Wood County

New voting machines in Wood County should be in place for next election

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News When voters show up at the polls next May, they will likely be casting their ballots on new voting machines. Those new voting machines could cost up to $2.2 million – with the state picking up $1.3 million of the bill. That may sound like a lot, but it’s about half of the estimated cost of $4.2 million for the voting machines in 2017. “We were hoping it would come in lower,” and it did, said Terry Burton, assistant director of the Wood County Board of Elections. “We are continuing to try to figure out ways to get this number lower.” The voting machine package got the approval of the Wood County Commissioners on Thursday. The cost not picked up by the state will come out of the county’s general fund. The county needs an estimated 525 voting machines. They will replace the county’s 12-year old touchscreen systems. The previous ballot stations lasted 40 years, and their predecessors were the first voting systems in Wood County. “Our life expectancy is decreasing,” as technology increases, said Carol DeJong, director of the Wood County Board of Elections. The county may lease these new systems, which would cost an additional $139,000 a year and guarantee modifications as the technology changes, Burton and DeJong explained. “It’s when,” not if upgrades will be needed, DeJong said. Terry Burton and Carol DeJong, of the Wood County Board of Elections, make their pitch to the county commissioners. The goal is to have the new voting machines in place by May, so the county has two elections to work out any bugs before the presidential election year. The systems will be leased or purchased from Dominion Voting Systems, headquartered in Denver. The board of elections is continuing to look at voting precincts that can be combined into “voting centers.” In Bowling Green, for example, several precincts share voting locations at the Wood County District Public Library and St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. There are some voting locations in the more rural areas of southeastern Wood County where the buildings didn’t “pass muster”…


Clemons has been the voice for those living with mental health, addiction issues

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Tom Clemons can talk … and talk … and talk. Most of what he talks about is pushing for mental health services for Wood County residents – and making fun of himself for talking so much. Clemons, whose propensity for talking is well known, is retiring from his position as director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board next March. “This interview could last several days,” he said with a big grin. “I go off on tangents.” And that is an understatement. Clemons is aware that his gift of gab is nearly legendary – so he is frequently apologizing for rambling. “Oh my God, Tom’s at it again,” he says in his customary self-deprecating manner. But this fall, as Clemons fine tuned his WCADAMHS levy pitch, he was able to rein it in. “It took everything I had,” he whispered. “I can be succinct. I just don’t like being succinct.” Behind him in the WCADAMHS conference room as he was interviewed was a white board with almost unintelligible pen scratchings. It was a visible manifestation of how Clemons’ brain works. Far from neat and tidy, it’s how Clemons thinks. And it’s benefitted Wood County for more than 20 years. Clemons came to the board first as associate director in 1997, then became director in 2012. Prior to that, he worked as a therapist in private practice in the Defiance area. He changed jobs to be closer to home while his and wife Karen’s children were teenagers. “For a few years I really missed being a therapist,” he said. “But I realized I could really affect more people and systems of care,” in his administrative position. Clemons was drawn to psychology early in life. “I had friends in high school who I saw become addicted to drugs and alcohol.” And he had two friends who took their lives. His parents were a huge influence on his career path, with his father being a minister and his mother having a divinity degree and working with senior adults. “I was raised…


BG, county need to present ‘welcoming’ face to attract workers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News A few years ago it was the lack of jobs in this region that was troubling. Now it’s the lack of people to fill the jobs being created here. So Bowling Green officials are looking to team up with Wood County to attract immigrants and millennials to the region.  Last week, the two entities discussed how to compete to attract those workers. “Employment issues are still top of the line,” said Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission. “It’s an issue we’ve all heard a million times.” “The labor pool has shrunk a lot in Northwest Ohio,” and the population is aging, Gottschalk said during a meeting of the economic development commission on Wednesday. “We just need more bodies,” he said. Sue Clark, Bowling Green’s economic development director, hears the same concerns. Jobs Ohio recently released statistics showing 9,200 jobs available within a 20-mile radius of Bowling Green. “Where will the people come from to fill these jobs,” she said. Clark has listened to the worries of small “mom and pop” shops and of large manufacturers. “We all know this is a very serious issue.” The headlines look great – about new companies moving into or expanding in the region. But the reality is that some of those new jobs siphon people away from existing businesses – which may lead to their closings or moving from the region. “If they simply steal employees from our existing companies,” without those workers being replaced by others, “none of us want that,” Clark said. So on Wednesday, Bowling Green officials shared their plan with county officials, in hopes that the entities could team up to attract workers to the region. Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards introduced the Welcome BG Task Force concept of attracting, supporting and maintaining a workforce – both skilled and unskilled. “We want to reach out and assist legal immigrants,” Edwards said. “America desperately needs more workers,” he said. Other cities have had success with such “welcoming” programs, like Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland and Dayton, the mayor said. “The immigrant…


