Bowling Green City Council

BG Council listens to citizens angered by racist attack at Waffle House

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Bowling Green City Council heard more Monday evening about the ripple effects from the racist attack at Waffle House two weeks ago. Council chambers was so full – with about 80 people there – that people had to listen from the hallway. They heard from a black woman who described her own experience of being verbally abused in a local restaurant. They heard from a Hispanic woman who wants training for business employees so they know how to handle such incidents. And they heard from a white City Council member whose voice shook with emotion as he told how one of the alleged attackers at the Waffle House was in his government class at North Baltimore High School. “I feel the sting when that’s inadequate,” council member and teacher Mark Hollenbaugh said. “There are people within our community who have values who don’t represent us,” he said. Eleven citizens took their concerns to City Council about the racial attack reported in the middle of the night on March 31. The incident started when Justin Hartford, 18, of Mount Cory, and Zarrick Ramirez, 18, of Findlay, entered Waffle House and were reportedly met with racial slurs from two other men in the restaurant. One of the men allegedly told the teens that President Donald Trump would deal with immigrants like them. Before leaving the restaurant, the men taunting the teens reportedly went over to their table and began beating them. Three employees and a customer told police the two victims did nothing to provoke the attack. Bowling Green Police Division arrested Jacob Dick, 22, North Baltimore, and Zachary Keller, 21, of Custar, for felonious assault and ethnic intimidation. Since then, two community meetings have been organized by La Conexion in an effort to come up with preventative measures to keep similar incidents from occurring in Bowling Green. “The incident deeply affected and rightly enraged” city citizens, said Beatriz Maya, leader of La Conexion. She thanked the police division for its quick response to the attack, and city leaders for speaking out against such hate crimes. “Bowling Green has taken a clear stance against hate,” Maya said. But more must be done, she told council. Maya read a list of recommendations gathered at the community meetings following the attack at Waffle House. The suggestions included: Acknowledgement that racism exists in the community, with more open dialogue needed. “We must recognize this is a systemic problem,” she said.Enactment of an ordinance stating zero tolerance for racist incidents. Businesses could use that ordinance to require patrons to immediately leave if they are using racist language. If they don’t leave, police should be called.Training should be offered to teach employees how to respond to hate incidents. Those businesses completing the training would be given “welcoming city” decals for their doors. Council President Mike Aspacher said he has spoken with Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter and Police Chief Tony Hetrick about the possibility of such training be offered. Hetrick said the police division may be able to expand the training it already offers for liquor establishments, to make it instructional for businesses that operate overnight. It’s possible that some type of training for bystanders could also be offered in the future. “It’s clear this is a community problem that will…


BG Council moves ahead on buying downtown property

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Bowling Green City Council took the first steps Monday to create more metered parking downtown, provide restrooms for Wooster Green, and preserve the location of Four Corners Center. Council evoked an emergency clause so it could have both the first and second readings of an ordinance for the issuance of $890,000 in bonds for buying four parcels of land on South Church and South Main streets. But one citizen, Nathan Eberly, questioned whether or not the city could handle such an expense. “After hearing for two years that we have budget issues,” Eberly said. “What risk is the city taking that might be an undue burden?” Eberly also criticized the council for pushing ahead on the issue, without allowing for three separate readings to give the public an opportunity to speak on the land purchase. Council assured him that while the bonds ordinance was moving along quickly, the actual property purchase would be given three separate readings. Some on council tried to explain the wisdom in the property purchase. “Mr. Eberly raises a legitimate question,” council member Bruce Jeffers said. “We have to be careful,” Jeffers agreed. However, the land became available and city officials saw an opportunity. “We tend to look at the big picture and the long term,” Jeffers said. Council member Sandy Rowland echoed that support for the land purchases. “Sometimes an opportunity falls at your feet,” she said. “You just couldn’t ask for anything better. We had one opportunity to buy it at a good price.” The purchase covers four properties. One parcel is at 119 S. Church St., located just south of the police station. The former Huntington Bank Branch location has been closed for several years, but has drive-up ATM units. The city is interested in building bathrooms there that will serve those using Wooster Green as well as visitors to the downtown area. In addition, the location has been eyed by the city for years as property that could be used to expand the police station. While there are no immediate plans for an expansion, the addition of an improved safety dispatch center is one of the city’s long-term capital plans. The out-of-state owner of this property recently contacted city officials to discuss the building. The landowner also owns a nearby parking area behind Ben’s and the building at 130 S. Main St. – the current home of the Four Corners Center. While city officials are not interested in owning the Four Corners Center building, they recognize the community value of that site. Located there are the Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau, Downtown BG, and Economic Development office. The lease for that building expires on Dec. 5, 2020. So, if the city acquires the LLC that owns the building and holds the lease, it can take ownership of the lease – ensuring no changes for the tenants. City officials then plan to sell that building prior to its lease expiring, with a provision that the Four Corners Center be given a lease arrangement for the building with a rental amount set. “Often in Bowling Green we talk about the importance of our downtown,” Council President Mike Aspacher said. “We want to acquire property that is going to support the mission of the downtown.” Four…


