Wood County

Wood County Park District makes pitch for renewal levy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It doesn’t seem likely the Wood County Park District would suffer from an identity crisis. Where else can county residents hike, bike and revel in nature 365 days a year in 20 different parks with 1,125 acres? Where else can adventure lovers go kayaking, rappelling and geo-caching? But as the county park district nears the May 8 election, there is some concern that Bowling Green voters will confuse the Wood County Park District levy with the city parks and recreation levy that was passed last November. “There is some confusion between the parks,” Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger said. “I’m hopeful that we get the word out.” That word includes the fact that the park district is trying for a levy renewal – meaning no extra millage. Board President Denny Parish stressed recently that the renewal will be same millage sought when the park district last passed its levy in 2008. “Which means no new taxes,” Parish said. For the last decade, the levy has generated about $2.8 million a year. That amount is expected to grow to $3 million a year because of new construction in the county. “It won’t cost individual homeowners more than they’ve been paying for the last 10 years.” If approved, the 1-mill levy will cost the owner of a $150,000 home a total of $39.54 per year. Munger said the district is committed to not raising the tax burden on local residents. “We aren’t asking for any additional money,” he said. The park district also wants local residents to know that when they make suggestions, the park district listens. New programming has been added – both educational and adventure activities, Munger said. “Everybody likes what we’ve been doing,” he said. “We’ll keep listening to the public to see what they want to see for their parks.” In 1986, the county park district consisted of two parks – Otsego near Grand Rapids and Harrison near Pemberville. The two part-time maintenance employees used an old beat-up pickup truck with a “Dewey for President” bumper sticker, according to Bob Callecod, who was a park commissioner then. At that point, the two parks were in poor condition, with non-functioning restrooms and rickety railings, Callecod said. Since then, the district has grown to 20 parks and shares its wealth with smaller community parks by awarding $100,000 in local park grants every year. More than $2 million has been given out in grants, he said. Not only the park acreage, but also the programming has grown. In the past few years, park programming has been expanded to add kayaking, rappelling and archery. “We’re always listening to the public about what they want,” Munger said. During the last several years, the park district has focused funding on land acquisitions.  But that…


Rumor about farm equipment fees spreads like weeds

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the weather warms and farmers start itching to get out in their fields, the Wood County Commissioners want to make one point perfectly clear – there will be no blanket fee for farm equipment on county roads. During discussions about an overweight truck program for the county, an initial annual blanket fee of $100 per vehicles was considered. However, the commissioners quickly nixed those plans, and removed any blanket fee for farm equipment from the overweight permit plan. While the word about the initial farm fee proposal spread like weeds in a soybean field, the word about the fee removal seems to have missed some people, Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said Thursday. In fact, the rumors worsened, with some farmers now believing they will have to pay $100 each time their vehicles travel county roads. The commissioners have heard that many farmers plan to show up to protest the non-existent fees at the next town meeting held by the commissioners on Monday at 5:45 p.m., in the Center Township Building. The goal of the Overweight Vehicle Permit program is to protect county roads and bridges from damage.  Overweight vehicles that travel state routes are required to obtain a permit from the Ohio Department of Transportation.  These same overweight vehicles travel state routes legally, then exit onto county and township roads with no permits or regard for the capacity of the roads or bridges. The only permit fee that could affect farmers is for vehicles that exceed 87,000 pounds – most likely semi-trucks hauling grain. “This is to protect our assets,” Wood County Engineer John Musteric said of the overweight permit program recently during a meeting with the county commissioners. “We’re spending a lot of money to improve these roads and bridges.” While many of the proposed county fees mirror amounts charged by the Ohio Department of Transportation for overweight traffic, the initial farm fees do not. The commissioners agreed that the blanket farm fees be discarded. “You don’t want to be the farm police,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said during that meeting. Grand Rapids area farmer Dan Potter said there would not be a meeting room big enough for all the unhappy farmers if the county enacted blanket fees. He explained that ODOT exempts all farm equipment driving down the road from overweight fees. No farm equipment weighs more than the maximum allowable weight of 80,000 pounds, Potter said However, some semi-loads of grain may be overweight. But there is no way for farmers to determine the weight of the loads prior to them being weighed at the grain elevator. “We know that coming out of the field it’s impossible to tell,” said Shane Johnson, of the county engineer’s office. Commissioner Craig LaHote suggested that the new overweight load…


