Wood County

Wood County likes its status on low sales tax island

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County is on an island of low sales tax in this region – and officials have no intention of moving from its haven for penny-pinching shoppers. The county is surrounded by neighboring counties with higher sales tax rates, except for Hancock County, which is the same as Wood County. Some officials suspect that at least some shoppers are lured into Wood County because of the lower sales tax. “It’s probably not the first thought in their mind,” but on bigger purchases it could encourage shoppers to cross county lines, Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said. The sales tax on a $1,000 refrigerator in Lucas County would be $72.5, compared to $67.5 in Wood County. “We’re like an island,” Kalmar said. “Everybody around us has a higher sales tax,” except Hancock County. In the recent general election, Hancock County voters had the chance to raise their sales tax there by 0.25 percent. The increase was soundly rejected, so that county will remain at the same low rate as Wood. Meanwhile most surrounding counties are 7.25 percent, including Lucas, Fulton, Henry, Sandusky and Seneca. The state takes the first 5.75 percent in sales tax revenue, then counties can raise sales tax up to an additional 2 percent. Counties and transit authorities are the only entities that can collect sales tax. The highest sales tax in the state is in Cuyahoga County at 8 percent, and Franklin County at 7.5 percent. Sales tax is a pretty solid revenue for Wood County. Last year, shoppers paid close to $21 million in sales tax. The receipts are even better this year, coming in at $1.8 million this October – a 13 percent increase over the $1.6 million brought in last October. “It’s a pretty decent amount of money,” Kalmar said. Wood County has benefited from a boom in retail growth, primarily in the Perrysburg and Rossford areas. Many stores that local residents previously had to go to Lucas County to patronize, can now be found on this side of the Maumee River. “Wood County is in a fortunate position because of retail growth in the county,” Kalmar said. Following is a list of sales tax percentages in Ohio: 8 percent – 1 county, Cuyahoga 7.5 percent – 1 county, Franklin 7.25 percent – 51 counties 7 percent – 13 counties 6.75 percent – 19 counties 6.5…


County discusses new highway garage, jail booking area

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Every fall, the Wood County Commissioners listen to funding requests from county offices. And every year, the commissioners weed through the requests and reject the ones they feel aren’t necessary or can wait. This year, they have discussed yanking a couple biggies – $8.3 million to expand the county jail booking area, and $2.5 million for a new county highway garage and office space. It’s not that the commissioners don’t see the value in those projects – they just don’t see room for the nearly $11 million in the county’s 2018 budget. But in both cases, the commissioners are planning ahead for the possible building projects. The county engineer’s highway garage, located at the corner of East Poe Road and Thurstin Avenue, is at least 60 years old. “Things are showing their age out there,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said. “We’re at the point where we’re going to have to do some work there – or move.” Over the decades, the open space around the highway garage, which sits on the edge of Bowling Green State University, has been gobbled up for other uses. So there is no land left at the current site for expansion. The commissioners and Wood County Engineer John Musteric discussed the possibility of moving the highway garage out to county land in the East Gypsy Lane complex. That location already has a fuel facility, and it has good access to county roads. It would also allow the county to sell the land currently used for the highway garage – which should be desirable property on the north side of BGSU. Though the commissioners may reject the $2.5 million request, they did discuss hiring a consultant to study the needs and costs of a new highway garage. That consultant would cost an estimated $10,000, Kalmar said. As for the sheriff’s request for an expansion of the jail booking area – this will not be the first time it got the ax. A few years ago, Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn had to make a choice – add more beds to the county jail or add more space to the jail booking area. The jail expansion was priced at about $3 million and the booking area reconfiguration was priced at about $5 million. And since the county was already spending money by paying other counties to house Wood…


