AMP promises to fix labor problems with solar site

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Nagging questions surrounding the solar field construction have paid off – literally, for the workers there. American Municipal Power CEO Marc Gerken stood before Bowling Green City Council Monday evening, apologized and promised to make things right. Bowling Green officials, who went to bat for the solar project, and the Wood County Commissioners, who approved the project’s tax abatement, have been demanding answers about construction of the site. They suspected that the job was not employing at least 80 percent Ohio labor, and they knew that the contractor wasn’t paying prevailing wage. Gerken took responsibility for one of those issues – the lack of prevailing wages being paid on the worksite. “I’m deeply sorry for that,” he said to City Council and a packed council chambers Monday. Gerken said AMP had planned all along for the project to be a prevailing wage job. However, the size of the 20 megawatt site and the speed at which it needed to be done meant AMP had to go outside for help. “We can’t pull this off ourselves,” Gerken said it was quickly realized. So AMP picked NextEra as a partner as the developer. NextEra then hired Blattner Energy as the construction contractor. Somewhere along the line, the prevailing wage standard was dropped. AMP realized the error when Bowling Green officials brought it to the company’s attention. “I applaud the city for raising it when they did,” Gerken said. When pressed, NextEra amended its contract with Blattner to require that prevailing wages be paid. The company will also go back and make up for lost wages, Gerken said. “They owned up to it,” Gerken said. “But we should have been on top of it. We stumbled a little bit here and I take ownership of that.” As far as the other issue – of 80 percent Ohio labor being required in the tax abatement agreement – Gerken said a law firm has been hired to audit the workforce at the site to make sure Blattner is complying. The audit will certify how many workers are true residents of Ohio. Last week, the Wood County Commissioners sent a letter to the Ohio Development Services Agency stating the county is prepared to yank the tax abatement agreement with NextEra if proof cannot be presented that the contractor is using enough Ohio labor. “Over the past few weeks…


Long & Reger vying for Common Pleas judgeship

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The race for Common Pleas Court judge comes down to a contrast in experience. Two candidates are vying to fill the vacancy caused by Judge Robert Pollex retirement—Matt Reger, a Republican from Bowling Green, and Stephen Long, a Democrat from Perrysburg. Long, 52, points the variety of cases practice from divorces to appeals of criminal convictions, he’s handled as an attorney in private. Reger, 49, points to his 20 years as a prosecutor and, before that, three years he spent working with Common Pleas Judge Charles Kurfess. As a law clerk then staff attorney for Kurfess, Reger said, “I learned about how the court works, and I learned a lot about the temperament of the judge.” He moved to the city prosecutor’s office 20 years ago, and became the municipal prosecutor 16 years ago. During that period he took a year off to spend in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, helping that nation reconstruct its judicial system after years of Soviet rule. “As a prosecutor it’s really given me an opportunity to do what I think is good for the community,” he said. Much of what he does, Reger said, is “social work.” Success as a prosecutor “is when you don’t see the person again, at least as a defendant.” That sense of law as community service extends to the Community Christian Legal Services, which he founded.                     Reger said he views being a judge as “as a natural progression in public service.” Long said he has the experience needed to become a judge.  He cited county statistics showing 43 percent of the cases handled by Common Pleas Court involve domestic relations while another 32 are civil litigation. The rest involve felonies with sentences ranging from six months in prison to life. His “breadth of experience” extends back to before he was a lawyer. He was a teacher before he started attending law school at the University of Toledo, at the same time, he noted, as Reger. He found preparing a case was the same as preparing a lesson plan, except instead of students he was facing jurors. For 22 years, he’s been running his own law office. Much of that caseload are divorces, he said. “There’s not a whole lot in domestic relations I haven’t seen.” And as with many attorneys especially starting…


County says it may yank tax break for solar site if 80% Ohio labor not being used