Third roundabout on BG City Council’s agenda for Monday

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News With construction of two roundabouts underway on the east side of Bowling Green, the city is taking steps to start preliminary work on a third. On Monday evening, Bowling Green City Council will hear the first reading of legislation allowing city officials to seek bids and enter into a contract for work on a roundabout at the intersection of East Wooster Street and Campbell Hill Road. The contracts would be for design, engineering, right-of-way acquisition, construction and other services needed to replace the existing four-way stoplight intersection with a roundabout. In 2014, the city’s East Wooster Street corridor was identified as an inefficient entryway into the city and Bowling Green State University. In 2015, an East Wooster Street Corridor Study was completed. That study recommended a roundabout at Wooster and Campbell Hill. At the same time, the Ohio Department of Transportation authorized the design and construction of two additional roundabout at the Interstate 75 entrance and exit ramps on East Wooster Street. Those roundabouts are currently under construction. The proposed roundabout at Campbell Hill is connected to the overpass improvements. Once the roundabout is constructed, a proposed median can be placed on East Wooster Street between I-75 and Campbell Hill. According to city officials, the median is recommended as a safety improvement for the corridor since left turns from driveways in the area are challenging and pose a safety risk. This newer roundabout proposal was awarded Transportation Improvement Plan funding that will be released on July 1, 2022. Construction will likely be in 2023. The TIP funding will pay for $915,000 of the estimated $1.5 million cost of the project. Though not on City Council’s agenda for Monday, the city is also planning another roundabout on the east side of the I-75 overpass at the intersection of Dunbridge Road and East Wooster Street. Also being considered on the east side of the city is a possible roundabout at the intersection Napoleon Road and Campbell Hill Road. According to Wood County Engineer John Musteric, the Campbell Hill-Napoleon intersection was identified on a list compiled by the Ohio County Engineers Association as one of the worst intersections in the region for accidents. The city administration has posted the following information on roundabouts on the city website in an effort to answer common questions about the rotaries. Roundabouts are designed to be safer and more efficient than a traditional intersection.  The design of the roundabout creates a low speed (20-30 mph) environment and prevents high angle crashes such as “T-bone” crashes.  Low angle, low speed crashes tend to be less severe than higher angle, high speed crashes.Roundabouts are more efficient. Vehicles are able to move more quickly through the intersection because of the “yield at entry” – drivers only have to watch for traffic from the left, and if there is an adequate gap available, they can enter the intersection without stopping.  Once in the roundabout, drivers have the right-of-way, so they will not have to stop or yield to exit. If the driver does need to yield at entry to traffic inside the roundabout, their delays are brief and typically less than the time they would have been delayed at a traffic signal.The design makes room for semi-trucks. Incorporated into the design of roundabouts is…


BG council hears praise for storm response; sets goals for 2019

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The response of Bowling Green Public Works Division and other city workers to this past weekend’s storm drew praise at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. The expressions of gratitude started at the top of the meeting with resident Nathan Eberly saying he appreciated how well the roads were maintained. The crews did “a great job… especially considering it was a holiday weekend.” Mayor Dick Edwards said he appreciated that Brian Craft, the director of Public Works, and Joe Fawcett, assistant municipal administrator, were on duty throughout the weekend keeping him abreast of conditions. Edwards said that the Fire Division was also busy assisting people who had fallen because of the slippery conditions. Fawcett said that the decision to declare a snow emergency at 9 a.m. Saturday came before the requisite two inches had fallen. Officials knew from the forecast the more snow was on the way.  That would ordinarily mean residents had two hours, until 11 a.m., to move their vehicles off snow streets. But city crews started by clearing the roads along the perimeter of the city, so police didn’t start enforcing the parking ban until 3 p.m. Fawcett praised residents’ response to the declaration.He said that six vehicles had to be towed, and 20 tickets were issued.  He made a distinction between the county’s snow emergency levels and the city’s that only address parking both for the safety and efficiency of city plowing crews. The Police Department responded to 19 calls for immobile vehicles, he reported. Fawcett said that he and Craft got together as soon as they saw the forecast to come up with a game plan, and that forethought paid off. Craft said he hadn’t planned on giving a report at the meeting, but spoke to acknowledge the praise voiced by others.  He also thanked the citizens for providing the funding for the equipment his workers use to clear the snow. Also at the meeting, Council president Mike Aspacher presented the council’s four goals for the coming year. The goals were developed following discussions at the council’s annual strategic planning session held earlier this month. The first goal, Aspacher said, is to continue to pursue improvements called for in the Community Action Plan. These include sidewalk improvements, consideration of a housing exterior maintenance code, discussion of rental registration, and support of the new Historic Preservation Commission. The second, he said, was to look at economic development opportunities especially in the East Wooster Corridor. The third is to develop a city council statement of support for the city schools and discuss the importance of the schools in the community. The fourth is to address what had been called the Bowling Green Citizen experience. Aspacher said council needs to work with the administration “on ways we can improve communication with residents.” Bruce Jeffords said that Aspacher had done a good job encapsulating what had been discussed at the strategic planning session. Aspacher said these goals will not be met within the year, just as work started in previous years continues. “A number of the things we’re focused on in our community are long range, multifaceted, complicated things that will take a lot of time, patience, and resources to implement.” These, however ,are not all the council will focus on Greg Robinette said that…


