Bowling Green City Council

BG Council cooking up legislation to allow food trucks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council is trying to come up with a winning recipe for legislation allowing food trucks to do business in the community. The first public meetings to devise food truck legislation will be held Monday, Feb. 26, at 5 p.m., and Saturday, March 3, at 9 a.m., both in the city council chambers. The public is welcome at both meetings, said council member Bill Herald, who is leading the committee in charge of the legislation. For years, food truck businesses have shown interest in setting up shop in Bowling Green, but with no success. In 2016, Mac Henry told City Council he would like to open up a food truck business, but that the city ordinance is too restrictive. Henry said the ordinance limits hours of operation to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and restricts food trucks to 150 feet from the throughway. The rules are “not very conducive to opening a food truck in this town,” he said. Henry said food trucks are currently “a big part of the culinary innovation” going on in the nation. Council member John Zanfardino agreed with Henry that changes were in order. “Right now our ordinance is totally prohibitive, if you get right down to it,” he said back in 2016, mentioning the growing trend of food trucks. “I think it’s a coming thing.” Council member Sandy Rowland noted the success of food trucks in Perrysburg, where the businesses set up one evening a week. “It might be an opportunity to provide people with something to do,” she said. Henry said he realized mobile food businesses can be a “touchy subject,” since they are seen as competition for brick and mortar restaurants already in business. But food trucks offer young people a chance to break into the business, he said. In 2017, Aaron Evanoff returned from overseas deployment and came to City Council with his plan. His dream was to start a hotdog stand. As a member of the U.S. Air Force National…


BG Council asked to offer recycling pickup for renters

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Rachel Chapman wants to recycle in Bowling Green, but she lives in an apartment complex. The city of Bowling Green has made it a priority to pursue green energy options – with wind turbines to the west of the city and a solar field to the east. But no effort is being made to collect recyclables at apartment complexes. “It’s very troubling to me that half our population doesn’t have access to this service,” Chapman told City Council last week. Chapman said she has lived in Bowling Green for five years – first as a BGSU student and now as a teaching assistant with Bowling Green City School District. She has leased apartments from four different rental agencies over the years, and none of them have offered recycling as an option. For most of those years, Chapman had no vehicle, so it was almost impossible to recycle. “It’s a long way to ride your bike to the recycling center,” she said. Chapman asked if the city would consider offering recycling services to apartment complexes. “It’s leading to huge amounts being thrown away and filling the landfill,” she said. Council member Sandy Rowland thanked Chapman for bringing her concerns to council. She explained that the city made the decision years ago to not pick up recycling for businesses – which include apartment complexes. Rowland suggested that Chapman talk with her current landlord to see if there might be enough interest for recycling to be offered. Chapman said she had inquired, but the landlord was not willing. “Maybe you can put some more pressure on the landlord to provide this service,” Rowland said. While Rowland said she supports recycling, the city has to consider the economics of the issue. “It’s a big issue. It’s a money issue,” she said. Council member Bruce Jeffers suggested that Chapman use an economic argument to possibly convince her landlord that offering recycling could save on landfill costs. Rowland asked Chapman to submit her recycling ideas to council in…


BG swears in fire chief; names charter review members

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green has selected people who will be putting out literal and figurative fires in the city. City Council swore in a new fire chief and fire officers on Monday evening, plus appointed a team of people charged with updating the city’s charter. Bill Moorman was sworn in as fire chief, followed by David Hagemeyer as captain, and Aaron Baer as lieutenant.  The council chamber was packed with family and friends of the firefighters being promoted. After the swearing-in ceremony, city resident Mark Heider asked to address council. Heider described how his father recently had a medical emergency when he was riding in his son’s vehicle. A police officer arrived quickly on the scene and took over administering CPR. Soon after, the fire and EMS crew arrived and worked to revive his father. Though his father did not survive, Heider said he wanted to publicly thank the crew that responded. They showed great skill and caring in their treatment of his father and other family members who arrived at the hospital. In other business on Monday, members of the newly-formed city charter review committee were named, with Shannon Orr and Jeff Crawford as co-chairs. Other members include Evelyn Bachman, Les Barber, Julie Broadwell, Sylvia Chandler, Holly Cipriani, Bill Culbertson, Greg Dickerson, John Fawcett, Gary Hess, Mark Hollenbaugh, Sarah Klotz, Chet Marcin, Rachel Phipps, Andy Schocket and Tom Walton. The members selected present a cross section of city residents, Council President Mike Aspacher said. “We’re very eager for the committee to begin its work,” Aspacher said. The first meeting of the charter group will be Feb. 22, at 4 p.m., in the City Council chambers. The goal of the committee is to have its work completed by the end of May. Also at Monday’s meeting, Aspacher assigned council’s public lands committee to study the issue of food trucks operating in the city. The committee, which includes Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino, will study ways that food trucks or other mobile vendors…