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Commissioners don’t want to be kept in the dark about possible tax abatement violations at the massive solar project north of Bowling Green. And they are prepared to yank the tax break if they don’t get verification that the contractor is using at least 80 percent Ohio labor. Last week, the commissioners sent a letter to the Ohio Development Services Agency stating that on July 19, the county approved a “significant tax abatement” for the solar project based on the criteria and regulations developed by the agency. Of great concern to the commissioners was the requirement that 80 percent of the construction labor for the project be Ohio residents. “Over the past few weeks we have received information stating that the prime contractor, Blattner Energy, may be skirting the 80 percent requirement by leasing local rental housing for out-of-state employees and suggesting that they obtain an Ohio driver’s license,” the letter continued. “Meanwhile, many vehicles parked at the project site have out-of-state license plates.” The commissioners said it is the state agency’s responsibility to ensure that the project owner and contractor are in compliance, and to provide written verification to the county and Bowling Green officials. Since construction of the project is to be complete by the end of this year, verification should not be delayed, stated the letter, which was signed by all three commissioners. Labor at the site was the only item in the abatement agreement that included somewhat local participation. To the commissioners’ displeasure, there was no commitment requiring use of local solar equipment or local contractors with solar experience. “If information regarding strict compliance with the 80 percent Ohio domiciled labor is not provided and verified by you, we will give serious consideration to rescinding our resolution granting the abatement,” the commissioners stated in the letter. Bowling Green Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter said this morning that city officials are aware of the county’s letter and the questions raised. “We will be addressing it tonight at city council,” she said. City council members raised similar questions about the solar project labor earlier this month. Council President Mike Aspacher said he received an email from an AMP official in early September saying that prevailing wages would be paid to workers on the project. However, since then it has been reported that is not the case. “There’s some…


Gold Star father urges voters to stand up to Trump

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For more than a decade, Khizr and Ghazala Khan mourned the death of their son in private. That all changed after seven minutes in July when the two stood in front of their nation at the Democratic National Convention. Few who saw it will forget as Khizr Khan pulled a copy of the U.S. Constitution from his suit pocket, and asked Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump if he had read the document. On Sunday during a visit to the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in Perrysburg Township, Khizr Khan bared his grief for his son, his pride for his country, and his motivation for his taking a stand. In 2004, the Khans’ son, Capt. Humayun Khan, 27, was killed in Iraq while serving with the U.S. Army. He was struck by a suicide bomb blast from a vehicle he had approached while warning others to stay back in order to protect them. His actions earned him posthumously a Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals. Khizr Khan, a Muslim from Pakistan who became a U.S. citizen in the 1970s, first talked openly about his son’s death after Trump began pushing his plan to ban Muslims in the U.S. A reporter called and asked if Khan would share his feelings about Trump’s proposal. Khan agreed, and a story was published. That article was later picked up by the Democratic National Committee, and Khan was asked if he and his wife would speak at the convention as a Gold Star Family. Khan was cautioned that speaking could create a firestorm. “Our other children warned us there will be political consequences,” he said. “We had grieved in privacy.” The deciding factor for Khan was when he received a letter from a young child asking if he as an attorney could stop Donald Trump from throwing her friend out of the United States. That did it. As his wife stood next to him on stage, Khan admonished Trump. “If it was up to Donald Trump, (my son) never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership,” he said. After pulling out his copy of the U.S. Constitution, Khan asked, “Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths,…