County prosecutor sets up opiate response team

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County has its first employees assigned specifically to battle the opiate crisis. Sixteen people died of opiate overdoses in the county last year, according to the Wood County Coroner’s Office. In response to a survey of local first responders, 16 departments said they responded to 83 opiate overdoses last year, and administered the life-saving drug Naloxone 60 times. And in an 18-month period, the county prosecutor’s office saw about 130 drug cases. Getting addicts in treatment, and getting them back after relapses are important, Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson said during a meeting with the county commissioners. The average person experiences seven relapses during their three to five years of trying to get free of opiates. On Tuesday, Dobson and Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn announced the implementation of a new program in the prosecutor’s office to battle the opiate and drug epidemic. The program has been named the Addiction Response Collaborative, or ARC. Earlier this year, Dobson – who lost a stepson to opiate addiction – introduced his four-tiered plan for dealing with the opiate epidemic in Wood County. The plan called for the creation of a quick response team, a pre-trial diversion program in the prosecutor’s office, an intervention in lieu of sentencing program in the courts, and the establishment of a drug docket in the courts. The program team includes a Drug Addiction and Abuse Response Coordinator hired by the prosecutor’s office through funding from the Wood County Commissioners, the Wood County ADAMHS Board, and the Wood County Health District. Filling the position is Luckey resident Belinda Brooks, who knows from experience the horrors of opiate addictions and the hopes for recovery. Brooks, whose daughter battled opiates for several years, formed SOLACE of Northwest Ohio, a group that provides services for family members of addicts. Her daughter, now 25, was first prescribed percocets after a serious ATV accident seven years ago. It wasn’t long till she was addicted. Brooks, who knew nothing about opiates, believed it couldn’t be that bad since it was a prescribed medication. She soon saw how horrible it could be. Brooks learned that by hiding the addiction and helping her daughter clean up money problems, she was fueling her daughter’s addiction. “It was three years of complete hell,” Brooks said. “Your lives change forever. You have to change your parenting.” Her daughter’s rock…


Study to see if sports complex could score big here

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Parents of young children often pack up the vehicles several weekends of the year to head out to travel ball tournaments. Local economic development officials want to see if they might be able to get a piece of that action. Four entities – Wood County Economic Development Commission plus the cities of Perrysburg, Rossford and Maumee – have invested $15,000 each to have a study conducted on whether or not this area could support a massive sports complex. “I think there is a demand,” said Wood County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Wade Gottschalk. “We all know parents who drive kids to tournaments every weekend. We want to see if there’s enough demand for something of this scope.” Perrysburg Mayor Mike Olmstead suggested the feasibility study after visiting the Grand Park sports campus near Indianapolis. That 400-acre facility includes more than 31 multipurpose and soccer fields, 26 baseball diamonds, and an indoor soccer and events center. “It’s a great idea,” Gottschalk said. That’s why experts in the field have been brought in to do impartial evaluations, he added. If the study finds that such a sports complex would be feasible in this area, then the next question is where, Gottschalk said. Some suggestions have been made that acreage in between Perrysburg and Bowling Green, somewhere along Ohio 25, would be considered. “But we’re not to that point yet,” Gottschalk said. Some signs point to a large sports complex being successful here, he added. There is ample open land, a large population, and good transportation access. “We’ve got better interstate access,” Gottschalk said. The study will look at the number of people likely to be drawn here for tournaments. “How much can we attract from the outside,” he asked. A local sports complex would benefit area residents by shortening their weekend drives to some tournaments. But the big win would be attracting business to the region from those families. “These tournaments draw thousands,” Gottschalk said. “You’ve got hotels being booked. You’ve got restaurants being used. You’ve got stores being shopped at. Those would be new dollars coming into the county.” Gottschalk doesn’t expect the feasibility study to be completed before the first of 2018.


