County approves 3% raises in 2017 budget

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s new budget for 2017 calls for 3 percent raises for about 430 employees and $300,000 to help Bowling Green build two roundabouts at I-75 and Wooster Street. The appropriations for next year total $43 million – about $2 million more than in 2016. “It generally reflects the current healthy status of the county and our revenue sources,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said of the budget. The pay raises add up to another $698,000 from the general fund. The 3 percent increases were approved for employees in all commissioners’ departments, as well as those in the prosecutor’s, recorder’s, court security and public defender’s offices. A 3 percent increase will also be given to all remaining elected officials and general fund departments to distribute as they see fit. The funding to assist Bowling Green with the roundabouts was made after city officials asked the county for $1 million to help pay for the traffic circles. That request was later lowered to $750,000, Kalmar said, with the county ending up giving $300,000. “They felt that was a reasonable amount,” Kalmar said. The appropriations include $1 million in the permanent improvement fund, in an attempt to rebuild that fund. “It is the fund that helps us care for county facilities,” Kalmar said. The county also created a new fund to pay the cost of vacation and sick leave when employees retire, and to help cushion the effect of the 27 paycheck year that occurs every 12 years. Following are some of the bigger budget items for next year: $312,000 to replace and realign all the parking lot and exterior lighting at the East Gypsy Lane Complex. The LED lighting is expected to provide a significant savings on energy and maintenance costs. $219,664 to purchase six road patrol SUVs for the sheriff’s office. $323,700 for ongoing support of the information technology system for all county offices. $139,150 for the county office building northwest paver roof. $100,000 for hot water boilers at the jail. $73,510 for new carpeting in the prosecutor’s office. $60,000 for three new vehicles for the Department of Jobs and Family Services. $60,500 for a landfill loader. $60,000 for a new bus for Wood Haven Health Care. The commissioners also approved the addition of two full-time positions in the prosecuting attorney’s office. “Because of the ongoing cost of employees we are tightfisted with regard to new requests,” the commissioners’ letter about the budget stated. However, increased caseloads in the civil and criminal divisions of the prosecutor’s office led the commissioners to approve $139,123 to support one civil assistant prosecutor and one criminal assistant prosecutor. The sheriff’s request for an expansion of the booking area at the jail is not in the budget, but Kalmar said the commissioners are planning ahead for the project which is estimated at…


Shop windows have downtown BG looking a lot like Christmas

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Downtown Bowling Green is all decked out for the holidays. Hand-crafted stars, a chorus of singing snowmen, and even Sonic the Hedgehog trimming a tree. “To me it just makes the city so fun, walking up and down the street at night,” said Sandy Wicks, a longtime downtown businesswoman. This wasn’t always the case, though, recalls Wicks. She remembers about 25 years ago when many downtown businesses paid little attention to their windows. Some proprietors used them for storage. A revitalized Downtown Bowing Green sent a delegation to shopkeepers to encourage them “to make their windows appealing,” she said. “I always had a sense and firm belief you put your best foot forward,” she said. “Put anything in window – art, plants, merchandise – but artfully displayed.” Wicks has practiced what she preaches for 28 years in the windows at Grounds for Thought. She does thematic displays on the south side – right now, Christmas trees made up of old sheet music, newspapers and book pages with bundles of books underneath. For the past few years, the shop has turned over the annex window to the middle school art program to display student creations. “It helps downtown, helps business,” Wicks said. “It gives a sense of specialness and uniqueness of small town businesses.” Back more than 20 years ago some shopkeepers were receptive to offers of help, others didn’t want to bother. “They’re not in business anymore,” said Wicks. “How about that?” Now proprietors all through downtown, from established enterprises such as Grounds for Thought and Ace Hardware to newcomers not yet celebrating their first anniversaries, have stepped up. “It’s the first impression they get of your store,” said Amy Craft Ahrens, who owns For Keeps and has designed the window displays for 20 years, “so your window is important.” “I want it to reflect what we sell in the store, but I want it to be eye-popping enough for people to want to come in and see what the store is if they’ve never been here before.” Given her line of housewares and gifts, her shop has plenty of seasonal merchandise to display in the window, she said. Gayle Walterbach, Coyote Beads, praised by both Wicks and Ahrens, also makes use of her shop’s merchandise to set the tone of the window displays. Ahrens also likes that stores that don’t necessarily have holiday wares to show off, still decorate. HomeWorks has large white lights strung across their windows. “I appreciate that more businesses are making their windows look festive.” Ahrens and Wicks are pleased to see the newest downtown shops, such as Mode Elle Boutique, Painted Clovers, and Eden Fashion Boutique, continuing the trend. Kayla Minniear, owner with her husband, Jon, of newly opened Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Retro, said the large display window was one of the…


