Bowling Green City Council

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 county building inspection office. Mayor Dick Edwards credited Clark with being successful in getting Vehtek to improve its site. The company is owned by Magna, one of the largest corporations in Canada. “The time and effort you have put in on this is not short of amazing,” he said to Clark. “She really deserves a lot of credit, bringing this to fruition and making it happen.” Also at Monday’s meeting, Edwards fulfilled the terms of…


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 found by the next meeting. “It’s so important that we get a good person on there right away.” The First Ward seat will then be on the November 2019 ballot. Gordon said this morning that he was unaware of the police looking into any accusations against him. He had intended to announce his resignation at Monday’s City Council meeting, but said he was instead in the hospital ER at that time after having an asthma…


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 is difficult.” Then the city found that big chunk of land right in its backyard – and close to its city electric service. “This would be an ideal location for this,” Stockburger said. The agreement with the county commissioners gives the city up to three years to determine if the East Gypsy Lane site is an economically sound location for a community solar field, Stockburger said earlier this year. “If the numbers all work out,…


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 the west side of the 100 block of South Main Street. Those businesses included Grounds for Thought, Lahey Appliance and Coyote Beads. When the fire division arrived downtown, the smell of natural gas was obvious. Atmospheric tests done by firefighters showed explosive levels of gas. “The gas levels were at a dangerous level,” Moorman said. “It was getting to the point that a spark, anything can really set it off. Pretty much anything ignites natural…


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 turn to government without fear of recrimination; Reaffirm the value of a pluralistic society, the beauty of a culture composed of multiple cultures, and the inalienable right of every person to live and practice their faith without fear; Urge the citizens of Bowling Green to increase their involvement with the Human Relations Commission, Not In Our Town, and other community organizations, programs, and events that promote these principles, including by engaging with the local Muslim…


‘Welcoming’ language inserted in city charter preamble

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Not everyone on City Council welcomed the same language proclaiming Bowling Green as a “welcoming” community. But after some word wrangling and drawn out analysis, the city charter got a new preamble Monday evening. The new preamble makes a statement about the city being welcoming, inclusive and non-discriminatory. It reads as follows: “We the people of Bowling Green, in the county of Wood, and in the State of Ohio, desirous of securing for our City and for ourselves and our children the advantages of self-government conferred by the home-rule provisions of the Ohio constitution; and determined to be a welcoming, inclusive community with adherence to practices of non-discrimination as established by law; do hereby ordain and establish the following Charter.” Council member Daniel Gordon, who led the effort for the preamble change, acknowledged the compromise that went into the wording. After words had been added and subtracted, the preamble commits the city to “standing with marginalized communities within Bowling Green,” he said. The preamble change was supported by all but one City Council member – Bruce Jeffers. “I appreciate the language you put together,” Jeffers said, noting that his fellow council members “fought it out” until they reached a good compromise. Though he approved of the wording, Jeffers said the welcoming statement did not belong in the city charter. They were the “right words in the wrong place,” so he voted against the preamble change. Council member Bill Herald said he understood Jeffers’ concerns, and he reminded council how the vote to pursue the preamble change narrowly passed by a vote of 4 to 3. However, Herald commended the work of the council committee, which included himself, Gordon and John Zanfardino. There was “spirited” and “respectful” discussion which resulted in a worthy compromise. After wrestling with the meaning of the term “welcoming,” the committee arrived at wording that did not detract from the purpose of the preamble, Herald said. “It goes with the type of community we want Bowling Green to be,” he said. Council members Gordon, Herald, Zanfardino, Mike Aspacher, Greg Robinette and Sandy Rowland voted in favor of the preamble change. But Robinette challenged council to look further if it wants to truly be welcoming. “If we really care for the well-being of citizens,” council should look at the city’s codified ordinances, he said.


