Jail inmates to undergo scanning

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Sure, police dogs have great noses for sniffing out crime, and command community adoration. But they do have their limits. They can’t work 24 hours a day, and they can’t sniff out hidden weapons. So instead of acquiring a canine to scan inmates entering the Wood County jail, the sheriff’s office has purchased a full-body scanning system. The scanner was purchased with $118,000 in jail commissary funds, from inmates purchasing snacks or toiletry items. The Soter RS body scanner shows if an inmate is trying to smuggle drugs, small weapons such as razor blades, or cell phones into the jail. The searches are much less invasive, and less unpleasant than strip and cavity searches for both the inmates and the jail personnel. According to Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn, Wood County Justice Center is the third county jail in Ohio to have such technology. Upon arriving at the jail, each inmate will go through the 10-second X-ray scanning procedure. The scan shows any foreign objects in the stomach or body cavities, or any items that may have been missed during a pat down by officers. “It’s more thorough than TSA scanners,” at airports, Wasylyshyn said. Inmates will also go through the scans when they return from furloughs or court hearings, “just in case someone, somehow passed something to them,” he said. The decision to get a body scanner came after changes in the state that allow more serious criminals to be housed for longer periods in county jails, the sheriff said. “The type of inmates here have changed over the years.” The…


Espen fearless in defense of environment

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Brad Espen wouldn’t stand a chance in a popularity contest. He refused to budge for landowners protesting sewer lines. He stood eye to eye with federal officials delaying cleanup of hazardous materials. He was unapologetic when enforcing smoking bans. “I made my share of people mad, but when you know you’re doing the right thing, it kind of balanced things out,” said Espen, who will soon retire after 30 years in environmental health at Wood County Health District. “I was always trying to do the right thing.” Espen may have lacked popularity, but he was never short on persistence. One case in point would be the now demolished Victory Inn, in Bowling Green.  After countless inspections and violation reports, the hotel was finally shut down. “We just never gave up with that one,” he said. Espen started at the health department doing housing and restaurant inspections. He then went on to solid waste inspections, and eventually took over as director of environmental health. “I was always interested in the environment,” though he originally thought his career path would lead to work with wildlife and nature – not sewers and hazardous waste. He grew up in Bowling Green, being the sixth generation of his family here. “That’s part of the reason I care so deeply about my community.” Espen starts his days early, getting to work around 5 a.m. when the office is still quiet. From his office he has led crusades for sewers to replace faulty septic systems. During his three decades in environmental health, all the villages in the county had sewer…


“The Butler” Author Serves Up History From the Basement

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Reporter Wil Haygood had to watch two episodes of “The Price Is Right” before he could start interviewing Eugene Allen and his wife, Helene. Haygood had come to the Allen home because he was interested in hearing about Allen’s experience as an African-American butler in the White House. In the living room there was little sign of his former employment. A single photo with Nancy Reagan. Only after two hours of talking did Helene Allen turn to her husband and say. “You can take him down now.” That’s when Haygood went down with Allen into the basement. Walking gingerly in the dark, Allen clung to the reporter’s arm, until they found the light switch. When the light went on, Haygood saw what looked “like the most gorgeous room in the Smithsonian Museum.” The writer related all this to an audience last week at Bowling Green State University’s commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Allen’s basement walls were lined with photos and memorabilia from decades of service in the White House. There were presidents and royalty – Duke Ellington for one. There were gifts, including a Stetson hat given to him by Lyndon Johnson, given to Allen by the presidents he had served. Among the items were 20 photo albums. Here was history in all its glory, in the basement of a modest Washington house. Haygood asked Allen if anyone ever written about him. “If you think I’m worthy you would be the first,” Allen replied. “That hurt to hear that,” Haygood said. Here was someone who had served his country faithfully. Here was…


