‘Coffee with CASAs’ event to inspire volunteers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The opiate epidemic has reached down into the youngest and most helpless members of Wood County. Just as Wood County Children’s Services is seeing more child abuse and neglect cases, the Wood County CASA program is seeing those growing numbers stretch their volunteers. The numbers have increased so much that some families are being turned away, according to Kathy Hicks, a volunteer member of the Friends of CASA Board. Court Appointed Special Advocates are volunteers who advocate for the needs of children, and act as the voices of children in court, Hicks said. “So the court knows how the child feels,” she explained. “Kids don’t want to tattle on mom or dad.” The CASAs make home visits, speak in court on behalf of the children, and contact doctors, schools or other agencies to try to determine what is in the best interest of the children. The Wood County CASA program, with director Carol Fox, currently has 32 volunteer CASAs who are serving 45 families with a total of 90 children. The growing number of cases has led to about 10 families being turned away so far this year. Much of the increase is due to the opiate epidemic, Hicks said. “It is just amazing to me how many families have this drug problem. It prohibits them from taking care of their children,” she said. “That’s really sad.” The issues are often further complicated by multi-generational opiate problems. “It’s not just the parents. It’s the grandparents,” Hicks said. “Grandma and Grandpa can’t step in because they aren’t clean either.” So the children are…


Reports of elder abuse on the rise in Wood County

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Wood County Probate Court is seeing more cases of elderly abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Judge David Woessner who presides over the court, said Wednesday, that he hopes it is because of greater awareness leading to more reports. Raising that awareness was the purpose the program presented by Wood County Job and Family Services after the annual Flag Day Pause for the Pledge observance. Tying the two programs together is fitting Woessner said: “So today when we recognize the flag and all it stands for, we should also recognize our need and our responsibility to help the elderly avoid abuse, neglect, and exploitation.” Mark Briseno, the adult protective services supervisor at Job and Family Services, said that in all of 2016 his office handled 260 cases. So far this year, there have been 149 reports, putting the office on track to handle 300 in 2017. He said that the increase probably reflects both heightened awareness leading to people reporting more readily as well as more cases. “It’s hard to really tell,” he said. “It’s a combination of both. Hopefully the efforts we’re taking to get the word out is contributing to more reporting. On the other hand, the elderly population is growing.” And he knows there are many more cases. Nationally only 1 in 14 cases is reported. “We have abuse by family members, neglect by family members or someone who may be in charge of someone’s care or an elderly person who is neglecting themselves,” he said. This may be because of memory loss or physical conditions that prevent them from taking care of…


BG School Board seeks levy millage and duration for building project

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Bowling Green Board of Education made it official Tuesday evening by voting to ask the Wood County Auditor to determine the millage and the duration of a levy to pay for the district’s $72 million building project. The board voted at a meeting earlier this month to consolidate the three elementary schools into one centralized building, and to make major additions and renovations to the high school. That work will be funded by a bond issue. The board also agreed to build an addition to the middle school. That project, which will likely begin in September, will be financed through $4.6 million in permanent improvement funds. If the bond issue is approved by voters, the new consolidated elementary planned north of the current middle and high schools, could be completed by the summer of 2020. The high school could be completed by summer of 2021. The action taken Tuesday evening by the school board was the adoption of the necessity of the bond issue. The issue will appear on this November’s ballot. In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, the board hired Alyssa Karaffa as the new principal at Crim Elementary School. Karaffa has been the assistant principal at the middle school. Her new position has an annual salary of $75,000. The former Crim principal, Melanie Garbig, was hired earlier this month as the district’s executive director of pupil services. Also at the meeting, Superintendent Francis Scruci said he and the transportation supervisor had made a busing decision that would save the district nearly $100,000 a year. By law, the district has…


BG utilities board doesn’t want its budget tapped

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Last week, City Council sat in council chambers discussing where to get money to fill a shortfall in the city’s general fund. This week, the Board of Public Utilities sat in those same seats, and suggested that council members look elsewhere to solve the general fund problem. The utilities board defended the money set aside for water and sewer projects – and protested efforts to solve general fund deficiencies with utility capital monies. That money, which comes from a portion of the city’s income tax, has served the city well, according to board members. “It’s really come into focus how well this has served our city,” board member Bill Culbertson said. The funding has allowed the utilities department to replace substandard waterlines and install sewer lines without assessing more to residents. “I’ve really seen what we’ve been able to do with our water plant,” Culbertson said. “I look at other communities who have gotten in trouble with their infrastructure” when cities short the utilities funding. “Quite frankly, I’d like to see it stay in place.” City Council has discussed several options to beef up its general fund revenue that has lost much in state funding cuts. To fix the ongoing problem, council is looking for about $800,000 from one or a combination of three options: By charging a tree trimming assessment. By charging residents for trash pickup. By changing the distribution of the city’s income tax revenue. This is the only option that would require a vote by citizens. Utilities board member Mike Frost worried about the slippery slope that could occur…