BG moves on roundabouts & pedestrian crossings

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Motorists and pedestrians will be getting some relief on East Wooster Street with plans moving ahead for two roundabouts and two pedestrian crossings. Bowling Green City Council voted unanimously Monday evening to work with ODOT on roundabouts at the I-75 intersections on Wooster Street and on two pedestrian beacons on East Wooster Street to help people cross the road near the Stroh Center and near McFall Center. Though some who spoke at council are still skeptical of roundabouts, the traffic devices can reduce fatalities by more than 90 percent, cut injuries by 76 percent, and reduce all crashes by 35 percent, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Those safety factors helped convince council to approve the plans. While the roundabouts faced some concerns from local residents – the pedestrian crossings encountered no roadblocks. The crossings will have buttons for pedestrians to push, which will activate red lights. Motorists will be required to stop, explained Bowling Green Public Works Director Brian Craft. “They’ll no longer be running across five lanes,” Craft said about pedestrians trying to get across Wooster Street near the Stroh Center. They will no long be “hanging out in the middle of the street,” trying to make it to the other side. ODOT is investing $368,000 in the pedestrian crosswalks, with officials hoping to study the crossings in high traffic areas. The lights, called pedestrian hybrid beacons, will make it much safer for walkers, Craft said. ODOT is also sinking money into the roundabout project, committing $750,000 in safety funding, engineering and design. Sandy Wiechman, of Wood County Safe Communities, offered data to “ease some of the concerns and fears of roundabouts.” In 2013, Wooster Street between Mercer and Dunbridge roads saw 70 crashes, with 22 injuries. Based on the statistics from the Federal Highway Administration, the number of crashes could have been cut by 35 percent and the injuries suffered could have been cut by 76 percent. “With the roundabouts, a lot of that would be reduced,” Wiechman said. Roundabouts lead drivers to reduce their speeds, so any crashes that occur cause fewer injuries and less property damage. Wiechman said Perrysburg Township officials also got “a lot of pushback” about the roundabout recently installed on Roachton Road and Ohio 199. But officials are pleased with the rotary. “It’s great,” she said. Bowling Green resident Bud Henschen repeated some of his concerns that he voiced at the last city council meeting about roundabouts. “I hear about how great they are,” Henschen said. But he just isn’t sold on the concept. He voiced concerns about the roundabouts slowing down traffic, on them being difficult to enter, and creating traffic jams. After hearing the safety data, Henschen said he was still concerned about how the cost may affect his company. If the roundabouts were going to create…


No limping along for Ohio’s lame duck session

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Lame duck legislatures don’t exactly limp along as the name implies at the end of the year. Instead, some make a sprint to pass sweeping legislation as the final days of the year tick away. During the past few weeks, Ohio’s lame duck legislatures managed to cram through dozens of bills that may not have stood a chance earlier in the year. The bills placed tight restrictions on abortions, allowed concealed guns on college campuses, forbid municipalities from raising minimum wage, and threw out renewable energy mandates. Pretty weighty stuff to rush through without the customary review process. By time the lame ducks were done, dozens of bills were passed by the Ohio House and Senate during the final three voting days of the 131st General Assembly, ending with a marathon session that started early one afternoon and concluded the next day in the wee hour of 3 a.m. That doesn’t sit well with State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green. “It is extremely difficult to handle 40, 60, 80 amendments and bills in the matter of two weeks,” he said. “We had more decisions that shouldn’t have been done,” in this past lame duck session, Gardner said last week. “Typically, it’s the amendments,” that are the biggest problem. “That’s the challenge in lame duck – to sort out what has to be done, what should be done, and what shouldn’t be done.” One of the bills missing from the list was a proposal to ban lame duck sessions – the flurry of legislative work every two years when members of Ohio’s House of Representatives have either been re-elected, defeated or relinquished their seats. Only about eight state legislatures allow bills to be passed during the lame duck session. But to be fair, only eight states have legislatures that meet throughout the entire year. Some state’s regular sessions are quite limited, such as Florida which convenes on March 3 and adjourns May 1, Utah which operates from Jan. 26 to March 12, and Virginia from Jan. 14 to Feb. 27. Those legislatures can reconvene later in the year, but only for specific topics. The term “lame duck” was reportedly created in the 18th century Britain to describe bankrupt businessmen. The term compared their diminished power to a bird injured after being shot. But in Ohio, the lame duck sessions seem to instead have a burst of energy to get bills passed that would otherwise be dropped from the schedule at the end of the year. The final couple weeks are used as the last ditch effort to get some controversial bills passed. “The bills die” if they aren’t passed by Dec. 31, so a rush begins to cram them through. “Legislators would rather not lose some of the progress that they have made,” Gardner said. To do that,…