City Council pulls out new parking ordinance that hikes rates, increases time limits

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News With a parking task force report in hand, Bowling Green City Council decided that major changes were not needed. The parking ordinance passed unanimously Tuesday night will increase the cost of parking to 50 cents an hour from 25 cents an hour. It will allow a maximum time to park to three hours, up from two hours, in lots. It will include free handicapped parking in premium spots.  The council also said it would replace the current kiosks with new models that are easier to use. Council member Bruce Jeffers said that the task force made up of business proprietors and property owners looked at a number of options, including having property owners help pay for parking allowing for “free” parking. While the property owners were amenable to “footing the bill up front” and then recouping those costs in higher rent, in the end the task force decided that such a change would be unworkable. The goal, said Jeffers, was for parking to generate enough income to pay for the upkeep of the lots, which are need of repair, and paying for enforcement.  Council member Bill Herald advocated for also increasing fines for violating parking restrictions. As the cost of parking goes up, the threat of he fines becomes less, he said. The fines at this point, he said, were more “contributions.” The higher fees would not be “punitive,” but simply in line with the higher parking fees. But council member Greg Robinette said that parking fines were not covered in that section of the code, and should wait. He said it was important to get the ordinance passed to address the hole in the budget. Herald then asked that the council not pull the ordinance off the table but instead announce it would at its next meeting to give the public a chance to “re-engage” with the issue. He cast the only vote against taking the ordinance off the table. He then supported the ordinance. Council member Sandy Rowland said that this should not be the end of the council’s discussions. The city still has a parking problem, she said. Premium on the street parking remains free (and the time limit would remain at two hours). Though free, handicapped parking is too distant. The city’s aging population was finding it difficult to come downtown to shop especially in winter. Council needs to continue to work to make parking work better for business owners, residents, shoppers, and visitors, she said. The changes will going effect as soon as possible. Assistant City Administrator Joe Fawcett said that the meters can be changed manually to allow for three-hour parking.


BG seeks bids to demolish old buildings, build new one in City Park

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News It took a mere 11 minutes Thursday for Bowling Green City Council to wrap up 2018 with its last meeting of the year. There were none of the customary comments from city administrators, no reports from council members, and no speeches from citizens. But along with the regular fund transfers and resolutions, council took one step that is sure to be noticed in the city next year. Council voted to advertise for bids and enter into a contract to demolish three buildings in City Park next year. Contracts will also be entered for the construction of a new City Park building, including landscaping, paving an entry drive and parking lot. The city has contracted with Schorr Architects for designing the new City Park building. Schorr specializes in historical-type structures. The original plan was to tear down the three buildings near the entrance of City Park – the Veterans Building, Girl Scout Building, and Depot – then start construction so the new building replacing the aging structures would be ready for use by summer of 2019. However, that timeline proved to be too tight and unrealistic. Instead, the old buildings will be torn down in the next few months. Construction of the new building will follow. The new goal is to have the City Park building completed by summer of 2020. That means the parks and recreation department won’t have City Park buildings to schedule events in next summer. But Kristin Otley, parks and recreation director, has reassured the park board that there are ample facilities in the city’s 11 parks to hold programming. The contract price with Schorr Architects is $317,500 – a bit lower than the expected cost of $320,000. Earlier this year, city approved the sale of $3.75 million in bonds to pay for tearing down the three old buildings and constructing the one new facility in City Park. The new building will have adequate space for programming, storage, air conditioning, ADA accessibility, ample parking and an attractive design that reflects the historic nature of City Park. At the close of Thursday’s meeting, City Council member Sandy Rowland commented on the successful year for the city. As a representative of the parks and recreation committee, she said she is particularly pleased to see the new City Park building project progressing. Rowland also commented on the tough decisions made by council and the city administration to keep the community in good fiscal condition. “We have not had the financial difficulties that other communities have,” she said. She mentioned some positives ahead in 2019, including the continued downtown Firefly Nights, and the completion of the roundabouts on East Wooster Streets over Interstate 75. “I’m proud to be a member of this council,” Rowland said.