873 pinwheels show extent of child abuse and neglect

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The spinning pinwheels planted in the ground by giggling children tell a very different story than it appears at first glance. “Without alarming the kids, we let them know this is something to help other children who need help,” said Susie Dunn, who brought out children from Dunn’s Kiddie Kare to plant the pinwheels in the ground. The 873 pinwheels represent the number of child abuse and neglect investigations conducted last year by Wood County Children’s Services. This year the blue and silver pinwheels bear testament along Ohio 25 where motorists will easily see them, in the front yard of Thayer Ford/Nissan, 18039 Dixie Highway, Bowling Green. The annual display of pinwheels is part of Child Abuse Awareness Month in April. The display serves as a reminder that not all children have carefree and loving lives. “We continue to run record levels of investigations,” said Dave Wigent, director of the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services. Last year’s numbers dropped slightly from the 894 cases in 2016, but the severity of the cases continue to worsen. The pinwheels are a visual reminder that the public needs to notify authorities about child abuse and neglect. “We depend on the community to report child abuse,” Wigent said. In addition to the countywide pinwheel field, individual displays are once again being planted in communities to show the number of cases in each school district. “It’s everywhere in Wood County,” said Sandi Carsey, administrator of Wood County Protective Services. Area schools will have displays on their campuses, with the number of pinwheels indicating the number of families in the district assisted by Wood County Children’s Services. The breakdown per district is: Bowling Green – 198; Eastwood – 45; Elmwood – 46; Lake – 55; North Baltimore – 75; Northwood – 72; Otsego – 54; Perrysburg – 146; and Rossford – 90. The pinwheels will be on display throughout the month of April. Some of the continuing high numbers seen in abuse and neglect cases may be due to public education efforts, Carsey said. “I think people are more aware now to call us,” she said. Another reason may be increases in drug abuse. “The reports are very serious that we’re getting,” Carsey said. “We have parents overdosing in front of their children. It’s everywhere.” Carsey noted the recent creation of the Addiction Response Collaborative through the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office. The program responds to opiate overdose cases. “We’re hoping that will help stem the tide,” Carsey said. Last year’s investigation numbers included the following cases: physical abuse, 250; sexual abuse, 136; neglect 392; emotional abuse, 25; dependent, 16; families in need of services, 54; and other, 21. Drugs were involved in 209 cases; 97 involved opiates.


Dogs put to the test before deemed safe for adoption

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   All 120 pounds of Winston with his wagging tail showed up in the Wood County Commissioners’ hearing room on Tuesday. The mastiff mix – who was adopted from the Wood County Dog Shelter – was used to help exhibit the testing that dogs go through before they are deemed safe to be adopted out from the shelter. “If we have dogs with unsafe behaviors, we are not going to place them,” Wood County Dog Warden Andrew Snyder said to the county commissioners. “We are making decisions based on the best interest of the public and best interest of the dogs.” Snyder talked about Safety Assessment for Evaluating Re-homing tests intended to judge dog behavior. “This assessment was designed to identify behavior modification before adoption,” he said. However, the dog shelter does not have the adequate time or staff to perform the detailed two-person videotaped evaluations, he said. “It’s really not a function we are equipped to carry out,” Snyder told the commissioners. So the Wood County Dog Shelter is using its own version of the behavior evaluations. According to Snyder, dog shelters in Lucas and Hancock counties also do modified versions, while dog shelters in Seneca, Sandusky, Henry and Ottawa counties have no formal evaluations. But a canine advocate group called Wood County Canine Alliance believes some dogs at the local shelter are unfairly labeled as dangerous and doomed to euthanasia. Snyder defended the evaluations as a public service. With the help of Winston and his owner, deputy dog warden Nora Davis, Snyder showed the county commissioners how dogs are assessed. Observation of the dog’s body language can tell a lot, he said. Is the dog barking in a happy or aggressive manner, cowering in the back of a kennel, pacing, acting dominant or submissive, avoiding eye contact? Are the ears back, hair raised, tail wagging? “Dogs are very, very good at reading people,” Snyder said. “As we’re assessing them, they are assessing us.” Then there are the tests. Will the dog tolerate having its feet touched or its ears tugged? Will it allow a person to push or restrain it in a hug? The staff uses a fake arm on a stick to see if the dog will allow its food bowl to be moved around. There are also tests to see how a dog behaves around other dogs. Snyder recognizes the evaluations are not perfect. “We are evaluating dogs based on a single point in time,” and when being housed in a dog kennel, that point in time is not ideal, he said. “It’s a stressful environment. Dogs certainly act different there than they will act in a home environment,” he said. “All evaluations to a certain extent are subjective,” Snyder said. Sometimes the shelter staff encounters a dog that…