Shared salute sought at new BG City Park building

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   No battle lines were drawn, but there are some strong feelings about veterans retaining top billing in the new structure replacing City Park’s Veterans Memorial Building. City Council member Greg Robinette – a veteran himself – reported to council Monday evening that he had spoken with Dave Ridenour of American Legion Post 45 about the history of the existing building. The local legion had leased the building from the city for its post headquarters from 1929 to 1979, Ridenour said. Even after the headquarters moved, the city decided to continue honoring local veterans by keeping the name Veterans Memorial Building. While city officials would like to continue that tradition, they would also like to reduce the debt on the new building by looking for private sponsorship of the new structure. “I fully understand,” that desire to look for naming rights, Robinette said. The building name could be a compromise between a major donor and local veterans. “I think we can make that work.” But council member Bruce Jeffers expressed some concern that the respect for local veterans not be clouded by recognition of a private donor. He also talked about the value of a veterans display inside the new building. “It seems we might want to distinguish between those who have served in combat zones,” Jeffers said. Council member Sandy Rowland said she supports the continued recognition of local veterans in the name of the building. However, she mentioned the effort the city is making to get a return on its investment of $3.75 million in bonds for the new building. The building is expected to be used by community members for events such as weddings, memorials and other public gatherings. “I think we have to be careful in the way we outfit the interior,” Rowland said. For example, a display of weapons of war may make the building less appealing to those wanting to rent it for occasions like weddings. “I hope we don’t plan on putting a cannon in there,” Rowland said. Also at Monday’s meeting, Mayor Dick Edwards recognized Earlene Kilpatrick, who is retiring from her position as executive director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce. “You’ve had a wonderful working relationship with the city,” Edwards said to Kilpatrick. During her years as director, the city saw many groundbreakings, the mayor said. “You haven’t allowed the ceremonial scissors to rest.” Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter also thanked Kilpatrick for working so closely with the city. “It really has been a pleasure to work with you,” Tretter said. “You’ve been a tremendous asset.” Kilpatrick in turn thanked city leaders for their support. “You really care. That’s what’s so special,” she said. “Keep up the great work. It’s been my pleasure to be a part of that.” Also at the meeting, council approved the purchase of 1.57 acres at 315 and 325 N. Grove St. for $500,000. The property sits just to the east of the city’s water and sewer division at 324 N. Maple St. The property, which was formerly the site of BG Block and Lumber, will secure a long-term home for the water and sewer division, and possibly provide room for future growth. The water and sewer division could use three of the buildings on the property, totaling…


Mayor tries to resurrect historic preservation efforts

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is revisiting history – trying to resurrect efforts to create a Historic Preservation Commission. Mayor Dick Edwards reintroduced plans for a commission which would “preserve, promote, encourage and support the maintenance, use and reuse of historic buildings in the city.” In other words, it would help property owners who want to preserve historic structures. The proposal for such a commission was first brought up in 2009, then became part of earnest discussions in 2013. Efforts died in 2015 after some citizens interpreted the city’s preservation efforts as government telling them what to do with their properties. At that time, Edwards tried to explain that the commission was to help – not give orders. “It’s not threatening, it’s not dictating to people, it’s not putting the heavy hand of government on neighborhoods,” he said. “It was misconstrued and misinterpreted by some individuals.” Nevertheless, suspicions about the motivation for the historic preservation commission killed the effort. But at Tuesday’s city council meeting, the mayor reintroduced the concept. “There was some misunderstanding about what it is,” Edwards said of the commission. And he would like to try again. “This is so successful in so many other communities,” he said. More than 70 cities and political bodies in Ohio are working with the state to address historic preservation. Cities like Toledo, Akron and Tiffin are taking advantage of preservation tax credits to rebuild central city business districts and enhance property values in historic neighborhoods, Edwards said. “I’d like to think that the program can help sustain the life of neighborhoods and make it a more attractive place to live.” One of the first steps will be to create a five-member historic preservation commission. The group, appointed by the mayor, will include one member from each of the four wards and one from the downtown business district. Edwards said he is looking for recommendations. The purpose of the commission is to foster civic beauty, stabilize and increase property values, strengthen the local economy, maintain and enhance the distinctive character, safeguard the city’s heritage, and facilitate reinvestment and revitalization through historic preservation. The commission would have the authority to assist with historic preservation efforts through building inventories, public education, tourism and establishing community partnerships. The formation of such a commission has been supported by several city planning documents including the housing section and the future land use section of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, and most recently by the Community Action Plan. Edward’s efforts to resurrect the issue were commended Tuesday evening. City Council member Daniel Gordon voiced his support to revive the historic preservation effort. “We were disappointed,” when initial efforts failed, he said of himself and council member John Zanfardino. Council President Mike Aspacher also offered his backing. “I would certainly lend my support to that idea,” he said. Council member Sandy Rowland suggested that City Attorney Mike Marsh and Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter start working on legislation to create the commission. “The harder issue is establishing districts where it will apply,” Zanfardino said. “Or it will be a commission with no application.” The mayor said Court Street – the historic area by the Wood County Courthouse – could be an ideal place to start. “I think we have some opportunities on Court Street,” he…