NCAA honors We Are One Team at BGSU for promoting diversity and inclusion

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The NCAA thinks there’s something special about the We Are One Team, a student-driven project that uses sports to promote diversity, acceptance and inclusion at Bowling Green State University. The NCAA thinks the project is so special that it is giving WA1T its Award for Diversity and Inclusion. President Mary Ellen Mazey along with founder Yannick Kluch will travel to Nashville in January to accept the honor. “BGSU has long history of this,’ Mazey said. “This is really what we’re all about and have been for many years.” Support for diversity is written into the Falcon Creed, which also originated with students. That’s evident, she said, in the president’s office where an African American president served for 16 years followed by two female presidents as well as in the student body which is about 23 percent people of color and international. It’s demonstrated, she said, in Not In Our Town and It’s on Us, all projects with which WA1T collaborates. Kluch said that the project grew from his own experience as an international student. He came here in 2012 to study as a graduate student in Popular Culture from his native Hamburg, Germany. He admits he had some reservations about coming from a metropolitan city to “small town Ohio.” But he found his place, in part thanks to sports. Early on he attended a football game, American football, not the soccer he played back home. He didn’t know anything about the game, he just cheered when everyone else did. That’s where made his first Bowling Green friends. Now studying for a doctorate in Media and Communication, his interest in diversity led him to think about how “the emotional power of sports” could be harnessed to bring people together. Last January he and two other graduate students in Media and Communication, Chelsea Kannert and Christian Thompson, started discussions about how to do that. WA1T was launched in September. “It has definitely been a crazy ride,” Kluch said. “In our short amount of time we’ve definitely had an impact. The NCAA award is definitely a sign we’re doing good things on campus.” They’ve sponsored an event that brought in representatives from the Muhammad Ali center. They sponsored a talk by BGSU transgender athlete Brent Durah. After the packed event Durah said he never thought so many people would be interested in his story. While the program works with all teams, those that stepped up early with strong support were swimming and diving, gymnastics, and the men’s and women’s soccer teams. The program has partnered with 25 other organizations on campus. “From where I sit this is what I want,” Mazey said. “What makes it so good it came up from the students. … We say it’s all about the students. There’s a supportive environment for students that I haven’t seen on…


Town-gown group wants international students to feel welcome in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A group that represents both town and gown decided last week to hold a community gathering on problems faced by international students here in Bowling Green. Ongoing discomfort for international students at BGSU bubbled to the surface during the presidential campaign. Since then, some students have reported being harassed and feeling threatened in the community. So members of Bowling Green’s City-University Relations Commission agreed last week to show international students that they are welcome here. A student from Tunisia spoke to the organization in November about poor treatment in the community. So members of the city-university commission decided to talk with members of Not In Our Town, the Bowling Green Human Rights Commission, and the international students program at BGSU about partnering to tackle the problem. Daniel Gordon suggested that an open community event be held to encourage a conversation between international students and city residents and officials. The meeting would focus on student concerns and offer some solutions. “We can look at what we can do as a community to better support our international students,” Julie Broadwell said. The discussion must go beyond the concerns, and not just conclude with “good luck with that,” she said. It was suggested that international students be given handouts of resources available to them in the community. One of the concerns already expressed is that students here on visas don’t know who to report incidents to – or if it is safe for them to make reports. The group debated the best location for such a community meeting, since the students may feel more comfortable attending an open discussion like this on campus. Lisa Mattiace, a member of the city-university commission and chief of staff in the BGSU president’s office, said that international students go through an extensive orientation when they arrive at BGSU. However, that orientation can be overwhelming and new students may not realize at that time what problems they might face. Also at the city-university meeting, the efforts to coordinate trash cleanups in neighborhoods on the East Side were discussed. Sean Herman, who had offered to organize the efforts through the Common Good group, reported that the first pickup went well with about 25 volunteers helping. The Wood County Solid Waste District donated trash bags and gloves for the project. The pickups will continue on the third weekend of each month, with more frequent cleanups possibly being offered later. “I really appreciate your dedication, your reliability and your passion for doing this,” Gordon said to Herman. More community members will be sought to help out with the neighborhood cleanups. The city-university commission also talked about changing its meeting time in order to improve attendance by BGSU student members.


