Ditch cleanup stirs up conflicting interests

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Farmers between Bowling Green and Perrysburg don’t take kindly to their fields being flooded out by plugged ditches. But it appears that people living in neighboring housing developments also don’t take kindly to being told how to handle the ditches that meander through their backyards. The two sides of the issue butted heads last week during preliminary hearings on clearing two ditches in Middleton Township. The opposing sides did a lot of eye rolling and head shaking at each others’ testimony before the Wood County Commissioners. The proposed ditch projects, petitioned by farmers Gerald Moser and Doug Pratt, start on Five Point Road and head north through the River Bend housing subdivision. Flooding already occurs in the Five Point Road ditch area, and is expected to get worse once nearly 300 homes are constructed in the development. According to Wood County Engineer Ray Huber, the watershed for the projects includes 764 acres. “This office feels that the quicker the ditch in question can be placed under county care, the better,” Huber stated in his report to the county commissioners. “In other words, this would lessen the impact on developed lots and facilitate ditch construction where home construction has not started.” Prolonging the ditch cleanup will only exacerbate construction issues later, Huber said. But attorneys representing the River Bend development said putting the ditches under a county maintenance program is unnecessary. The homeowners association can properly maintain the ditches, they stated. “The assumption is government can do a better job” than the homeowners, attorney Jerome Parker said. “That’s not true.” Brian McCarthy, developer of River Bend, said clogged ditches have not been a problem. “We’ve maintained our ditches,” McCarthy said. However, Huber said such efforts by homeowner groups are often unsuccessful. Duane Abke, of the county engineer’s office, said McCarthy made the same claims with the nearby Emerald Lakes subdivision. But the ditches there often flood with rain,…


Holiday week perfect time to feast on Toledo Museum’s treasures

By DAVID  DUPONT BG Independent News As the gaiety of Christmas Day fades, and we enter that phase of holiday denouement, the Toledo Museum of Art throws it doors open to welcome  visitors with a whole slate of activities leading up to New Year’s Day. Now that the gifts are unwrapped and the meals eaten, a visit to the museum is in order. It’s a great place to take out of town visitors, and share with them one of the treasures of Northwest Ohio. For those locals who have never visited, it’s a great time to acquaint them with this grand institution. The museum has a wonderful holiday feel, and it tends to attract enough people to give it a warm social buzz, without being hectic. There’s more to do than look. There’s a full schedule of activities from life drawing to game playing for all ages. (See http://bgindependentmedia.org/toledo-museum-offers-great-art-escape-over-holidays/) For the past few years, my wife and I have gone to the museum on New Year’s Day. Museums are just one of those spaces – along with baseball parks and libraries – where all I have to do is step inside and my spirits are lifted. That’s true whether it’s the first time I visit, or the Toledo Museum, a place that by now almost feels like home. I started going to museums when I was in college. I was a student at UMass in Amherst, but took lessons from a jazz trombonist at Berklee College of Music in Boston, a two-or-more-hour bus ride away. It seemed a shame just to go to the lesson and head home, so I’d go to the Museum of Fine Arts. I even had a student membership. It was convenient, only a few blocks from Berklee, and I could check my horn and satchel of music, which usually by that time also had a few newly purchased jazz albums. I’d spend a couple hours, just wandering the galleries, fixating…


