BG lacks vacant industries, unemployment – but it’s got location

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The lack of empty industrial buildings and the low unemployment rate in Bowling Green are both good qualities. But those two positives work as negatives when new companies are researching future locations for their businesses. Bowling Green has a primary positive going for it when potential businesses scout out new sites. Its location on Interstate 75 draws a lot of attention to the city. But the absence of available workers and the shortage of vacant industrial spaces are working against the city, according to Sue Clark, director of the Bowling Green Economic Development. The city is getting a lot of interest from businesses, Clark told city council and administration members Saturday during a work session. And her office is working to expand the options for prospective businesses. The city currently has four business parks: The largest is the Woodbridge Business Park at Dunbridge and East Poe roads on the northeast edge of Bowling Green. John Quinn Tech Park off Napoleon Road, near Dunbridge Road, on the southeast edge of the city. Bellard Business Center, which is nearly out of space, located on Brim Road between Newton and Bishop roads, on the northwest side of the city. Hoffman Commerce Park, also on the northwest side of the city, at the opposite corner of Newton and Brim roads. The city has been working on an expansion of Woodbridge, purchasing more acreage and planning for a new roadway connecting the business sites to Bowling Green Road East. That is especially needed since that only public entrance and exit to the business park is currently on Dunbridge Road. Moser Construction just built a warehouse structure in the park. And NovaVision is buying 3.9 acres for a future expansion there. “They are a young, very aggressive, very fast-growing company,” Clark said of NovaVision. The economy is “hot,” she said. “Companies I’m talking to now are looking for expansions everywhere.” And Bowling Green’s location puts it on their radar. “The interest out there is tremendous, especially with the…


BGSU spring enrollment numbers on track

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Enrollment numbers for spring semester show Bowling Green State University on track to achieve its retention goal next fall. The university’s 15-day enrollment figures show 91 percent of the freshmen who came to campus last August are still BGSU students, said Cecilia Castellano, vice provost for strategic enrollment planning, at a press briefing Monday. At that pace the university should attain its goal to have 80 percent retention of those students. “We are right on target to have 80, hopefully a little more,” she said. “As we continue to enroll strong academic freshman class they continue to persist and retain at a stronger rate.” Retention is important because that and number of graduates are the key factors in determining how much state money the university receives. Overall BGSU enrollment is flat with a decline on the Firelands campus offsetting a slight increase on the Bowling Green campus. Total enrollment on the BG campus is 16,554, up 0.3 percent from last spring. Castellano said few first year students enroll in January. Only 62 enrolled this year. However the university did attract about 250 transfer students. About half are from community colleges while the rest are from other for-year institutions, she said. The university saw a decrease in graduate students. That reflects the nationwide trend of fewer international students coming to the United States to study. “The national political rhetoric may be part of that,” Castellano said. But it also is the result of students, particularly in India, having difficulty getting visas from their governments. She said that the university is working with a large group of international graduate students to resolve the problem so they can enroll on fall. The enrollment in online graduate courses is robust, she said. The university has 78 more graduate students taking online course. Most of these are for professional graduate programs. BGSU has been pushing those programs as a way of boosting enrollment and attracting tuition dollars. Unlike traditional graduate students these students do not need financial support. The…