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…


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…


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…


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…


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…


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…


Meeting on water options for northern Wood County set for Dec. 18

The Northwestern Water and Sewer District will hold a Regional Water Informational Meeting, Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn French Quarter Depot Conference Center, 10630 Fremont Pike, Perrysburg.  The meeting will provide an update with the latest information regarding possible water options, including Toledo water, Bowling Green water, and water from the Michindoh aquifer in Williams County. As an established regional water authority, The District continues exploring long-term water supply options for approximately 6,500 water customers, including those in the cities of Rossford and Northwood, The Village of Walbridge, as well as customers in Perrysburg Township, Troy Township, and Lake Township.


County to preserve courthouse murals before too late

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For more than a century, the murals on the top floor of the Wood County Courthouse have caused heads to tip back in admiration of the artwork. The county commissioners would like courthouse visitors for years to come to have that same experience. So the commissioners are planning to spend nearly $70,000 to restore the works of art. “That building is on the National Register of Historic Places,” said Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar. And the murals are an integral part of the structure. “They depict scenes from Wood County a century ago.” The county commissioners are expected on Tuesday to enter into a contract for $21,980 to lease scaffolding for the restoration project. Earlier this fall, they had approved a contract for $47,390 to hire McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory Inc., from Oberlin, to restore the murals. The work will be laborious and tedious – taking an estimated four weeks for each towering mural. The scaffolding will go up on Nov. 26, with a tentative completion date of Feb. 1, 2019. Putting up the scaffolding in itself is a difficult job. “We’ve had it done before, for painting the trim,” on the courthouse’s third floor, Kalmar said. “Unfortunately, that’s a major portion of the costs for whatever we do there.” The commissioners were told earlier this year that the aging murals were at a critical point. A painting restoration expert said it’s now or never for the massive murals. “You’re at the turning point,” Kalmar said the county was informed. “If we don’t do restoration now, they are going to start coming off the walls.” The murals depict Fort Meigs in 1813 on the east wall, and an oil field in 1904 on the west wall. The murals were painted * by I.M. Taylor, an artist and mayor of Bowling Green. A couple years ago, workers restoring plaster at the courthouse noticed some paint flaking on the murals. So the county contracted with ICA Art Conservation, a non-profit center in Cleveland for advice. Andrea Chevalier, a senior painting conservator, visited the courthouse…


County park district shares funding to help local parks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Park District made a commitment years ago to share its tax dollars with community parks around the county. When Neil Munger, director of the county park district, visits communities throughout the county, he is frequently reminded of the value of that sharing. “There have been a lot of times, going out and looking at some of these communities, I see that 90 percent of the improvements in the parks are made with these grants,” Munger said. “It’s really heartwarming to see that.” This year, the Wood County Park District again set aside $100,000 to disperse to local community parks. Fifteen requests for funding were received, with 13 being granted. “The board likes to spread it out as much as we can,” Munger said. “It’s all judged on merit,” he said. Applicants willing to share in the costs or donate labor are viewed favorably. One was rejected for an incomplete application, and the other because it was too large of a request, Munger said. Following is a list of how the grant funding will be used: Bowling Green: $19,640 to replace Bellard and Perkins shelter houses in Carter Park with one larger shelter that will be ADA compliant. Custar: $2,538 for tree and shrub planting. Cygnet: $4,346 for replacement of bleachers. Luckey: $3,915 for playground resurfacing. North Baltimore: $12,394 to replace basketball goals. Perrysburg: $10,463 for replacement of playground equipment. Perrysburg Township: $7,702 for playground resurfacing, replacement of swingset chains, and picnic table. Portage Township: $3,252 for concession stand equipment (commercial refrigerator and popcorn popper.) Rossford: $11,103 to resurface pickleball courts. Tontogany: $4,245 for disc golf course. Walbridge: $9,674 to replace fencing. Wayne: $7,522 for playground equipment (ADA swing and merry-go-round.) West Millgrove: $3,205 for park benches and funnel ball.