BG to consider sending plastic bags packing

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bowling Green City Council is bagging the idea of assessing a fee for plastic sacks, and instead will study an outright ban. At Monday’s City Council meeting council member John Zanfardino said after his talks with other city officials including Mayor Dick Edwards and City Attorney Mike Marsh, it was clear that the fee was a non-starter given the rapidity with which state legislation forbidding such fees was moving.  “Even if we were to pass something the likelihood is it would be preempted,” he said. A ban on plastic bags, though, apparently is not covered, so the city will looked into that, said Zanfardino.  The issue was then assigned for study to council member Mark Hollenbaugh and the Community Improvement Committee. Council member Greg Robinette, however, questioned whether the language of the legislation moving through the state legislature wouldn’t also preclude a plastic bag ban. Marsh said the question is what the language will be if the legislation eventually makes its way to the governor. Robinette said the city would be better off focusing on education efforts. Letting people know what they could do to help the environment would be “a step in the right direction.” This would be a good job for the city’s sustainability coordinator, he said. Hollenbaugh said he had reservations about the fee because it would be “regressive,” affecting lower income residents more. It is important for council to “hear from all the stakeholders” before taking action, he said. Council member Bill Herald urged community hearings. Those may show “overwhelming support” for the ban or they may show “a different weighting of the trade-offs.” After the meeting, resident Joe DeMare, who originally called for the plastic bag fee, said the ban would “be preferable to a fee,” though, it meant “ducking” the issue of the state overriding home rule. DeMare also said education isn’t the issue. People are aware of the damage done by plastic bags. “The problem is the bags themselves,” he said. Taking steps like banning bags is important, he said.   “Every time we have progress, it encourages people  to keep moving forward.” Hollenbaugh said the committee will likely meet on the issue in January.


BG thanks rugby team for putting city in national spotlight

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The BGSU rugby team fought its way to the top – triumphing over St. Joseph University over the weekend for the national championship and putting Bowling Green in the national spotlight. Mayor Dick Edwards noted the last time a Falcon athletic team won a national championship was in 1984 when the hockey team won after four overtimes. Edwards recognized Roger Mazzarella, director of the BGSU Rugby Club, for keeping the program alive. “What you’ve done with this club …” the mayor said during the City Council meeting on Monday. “It’s taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears.” The rugby club has had to scrape for funding and “fight for your space over there,” Edwards said, recognizing Mazzarella and his son, Tony, who coaches the team. Tony Mazzarella said the championship was the end to an “amazing season” for the team. “We didn’t have our best overall season this year,” Roger Mazzarella said. But the senior-laden team was determined. “The guys were so committed this year.” His dad commented on the St. Joseph team, saying “They weren’t very Jesuit on the field there yesterday.” Council President Mike Aspacher complimented the team’s success. “You certainly made Bowling Green proud,” he said. Also at the meeting, City Attorney Mike Marsh praised the city’s police and fire services. About six months ago, the furnace at his sister’s home blew up, creating a large fire. The firefighters performed heroically, and police stood with his sister in her front yard, in the rain, for five hours. On Sunday, his sister moved back into her home. “I think sometimes we take them for granted,” Marsh said of the accredited police and fire divisions. Also at Monday’s meeting, Edwards read a proclamation declaring December as “general aviation appreciation month.” “I have enormous respect for what you all do there,” for the city, county and BGSU, Edwards said to Wood County Regional Airport manager Mark Black. The airport has been in Bowling Green since the 1940s, helping with economic development and training young pilots at BGSU. Black voiced his appreciation to the city for its support, and said that when pilots land at the airport, he points out local restaurants and businesses for them to visit. Black talked about the expansion of the BGSU Flight Center, which is responding to the national pilot shortage. In other business at Monday’s meeting: City Council held a moment of silence to show respect for George H.W. Bush’s commitment to public service. Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce Director Mary Hinkelman thanked city departments for their work with the city’s Holiday Parade. Edwards reported that city officials will be meeting this week with economic development commissions from the county and the city about Bowling Green’s welcoming initiative. The initiative is intended to grow the local economy and the employment base. Public Works Director Brian Craft said the Conneaut Avenue paving is complete. Council member Greg Robinette asked Craft to update the list of priorities for street work.


