Bowling Green City Council

BG to conduct overdue review of City Charter

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It’s won’t be a glamorous job, but somebody’s got to review the nuts and bolts of the Bowling Green City Charter. Mayor Dick Edwards reported to City Council Monday evening that he would like the city government to tackle a City Charter review in 2018. The last time the charter was reviewed was 2001. “Too many years have passed by,” Edwards said, noting the job should be completed every 10 years or so. The mayor said he will work on coming up with a timeline and potential people to work on the process. He already has in mind a couple Bowling Green State University faculty members, who have expertise in the area of city government. Above all, the City Charter review must be “citizen driven” and have sizeable participation by city residents, Edwards said. Council president Mike Aspacher said he is looking forward to a charter review. “I certainly am glad this is going to be a priority for us in 2018,” Aspacher said. In other business, City Council approved the rezoning of three parcels at the southwest corner of Manville and Clough streets, from planned institutional zoning to single-family residential. The zoning change will allow for three Habitat for Humanity homes to be constructed on the site. “I’m very excited it’s going to Habitat for Humanity,” council member Bruce Jeffers said. “I look forward to families moving into that area of town,” council member Sandy Rowland added. Also at the meeting,…


Despite a few reservations, BG Council raises hotel tax

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council unanimously approved a tax increase that will have out-of-town guests paying to promote the city to more visitors. Council voted Monday to enact an additional 1 percent hotel/motel tax, with the revenues dedicated to the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau. Council also approved a three-year renewal of the current 3 percent hotel/motel tax, with the CVB continuing to get 60 percent of that tax revenue and the city getting 40 percent. Wendy Chambers, executive director of the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the additional funds will help fill hotel beds, restaurants and stores. The hotel tax increase has the support of all the hotels owners in the city, according to Todd McGee, vice chairman of the CVB and general manager at the newly remodeled Best Western Falcon Plaza. The tax will be paid by visitors to local hotels and motels, and would have no impact on city residents, he said. Bowling Green is a big destination for sporting events, with regional youth athletics and BGSU sports filling up local hotels, McGee said. Events such as the Black Swamp Arts Festival, National Tractor Pulling Championships, and concerts also draw overnight guests to the city. But weekday business is lacking. Hotels are the concierge for Bowling Green, McGee said. They send guests out into the city with recommendations of restaurants to dine in and shops to visit. The timing for the tax increase is great, McGee said,…


BG Council action to help Betco create 20 new jobs

 By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council helped pave the way Monday evening for a local manufacturer to add approximately 20 jobs. Council agreed to vacate about 90 feet of right-of-way adjacent to Betco Corporation on Newton Road. The vacating of the right-of-way will allow the company to proceed with construction of an additional facility at its location. Betco is planning a 20,000 square foot warehouse for the relocation of operations from another state – which will create an estimated 20 new jobs. Also at Monday’s meeting, Mayor Dick Edwards declared Nov. 25 as “Small Business Saturday” in Bowling Green. “Small businesses employ over 48 percent of the working population of the U.S.,” he said. Mary Hinkelman, managing director of Downtown Bowling Green, asked those present to remember the “Holly Days” and “Downtown Dollars” promotions while they do their holiday shopping. “We are working hard to promote our downtown,” Hinkelman said. “It’s so important for our downtown merchants.” According to Hinkelman, when people spend their shopping dollars locally, 68 cents of every $1 stays in the local economy. She also noted that local businesses are frequently giving back to the community. “They make a huge investment in our downtown and it vibrates out to our whole community,” she said. The mayor also recognized Wendy Chambers, executive director of the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau, for her efforts in the city being named one of Ohio’s Best Hometowns of the Year. This is the second…