BG Parks Due for Levy and Master Plan Update

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Bowling Green parks and recreation officials want help from citizens this year. First, they want citizen input on a master plan update, and then they want citizen votes on a levy in November. Kristin Otley, director of the parks and recreation department, told city council earlier this week that the parks are on the third year of a three-year levy. That means the city will be working to put a levy on the November ballot. The levy amount has not been determined, but Otley explained the department’s levy amount has not changed in 16 years. The parks and programming, however, have changed greatly, she added. “There is a lot more acreage and facilities, and things to take care of,” Otley said. Otley also informed council that the parks and recreation department will be working to update its master plan this year. The plan will cover the next five years. Five or six community focus group meetings will be scheduled to get public input on the parks and programming. Also at Tuesday’s council meeting, Planning Director Heather Sayler reported that zoning permits have remained steady in the city, with 364 in 2014, and 370 in 2015. A small increase was seen in single family housing starts, with 19 in 2014 and 26 in 2015. Sayler announced the Wood County Health District inspectors will start the housing survey in the city in early spring. Council also heard about an annexation request for 31 acres at the northeast corner of Haskins and Newton roads, across from the city’s community center. A request has been submitted to…


Suitcase Junket delivers bone-rattling sounds at Grounds for Thought

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The suitcases for musical act The Suitcase Junket are mostly empty. Matt Lorenz, the sole human member of the ensemble, doesn’t need that much luggage to haul his personal belongings. He does share the stage with two old suitcases. A large one that he beats with a pedal operated by his right heel serves as his bass. Another smaller valise props up an old gas can which he strikes with another pedal with a baby shoe attached. Lorenz told the audience at Grounds for Thought Friday night that he’d worn that baby shoe, and his sister had as well. Sharing this familial detail is intended to make the device less creepy. Doesn’t really though. The creepy and the wistful, the otherworldly and mundane, meet in the music of The Suitcase Junket. Among the other members of the band (as Lorenz thinks of them) are a circular saw blade, a bones and bottle caps shaker, a hi-hat cymbal. He plays a guitar that he found on the river bank. It was moldy, he said. No good reason to throw out a guitar. He’s fitted out his musical set up with rescues from the junk shop and dump. And they repay his devotion though during one number Lorenz said his guitar acts up sometimes just to remind him it was “garbage.” Still that acting up, the odd, incidental vibrations and buzzes, all contribute to the “Swamp Yankee” textures of The Suitcase Junket. Lorenz is just as resourceful with his voice, he growls, even croons, on occasion. He does a version of Tibetan throat singing, where he…


Drivers needed for wheels on the bus to go round

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Wanted: Adults with good driving records willing to work odd hours and cart around 60 kids at a time. Applicants with nerves of steel and eyes in the back of their heads would be preferred. Like other school districts around the region, Bowling Green is looking for bus drivers, specifically substitute bus drivers. Carlton Schooley, director of the district’s transportation department, made a pitch for more drivers during Tuesday’s board of education meeting. He eased into his presentation with the sing-song version of “The Wheels on the Bus.” But Schooley pointed out that unlike the bus in the children’s song, his buses go beyond just the town. “They also go around the district,” which stretches miles out on rural roads. The bus drivers are more than just chauffeurs for students, Schooley explained. “School bus drivers are the first people in the morning that students see” and the last school officials to return them home at the end of the day. His presentation, called “So you want to be a bus driver,” explained the process to become a driver. The district currently has 20 regular drivers, and eight substitutes. But that is just not enough. “We’re always looking for drivers,” BG Superintendent Francis Scruci said. But the job does have some downsides. Drivers work split shifts, transporting students a couple hours in the morning and a couple hours in the afternoon. And the passengers aren’t always the best behaved. “It really is a trying job,” Schooley said, explaining the drivers must keep their attention on the road, while maintaining order on the bus. “You…