BGSU grads urged to be stars of their life’s reality

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Regardless of what career goals those graduating from Bowling Green State University Saturday have in mind, commencement speaker D.C. Crenshaw told them they should become stars in a reality show. That reality show isn’t one that would air to compete with the Kardashians or various Real Housewives franchises. No, Crenshaw, who himself had a bit part in a reality show, said it should be the reality show of their own lives. Crenshaw was speaking before the fall commencement for the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Education and Human Development. This weekend, BGSU graduated 1,002 graduates in two ceremonies. Crenshaw said he felt right at home back in Bowling Green – “cold, snowy, ice.” That’s what the 1991 graduate remembered about the town from his days here, and what he experiences in Chicago where he’s made his life and his career. A former Falcon football player, Crenshaw has gone on to become an entertainment and media entrepreneur. That came about by accident, he said. “I was doing pretty well for myself” as a regional sales manager. Then in January, 2008, the company he was working for shut down. He wasn’t concerned at first. He was confident he’d find a new position. He had contacts and an impressive resume. A year later he was “an unemployed stay-at-home dad still trying to find a job. We were in a recession and I was scared.” Then, he realized he couldn’t depend on someone else to provide him employment. “That’s when my creative juices started to flow, my work ethic increased tenfold,” he said. He sought out like-minded people. The result was an Emmy-nominated TV show, a tequila brand, network TV appearances, and a lifestyle magazine. Crenshaw drew his eight tips for being a reality star in real life from those experiences. “Don’t let anyone define you,” he said. “Define yourself. Create your own path and never believe people who tell you, you can’t do something. Put your ears on mute and don’t listen to the naysayers.” “Change the game,” he continued. “Create your own category. Create your own dream. If no one wants to hire you, create your own dream job.” Crenshaw said people sometimes approach him with business ideas. Often they hate their jobs and want to move on. “I tell them to find something they love to do and figure out how to make money from it.” “Never blow out someone else’s candles to make yours seem brighter.” People may be frustrated with their progress, he said, but those who persist end up where they want to be. “Don’t be afraid to fail. … I’d much rather get advice from someone who’s fail many times over and bounced back versus someone who’s never failed at all.” “Life is short. Try to do as many things as you…


Brown goes way off the grid at Yellowstone

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When Harold Brown retired after 42 years in the news business, he went about as far off the grid as he could go – sharing his summer camp where the buffalo roam, where a mountain blocks out cell service, and where the closest grocery store is about 50 miles away. “I am living the dream,” Brown said. Brown, of Bowling Green, has spent the last two summers working with the field seminars in Yellowstone National Park. He decided to take on the job after spending five or six vacations learning from the park seminars himself. “It’s as close as anywhere in the lower 48 to the way it was when the Europeans got here,” Brown said of Yellowstone. While nothing is pristine anymore, Yellowstone is about as close as it gets, he said. “You’re just in a totally different place,” he said. “It’s just a really good place to spend time.” The park is spread across 3,500 square miles, primarily in Wyoming, but also Montana and Idaho. The views are spectacular – even for someone who is a regular visitor and now a seasonal employee. And the acreage is constantly changing, Brown said, with new geysers popping up, hot springs, an active volcano and thousands of small earthquakes a year. “The place is alive. It’s changing all the time,” through the acts of Mother Nature. The night skies are particularly striking, Brown said. “It’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen the Milky Way like I’ve seen it there.” The park, which was originally dedicated in 1872 when Ulysses S. Grant was president, is also seeing some strain from so many visitors. For the second summer in a row, Yellowstone National Park exceeded 4 million visitors, with as many as 30,000 a day. The park infrastructure, with older narrow roadways, was built to handle a maximum of 2 million people a year. “We are loving our parks to death,” Brown said. The field seminars give people a chance to spend a few days studying 54 topics like nature photography, animal migration, wildflowers, fly fishing, Native American plant uses, birds of prey, hiking, bears, wolves and buffalo. With help from the National Park Service, much of the wildlife has made a comeback in Yellowstone. More than a century ago, the bison population had dropped to about two dozen. Now it stands around 5,500, Brown said. The park has strong populations of elk, grizzly and black bears, badger, otter and golden eagles. Wolves have also been reintroduced into the park. Keeping the wildlife at healthy numbers is a delicate balancing act, he said. Brown and all the other field seminar workers are trained for what to do if a bear attacks, and they don’t leave camp without bear spray on their belts. The bison often block the roadways in the park, and…


