Bowling Green City Council

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…


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…


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…


BG passes food truck ordinance – time to get cookin’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Phil Barone has already scouted out a great place for his food truck. And after Bowling Green City Council’s action Monday evening, he may finally get to set up shop. City Council voted in favor of the new mobile food vendor ordinance and declared an emergency to get things cooking. “We’re getting into good weather and want to get things moving,” said council member Bill Herald, who led the food truck ordinance effort. The fees set by council Monday evening are $100 for an annual mobile food vendor permit, and $40 for a special event permit. The ordinance was welcomed by Barone, who has owned Rosie’s Italian Grille in Toledo for 36 years, and has a food truck that serves customers in Perrysburg, Maumee, Waterville and Toledo. Barone, of Perrysburg, arrived early for the council meeting, so he drove around town looking for a good spot for his truck. His eyes zeroed in on Wooster Green with the new gazebo. “I think we could get enough trucks there to make a difference,” he said. Barone heads up a food truck association which has 11 members. Their menus offer items like grilled baby lamb chops, lobster mac and cheese, cauliflower crust pizza, Cuban food, steamed mussel salad, perch, cappuccino, and ice cream. Now he just has to find a day of the week that works. “It’s usually best to do it once a week, so people get used to it.” Some communities couple their food truck evenings with other events. Perrysburg pairs its farmers market with food trucks. Waterville links art exhibits with food trucks. Barone is thinking Bowling Green’s hook may be music. “We have some fantastic food vendors, we just need to get them down here,” he said. Earlier this year, Barone wasn’t so sure Bowling Green would get its food truck ordinance done. But he was hopeful, since both he and his wife graduated from BGSU and love the community. “Bowling Green is not known for doing anything really fast,” he said. “Bowling Green deserves a good shot, so I’m going to do my best.” Al Alvord, a retired Bowling Green police officer who operates “Weenie Dawgs” hotdog cart, is also pleased that the city now has a food truck ordinance. “This has been a long time coming,” Alvord said. He first introduced his hot dog cart idea in 2003 and again in 2012. “There was less than a warm reception,” he said. Alvord praised the work of the committee that worked on the ordinance for understanding the value of mobile vendors. “We’re not here to compete with the brick and mortar. We’re here to augment them,” he said. “It’s for the betterment of Bowling Green.”


BG to hand out micro-grants for neighborhood projects

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is ready to offer money to citizen-led projects to help neighborhoods. Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter announced last week to City Council that the city is launching a micro-grant program. This will be the first priority put in place from the city’s newly adopted Community Action Plan. The micro-grant program will allocate $500 to $5,000 annually to proposals that meet the goals of the CAP by improving neighborhoods. Applications for the first round of funding will be due June 15. A total of $5,000 will be available. Tretter said money was already set aside for the CAP this year – so this would be a good use of that funding. “I think we’re all interested in seeing something move forward,” she said to City Council. The money can be used for a variety of projects, such as the Connect Court Street event that was held last year, the Firefly Nights that just started downtown, or projects such as neighborhood tool sharing or home improvements, said Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett. “There are probably things we haven’t even thought of yet” that would qualify, Tretter said. The plan will be to offer the micro-grants twice a year, with the deadlines for applications being Jan. 15 and June 15 each year. These grants are not intended to compete with the Community Foundation grants, which serve different purposes, Tretter said. Those receiving the micro-grants will be accountable for the funding, and will be asked to come before City Council to explain the impact of the grants, she added. Other items on the list to be worked on soon for the Community Action Plan include: Work on the city zoning code and land use issues. This might include such efforts as more training for the zoning board of appeals, and forming a committee to review city parking regulations. Work on bicycling grants and infrastructure improvements. Study of potential improvements to Carter Park. Also at Monday’s meeting, Police Chief Tony Hetrick explained changes in the city’s emergency dispatching system. The work began three years ago to blend the fire and police dispatching into one center. The change allows police to access county-wide and regional records systems. It gets rid of the duplication of services, and allows the fire department to use all its staff for emergency responses rather than assigning one person to dispatching. And most recently, it allowed for an expansion to more 911 dispatching consoles. Hetrick thanked the city’s public works and public utilities departments for doing nearly all the work in-house. The project cost $60,000, but probably would have been double that otherwise, he said. Also at Monday’s meeting, the city named Jennifer Karches as its “Spokesperson of the Year.” Chairman of the Bowling Green Bicycle Safety Commission, Dr. Steve Langendorfer said Karches…