BG Council asked to encourage businesses to go ‘green’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A group of environmentally-conscious students would like to see Bowling Green businesses going more green. Members of the Environmental Action Group at Bowling Green State University approached City Council at its last meeting about encouraging local businesses to adopt environmentally-friendly policies. The organization has worked to lessen waste and increase sustainability on campus, and now would like to extend those efforts to more of the community. Julia Botz, a senior biology major, suggested such practices as: Green composting by restaurants. Recycling at Main Street businesses. Restricting the use of disposable plastic foam. Adding more electric car charging stations. Businesses could be encouraged to participate with the awarding of a “Green Bowling Green Business” designation to those that make efforts to help the environment, Botz suggested. Council President Mike Aspacher thanked Botz for making her presentation. “I appreciate your efforts,” he said. Aspacher suggested that members of the BGSU Environmental Action Group meet with Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter to discuss ways the city can assist with the organization’s efforts. Mayor Dick Edwards complimented the student organization for the changes that are being put into place at BGSU. “You’re really accomplishing some amazing things on campus,” Edwards said. “Pretty amazing.” The mayor asked the students to bring a report to City Council of the successful programs on campus, so city officials and the general public can be made aware. On a related matter, the city recently created the new position of “sustainability coordinator” and is in the process of hiring a person to fill that spot. That position was established to help the city develop sustainability programs and work on public outreach on items like refuse/recycling, solid waste diversion and reduction, storm water management and assist with an urban forestry program. “It has become evident that the city needs a position like this to educate, inform and work with residents on the services provided and responsibilities of residents when it comes to refuse and recycling,” Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said.


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…


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 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 residents to see new garbage fee on utility bills

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   There’s good news and there’s bad news for Bowling Green residents using city trash and recycling services in 2018. The bad news is garbage and recycling pickup is now going to cost residents $13 a month. The good news is residents will no longer have to store their unwanted brush or outdated couch until the city’s scheduled large item and brush pickups. Residents can call to schedule the pickups whenever it fits their needs. The changes are for any residents currently receiving trash and recycling services from the city – those in one- or two-family homes. The garbage fee was tacked on by City Council last year as the least bad of the options offered to make up for a deficit in the city’s general fund. The new $13 monthly fee is expected to raise approximately $800,000 for the city coffers. “That’s council’s goal,” said Joe Fawcett, assistant municipal administrator. City officials are unsure if the switch to individual rather than citywide large item and brush pickup weeks will save the city money. “We don’t know,” Fawcett said. “We’re kind of going out on a limb here,” no pun intended. “We’re hoping it will make it much more efficient to collect those items,” since public works employees may be able to incorporate the brush and large item pickups into their daily routines. Details of the individual pickup program have not been ironed out – such as if there will be a limit on the number of times residents can request the special pickups, or how long in advance they need to call. “We’re working on the details at the moment, but the overall goal is to make the service more accommodating,” Fawcett said. So as residents tear out old shelving, or overgrown branches, they don’t have to plan around a city-wide pickup dates. “You can simply call and get them scheduled for collection, as opposed to having to stick it in the garage,” until the city-wide collection is held, he said. The…


Deja vu at swearing in of BG City Council members

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It was déjà vu at Bowling Green City Council meeting Tuesday evening. Six council members were sworn into office by Wood County Common Pleas Judge Matthew Reger. But even for the two new council members, the ceremony was a rerun. Returning to their council seats were Democrats Mike Aspacher, Daniel Gordon, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino. Democrat Bruce Jeffers was the only council member whose term did not require him to run for re-election in November. Neither of the two new guys on City Council – Republicans Bill Herald and Greg Robinette – are actually new guys. Both have served in the past, with Herald sitting on council from 1984 to 1991, and Robinette serving on 2012 until he was deployed in 2013. The new council re-elected Aspacher and Jeffers as president and vice president respectively. Aspacher set the stage for the new year. “Welcome to our newly elected and returning members,” he said. “I’m very much looking forward to the coming year.” Last year was not exactly a placid year for City Council, with contentious topics like the Nexus pipeline, the budget crunch, and the new garbage fee getting a lot of discussion. Since both Herald and Robinette have experience on council, they are expected to round the learning curve quickly. Herald, who represents the Fourth Ward, works as a lead data scientist with IBM Watson Health, and previously taught at BGSU, University of Toledo and Owens. He has attended council and other city governmental meetings for the past 11 years. One priority for Herald is to focus on enhancing neighborhoods – “working on the appearance so people are attracted to the city,” he said Tuesday evening. He is looking forward to the results of the Community Action Plan, and where that will take the city. Other priorities for Herald include improving economic development and constituent services. “That can range from all issues,” he said. Herald praised last year’s City Council for dealing with some dicey issues. “The previous council took…