BG Council wants to end ‘brain drain,’ attract millennials

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green needs to stop the “brain drain,” and give BGSU students an opportunity to stay here after graduation. That means offering the type of jobs and housing that millennials want. At the other end of the age spectrum, Bowling Green needs to address the fact that Oak Grove Cemetery will soon be full. Bowling Green City Council members discussed those and other priorities during a Saturday morning goal setting session. All the members identified the city’s Community Action Plan as a primary issue for 2018. With the plan nearly completed, Bill Herald said now is the city’s chance to “put some substance to it.” That may mean housing inspections, or working more closely with the county health district to make city neighborhoods more attractive, he said. Sandy Rowland said she is looking forward to seeing the CAP report. “Certainly we have invested a lot of money in this,” she said. Though the CAP is expected to make several recommendations to the city about neighborhood revitalization, Bruce Jeffers cautioned that the money must be available for the city to implement the plans. “We have to be very careful about that,” he said. John Zanfardino said his top goal is neighborhood revitalization. “That’s the goal that drives me most,” he said. But he suggested that the city not forget the older structures in the city, and study how other college towns have handled the issue. “We can’t lose sight of what exists,” Zanfardino said. Daniel Gordon said his constituents want quality, affordable housing on the East Side. The CAP will likely offer solutions, but council may need to enact tough policies such as housing inspections. “We have to be bold enough to seek those solutions,” Gordon said. “We need to do the right thing by our residents.” Greg Robinette said it will be necessary for council to establish attainable priorities since the city likely cannot afford all the recommendations. “That’s the hard part,” he said. “I think we’re very much aligned,” Council President…


Common course evaluations get critical look in BGSU Faculty Senate

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The proposal to change the way Bowling Green State University students evaluate courses and professors drew questions at the recent Faculty Senate meeting. The teaching and learning evaluation instrument would make sure that there are the same six questions on every course evaluation. Departments would still be able to supplement the evaluation with their own questions. The common course evaluation would also be administered online, explained Julie Matuga, vice provost for institutional effectiveness. A working group was charged with studying the issue in fall, 2015. It included faculty, administrators, and students. “What we’ve tried to do over the past two and half year is to bring in a lot of individuals to get their feedback,” she said. The goal, Matuga said is “to better inform institutional professional development efforts, and provide feedback on teaching and learning.” The group also wanted to make sure faculty had ready access to the data. The group presented a report to the senate in March. The new evaluation will continue to be tested this semester before being implemented in fall. The group recommended adopting EvaluationKIT to administer the evaluations. The system works well with Canvas, BGSU’s online course management system, and provides the feedback to faculty. The working group studied 60 course evaluations to determine what questions are already being asked, and of those they culled questions the evaluations had in common. Through surveys and pilot programs, the group narrowed the list down to six questions. (Questions are below at end of the story.) David Jackson, from political science, said all six common questions address teaching, not learning. None ask how much effort a student put into class, how often they attended, how much of the reading they did, or how much they gained from a class. Matuga said those were good questions, but they hadn’t been selected by faculty. Departments still have the option of adding those. Several faculty had questions about what students would fill out the survey. Allen Rogel, who teaches astronomy, said he’s tried EvaluationKIT…


BG eyes 2018 goals – neighborhoods, food trucks, downtown cameras and more

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Neighborhood revitalization, food trucks, more cameras in the downtown bar district, and code enforcement by police made the list of 2018 goals for Bowling Green city officials. City department heads listed their top priorities for the year during a work session held Saturday morning for city council. Mayor Dick Edwards set the tone. “This is going to be a very ambitious year, and if we think otherwise, we’ll get smacked right in the face with it,” Edwards said. The mayor repeated some of the projects he mentioned at last week’s council meeting, including progress on Wooster Green, East Wooster corridor, and new City Park building. Unlike those highly visible projects, the city will also be updating its charter – making sure the effort is “citizen-driven,” Edwards said. And efforts will be made to define the city’s goal of being a “welcoming community.” The mayor talked about the city’s goal to become more diversified industrially. Sue Clark, the city’s economic development director, has reported increased interest in the city. “The phone has been ringing off the wall,” Edwards said. “It spells a very promising picture for 2018,” Edwards said, noting the importance of economic growth to city services. Edwards revisited a topic that consumed much of last year – the Nexus pipeline.  “That was gut-wrenching at times for all of us. That’s going to be a special challenge for us in 2018,” he said. City officials still have not been given a timeline for the pipeline construction. Concerns continue, the mayor said, about state legislation that could have negative effects on municipalities. Edwards has talked with State Sen. Randy Gardner and State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, both R-Bowling Green, about the state’s plans for 2018. “They keep talking in very positive terms about supporting local government,” Edwards said about state officials. “All the words coming out of Columbus are encouraging, but the proof is in the pudding.” The mayor also took time to try resurrecting the city historic preservation effort that was started and…