BG budget flat – so nothing flashy planned for 2019

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ideally, budget forecasts should not look like abstract art. But despite a couple funds showing diverging lines, Bowling Green’s city budget is pretty solid – almost boring. And boring is good. “I think this is a really solid budget,” City Council President Mike Aspacher said last week at a city finance meeting. “There’s not a lot of glamorous ideas,” but it does maintain core services and plans ahead for future projects, he said. Mayor Dick Edwards agreed the 2019 budget wasn’t flashy, but could be described as a “continuation type budget.” City Council and department heads gathered last week for a presentation on next year’s budget by Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter. “The revenue for 2019 in the general fund is flat,” Tretter said. The end of some grant funding was balanced out by an increase seen from the new garbage/recycling fee, income tax revenue being up a bit, a workers compensation refund, and interest income which “continues to come in very well.” The proposed revenue for the city’s general fund in 2019 is $16.4 million. The projected expenses are greater, at $16.6 million. The general fund balance expected in 2019 is $3.1 million – lower than the city’s targeted fund balance of $4.1 million. But Tretter assured council members that the city will not need to make cuts in core services. “We will be able to continue maintaining the core services of the community,” she said. City officials also plan to provide funding for some expenses suggested in the new Community Action Plan, for items like a zoning ordinance review, and microgrants to the community. And the city continues to put aside some money in each annual budget for 2021, when the city will have 27 rather than 26 pay periods. Tretter said the city is not creating any new employee positions for next year. However, she mentioned that the city expects several retirements next year – especially in the police and fire divisions. The city hired several fire and police employees in the 1990s after the passage of a couple safety levies. Some of those employees are now reaching retirement age. The positions will be replaced, she said. Tretter also talked about various city funds. The street construction and maintenance fund is “particularly challenging to us.” The graph showed a “big red spike” last year for a paving program, followed by flat revenue and a decreased balance. The parks and recreation fund is being affected by plans to demolish older buildings in City Park and replace them with one new structure. So in addition to borrowing money for the new building, the city currently can’t make money off of renting or programming in the old buildings. “We are cautious, but we do see light at the end of the tunnel,” Tretter said, noting that once the new building is in operation, the city can expect some income from it. Because the parking funding continues to see a decline, the city is studying the downtown parking issue. The expenses in the parking fund spiked with the paving of City Lot 2 in 2017. The police and fire levy funds are doing fine, with expenses in line with revenue. Spikes are being seen occasionally in the sewer and water capital improvement fund. “This…


BG Council urged to adopt plastic bag fee while it still can

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The City of Bowling Green may consider enacting a plastic shopping bag fee before the state takes away the city’s right to adopt such a fee. Joe DeMare, co-chair of the Wood County Green Party, approached City Council Monday evening, urging the body to act quickly to impose a fee on items such as styrofoam containers and plastic bags. The Ohio House recently passed a bill, that is now under consideration in the Senate, that would prohibit municipalities from imposing a fee on such items, DeMare said. “Around the country, small fees of a few cents per bag have been effective both at raising revenue and reducing the amount of plastic pollution,” DeMare said. “Studies have shown that being charged as little as a nickel per bag is enough to remind people to bring their own, reusable bags to the store.” But the state legislation could prevent that from happening, he said. So DeMare suggested that Bowling Green council members enact a fee before the state acts to prohibit them. According to DeMare, this bill is the latest in a series of anti-environmental bills being passed by the state legislature. Among them is an “unreasonable setback law” which outlawed many wind farms in Ohio, he said. The setback law would not have allowed Bowling Green’s wind turbines, which are currently producing electricity at half the market rate, DeMare said. “Bowling Green showed great foresight when it installed those turbines,” he said. “We are asking the council to show foresight again.” DeMare suggested the city establish a plastic bag fee quickly, before the state law goes into effect. “We might be able to argue in court that it could be grandfathered in, since it was in place before the law went into effect, just as we have not been forced to take down our turbines,” he said. “At the very least, it could give our community standing in a court challenge against a law which violates the principle of home rule, hurts the environment and blocks us from a potential source of revenue,” DeMare said. Council member Bruce Jeffers said some groceries are planning to stop using plastic bags in a few years. “I understand one of the local retailers is going to be phasing out plastic bags,” Jeffers said. But that wasn’t soon enough for council member John Zanfardino, who met with DeMare after the meeting to discuss the issue. “My hope is to introduce something at the next meeting,” Zanfardino said. Zanfardino’s concerns were two-fold – one was the state’s disregard for the environment and the other was the erosion of local government. Mayor Dick Edwards also expressed those concerns. Bowling Green has “embraced sustainability,” with using power from wind turbines, hydro-electric and its solar field. “I hate to think, quite frankly, without some of these initiatives where we would be,” Edwards said. The mayor also expressed dismay over the continuing erosion by the state of municipalities’ local authority. “It is frustrating in that regard,” Edwards said. Council member Sandy Rowland echoed those concerns. “They continue to take away local authority,” she said of the state. Rowland asked about city council sending a message to state legislators, similar to the letters sent by the mayor. “I know the mayor has been…


