Bowling Green City Council

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….


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…


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…


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…


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…


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…


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…


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…


BG puts sale of industrial park acreage on fast track

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council agreed last week to put the sale of industrial park acreage on the fast track. The city approved emergency action to sell three acres to a company wanting to move here from Cincinnati, and 1.56 acres to a company already here that needs more parking and storage space. Sue Clark, director of the Bowling Green Community Development Foundation, explained the need to expedite both sales. On the southeast corner of the city, three acres will be sold in the John Quinn Innovative Tech Park off Napoleon Road for $26,000 per acre. According to Clark, the new company plans to build an 18,000-square-foot manufacturing building. It currently has 10 employees, and plans on hiring 10 more by 2022. “He is anxious for his concrete footers to be done before the snow flies,” Clark said of the company owner. And in the Woodbridge Industrial Park off Dunbridge Road, Vehtek officials would like to purchase acreage in order to provide more parking for employees and storage space for racking. Vehtek, with approximately 700 employees, is one of Bowling Green’s largest employers. The company has plans to add another 50 employees. Several employees already have to park in the grass during their shifts. And Bowling Green Fire Chief Bill Moorman has repeatedly expressed concern about getting fire equipment up to the building in case of a fire. The added space will help, Clark said. “So the fire chief can get the fire truck around without any problems,” Clark said. Plans call for an improved right-of-way on East Poe Road, with the addition of a culvert crossing over the Poe Road ditch, along with widening a portion of Poe Road. These improvements will allow better truck access into and out of the facility. For the right-of-way widening, Sue Clark, director of Bowling Green’s economic development office, has been working with the state to secure Ohio Department of Transportation funds for 75 percent of the improvements. Normally the city would fund the other 25 percent of the project. However, the city is proposing that Vehtek pay $60,000 to the city for a strip of city property adjacent to the company’s northern property line. This will improve Vehtek’s ability to expand its site and make parking/storage improvements. Council member Sandy Rowland initially expressed concerns about the ordinances being expedited for the two companies. “What can we do to make this fair for everyone,” Rowland asked. Council president Mike Aspacher assured that it’s just the sale of the land from the city to the companies that is being hastened. “These folks will still need to go through the same planning and permitting process,” he said. “These are pretty cut and dry real estate transfers,” Aspacher said. The companies will still have to submit plans to the city planning commission and the…


Gordon’s resignation comes under cloud of accusations

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After seven years of being the voice of the First Ward, Bowling Green City Council member Daniel Gordon has stepped down. First elected as a college student, Gordon fought for the rights of those often unheard by city government. He worked to improve East Side neighborhoods and to make the city a welcoming place for people of all backgrounds. But he steps down from City Council under a cloud of accusations of sexual assault and rape. Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick said this morning that his office is looking into the allegations that were reported to the police division by a third party. Hetrick said he could not reveal details. “I can’t comment on an investigation,” the chief said. The person making the accusations has not reported them to police. The accusations were posted on social media, including as comments on the Wood County Democratic Party’s Facebook page. Mike Zickar, president of the Wood County Democratic Party, said he saw the comments last week on the party’s Facebook page. “I notified the police. I felt like they were the people to investigate,” Zickar said. “I felt like that was a serious charge, and the party doesn’t have the mechanisms to investigate,” he said. Council President Mike Aspacher said he was made aware of the social media posts last week, and was aware those were forwarded to the police division. Gordon had one year left on his council term. Council will follow the same process it has in the past to fill vacancies, Aspacher said. Any First Ward resident interested in the position has until Oct. 31 to submit an application to the city. Prior to the next council meeting on Nov. 5, a Committee of the Whole meeting will be held to hear from all the applicants. A replacement will be selected at that time, Aspacher said. Aspacher said Gordon has served the city well during his seven years on council. “He was always eager to discuss issues of inclusiveness in our community,” Aspacher said. Gordon provided a valuable connection between the university and the city, Zickar said. “I feel Daniel brought a real nice link between students and the city,” Zickar said. Mayor Dick Edwards also praised Gordon’s efforts on council. “Obviously this comes as quite a surprise,” he said about the resignation. “I thoroughly enjoyed working with Daniel,” Edwards said. “He’s reached out to me a number of times and has asked my thoughts on different matters.” The mayor said Gordon was a responsive council member, who had a good understanding of the need for neighborhood revitalization. He praised Gordon’s efforts on the “Welcoming BG” initiative, and his success at creating Ridge Park. “I think that was a good accomplishment,” Edwards said. The mayor agreed with Aspacher that a First Ward replacement should be…


Community solar project takes another step forward

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The future just got a little brighter for the proposed community solar project in Bowling Green. On Monday, Bowling Green City Council had the first reading of an ordinance authorizing an easement and lease agreement for between the city and Wood County. Earlier this year, the Wood County Commissioners entered an agreement with the city to allow 50 acres of county land to be studied as a potential site for a solar field. The Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities also agreed to allow 20 acres of its neighboring land to be part of the project. The 70 acres sit on the north side of East Gypsy Lane Road, between Interstate 75 and Wood Lane facilities. The property is currently leased for farming. Last week, the Bowling Green Board of Public Utilities approved the agreement now before council. The agreement is for a three-year lease option and does not commit the city to taking any action or spending any funds. Bowling Green Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell explained that having the property under a lease option would allow the city to have more detailed discussions with solar developers. “This is meant to be a community project,” Daryl Stockburger, assistant director of Bowling Green Public Utilities, said during a meeting with the county commissioners earlier this year. “Everybody is talking about doing their best to make this succeed.” Both of those entities have already shown strong support for solar power, by backing the city’s solar field on Carter and Newton roads. That field, at 165 acres, is the largest solar field in Ohio. Bowling Green gets a portion of the power generated at that solar field – enough to supply nearly 5 percent of the city’s energy needs. This new project, on East Gypsy Lane, would be different in that it could be a community solar field, which means city residents and businesses could sign up to be a part of the project and get electricity from the kilowatts generated at the solar field, according to O’Connell. All of the energy created at the proposed site could be used to power Bowling Green. The community field could produce up to 10 megawatts, which is about half of the power generated at the Carter Road site. The panels would likely rotate with the sun during the day to maximize the energy generated. The “community solar” concept is a growing trend across the nation, according to O’Connell. Bowling Green residents and businesses could sign up to be part of the project – on a purely voluntary basis. Bowling Green officials have been looking for open space for more solar panels. “Peaking energy is important to us,” O’Connell said earlier this year. “We’re looking for new ways to do more solar. But finding large parcels of property close to the city…