BG gets tips on how to become ‘welcoming community’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green has declared itself a “welcoming community.” But what does that really mean? And how exactly can it be accomplished? Earlier this year at the urging of the city’s Human Relations Commission, Bowling Green City Council adopted a resolution stating the city was welcoming. “All communities say they are welcoming,” said Rev. Mary Jane Saunders, co-chair of the Human Relations Commission. “We always know any community can be better.” The commission wants Bowling Green and its residents to view immigrants as a benefit – not a detriment to the community – and to realize the economics of immigration. Several cities in the “rust belt” have started looking at immigrants in a different light than some areas of the nation. In many Midwest cities, immigrants are now seen as a solution to critical labor shortages and as ways to strengthen the local economy Several manufacturers in Bowling Green have expressed concerns recently about the labor force being too small to fill their needs. So last week, Bowling Green welcomed home Steve Tobocman, whose great-grandfather immigrated to this community in the beginning of the 20th century after fleeing the persecution of Jews in Russia. Tobocman is executive director of Global Detroit, which works to leverage international talent to fill businesses’ unmet needs, help immigrant entrepreneurs, revitalize neighborhoods, and build an inclusive region. Tobocman, an attorney and former Michigan state legislator, complimented Bowling Green for taking the first step to becoming a truly welcoming…


BG Council members share big ‘wish lists’ for tight budget

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As members of Bowling Green City Council began their discussion on the city’s 2018 budget, it was fitting that Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter handed them “100 Grand” candy bars. There weren’t enough, so they had to share. That was pretty much the theme of the evening. The city projected a general fund deficit of $625,000 by the end of this year – primarily due to flat income tax revenues and continued cuts from the state. That deficit may be less than first projected, but will still be somewhere between $300,000 and $400,000. So Tretter used another food analogy. This time a pizza. “Perhaps you can think of all of the people who need to share the pizza,” she said to City Council. The pizza can be sliced many different ways. “But it’s still just one pizza we are sharing.” Before City Council gets its hands on any of the $15 million budget, much of it has already been allocated for personnel costs, debt services and ongoing contracts. Close to 76 percent of the general fund goes for salaries and fringe benefits, which is a reasonable percentage, Tretter said. So that leaves council with far less discretionary funds than their “wish lists” for the year. To get an idea of council members’ priorities, each was asked to identify areas they would like to see funded. Council President Mike Aspacher started off the list with the Community Action Plan – an item that made…


Accusations fly at council meeting over charter amendment

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Supporters of the Bowling Green Charter Amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot accused their opponents Monday evening of engaging in “smear politics to sway the vote.” But one of several Bowling Green City Council members opposed to the charter amendment called the proposal “an attempt to legalize anarchy.” The charter amendment proponents spoke first at Monday’s City Council meeting. Lisa Kochheiser said the amendment purpose is “expanding rights of people to protect their families and community” against environmental harm. She spoke of the Nexus pipeline route that is proposed near the city’s water treatment plant, and said that a second pipeline by the same company is in the works. Wood County is “caught in the crosshairs” of many pipelines since it is located on the natural gas route from southeast Ohio to Canada. Kochheiser accused city leaders of knowing two years in advance about the Nexus project, but not telling the public. She asked when the city was going to inform the public about the second proposed pipeline. Though city council denied an easement for the pipeline, that was the only action taken to stop the project, she said. City council “refused” to take formal action against the pipeline, did not pass an ordinance against the project, and would not file complaints about the proposal. “The city refuses to support the rights of the people,” she said. Kochheiser was also critical of multiple council members who have stated that the issue does…


Second BG council member against charter amendment

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A second Bowling Green City Council member has come out in opposition to the proposed charter amendment which is aimed to stop pipelines and protect a healthy climate and environment. Just as Monday’s council meeting was coming to a close, Bruce Jeffers asked to speak his mind on the ballot issue. Last month, council member Bob McOmber spoke out in opposition to the charter amendment. Jeffers said the city has taken all the steps possible on the pipeline issue. City Council rejected an easement request for the Nexus pipeline. And Mayor Dick Edwards bought in a panel of experts to discuss the risks involved with the pipeline proposed so close to the city’s water treatment plant. The mayor also reached out to the Ohio EPA and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which responded to specific concerns expressed by city officials. “We in Bowling Green are not the experts on pipelines,” Jeffers said. That is FERC’s job, he added. “It is beyond our expertise and power.” Jeffers said the proposed charter amendment would be difficult to work with and is too far-reaching. “I find the amendment cumbersome,” he said. “And there’s almost no chance of it standing up in court.” Earlier in the meeting, City Attorney Mike Marsh was asked about the status of the proposed charter amendment. The issue is still waiting for a ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court, he said. But because the Wood County Board of Elections could not…