BG seeks new sources of revenue to help balance city budget

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green will usher in the new year looking for some new ways to bring revenue into the city coffers. While income tax revenue is up, the city continues to take hits from interest revenue, intergovernmental funds, estate tax losses, and the end to its cable franchise income. Local government funds shrank from 18 percent of the general fund a decade ago, to 7 percent now. Interest revenue slipped from 6 to 3 percent of the general fund. “That is somewhat eye-opening,” said Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter, as she reviewed the city budget with council and department heads on Wednesday. “That makes us somewhat vulnerable” with 50 percent of the budget now coming from income tax revenue. So overall revenue continues to be flat, while costs continue to escalate. In fact, the budget lists revenue of $14,996,197 and appropriations of $15,623,253 – which means it has a deficit of $627,056. Tretter warned that if steps aren’t taken to cut costs or find new revenue sources, the problem will only get worse. “The revenue in the general fund has been flat for a number of years,” and additional revenue isn’t likely unless the city identifies other sources, she said. “We need a sustainable plan to bring our budget into alignment,” Tretter said. Specific ideas to raise revenue were not presented at the budget meeting on Wednesday, but both Tretter and Mayor Dick Edwards said revenue generation will be a priority item for discussion in the new year. “We need to get serious about having those discussions,” Council president Mike Aspacher said. City Finance Director Brian Bushong told council that the deficit may not be as dire as it sounds. Historically, the city has spent 95 percent of its budget, and the income is usually a bit higher than projected. “It’s not as bad as it seems,” Bushong said. Council member Bob McOmber recalled during good economic years when the city’s year-end balance was as high as $4 million. During the recession, that balance dipped down to $1.9 million. And the city has minimal discretionary money in the budget, he added. McOmber pointed out the end of estate tax revenues and the loss of half the local government funds that formerly helped the city’s budget. He expressed concern that the state may decide it wants the other half of the funding. “They sure took half of it away from us quick enough when they got in a bind with their own budget,” he said. “Thank goodness the income tax revenues have been as strong as they have,” McOmber said. Council member Sandy Rowland noted how the city has done well “in good times and in bad times” – maintaining services and providing safety. “We just have to be vigilant on a constant basis,” McOmber said. “We’re all glad we…


Will Santino’s “Examples of Anything” is a love song of words & images

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Will Kiley Santino’s new book “Examples of Anything” is easy to describe and impossible to define. The book is a progressive series of squares, each a small abstract painting with a word or phrase attached. And in that dynamic between words and images, the mystery begins. What is the relation between the lime and sky blue watercolor square and the phrase “how lawnmowers say hi”? And as the reader-viewer progresses, rhymes and echoes among squares reveal themselves, hinting at a narrative. Santino, a Bowling Green native now studying art at the University of Wisconsin Madison, will only say that there’s “a through line about intimacy and closeness to another person.” That plays out in an interior monologue of abstract illustration and elusive poetry. Santino said he wanted to create an experience that someone could take from beginning to end, or simply study a single page. The images are abstract smudges of mood. The words may be mundane – “swing set” and “bike trail.” Does the image represent the words? What kind of person would pair those words and colors? Other phrases are more evocative – “blaming autumn” and “cymbal shiver.” Others hint at narrative – “thrown out toys” and “the silence after everyone stops laughing.” Santino shows his love of language by using arcane terms that will have even highly literate readers reaching for the dictionary – heliotaxis (movement of an organism in response to sunlight); keraunomancy (divination by thunderbolts); and borborygmus (a rumbling or gurgling made by the movement of liquid in the intestines). And he’s not afraid to coin a term or two when his muse requires – “pregret” and “heartifact.” Part poetry, part painting, “Examples of Anything” is a lyrical reflection on life as it is being lived. The final words are: “All I want to say is something to you.” Then book ends with several pages of color fireworks. This is the 27-year-old’s second book. His first, from 2015 was a children’s book, “My Week,” about a boy’s adventures through his fantastic hometown, a place every much like Bowling Green. He builds a child’s fantastic world, full of fanciful creatures and places. Santino is a naturalist who explores fantastic worlds of his own creation. “My Week,” Santino said, showed him he could produce a book and self-publish it. He’s dreamed and worked at being a writer since he was a child. At 10, he said, he was always “starting stories and novels that were, in my head, 1,000 pages.” He wrote long passages of them. He drew their cities and characters in great detail. He remembered starting to draw – though he only thought of them as doodles—while watching his older brother, Ian, playing video games. He’d sit and create new worlds inspired by what he saw on the screen. He doodled incessantly, filling the…