BG’s retiring fire chief challenged the status quo

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Tom Sanderson was driving home from work one night decades ago when he came upon an injury accident. The only help on the scene was a state trooper, so Sanderson offered to assist. After the victim was on the way to a hospital, an emergency responder approached Sanderson and asked, “have you ever thought about being a paramedic or firefighter,” he recalled. Sanderson had started his career at the other end of the emergency patient process, as a respiratory therapist at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo. “I was at the receiving end of a lot of trauma,” Sanderson said. But that encounter on the way home from work resulted in his life taking a different turn. That planted a seed that he could not squelch. Now, after 33 years in firefighting, with the last 3 ½ as Bowling Green’s chief, Sanderson is retiring on Jan. 25. Sanderson started out as a volunteer firefighter and paramedic in his hometown of Perrysburg. “I will always remember my first run, it was just a chimney fire. But I will always remember it,” he said. “I loved it.” Since then, he has been on call round the clock – first for the fire whistle, then fire phones, then pagers. “You don’t punch out,” he said. As chief, it’s been a little different. “It’s difficult to go from responding to emergencies and stepping off the fire truck or the ambulance,” to managing the division, Sanderson said. “I miss that.” But Sanderson has kept himself busy the last 3 ½ years by challenging some of firefighting’s long-standing operating traditions. Sanderson wasn’t content with the status quo as fire chief, according to Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter. He saw the purpose of the division as far more than putting out fires and responding to EMS calls. “Tom really proved to be the agent of change,” Tretter said. “He has accomplished so very much in his time as chief.” First, Sanderson believed in the value of the fire division…


BG Schools to return with building levy on May ballot

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Schools will be asking voters in May to reconsider the same issue they rejected in November. The board voted 4 to 1 this morning to return to the ballot in May with a bond issue for 37 years for a consolidated elementary school, plus renovations and an addition to the high school. “The longer we wait, the costs go up,” board member Ginny Stewart said during the special meeting. “We continue to put good money into inferior buildings.” The only difference to appear on the ballot may be a reduction in the millage due to the growth in the assessed valuation. That may drop the millage from 6 mills in November to 5.7 mills in May. That in turn would reduce the amount it would cost the owner of a $100,000 home from $210 a year to $199 a year. Board President Jill Carr reminded the board that their decisions included exactly what issue will go on the ballot, when it will go before voters, and whether the issue should remain as one or be split into two. The lone vote against returning with the same ballot request came from board member Bill Clifford. He emphasized that he believes the consolidated elementary and the high school improvements are needed – but he thinks putting them on the ballot as two separate issues gives at least one a better chance of passing. “It is the best plan, that has not changed in my point of view,” Clifford said of the district’s overall building plan. However, he’s heard from voters who would like to see a reduction in the scope of the $72 million project. “I’m getting a lot of feedback,” Clifford said. “I hear about ‘bells and whistles.’ I hear ‘Taj Mahal.’” The board looked for ways to trim costs, but could not make cuts without hitting vital parts of the project, he said. “That was something we just could not do. This was the best plan. It remains,” he…


Voter purge policy on hold while high court deliberates

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The purging of any names on Wood County voting rolls has been suspended as the U.S. Supreme Court considers the legitimacy of the Ohio policy. The Supreme Court last week heard arguments on the appeal of a lower court ruling that found the state policy violated a federal law aimed to make it easier for U.S. citizens to register to vote. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act bars states from striking registered voters “by reason of the person’s failure to vote.” Ohio is one of seven states, along with Georgia, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, that erase infrequent voters from registration lists. Those opposing the purging called Ohio’s policy the most aggressive. Registered voters in Ohio who do not vote for four years are sent registration confirmation notices. If they do not respond and do not vote over the subsequent four years, their names are purged from the voting rolls. The Supreme Court’s ruling, expected by the end of June, could affect the ability to vote for thousands of people ahead of November’s congressional elections. The arguments in front of the Supreme Court focused on whether or not a state could send a registration confirmation notice based merely on a person’s failure to vote, which the plaintiffs argued is barred by federal law. Meanwhile, the Wood County Board of Elections is in limbo about updating voter rolls. “We didn’t do one last year because of the litigation,” said Terry Burton, director of the Wood County Board of Elections. “We’re going to hold status quo until we’re given instructions. Whatever the new construction is, we’ll comply.” In 2015, more than 3,400 registered voters in Wood County were purged from the voting rolls – at the directive from the Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. The state’s directive ordered county boards of election to wipe voters from the rolls if they had shown “no voter initiated activity” since the last two federal elections. That “activity” included voting, signing petitions or filing for…