First responders honored for giving opiate addicts second, third and more chances

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Those being honored Monday in the war against opiate abuse weren’t front and center. As usual, they were gathered far from the podium. “The first responders are all in the back of the room,” Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson said. “Frankly that’s where they would prefer to be. They would much rather be out doing their jobs.” Those are the jobs they were being honored for on Monday – saving people from opiate overdoses. “They step into circumstances that we can’t imagine,” Dobson said. “They stand between us and danger in a very real sense on a daily basis.” EMS and law enforcement are being recognized across Ohio this week for saving people who overdose on opiates. In the Wood County Courthouse Atrium, the first responders were thanked by the second and third responders in the opiate crisis. To show appreciation in Wood County, that meant lunches will be delivered to fire and police stations throughout the week by Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “This is basically to say ‘thank you.’ We know it’s difficult work,” said Milan Karna, with the Wood County Prevention Coalition. A video was played, showing people who had been saved by first responders using narcan to revive them after overdoses. The faces thanked the first responders for not giving up on them – even if they had to respond to the same person for multiple overdoses. Tom Clemons, WCADAMHS director, used Dobson’s terminology of this war on opiates creating “refugees” in need of care. “It takes all of us working together on this,” Clemons said. On the front lines of this war are EMS, law enforcement, children’s services, and hospitals. “It is a widely recognized fact that a lot of first responders are putting themselves at risk,” with fentanyl being very dangerous to those treating overdose victims. But the use of narcan is giving opiate addicts another chance at life, Clemons said. “We’re seeing more and more people’s lives saved,” he said. “That’s where recovery begins. Treatment does work and people recover.” Evidence of that is seen with the county’s new Addiction Response Collaboration program through Dobson’s office. Since its inception about four months ago, the program has worked with 35 opiate addicts in Wood County. Of those, seven people have been sober for three months, and three have been sober for four months. That is a good retention rate, according to ARC’s Belinda Brooks. “I don’t think there’s an EMS or law enforcement in the county that hasn’t seen something” of the opiate epidemic, Brooks said. Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said his deputies had another save from an overdose this past weekend. He also said it’s not uncommon for the county jail’s holding…


Overweight trucks weigh heavy on minds of county officials

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County roads took a beating from the Rover pipeline construction across the southern part of the county. So Wood County Engineer John Musteric wants to get an overweight truck program in place before more pipeline construction traffic rumbles over county roads and bridges. But while the program will keep an eye on pipeline transports, it was decided that it won’t target farm traffic. The Wood County Commissioners on Tuesday reviewed the proposed fees for an overweight truck program – with the ultimate goal of saving county roads and bridges from unnecessary wear and tear. “This is to protect our assets,” Musteric said. “We’re spending a lot of money to improve these roads and bridges.” At the same time, the engineer’s office is aware of many overweight loads using county roads and bridges. “We hope to God a catastrophe doesn’t happen,” with older bridges being weakened with every heavy load, Musteric said. The county has already posted signs notifying Nexus pipeline construction traffic of the route they are to take north of Bowling Green. The permit program will require the pipeline company to purchase permits for all of its trucks, and will allow the county to issue fines if the trucks stray from the assigned route that can better handle the heavy loads, Musteric said. “They better stay on those routes. They’ve been warned,” Musteric said. “If you get off those routes, you will pay.” The county learned a hard lesson from the Rover pipeline construction in the southern part of the county, Musteric said at a previous meeting. “Rover tore the heck out of the roads,” he said. Though the proposed overweight truck program has been unpopular with some, there are companies ready to pay for their permits, said Shane Johnson, of the county engineer’s office. For Nexus pipeline, the program will require more than 85 permits at a proposed $150 each. “They haven’t batted an eye,” Johnson said. But local farmers don’t feel the same. The initial proposal by the county engineer’s office called for an annual blanket permit for farm equipment of $100 each year. While all the other fees mirror amounts charged by the Ohio Department of Transportation for overweight traffic, the farm fees do not. The commissioners asked that the blanket farm fees be discarded. “You don’t want to be the farm police,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said. Grand Rapids area farmer Dan Potter said there would not be a meeting room big enough for all the unhappy farmers if the county enacted blanket fees. He explained that ODOT exempts all farm equipment driving down the road from overweight fees. No farm equipment weighs more than the maximum allowable weight of 80,000 pounds, Potter said However, some semi-loads of grain may be overweight. But there is…


