Wood County

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 they showed up for work,” he said. Charter Steel Since 2006, the company has invested more than $950 million into its plants. Last year, the…

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Montgomery applauds compromise and ‘Wood County way’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News In a nation where cooperation has become a foreign concept, and compromise a sign of weakness, Betty Montgomery believes there is a better way. And she calls it – the Wood County way. Montgomery was the keynote speaker at the Lincoln Day Dinner hosted Tuesday evening by the Wood County Republican Party. “I’ve never had a chance to say ‘thank you’ for all they’ve done for me,” Montgomery said of the local party members. They helped send her to the seat of Wood County Prosecuting Attorney, Ohio Senator, State Auditor, and State Attorney General. So as a “thank you,” Montgomery talked about the characteristics that result in Wood County officials working together for the betterment of their citizens. “The Wood County way. It’s about seeing a problem and solving a problem,” she said. “It’s about working together.” For years, Montgomery believed most governments functioned the same way. “It wasn’t really until I was in state government that I realized everyone is not as blessed as Wood County,” she said. Every government has its share of “scoundrels and scallywags,” she said. But Wood County seems to work around them. “At the end of the day, we figure out a way,” Montgomery said. She credited Wood County’s different way of functioning to the farming background of the region. “We plant, we nurture, we harvest. We work hard,” she said. Montgomery acknowledged that these are politically challenging times. But the nation has been through tough times before, she said, noting the occasion of Lincoln’s birthday and the turmoil he dealt with in office. “We’re living in turbulent times. But this is not the most turbulent of times,” she said. Montgomery said local leaders need to stick to their values. “We don’t look for government to do what we can do ourselves,” she said. “We’ll find our way.” There is plenty of room for debate over the current president’s style and message – “whether it reflects American values,” she said. Local Republicans must not forget that their basic values focus on fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, limited government and national security, she said. “But nobody seems to be paying attention,” to the fiscal conservative message right now, she added. The United States was created with the realization that compromise is required for a nation to move ahead, Montgomery said. “The electorate has felt the decision makers in Washington don’t reflect that.” Newly appointed Ohio Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner, who formerly served 33 years in the state legislature, said that teamwork and compromise…


Buttonwood Park overrun, damaged by ice jam again

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Buttonwood Park has again been overrun by ice chunks and water from its neighbor the Maumee River. This is the second time in four years that the river has unloaded ice and floodwater in the county park. “It’s a mess,” Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger said during Tuesday’s meeting of the county park board. “It’s going to be a while till we get in to take a look at it.” But a park employee’s personal drone has taken photos showing the damage they can’t get to by vehicle or on foot. The images show a park sign, gate, information kiosk and some parking lot posts moved or destroyed by ice that appeared to reach eight to 10 feet high in the park. The photos also show the parking lot full of water, gravel shifted and boulders moved by the power of the moving ice and water, soccer fields covered with ice, and trees scarred by ice. Munger is hoping the damage is less than that caused by an ice jam in 2015. “The ice was feet thick then, so I hope maybe this limited devastation,” he said of the thinner ice that came ashore last week. “My hope is we don’t have major damage like that.” But Munger isn’t sure when it will be safe to enter the park, which is located where Hull Prairie Road dead-ends into the Maumee River in Perrysburg Township. “It’s a wall of ice. It’s going to be a while,” he said. “And winter isn’t over yet,” said Tom Myers, chairman of the park board. The fact that the flooding has occurred twice in four years, should give the park district pause about investing money into the park, said Denny Parish, vice chairman of the board. “I think this is a losing proposition – investing in Buttonwood,” Parish said. “I see this as a long-term problem.” Munger pointed out that the park district has no permanent structures at the park, aside from fencing and a gravel parking lot, because of the risks. Since the last flooding, the soccer fields at the park have not been used by Perrysburg soccer programs, but have been used by rugby programs. The park is also the site of the annual “pow wow” for Native Americans. And during the walleye fishing season each spring, the parking lot is overflowing with anglers, Munger said. The county park system also has access to the Maumee River at Otsego Park, but that area is too far upstream for walleye…