BG trims fat off proposed food truck ordinance

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Some of the leftover crumbs from the food truck discussions were tidied up by Bowling Green City Council Committee of the Whole Monday evening. The ordinance allowing food trucks to operate in the city will be ready for City Council to vote on at its next meeting. The decisions made Monday evening favored making the ordinance the least restrictive as possible – with the understanding that if a problem occurs, council will then handle the issue. But council member Bill Herald, who was head of the committee tackling the food truck issue, brought up several issues that weren’t addressed in the ordinance, just to make sure they should not be included. In most cases, the Committee of the Whole preferred to keep the recipe for food trucks as simple as possible. For example: Trucks in the downtown area Herald noted that the ordinance did not require food trucks in the downtown area to have “visibility triangles.” Council member Sandy Rowland reminded that the goal was to “keep the regulations as free as possible. Those are things we can change as we live through the implementation.” Council president Mike Aspacher agreed that council can “adjust as needed,” when problems arise. If a food truck were to park in an unsafe location, the city will discuss the problem, Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter said. The city has a history of working with people and coming up with solutions that are agreeable. “We really do try to employ diplomacy,” she said. Hours and days of operation Herald pointed out that the ordinance does not limit food trucks to certain days or hours of operation. Aspacher said the city’s goal is to not place such limits. “My feeling is we should not do so,” he said. Council members Rowland and Bruce Jeffers agreed. Several food vendors have attended city meetings to explain that they only set up on days and times when they can get plenty of customers. Appeals process for those opposed to food trucks The proposed ordinance allows food vendors to appeal if their permit request is denied. However, there is no appeal process for the public if the permit request is granted, Herald said. This addition would allow more freedom to the process, he said. Jeffers agreed. However, Aspacher and Rowland saw no need for the appeal language. “I just feel this is unnecessary,” Aspacher said. Rowland pointed out that the city doesn’t allow the public to appeal other businesses in the community. “I don’t know why we should do it with a mobile vendor,” she said. Herald suggested there would be no harm in adding the appeal provision, but Aspacher stressed that there was no need to complicate the ordinance. Since the issue was at a stand-off, the topic was brought up again…


BG asked to monitor pipeline crossing of Maumee River

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   One of the strongest voices against the Nexus pipeline was back at Bowling Green City Council Monday evening. He lost his battle to stop the pipeline with a charter amendment – so he is now hoping to make sure construction of the line is monitored for safety. Brad Holmes asked for confirmation that the city will keep its commitment to monitor the pipeline underground crossing of the Maumee River. City officials assured that they would. The natural gas Nexus pipeline will run from eastern Ohio to Canada, and be buried just 800 feet from Bowling Green’s water treatment plant along its route. So Holmes said he was asking for the line to be monitored on behalf of all the people who rely on the city’s water. Holmes mentioned the poor environmental record of Rover Pipeline, which has spilled drilling fluid during its construction process in southern Ohio. The Nexus line is currently under construction and will likely be done by the end of summer. Mayor Dick Edwards said he has every intention to work very closely with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. “They are the ones who will be doing the monitoring” since they have the equipment and knowledge, he said. Edwards said he will keep council and the public in the loop on when the river crossing work is scheduled. Council President Mike Aspacher said Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler promised his agency would be very hands-on during the river crossing construction. “We’re very well on the record with our concerns,” he said. And the Ohio EPA was responsive. “They are very mindful of the lessons they learned in southern Ohio,” from the Rover spills, Aspacher said. Council member John Zanfardino agreed. “They were going to be heightening their monitoring,” he said. Also at Monday’s meeting, Aspacher congratulated council members Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and Zanfardino for coming up with a food truck ordinance. City Attorney Mike Marsh is now working on the exact language of the ordinance. The council committee of the whole will meet May 21, at 6 p.m., to review the proposed food truck ordinance. Al Alvord, who resides in Bowling Green and Florida, thanked the city for working on the “monumental task” of creating a mobile food vendor ordinance. Alvord, a retired BG police officer, has a hot dog vending business. Also at Monday’s meeting, Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell reported that one of the city’s wind turbines needs maintenance for a bad gear box. Two of the four wind turbines have already needed new gear boxes, which were replaced under warranty. This turbine is post warranty, but the gear box has lasted the life expectancy of 15 years, O’Connell said. The gear box will cost $400,000, which the utilities department…