BG hears concerns about car crashes, snowy streets, parking tickets

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council spent a lot of time on transportation issues last week – not just the flashy topics of roundabouts and pedestrian walkways – but also the more mundane issues of downtown parking, snow removal on streets, and curves that may be contributing to accidents. Nathan Eberly, who lives on Sandridge Road just west of Avery Drive, told council that two curves on his stretch of the road seem to be sending quite a few motorists into his lawn. He asked that more signage be considered to notify drivers of the upcoming curves. “I end up with several people in my yard,” especially in the winter when the roads are a little slick, Eberly said. There was a period last year during a storm when four cars ran off the road into his yard in about an hour. Eberly told council he no longer puts his lighted Christmas deer in the yard since they are too often the victims of accidents. Eberly said he and his neighbors would like the city to consider placing more warning signs for the curves. He was instructed to take his concerns to Bowling Green Public Works Director Brian Craft. Also at last week’s city council meeting, Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter explained the need for residents to comply with rules for “snow streets.” She talked about how problems can snowball if cars are not removed from the street in a timely manner. She showed a photograph of a vehicle parked on a “snow street,” which kept the snowplows from clearing the street, which then kept the garbage and recycling trucks from picking up bins placed by the street. Emergency vehicles may also not be able to make it down unplowed streets. All “snow streets” in the city are marked with white and blue signs labeling them. “That’s how you know you live on a ‘snow street,’” Tretter said. All cul-de-sacs…


Santa’s satellite workshop brings magic to BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Some kids charge right up to Santa Claus and blurt out a long list of Christmas wishes. Five-year-old Aria Swartz was not one of those kids. It took an awful lot of coaxing to get her to trust the jolly old man with her dearest wish. “I want a pony that I can sleep with,” she whispered. But this was no ordinary mall Santa. This Santa set up a satellite shop just outside Bowling Green last weekend. He listened to children’s wishes as busy elves hammered in the loft above. He allowed children to add their names to the “naughty” or the “nice” scrolls. Children decorated ornaments to hang on their Christmas trees, they drank hot chocolate and ate cookies. “I need to hear more hammering up there,” Santa shouted to the elves working on last minute toys. Those children unable to make it to Santa’s workshop sent letters. They asked for a teddy bear, a scooter, a jungle gym and a computer. One child thought ahead about Santa’s long night of gift deliveries and promised to leave cookies. “Please say ‘hi’ to Rudolph for me,” another child wrote. The North Pole annex was created by the family of Gary and Judy Kellermeier, who decided to revisit a tradition they started more than 20 years ago. The family turned their home into Santa’s workshop each Christmas season while their children were young enough to play the roles of little elves. This year, the family decided to recreate the workshop at their daughter’s home on Green Road, west of  Bowling Green. An old horse stable was transformed into a room for Santa and Mrs. Claus. The workshop was converted into a space for making toys for all boys and girls – naughty or nice. Nearly 15 elves were on hand to help with crafts, take pictures, and perform other elf-like tasks. There toys to paint, sequins to glue…


Beyond the angelic hosts: A personal Christmas soundtrack

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When I was growing up I remember our family having five Christmas records – a compilation of the standard pop tunes, organ and chimes of sacred tunes, pre-Rudolph Burl Ives, the Chipmunks and a ”A Christmas  Carol” performed by Lionel Barrymore. Besides that it was carols around the piano with my mother accompanying my talented older brothers, with me elbowing my way in as I could and my father in his chair tapping with both feet.  There were the pop tunes bleeding from the radio, though this was before the time of wall-to-wall holiday music from Thanksgiving to Christmas. And then there was music at church. A full-blown French Midnight Mass with “Il Est Ne, Le Divin Infant” (“He Is Born, The Holy Child”) and the climax “Minuit Chretiens (“O Holy Night”) sung with reedy ardor by a tenor who worked summers at the local amusement park, and probably in one of the factories nearly the church otherwise. I loved the music, every year, seemingly having a favorite hymn. By high school I scoured a collection of international carols for oddities, and studied the notes about origins of tunes. Years later when Linda and I bought a piano – our first was a freebee old upright that weighed about as much as Santa’s sleigh fully packed – the first music we bought was that same “The International Book of Christmas Carols.” Now we have three copies, one each for piano players in the family, Linda and son Phil, who declared at age 8 “it’s never too early for Christmas music,” and one for trombone – my days of reading over the pianist’s shoulder without my putting them in danger of injury from my slide are long gone. As a high schooler, my friends and I would schlep from church to church playing for services. One particular night I and three trombone playing buddies did our part for Christian ecumenicalism…