Family of artist who painted courthouse murals still treasures his private creations

By DAVID DUPONT  BG Independent News The murals on the second floor of the Wood County Courthouse are public treasures. For Cheryl Windisch, of Bowling Green, they are family history. The murals that are undergoing preservation work were painted by her great-grandfather Isaac Moore Taylor.  Oil field mural Taylor, who was born 175 years ago on Feb. 5, 1844 in western New York close by the Pennsylvania oil fields, was an oil man drawn in middle age to Wood County, where he got involved in local politics, including a single term as mayor of Bowling Green. But his passion was painting.  “He loved doing that more than he enjoyed having real jobs,” his great-granddaughter said. “He was really kind of a wanderlust guy.” That wanderlust took him out west on oil business, before he settled in Bowling Green where he and his wife, Adella, raised their four daughters, including Windisch’s grandmother Mildred. His interest in art started when he was a child, and he studied with two master teachers in his youth. When he was 15 the Drake oil strike in Oil Creek, Pennsylvania, occurred, and that sparked his interest in the oil business. He became a leading authority whose advice was sought nationwide, according to a biographical sketch written by the family. The first Ohio well he drilled was in what is now the middle of Findlay. Then he started to explore in the Sand Ridge area of Bowling Green. All the while, his great-granddaughter said, he continued painting. His family settled in town in a home at 249 S. Church St. The house is still standing. The place where he painted, an old barn in the rear, was torn down when the post office was expanded and the drive-through added. That “paint shop,” both Windsich and her brother Scott Cunningham, the family historian, recall, was mostly off-limits for children. Their mother was allowed in a few times. “Usually kids weren’t allowed to go in there because there was too much stuff for them to get into,” Windisch said. Taylor created art in a variety styles and for a variety reasons. He did designs for business signs. He painted pictures with calendars attached as Christmas presents for his grandchildren. And he used whatever material scraps of paper, bed ticking, cardboard, and door panels was at hand. But he also did finely executed drawings and oil paintings including landscapes and portraits. Windisch said he created a large portrait of his parents. A Washington D.C. curator once told her aunt that the painting was worthy of…


Many farmers part of Lake Erie solution – smaller fraction are big part of the problem

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Beth Landers comes from a long line of farmers – so she knows they can be stubborn, independent and proud. As the Portage River watershed coordinator with the Wood Soil and Water Conservation District, Landers sees first-hand the efforts and errors made by farmers. As this region tries to limit the harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie, Landers often hears people ask: “Why don’t the farmers just do ….?” That’s easier asked than answered, she said during a talk earlier this month to the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club. Landers started with a brief history lesson on Lake Erie’s woes over the last 60 years. In the 1960s, Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River were in such terrible shape that they caught on fire. “In the 1960s, it really came to a head,” she said. Then in 1972, the Clean Water Act was passed. That started changing the way rivers and lakes were treated in the U.S. “They were no longer something to carry away our waste,” Landers said. Municipalities were forced to focus on how they treated wastewater before sending it on its way, and farmers were urged to try no-till farming. “We spent an entire decade passing laws,” she said. “And the lake was still gross.” Then in 1988, the zebra mussels showed up in the lake. Though the creatures stirred up plenty of concerns, they managed to clean up the lake by the late 1990s. “We started actually seeing the lake recover,” Landers said. “It took 30 years and an invasive species.” The water became much clearer – making it more attractive to boaters, anglers, swimmers, and other tourists. But a side effect is that now sunlight can get further into the water and reach the phosphorus sediment in the lake – fueling the creation of algal blooms. In the aftermath of the algae crisis that led to an order to not drink the water in 2014, much of the blame has been placed on agriculture. So Landers often hears the farmers’ concerns. “Why is everybody blaming farmers? It’s not just us,” they say to her. “And they are right.” Cities also put phosphorus in the water from their wastewater plants. But three-quarters of the land draining into western Lake Erie is farmland, Landers said. So farmers need to take their share of the blame. “We know there are some problem areas and some problem farmers,” she said. “I know some of the farmers don’t want to hear that, but we can’t ignore that.” But most…