Rental registry & historic preservation top CAP priorities

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A citywide rental registry and historic preservation scored at the top as Bowling Green City Council members ranked their priorities in the new Community Action Plan. All council members were asked to choose their priorities from the expansive CAP. Five out of the seven council members put a registry of rental properties and historic preservation of neighborhoods on their lists. Also making the priority list were zoning updates, micro-grants for neighborhoods, bicycle lanes and Carter Park updates. “This is exactly what I was hoping for,” council president Mike Aspacher said Monday to council member Greg Robinette, who compiled the list of priorities based on council’s input. “This is a bold step.” The CAP gave the city a lot to digest, so council agreed to set some initial priorities. “We’re hoping our citizens will stick with us,” Aspacher said. Robinette did not assign deadlines, and suggested that projects will move ahead when funding is available. “It’s going to be determined by resources,” he said. Council member Bruce Jeffers approved of the plan to address priorities first. “I’m glad we’re pursuing this route,” he said. Robinette reported to council the results of their prioritizing, and instructed city administration of the next steps to achieve those goals. Following is a list of the priorities: RENTAL REGISTRATION The city administration was asked to draft a preliminary inspection program for a city-wide rental property registration program, which includes a landlord self-certification process to improve rental property conditions. According to Robinette, this type of program can result in improved rental conditions without potentially intrusive home inspections by city code enforcement. The city would develop a checklist of common violations, give the landlords discretion as to whether these violations exist on the property, and provide information to renters to help them evaluate their current or potential rental units. Robinette asked the city administration to identify the resources currently available, the resources needed for the program, and cost estimates for implementation. The estimated cost for this program is $10,000 to $50,000. HISTORIC PRESERVATION The city administration and mayor were asked to review the creation of a Historic Preservation Ordinance and Commission. Under this goal, the city would create a historic building inventory of single-family reinvestment areas, and establish one or more local historic districts deemed significant to the city’s cultural fabric. Historic districts can protect investments of owners and residents, increase rate of appreciation, encourage better quality design, improve sustainability, serve as a vehicle for education, increase tourism, enhance business recruitment potential, and give communities a voice in their future. CORE ZONING DISTRICT The city administration, planning director and planning commission were instructed to work to establish a new core zoning district for the area on East Wooster Street between downtown and the BGSU campus. The new zoning district could…


‘Dear Santa’ founders honored for spreading hope in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The founders of the local Dear Santa program were recognized Monday evening for spreading hope year round. During Monday’s City Council meeting, the Bowling Green Human Relations Commission handed out its annual Honor Roll Award. The recipients this year were Jim and Dee Szalejko, founders of the Dear Santa program in Bowling Green. Through the program, approximately 40 families in need are adopted each holiday season. Cassie Woodbury described the efforts of the Szalejkos. “The Dear Santa program does more than just answer kids’ wishes at the holidays,” she said. For 10 years, the couple has worked to collect toiletries, groceries, cleaning supplies and gifts specialized for each family’s needs. The community and Bowling Green School District students and staff volunteer to make the holidays a little brighter. “They spend so much of their own time” to make the program a success, Woodbury said of the Szalejkos. And their efforts do far more than put gifts under the tree. “When times are tough, hope can be hard to come by,” Woodbury said. But the Dear Santa program manages to supply it every year, she said. In other business at the council meeting: Shad Kitchen was sworn in as lieutenant on the Bowling Green Fire Division. Bob Callecod, a former Wood County Park District commissioner, urged those present to support the park levy renewal on the May 8 ballot. Council welcomed Amanda Gamby as the city’s new sustainability coordinator. Planning Director Heather Sayler reported so far this year the planning office has given out 84 permits, compared to 72 last year. The city has received requests for 20 new homes, compared to 13 last year. Park and Recreation Director Kristin Otley said roof work has begun on the Simpson Garden Park Building, so the public may be asked to use another entrance to the building. Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell talked about the recent study showing that the city water revenues were not meeting expenses. The board of public utilities is looking over the study. Council member Bill Herald said the next meeting on food truck rules will be Wednesday, at 5:45 p.m. Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter reported the rescheduled Martin Luther King program will be held April 27, at 1 p.m., in the Wood County District Public Library atrium. Tretter also said the State of the City will be held May 1, starting at 8 a.m., in the library atrium.