BG makes no promises to fight pipeline further

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council made no promises this week to continue the fight against the Nexus pipeline. Earlier this month, council voted unanimously to deny an easement request for the Nexus pipeline to cross 29 acres of city land located in Middleton Township, about 2.5 miles east of the city’s water treatment plant. Council’s stand was cheered by well over 100 pipeline protesters present at the meeting. But many realized that the excitement of a small community triumphing over a big pipeline company was likely just a temporary coup. This week at city council, Bowling Green resident Neocles Leontis asked council about the next steps planned to oppose the pipeline. The company does not yet have eminent domain authority, but is actively pursuing that power. Council President Mike Aspacher said he had not spoken with fellow council members or city administration about future actions to halt the pipeline. Though the unanimous vote against the pipeline was definitely a feel good moment for the city – council also has to face the hard realities of its budget. And that budget doesn’t leave room for a costly court battle against the natural gas line, Aspacher said. “My personal feeling is, I would be very reluctant to take any legal action to stop the process,” he said. Last week, city council and administration had its first look at the complete budget figures for next year. The budget is already tight, and a court fight would be costly, Aspacher added. During the last council meeting, council member Daniel Gordon said the pipeline company currently does not have eminent domain powers because it has not yet proven the benefits it would bring to Ohio communities. “I’d personally like to see them not get eminent domain,” Leontis said. However, City Attorney Mike Marsh has warned that any battle against eminent domain would be a futile and expensive venture. The 36-inch Nexus natural gas…


O Tannenbaum! BG’s community tree a festive downtown fixture (Update)

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Usually a trip to the library is a good way to answer a question. That should be especially true when the query at hand has to do with a 50-foot tall tree on the library’s own property. But despite Library Director Michael Penrod’s scouring his memory and reference librarian Marnie Pratt mining the archives, and my searching the newspaper archives we were stumped: When was community Christmas tree planted? The local newspaper reported on tree lightings in 1985, and in 1986 when they reported that the tree had been recently planted. It took a call to former Library Director Elaine McEwen to get the scoop. She knows exactly when that tree was planted. She was hired in 1987. There was a drought that year, and “the community Christmas tree died on my watch.” Joan Gordon,  then executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, had a donor lined up who paid for new tree. (Rick Van Vorhis tells Bg Independent: “The Community tree was a donation from Isaac and Marian Loose (both deceased), the founders of Bee Gee Rental and Sales.”) That’s when the current tree was planted in its place of honor in the square on the corner of north Main and Court streets. The previous tree had been planted to the north in the space now devoted to the Shakespeare Garden. McEwen said that when Gordon first approached then Library Director Marian Parker about locating a community Christmas tree at the library, Parker did not want it on the square. She was afraid it would block the library’s sign. McEwen, however, saw the advantage of the present location. And at the time there was no danger of that it would block anything – it only took two people with a stepladder to decorate it. Now it takes a bucket truck from the city to string the lights. Planting the tree in the square “was the start of the…