Gas pains – BG tells Columbia Gas to not leave streets a mess

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials want Columbia Gas to clean up their mess when they are done ripping up downtown streets to replace natural gas lines. City council president Mike Aspacher expressed concern at last week’s council meeting that the street paving where Columbia Gas was done digging appeared to be substandard. “We’ve already told them to tear it out and do it again,” said Brian Craft, director of public works for the city. Though the city plans a street resurfacing job in downtown next year, that work won’t extend over the entire area dug up by Columbia Gas. The section of North Main Street located north of the Wood County Senior Center is not part of the city’s project. So, Craft told the utility company to do it again. “We’ve been on them,” he said. Aspacher said Columbia Gas is required to match the pavement so it is the same or better than it was before they tore up the streets. But that hasn’t always been the case in the past. Aspacher said Columbia Gas has previously replaced streets with substandard work after past jobs in the city. “It’s had a negative impact,” he said. Craft said once Main Street is repaved next year, it should all be smooth. A better type of asphalt will be used than during the Heritage 2000 project, when it was last paved. However, until then, the downtown streets will be a little rough, he added. In other business at last week’s meeting, council member Sandy Rowland noted how smoothly traffic seemed to move in the city over the previous weekend – despite the additional congestion from the National Tractor Pulling Championships, downtown construction by Columbia Gas, and the monthly Firefly Nights event downtown. “In spite of everything going on this weekend, traffic moved well in Bowling Green,” Rowland said. Craft noted the city gets to do it all again this weekend – with move-in at Bowling Green State University and annual soccer challenge event. In other business: Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley reported that as the summer comes to an end, the city pool will be open the next two weekends, from 1 to 7 p.m. each day. Craft said Manville Avenue, which had been torn up most of the summer, should be finished soon after Labor Day. Council learned a public hearing about Firefly Night’s liquor permit request will be held Sept. 4 at 6:45 p.m.    


BG officials want answers about Nexus pipeline spill

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Nexus pipeline officials have some explaining to do. Bowling Green officials were satisfied with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s response to a spill last month of 20,000 gallons of non-toxic drilling fluid north of the city. But the response of the pipeline company has left the city with some questions. For example, City Council members Daniel Gordon and Greg Robinette have asked: – When did the spill happen? Ohio EPA officials have said the spill was reported on July 17. However, emails from Nexus officials have stated the spill occurred on July 16. – How quickly did Nexus report the spill? Was the reporting done in a reasonable timeframe? – What kind of bentonite was involved in the spill? Though non-toxic, if it was the acidic form, are measures being taken to mitigate and monitor potential harm? – Does the Ohio EPA consider the Nexus decision to halt cleanup efforts at night a reasonable response? – Should Nexus crews have been prepared to work through the night? When contacted by Bowling Green Independent News about some of these questions, Nexus officials declined to talk on the phone and asked for the questions to be submitted in writing. A Nexus emailed statement said the pipeline company “remains committed to safe and environmentally responsible practices, including constructing the project in accordance with applicable environmental permitting requirements.” Though previous emails from Nexus stated the spill occurred on July 16, when asked about the conflicting dates, Adam Parker, who handles stakeholder engagement for Nexus gas transmission, changed the date to July 17 at approximately 6 p.m. The Ohio EPA has stated that Nexus crew members left the scene of the spill rather than continuing to clean up. Parker stated the Nexus crews temporarily suspended activities due to safety concerns related to working along the busy road after dark. When asked if Nexus has a policy in place requiring workers to continue with cleanup until it is completed, Parker responded with the following statement: “The project’s various plans and permits were filed and approved by state and federal agencies prior to the beginning of construction. On the evening of the spill, NEXUS promptly notified the Ohio EPA, installed multiple layers of containment and worked to complete the recovery of clay and water in accordance with those plans. Nexus crews returned the following morning to continue the cleanup to the OEPA’s satisfaction. NEXUS communicated all steps taken to Ohio EPA throughout the response effort and the Ohio EPA determined that recovery efforts were complete and no further action was required.” However, the pipeline is being fined by the Ohio EPA not only for spilling 20,000 gallons of drilling fluid, but will also be billed by the EPA for cleanup of the fluid, since the pipeline workers did not stay on the scene to clean up the spill. The drilling fluid spill into Liberty Hi ditch occurred when Nexus crews were installing the natural gas pipeline under the ditch, which is a tributary of the Maumee River. The non-toxic drilling fluid – consisting of bentonite and water – impacted approximately three-quarters of a mile of the ditch, according to James Lee, media relations manager for the Ohio EPA. Bentonite is a naturally occurring clay that is commonly used in…