Gas line work shifts over to BG east side

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News As the west side of Bowling Green heals from the gas line replacement project that ripped up streets and sidewalks, Columbia Gas is preparing the east side for its turn. “We break some eggs to make this cake,” Columbia Gas representative Chris Kozak told Bowling Green City Council on Tuesday evening. “It’s a mess.” It’s not pretty, it’s not simple, but it necessary, Kozak said. He showed council the type of gas pipes currently snaking through the city’s east side. The cast iron pipes, many which predate World War II, have outlived their usefulness. He then showed council the plastic pipes buried in the west side of the city – and soon to be on the east side. The plastic pipes are expected to have a lifespan of 70 to 100 years, and be flexible when the ground freezes around them. “The plastic will move with the ground,” he said. The plastic piping also allows for increases in pressure if needed in the future. Kozak explained that the gas line replacements in Bowling Green are part of a broader 25-year program started by Columbia Gas in 2008 to replace the most troublesome cast iron lines. The total investment is pegged at $2 billion. The west side project in Bowling Green affected 930 customers, replacing 37,000 feet of lines, and costing $4.1 million. The east side project will affect 365 customers, replacing 10,000 feet at a cost of $1.8 million. Columbia Gas officials hope to have the east side project completed by the end of 2016. Kozak conceded that the west side project was…


BGSU student composers offer opera in a nutshell

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent Media If you want to know how daunting writing an opera is, just ask Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon. Speaking last October as the guest composer at the New Music and Art Festival at Bowling Green State University, she said writing her first opera “Cold Mountain” was an all-consuming project that occupied her full time 28 months. With casting and orchestra and staging, an opera is a massive undertaking beyond what a young composer can wrangle. BGSU has an answer though. For several years it has invited student composers to submit proposals to write micro-operas, 20 minutes or less. They use small casts and just a few instrumentalists, and can be staged in a recital hall. Four micro-operas will make their debuts Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall in Moore Musical Arts Center. Admission is free. On the program will be: * Respectable Woman by Kristi Fullerton with libretto by Jennifer Creswell who directs and Evan Mecarello, conductor. * Sensations by Robert Hosier, Ellen Scholl, director and Maria Mercedes Diaz-Garcia, conductor. * Black Earth by Jacob Sandridge, Jeanne Bruggeman-Kurp, director and Robert Ragoonanan, conductor. * The Lighthouse by Dalen Wuest, Hillary LaBonte, director, and Santiago Serrano, conductor. Writing an opera, said Hosier, “is the kind of thing I’d considered before. I actually started writing one but the forces required for a full opera, for one thing … I couldn’t get ahold of them. And it’s a lot to write for.” So he set aside the project aside. Then late last spring semester the call went out from the…


University police chief unconcerned about concealed carry

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News University Police Chief Monica Moll is unconcerned about the prospect of allowing concealed carry of weapons on campus. Speaking to the faculty Senate at Bowling Green State University, she said the scenarios posited by both sides of the debate are unlikely to occur. A disgruntled student intent of wreaking havoc will get a weapon and won’t bother with getting a concealed carry permit. Given a resident must be 21 to get one, most students are ineligible anyway. So she doubts there would be a dramatic increase in weapons on campus. On the other side, having an armed citizen with a weapon stop an active shooter is unlikely. While civilians with weapons have intervened in some situations, that’s not likely to happen in an active shooter situation where even a highly trained police officer can find it difficult to deliver the kill shot to a moving target among innocent bystanders. “For me it’s not going to be the end of the world either way,” the police chief said. House Bill 48, which is now awaiting consideration in the State Senate loosens concealed carry regulations on campuses and other settings. If it were passed, any change would have to be approved by the university trustees, and Moll expressed doubt that the trustees would take such an action. Moll addressed the senate about the evolving strategies for handling active shooter situations. She prefaced her remarks by saying though such incidents have dominated the news of late, they are still highly unlikely. Tornadoes are more of a threat to BGSU. Still she spoke about how police now handle such…