BG residents urged to shop locally at small businesses for holidays

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials suggested local resident go big and shop small. With holiday shopping season officially starting on Friday, Bowling Green officials urged local residents to spend some money with local small businesses. Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards and new Downtown BG Director Tony Vetter took to the podium at the City Council meeting Monday evening to promote “Small Business Saturday” which follows this week’s “Black Friday.” The “Small Business Saturday” moniker is an annual reminder of the need to support small businesses, Edwards said. The annual shopping promotion started in 2010 in response to the recession. It was intended to help small businesses recover, Vetter said. In the U.S., 28.8 million small businesses account for 99 percent of businesses, employing more than 48 percent of American workers, the mayor said. The Saturday after Thanksgiving has become a very important day in the life of many small retailers. “It is a break even day for a lot of small businesses,” Edwards said. Downtown Bowling Green retailers are counting on local residents spending some of their holiday shopping money here. “Downtown Bowling Green is so important to our economy,” the mayor said. And Vetter noted that “Small Business Saturday” is not just about downtown and not just about this weekend. “Shop small is not just this weekend. It’s all year round,” Vetter said. Also at Monday’s meeting, City Council approved a solar project easement and lease agreement with the Wood County Commissioners and Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The city is researching the viability of building a community solar field on property owned by those two entities on the north side of East Gypsy Lane Road, just east of Interstate 75. Council also heard from a Bowling Green State University graduate student in public administration, who has been researching the financial history of the city in the 1970s when the city budget was very stretched. He mentioned that he has been unable to access some records, and urged council to preserve such records for safekeeping. Council President Mike Aspacher assured the student that the city complies with all record retention rules, but said council will take the request under advisement. Council members Bruce Jeffers asked the student to send council a copy of his research, and Bill Herald asked him to report back to council on his research. In other business at Monday’s meeting: Council approved the mayor’s recommendations to appoint Justin White to the city’s Human Relations Commission, and Nate Spitler to the city’s Planning Commission. Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter reported that the Community Development Foundation has passed the $5 million mark for its business revolving loan fund. Council learned the downtown parking task force is continuing to meet. Planning Director Heather Sayler reported the annual Interfaith Breakfast has been scheduled for April 2, 2019. Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley noted the grant received from the Wood County Park District to help replace two aging shelter houses in Carter Park with one new shelter. The profits from next year’s Wine and Cheese Fundraiser for the parks has already been earmarked for the new shelter house. Public Works Director Brian Craft reported the work on Conneaut Avenue is almost completed, with paving to be finished next week. Some pump station work…


BG City Council votes 6-1 to make parks smoke-free

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s city parks will be smoke-free starting in 2019. The decision to do so was one vote shy of unanimous by City Council. Council member Bruce Jeffers was the sole vote opposing the smoke-free ordinance. While Jeffers supports the existing ban against smoking inside park buildings, he believes the expansion of the ban to all park property is going too far. It’s “reasonable” for people to be able to smoke in parking lots at the parks, Jeffers said. “If a person chooses to smoke there, in my view they are not really bothering anybody,” he said. But council member Sandy Rowland said the smoking ban is appropriate for all park property. “There are children outside playing. Those children are inhaling the smoke,” Rowland said. Rowland, who serves as city council’s representative to the parks and recreation board, said the decision to expand the smoking ban was the right one. “I laud the park board for making this decision of what’s best,” she said. “We know we’re doing what’s right.” After all, Rowland said, the parks department supports healthy lifestyles. “The parks promote health. It’s a brave move,” she said. Council member John Zanfardino asked if the vote for the smoking ban by the park board was unanimous. Rowland confirmed it was unanimous. Council member Mark Hollenbaugh asked if smoking in a car on park property would be a finable offense. City Attorney Mike Marsh replied that he did not believe it would be. When it came up for the vote, Jeffers was the only council member to vote against the ordinance. The smoking ban will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2019. Kristin Otley, parks and recreation director, said most park visitors obey with the current ordinance. “Most people have been accommodating,” she said. Otley said the parks department will post signs explaining that smoking will not be allowed anywhere on park property. After the council meeting, Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick said his officers will start out by just issuing warnings during a “grace period” while people become acquainted with the change. After a certain period, citations will be issued. “You don’t want to be heavy-handed, but you want to send a message,” Hetrick said. The city has long banned smoking in park buildings. Then in 2007, the policy was taken a step further. “At that point the staff was very concerned about smoking near our programs and around our younger users,” Otley said earlier this fall. In order to keep smoking away from ballparks, playgrounds, and shelter houses, the park board banned smoking in all areas except parking lots. In 2015, vaping was included in the smoking restrictions. Earlier this fall, the park board voted to ban smoking anywhere in the parks, starting in 2019. Park staff had noticed an uptick in cigarette butts being tossed in the parks. “We can make sure people using our facilities are in a healthy environment,” Otley said. Park board president Jeff Crawford agreed. “It fits with what we stand for as parks and recreation,” Crawford said at a park board meeting. As they debated the ordinance, the only concern expressed by the park board members was the possible loss of rental revenue from people using park facilities. But the board…