BG council member questions Columbia Gas protocols

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   At least one Bowling Green City Council member is not ready to give Columbia Gas a pat on the back for agreeing to notify the city more promptly in case of an emergency. On Monday evening, Council member Greg Robinette complimented the local response by firefighters to a serious gas leak last month. But he referred to Columbia Gas’ response protocol as “negligent and reckless.” Gas company officials met with city officials and agreed to not wait so long to call the fire division in the case of another leak. But that gave Robinette little comfort. “I’m still quite concerned about Columbia Gas and their internal policies,” Robinette said. “Despite their assurances to do better, I don’t think we should give them a pass.” He referred to comments made by a Columbia Gas official after a leak that allowed natural gas levels to reach explosive levels in downtown Bowling Green. After the leak, Columbia Gas defended its response. Cheri Pastula, communications and community relations manager for Columbia Gas, said the gas crews followed proper procedures. The fire division was notified when the gas company knew the electricity needed to be shut off, she said. The fire division removed the electric meter from the buildings involved. “We have gas professionals that are experienced in emergency response and will notify first responders when necessary,” Pastula said. “All of our policies and procedures were followed appropriately and most importantly, safely.” Robinette called that statement an “outrageous admission” by Columbia Gas. He cited what he called a “disregard to the safety of residents.” City Council member John Zanfardino asked about the seriousness of the gas leak. “We were like a cigarette lighting away from blowing up a building,” he asked. Bowling Green Fire Chief Bill Moorman said the gas is “highly explosive” and had reached explosive levels. Moorman reported to City Council the results of a meeting that he and Public Works Director Brian Craft had with Columbia Gas officials days after the downtown leak. Moorman said he and Craft had a very frank conversation with them. “It was made very clear that would never happen again here in Bowling Green,” Moorman said. Columbia Gas officials agreed go beyond their policies and immediately notify Bowling Green Fire Division if gas leaks in the downtown construction area get close to dangerous levels again. On Sept. 13, a leak occurred in the downtown area of South Main Street, where Columbia Gas is replacing old natural gas lines. By the time the fire division was notified, the leaking gas had reached explosive levels, Moorman said. “They did not call us soon enough,” the fire chief said. Bowling Green Fire Division was not notified about the gas leak until at least two hours after gas odors were strong enough that some businesses shut down on…


Muslim student thanks BG for anti-discrimination efforts

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Nearly two years ago, Ahmad Mehmood stood up in front of Bowling Green City Council and asked city leaders to stand up for people from different lands. On Monday, Mehmood was back – this time thanking City Council for taking a stand against discrimination in the community. “I didn’t expect life here to be as easy,” said Mehmood, who has been a student at Bowling Green State University for two years. As a “brown Muslim student” from India, he was prepared to face discrimination and distrust. But instead, he found acceptance. “There is no space for hate,” he said praising the anti-discrimination resolution passed by City Council in January of 2017. “The City of Bowling Green has made it clear. It won’t accept that from its residents.” Back in 2017, as council was considering the anti-discrimination resolution, Mehmood stressed that for international students the measure was far more than a symbolic act. “We’ve always felt like we belong here,” he said on Monday evening. “We share something bigger than what divides us.” Mehmood talked about his homeland of India, where groups are targeted as part of the caste system. “We don’t want our country to be like that,” he said. No two people are identical, he said. “It’s almost like finding the same two colored socks on a Monday morning.” Yet, there are enough similarities that different people can coexist. “We can live side by side,” he said. To show appreciation to city leaders for their efforts, Mehmood invited City Council, the mayor and others to the annual Muslim Student Association dinner on Oct. 19 on campus. Council member Sandy Rowland thanked Mehmood for the invitation, and said she would attend. “I’m proud and happy to have you here,” Rowland said. “I want to thank you for your kind words, and want you to know you are appreciated in Bowling Green.” Mayor Dick Edwards thanked the Muslim Student Association for its involvement in the community. “I too have been the beneficiary of their very thoughtful invitations to various events.” The resolution passed by council in 2017 condemns violence, hate speech and discrimination targeting Muslim people and expresses solidarity with the Muslim community and all those targeted for their ethnicity, race or religion. The resolution calls on council to: Condemn all hateful speech, violent action, and discrimination directed at Muslim people and those perceived to be Muslim anywhere in the city or outside the city; Reject political tactics that use fear and misinformation to manipulate voters or to gain power or influence, and commits to prevent this from happening in the City of Bowling Green; Commit to pursuing a policy agenda that affirms civil and human rights, and ensures that people subjected to hate speech, violence, or discrimination on the basis of race, religion, or immigration status can…