BG City Council bids farewell to McOmber and Seeliger

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The last meeting of the year for Bowling Green City Council on Thursday was a bittersweet one. Sweet was the fact that council approved a balanced budget for 2018 – unlike the 2017 budget which had a general fund deficit of $625,000. But bitter was council’s act of bidding farewell to two council members – one who has served steadfastly for 12 years, and another who came forward to fill an opening about 15 months ago. One by one, council members thanked at-large council member Bob McOmber and Fourth Ward council member Scott Seeliger. “I’ve given some thought to how I would handle this moment,” said council president Mike Aspacher, who served on the Bowling Green Board of Education alongside McOmber before serving with him on city council. “He has served as such a great sounding board,” Aspacher said of McOmber, who had the knack of sorting through difficult matters and making them easier to digest. Council member Bruce Jeffers recalled being a new guy on council and learning from McOmber during walks and drives through the city. Council member Sandy Rowland said she might be among those people who still call upon McOmber for advice on issues. “The value I gained from sitting next to you and learning from you can never be matched,” she said. John Zanfardino, the only sitting member to be on council longer than McOmber, credited his Republican counterpart with his role in helping to pass the city’s anti-discrimination ordinances.  McOmber was asked and agreed to tape a robo-call the weekend before the election to voice his support for the ordinances. “I do believe without your support, it would have failed,” Zanfardino said. Council member Daniel Gordon noted his appreciation of McOmber during the recent trash collection reform efforts. Though far from an exciting topic, McOmber took the issue seriously and sought compromise. “Your leading by example taught me as well,” Gordon said. Though his service was short, council thanked Seeliger for coming in and filling the…


BG moves ahead on roundabouts and City Park building

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green rounded out the year Thursday by approving steps for the city’s first roundabouts and a new building in City Park. During its final meeting of the year, City Council voted unanimously to issue a total of nearly $10 million in bonds to finance both projects. For the roundabouts, $6.2 million in bonds will be used to improve the Interstate 75 and East Wooster Street area by constructing rotary intersections. “This is a great piece of legislation to end the year on,” said council member Bruce Jeffers. The city has been working on the East Wooster improvements for years, he noted. Jeffers told Mayor Dick Edwards that he recently visited the community of Carmel, Indiana, which the mayor frequently points out as a community that knows how to use roundabouts. Carmel has 100 of the circular intersections. “The roundabouts are going to be great” in Bowling Green, Jeffers said. The project will add two roundabouts designed for semi-trucks at both I-75 interchanges on East Wooster Street. The bridge driving surface will be replaced, with a bike-pedestrian trail being added from Alumni Drive to Dunbridge Road along north side of Wooster Street. The plan calls for a landscaped gateway to be created to Bowling Green and Bowling Green State University. The goal is made the entrance to the city more attractive, create a smoother traffic flow and reduce accidents at the interchanges. Though utility work will begin in 2018, the bulk of the actual interchange and roadway work will take place in 2019. The bonds will help pay for the road widening, paving, resurfacing, grading, draining, constructing curbs, sidewalks and related drainage improvements, installing traffic signals and lighting, installing waterlines and sanitary sewers, and constructing a sanitary sewer pump station. The roundabout project is being worked on with the Ohio Department of Transportation. The current estimated cost for the entire project is more than $8.8 million. The city and utility portion of the project is approximately $6 million. An ODOT safety grant…