Wood County honors citizens for their contributions

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The best of Wood County was honored on Sunday. Farmers who help educate city folks about agriculture. Pastors who build bridges, not walls. And a retired teacher who is still committed to learning, even if that means going to a “Godzilla” movie. Wood County commissioners Doris Herringshaw and Ted Bowlus led off the 2017 Spirit of Wood County Awards in the courthouse atrium. Following is the list of people recognized in each category: Agricultural leadership: Cathy Newlove Wenig, Gordon Wenig, Paul Herringshaw and Lesley Riker. Liberty through law/human freedom: Dan Van Vorhis. Self-government: Tim W. Brown. Education for Civic Responsibility: Mary Kuhlman. Religion and liberty: Revs. Mary Jane and Gary Saunders. Industrial/economic development: Barbara Rothrock. Lyle R. Fletcher Good Citizenship Award: Gwen Andrix and Amy Holland. “This is one of those things that Wood County does especially well,” said State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, about the recognition of community service by citizens. The agricultural leadership award was presented by Earlene Kilpatrick, executive director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce. For the last 12 years of the BG Leadership program, the Wenigs, Herringshaw and Riker have welcomed city business people on their farms. The day is a “real and powerful opportunity to educate citizens,” Kilpatrick said. “And we end up smelling like a farm at the end of the day.” “What an amazing experience for each class,” to learn about Wood County’s leading industry, she said. Initially the farm day consisted of simple drive-by tours. But now the participants visit ag co-ops, learn about soil content management and seed purchasing, and see a high-tech dairy operation and show pigs. “They educate us on the true cost of farming in the bountiful and not so bountiful seasons,” Kilpatrick said. “They aren’t afraid to answer questions honestly.” And often the city business people experience an “aha moment,” when the connection is made between their livelihoods and farming. In accepting the award, Cathy Newlove Wenig said one of their goals was to dispel the myths surrounding farming. “We just tried to do what we could to promote agriculture.” The liberty through law and human freedom award was presented by Bowling Green attorney Diane Huffman. She first met Van Vorhis years ago when he was a juvenile court probation officer. He now works for the Ohio Adult Parole System, and is on loan to the…


Renewal levy targets child and elder abuse, neglect

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County is on its way to setting a grim record for 2017, as the numbers of child abuse and neglect cases continue to grow. That makes passage of the 1.3-mill renewal levy for Human Services even more critical, according to those trying to meet the needs. “Without it we would have to reduce staff which would be catastrophic because we are seeing record numbers,” said Dave Wigent, director of the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services. Since 1987, the Children’s Services and Adult Protective Services portions of the agency have relied on the 1.3 mills to support their work. The 10-year levy generates $3.7 million a year, and costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $36 a year. The funding provides for child abuse and neglect investigations and, if needed, placement of children in foster homes or other settings. The levy also supports elder services, such as home health aides, homemaker services and investigations of elder abuse and neglect. Since the levy was last passed 10 years ago, Wood County has seen six deaths of children under 3 years old due to abuse. Five suffered from head trauma, and one was smothered. The needs of the protective services at both ends of the age spectrum continue to increase. Following are the statistics for 2016: 894 child abuse investigations. 260 elder abuse investigations. 212 of the child abuse investigations involved drugs. 142 of the investigations were child sexual abuse investigations. 59 children were placed in substitute care such as foster care or group homes. And the numbers look even worse for 2017. The reasons may be two-fold, according to Sandi Carsey, administrator of Children’s Services. In recent years, the opiate crisis has led to more cases, and there has been a real push for the public to report abuse and neglect concerns. “Last year in September, we had 35 children in foster care. This year we have 50,” Carsey said, adding that her office is currently trying to recruit more foster families. Meanwhile, the number of elder abuse and neglect cases is expected to pass 300 this year, she added. “You don’t control your workflow,” Wigent said. “Whatever comes at you, you have to deal with.” While Wood County is seeing record child and elder abuse and neglect, it continues to get little funding from the state, Carsey and…


