Wood County

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 no way for farmers to…


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 be in a crisis.” But…


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 board’s 25-year history. Jones served…


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 enacted county road and bridge…


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 village in demolition of vacant…


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 in violation. “I do get…


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 with her feeling it should…


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 think we’re going to target…


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 said. That has created “unrealistic…


Wood County youth vaping more, drinking alcohol less

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Local teens are downing more caffeinated energy drinks and inhaling more vapors. But fewer are using alcohol, painkillers, cigarettes, cocaine, meth and steroids. More than 10,000 students, in all of county’s public schools’ grades 5 to 12, responded to the biennial Wood County Youth Survey coordinated by Dr. Bill Ivoska. For those who question the wisdom of trusting kids to tell the truth on the surveys, Ivoska wholeheartedly agrees. “Kids lie. We know kids lie,” Ivoska said Friday morning as presented the findings of the survey to its sponsors, the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Services Board, the Wood County Educational Service Center, and the Wood County Prevention Coalition. The anonymous surveys are designed to catch kids who were fibbing. For example, students who reported using drugs with made-up names were booted from the results. Kids who reported to using all drugs, all the time, had their surveys tossed out. What was left were survey results that local experts feel accurately reflect drug, alcohol, and mental health issues faced by Wood County students. In some ways, the surveys reveal a “whack-a-mole” problem. When local services focus on one issue, that problem decreases. Meanwhile, another problem arises.  For example, local teens have faced heavy-duty warnings about smoking for years. The survey shows the results of that, with cigarette use down 84 percent in teens from 2004 to the present. “Think of the long-term health benefits for those kids,” Ivoska said. Local efforts have been so successful, that the results stand out as better than national trends. “Rates of decline in Wood County are sharper and faster,” Ivoska said. “We’re closing that gateway.” But when one gate closes, another one opens. Vaping has seen a 17 percent increase in use among seniors in the last two year. “Vaping is in a honeymoon period right now,” he said. Many teens consider vaping as a healthy alternative to cigarettes, especially with harmless sounding flavors like “bubblegum.” Vaping is also more difficult for people to identify among users. “You can sneak a vape in your locker” and no one would know, Ivoska said. The trends showed that alcohol use among Wood County students is down 46 percent, and binge drinking is down 63 percent since 2004. “Another great accomplishment,” Ivoska said. In the last two years, marijuana use went up with some older kids, while cough medicine use went up with some of the younger ones. Use of LSD ticked up a bit for all ages. The use of painkillers dropped – possibly due to local efforts to limit access and encourage older family members to discard old medications. “Grandma’s closet is getting cleaned out,” Ivoska said. The decline in heroin use may be attributed to kids seeing the effects of the drug on their older family members. Local…