BG to view more ‘user-friendly’ parking kiosks for downtown

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As part of the continuing debate over how to pay for downtown parking, a more “user-friendly” kiosk will be demonstrated for downtown and city officials next week. Mayor Dick Edwards expressed some reservations about the new kiosk at Monday’s City Council meeting, but said he is looking forward to seeing a model that is easier for motorists to use. A committee of downtown property owners and business owners has been meeting to study the options of how to pay for parking. The committee is charged with looking at whether the city should continue to charge for parking, or if the property and business owners want to work on a shared cost approach. The cost of parking meters will double in the downtown area if a solution isn’t found. The problem is that the city isn’t making enough from its downtown parking meters to pay for repaving the lots and enforcing parking rules. But the fear is that doubling parking costs will discourage customers from patronizing downtown businesses. The city’s downtown lots – with their 600-plus parking spaces – are struggling due to flat revenue, increasing costs and aging infrastructure. Under a shared cost program, the downtown property owners would be assessed based on their front footage and the benefits to their parcels. The average property owner would pay $220 a year for 20 years. The lowest amount charged would be $30 a year. The highest – to the owner of multiple properties – would be $2,000 a year. Those assessments would generate about $20,000 a year. The concept of the downtown property owners picking up the tab for parking expenses was not supported by the landowners during a meeting earlier this year. However, the business owners have stated they would be willing to share in the expenses if it meant customers wouldn’t have to pay for parking. The benefits of getting rid of parking meters would be multi-faceted. It would be a marketing opportunity for downtown businesses, it would eliminate the need for meter or kiosk replacements, and it would mean the city would no longer have to pay property taxes on the parking lots since they would not be generating revenue. That alone will be an annual savings of about $35,000. The parking committee includes the following downtown property and business owners: Dick Newlove; Greg Halamay, owner of Finders Records; Kim Thomas, owner of the H&R Block Building; Kati Thompson, owner of Eden Fashion Boutique; Ben Waddington, owner of Waddington Jewelers; Floyd Craft, owner of Ben’s and Ace Hardware; and Garrett Jones, owner of Reverend’s. Also attending the parking meetings, representing the city, are Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter, Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett, Director of Finance Brian Bushong, Police Chief Tony Hetrick and City Councilman Bruce Jeffers. In other business affecting the downtown, Public Works Director Brian Craft reported to council that bids for the waterline project for Main and Wooster streets will be opened on Nov. 15. The waterline work will be on the heels of the Columbia Gas line replacement in the downtown, Craft said. “This is the next phase of getting the downtown put back together,” Craft said. Following the waterline work, street and sidewalk repairs are planned. Also at Monday’s meeting, council heard that as the city…