Students stand up against guns and for decent housing

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Inspired by students across the nation, and empowered by their efforts in this community, six students took to the podium at Bowling Green City Council Monday evening. They were seeking two basic rights – decent affordable housing, and no gun violence in their schools. Aidan Hubbell-Staeble asked City Council to use its power to push the state legislature to pass legislation on guns – something that would provide real tangible solutions to stop gun violence in schools. “Enough is enough,” he said. One by one, the other students – Carlie Pritt, Zach Davis, Hannah Barnes, Connor Froelich and Alyson Baker – stood at the podium and read aloud the names of students killed by guns in schools, starting with those at Columbine. They ended with the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, then told City Council they would return at the next meeting to continue with the names of students killed since Newtown. “The students of Bowling Green High School and Bowling Green State University will continue to fight for this issue until we see change,” said Alyson Baker. Baker was one of the organizers of the local walkout in honor of the Parkland victims. More than 300 high school and middle school students joined the walkout. Council member Bruce Jeffers explained that the city is limited in any action it can take on firearms. “It’s pretty hard to sit and listen to all those people gone under those circumstances,” Jeffers said of the victims’ names read aloud. Council member Sandy Rowland praised the students for becoming part of the governmental process. She stressed that gun violence is not a political issue, but a life or death issue. “Thank you for coming out tonight and participating,” Rowland said to the students. Council member Daniel Gordon said the problem may be that local voices are not being heard at the state level. “They’re not quite listening to us,” he said. “I would like to think that our input matters.” Gordon also criticized those who have targeted the local students for organizing a walkout and rally. “There are a lot of people who have not been kind to you in the last few weeks,” he said. Council member John Zanfardino praised the walkout effort. “Students saying ‘enough is enough’ is as good thing,” Zanfardino said. Council will discuss the students’ request, he said. On the issue of housing, Hubbell-Staeble said he and his girlfriend had very few criteria when looking for a rental – it had to be affordable; it couldn’t share a wall with a noisy neighbor like a bar; and it needed a yard so they could get a dog. They went through dozens of rentals in the First and Second wards. “We were extremely discouraged,” Hubbell-Staeble said. They encountered housing…


BG Charter updates could shake up City Council

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The city charter isn’t exactly riveting reading – but some changes being discussed might grab the attention of city residents. No decisions have been made, and citizens will have a chance to vote on any proposed changes to the charter. But here are a few of the revisions under discussion: Make all council terms four years. Currently, the ward candidates serve two years and the at-large serve four. Change council races to non-partisan. Currently, candidates must declare a party such as Democratic, Republican, Green, Libertarian or Independent. Make all council seats at-large. Currently, one candidate is elected from each of the four wards, and three are elected to serve at-large. Change the filing date to August, as is done by most area communities. Possibly change the ward reapportionments, based on population but keeping neighborhoods intact. The citizen committee working on the Bowling Green City Charter review discussed nearly 20 possible changes to the charter during a public meeting last week. The group members are keenly aware that they must decide not only if the changes belong in the charter – but also if city voters are likely to support the proposals. “There will be a lot of things for the voters to be dealing with” on the November ballot, said Shannon Orr, co-chair of the charter review commission with Jeff Crawford. The commission doesn’t want to overburden voters, but the charter requires that any changes be approved during a general election. Some of the changes would affect the structure of City Council. One would make all the council seats at-large, instead of some of them representing wards. All the seats would have four-year terms. Mark Hollenbaugh was strongly opposed to this change, explaining that all three of the at-large seats on council right now are filled by residents of the Fourth Ward. “I’m afraid if we make all the council seats at-large, it could end up no one on the East Side of town is on council,” Hollenbaugh said. Julie Broadwell agreed. “I think it’s critical for the East Side that Wards 1 and 2 have representatives,” she said. Les Barber said such a change would discriminate against college students and other East Side residents. Gary Hess agreed the ward representatives should remain. “Every resident of Bowling Green has a council person in the area he or she lives,” Hess said. Others suggested the city is not big enough to require ward representatives, and asked if the current system created an “us versus them” mentality. It was also noted by City Attorney Mike Marsh that it may take just 200 voters to elect a council member in the First Ward, while it could take 2,000 voters in the Fourth Ward. But those commission members from the East Side stood strong that they…