Screenwriter plants seeds for stories in students

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Screenwriter Karen Leigh Hopkins planted some seeds in a Crim fourth grade class Wednesday. Then she stood back and watched them grow like crazy. She teased the students with ideas swirling in her head for her next script. There’s the street dogs versus the wealthy dogs – a type of doggie Downton Abbey. There’s the entomologist forced to give up the study of bugs to become an exterminator. “I’ve got a bazillion other ideas I could write,” she said, stretching her arms out wide. They are jotted down anywhere possible. Backs of notebooks, store receipts. But on Wednesday, Hopkins was looking for ideas from the Crim fourth graders – feeding their imaginations then showering the seeds with praise as they blossomed before her eyes. Hopkins is all about the “what ifs.” What if Santa found out he was adopted and his other family was Jewish? What if you were on a ride at Cedar Point and it got stuck, leaving you stranded in a parallel universe? That’s all she needed to say to open the flood gate of ideas. Hopkins’ first idea was a pirate ride gone wrong. But she wanted something fresher, more creative.  Hands shot up, and she called on students bursting with ideas. “Polka dots,” she said, pointing to the girl dressed in dots. “Santa hat,” “red dress,” she said calling on students and reacting to each plot as the next great blockbuster. “Instead of pirates, there could be cats,” one student offered. “You guys blow my mind,” Hopkins said to the room full of raised hands. The ride got stuck in its tracks in worlds of monsters, zombies, dinosaurs, former presidents. “You guys, these are really good ideas,” she said, her eyes growing wider with each suggestion. “I like the way you think.” Outer space, Olympics, video games, a black hole. “Holy moly,” Hopkins said. “We may have to talk about these.” As…


BG Schools takes step to renew income tax in May

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Board of Education took the first step Tuesday toward putting an income tax renewal on the May 2017 ballot. The millage will remain at 0.5 percent, but the duration of the income tax is still unknown. District Treasurer Rhonda Melchi said that timing will be known when the school board takes the next step in January to put the tax issue on the ballot. The income tax generates $3.34 million annually. The income tax for the district began in January of 1993 and has been renewed every five years since. It makes up 11 percent of the district’s general fund revenue. Earlier this fall, when talking about the income tax renewal, Melchi said the board will have to decide whether to stick with a five-year tax or ask for a continuing tax. Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Superintendent Francis Scruci reported on the success of the “Adopt-a-Door” program, asking for $200 donations to put new security looks on each door in the district. So far, 135 doors have been “adopted” and another 15 have been pledged. That leaves 190 doors still available for donors. The security systems will be installed on the doors by the end of January, Scruci said. “It’s been amazing, to see the community support,” he said. Also at the meeting, high school science teacher Josh Iler gave a presentation on the efforts to transform the school courtyard and land lab into usable learning spaces. The students are learning about plants, wildlife, hard work and patience, he said. “It’s a lot more work than you might imagine,” Iler said. The courtyard has been landscaped and a koi pond has been added. Students use the area for reading, eating lunch and relaxing. Trails are being cut and mulched in the land lab, located to the east of the high school. Both areas have received many donations from local businesses and former students. “I’m reaching…


BGSU mulls impact of new concealed carry provisions (updated)

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News President Mary Ellen Mazey is not planning at this point to change the Bowling Green State University’s policy against carrying concealed weapons on campus as allowed in legislation just signed by Gov. John Kasich. Senate Bill 199, which contains the provisions of House Bill 48,  broadens where the concealed weapons can be carried including to universities and child care centers. However, the board of trustees must vote to allow such an expansion of concealed carry. Mazey, at this point, will not seek such a change. University spokesman Dave Kielmeyer said that the board of trustees could act on its own “if it so chooses.” David Jackson, president of the BGSU Faculty Association, said the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors presented a resolution against expanding concealed carry, and the leadership of the BGSU union “voted in support of the resolution.” Even if no change were made, the penalty for having a concealed weapon for permit holders is being reduced in most circumstances to a misdemeanor from a felony. In a text message, Kielmeyer stated: “We’re still analyzing details of the law and the potential ramifications for our campus.” State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Wood County, voted in favor of the bill as did State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green. “I did not have a concern with university boards of trustees having the ability to make this decision,” Gardner said. He said over the more than a year this bill has been debated, he did not hear from any trustee or university president opposing it. The bill simply allows campuses to have the freedom to allow certain individuals, faculty, staff or retired law enforcement officers, for instance, to have concealed weapons on campus. The same, he said, with day care centers. The law now allows owners of child care centers to have some people with concealed carry permits on the premises if they feel that would make their facility safer….