Paul Simon mixes new work with fan favorites in Toledo Zoo concert

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent Media The dilemma of Paul Simon came to the fore in one brief moment at Sunday night’s concert at the Toledo Zoo. He’d just performed “Stranger to Stranger” the title track from his latest album. That was new, he said, now I’ll play something old. A female voice exclaimed from the audience: “Oh, yeah!” Simon knows that most of those who packed the Zoo Amphitheatre were there to hear the hits, especially those dating back to his Simon and Garfunkel days. That was evident from the rapturous greeting those numbers received. But Simon has never stopped growing as a songwriter and musician in the almost half century since the duo broke up. Each album – and that really starts with “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” the last Simon and Garfunkel studio effort that is a bridge into Simon’s solo career – has been a sonic experiment, first in the textures of the sounds of the American soul – rock, jazz, gospel, rockabilly – and later extending to South African, Brazil, and electronics. He’s grown into the most sophisticated American pop songwriter, whose evocative lyrics float over complex, multi-rhythmic grooves. Encapsulating such multidimensional body of work into a single concert is daunting. Simon and his wildly talented band of musical wizards managed it easily. Like his albums, the zoo show had a unified sound that captured the textures of Simon’s various musical phases. He opened with a blast – “Boy in the Bubble” from 1986’s “Graceland.” “A bomb in a baby carriage shattering a shop window,” he sang, a line sadly still current. The “Graceland” album was…


Playground gives foster kids place to play with parents

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A patch of grass outside Wood County Children’s Services has been turned into a wonderland for foster children. With the help of local service organizations and the county commissioners, a playground has been constructed on the grounds of Wood County Job and Family Services on East Gypsy Lane Road. The playground is to be used by foster children visiting with their birth families. “It’s for family visitation, so kids and their parents can play together in a natural environment,” explained Sandi Carsey, administrator of Wood County Children’s Services. During the average week, the Children’s Services office sees about 10 families come to the agency for supervised visitation with children who have been placed in foster care. “It’s critical that kids have contact with their families,” especially if the goal is reunification in the future, Carsey said. “The kids are attached to their families. They need to see them. They need to maintain those relationships,” she said. And the playground gives children an opportunity to do what kids do with their families – go down slides, climb equipment, be pushed on swings. In the past, Wood County Children’s Services used the Wood Lane facilities for visitation, since there was no space available at Children’s Services. But then an annex was added to Wood County Job and Family Services. The additional space gave families inside room for visits, but no outdoor play area. “The families really liked having the playground” at Wood Lane, Carsey said. So area organizations were approached about donating to the playground project. Money was contributed by Modern Woodmen, Bowling Green…


Push for amendment urges change in the way Congressional districts are drawn

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News In Ohio winning a seat in the U.S. Congress is pretty much a guarantee of lifetime employment thanks to way Congressional districts are drawn. In the last election, the closest race had the victorious candidate winning by a margin of 36 percentage points. Those wide margins were true whether the candidate was Democratic incumbent Marcy Kaptur in the 9th District sweeping to victory with 69 percent of the vote over Republican Donald Philip Larson, or Republican incumbent Bob Latta trouncing Democratic challenger James Neu Jr. with 70 percent of the vote. The problem now, said Katelyn Elliott, a volunteer with an effort to change the way the state’s districts are drawn, is that an incumbent in a safe district has no incentive to listen to or take into consideration the views of voters from the other party. Those districts are the result of gerrymandering mapping district boundaries that assure large majorities for one party. For the most part that favors the Republicans who hold 12 of the state’s 16 seats in Congress, despite the state being considered a swing state. That’s probably why the state Democratic Party is supporting with the petition drive by the non-partisan Fair Congressional Districts for Ohio to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot to change the way Congressional Districts are determined. But changing the way districts are drawn has also gained bipartisan support including from Republican Gov. John Kasich. The amendment has qualified for the ballot, Elliott said. She spoke Thursday at an event to recruit and train people who will circulate petitions. They’ll need to secure 305,000…


Habitat for Humanity may finally get to build homes in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Habitat for Humanity has built 37 homes all over Wood County – except for in Bowling Green. The homes have been constructed in local communities like Northwood, Grand Rapids, Luckey, Bloomdale, North Baltimore and Weston. But Bowling Green land remained out of reach. Until now. On Monday, the Bowling Green Board of Public Utilities will discuss giving Habitat for Humanity land that was previously used for a city water tower. “This is huge,” said Mark Ohashi, executive director of the local Habitat for Humanity branch. “Acquiring land in Bowling Green has been hard,” Ohashi said Saturday as the organization dedicated two of its newest homes in Weston. Because it’s a volunteer organization that relies on donations, Habitat has been able to build in many Wood County communities because the land was given to the group. That could soon be the case in Bowling Green. According to a letter from Bowling Green Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell, the utilities board is being asked to consider donating land at the southwest corner of Manville and Clough avenues. The property is the former site of the Manville water tower, which was removed a few years ago after the construction of the new Newton Road water tower. Since the water tower removal, the city has maintained the grass lot. But the property has no long-term use for either the utilities department or the city, O’Connell explained. So the staff reviewed options to dispose of the property. The property could be placed for sale at auction, but it is unclear how much revenue the property would generate….