Food truck discussion continues to cook up controversy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The idea of inviting transient food truck businesses into downtown Bowling Green leaves a bad taste for a stalwart member of the downtown business community. Floyd Craft, owner of Ben Franklin, Ace Hardware and other downtown buildings, said existing downtown businesses pay taxes into a Special Improvement District that supports items such as street cleaning, flower planting and watering, snow cleanup, and weekend trash pickup. Craft pays the SID anywhere from $200 to $1,049 a year, depending on the property. My main concern is the downtown,” Craft told the three council members – Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino – charged with coming up with regulations for food trucks. “I’m very much against having outsiders in our downtown” – people who don’t pay property taxes and would only have to pay a relatively small permit fee, he said. “We can barely cover our expenses as it is,” Craft said of the downtown district. But Craft also noted that he was one of the people behind the start of the Black Swamp Arts Festival, which allows food trucks to set up in a city parking lot for a weekend. The fee charged for that is quite high, he added. The discussion at the previous meetings on food trucks has focused on allowing the vendors downtown for special events – not on an ongoing basis. Nadya Shihadeh, owner of Qdoba in the downtown, said parking is already a problem for downtown restaurants. However, if the city sets specific rules for the location and hours of operation, Shihadeh said she could get behind the idea. “I think food trucks are cool, totally,” she said. “I’m not against food trucks,” as long as they are regulated, Shihadeh said. Garrett Jones, owner of Reverend’s, said the city needs to limit the number and the size of the food trucks. “Some of these vendor trucks are massive,” and would take up too many valuable parking spots, he said. Rather than focusing on the downtown, Jones suggested that the city look at the mall parking lot on the north edge of the city for food trucks, and maybe for the weekly farmers market. “There’s not much going on there at all,” and the site could benefit from some revitalization, he said. Jones also said he has spoken with some downtown Perrysburg restaurant owners who have seen their businesses hurt by food trucks at the weekly farmers market there. Christopher Parratt, who said he worked in the restaurant business for 15 years, said the city needs to create a level playing field for brick and mortar restaurants and for food trucks. From a patron perspective, city resident Ann Beck thanked the committee working to come up with a plan to allow food trucks. “When I think of a progressive…


Brakes fail on effort to stop speed limit increase

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The effort to increase the speed limit on the far east and west ends of Poe Road hit a speed bump Monday evening, then kept on going. Bowling Green City Council voted unanimously to change the speed limit from 35 to 45 mph on West Poe Road from Lafayette Boulevard to the city limits, and on East Poe Road from North College Avenue to Mercer Road. But a resident of Lafayette Avenue, at West Poe Road, asked council to put the brakes on any speed increase. “I really feel that people are already going 45,” and the speed change will encourage them to drive even faster, Jack Schell said. Schell said there have been multiple vehicle accidents this year, including a car that ended up in the ditch by his home, and another that stopped in his neighbor’s backyard. He suggested that instead of bumping up the speed at Lafayette, that it be increased further west at Legacy Drive. “I think speed is going to be a problem,” Schell said. The change was suggested by the city traffic commission based on the results of a traffic study, according to Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett. The studies on both ends of Poe Road looked at ODOT guidelines for the 85th percentile speed of traffic – which is the basic factor in setting speed limits. This is the speed that 85 percent of the drivers were at based upon the study, and has been determined by ODOT to be the speed at which the “average” driver feels comfortable driving in that area. The speed studies also consider factors such as the number of driveways, number of crashes and traffic volume. The data collected showed that a speed limit increase was warranted in both sections of Poe Road. Police Chief Tony Hetrick said bumping up the speed limits makes sense. “It seems logical, it’s a reasonable speed to be traveling,” Hetrick said last month. After questions from City Council members, Fawcett said that while the city has some control, setting speed limits is addressed in the Ohio Revised Code. Council member Bill Herald asked about the city staying with the lower speed until Legacy Drive. City attorney Mike Marsh said that would make such a small part of West Poe Road at 45 mph, that it would be hard to enforce. Also traffic tickets could be challenged since the study encompassed the larger area. Council member Bruce Jeffers said his preference would be to limit all city streets to 25 mph – but it doesn’t work that way. “If I’d have my druthers, we’d all just go a lot slower,” Jeffers said. But the traffic commission based its decision on several factors including the speed study, he said. “They don’t take their work lightly,” Jeffers…