Nuisance parties on the upswing on East Side

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   In his suit and tie, Gordon Burns looked like he wanted to be anywhere else on Thursday evening. But instead, as part of his deal with the city prosecutor, he sat in the center of neighbors he had offended. He apologized to the group – people at least twice his age – for his loud party. Burns, a BGSU student, said he wasn’t aware he was causing distress to his neighbors. “From here on out, I’ll be more aware of my neighbors,” he said to the group that listened quietly. Burns, who rents a home on South Summit Street, avoided paying a $100 nuisance party fine by working six hours of community services and agreeing to stand up in front of the East Side Neighborhood Association and confess his crime. Rose Hess, head of the East Side group, told Burns that his neighbors would hold him to his statement. “Gordon, we are your neighbors,” Hess said in a motherly tone. “We look forward to a better rest of the year.” Then she gave the student another opportunity to prove his new-found self. She suggested that Burns join others in the Common Good organization and pick up litter in the neighborhood on some Saturdays. If the police blotter is any indication, the East Side neighbors may be hearing a lot of student apologies this school year. So far this year, from mid-August to Oct. 2, there have been 16 nuisance party complaints filed on the East Side of the city. That compares to 11 and 12 for the previous two years during the same time period. One resident in the area of Clough and South Summit streets said the students seemed “unusually rowdy” this year. Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick concurred. “I would agree with that. We’re out there enforcing it, trying to keep peace in the neighborhoods.” “I would encourage you to call if you have problems with your neighbors,” Hetrick told the residents. A resident of Manville said the problem there is the “roving drunks” coming home in the early morning hours, yelling and banging on her door. Hess encouraged citizens to not just report problems to the city police, but also with the BGSU Dean of Students. The university code of conduct extends into the neighborhoods, she said. Hetrick said officers patrol the East Side early on Saturdays and…


East Side residents meet with BGSU neighbors

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   East Side residents met this week with their neighbor that brings the best perks and biggest problems for them – Bowling Green State University. The neighborhood association heard from Steve Krakoff, vice president of capital planning, and Bob Waddle, assistant vice president of capital planning for the university. The two explained the big push on campus to renovate solid structures, tear down obsolete buildings, and build new ones. For East Side residents, that means almost constant construction at their neighbor’s. But Rose Hess said the neighbors are willing to tolerate that disturbance. “Nobody has even complained of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly,” she said. Meanwhile, the dividing line between campus and the East Side neighborhood – East Wooster Street – is also a focus for the city and the university. The East Wooster corridor is divided into three sections – Main to Thurstin and Manville streets, the section in front of the university, and Mercer to Dunbridge roads. “This is where the city and the university come together to improve our future,” Krakoff said. “Our futures are very much tied together.” The university recently purchased two more properties on East Wooster Street, just east of South College Street. BGSU officials have no specific plans yet for those properties, Waddle said. “It was an opportunity to get those houses,” he said to East Side neighbors. “Hopefully in a lot of ways it will be an improvement.” “We will continue to buy properties along Wooster Street where we think it makes sense,” Krakoff  said. East Siders have already seen improvements with the new Greek housing and the new Kuhlin Center which resulted in a major facelift for South Hall, all along East Wooster Street. Krakoff cautioned that the construction will be ongoing as BGSU tries to stop campus sprawl and focus on the center of the campus. “The campus needs to get smaller, it just does,” he said. Harshman residence hall, along East Wooster Street, will be coming down before long, Krakoff said. Not only is that building unattractive and old, but less on-campus housing is needed with the decline in traditional students coming to college straight from high school. “In most places in the country, that key demographic is getting smaller,” he said. In 10 years or so, Kreischer Hall will be next to go, Krakoff said. Some older classroom buildings will…


Police officials address issues of force, race & more during “Real Cops” panel

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The police in Bowling Green, either city or campus, don’t have to resort to using physical force very often. Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick said that in 90,000 interactions, officers on the BG force have used force 52 times, and BGSU Police Chief Monica Moll said her department’s experience was similar. Rodney Fleming, the managing attorney at Student Legal Services, said that if citizens looked at the statistics, they’d see how little physical force is used. Capt. Mike Campbell, who will be interim chief when Moll leaves BGSU at the end of the month, said that in looking at police conflicts that have been in the news, he sees faulty tactics in how the incidents were approached. More emphasis should be put on de-escalating a situation, and better communication, he said. They were part of the “It’s Just Us: Real Talk with Real Cops,” held Friday at Bowling Green State University, and sponsored by Not In Our Town. No matter how little force is used, all incidents are reported and looked at. “Even if it was a legal use of force,” Moll said, “maybe we could have used less.” Hetrick said each instance is looked at by more than one supervisor, including himself. “Nothing is going to be swept under the rug.” And, if citizens feel they have been unfairly treated, each department has a formal complaint process. If someone doesn’t trust the police to follow through, they can complain to other entities, Fleming said – city officials, his office, or Not In Our Town. Hetrick said those complaints will be taken seriously. “As police chief I want to know that’s going on.” The interactions between police and citizens are often tinged with distrust. Moll talked about the importance of following officers’ instructions. Citizens may know they are not a threat but the officer doesn’t. “There’s a lot of anxiety on both sides,” she said. “What I’m seeing is you have folks who have traditionally adversarial relationships with police and are going to be automatically nervous when police approach, and when police approach they may interpret that as something else that’s wrong.” Often tensions ease over the course of a stop, she said. Ana Brown of resident life, who moderated the discussion, noted that “for a lot of us who are people of color, we don’t see that we necessarily get that time that white…