Wood County home health services for seniors cut

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For decades, Wood County Job and Family Services has provided in-home care for low-income old and infirm residents. The value of those personal care and homemaker services was extolled last year as the agency promoted its tax levy. The levy passed handily. But now, months later, the agency is drastically cutting these services to older county citizens. The purpose of the programs is to allow senior citizens to stay in their homes. The homemaker services provide cleaning for seniors unable to maintain a safe home. There were approximately 140 people in this program. The personal care program provides bathing, nail care and medication set-ups to another 75 citizens. “The programs are a safety net diverting people from institutions,” said Denise Niese, director of the Wood County Committee on Aging. Many of the people being removed from services by Wood County Job and Family Services are citizens also served by Niese’s agency. “They are feeling abandoned,” Niese said. Dave Wigent, director of Wood County Job and Family Services, agreed the letters sent out to seniors have raised concerns. “We’ve got some frustrated people,” he said. Wigent said the cutting of the services months after passage of the levy was unfortunate timing. But when his agency did a review of services in late November, it was discovered that Job and Family Services was getting reimbursed by the federal government for a small fraction of the cost of the program. “Not only is it not mandated, it’s not funded,” Wigent said of the senior programs. In 2017, the agency spent $900,000 on the homemaker program with its six employees, he said. At the same time, an evaluation showed that the bulk of the people receiving the non-mandated services had other options for the same care. “We came to the realization we had a lot of people in the program who could take care of themselves, or had the resources to take care of themselves,” he said. “We had some people we were cleaning their homes for 10 years,” Wigent said. “We just kept continuing it through the years because we thought it was a nice program.” However, demands on Job and Family Services funding intensified last year for abused and neglected children and older adults. The agency has to prioritize those mandated services, Wigent said. The number of cases in Adult Protective Services last year hit a record high 338 – 78 more than the year before. “We’ve had an explosion of elder abuse reports,” he said. “My suspicion is that we will never see a reduction in the numbers.” At the same time, the number of child abuse and neglect cases continues to increase. The cost for foster care last year jumped by $700,000, Wigent said. “If that doesn’t level off, we’re going to…


County helps fund humane society cruelty investigator

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Last year the Wood County Humane Society responded to 221 complaints of abused or neglected animals. With the help of $32,500 from the Wood County Commissioners, the agency can continue coming to the rescue of mistreated animals. The commissioners presented the funds Tuesday to representatives of the humane society. The check was $2,500 more than the usual annual amount given. The money is used each year to pay for the humane agent’s salary, plus help with costs for the vehicle and equipment used to respond to complaints. Heath Diehl, president of the volunteer board, and Erin Moore, shelter manager, reported to the commissioners on changes at the shelter. Diehl said the agency is constantly focused on working more efficiently and being good stewards of donated monies. Moore said the agency had an operational audit conducted recently by an outside company. She also pointed out increased efforts to send staff to educational seminars. The humane society has a new humane agent, David Petersen, who responds to cruelty complaints. “He’s been pretty busy on education,” Moore said. Petersen, who has experience as Sandusky County’s humane agent, gets an estimated 16 calls a month about suspected animal abuse or neglect. In some of those cases, the owners are educated on proper care and the animals are left with them. For that reason, the humane agent also conducted 882 re-checks last year, according to the Wood County Humane Society’s annual report for 2017. In other cases, the owners surrender the animals, or the case is taken to court. “During the really hot times of the year and the really cold times, we get more” cases reported, Moore said. According to the annual report, the humane society set a record last year of the number of animals taken in, and the number of lives saved. A total of 1,055 animals were taken into the shelter – an increase of 20 percent from the year before – and 987 lives were saved. Also last year, the shelter’s veterinary team completed 928 surgical procedures — 633 of which were spays and neuters for shelter animals. Diehl and Moore also reported to the commissioners that the humane society has started to spay and neuter adoptable dogs from the Wood County Dog Shelter. “We’re hoping there will be many more,” Moore said. “We’re hoping this will be an ongoing great relationship and something good for the community, too.” The bulk of the Wood County Humane Society’s overall budget of close to $500,000 is from donations and fundraising efforts. The largest fundraiser each year for the organization is coming up later this spring. The annual garage sale intake will be May 21 to 23, followed by the actual sale on May 24 to 26.