County approves 3% raises in 2017 budget

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s new budget for 2017 calls for 3 percent raises for about 430 employees and $300,000 to help Bowling Green build two roundabouts at I-75 and Wooster Street. The appropriations for next year total $43 million – about $2 million more than in 2016. “It generally reflects the current healthy status of the county and our revenue sources,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said of the budget. The pay raises add up to another $698,000 from the general fund. The 3 percent increases were approved for employees in all commissioners’ departments, as well as those in the prosecutor’s, recorder’s, court security and public defender’s offices. A 3 percent increase will also be given to all remaining elected officials and general fund departments to distribute as they see fit. The funding to assist Bowling Green with the roundabouts was made after city officials asked the county for $1 million to help pay for the traffic circles. That request was later lowered to $750,000, Kalmar said, with the county ending up giving $300,000. “They felt that was a reasonable amount,” Kalmar said. The appropriations include $1 million in the permanent improvement fund, in an attempt to rebuild that fund. “It is the fund that helps us care for county facilities,” Kalmar said. The county also created a new fund to pay the cost of vacation and sick leave when employees retire, and to help cushion the effect of the 27 paycheck year that occurs every 12 years. Following are some of the bigger budget items for next year: $312,000 to replace and realign all the parking lot and exterior lighting at the East Gypsy Lane Complex. The LED lighting is expected to provide a significant savings on energy and maintenance costs. $219,664 to purchase six road patrol SUVs for the sheriff’s office. $323,700 for ongoing support of the information technology system for all county offices. $139,150 for the…


Shop windows have downtown BG looking a lot like Christmas

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Downtown Bowling Green is all decked out for the holidays. Hand-crafted stars, a chorus of singing snowmen, and even Sonic the Hedgehog trimming a tree. “To me it just makes the city so fun, walking up and down the street at night,” said Sandy Wicks, a longtime downtown businesswoman. This wasn’t always the case, though, recalls Wicks. She remembers about 25 years ago when many downtown businesses paid little attention to their windows. Some proprietors used them for storage. A revitalized Downtown Bowing Green sent a delegation to shopkeepers to encourage them “to make their windows appealing,” she said. “I always had a sense and firm belief you put your best foot forward,” she said. “Put anything in window – art, plants, merchandise – but artfully displayed.” Wicks has practiced what she preaches for 28 years in the windows at Grounds for Thought. She does thematic displays on the south side – right now, Christmas trees made up of old sheet music, newspapers and book pages with bundles of books underneath. For the past few years, the shop has turned over the annex window to the middle school art program to display student creations. “It helps downtown, helps business,” Wicks said. “It gives a sense of specialness and uniqueness of small town businesses.” Back more than 20 years ago some shopkeepers were receptive to offers of help, others didn’t want to bother. “They’re not in business anymore,” said Wicks. “How about that?” Now proprietors all through downtown, from established enterprises such as Grounds for Thought and Ace Hardware to newcomers not yet celebrating their first anniversaries, have stepped up. “It’s the first impression they get of your store,” said Amy Craft Ahrens, who owns For Keeps and has designed the window displays for 20 years, “so your window is important.” “I want it to reflect what we sell in the store, but I want it to be eye-popping enough…