Julie’s Dance Studio makes Nutcracker dreams come true

By ELIZABETH ROBERTS-ZIBBEL  BG Independent News This weekend, “The Nutcracker Ballet… All Jazzed Up” by Julie’s Dance Studio will be performed for the tenth time in a brand new location. And full disclosure: like my other articles for BG Independent News, this one is personal. My seven year old daughter Isobel has been with Julie’s for years, and this will be her third time participating in The Nutcracker, in roles varying from Coronation Princess to Playful Mouse. In June as I scanned through the most highly anticipated email of the year – Nutcracker audition results ! – looking for her assignments, I was surprised to see the following note from studio owner and director Julie Setzer above the list of Snow Angels: “As some of you may know, it has been a dream of mine to ‘someday’ include children who are wheelchair dependent into this piece. I have been chatting with a mother who dreams of seeing her daughter have the opportunity to dance. So…this is the year and I couldn’t be more excited!!” I would soon learn the details. With our change in venue to BG Schools’ Performing Arts Center, the timing could not have been better for Yulinda Cousino to contact Julie about her dreams of seeing her daughter, Brianna Burkett, dance on stage. Brianna has a disease called Canavan Leukodystrophy, with a usual life expectancy of three to ten years. “Brianna is one of a very small handful that has surpassed that,” Yulinda told me in a recent email. “She is my miracle.” Within weeks, Skylar Baker, Tessa Browning, Ireland Clark, Jenna Gallant, and Rylee Hannah joined Brianna in becoming “Cherubs” in one of the Nutcracker’s most beatific and serene scenes: with the gliding Angels and Gabriels in the Land of Snow. Dim lighting and candles illuminate the stage in a peaceful glow, and the choreography is slow and steady. The costuming is shiny white and gold, with the addition this year of chair-accommodating capes made by Jen Myers, mother of two veteran Nutcracker dancers (we call ourselves “Nutty Moms”) as well as Parent Mentor for Wood County Educational Service Center. The first day the women, ages 18-22, arrived with their caregivers, Nutty Moms Tarla Marovich and Mandy Hemming eased the way. Tarla, who works at Wood Lane Residential, read a book aloud to the children in the Snow Angel cast about accepting and embracing others’ differences. Mandy, a Special Education teacher, chatted with the arriving mothers and daughters to make them feel welcome and comfortable. “I’m leaning on Tarla and Mandy for my cues and guidance,” Julie told me in October. “I feel so excited and blessed that they are part of it!” She also expressed fear that she would say or do something wrong, or inadvertently make the wheeled dancers feel exposed, or displayed. However, with the assistance of our…