Glass company named Corporate Citizen of the Year

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Few people know what goes on in the huge, sprawling plant on the banks of the Maumee River in Rossford. But countless people around the world look at – or through- their products every day. Corporate officials have heard the plant referred to as “Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory” because of its mysterious nature. But the magic behind the walls of NSG Pilkington was revealed Thursday evening when the company was named Wood County’s Corporate Citizen of the Year. The company, one of the largest manufacturers in the glass industry, started out as Libbey-Owens-Ford – the last names of three inventors in the glass business – Edward Drummond Libbey, Michael Joseph Owens and Edward Ford. The earliest roots reach back to 1818 in England. Todd Huffman, plant manager, accepted the Corporate Citizen of the Year award and talked about the float glass and advanced assembly plant that sits on 148 acres in Rossford. The mission of NSG Pilkington, the company’s current name, is to produce quality glass with world-class yields, he said. “We focus all of our efforts to satisfy our customers,” Huffman said. The company has 350 employees at its highly robotic Rossford plant, and another 120 engineers and finance employees at its Northwood location. Many of the workers are multi-generations of the same families. “We have an outstanding workforce,” he said. And the company has a great safety record, he added. “These are some of the best glass people in the world.” The company sells to automotive customers around the world, as far away as South Korea and Turkey. The glass is also used in architecture as windows and shower doors, Huffman said. Some of the newer uses for NSG Pilkington’s glass are found in electronics, such as touchscreens and TV displays, as solar panels, and as refrigerator doors. Since the high heat furnaces can’t be shut down, work at the Rossford plant goes on day and night, every day of the year. “We work around the clock,” Huffman said. Huffman said that he briefly left the company in 2012, but returned in 2015. “This is a company that really does the right thing for our employees, our communities and our customers,” he said. “I’m proud to say that I work there.” Huffman thanked the county economic development commission for the award. “It’s humbling. It’s much appreciated,” he said. And Wood County Commissioner Craig LaHote marveled at the success of the company. “It’s pretty amazing we have this in our backyard,” he said. In other business at the annual Wood County Economic Development Commission dinner meeting, four members were sworn into the board, including Doug Miller, Jerry Greiner, Lane Williamson and Bob Graham. Outgoing board member Jack Jones, of Poggemeyer Design Group, was recognized as the longest serving member in the…