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…


Local heroes honored for their courage and caring

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Local heroes were recognized Friday evening for saving accident victims, preventing a child from drowning, and stopping a man planning to jump from an overpass. “This is a celebration of what we do right in Wood County,” said State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green. Wood County has been doing it right for 30 years now by handing out annual Black Swamp Humanitarian Awards. So far, 434 heroes have been recognized. Following is a list of the people honored this year for their heroic acts. Good Samaritan: Tom Wilhelm, Anthony Soto, Larry Miller Jr. and Brian Bonecutter On July 30, Weston EMS was dispatched along with Milton Township Fire Department to an injury accident on Milton Road, with a possible ejection. When EMS arrived on the scene, the crew was greeted by four men who were standing by the cornfield, with a massive debris field seen all over the road. One of the men had called 911 and then the four cleared a spot in the cornfield so the EMS would have clear access to the patient. They led the EMS crew to the patient, who was in the cornfield about 50 feet from the overturned vehicle. The patient was critically injured, alert, but disoriented, and told EMS that she was impaired. She had numerous lacerations, abrasions which were actively bleeding, and a possible arm fracture. Because of her condition, it was difficult to know if she might have had a head injury and other injuries. The four men – Tom Wilhelm, Anthony Soto, Brian Bonecutter and Larry Miller – assisted the EMS with equipment, immobilizing the patient and transferring her to the squad – all prior to the fire department’s arrival on the scene. The accident occurred during Wood County Fair week, when fire and EMS departments are often short-handed. If the men hadn’t stopped and helped, the outcome for the 25-year-old woman might have been much different, EMS Chief Kathy Heyman said. The patient was transported on Life Flight and was expected to make a complete recovery. Good Samaritan: Joe Mettler…


Voters pass two countywide levies by wide margins

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The willingness of Wood County voters to help those in need resulted in the easy passage of two countywide levies on Tuesday. The Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ 2.45-mill levy walked away with 72 percent of the vote (34,546 to 13,172), and the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services’ 1-mill levy passed handily with 67 percent of the vote (32,061 to 15,901). Wood Lane Superintendent Brent Baer said voters clearly responded to the need. “We’re so appreciative of the support,” he said Tuesday evening. “We’re looking forward to getting back in the office tomorrow and doing what we love to do.” Baer was pleasantly surprised by the margin of the levy’s victory. The last time the levy was on the ballot in 2013, it passed with 57 percent of the vote. The increased support may be because of a decrease in the millage, and in the spike in demands for Wood Lane services, Baer said. “I do believe people really responded to the information,” that requests for services are at an all-time high, he said. “They agreed the need is there.” Tom Clemons, executive director of Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, spent a great deal of time traveling to communities in the county to educate voters prior to the levy vote. But he found that many county residents were already aware of the services. “I think we have really improved our community education over the past several years,” Clemons said. And the ongoing opiate crisis has helped spread the word. “The opiate epidemic certainly increased awareness,” he said. Clemons said he was worried that people would be so tired of hearing about the opiate crisis, that they might shut out the message about the levy. He is also weary of hearing the horrors, “but closing my eyes to it doesn’t make it go away,” he said. “We’re making a difference. We’re saving people’s lives. But we’ve got a long way to go,” he said. As he promoted the levy, Clemons also talked about the…