Scruci responds to anonymous mailer about bond issue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci has been talking himself hoarse about the school bond issue on the November ballot. Monday evening he took the pitch to Bowling Green City Council. In the audience were several teachers and school board members showing their support. But in addition to explaining the 6-mill bond issue, Scruci also had to spend time dispelling what he called untruths in an anonymous mailer being sent out to district residents. The mailer criticized the school district for not being open about the tax issue, and for not being honest about the costs to taxpayers. Scruci did not hold back. “I hope when you and your neighbors get this, you put it where it belongs, and that’s the trash,” he said. “It’s not worth the paper it was printed on.” “We’ve been transparent from day one,” said Scruci, who has been making almost daily presentations about the bond issue. The superintendent said the numbers printed on the mailers were false – painting a far worse picture of how much taxpayers will owe if it passes. That’s just not right, he said. “You can mess with me, but this is messing with the kids,” Scruci said. Though the mailers are from an anonymous source, a few people in the City Council audience believed Bowling Green businessman Bud Henschen may have been behind the material. When called after the council meeting, Henschen said that he was the person who sent out the…


Two sides at odds over proposed BG charter amendment

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Words matter. The proposed Bowling Green charter amendment is intended to give the community rights to a healthy environment and livable climate. But while that may be the intent, critics say the words go far beyond those reasonable rights. The wording of the charter amendment may be difficult for voters to digest. The supporters interpret it as giving citizens a right to peaceably protest projects such as the Nexus pipeline that is planned near Bowling Green’s water treatment plant. But others see the wording as so open to interpretation that it goes far beyond what most city residents would want. It hardly seems possible the two sides of the Bowling Green charter amendment issue are talking about the same two pages of text when they describe the proposal. Lisa Kochheiser and Brad Holmes, of the Bowling Green Climate Protectors, see the charter amendment as a way for citizens to intervene if the city does not adequately protect its citizens from harm to their environment. “We’re not trying to overthrow the government. We want to strengthen our government by adding to citizen rights,” Holmes said. The majority of people don’t want pipelines in or near their communities, he said. “This is going to be the most tangible way of people legally protesting.” City attorney Mike Marsh doesn’t want pipeline in the city either. And if there were a ballot issue to not allow Nexus on city land, he would support it. But the…


Hotel tax may be hiked to promote BG to more visitors

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials want to help fill the local hotel beds, restaurants and stores. But to do that, more funding is needed, according to Wendy Chambers, executive director of the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau. So on Monday evening, Chambers and the CVB board made a pitch to Bowling Green City Council. They asked council to approve a three-year renewal of the current 3 percent hotel/motel tax, with the CVB continuing to get 60 percent of that tax revenue. The board also asked for an additional 1 percent hotel/motel tax, dedicated to the CVB. Todd McGee, vice chairman of the CVB and general manager at the newly remodeled Best Western Falcon Plaza, explained the tax is paid by visitors to local hotels and motels, and would have no impact on city residents. The additional funding is needed to do more marketing and advertising, to feed the local economy. “This would grow Bowling Green tourism,” McGee said. All the hotel and motel owners in the city support the 1 percent increase, he added. “We are a big destination of sporting events,” with regional youth athletics and BGSU sports filling up local hotels, McGee said. Events such as the Black Swamp Arts Festival, National Tractor Pulling Championships, and concerts also draw overnight guests to the city. “Now is a perfect time for this increase,” McGee said. A new Fairfield Inn recently opened, and another hotel will be constructed soon. His own location, Best…


Anti-pipeline amendment doesn’t belong in city charter, McOmber says

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Just as the environmentalists don’t believe pipelines belong near the city’s water treatment plant, a Bowling Green City Council member doesn’t believe the proposed anti-pipeline charter amendment belongs in the city’s “pristine” charter. The anti-pipeline charter amendment remains in legal limbo – but just in case it’s cleared for the ballot in November, council member Bob McOmber cautioned about the language that may be inserted into the city’s charter. The proposed charter amendment is very difficult to understand, he said. And the portions McOmber does understand, he finds “highly objectionable.” “It’s inappropriate to insert that cause into the city charter,” he said during Monday’s council meeting. McOmber said the local residents behind the anti-pipeline charter amendment are a special interest group. While there is nothing inherently wrong with special interest groups, their views don’t belong in the city’s charter. “The proposal puts the cause of one special interest in the charter,” he said. The city’s charter is “pristine,” and has always been reserved for the mechanisms of city government. “I think it would be a mistake to insert special interests in the city charter,” he said. McOmber referred to the inflated Ohio constitution that has been allowed to grow into a “complete mess and embarrassment.” McOmber mentioned the successful anti-discrimination ordinances adopted by citizens a few years ago. That effort went through council to help with the drafting and adopting of the ordinances. “That is so much more appropriate,” he said. “This…