America’s cookies rely on winter wheat grown in Ohio

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wheat grown in Ohio is a mainstay for Oreos and Chips Ahoy. Sure, other states grow the wheat that makes artisan breads and premium pastas. But Ohio’s soft red winter wheat is the type needed for pastries, cookies, saltines, cake, brownies and pretzels. Brad Moffitt, director of the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association, talked about America’s crops in general and Ohio’s wheat in detail at a recent Bowling Green Kiwanis Club meeting. “We are the top soft red winter wheat state,” Moffitt said. Six main types of wheat are grown in the U.S., with the differing soil types and growing seasons determining which type grows best in which areas. Though corn and soybeans are currently more profitable, farmers realize it’s good to keep wheat in the soil rotation, Moffitt said. More than 590,000 acres in Ohio were planted in soft red winter wheat in 2016. Moffitt described himself as “a farm boy from Urbana,” growing up with crops, cattle and hogs. He then went into a career in education, before “getting back in agriculture, where I belong.” His current job consists of working on research, market development, promotion and education. Moffitt talked with the Kiwanians about agriculture remaining the largest industry in Ohio, and about America’s role in feeding the world. “Our farmers are more than capable of feeding the U.S. and the world,” he said. “We’ve done it before. We’ll do it again.” Estimates suggest that 9.7 billion people will need to be fed by the year 2050. “American farmers have met the challenge before,” he said, describing farmers as industrious and ingenious. The problem isn’t growing the food, Moffitt said. The real problem is transportation infrastructure, storage, refrigeration and processing. “We can produce the food – getting it there is another problem,” he said. The world’s demands for food have not only grown, but they also have changed. More “middle class” people means more demand for meat protein. “They want some of the things we take for granted in this country,” Moffitt said. “When you move into the middle class, you want to eat a little bit better.” More meat demand means more corn, wheat and soybean needed for livestock consumption, he added. Nearly half of the wheat grown in the U.S. ends up in 125 other countries, Moffitt said. Common destinations include Mexico, South America, northern Asia, China and Europe. “Fifty percent of the U.S. wheat crop ends up on a boat and shipped to other countries,” he said. That keeps the ports in Toledo busy, since that is the only place in Ohio where grain can be loaded into vessels, according to Moffitt. Farmers are not only industrious, they are also business savvy. “We are very passionate about NAFTA not being messed up,” he said. Ohio wheat farmers know that French bread…


More jobs may be headed for Wood County – but are there workers to fill them?

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County has an enviable good news-bad news dilemma. The good news – Wood County is being eyed by companies that would create 1,400 new jobs here. The bad news – Wood County may have a hard time filling those jobs. Wade Gottschalk, director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, met with the county commissioners last week to give them an update on projects in the county. “We’ve been very busy,” he said. But the potential for so many new jobs has county officials worried about an unusual dilemma. With its low unemployment rate of 3.8 percent, that means there are just over 2,000 unemployed adults in Wood County. “Our current issue is workforce,” Gottschalk told the county commissioners. “It’s really a matter of we need people to move to Northwest Ohio.” The state overall is experiencing the same problem. “They are working to find bodies for these companies,” he said. Two of the biggest potential projects in Wood County are in the Perrysburg area. Gottschalk predicted those companies won’t have difficulty filling positions since they will be offering high-paying jobs. However, the new openings may drain employees from other lower-paying companies. “We’re going to work very hard on the backfill,” he said. Wood County benefits from having a variety of industries, such as solar, machine shops and robotics. “We have a very diverse base of companies,” Gottschalk said. The region’s low cost of living coupled with relatively easy commuting patterns help by drawing workers from a broader region outside Wood County. “It gives us a larger area to attract from,” he said. Gottschalk briefed the commissioners on the companies looking to possibly add jobs in Wood County. The Walgreens distribution center, at Ohio 795 and Oregon Road in Perrysburg Township, is considering an expansion that would add approximately 350 new jobs. “It would be a substantial investment,” creating good paying jobs, Gottschalk said. But Gottschalk cautioned that the expansion is not definite. “This isn’t a done deal, by any means,” he told the commissioners. Perrysburg Township Planning Commission has approved the site plan and variance for parking. If the project proceeds, the company will seek tax abatements, Gottschalk said. “They are basically in the decision mode, to see if this will work,” he said. If the expansion proceeds, “we would likely see dirt moved this year.” The city of Perrysburg is being considered by an unnamed company that would create 1,000 to 1,100 jobs and invest $900 million in the location. Also competing for the company are sites in Michigan and Indiana, Gottschalk said. So local economic development officials here are working to reduce barriers to the company considering Perrysburg for its business, he said. This company would have significant wastewater needs, which would be more than Perrysburg could handle and may require working with…