County steers toward $5 license fee for roads, bridges

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Engineer John Musteric is tired of just spinning his wheels on endless road and bridge repairs. So on Thursday, he asked the Wood County Commissioners to consider tacking on another $5 permissive license plate fee to raise money for road and bridge maintenance. The commissioners seemed open to the proposal. “He’s done his homework,” Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said. “Our roads and bridges do need some attention.” The commissioners will be required to hold two public hearings before they make a decision on the permissive license fee. But Commissioner Craig LaHote said he believes most local residents already know the county’s infrastructure needs help. “People realize the roads are in bad shape,” he said. Musteric and the commissioners looked at a map of county roads – with several of the routes colored red or orange, indicating serious or poor road conditions. “We’re never catching up,” Musteric told the commissioners. “We do all these studies of where we should put our money. You try to spend your money where the most people will benefit from it.” The county engineer feels his office is in a Catch-22 situation. What’s the use of spending money to fix bridges, he said, “if you’ve got crappy roads going to them?” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said state and federal government have “no appetite” for raising gas taxes themselves. And the revenue brought in by gas taxes isn’t growing to meet expenses, since more fuel-efficient cars mean less gas is needed to traverse the state. “It makes the revenue generated remain flat,” Kalmar said. The proposed $5 increase is projected to bring in an additional $632,660 annually for road and bridge repairs. Musteric pledged to the commissioners that the additional funds would be used only on capital expenses, not on personnel or operating costs. Currently the state registration fee is $34.50, and the local permissive fees are between $15 and $20, depending on the community. The Ohio General Assembly has authorized the additional $5 fee. “They recognized the stagnant funding of local transportation systems and that counties were struggling to keep up with the need for bridge replacements and road repair,” Musteric said. The federal gas tax has not been increased since 1993, and the state gas tax has not been increased since 2005. Ohio gas tax is currently 28 cents, and the federal gas tax is 18.4 cents. The last county $5 permissive fee was enacted in 1990. Meanwhile, the cost of building and maintaining roads has continued to grow. Since the last state gas tax increase, the cost of asphalt has jumped 58 percent, steel has increased 35 percent, concrete has gone up 10 percent, and road paint has jumped 38 percent. To deal with stagnant or declining revenue and rising costs, some counties have…


Small towns count on big help from block grant funding

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Small town government can be short on glamour, and steeped in talk of storm drains, street repairs and sewer systems. Mayors and other officials from many of Wood County’s 26 municipalities recently made their preliminary pitches to get funding for projects that they cannot afford on their own. Listening to their proposals were officials from the Wood County Planning Commission – which is the first of several steps to get Community Development Block Grants. Dave Steiner, director of the planning commission, said this year’s funding level for the county overall is still unknown. The projects must serve areas with low to moderate income, or eliminate slum or blight conditions. And if communities are able to pitch in some matching dollars, they stand a better chance of getting funds. Bowling Green gets its own pot of CDBG money, but the other municipalities in Wood County compete for the county share. Following is a list of some of the project requests made earlier this month: Bradner: “We’re here to once again replace waterlines,” said Board of Public Affairs President Jim Smith. “All that we are replacing were put in by WPA,” meaning they are at least 80 years old. “As they continue to age, we’re constantly dealing with breakages,” he said. Village leaders would also like to put LED lighting in the town, plus update lighting in the village park. Custar: Mayor Renee Hartman said street improvements are needed on Custar Road, especially where it is damaged by heavy truck traffic near the grain elevator. “We are continuously filling the potholes,” Hartman said. “Very, very poor” sidewalks along Custar Road also need fixing, she said. Grand Rapids: Chad Hoffman, village administrator, said the town needs sanitary sewer work on the west side of the community, and sidewalk repairs throughout the village. Village leaders also plan to ask that Ohio 65 be rerouted out of the town, Hoffman said. “Since ODOT won’t maintain and repair it. Something’s got to be done there.” The wastewater treatment plant needs improvements, and new water regulations are looming. “EPA is telling everyone they need a backup water source. I don’t know where they expect us to find it,” Hoffman said. Haskins: Village Administrator Colby Carroll said funding is needed for the downtown area. “ODOT recrowned Route 64 to the point car doors are scraping the road,” he said. The town also needs an alternate access for the Logan Meadows subdivision, and is interested in building a storm shelter for those residents of the community without basements. North Baltimore: Village Administrator Allyson Murray said funding is needed for street reconstruction in the downtown area and throughout the town. The town needs to replace some waterlines and complete a loop for water stabilization. And funding would be helpful to aid the…