BG bleacher costs come in high

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News The estimated cost for new bleachers at the Bowling Green High School football stadium was nothing to cheer about Tuesday evening. Replacement of the aging, rusting bleachers could cost as much as $610,845, according to Kent Buehrer, of Buehrer Group, which is in charge of the project. The estimate came in higher than projections made in the fall, which topped out at $500,000. Buehrer told the BG board of education that he would try to reduce the final price tag. But if it can’t be trimmed, the project will eat up the district’s entire 1.2-mill permanent improvement levy revenue for the year, according to district treasurer Rhonda Melchi. A section of the 50-year-old bleachers had to be closed off last fall after it was noticed that the steel scaffolding beneath the seats was rusting. To get through the remainder of the football season, the district put temporary bleachers up on the north end of the field. “We don’t want anyone to get injured,” school board president Paul Walker said. The new bleachers will cover the same approximate footprint of the existing seating, Buehrer said. However, building codes for restrooms at the facility are much more extensive than when it was first built. He described the current restrooms as “fairly minimal.” Buehrer said he is working with the county building inspection department to see if the new restrooms, planned next to the wrestling building, can avoid some of the stringent requirements. According to Buehrer, the visitor bleachers on the east will have seating for 750. The home seating on the west will have seating…


BG may use modular classrooms at Conneaut

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Bowling Green Board of Education heard Tuesday evening about three places students sit – in school buses, on stadium bleachers, and maybe in modular classrooms. The board learned from Superintendent Francis Scruci that classroom space will most likely be in short supply next school year at Conneaut Elementary. For that reason, the district may have to consider putting a modular unit on site, possibly for the entire fifth grade. “It’s certainly not something anyone wants to hear,” Scruci said. “We do have some shortages in terms of square footage.” However, he added that modular units have improved over the years since schools first started using them to make up for inadequate classroom space. The modular unit is just one building issue facing the school district. Scruci told the school board that the buildings report from the Ohio School Facilities Commission is expected later this month. To explain the report, and the possible solutions for the district, Scruci plans to hold a workshop for the public in Febrary. The district will need to decide whether to renovate or replace facilities, he said. “The most important thing is, what does our community want to support?” One of the report’s recommendations is that the district replace Conneaut Elementary School which was built in the early 1950s, Scruci said. But citizen input must be gathered, so any solution is specifically tailored to Bowling Green, he added. “So the community feels like it has a say.” According to Scruci, the cost to renovate Conneaut has been estimated by the state at about $9.6 million. The cost to replace…


BG to study if city office, green space would fit on downtown parcel

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Before any trees are planted, sidewalks poured or gazebo erected, Bowling Green officials want one question put to rest. Is there enough room for a new city building and an outdoor community gathering space to coexist on the same grassy square?Council President Michael Aspacher asked that the city consult with a design professional to determine if the site is large enough for both a building and town square large enough to satisfy the community’s needs. Aspacher said at Tuesday’s council meeting that now is the time to “pause briefly” to make the determination before moving ahead. He referenced a community meeting last week on the green space which previously was home to the city’s junior high school, at the corner of West Wooster and South Church streets. While the meeting was productive, there are questions remaining, Aspacher said. Council member Bruce Jeffers agreed. “It seems like a reasonable approach,” he said, suggesting that some building schematics could help clarify questions. However, city resident Margaret Montague reminded council about a comment made at last week’s public meeting about trying to squeeze both the building and town square into one corner. The result could be “a big building with a big front yard,” she said, quoting from council member Robert McOmber. McOmber repeated those sentiments Tuesday evening. “I would be quite surprised,” if the space was big enough for both. “I think most people in town want it to be green space, no matter what,” McOmber said. Council member Sandy Rowland agreed that she would prefer to see the space remain green. She reminded of…