Cheap parking in downtown BG may soon expire

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Patience has expired with the current parking meter fees to pay for downtown park lot expenses. So on Monday evening, Bowling Green City Council will hear the first reading of an ordinance to double the parking fees from 25 cents to 50 cents per hour. The price hike is proposed because the current parking rates are failing to pay for on-street and off-street public parking expenses in the downtown, explained Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett. All the nickels, dimes and quarters – plus a portion of the parking fines – are supposed to pay for the parking paving, maintenance, enforcement personnel and equipment, parking meters, kiosks, and taxes on the lots. The downtown parking fund gets no support from other city funds. The city’s 2018 budget projected a $21,000 deficit in the parking fund. That hole was filled by the fund’s balance, but that balance is dropping steadily, Fawcett said Friday afternoon. Also looming over the parking budget is the fact that three of the four downtown parking lots need to be paved soon. The only one to be repaved since 2000 is Lot 2,  behind Panera. The proposed fee hikes should not come as a surprise to downtown merchants or the organization which represents them, Fawcett said. “We’ve been trying to tell people as much as we can,” he said. “This is the culmination of conversations over the last couple years.” Downtown businesses were advised of the proposed parking fee hike on City Council’s agenda. “No one seemed surprised by that,” Fawcett said. City officials hope customers coming downtown are not put off by the doubling of the parking fee. Though some may try to avoid pay parking, Fawcett said Bowling Green’s parking will still be a bargain compared to other cities in the region. “We looked around the entire area. Even at 50 cents an hour, we are very competitive,” he said. For at least six years, the parking lot revenue has had difficulty keeping up with the expenses, Fawcett said. In 2013 and 2015, the revenue “just barely” surpassed expenses. In 2014, the city broke even. The last three years, the expenses have been higher than the incoming coins. “It has always been close,” he said. The parking fees, plus a portion of the parking ticket revenue averages about $220,000 a year, Fawcett said. The fee hike is expected to help the fund recover. “I think it would likely provide a temporary relief for that fund,” he said. The parking ticket fees will not be increased. But the long-term parking charges used by apartment renters or businesses downtown are proposed to double. For example, the rate for one space for half a year will jump from $130 to $260. The city’s goal was to gradually change all downtown city parking lots to kiosks rather than metered parking. The lot behind Panera is the city’s first experiment with parking kiosks. “Our desire is to make paying for parking as easy as possible for people,” Fawcett said. If kiosk parking is expanded to other city lots, it’s doubtful it will be the same type as already used in Lot 2, he said. At that point, Lot 2 would be retrofitted to be the same as the other lots. “The ones we…


BG sees success attracting tourists & their spending

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wendy Chambers has long been saying that tourism brings big bucks into Bowling Green. Now she has the official numbers to back that up. Chambers, executive director of the Bowling Green Convention & Visitors Bureau, reported to City Council Monday evening that Bowling Green is attracting more visitors. In 2017, BG hotels saw an increase in room rentals of 6.62 percent, with revenue up 8 percent from the previous year. For the first time the state’s study of the economic impact from tourism gave specific numbers just for Bowling Green. According to study, tourism created: $110.9 million in visitor spending in the local economy. $30.2 million in wages. $12.6 million in taxes. 1,527 in employment – or one in every 13 jobs. “Bowing Green is alive and well – and doing well,” Chambers said. The study found that tourism creates jobs in Bowling Green, estimating it sustains 7.8 percent of private employment. The benefits span across various businesses, such as transportation, recreation, retail, lodging, plus food and beverage industries. Of the counties in Northwest Ohio, Wood County ranks third of 22 counties for tourism impact. Ranking first was Lucas County, followed by Erie County in second place. Wood County racked up $504 million in visitor spending, 6,598 jobs with total wages of $139.6 million, and $63.5 million generated in tax revenue in 2017. Recent trends in Bowling Green tourism show a growth in visitor spending from $82.1 million in 2015 to $88.1 million in 2017. In addition to the tourism numbers, Chambers was also excited about the city’s “Best of BG: A Hometown Celebration” planned for Thursday, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., at Simpson Garden Park. The event will recognize the city’s second time in the last decade of being named one of Ohio’s Best Hometowns by Ohio Magazine. “It’s a week of celebrations,” Chambers said. The next project for the Convention & Visitors Bureau will be to work with various businesses and groups on designing a “community brand.” “We’re pretty excited about that,” she said. Also at Monday’s meeting, Mayor Dick Edwards recognized Margaret Montague for her service on the city’s Human Relations Commission. “What you have done for our Human Relations Commission is nothing short of truly outstanding,” Edwards said to Montague, who has served on the commission since 2011. “You’ve been so generous with your time.” Montague headed the Welcome BG Task Force, which puts an emphasis on local employment opportunities for legal immigrants, the mayor said. The effort is helping to meet manpower needs by “putting out the welcome mat.” During her time on the commission, Montague has been “impartial and compassionate” and has worked for “community harmony and well-being,” Edwards said. In accepting her citation from the mayor, Montague said, “I have a confession.” When asked to join the commission seven years ago, she had lived internationally for so long that she had to look up exactly what the Human Relations Commission was. “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve,” Montague said. In other business, Edwards read a proclamation dedicating July as Parks and Recreation Month. He presented the proclamation to Parks and Recreation Department Director Kristin Otley and park board member Cale Hover. The mayor praised the parks and “vast array of recreational…