It’s beginning to look a lot like … time to shovel

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Mail carriers, dog walkers and kids trudging to schools aren’t the only ones who want sidewalks cleared of snow in Bowling Green. The city wants sidewalks cleared within 24 hours after snowstorms stop. And if homeowners don’t shovel their sidewalks, the city will do the work and send them the bill. This is how it works. If a citizen complains or if the code enforcement officer sees a snow-covered sidewalk, the city will send a contractor out to clear the walkway. The homeowner will then be sent a bill for about $65. If the bill isn’t paid, the charge will be placed on the property’s taxes. If the city has to return to the same property later in the winter, the owner will be charged the snow removal rate, plus receive a civil citation. The citation fines start at $50 and increase each time, with a maximum penalty of $150. The sidewalk regulations started out of a concern for children walking to school. “The focus was to keep kids safe walking to school, to keep them off the streets,” said Brian Craft, director of the city’s public works department. About six years ago, city officials added another step to the process after being accused by a resident vacationing in Florida of charging him improperly. So now, the city takes “before” photographs of the snowy sidewalks and “after” photos of the cleared walkways, Craft said. City officials would much rather landowners clear their own walks – but they also have an obligation to provide safe walking surfaces in the community. “We’re wanting to work with the residents as much as possible,” said Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett. The city has had the snow removal ordinance for years, but initially hoped that residents would just comply. That didn’t happen, Craft said. “People would call and say, ‘Why do you have this rule if you aren’t enforcing it?’” Craft recalled. So in 2008, the city changed its system. The city started clearing walks, charging residents, and issuing citations. In most cases, that did the trick. “People have changed their behavior,” Craft said. The policy is reinforced each year by city announcements and by peer pressure from neighbors, Craft added. “It’s common knowledge that you should shovel your sidewalk,” he said. Of course, there is a learning curve each winter. “Every year we get new residents,” said Heather Sayler, city planning director. The city checked on a few citizen complaints this past Wednesday, but found the sidewalks had been cleared, Sayler said. Because of last year’s uncommonly snow-free winter, the city did not have to shovel or cite any property owners, Craft said. Anyone wanting to report uncleared sidewalks may call the city public works office at 419-354-6227 or the city planning office at 419-354-6218.


BGSU is leader in textbook cost containment

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Even before politicians in Columbus opened the book on textbook costs, Bowling Green State University was taking action to control that expense. David Levey, who chairs the university’s Board of Trustees, said that at a recent conference for trustees from around the state system a presentation on textbook costs was made. He said he was “shocked” at where other institutions in their efforts. “We’re so far ahead on this curve,” he said at Friday’s trustees meeting. “Many of the state institutions are just catching on with this.” The presentation that followed explained what BGSU has done and made clear there’s more work to do. Michelle Simmons, assistant vice president for academic operations told the trustees that as a percentage of the cost of going to college, textbooks is not great. The trouble is that the expense hits at a point that students and families have already paid large sums for tuition and housing. Rachelle Hippler, who chairs the Faculty Senate, said the faculty and staff at BGSU have been taking action before there was any talk of a state mandate. “It’s really important for students to have a lot of options when they go to purchase their textbooks,” said Library Dean Sara Bushong. She catalogued some of those options. Last year the library spent $5,000 to buy textbooks for 42 courses that have high enrollments and high textbook costs. Those are placed on reserve and can be used in the library for up to two hours. Those books were used more than 1,500 times. Faculty also has the option of placing a copy of the text for their class on reserve, she said. That initiative got a thumbs up from undergraduate student trustee Meg Burrell. She used reserved texts for three of her six courses. “I spent more time in the library … but it’s a great place to be. … I can’t plug it enough. It’s just a very comfortable place” Burrell said she rented texts for two of her courses, and purchased books for her sixth course. Burrell said she got “smarter” about buying texts as her academic career progressed. Simmons said that the working group on textbooks is trying to target first year students to make sure they know about their options earlier. Burrell said over time she has made more use of BG Choose, the price comparison tool developed by the bookstore. BG Choose, Bushong said, spells out the various ways of acquiring a textbook—buying new, used or renting it. “We’re unique among state schools” in offering a price comparison tool, she said. BG Choose was established in 2011. Also, the bookstore is one of only 10 in the country to offer discounts for students purchasing textbooks in electronic format, she said. Students also can avail themselves of OhioLINK services. The state library consortium allows…