After years of bumper crop of taxes, farmers get some relief

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After years of watching their taxes valuations grow like weeds, local farmers are now seeing their property taxes drop. While that is good news for farmers, it’s shifted some of the tax burden to homeowners. Every six years, state mandated full reappraisals are done on all properties in the county. Updates are conducted every three years. Later this month, the Wood County Auditor’s Office will send out notices of the new valuations to local farmers. Prior to 1974, farmers were taxed based on the market value of their land – that’s how much it would sell for, explained Wood County Auditor Matt Oestreich. So 40 acres of farmland on the edge of Perrysburg would be taxed at a much higher rate than 40 acres outside of Bloomdale. That created a lot of pressure on some farmers to sell their land because they couldn’t afford the property taxes. “Farmers were being taxed off their land,” Oestreich said. So the state changed its formula, and started setting valuations based on the amount that could be produced on the acreage. In Wood County, that covers approximately 380,000 acres – with about 81 percent of the county’s total acreage used for agriculture. “The income potential is the same,” per bushel of corn in Perrysburg Township as it is in Bloom Township, said Brian Jones, the Current Agricultural Use Valuation specialist in the Wood County Auditor’s Office. Factored into the valuation are the different soils, with Wood County having about 200 different soil types. Nearly two-thirds of county farmland is Hoytville clay, which is just above average soil quality for farming, Jones said. The CAUV formula worked in favor of the farmers in 2005, when the lowest values in the history of the program were appraised. Farmland was “dirt cheap,” and farmers got the benefit of lower taxes. When the 2008 updates rolled around, the values had doubled. Agricultural land valued at $350 an acre jumped up to about $780 an acre. The tax rates went from $4 to $8 an acre, which was still quite low, so few farmers complained, Oestreich and Jones explained. “It was fueled by good yields, high crop prices and increasingly low interest rates,” Oestreich said. “It was a perfect storm of sorts.” In 2011, the values doubled again, with some farmland at $1,770 an acre and taxes up to $25 an…


Sibbersen served county 40 years in taxing position

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Mike Sibbersen started out at the Wood County Auditor’s Office in a summer job, testing local gas pumps and checking store scales for accuracy. “I remember doing Beeker’s” general store in Pemberville where the scales weighed penny candy. At the end of the summer, Sibbersen was offered two jobs – one teaching and one continuing at the auditor’s office. He took the latter. That was 40 years ago. For the last 24 of those years, Sibbersen has been county auditor – the tax man some people love to hate. “The news you have to convey is not always what people want to hear,” he said. In many ways Sibbersen is the opposite of his predecessor, Harold Bateson, who was boisterous and often confrontational. Sibbersen is measured, certain and exact – on everything from numbers to words. “I have the reputation around here of being a frustrated editor,” he said. “Words are important.” The job has changed a great deal in the past four decades – much of it due to technology and revisions in tax law. When Sibbersen started, in addition to checking weights and measures, he also had to inventory lock boxes of deceased residents for the Department of Taxation. “When I came here, we were still doing personal property tax,” that has been phased out by the state, he said. Now the office inspects all the store checkout scanners in the county to make sure they are accurate. They also have to be on the alert for credit card skimmers. The staff has dropped from 26 to 22 during his time in the auditor’s office. It’s not that the responsibilities are fewer. “Technology has enabled us to do that,” Sibbersen said. The Wood County Auditor’s Office was the first in Northwest Ohio to start selling dog licenses online. “Now everybody’s doing it,” he said. And now citizens are likely to turn to the office’s website before calling in with questions. But the complaints still come in from people upset or confused about their taxes. “It’s stressful for a variety of reasons. You have to convey information that is sometimes a struggle to make clear and understandable,” Sibbersen said. Just explaining how a tax bill is calculated can be incredibly complicated. “It’s a challenge,” he said. “The bar of explanation becomes that much higher.” Sibbersen said he has often reminded his…