BG moves on roundabouts & pedestrian crossings

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Motorists and pedestrians will be getting some relief on East Wooster Street with plans moving ahead for two roundabouts and two pedestrian crossings. Bowling Green City Council voted unanimously Monday evening to work with ODOT on roundabouts at the I-75 intersections on Wooster Street and on two pedestrian beacons on East Wooster Street to help people cross the road near the Stroh Center and near McFall Center. Though some who spoke at council are still skeptical of roundabouts, the traffic devices can reduce fatalities by more than 90 percent, cut injuries by 76 percent, and reduce all crashes by 35 percent, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Those safety factors helped convince council to approve the plans. While the roundabouts faced some concerns from local residents – the pedestrian crossings encountered no roadblocks. The crossings will have buttons for pedestrians to push, which will activate red lights. Motorists will be required to stop, explained Bowling Green Public Works Director Brian Craft. “They’ll no longer be running across five lanes,” Craft said about pedestrians trying to get across Wooster Street near the Stroh Center. They will no long be “hanging out in the middle of the street,” trying to make it to the other side. ODOT is investing $368,000 in the pedestrian crosswalks, with officials hoping to study the crossings in high traffic areas. The lights, called pedestrian hybrid beacons, will make it much safer for walkers, Craft said. ODOT is also sinking money into the roundabout project, committing $750,000 in safety funding, engineering and design. Sandy Wiechman, of Wood County Safe Communities, offered data to “ease some of the concerns and fears of roundabouts.” In 2013, Wooster Street between Mercer and Dunbridge roads saw 70 crashes, with 22 injuries. Based on the statistics from the Federal Highway Administration, the number of crashes could have been cut by 35 percent and the injuries suffered could have been cut…


No limping along for Ohio’s lame duck session

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Lame duck legislatures don’t exactly limp along as the name implies at the end of the year. Instead, some make a sprint to pass sweeping legislation as the final days of the year tick away. During the past few weeks, Ohio’s lame duck legislatures managed to cram through dozens of bills that may not have stood a chance earlier in the year. The bills placed tight restrictions on abortions, allowed concealed guns on college campuses, forbid municipalities from raising minimum wage, and threw out renewable energy mandates. Pretty weighty stuff to rush through without the customary review process. By time the lame ducks were done, dozens of bills were passed by the Ohio House and Senate during the final three voting days of the 131st General Assembly, ending with a marathon session that started early one afternoon and concluded the next day in the wee hour of 3 a.m. That doesn’t sit well with State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green. “It is extremely difficult to handle 40, 60, 80 amendments and bills in the matter of two weeks,” he said. “We had more decisions that shouldn’t have been done,” in this past lame duck session, Gardner said last week. “Typically, it’s the amendments,” that are the biggest problem. “That’s the challenge in lame duck – to sort out what has to be done, what should be done, and what shouldn’t be done.” One of the bills missing from the list was a proposal to ban lame duck sessions – the flurry of legislative work every two years when members of Ohio’s House of Representatives have either been re-elected, defeated or relinquished their seats. Only about eight state legislatures allow bills to be passed during the lame duck session. But to be fair, only eight states have legislatures that meet throughout the entire year. Some state’s regular sessions are quite limited, such as Florida which convenes on March…


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

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The NCAA thinks there’s something special about the We Are One Team, a student-driven project that uses sports to promote diversity, acceptance and inclusion at Bowling Green State University. The NCAA thinks the project is so special that it is giving WA1T its Award for Diversity and Inclusion. President Mary Ellen Mazey along with founder Yannick Kluch will travel to Nashville in January to accept the honor. “BGSU has long history of this,’ Mazey said. “This is really what we’re all about and have been for many years.” Support for diversity is written into the Falcon Creed, which also originated with students. That’s evident, she said, in the president’s office where an African American president served for 16 years followed by two female presidents as well as in the student body which is about 23 percent people of color and international. It’s demonstrated, she said, in Not In Our Town and It’s on Us, all projects with which WA1T collaborates. Kluch said that the project grew from his own experience as an international student. He came here in 2012 to study as a graduate student in Popular Culture from his native Hamburg, Germany. He admits he had some reservations about coming from a metropolitan city to “small town Ohio.” But he found his place, in part thanks to sports. Early on he attended a football game, American football, not the soccer he played back home. He didn’t know anything about the game, he just cheered when everyone else did. That’s where made his first Bowling Green friends. Now studying for a doctorate in Media and Communication, his interest in diversity led him to think about how “the emotional power of sports” could be harnessed to bring people together. Last January he and two other graduate students in Media and Communication, Chelsea Kannert and Christian Thompson, started discussions about how to do that. WA1T was launched in September. “It has…