Portable scales may be used to deter overweight trucks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County officials tired of roads being beat up by overweight trucks may start using portable scales to snag those heavy loads. Wood County Engineer John Musteric and Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn made a pitch to the county commissioners Thursday morning about setting up an overweight vehicle permit program using scales that can easily be transported throughout the county. The goal isn’t to make money off of permits and fines, Musteric said, but rather to discourage heavy trucks from breaking up county roads. Overweight truck traffic is increasing on interstates, so it’s only natural that to reach their destinations, those trucks have to use smaller county and township roads. While most trucking companies get permits with ODOT for overweight loads, they often neglect to get permits at the local level, Musteric said. Last year, Ohio issued 367,332 permits for overweight trucks. When detailing their routes, those trucking companies identified 46,034 loads that traveled through Wood County. Yet only 57 permits were issues for Wood County, Musteric said. The legal limit on Ohio roads is 80,000 pounds. Some of the heavy trucks weigh as much as 165,000 pounds. “Some of those people aren’t going to be happy,” Wasylyshyn said. Permits can be purchased per truck, per route traveled. “If they get off that route, and they get nailed, they pay hefty fines,” Musteric said. But Musteric stressed the goal isn’t to make money, but to control which roads overweight trucks travel. “Believe me, this is not a money grab for us,” he told the commissioners. The county’s roads and bridges are in “dire straits” and suffer from heavy loads. So part of the permitting program will be educational – with efforts made to direct overweight traffic to more suitable routes. The sheriff and engineer suggested that Wood County use portable scales as part of that educational process. “ODOT has three portable scales just waiting to be used, at no cost,” Musteric said. Construction of the Rover pipeline across southern Wood County has taught the engineer’s office a painful lesson, Musteric said. “Rover tore the heck out of the roads,” the engineer said. Signs have already been posted to keep Nexus pipeline construction trucks on roads that are better able to handle the heavy loads. “They better stay on those routes. They’ve been warned,” Musteric said. “If you get off those routes, you will pay.” A sheriff’s deputy could be trained to use the scales, which can handle trucks with up to 15 axles. The sheriff’s office gets complaints about trucks suspected of carrying heavy loads. A dump truck heaped high with stone is likely too heavy for local roads, Wasylyshyn said. “You can pretty much guarantee that truck is overweight,” he said. But without scales, his deputies can’t prove the truck is…


Wetlands plan at park doesn’t sit well with farmer

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As a young boy, Tom Carpenter learned quickly that his neighbor, Everett Carter, liked things done a certain way. At age 12, Carpenter started mowing lawn for the aging farmer. “Can you make straight lines,” Carpenter recalled Carter asking him. “He was very, very particular. His home was immaculate,” Carpenter said. Decades later, now Carpenter is the farmer of the land once planted and harvested by Carter. And as such, he approached the Wood County Park District Board on Tuesday about its plans to turn part of the old farm into a wetlands demonstration project. The property has been in the park district’s hands for years, being donated by Everett’s daughter, Sally Loomis. The park district has maintained the farm, house and outbuildings as a historic site for visitors. Carpenter complimented the park district for its efforts. “If Sally Loomis were to pull in the property, she would be very appreciative” of the care given the buildings, and the animals being raised on the site north of Bowling Green, Carpenter said. But he’s not so sure that Loomis would appreciate 20 acres of her former farmland being turned back into wetlands. Carpenter surmised that Loomis would prefer that the acreage continue to be used as productive farmland. Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger explained the proposal to revert a portion of the farm back into wetlands would serve two purposes. One is historic. “It would restore it to what it would have been back in the day,” Munger said. The other reason is scientific. The wetlands proposal by the Black Swamp Conservancy would be a demonstration project to study how wetlands can be used to filter out nutrients from farm fields – before those nutrients reach streams and ultimately Lake Erie. Carpenter said he is aware of runoff from farmland causing water quality problems in the region. “I understand about 70 percent of what we put on farms can end up in Lake Erie,” he said. The preliminary proposal calls for the wetlands to be located with a wooded buffer on 20 acres on the far west end of the farm. The acreage involved sits along a ditch that flows into Toussaint Creek. The wetlands would be designed to create wildlife habitat. Munger said his conversations with Loomis led him to believe she would approve of the wetlands project, especially in light of the region’s water quality problems. “She did talk about restoration of some areas,” Munger said. Loomis was a believer in education about farming and the natural history of the county – and donated the farm to the park district for that reason, he said. Carpenter suggested that perhaps the park board could turn the wooded area on the farm into wetlands, rather than the productive farmland. “I struggle…