County hears pitch for business incubator to hatch inventors’ ideas

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A business incubator may be set up in Wood County to help local inventors hatch their ideas. The Wood County Commissioners heard a proposal Tuesday morning from Rene Polin, president and founder of Balance, a company that helps entrepreneurs turn their ideas into reality. “You can’t just be a dreamer. You have to be a dreamer with a business plan,” Polin said. And that’s where Balance would come in to the picture. “We want to bring our panache in the industry from Cleveland to Wood County,” Polin said. To do that, Polin needs some type of very basic workspace – something with office space, power and connectivity. “I know that sounds primitive,” but that’s all that’s needed, he said. The firm’s Cleveland space is an old factory building. The firm works with entrepreneurs, helping them assess their plans, fill out necessary paperwork, and determine if the project is worth their time and investment. After all, most inventors aren’t good business people, explained Doug Miller, of the Wood County Economic Development Commission which is working to bring Balance here. “They don’t have any idea how to run a business,” Polin agreed. “We bring the management acumen.” The business incubator can help entrepreneurs determine if there is a market for their product, Miller said. “People get focused on their invention,” but if the public won’t buy it, the idea isn’t going anywhere, he said. Sometimes, the dreams need to be tweaked. “We ask the hard questions,” Polin said. “We don’t kill the dream, but we change their idea of what their dream can be.” By using consumer research and focus groups, the incubator can help gauge the success of a product. The Balance firm has seen its own success – just by helping others achieve their dreams, Polin said. One such story is the Comfort Adjust Pillow that is currently being sold on the QVC shopping network. Several other ideas are being worked on now at the business incubator in Cleveland, including a pet grooming device. Polin said the inventor is being assisted with getting a patent, refining a prototype and testing it on different animals. The incubator also helps entrepreneurs decide if they want to produce the item themselves or license their creation to someone already in the business. Other inventions being tinkered with at the incubator now include a “super simple” non-powered…


Wood County selects solution for glass recycling

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The glass recycling operation may resume soon for Bowling Green and all of Wood County. The behind the scene operations may be a little different, but residents will once again be able to drop off their glass recyclables as they have in the past. “The public should see no difference from before,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said Thursday morning. The new solution calls for the glass to be shipped to a new location in Dunkirk, Indiana. “The commissioners are optimistic this will work,” Kalmar said. “The most important part is it doesn’t go in our landfill,” he added. The county commissioners selected a proposal from Strategic Materials, with costs of $20 a ton for shipping paid to Strategic Materials, and $10 a ton for handling paid to the Bowling Green Recycling Center. The county will pay the entire $30/ton fee. Strategic Materials is interested in a three- to five-year agreement. ”This arrangement is uncomplicated, restores glass recycling county citizens, cost effective, and keeps glass out of the landfill,” Kalmar said. Bill DenBesten, of the Bowling Green Recycling Center, said the center board will review the decision made by the commissioners. “Since this new proposal includes a change of partners, increased due diligence is required before we formally respond. We have already begun informal discussions and are planning a more comprehensive meeting, likely on Monday evening,” DenBesten responded. “I’ll let you know just as soon as the board has made its decision.” If the agreement proceeds, people dropping off glass will once again be able to use the bins at the recycling center. The option previously discussed of using the city’s old salt shed as storage for glass was discarded since it would have meant moving the glass multiple times. “The city was generous to offer,” but the idea would not have been efficient, Kalmar said. “This really should get us back to the arrangement we had before,” he said. Earlier this summer, the Bowling Green Recycling Center stopped accepting glass. The decision applied to all the center’s locations, including the 24-hour drop-off site in Bowling Green, and the satellite trailers and satellite facilities scattered throughout Wood County. Glass for recycling is particularly difficult to haul since it is very important that a load not be contaminated. Glass collected in Bowling Green and throughout the county usually has to be transported every three…


