from three different parties, but they are unified in that.” The parliament members are disappointed in the lack of support from NATO, the European Union and the U.S., Hilt said. Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for worldwide defense. “It was with the understanding there will be some help with defense,” Hilt said. But no one is stepping up, he added. The Ukrainians are particularly troubled by the reports spread to the media that their president is behind the Russian aggression in an effort to bolster his chances in the March election. That is “more Russian propaganda,” the Ukrainians have told Hilt. “They are very appreciative of the help they have received, but the challenges are greater than the aid given,” he said. The three parliament members visiting are watchdogs for corruption in their country. They share similar visions, but have different routes for getting there, the translator Sergei Vladov said. Making it difficult is the poverty in some areas. “The people of Ukraine are struggling even to meet their basic needs,” Vladov said. Reger, who gave the delegation a tour of the county courthouse, spent some time with the American Bar Association working with attorneys and helping to create a criminal code for courts in Georgia, which went through similar challenges as Ukraine. “Georgia probably had more success with democratic institutions and the transition…


Master of disasters in Wood County ready to retire

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Brad Gilbert will never forget the day. “June 5, 2010, at 11:16 in the evening,” he said. “It was the big one.” Gilbert has been responding to emergencies in Wood County now for more than 12 years. But that one – the Lake Township tornado – was the worst. “For EMA directors, we know it’s a matter of when, not if,” he said. “We only see those types of tornadoes every 50 to 60 years.” And it just happened to be on his shift. Gilbert announced this past week that he is retiring from this job as Wood County Emergency Management Agency director at the end of March. He has already outlived the terms of many EMA directors in the state, who average 7.5 years in the job. “The job itself I continue to love. It’s the 24/7, it’s the phone calls at all hours,” Gilbert said. When storms roll in, Gilbert has to be ready to roll out. The Lake Township tornado was the worst incident during his time as EMA director. Seven people were killed, more than 30 injured, and many homes and businesses were destroyed. “It’s an emotional thing. No one wants people to die on your watch,” he said. As EMA director, Gilbert has dealt with many crises. There was the train derailment that spilled diesel fuel. “Those are always challenging.” There were two pipeline leaks – one spilling oil into Rocky Ford Creek near Cygnet, and the other leaking propane in Middleton Township prompting an evacuation. There’s been plenty of flooding, especially in the Grand Rapids and Pemberville areas along rivers. “We’ve made a lot of gains on information documenting, so we know what to expect at certain water levels,” Gilbert said. “Flooding is tough because it really impacts people for a long time period,” he said. And then there have been countless incidents of straightline winds and small tornadoes wreaking havoc. Gilbert is responsible for assessing damage from storms to see if the area qualifies for outside government assistance. Gilbert is accustomed to coming into people’s lives at low points. “Usually they are experiencing some of the worst things of their lives,” he said. Yet, he loves the job – the interaction with first responders, elected officials and the public. “We are trying to build collaboration and cooperation across the county,” before an emergency occurs, he said. “That’s the highlight of this job.” Gilbert has focused much of his time on training others to help themselves – whether that’s local fire departments responding to hazardous material calls or the public preparing for bad weather. If storms hit and the electricity goes out, Gilbert wants people to be stocked up in their homes. “Our goal is to always keep them in their homes whenever possible,” he said. “We want to help people…


Code Red alert system going countywide next year

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Starting next year, all Wood Countians will be able to get “Code Red” alerts on their phones. The alerts will notify local residents of such events as bad weather headed this way or a hazardous material incident in their area, according to Wood County Emergency Management Agency Director Brad Gilbert. Wood County is one of just a few Ohio counties that don’t have a countywide notification system, Gilbert said. The county commissioners approved Gilbert’s request earlier this week for $23,000 for the system. The total cost for the system is $46,000 – but other entities already paying for the system individually are expected to join in the countywide alert program. 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. 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 have 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. “It’s a win-win situation,” Gilbert said. 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 targeted areas to warn them and also to disperse recovery information after an incident, Gilbert said. If evacuations are needed, the Code Red system would be of great help, he said. “It really speeds up the process,” he said. Gilbert is hopeful that the countywide Code Red will be operating by March 1.