Art in the air at Simpson Garden

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Simpson Gardens Friday evening was lush with hosta greens, delphinium and coreopsis complemented by artists scattered about the grounds intent on capturing the images of plants, rocks and water. Along with the sounds of birds, mixed the trill of a Chinese bamboo flute, the rumble of a tuba, and young actors singing a show tune. The occasional plop of a drop of rain provided an accent to the thrum of hand drums. The third annual Art in the Park drew more visitors, as well as more artists, said Jacquie Nathan, of the Bowling Green Arts Council, which sponsors the event, hosted by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. Artists took time from creating their art to chat with visitors. Landscape artist Barbara Houdeshell has been painting outside, or plein air, for 17 years. It’s a natural for her. “I like painting, and I like people.” Christie Moser, of Bowling Green, had stopped to chat with the painter. Moser moved to town about a year ago, and when she heard about Art in the Park, she knew she wanted to go. “I can really relate to this,” she said. “I’ve been a musician myself all my life,” Moser said. She plays flute and sings.  “I know the passion that swells within the soul that has to be expressed.” Houdeshell’s passion was emerging before her as she looked over a small pond. This is a study that she will bring back to her studio and may turn into a much larger oil painting. She grew up in Wood County, she said, but this is the first…


Planet Fitness plans to open gym in Bowling Green

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green has long been the home to plenty of pizza joints. Maybe that’s why it’s becoming the home of more exercise gyms. Planet Fitness is the latest gym business to plan on making Bowling Green its home. At Wednesday’s city planning commission meeting, Planning Director Heather Sayler said Planet Fitness has plans to open a gym in the Shoppes on South Main strip mall, south of East Gypsy Lane Road. Sayler also announced a few other commercial and industrial projects underway in the city. A permit has been issued for the construction of a Home2Suites extended stay hotel at 1630 E. Wooster St., in the space formerly used by Victory Inn. The Home2Suites is one of Hilton’s hotels. Another permit has been issued for an addition to the Aldi grocery store at 1010 S. Main St. Currently under review is a permit for site improvements of the McDonald’s restaurant on East Wooster Street. Sayler also noted an increase in requested zoning permits, with 166 being sought this year compared to 137 at his time last year. New construction this year includes 17 single-family homes, three commercial buildings, 1 industrial site, and three institutional facilities. The city’s engineering division has approved construction plans for Plat 1 of The Reserve at Martindale, which consists of three proposed lots along Pearl Street and Martindale Avenue. The city is also reviewing a preliminary drawing for Plat 8 of Pheasant Farms. Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the planning commission reviewed a manufacturing zoning definition request that would allow a vocational training school to be built in Bellard…


Conneaut water project a ‘nightmare’ for city and residents

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Neighbors and city officials can agree on at least one aspect of the Conneaut Avenue water project – it’s been a nightmare. For those living along the stretch of Conneaut from Mitchell Road to Wintergarden Road, the project has meant multiple boil advisories, yards still torn up for the waterline work, and almost constant dust from the gravel roadway. For the city employees, the project has been a source of frustration caused by faulty waterline equipment and unexpected delays. Has the waterline project been a headache and a nightmare? “Yes and yes,” said Bowling Green Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell. In an attempt to explain the delays, the city invited residents along the waterline to an open house Thursday. On display were some of the pieces of defective equipment that have plagued the project. The project began in January to replace the old water main, affecting about 50 homes along Conneaut Avenue. For each home, a “saddle” is wrapped around the waterline, allowing a hookup with the home. The saddles used with the old line were made of cast iron and were severely deteriorated. So new saddles were ordered and fitted to the waterline. But the new saddles would not seal on the old waterline, since it was not an exact round shape. So new PVC pipe was installed and the saddles were fitted. Residents were advised to boil their water, and all seemed good. Then the saddle connections started leaking. So different saddles were ordered and put on the waterline. Residents were again asked to boil their water. Again the seals…