Wood County looking at rough roads and old bridges

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s got some rough roads ahead, not to mention some bridges long overdue on being replaced. Wood County Engineer John Musteric took his road show to the crowded courthouse atrium Tuesday for the State of the County address. “It’s not good,” he told the crowd. The county has 245 miles of roads to maintain, plus 441 bridges with an average age of 41 years. More than 20 bridges have passed the century mark, with the granddaddy of them all being the 133-year-old bridge on Custar Road south of Sand Ridge Road. “We’re way behind, way behind,” Musteric said. Musteric drew a quick road map for the audience. Nearly three-quarters of the county’s roads are rated marginal or lower. Nearly half of those are ranked as poor or serious. Bringing those roads up to fair condition would cost an estimated $39 million. The county engineer’s office is studying pavement preservation practices. The lifespan of average pavement is 25 years. To catch up, the county would need to pave 35 miles every year – costing about $10.3 million each year. Instead, the county is spending about $1.1 million a year on paving. The county roads and bridges are at a crisis, Musteric said after the public address. “We’ve been in a crisis mode for a long time. We’ve got so much to take care of and maintain.” The engineer’s office is planning to draw the line at paving roads that have crumbling culverts underneath. Since there are about 2,500 culverts in the county, that could add up to quite a few road miles. When it comes to bridges, the county plans to replace four this year, costing about $1.2 million. That is just a drop in the bucket, with 441 bridges in Wood County. More than half are over 50 years old, and 52 bridges are ranked in poor or worse shape. The cost to replace those 52 would add up to $20.8 million, Musteric said. At the pace the county is going, it would take 90 years to replace all the bridges. The big roadblock to paving and bridge repairs is the lack of funding. The county engineer’s office gets funding from the state gas tax, license plate fees and a smaller portion from traffic fines. “It’s just a struggle because the gas tax hasn’t been raised,” Musteric said about the state tax. “We’re at their mercy. So Musteric has some ideas. He plans to talk with the county commissioners Thursday at 10 a.m. about a possible $5 permissive plate fee, plus an overweight vehicle program. “We’re not going to get rich on this,” but it will help, Musteric said. The plate fee would raise about $750,000 to $800,000 a year. The overweight permit plan has already faced criticism by some. “People…


Wood County healthy, but facing some challenges

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s finances are strong – but they are facing some heavy lifting in the next few years. The county is staring down a potential $4.2 million bill for new voting machines, $6 million to renovate the booking area of the county jail, and more than it can afford to fix its road and bridge repairs. But the county commissioners assured their audience at the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce’s State of the County Address on Tuesday that Wood County government is quite healthy. The combination of conservative spending and the highest ever sales tax revenue of $21.7 million last year has positioned the county on solid ground, Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said. Business looking bright Wood County businesses are thriving, with many upping production and updating machinery, Commissioner Craig LaHote said. The issue now is the shortage of employees to fill new positions. “That’s a good problem to have,” he said. LaHote specifically mentioned growth at First Solar in Perrysburg Township, and a $16 million expansion promising 100 jobs at Continental Structural Plastics in North Baltimore – a company that was considered close to failing a few years ago. The numbers at county building inspection reached a record high, Wood Haven Health Care has seen major renovations, glass recycling was reinstated last year, and permanent satellite recycling stations will be opened this summer. Efforts are underway to establish the Toledo Area Water Authority, which would regionalize the Toledo system and potentially serve the northern part of Wood County. “As commissioners, we believe a cooperative approach is best,” LaHote said. However, if Toledo fails to approve the project, Wood County has other options, he added. Expenses on the horizon All electronic voting machines in Ohio must be replaced by the 2020 election. That comes with a hefty price tag of $4.2 million. The commissioners are working with state legislators to find state funding to help with the expense. The county is also facing a $6 million renovation project enlarging the booking area of the Wood County Justice Center. The current booking area is not large enough to safely meet the demands. Another expense will be the expansion of the Wood County Landfill, west of Bowling Green. The existing landfill cell has just six years of space remaining. With the expansion permit, the life of the facility will be extended to 125 years. (A separate story will follow on the road and bridge expenses facing the county.) Battling drugs Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson reported that of the 931 cases opened last year, 435 ended in indictments. A “significant” number of those – about 70 percent – were directly related to drug abuse, he said. The term “war on drugs” is misleading since it implies that there is an end to the battle, Dobson…