Scholar reflects on the role food played in the fight for racial justice

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Like any army, those who struggled for freedom during the Civil Rights movement marched on their stomachs. Food became an early symbol of the movement when five black college students took seats at a Woolworth lunch counter and waited in vain to be served while white onlookers pelted them with invective. Food scholar Jessica Harris has looked at the menus of the lunch counters where the protests spread and noted that the bill of fare was hot dogs, hamburgers, grill cheese – typical “American” food. Harris was the keynote speaker for the Beyond the Dream presentation Wednesday evening at Kobacker Hall in the Bowling Green State University campus. Her talk “Feeding the Resistance: Deacon’s Chicken and Free Breakfasts” culminated an evening in which the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was celebrated in music, words, and art. The program opened with Joseph Schwantner’s “New Morning for a New World: Daybreak of Freedom” performed by the Bowling Green Philharmonia conducted by Emily Freeman Brown. The programmatic piece offered orchestral swells and whispers to accompany a text read by Uzee Brown, a BGSU gradate and now chair of the music department at Dr. King’s alma mater, Morehouse College. The text was drawn from various speeches and essays by Dr. King. The music was anxious and on edge as Brown recounted the oppression of African Americans. “There comes a time when people get tired,” he intoned, “… tired of being kicked about by the brutal feet of oppression.” There were brilliant brass calls to action as the text described the struggle for freedom. “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood,” Brown read. The piece ended reflecting on the future when “we will emerge … into the bright and glowing daybreak of freedom and justice for all God’s children.” The orchestra concluded quietly as the musicians hummed a simple, resonant harmony. An abstract animated film by Heejoo Kim with music by Evan Williams, a…


Wood County jail to enter deal to take Toledo inmates

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County jail is once again opening its doors to inmates from Toledo – but only misdemeanor offenders. The county commissioners will review the contract between the Wood County Justice Center and City of Toledo on Thursday morning. The agreement allows Toledo to “rent” 10 beds on an ongoing basis at the Wood County jail, on East Gypsy Lane Road in Bowling Green. The beds will be used for misdemeanor offenders sentenced under the Toledo municipal code. “They are the lowest level offenders,” Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said Wednesday. That’s good for many reasons, the sheriff said. “We’re tight when it comes to secure housing, but we have plenty of beds in minimum security,” he said. The misdemeanor offenders also pose the least risk. “They aren’t all altar boys, Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts,” Wasylyshyn said. But it’s nothing the jail staff isn’t accustomed to dealing with, he added. This is not the first time Wood County entered an agreement with Toledo to house inmates. In the summer of 2016, Toledo officials turned to Wood County for a solution to its inmate issues during an ongoing feud over charges to the city from the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio near Stryker. That arrangement lasted about six months, until Toledo and CCNO renegotiated prices for prisoner housing. This contract is similar to the last one between Toledo and Wood County, except Wasylyshyn said he made sure to clean up a transportation issue – with the new contract requiring Toledo to pay for the inmates’ taxi transports back to Toledo once they are released from jail. Toledo will pay the county jail for 10 inmate beds, regardless of whether or not all 10 are needed. If Toledo needs more than 10, the city will pay $65 per bed per day, plus the booking cost of $40. “We’re talking roughly $240,000 a year,” Wasylyshyn said. That money will be put toward the proposed expanded booking area and renovated medical area of the Wood County…