BG green space planning gets back on track

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Now that the downtown green space has been given a green light by Bowling Green City Council, citizens are ready to dig in to the project. “At long, long last,” Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards said to the Green Space Task Force that met this week. “You all hung in there.” The task force presented a plan for the space at the corner of West Wooster and South Church streets nearly a year ago. Then they waited as council debated whether or not to place a city building on the same 1.7 acres. “It may have tested your patience,” the mayor said to the task force. But now the site is officially preserved for community green space. “I’m grateful to City Council for doing that.” But now what? “Where do we go from here?” Edwards asked. First, a steering committee needs to be formed to work on the overall plan, goal setting and the community campaign. This committee will include members of the original task force and others who are interested. Next, other committees will be formed for fundraising, site design, publicity and marketing. The group knows the space will be “a place where people can gather.” But the mayor suggested that the original design be revisited and fine tuned. To get the community on board with the project, material will be created “to tell the story” of the green space. Eric Myers, chairman of the task force, suggested that a Use Committee for the site also be established. He recommended that a naming contest be held for the green space area. Lloyd Triggs suggested that a scaled model be created “to see where it needs to be tweaked” and to give the public a better idea of the plan. Edwards agreed. “People want to know what they are buying into.” The mayor voiced concerns that he has heard from citizens about the green space. Some are worried about too much of the green space being paved over. “Let’s not get too much concrete,” he said, suggesting “minimalistic plans.” The space is not a city park, but is tied with the downtown. “It will add vitality to the downtown area,” he predicted. Soil conditions at the site may cause problems, including reports of an underground stream at the site. The city has also been cautioned that when the junior high building was…


Court rules pipeline can’t use eminent domain

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A judge ruled this week that one of the pipelines planned in Wood County cannot ride roughshod over local farmland. Wood County Common Pleas Judge Robert Pollex ruled that Kinder Morgan does not have the authority to use eminent domain since the Utopia pipeline would be transporting ethane for a private company – not for public use. The ruling came as welcome news to many landowners in Wood County, more than 20 of them represented by Maurice Thompson, of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law. “They can really put the screws to Ohio landowners” and pay them “unfair low rates,” Thompson said of pipeline companies, if eminent domain is used. Thompson had argued that Utopia did not qualify for eminent domain. Unlike pipelines that are sending gas to companies that supply energy for public consumption, the Utopia pipeline would be sending ethane, a byproduct of the fracking industry, to a private plastics company in Ontario. Kinder Morgan was planning to start construction later this year on the $500 million ethane pipeline from shale sites in southeast Ohio to Canada. The proposed Utopia line would run south of Pemberville, then north of Bowling Green, then cross the Maumee River south of Waterville. Kinder Morgan claimed the company has the power of eminent domain to bury the pipeline in 21 miles of Wood County. The statement released by the pipeline company on Thursday said the firm isn’t giving up on the project. “We consider the court’s action to be a misinterpretation of existing law, especially in light of the recent Sunoco decision on September 29, 2016 in the 7th District Ohio Court of Appeals (Harrison County), which upheld the use of eminent domain under similar circumstances,” stated Allen Fore, vice president of public affairs for Kinder Morgan. “We will appeal today’s decision and are confident of prevailing on appeal,” Fore stated. The pipeline case is being heard by all three common pleas courts in Wood County because Kinder Morgan has sued so many local landowners, Thompson said. The landowners’ arguments are two-fold, Thompson explained. First, the private pipeline will provide no public use so it does not qualify for public domain authority. Second, the pipeline company did not explore alternative routes as suggested. The local families had asked that the pipeline company consider placing the line along road right-of-ways, to avoid going through farm…