City trying to digest on all sides of food truck issue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A downtown restaurant owner suggested last week that Bowling Green focus more on keeping its existing restaurants busy than on bringing in new competition. During the fifth public meeting of the City Council committee working on food truck regulations, Garrett Jones, the owner of Reverend’s at 130 E. Wooster St., said some brick and mortar restaurants are struggling now. Rather than the city working so hard to come up with provisions for food trucks, the community should patronize the brick and mortar restaurants that are already here, he advised. “Instead of bringing more competition, you should support local businesses as it is,” Jones said. City Council member Sandy Rowland said food trucks have helped restaurants in other communities. “More people go out to eat when there’s more to choose from,” she said. But Jones said the downtown parking is already difficult enough without adding more congestion. “I’ve got customers who tell me they drove around 15 minutes looking for a spot,” he said. Bowling Green resident Kathy Pereira de Almeida asked if it might be helpful to allow the downtown brick and mortar restaurants to set up some tables outside on the sidewalk. But Jones said that would require restaurants to hire more staff and would be a strain on their kitchens. “I was just thinking it might satisfy some restaurants downtown,” Pereira de Almeida said. The council committee working on the food truck issue – made up of Bill Herald, John Zanfardino and Rowland – continued looking at questions that must be resolved. Should the food truck rules cover food vendors and farmers selling produce from trucks? Should the types and size of vehicles be restricted? Where can the vehicles sit? How close can they be to restaurants? Can they be on residential streets, along Main Street, along Wooster? What hours will they be allowed to operate? What type of noise restrictions are needed? How will litter be handled? Can they set up seating for eating areas? “We don’t want structure to get in the way of creativity. And we don’t want creativity to get in the way of structure,” Herald said. The goal is to perform a “balancing act” so the city allows food trucks and retains a vibrant downtown, he said. The food trucks must pass inspections by the Wood County Health Department, and income tax collection provisions are already in place. The mobile vendors can have their licenses with the city revoked if they violate noise or litter regulations, Herald said. Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter said she had met with the health department staff and learned that if food trucks are licensed in other counties, that permit is valid throughout Ohio. No additional fee can be charged in Wood County. The next food truck meeting will be Monday…


Public hungry for solution as food truck talks continue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials hope to recreate the winning recipe used by other communities where food trucks co-exist with brick and mortar restaurants. A group of three council members – Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino – has now held four meetings on the topic of food trucks. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, at 4 p.m., in the city council chambers. “I really would like us to start to put some meat on this,” Herald said about food truck regulations. During last week’s meeting, Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter explained the city’s current process for allowing food trucks on private property. At the committee’s request, Tretter also outlined public owned lands, such as city parks and parking lots – areas that could potentially be used for food trucks under new regulations being considered. Tretter also outlined the city’s special event permits, such as those used for food vendors at the annual Black Swamp Arts Festival. The 14-page permit is extensive, and sets requirements on insurance, litter control, security, locations, host organizations, parking and other issues. The Wood County Health Department inspects the actual food service operations. “This is a very extensive permit process,” Tretter said. “This is like gold,” Herald said. “It’s so comprehensive, there’s nothing left out.” Zanfardino questioned if the food vendors will have to avoid the downtown area, due to concerns from brick and mortar restaurant owners. He also suggested some pilot projects, “to see if it truly works for vendors who want to serve Bowling Green.” Both Zanfardino and Rowland pointed to food truck information from the National League of Cities. “There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel,” Rowland said, suggesting that Bowling Green also build on the success of communities like Perrysburg and Toledo that allow food trucks. “We know there were trials and tribulations at the beginning, but it works well now,” Rowland said. Rowland pushed back at the idea that food trucks should avoid the downtown area. “I’m bothered to think that nothing will work downtown,” she said. “I hear everywhere I go that people want food trucks,” and that those same customers will still continue patronizing downtown restaurants. Herald suggested the food truck committee build on the city’s existing permit process – with the rules covering four main categories for food trucks: On private property for planned events. On public property for planned events. On private property for unplanned events. On public property for unplanned events. “I think this is the place we actually start to construct something,” Herald said. But one of the city’s current criteria – requiring filing of a permit at least 21 days in advance – may pose a problem for food trucks. “We’re supposed to be light on our feet,” said Phil Barone, head of a regional food…