County park district sets $4.7 million budget for 2017

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   This past year, Wood County Park District built a staircase into an old stone quarry, constructed boardwalks in two nature preserves, repaired a park ravaged by an ice jam, and moved 110-ton one-room school. But there is more work to be done – more than $1 million in capital improvements next year. The money will be spent on items like new restrooms, trail surfaces, playground equipment and an archery range. On Tuesday, the park board approved the district’s 2017 operating budget totaling $4,733,909. Among the larger capital improvement projects in the budget are: $160,000 for new restrooms at William Henry Harrison Park. $72,000 for roof replacement of the Otsego Park Stone Hall. $46,500 for an archery range and parking at the Wood County Historical Center. $108,650 for surface treatment on the Slippery Elm Trail. $59,000 for parking lot construction at Baldwin Woods. $60,000 for field tiling at Carter Historic Farm. $171,000 for parking lot and driveway at Bradner Preserve. $30,000 for playground equipment at Cedar Creeks Park. $10,000 for trail construction at W.W. Knight Preserve. The biggest investment will be made in Bradner Preserve, totaling $338,000. The plans call for the asphalt parking lot and driveway, rules signs, boardwalk construction, site lighting, interpretive center furnishings, garage/picnic shelter conversion, greenhouse/porch renovation, large grill and trash cans. The equipment costs increased a bit in next year’s budget. In the adventure programming area, costs will be incurred for the new archery range supplies ($3,850), the river kayak and canoe program ($15,000) and rappelling supplies ($2,500). Increases are also seen in the salaries, with raises approved earlier this year by the park district board. The staff salaries totaled $1,175,083 in 2016, and will be bumped up to $1,297,994 for 2017. The budget also calls for the addition of part-time staff, including a seasonal adventure position, a part-time naturalist, and a part-time farm specialist. The total estimated revenue for 2017 is $7,128,324. That revenue includes $4,154,926 in a beginning balance for the year, $2,839,231 from the 1-mill tax levy, and $134,167 from donations, fees, rentals and interest revenue. Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the park board discussed the use of funds from the ODOT Roadway Fund Pavement Preservation Project. The park district has $47,207 left in the fund, which will be used next year to pave areas in the W.W. Knight Nature Preserve, the Portage Road parking lot for the Slippery Elm Trail, and William Henry Harrison Park. The money not used in 2017 will be carried over till the next year. The board also went into executive session to discuss land acquisition, but took no action. In other business, the board also appointed Tim Gaddie to be the park district’s representative on the Wood County Historical Society Board.  


Therapy dogs ease BGSU students into finals week

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bowling Green State University students arriving at Jerome Library to study for finals Monday were in for a surprise. On the first floor they were greeted by a crowd of their fellow students, displaying behavior decidedly uncharacteristic for finals week. They were chattering, smiling, laughing even, and mixed in was an occasional bark. For Margaret Weinberger’s freshman seminar class that meant this part of their final project was a success. On Monday afternoon, the local chapter of Therapy Dogs International brought six dogs to Jerome Library as a stress reliever for students. The visit by the dogs was the second arranged by the students in the freshman seminar “Animals in Human Lives.” The students petted and talked to the dogs, who were fitted out in seasonal attire. Some students snapped photos, while some just stood back and enjoyed the scene. “I have a dog back home,” said sophomore Samantha Foster, “and I miss him like crazy.” Sarah Miller also has a dog at home, and she was “very excited” when she arrived with friends to study to see the therapy dogs. They definitely relieve the stress, she said. “I just really like animals.” “Dogs are so happy all the time,” said Megan Forsthoefel, one of the students in the seminar. “Just the act of petting a dog is calming.” That’s the opposite of studying for exams. Studies have shown dogs can lower blood pressure as well as other physical and mental benefits. Allie Rodenbucher said she talked with another student who was studying upstairs in the library when she heard a dog bark. “I was so stressed out. It was perfect,” the student told Rodenbucher. The idea for the therapy dogs came up on the ride back from a field trip to a correctional center in Toledo where inmates help raise dogs as service animals as well as rehabilitate racing greyhounds, Rodenbucher said. That visit confirmed the therapeutic effect of dogs, she said. “We were all puppy struck.” Weinberger said the library seemed a good location. This is not the first time therapy dogs have been invited into Jerome, she said, crediting the library faculty and staff with being so welcoming. Weinberger said professors are encouraged to develop BGSU 1910 seminars on topics they are passionate about, and Weinberger is passionate about animals. That was shared by many of her students. “I thought it’d be perfect,” Shaylyn Westfall said, of her decision to enroll in the seminar. The seminar also made field trips to the Toledo Zoo, where they ventured behind the scenes, and to the Weber Ranch in Wayne, where they saw the sustainable pig operation. Student Jonah Robinson said he was interested in the sociological aspects of the course. Standing back he witnessed that canine-human dynamic unfold. The dogs were definitely taking students’ minds off what was…