Brown Bag Food founder, Amy Holland, honored as Hometown Hero

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Thursday was a good day for the Brown Bag Food Project, an endeavor that is usually the group doing good. At a Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours social, Brown Bag received two checks generated by the ACT BG’s recent Amazing Race fundraiser. The check from ACT BG was for just over $4,800, and the Modern Woodman matched $2,500 of those funds. Then Nathan Eberly, a member of the Brown Bag board and a Modern Woodman rep, surprised Brown Bag founder Amy Holland with a Hometown Hero award. “All this is because of what you do,” Eberly said. Her work inspired him to join the effort. The honor came with a $100 check for the charity of her choice, and there was little doubt what that would be. As usual Holland had little to say. She lets her actions speak for her. She got into action starting Brown Bag in early 2016. She learned that some of her fellow workers at Walmart were having trouble feeding themselves and their families some because they were out on medical leave. She took it upon herself to buy a few bags of food and deliver it to them. That has grown into a project that provides parcels of food to more than 300 people a month. Holland said that’s 60-70 families. The parcels have a value of about $60. The idea is to provide emergency food assistance to tide people over for five days, though often the parcels can last as long as a week, until they can seek assistance elsewhere. The food is given…


BG Council debates further fight against pipeline

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   At least two Bowling Green City Council members are interested in taking the Nexus pipeline fight further. Council has already rejected an easement to allow the pipeline to cross city-owned land within miles of the city’s water treatment plant. The city held a panel discussion with four geologists addressing their concerns about the pipeline. And the mayor has written several letters identifying concerns to FERC, federal and state legislators, and the pipeline. But on Monday, council member John Zanfardino suggested that the city look into filing a motion to intervene on the project with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. “I know there are questions of cost,” Zanfardino said. But the costs may be worth it to ensure safe drinking water, he said. Zanfardino referred to one of the panelist’s concerns that the environmental statement for the pipeline did not even mention several risks. “This seems to give us a legal leg to stand on,” if something happens, Zanfardino said of the motion to intervene. Though one of the panelists said the cost to file a motion to intervene would be “negligible,” the city’s legal counsel thinks otherwise, especially if it leads to greater litigation and expense.  So Zanfardino suggested some exploration should be done. “We’re running out of time,” he said. FERC tends to rubber-stamp pipeline projects even in the best of times, Zanfardino said. “And we’re not in the best of times.” Council member Daniel Gordon agreed. “There is a real sense of urgency here,” he said. “We can’t put a price tag on our water supply here in Northwest Ohio.”…


Painful loss turned into pleasure at pool for children

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Part of Leah Pekarik was dreading Wednesday. That was the day a new splash pad creature was being dedicated in honor of her daughter, Clara, who died last year at just 10 weeks old. But the other part of Pekarik was overwhelmed by the generosity of the community to turn her family’s pain into pleasure for other children in Bowling Green. With the help of community members who love Leah, her husband, Scott, and their son, Bobby, the day of dread turned into a day of joy surrounding Clara’s short life. “Everyone in this community knows Leah and loves her,” said Kristin Otley, director of the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. “So many community members contacted us and said, ‘We want to do something.’” So the park and recreation program came up with a plan. “We asked people to help us remember Clara and give other children in the community something to smile about,” Otley said. When the new aquatic center was built in City Park, there were not enough funds to furnish the “splash pad” area with “creatures” that spray water on children. The idea was to add a frog creature to the area for $6,000. “We started just with that,” Otley said of the original plan to add a frog to the splash pad in honor of Clara. “We got an outpouring of support from people who knew her and from people who didn’t know her.” So the plan grew, with the Wood County Park District donating money for a “snake” creature spitting water at the splash pad, and…


BG cracks down on ‘deplorable’ house on Wooster

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The house is the problem child on the East Side – 1014 E. Wooster St. Neighbors have reported trash, a recliner and a mattress piled in the front yard. This past weekend, the college students living there had a TV “blaring” in the front yard. The inside of the house has also had its share of problems, according to records kept by the city. “It is unfortunate that conditions like this exist and there is so little regard for community values and people who reside in the neighborhood,” Mayor Dick Edwards said during Monday evening’s city council meeting. The owners of the house, Ronald F. and Mary Jo Trzcinski, live in Holland, Ohio. The city has recorded two pages of complaints and official responses to the “deplorable conditions and appearance” of the house that sits to the east of Crim Street across from Bowling Green State University. “It’s enough to make your head spin,” Edwards said. The mayor made several trips to the property over the weekend, and East Side advocate Rose Hess continued to monitor the site. “I think it’s time to take the gloves off with this property,” Edwards said. Over the last few years, the city’s police division, fire division, code enforcement officials, and Wood County Health District have intervened. Each time they have asked the owner to cleanup or repair items, the Trzcinskis have done just enough to comply. This past weekend, Hess recorded more problems at the property. “Last night we drove past there and a 36-inch flat screen TV was blaring in the front yard.  (Interior…