BG says ‘welcome’ in many different languages

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   On the day that “Dreamers” saw their American status slipping away, Bowling Green residents stood before City Council Tuesday and recited the city’s “welcoming and safe community” resolution in their native languages. “In April, we brought a resolution to City Council about Bowling Green being a welcoming community for immigrants,” said Rev. Mary Jane Saunders, head of the city’s human relations commission, working with La Conexion. The resolution proclaims “Bowling Green as a welcoming and safe community for immigrants and condemning any discrimination, harassment or unjustified deportation of immigrant residents of Bowling Green.” To show the significance of the resolution, one by one, a group of city residents read a portion of the resolution in Vietnamese, Indian, Hindi, German, Chinese, Italian, Spanish and English. The group also presented council with a “welcoming” poster designed by Ethan Jordan. Beatriz Maya, of La Conexion, said other translations will be added to the city’s website as they become available. “This is a work in progress,” she said. Mayor Dick Edwards praised the translations shared at the meeting. “What a special way of touching all of our hearts,” he said. When City Council adopted the welcoming resolution earlier this year, council member Daniel Gordon pushed for the effort. “I’m very happy with the language that we have here,” Gordon said. Though the issue of illegal immigrant deportations is national, the city wants to take a stand, he said. “Council does not support seeing their families ripped…


Mayor gets audience with EPA about pipeline

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards finally got confirmation Tuesday that the Ohio EPA is at least listening to the city’s concerns about the Nexus pipeline that is proposed to run 700 feet from the city’s water treatment plant. During a conference call with Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler and Northwest Ohio Division EPA Chief Shannon Nabors, the issues raised by the city were discussed. Those same concerns also appeared in the “Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity” issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last month. “In much the same manner as the FERC document, today’s session with the Ohio EPA is in my view another significant indication that the issues raised by Bowling Green have been heard in both Columbus and Washington,” Edwards reported to City Council on Tuesday evening. “Today we heard from the Ohio EPA that their experts have carefully and methodically examined the environmental conditions of this construction and were reminded of the Ohio EPA’s commitment to the state’s waterways and environmental assets.” One of the mayor’s concerns was the monitoring of the pipeline construction. “All significant concerns raised by Bowling Green have been or are being addressed including specific and aggressive plans by both FERC and the Ohio EPA to develop site specific plans for monitoring the construction of the proposed pipeline,” he said. Lessons have been learned from the Rover pipeline construction, in which hazardous materials have been spilled along the route in Ohio. FERC will…


BG Council approves liquor license transfer with split vote

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Prudy Brott doesn’t mind healthy competition from new restaurants. As owner of Sunset Bistro on the west side of Bowling Green, she is comfortable with competing establishments. However, Brott is troubled by the different rules for the transferring of liquor licenses. Her statements to City Council Tuesday evening resulted in a split vote allowing a new restaurant to bring in a license from another community. When Brott opened up Sunset Bistro, she found getting a liquor license to be time consuming, frustrating and very expensive. In the end, she had to pay $50,000, “and I’ll be paying for it for years.” Brott said she was told she would have to wait until someone owning a liquor license in the city was ready to sell. “I was open for six months before I ever poured a beer in my restaurant,” she said. Liquor licenses are parceled out by the state based on community populations. All the available liquor licenses in Bowling Green for public dine in restaurants are already owned – though not all are in use. Some owners hold onto them as investment tools. She had inquired about purchasing a liquor license from another community, but said she was told that would not be allowed. So when Brott learned of a new pizza place moving to Bowling Green and bringing a liquor license from another community, she was troubled. “I’m not against them having a liquor license whatsoever,” she said. “I’m not…