Hull Prairie ditch cleaning supported – but cost details sought

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Landowners along Hull Prairie Road are in favor of the county cleaning out the ditch that runs along the road. But they have one big concern – how much will it cost them. The Wood County Commissioners held a public hearing Tuesday morning on the Hull Prairie ditch project, which covers 11.6 miles in Bowling Green, Plain Township, Middleton Township and Perrysburg Township. The project extends from south of Newton Road to north of Roachton Road. For years, clogged ditches along Hull Prairie Road only affected neighboring farmland. But now, with so many homes and housing subdivisions growing along the road, ditch drainage is necessary to keep water from creeping into basements. The estimated cost for the project is $422,000, according to Wood County Engineer John Musteric. The watershed area covers 6,749 acres, with 1,378 parcels. A preliminary cost per acre would be $62.53. However, no surveys have yet been conducted, Musteric said. Several neighbors of the ditch project attended Tuesday’s hearing to voice their support for the ditch cleaning. Carl Barnard said several of his neighbors get water in their basements with heavy rainfalls. One neighbor recently had $6,000 in damage due to flooding. “This is very critical to us,” Barnard said. Musteric agreed that the project should proceed. “Prolonging implementation now will do nothing but exacerbate drainage issues later,” he said. Better drainage will not only result in better farm yields, but also help the residential areas, Musteric said. Unless the ditch is placed under the county maintenance program, the responsibility to keep it clean is on the townships and landowners. The benefits of the project are greater than the costs, Musteric said. But the landowners would really like some more specifics on exactly what those costs might be for them individually. “This is all well and good. But the bottom line is the cost,” Joe McIntyre, of Cogan Lane, said. Until the survey is done, those costs are unknown, Musteric said. “Everybody is very curious about the costs,” said…


BG to get a new look – and new smell – in 2018

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green will be getting some makeovers this year. People entering the city from Interstate 75 will encounter a new look on East Wooster Street and less odors from the wastewater plant. In the downtown area, the new Wooster Green is scheduled to get a gazebo this spring. Mayor Dick Edwards, one of the main forces behind the Wooster Green project, reported to City Council Tuesday that in late April or early May, the gazebo will be built on the Wooster Green at the corner of West Wooster and South Church streets. Edwards also noted that more than $230,000 had already been pledged for the project. A sign has been erected in the green space, showing the proposed entry for the community gathering space. The East Wooster Street corridor is getting multiple crosswalks, which should be completed this spring, Public Works Director Brian Craft reported. Preliminary work will begin for the roundabouts at the Interstate 75 interchanges. Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell said odor control measures will be installed at the wastewaster plant this spring. The plant, which sits along I-75, has been the source of many complaints about unappealing odors. And the city will begin tackling goals of the Community Action Plan – Neighborhood Revitalization Project. Planning Director Heather Sayler reported that the presentation of the Community Action Plan will be Feb. 28, at 6 p.m., in the Wood County Courthouse Atrium. On the business side, the mayor and Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter will be joining BG Economic Development Director Sue Clark for their annual visits to local manufacturers and other businesses in the community. Edwards said the visits are “eye-opening experiences” that are “reassuring.” “From all reports to date, we have every reason to believe that the economic growth and robust economic climate experienced by the city will continue in 2018,” Edwards said. The city hosted 30 ribbon cutting ceremonies in 2017 – a record, the mayor said. Also at Tuesday’s meeting, retiring Fire Chief Tom Sanderson was recognized by…