Roundabout eyed for Campbell Hill – Napoleon Road

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   East Wooster Street in Bowling Green may not be the only route in the area steering for roundabouts. Wood County Engineer John Musteric has asked for a safety study to be conducted at the intersection of Napoleon Road and Campbell Hill Road – just on the east side of Bowling Green. The Wood County Commissioners agreed to the study, which will be conducted by Poggemeyer Design Group. According to Musteric, the Campbell Hill-Napoleon intersection was identified on a list compiled by the Ohio County Engineers Association as one of the worst intersections in the region for accidents. Other Wood County intersections have made the list in the past, including Hull Prairie and Roachton, which now has a roundabout, and several on Oregon Road between Ohio 795 and the city of Northwood. A roundabout is currently being considered for the intersection of First Street and Oregon Road, Musteric said. In the city of Bowling Green, roundabouts are planned at East Wooster’s intersections with Interstate 75, Dunbridge Road and Campbell Hill Road. Now it appears there may be one more roundabout, just on the outer edge of the city. During the past three years, Musteric said the Campbell Hill-Napoleon crossing has been the site of about 45 accidents. Most have involved property damage and none have been fatal crashes, he said. “There have been a lot of accidents there,” he said. It doesn’t seem to be a matter of visibility, and the county has added signage. But that doesn’t seem to have helped. “People are stopping at Campbell Hill and then they pull out thinking the Napoleon traffic will stop,” Musteric said. So a traffic study will be conducted, in hopes of the county getting some funding for a possible roundabout. A four-way stop could be placed at the intersection, but then there will be more rear-end collisions, he said. “The state is more than willing to give money away for safety,” Musteric said. “These roundabouts reduce accidents by 76 percent.” The traffic study will likely be completed by the end of this year. “We definitely want it done while school is open,” he said. The results will be used to help the county pay for improvements. “We can use that to apply for grant money,” Musteric said. However, the county engineer said some type of agreement will likely be needed between the county…


BGSU teams with Wood County to monitor mosquitoes

By BOB CUNNINGHAM BGSU Office of Marketing & Communications Notice an uptick in mosquitoes in northwest Ohio? You can thank climate change. Warmer summers mean longer mosquito seasons, and milder winters signify a higher survival rate for mosquitoes. Those conditions, which have allowed for the emergence of diseases such as that caused by Zika virus, are cause for concern — especially as mosquitoes that vector, or carry, such viruses migrate farther north. “What’s happened the last two to three years has led to a lot of concern about mosquito-borne pathogens and viruses,” said Dr. Dan Pavuk, an insect biologist and lecturer in Biological Sciences at Bowling Green State University. “South Florida last summer in mosquito season had more than 200 cases of the Zika virus in humans that were actually documented to be transmitted by mosquitoes. That has spurred the interest in revitalizing a lot of the mosquito surveillance.” The Wood County Health District recently received a $17,696 grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to study mosquitoes in Wood County. The health district contracted with BGSU to assist in its mosquito surveillance project. Pavuk and two undergraduate biology students, Erica Eskins of Bellevue, Ohio, and Hannah Alanis of Oregon, Ohio, have been working on the project all summer. They’ll set the traps throughout Wood County, including three sites in Bowling Green and one each in Pemberville, Grand Rapids, Perrysburg, Rossford, North Baltimore and Walbridge. “We go out at least once a week and set the traps and then go back the next day to pick them up,” Pavuk said. “Most people don’t want to work with mosquitoes, but Erica and Hannah were actually really excited about working with them, and they both have gained a lot from this particular experience.” When Pavuk was an undergraduate student in the late 1970s, he said, there was a large amount of mosquito surveillance in Ohio and the United States because of other viruses that are vectored by the insects. The spread of St. Louis encephalitis, California encephalitis and Eastern equine encephalitis had health officials on high alert at the time. Now, with climate change, there’s a concern that some mosquitoes that vector Zika virus are moving farther north. “Among the mosquito species we’ve been sampling for is the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, which occurs over a large part of Ohio but not usually northwest Ohio except for Lucas County,” Pavuk said. “Lucas County did have…