BG checks on Nexus pipeline construction under river

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green and EPA officials met Monday with the Nexus pipeline construction team at the drilling site for the Maumee River crossing. Mayor Dick Edwards promised the Bowling Green community he would make sure experts were watching when the river crossing was done – to make sure it went smoothly. The natural gas pipeline runs very close to the city’s water treatment plant, which gets its water from the Maumee River. “According to the engineering staff, there are no surprises or impediments to date, and the project is proceeding in keeping with the planned schedule,” Edwards reported to City Council Monday evening. The first stage of the river crossing, which is well underway, involves drilling a small diameter pilot hole along a designated directional path. Monday’s briefing from Nexus specifically dealt with the horizontal-directional drilling technology, the project timeline, plus safety and compliance. Attending the meeting with Nexus personnel was the mayor, City Council President Mike Aspacher, BG water treatment plant superintendent Mike Fields, Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler, and Ohio Regional EPA Director Shannon Nabors. Edwards said he is satisfied with the attention to safety on the project. He said all of the 39 conditions outlined by FERC in response to Bowling Green concerns, were being addressed. “It’s something I keep close at hand,” the mayor said about the 39 conditions the pipeline must meet. “The questions raised by Bowling Green are being addressed.” The pipeline construction is under constant monitoring by the Ohio EPA, plus a FERC on-site compliance officer. The mayor said Fields is keeping a close eye on the Bowling Green water intake, located just upriver from the pipeline river crossing. “I know that he is monitoring the situation very, very carefully,” he said of Fields. Aspacher shared the mayor’s relief about the project. “I was very impressed with the degree of oversight,” he said. “It was clear our concerns were being heard.” Edwards said he discussed with EPA officials the environmental damage caused elsewhere in Ohio by the Rover pipeline construction. “The work on this project is being done in an entirely different way,” he said. “They’ve learned a lot from that process.” Edwards talked about the value of the city holding public forums on the pipeline, taking testimony from experts, and recording questions from citizens. “We were heard,” he said. The mayor has been assured that EPA officials will be prepared to respond to problems 24/7. “They are ready to respond quickly,” he said. Also at Monday’s meeting, Edwards presented a proclamation to representatives of the local LGBT community. The mayor said the city should take pride in the city’s long history of inclusiveness. He was joined by members of the city’s Human Relations Commission and Not In Our Town organization. The resolution declares June in Bowling Green as LGBT Pride Month. The city “celebrates diversity and welcomes all,” Edwards said. He pointed out the city’s proactive stance – with laws protecting against discrimination, violence and hate speech. “People should be proud of who they are, not what they are,” the mayor said. Gwen Andrix accepted the resolution. “I’m really proud of my community,” she said. “I can pretty much go wherever I want, and am accepted for who I am.” The mayor also recognized Bowling…