Bob Dylan worthy recipient of Nobel Prize for Literature, BGSU scholars say

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The times they are a changin’ in Stockholm. This year the Nobel Prize committee surprised the world by awarding the Literature Prize to songwriter Bob Dylan for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Jack Santino, a professor of popular culture at Bowling Green State University, said the announcement had “an element of surprise.” “It’s expanding their rubric of what literature is,” he said. Lawrence Coates, who teaches in BGSU’s Creative Writing Program, noted Toni Morrison was the last American to win the Nobel for Literature, back in 1993. “That’s a long stretch without an American being recognized,” he said. And while as a fiction writer he has his own ideas about who would be fitting recipients of the prize – authors Don DeLillo and Cormac McCarthy – he nonetheless sees Dylan as a good choice. “That he works in the popular tradition of song is great,” Coates said. “Having somebody who writes and performs goes way back to the roots of literature. I appreciate the Nobel committee looking beyond literature having a very limited audience to literature that has a very broad audience.” “Often song lyrics don’t work when you just read them,” Santino said. Though lyrics as “stylized language” are closest to poetry as a literary genre, songs are a hybrid, akin to the graphic novel. “The curious element of it is a songwriter being canonized opens the floodgates for all sorts of things,” he said. Santino expects the choice will spark debates about what is and isn’t literature. “He has an ability to write a couplet, or to sum up a thought in a very catchy line or two, and they sort of enter into oral tradition which an interesting development is given his professional relationship to folk music,” Santino said. Santino said he jokes that the most common sources of catch phrases are the Bible, Shakespeare and Bob Dylan. People often don’t even know they are using Dylan’s words, he said. Coates noted the enduring power of the work after reciting a stanza of Dylan’s “Times Are a Changin’” in the course of the interview. The songwriter’s legacy is firmly rooted in his early career in the 1960s, Santino said. “He was an enormous presence at a particular point in history.” He emerged “at the same time, or maybe a tiny bit in advance, of when…


Annual grants to community parks put on hold

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Every year the Wood County Park District dishes out $100,000 to community parks for items like swingsets, soccer goals and shade trees. This year the approval process hit a temporary snag on Tuesday when park board members said they wanted more details before divvying up the money. In addition to a list of the recommended projects, the board members said they wanted to see the requests that were rejected, the amounts requested and awarded, if any local funds were being kicked in, and how much the communities have received in the past from the park district. So the board will meet again next month, with more information and with plans to vote on the grants. The actual grant funding won’t be dispersed until next February. Following is a list of projects being recommended for grant funds from the Wood County Park District: Bowling Green, $7,913 for water play features at the pool; $1,211 for disc golf course signage. Haskins, $8,604 to replace a swingset. Lake Township, $4,536 for benches, garbage cans and dog waste bag dispensers. Luckey, $2,708 for park benches. Northwood, $9,181 for disc golf course, trees and soccer goals. Pemberville, $14,290 for renovation of old storage building into park shelter. Perrysburg, $9,722 for sun shade structure. Perrysburg Township, $4,064 for playground safety surfacing. Risingsun, $19,572 for playstructure and surfacing replacing old playground equipment. Walbridge, $7,500 for renovation of restrooms/bathhouse at the pool. Weston, $10,699 to replace old playground equipment and surfacing. Grant requests from Cygnet, Portage Township and Troy Township did not make the initial cut. Jeff Baney, assistant director of the Wood County Park District, said he was particularly pleased with two grant requests – one from Northwood, the other from Risingsun. Risingsun is in line to get almost $20,000 for new playground equipment to replace equipment from the 1950s and 1960s. “I know we all played on that stuff and we survived it,” Baney said. But the playground hasn’t complied with safety standards for years. “They got rid of a lot of really arcane equipment,” such as the old “witch’s wheel” that can be quite dangerous for kids, Baney said. “I was glad to see it,” he said. In Northwood, the funding is set to go toward a new disc golf course, which was researched and designed by a student, Baney said. Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board…