McOmber served as trusted guide on BG City Council

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the lone Republican on Bowling Green City Council, Bob McOmber could have easily been a pariah, with his comments getting the cold shoulder from his Democratic counterparts. But those attending City Council meetings quickly learn that when McOmber speaks, the heads on council turn his way. Whether talking about budgets or garbage bins, his words are measured and methodical. As he retires at the end of the month after 12 years on City Council, he leaves a legacy steeped in compromise, with no tolerance for political grandstanding or sitting on the fence. When the city faced a $625,000 deficit in its 2017 general fund, McOmber led the way out of the budget hole. Council had several options to plug the hole, including the trash collection fee which was ultimately selected as the best option. “I feel good about how that was handled,” McOmber said. “I purposely wanted it to be a group decision – a consensus among all of us. It could have been a very acrimonious decision. But it was a solid decision – rationally based.” When the city was working to pass two anti-discrimination ordinances in the 2010 election, the organizers turned to an unlikely ally. The ordinances faced tough opposition, so the week before the election, McOmber was asked to record a robo-call in support of the ordinances. Surprised by the request, he asked – why him? “Nobody thinks you’re a left wing nutcase,” McOmber was told. “I agreed to do it.” Both ordinances passed narrowly. And though they were highly controversial at the time, “those ordinances have worked out fine,” he said. As an attorney, McOmber had a background in employment discrimination. “I believe employment ought to be based on somebody’s ability to do the job.” When the city was deeply divided over zoning changes that would allow the Market Street development in the downtown, McOmber sided with those wanting to create a new zoning classification. “That was a big controversy,” he said. “I think time has…


BG eyes $10M in bonds for roundabouts & park building

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council set the stage Monday for issuing nearly $10 million in bonds – to help build roundabouts on the east side of the city and to build a new park building on the west side of the city. Council declared emergencies on both bond issues, to move them along a little faster. Both will have final readings and a vote at the next meeting on Dec. 28 at 5 p.m. Both projects have been in the pipeline for years. The $6.2 million in bonds is intended to improve the Interstate 75 and East Wooster Street area by constructing roundabouts. The project will add two roundabouts designed for semi-trucks at both I-75 interchanges on East Wooster Street. The bridge driving surface will be replaced, with a bike-pedestrian trail being added from Alumni Drive to Dunbridge Road along north side of Wooster Street. The plan calls for a landscaped gateway to be created to Bowling Green and Bowling Green State University. The goal is made the entrance to the city more attractive, create a smoother traffic flow and reduce accidents at the interchanges. Though utility work will begin in 2018, the bulk of the actual interchange and roadway work will take place in 2019. The bonds will help pay for the road widening, paving, resurfacing, grading, draining, constructing curbs, sidewalks and related drainage improvements, installing traffic signals and lighting, installing waterlines and sanitary sewers, and constructing a sanitary sewer pump station. The roundabout project is being worked on with the Ohio Department of Transportation. The current estimated cost for the entire project is more than $8.8 million. The city and utility portion of the project is approximately $6 million. An ODOT safety grant of $750,000 in addition to the ODOT share of the project at $1.7 million adds up to $2.47 million toward the cost. The Wood County Commissioners also kicked in $300,000 for the project. On the other side of town, the sale of $3.75 million in bonds will pay…


BG digs out from deficit to a balanced budget in 2018

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s budget for 2018 doesn’t dazzle – but it also doesn’t drag down the city with a projected deficit. “It’s a budget that gets our head above the water,” said Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter as she introduced the 2018 budget to City Council and city employees Wednesday evening. “And that’s OK.” Last year at this time, Tretter broke the news to council members that the city was entering 2017 with a projected deficit of $625,000. So a balanced budget for 2018 was pretty dazzling to council. “When we stood here a year ago – that’s not where we were,” Tretter said. Council member Bob McOmber, who has served as finance committee chairman for the past eight years, said he would much rather see a “mundane” balanced budget. “It certainly looks better than the deficit we were facing last year.” The city budget, McOmber said, consists of many moving parts. “There are a lot of inter-related parts in the budget.” So getting it to balance is a feat. One reason for the additional projected revenue is a 3 percent increase expected in city income tax revenue. Modest increases are also projected in court activity and investment interest. The other big revenue boost is due to the decision made by City Council last year to start charging a fee for trash and recycling pickup. Council president Mike Aspacher said council went through serious deliberation of several options before enacting a trash fee. “That was a really difficult decision for all of us,” Aspacher said. But the fact that the budget for next year is in the black justifies the decision. “This budget proves it was really necessary for us to do.” Aspacher also pointed out some surprising stats in Tretter’s report. The city’s 2008 general fund budget expenditures were $17.1 million, while the 2017 adopted budget was $15.6 million. The number of non-utility and non-parks and rec employees numbered 232 in 2008, compared to 212 now. “We’re finding a way to provide services…


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, council approved the utilities director entering an agreement for the installation and maintenance of a wildlife habitat restoration area on Carter Road, surrounding the city’s solar field. In other business on Monday: Council heard that a new restaurant, Ninja Hibachi Sushi Steakhouse will be opening at 1616 E. Wooster St. Because of the large square footage and amount of seating, the restaurant received a liquor license. City Attorney Mike Marsh explained the state has no limit to the number of liquor licenses available to restaurants that meet the large seating…