County commissioners debate budget requests for 2019

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the Wood County Commissioners Office works on its budget for 2019, some of the funding requests were debated on Tuesday. Should the county pay an extra $67,800 to have the airport runway striped? Is $43,000 an acceptable amount to pay for a mower/snowblower? And what about that $46,980 for high-speed garage doors for the county parking garage? Commissioners Doris Herringshaw, Ted Bowlus and Craig LaHote were presented with the funding requests that weren’t slam dunks in the 2019 budget. Much of the budget is routine each year – wages and operational costs. So that leaves the “extras” for the commissioners to decide. For example, the Wood County Regional Airport, which normally gets $26,345 a year from the county, requested an additional $67,800 for runway striping. “It’s been a considerable amount of time since the commissioners gave them additional money,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said. The runways recently received a low rating by the Ohio Department of Transportation, but was then turned down for a grant from ODOT for the striping, Kalmar said. The airport has also requested funding from the FAA, though no word has been heard on that request, Kalmar said. LaHote said the poor rating of the airport runways could have an economic impact on the airport, if fewer planes use the facility. Bowlus suggested that the county wait to see if the FAA may fund the work. Kalmar was asked to get more information before a decision was made. The commissioners agreed to fund the request for an industrial mower with a snowblower costing $43,149 for the East Gypsy Lane Road complex – though it was not without discussion. “I’m always aghast at the price” of such equipment, Kalmar said. “I grit my teeth. But they do last a long time.” In defense of the price tag, he said the mower/blower would be used year-round, and would have a cab with heat and air conditioning. That description led to the commissioners reminiscing about the days of hats and sunscreen. LaHote reasoned that the equipment is needed. “It’s a busy area over there and it’s getting busier.” Not making the cut on Tuesday was the proposal for two high-speed garage doors for the garage under the county office building. The cost was set at $46,980. The doors there now take about 19 seconds to rise, Kalmar said. Adding to the cost of the doors is the fact that the doors would have to be raised on the outside of the building since there is no room for the doors to retract into the garage, he explained. Kalmar and assistant administrator Kelly O’Boyle were sent back to the drawing board to find less expensive replacement doors. At the request of Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn, the commissioners went along with the request for $15,995…


County dental center to fill gap in local medical services

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Many Wood County families cannot afford dental insurance, or cannot find dental offices willing to accept Medicaid patients. So for many, dental care is put off until the pain is unbearable. But soon, local residents will have a place to turn to for help at the new dental center at the Wood County Community Health Center. The center, with its sliding fee scale, will not turn away anyone due to lack of insurance or funds. “Nobody will have to go without dental services because of an inability to pay,” said Alex Aspacher, community outreach coordinator at the health department. “There’s a large need for those in the Medicaid community.” The dental center will target women, children and the uninsured, but anyone will be accepted. “As soon as you’re ready for your first checkup, till you don’t have a need for us anymore,” said Kami Wildman, outreach and enrollment specialist at the Wood County Health Department. The dental clinic has five exam chairs, a lab, and will offer services such as X-rays, minor surgeries and preventative care. The addition of the dental services makes the community health center a comprehensive “patient-centered medical home,” Wildman said. The center provides a primary care physician, dental, pharmacy and behavioral health all in one building, Aspacher said. The dental facility provides a patient service that has been identified as an important missing piece for decades. “Dental has been a consistent need in the county going back some time,” Wildman said. “It’s easy to put it off until you have pain.” And like many other health issues, poor dental care can lead to or worsen other health problems. More and more correlations are being identified between poor dental health and diabetes and heart issues. “It’s possible if we help people with oral health, that other benefits will follow,” Aspacher said. By reaching children at a younger age, local public health officials hope to help promote healthy dental habits early on. The opening date for the facility is still unknown. The dental center has hired its program coordinator and an hygienist. Still to be hired is a dentist, two assistants and two support staff. An open house at the dental center is planned for Dec. 6, from 4 to 7 p.m. “We’re really thinking once people get in here to see it, they will be impressed,” Aspacher said. Community health assessments have repeatedly shown unmet dental needs as a top health problem for local residents. The health department was able to secure $825,000 from the federal government for the dental 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…