Hollenbaugh chosen to fill vacant First Ward City Council seat

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG  Independent News   Bowling Green City Council went with the tried and true option Monday evening – voting unanimously to name Mark Hollenbaugh to the First Ward seat vacated by Daniel Gordon. Hollenbaugh beat out four other candidates who promised qualities such as youth, diversity, fresh ideas from other communities, and a scientific commitment to renewable energy. But what Hollenbaugh brought to the table was consistency, dedication even in the face of failure, and his ability to work with anyone regardless of party. Some council members are “rock stars,” one member said, but Hollenbaugh has proven to be rock solid serving his constituents. He was sworn in at the beginning of the council meeting Monday, and took his seat with the other council members. Hollenbaugh, a Democrat, served as the First Ward member of City Council from January 2010 to December 2011. “When Mark was on City Council before, he was faithful and effective performing his duties,” said council member Bill Herald. When Hollenbaugh lost the election to return to the First Ward seat, he didn’t let that discourage him. “Some disappear. Others redouble their efforts and seek other ways to serve,” Herald, a Republican, said. Hollenbaugh volunteered to serve on city planning commission and on the East Side Residents Association. A government and history teacher at North Baltimore Schools, Hollenbaugh has also served on several city boards, such as the City Planning Commission, Historic Preservation Committee, Charter Review Committee, and is involved in the Community Action Plan. “He has been consistently serving in ways he can contribute,” Herald said. “I stay involved because I care about my community,” Hollenbaugh said. Each of the candidates to fill the First Ward seat was given five minutes to present themselves to City Council. One of the applicants, Hunter Sluss, dropped out from the race earlier on Monday. The others under consideration were: Connor Goodpaster who has earned two degrees from BGSU, is expecting a baby with his wife in March, and who has served with community organizations like United Way and the Wood County Continuum of Care trying to solve problems within the community. Goodpaster said he has a good understanding of the issues of poverty that affect local residents. Neocles Leontis has been a professor of chemistry at BGSU since 1987. In addition to teaching graduate and undergraduate classes, he carries out scientific research funded by the National Institutes of Health. He is involved in several community organizations including Bowling Green Kiwanis, East Side Residential Group, League of Women Voters, Black Swamp Green Team, and Peace Lutheran Church. Leontis has been an advocate for making Bowling Green more energy efficient and sustainable. Sebastian Ochoa-Kaup works as a non-medical case manager for Equitas Health, making sure people living with HIV/AIDS can access the services they need. He has volunteered with Bowling Green community organizations like the Cocoon, La Conexion, Not In Our Town, It’s On Us, and serving on the city’s Human Relations Commission. Ochoa-Kaup said he would amplify the voices of Latino, transgender and queer residents of the community. Madison Stump is a BGSU student working toward a degree in environmental policy and analysis. Stump is director of governmental relations for BGSU Undergraduate Student Government, where she has served as liaison between the city, USG and…


Six citizens file to fill First Ward City Council seat

Six Bowling Green citizens have filed to fill the seat vacated by First Ward Councilman Daniel Gordon. Wednesday afternoon was the deadline for applications for anyone interested in the seat. The six candidates will go before the City Council Committee of the Whole on Monday at 6 p.m. Council will then vote to fill the seat at its 7 p.m. meeting. The applicants are: Connor Goodpaster, Mark Hollenbaugh, Neocles Leontis, Sebastian Ochoa-Kaup, Madison Stump and Hunter Sluss. Following are brief descriptions of each applicant. Connor Goodpaster, of 221 Leroy Ave., has lived in the First Ward for a little over a year and plans to stay there to raise his family. He moved to Bowling Green in 2013 to pursue his bachelor’s degree and “fell in love with the town.” Goodpaster and his wife both earned their master’s degrees at BGSU, his in public administration. While working on his master’s degree, he worked with community organizations like United Way and the Wood County Continuum of Care trying to solve problems within the community. If selected, Goodpaster said he would like to work on an agenda that will help the city retain BGSU grads, diversify the economy, and promote development to help the city offset budgeting constraints due to state funding cuts. Mark Hollenbaugh, of 315 Parkview Drive, is a familiar face to City Council, having served as the First Ward member from January 2010 to December 2011. Hollenbaugh is a history and government teacher at North Baltimore Local Schools. Hollenbaugh said that as a former council member, he has both the constituent knowledge and experience to represent the First Ward citizens. Since he periodically attends council meeting, he said he would be able to quickly be up to speed on issues facing the city. Hollenbaugh has also served on several city boards, such as the City Planning Commission, Historic Preservation Committee, Charter Review Committee, and is involved in the Community Action Plan. Neocles Leontis, 119 N. Summit St., has lived in the First Ward since 1996 and has been employed as a professor of chemistry at BGSU since 1987. In addition to teaching graduate and undergraduate classes, he carries out scientific research funded by the National Institutes of Health. Leontis is involved in several community organizations including Bowling Green Kiwanis, East Side Residential Group, Black Swamp Green Team, and Peace Lutheran Church. He is faculty adviser to the BGSU Environmental Action Group. Leontis has been an advocate for making Bowling Green more energy efficient and sustainable. If selected, he would be interested in helping with more measures to make Bowling Green a healthy, economical and thriving place to live and raise a family. Sebastian Ochoa-Kaup, of 812 N. Summit St., works as a non-medical case manager for Equitas Health, making sure people living with HIV/AIDS can access the services they need. He has volunteered with Bowling Green community organizations like the Cocoon, La Conexion, Not In Our Town, It’s On Us, and serving on the city’s Human Relations Commission. Ochoa-Kaup believes he can help represent Bowling Green’s diverse community. He currently serves on the Executive Board of Equality Toledo, bringing a voice to the Latino community and transgender community. He also co-facilitates a support group for transgender youth. Madison Stump, 724 N. Enterprise St., believes she is well-suited to serve…