Scruci asks city to join in solution for school district

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci invited city leaders Monday evening to get involved in school business. Scruci asked those attending City Council to put June 25 on their calendars. Since the school district’s bond issue has been rejected twice by voters, the board is taking a different approach. “Our board is committed to finding out what our community will support,” he said. So a community task force open meeting will be held June 25, at 6:30 p.m., in the school’s performing arts center. “It’s going to be turned over to the community,” Scruci said. City Council President Mike Aspacher thanked the superintendent for the invitation to join in the process. “We’ve all been supportive of your efforts in the past,” Aspacher said. Also at Monday’s meeting, Mayor Dick Edwards expressed regret that the “celebrity guest” expected to attend the meeting was unable to make it. But the mayor revealed his intentions to declare June 15 as Jerry Anderson Day in Bowling Green, in honor of the newscaster’s last day at WTOL-11. Anderson got his start in broadcasting 44 years ago at WFOB radio here in Bowling Green, Edwards said. Since then, he has helped many community groups with fundraising, either by acting as auctioneer or emcee. His generosity has been “totally amazing,” the mayor said. Edwards also mentioned all the positive national publicity Bowling Green is receiving since the general managers of both hockey teams in the Stanley Cup are Bowling Green State University hockey alums.  The men, both from the same town in Canada, both played under BGSU Coach Jerry York, and were roommates for three years. George McPhee is now with the Las Vegas Golden Knights, and the Brian MacLellan is with the Washington Capitals. Ryan Carpenter, a more recent BGSU hockey standout, is playing for the Golden Knights. And Mike “Doc” Emrick, who earned his doctorate at BGSU, has been mentioning the many BGSU connections during this play-by-play announcing. In other business, Public Works Director Brian Craft was asked to give an overview of the city’s new brush collection program. The pickups used to be every spring and fall, then were reduced to once in the fall. Now the brush pickups are upon request, with four options of April, May, September and October. In May, the city got 320 requests for pickups, Craft said. Though not always convenient, Craft said if people missed those months, the city will return in September and October. “We’ll come back around in the fall if you can hang onto it,” he said. Large item collections have also changed, with residents being eligible for two pickups a year, of up to five items, for no charge. These pickups are available any time of the year, as long as people call to request. This change is much more efficient, Craft said, since the workers know exactly where the large items are that need picking up. Also at the meeting, City Attorney Mike Marsh complimented the city public works crew for the appearance of Oak Grove Cemetery on Memorial Day. Craft thanked Marsh. “This is the time of year when you get done mowing and it’s time to start over again,” he said. Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley reminded council of the Art in the…


Tax breaks – just part of doing business for cities

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council member Bruce Jeffers isn’t against business. He’s just doesn’t like the idea of having to offer incentives to attract them to the city. So before council voted on an ordinance Monday evening for a new job creation and retention program, he had a few questions. “I value our businesses in Bowling Green,” Jeffers said. And the city has done a good job of making sure the community has good infrastructure and energy options for prospective businesses, he said. “So I wonder why we need to offer incentives for businesses to come here,” he said. “The answer seems to be because everyone else does it.” That answer is partially true, responded City Attorney Mike Marsh. Incentives like tax abatements are nothing new, Marsh explained. “I wrote the first one 32 years ago,” he said of the first city incentives program for Bowling Green. The city, Marsh said, doesn’t offer every possible incentive, but picks and chooses what works best here. “You don’t have to have the exact same programs, but you need to have some things tailored for who we want to attract,” he said. So the city is selective in its incentives. “We don’t want people who want to come here and not pay any taxes,” Marsh said. “We’re not desperate. We don’t want to give away the store.” However, without some incentives, the city may not even get a glance from some perspective businesses. “Then again, if we didn’t have them, we might not have gotten them to look at us,” Marsh said. Council went on to unanimously approve the new job creation and retention program. According to Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett, the program is modeled after one used by the city of Maumee. Similar programs were reviewed from dozens of cities, he said. The purpose of the city’s program is to “help maintain Bowling Green’s competitiveness as a location for new businesses and the expansion or retention of existing businesses.” The program offers incentives to qualifying businesses that agree to create a specified number of new jobs. Eligible businesses include headquarters, manufacturing, science and technology, research and development, distribution and certain types of service industries. To get incentives, the business must create jobs which are new to the city. The jobs must equal a minimum annual local payroll totaling $350,000 within a three-year period. Companies may receive up to 50 percent of the total payroll tax that the city receives from those jobs for a period of three years. For the retention of existing jobs, the program gives consideration to companies contemplating leaving Bowling Green for sound financial or economic reasons. An existing company claiming job retention would be eligible for a grant based upon the amount of payroll for those jobs to potentially be lost if the retention effort is not successful. Businesses claiming retention must make a strong case that without this grant the company will either lose these jobs permanently or the company will close down permanently. The company may receive up to 50 percent of the total payroll tax that the city receives from those jobs for the period of up to three years. The program includes steps to recapture city funds if the businesses fail to live up to their…