BG Middle School ‘Ending the Silence’ on mental health

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Silence can be soothing – but not if it allows warning signs and the stigma surrounding mental health issues to go unnoticed. Bowling Green Middle School counselors Debra Ondrus and Alyssa Santacroce presented a program to the board of education Tuesday evening about “Ending the Silence at BGMS.” The school partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Wood County to focus on emotional and mental health. National statistics show that one in five Americans suffer from mental health issues, Santacroce said. For students, those problems can affect their academics and daily lives. Bowling Green Middle School is the first school in Wood County to work with NAMI to offer this for students, Ondrus said. Staff and students worked together to recognize the signs of mental health problems. Through the program, they tackled the topics of: Decreasing the stigma Identifying warning signs Finding positive coping skills Treating the problem Recognizing signs of suicide Students not only talked about how to help themselves, but also how to help others who are suffering. “I was amazed,” Ondrus said of the ideas students came up with to help others. One student vowed to stop calling other people “crazy.” Another wanted to start reaching out to those in obvious distress. The students learned that mental illness is not a life sentence, Ondrus said. “Just like a physical illness, mental illness is treatable.” One area that Santacroce and Ondrus found especially lacking was the area of positive coping techniques. When students were asked to identify how they cope with life stresses, their answers primarily focused on playing video games, watching TV or using their cell phones. Students were given ideas of other stress relievers, given information on area resources and were reassured, “there is help,” Ondrus said. A video called “If we all speak loud enough,” stressed that mental illness needs to be talked about in the open. To understand the impact of the “Ending the Silence” program, all the students were given pre- and post-tests…


BGSU students fan out through the region on MLK Jr. Day of Service

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Steady snow showers throughout the region Monday couldn’t keep more than 800 university students from answering the call to service. The snow just gave a few of them another way to help. A group of Bowling Green State University students participating in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service came to the office of Downtown Bowling Green. While some of them worked inside creating chalk signs for an upcoming United Way fundraiser, a handful headed outside with shovels and ice melt to clear sidewalks. They just wanted to help, said Jamie Hawkins and Jenna Battaglia. This is the 10th Annual Martin Luther King Jr, Day of Service coordinated by BGSU. With the students involved this year, the event will have sent about 5,800 volunteers into the field to serve the community. Angel Alls-Hall, one of the student organizers of the event, told the volunteers before they went out that this was a way of honoring King’s own service. “Today we carry on that legacy of activism and service that Dr. King embodied. So let us go out to the community to serve today and in days to come.” Jauntez Bates, a senior political science major and vice president of undergraduate student government, said service has been an essential part of his education at BGSU. He’s participated all four years, including last year as a site coordinator. He is a member of the Presidential Leadership Academy and a fraternity both of which emphasize service. And he’s already founded a clothing company, BossUpClothing, that combines commerce and philanthropy. “You should be a helping hand to others,” he said. The MLK Day of Service, he said, helps expands how students view volunteering because they are assigned places and jobs that they know little or nothing about. “This just shows your dedication to service.” On Monday he was one of the crew helping to building 15 mini-libraries, a project sponsored by Habitat for Humanity and the Rotary Club. Addie Lytle, a first year film student, was also…


School board ponders whether, what, and when of new bond issue request

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Back in November when the Bowling Green school bond issue went down in defeat, board members insisted that they would return with the same $72 million plan that would consolidate the district’s three elementary schools and extensively renovate and expand the high school. Early Monday morning, two months later, they met to discuss whether that was the best option. The workshop session was part post mortem of the election and part a free-wheeling discussion about what other options there may be to address the district’s building needs. In the end, the board seemed poised to return to the ballot, possibly as early as May, with the same plan. The board, which meets in regular session Tuesday, set another special meeting for Friday, Jan. 19 at 7:30 a.m. to further discuss the next step. It is possible a decision on whether and what to put on the ballot and when will be determined then. They must decide by Jan. 31 if the board is to put the issue on the May ballot. Board member William Clifford, who said on election night that the board would return with the same plan, asked Monday whether there was any way to trim the cost of the project. His fear, he said, was that coming back with the same amount would tell the voters they weren’t being listened to. “We weren’t asking for any more than we needed,” board member Ginny Stewart said. “We were so far behind we needed to catch up.” Norm Geer, who was elected to the board in November, said that those who voted against the levy weren’t “anti-education.” Many factors were at play, including the loss of neighborhood schools as well as the cost. “We have to convince people it’s money well spent,” he said. “It’s money that can save money in the future.” Superintendent Francis Scruci said that consolidating the elementary schools would save the district $100,000 a year in transportation costs, and eliminate three routes. That would mean the district would not…