Pat Martino swings through musical matrix as guest artist at BGSU festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Jazz guitarist Pat Martino has his own perspective on music. Within a couple minutes of his telephone interview with BG Independent, he’s talking about the ancient Chinese text the I Ching, the Book of Changes. Martino’s mind has a mathematical turn. He sees the guitar, he said, “as a matrix.” “I teach it accordingly and hope through that I can open up other windows,” he said. “The guitar strings are six in number, and it’s horizontal and vertical in terms of its properties.” There’s the strings across and the fret bar down. “You literally have a matrix,” he said. The I Ching, he explained, is made up of hexagrams of six broken or unbroken lines, each with 64 variations. “The I Ching is a psychologically study, a spiritual study,” he said. “The guitar is a musical study, but it’s the same matrix.” And the performer is “a witness” in the middle of this complex of dualities – minor-major, loud-soft, fast-slow — looking back to the beginning and forward the end. Martino will share his views on music and all the areas of life it opens up as the featured artist at this year’s Orchard Jazz Festival at Bowling Green State University. He’ll perform Saturday, Oct. 15, at 8 p.m. in the Donnell Theatre on campus and give a master class earlier that day at 2:30 p.m. in the Conrad Room in the Wolfe Center for the Arts. The fusion group Marbin will perform and teach on Friday. See the full festival schedule at: http://www.bgsu.edu/musical-arts/events/orchard-guitar-festival.html. The son of a singer and guitarist, Martino entered that musical matrix as a youngster growing up in in the fertile Philadelphia music scene. There he rubbed shoulders with jazz legend John Coltrane and worked with pop stars Bobby Darin and Frankie Avalon.  He first went on the road with former schoolmate organist Charles Earland, planting the guitarist firmly in soul jazz. He moved to Harlem to immerse himself more in that scene. His reputation was such that he signed with Prestige as a 20-year-old where he was a pioneer in jazz-rock fusion. But by 1976, Martino, then in his early 30s, was experiencing seizures that eventually required surgery in 1980. The surgery severely impaired his memory. He taught himself to play guitar again, emerging back on the scene in 1987, only to take another hiatus to care for his…


Citizens plot out future for BG community

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The neighborhood consultant group studying Bowling Green got another earful Tuesday evening. More than 60 city residents huddled at round tables to plot out ideas for their community. They envisioned areas of their city with boulevard gardens, a market in the middle of student housing, bicycle paths, historic renovations and townhouses. “We know there are a number of issues in the community we need to deal with,” said Adam Rosa, a member of the consultant group Camiros, from Chicago. On Tuesday, Bowling Green residents were given areas to zero in on: East Court Street, where the focus was placed on improved sidewalks, boulevard gardens, bike paths, and historic renovations. Thurstin, Manville and Wooster streets, where the emphasis was put on mixed used development, improved pedestrian safety, improved business facades, and multi-family development. East Clough and Railroad Avenue where ideas included a rails-with-trails program, business incubator, artist studios, and brewery-taprooms. Third and High streets where the possibilities included a corner store, street trees, pocket park, and small lot single-family housing. Ridge Park area where the focus was on home renovation, possible townhouses, granny flats and more park activities. During the earlier public meeting, planners learned that Bowling Green residents felt the city’s assets were its history, culture, open space, parks, educational opportunities, commercial amenities, and neighborhood appearances. On the down side, citizens felt problems existed with code enforcement, poor transportation which doesn’t accommodate walkers and bicyclists, conflicts between renters and homeowners, property maintenance specifically poor curb appeal, plus trash and noise. Citizens identified opportunities for improvement as the addition of high-quality multi-family housing, open space improvements, bike and pedestrian accommodations and commercial redevelopment especially between campus and downtown. At Tuesday’s meeting, citizens voted to select the first “early action project” for the Community Action Plan. “They are something people can work together on to achieve,” Rosa said. “We want to create early action steps that can build a momentum.” Of 10 options, the top vote getter was a “Better Block Party” on Court Street, an event that would help identify how to make that a more attractive and usable connection between BGSU and downtown. A redesign of Court Street would be tested by temporarily establishing one-way traffic with expanded bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure for a weekend. The redesign would be promoted as part of a block party. Other options in order of their…