Warm up your ear drums this weekend

  If you love music then you’ll have your love to keep you warm this coming weekend. Several performances are scheduled that will beat the ear drums to a variety of beats. On Thursday and Friday the Bowling Green State University Jazz Program will host bassist Robert Hurst. A master of all media, he has Emmy, Grammys and even an Oscar nod on his resume. He first emerged on the scene as he helped set the pace for early Wynton Marsalis groups. Since then he’s played with Barbra Streisand, Yo Y o Ma and Sir Paul McCartney as well a host of jazz luminaries. He joinied Brandford Marsalis as a member of band for Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He now teaches at the University of Michigan. He’ll share the lessons of his career with students in master classes rehearsals and a concert with the university’s Lab Band I directed by Jeff Halsey Thursday at 8 p.m.in Kobacker Hall. Tickets are $7 in advance and $10 on the day of the concert. On Friday Grounds for Thought, 174 S. Main St. Bowling Green, will host The Suitcase Junket, the one-man band of Matt Lorenz, musician, sculptor and writer. That Lorenz hails from Amherst in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley is telling. His music is full of ghosts revived in Lorenz’ dark, rough voice, that nonetheless is very much of our time. His work is a kind of spectral scholarship. At www.makingwhatiwant.com, he explains what he means by “Giving Life to Dead Things for 25 Years.” “I see it as an overriding theme in most of the work that I do. When writing…


Trombone takes center stage at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Trombone takes the spotlight in two upcoming Bowling Green State University recitals. Sunday at 3 p.m. Brass from Bowling Green State University will be presented in the Great Gallery of the Toledo Museum of Arts as part of the museum’s Sundayconcert series. The concert features trombonists William Mathis, chair of BGSU’s Department of Music Performance, and Garth Simmons, principal trombone with the Toledo Symphony and adjunct professor at BGSU. The trombonists will open the program going slide to slide on Cindy McTee’s Fanfare for Trombone in two parts. Mathis with pianist Cole Burger will perform Sonata for Trombone and Piano by James M. Stephenson. Simmons will close the program with “Arrows of Time” by Richard Peaslee  with pianist Robert Satterlee. Also on the museum program will be the Graduate Brass Quintet performing the classic brass Quintet No. 3 by Victor Ewald. Members of the quintet are: Jonathan Britt and Christina Komosinski, trumpets, Lucas Dickow, horn, Drew Wolgemuth, trombone, and Diego Flores, tuba. On Wednesday as part of the Faculty Artists Series Mathis and Simmons will reprise their duo and solo pieces in a recital with Burger and Satterlee at 8 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall in the Moore Musical rts Center. Mathis will also perform electro-acoustic piece “Can You Crack It?” by Benjamin Taylor, who did his graduate study at Bowling Green State University. Simmons will also perform Fantasy for Trombone and Piano in E Major by Sigismond Stojowski. The concert is free as are all Faculty Artist Series events.


More than just black and white

Diana Patton was keenly aware as a child that she did not fit neatly into the race boxes for being white or black. She was reminded of this daily as she was followed home from school by girls taunting that she state her race. “Are you white or are you black,” the girls would demand. Patton, whose mother was black and father was white, would later realize that her racial identity couldn’t be defined by some Census Bureau box. Patton was the keynote speaker at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. program on Friday hosted by the Bowling Green Human Relations Commission at the Wood County District Public Library. The speaker, who was vice president and general counsel for the Toledo Fair Housing Center, is working to finish her book called, “Inspiration in My Shoes.” She earned her law degree at the University of Toledo, where she also ran track. Patton’s mother, the grandchild of a sharecropper, married a white man in 1958. Her father was disowned by his family for his decision, she said. Her “momma” was pregnant with her sixth child, Patton, in 1968 when King was assassinated. “It was as if a bomb went off,” Patton said her mother must have been thinking as she brought another biracial child into the violent “haze over America.” Patton spent part of her younger years hiding her blended identity. In college, she “decided to be black” and denied her father’s heritage. But it was in college that she followed the path of her “momma,” falling in love and later marrying a white man. “Marinate on that for a moment,” she…