Park district asked to consider dog park, more bike routes

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Provisions for bikers and barkers were discussed by Wood County Park District board members earlier this month.        Park board member Bob Hawker said he had been approached about the lack of a dog park in the Perrysburg area. “They seem popular and they seem to be self-supporting,” Hawker said. Neil Munger, the park district director, said none of the district’s parks in the Perrysburg area are really conducive to being used for a dog park. Neither the Sawyer Quarry Nature Preserve nor the W.W. Knight Preserve have space that would work for a dog park, he said. And the Buttonwood Recreation Area is used for fishing and soccer fields. The Buttonwood soccer fields haven’t been used since the park experienced a great deal of damage from flooding a few years ago. However, it was pointed out that since the area is susceptible to flooding, putting up fencing for a dog park would not be a good idea. Hawker asked the park district staff to just take a look at possible options for a dog park in the Perrysburg area. Park board member Sandy Wiechman inquired about future plans for a bicycle route in the Perrysburg area along Ohio 65, both east and west of the city. “Is there anything in Perrysburg that has been discussed,” she asked. Wiechman said the lack of a bicycle route was brought up at a law enforcement meeting, following another motorcycle fatality on Route 65. The scenic route along the river is popular with bicyclists and motorcyclists, but it has no accommodations for bicyclists, she said. Munger said there has been discussion about how to connect Route 65 with Ohio 795, and then the Chessie Circle bike trail. He also said the possibility of a bike trail along Hull Prairie Road, between Bowling Green and Perrysburg, has been discussed. But no progress has been made on either. Also at the monthly meeting, park board member Sandy Wiechman asked about the increase in calls for park police. Chief Todd Nofzinger explained the increase is due to the reporting system the police are now using, the increase in park facility rentals, and the number of calls for people going from Sawyer Quarry Nature Preserve to a neighboring quarry to swim. “It’s something we’ll have to deal with again in the spring,” Nofzinger said. In other business, the park board: Elected Tom Myers are chairman and Denny Parish as vice chairman of the board.Agreed to continue holding its monthly meetings on the second Tuesdays of…


Sheriff defends decision to rely on citizens’ common sense – not issue snow emergency

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn is getting a flurry of complaints from local residents for not declaring any type of snow emergency after seven inches of snow covered the region on Saturday. Huron, Wyandot and Ottawa counties declared Level 2 snow emergencies. Lucas, Henry, Seneca, Williams, Hancock, Putnam, Fulton, Sandusky, Erie and Defiance counties declared Level 1 snow emergencies. In the regional map of counties, Wood County stood out as the only with no cautionary measures issued by the sheriff. The sheriff’s office has been fielding complaints about the issue the last two days. “There have been so many phone calls,” Wasylyshyn said. “I have a rule in my office – to put calls through to my extension.” So the sheriff got to hear many of the complaints personally. “I realize I’m not going to please everybody. Some want the roads closed if we get one inch of snow. Some don’t want the government to tell them when they can go out.” Wasylyshyn said his frequent communications with road deputies and county snowplow crews over the weekend led him to the decision that there was no need to declare any level of snow emergency. “We did have high winds, but we didn’t have the whiteout conditions,” he said. There were no large drifts on major roadways, he added. And as the sheriff drove Ohio 25 between Bowling Green and Perrysburg, traffic was slow but steady. “Do I close down the road when people are able to drive 45 mph?” But why was Wood County the only in the region to not have a snow emergency declared? Wasylyshyn said other counties had other problems that contributed to their road issues. For example, Port Clinton had flooding conditions that contributed to problems. And Wyandot County’s snowplows shut down at midnight, he said. “We’re lucky in Wood County,” the sheriff said. The county has 15 snowplows that work round the clock during bad weather. But the bottom line for Wasylyshyn is that people need to use their own common sense before venturing outside in winter conditions. “I trust that people will use their common sense and decide if they need to go where they want to go,” he said. And for those people without common sense? Wasylyshyn suggested that people consult with the region’s meteorologists for updates. Business concerns don’t influence the sheriff’s decisions, he said, since companies can stay open even during Level 3 declarations. “I strongly believe in people’s right to go where they want to go if the…