David Bixler’s Hughes Project started as a gift from his mother

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News David Bixler can thank his mother for inspiring his Hughes Project. His mother, a retired English teacher, sent him a copy of Langston Hughes’ poem “Mother to Son.” “Well, son, I’ll tell you,” the poem begins. “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” That poem inspired Bixler. He responded as a jazz saxophonist and composer would: by writing a song. From that first piece has grown into The Hughes Project, seven pieces with more to come for a nine-piece ensemble. All based on poems written by the man of letters considered a leading figures of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 1930s. Last week Bixler gave a lecture about the project, accompanying his remarks with performances of two pieces from the project. Later that night he presented a recital featuring the seven movements he’s completed so far. He’d long been interested in writing music inspired by Hughes that blended a jazz quintet and a string quartet. He finally carved out the time to write the piece last year. He was on leave from his position as director of jazz studies at Bowling Green State University, and his family had relocated back to New York City. They were living, he quipped, in “the squalor” of renovating their new home. He started writing in June, 2015 and first heard what he’d written this May. Bixler, who received a grant from the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society at BGSU, brought in musicians from New York City for the performance. They included trumpeter Russell Johnson, who grew up in the same Wisconsin town as Bixler and has his mother as a teacher. The jazz contingent also featured Jon Cowherd, piano, Gregg August, bass, and Fabio Rojas, drums. The quintet was joined by the Semiosis Quartet – Natalie Calma and Nicole Parks, violin, Oliver Chang, viola, and Kett Lee, cello. In composing the pieces, Bixler made some key decisions up front. As with the initial “Mother and Son,” he did not set the poem to music to be sung nor did he have a narrator reading against a musical backdrop. Also, though Hughes was often called a “jazz poet,” and he wrote many works inspired by the music of African-Americans, Bixler avoided those. Instead, he said, he focused “on his work that dealt with our common humanity and the emotions therein and trying to…


County backs rezoning for business expansion

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News     Rezoning of 74 acres north of Bowling Green was given the green light last week to make way for an expansion of Principle Business Enterprises. The Wood County Planning Commission voted to recommend the acreage be changed from agricultural to M-1 light industrial, according to Dave Steiner, county planning director. The Middleton Township Trustees will make the final decision on the zoning change request. The property is located on the north side of Devils Hole Road, just east of Interstate 75. The business, Principle Business Enterprises, can be seen from I-75. The company needs the land for additional production equipment and potentially to build a new warehouse/distribution facility. The new facility would replace the company’s current warehouse located in Ampoint, in Perrysburg Township. The company has already secured approval for an enterprise zone agreement with the Wood County Commissioners. The agreement gives the company 100 percent real and personal property tax abatements for 10 years. The company, which makes products for bladder control, is planning a $4 million expansion which would add 47,000 square feet to the existing building. Principle Business Enterprises currently employs about 235 people, and will create at least five new jobs with the expansion. That estimate is very conservative since each new line at the plant will employ six or seven people. The firm produces various products for incontinence, including “Tranquility” and disposable swimwear, and footwear like Pillowpaws and slipper socks. “We are really making a difference in the lives of people with difficult physical challenges,” Chuck Stocking, CEO of the company, said earlier this year during a meeting with the county commissioners. “We’ve had such consistent growth,” said Larry Jones, CFO of Principle Business Enterprises. “As the boomers shift into that period of their lives” when they have more physical needs, the company is expanding to meet them. “It’s a good problem to have,” Jones said of the company’s need to expand. Stocking also told the county commissioners that the company is now working with the Veterans Administration. “It took us seven years to crack the code on how to do business with the Veterans Administration,” he said. “We have a team working on better care for our veterans.” The long term vision for Principle Business Enterprises includes additional expansions, Stocking said. Jones said the company provides a safe and good work environment, so the longevity…