Nemeth to leave historical museum for new challenge

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Five years ago, Dana Nemeth came home to the Wood County Historical Museum – the former county infirmary that she frequently visited as a child. As director of the museum, she was at the helm as the site was transformed into an ADA accessible facility – no simple feat for the rambling building more than a century old. And she led the staff as they created a World War I exhibit that filled the sprawling site and drew the largest crowds ever at the museum. But now, Nemeth is leaving for another challenge – also one close to her heart. On April 2, she will move into the new position of reference archivist at the Bowling Green State University popular culture library. “It’s bittersweet,” Nemeth said about her departure from the museum and arrival at the library. “I love the museum and what I do there,” she said. “I grew up going to that museum. It’s had a special place in my heart – always has, always will.” Nemeth’s dad, Dorsey Sergent served as the pharmacist for residents at the county infirmary, then later volunteered his time to turn the closed site into a county historical museum. “I remember as a little girl going over there with my sister,” Nemeth said of the historical center which is about a quarter-mile from her childhood home. But Nemeth also has history with her new home at BGSU. She graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Master of Arts in Popular Culture, and previously served as a library associate at BGSU’s Jerome Library’s Center for Archival Collections. As a student, she worked in the pop culture library. Her new position is in administration, and will entail supervising student employees and helping with research requests. BGSU was looking for someone with a library science degree and popular culture expertise. “It just seemed like a really good fit for me,” Nemeth said. “It seemed like the right thing to do.” She previously worked at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, N.Y.; the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.; and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. During her years as director at the county historical museum, the overarching goal was to make the site more accessible. With the help of state funding, support from the county commissioners, and volunteer fundraising efforts, the museum was transformed and now has an elevator so people of all abilities can see all the exhibits. “Accessibility is the thing I’m most proud of,” Nemeth said. “That was something we wanted for 40-plus years.” The museum also took a big chance by switching from its traditional exhibits, and turning the entire building into an examination of World War I and Wood County’s role in the war. “I’m really proud of all the staff has accomplished,” Nemeth…


Citizens seek creature comforts at county dog shelter

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Connie Donald and Dolores Black are looking out for homeless residents of Wood County – the four-legged ones. The two women met with Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw and Administrator Andrew Kalmar earlier this week to see how the lives of dogs at the county dog shelter could be improved – even if for just a brief period. “I think as a nation we need to be more kind to the less fortunate,” and that includes dogs, Donald said. The women had some success in their quest. One of their main concerns was that the Wood County Dog Shelter is difficult for people to locate. The shelter is in a small nondescript building in the back section of the county’s East Gypsy Lane Complex. The signage at the complex entrance is too small, they told Herringshaw and Kalmar. “They feel that our signage to direct people to the dog shelter isn’t enough,” Kalmar said. “People get lost. A lot of people think the Wood County Dog Shelter and Wood County Humane Society are the same thing,” Donald said. The county officials agreed that the signage could be improved – perhaps even including the happy cartoonish dog figure that now adorns the dog shelter vans. “I think that’s doable,” Kalmar said. But the other requests were not met with the same enthusiasm. Donald and Black suggested that the county dog shelter adopt the same spay-neuter policy that some other shelters have to fix dogs prior to adopting them out. The county currently charges $14 for a dog license when someone adopts a dog from the shelter. The new owner is then given a $75 gift certificate to use for spaying or neutering their dog. “They want to spay and neuter them before they ever go out the door,” Kalmar said. “We think the person adopting the dog should take the responsibility.” Donald said only about 30 percent of the new owners use the certificates and get their new dogs fixed. “I think we should spay and neuter, and vaccinate before they leave,” she said. “If we stop having puppies, we can stop killing them.” If the canines at the dog shelter were spayed and neutered, they would then be able to use the outdoor dog park which is located next to the county dog shelter. Donald and Black also asked about the $82,000 bequeathed to the dog shelter for the health and betterment of the dogs, by local resident Dorothy Stokes. “Some people have the view that now that you have a lot of money, you should spend it,” Kalmar said. The county had air conditioning installed in the small intake room for dogs, but not for the main kennel area due to the expense. “If they are reasonable suggestions, we can do it,” Kalmar said. Donald and…