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 Council committee chews on food truck information

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green residents are hungry for food trucks in the city. And Phil Barone thinks he has a menu that might please their palates. Barone, who has owned Rosie’s Italian Grille in Toledo for 36 years, has a food truck that serves customers in Perrysburg and Toledo. “To be honest about it, I’ve been looking in Bowling Green,” said Barone, who is a BGSU alumnus. But Bowling Green’s food truck rules are too restrictive, he told city officials Saturday during a work session examining the city’s food truck ordinance. No food vendors are allowed on public property – unlike other communities where food trucks can set up in parking lots or in street parking spots. The city of Toledo first balked at changing its ordinance, Barone said. “I got a lot of flack. The restaurants didn’t like us there,” he said. But the food trucks have transformed St. Clair Street every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon during lunch time. Now instead of just a handful of people venturing out to eat on St. Clair, the food trucks draw about 1,500 during lunchtime. “People come out like ants. It’s fun to watch,” Barone 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. “Food trucks aren’t just serving corn dogs,” Barone said. The committee examining Bowling Green’s food truck rules – made up of council members Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino – has heard from citizens wanting food truck options, from local business owners concerned about the impact on their livelihoods, and from prospective food truck owners who would like to set up their mobile shops here. “I’m hearing from a lot of people,” Rowland said. “The citizens say ‘Yes, we want them.’” Some downtown businesses also would like to see food trucks. “We need interesting things to bring people downtown,” Rowland said they have expressed to her. But brick and mortar restaurants, and the Downtown BG organization have voiced concerns about the mobile vendors taking business from existing restaurants and creating litter problems. So the committee has been looking for common ground. “I firmly believe there is an intersection,” where all can co-exist, Herald said. Barone may have given them that common ground on Saturday. Food truck operations are serious businesses, that want to offer citizens dining options and want to be part of the community, he said. They are sometimes accused by other businesses of “cherry-picking,” but that is not true, Barone said. “We don’t want to just pull in and not be part of what you’re doing,” he said. “They are your future restaurateurs. It’s a smart way to see if your food is going to work.” Food trucks are not fleeting businesses, with Barone spending $135,000 on his food truck. “I knew there was a niche. If you have a good product, you can do it,” he said. The food truck owners must have insurance, food licenses, generators that don’t make too much noise, and Facebook followings. Those in Barone’s association set up during special events, like weekly farmers markets or car shows – and pay fees to do so….

BG Council action to help Betco create 20 new jobs

 By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council helped pave the way Monday evening for a local manufacturer to add approximately 20 jobs. Council agreed to vacate about 90 feet of right-of-way adjacent to Betco Corporation on Newton Road. The vacating of the right-of-way will allow the company to proceed with construction of an additional facility at its location. Betco is planning a 20,000 square foot warehouse for the relocation of operations from another state – which will create an estimated 20 new jobs. Also at Monday’s meeting, Mayor Dick Edwards declared Nov. 25 as “Small Business Saturday” in Bowling Green. “Small businesses employ over 48 percent of the working population of the U.S.,” he said. Mary Hinkelman, managing director of Downtown Bowling Green, asked those present to remember the “Holly Days” and “Downtown Dollars” promotions while they do their holiday shopping. “We are working hard to promote our downtown,” Hinkelman said. “It’s so important for our downtown merchants.” According to Hinkelman, when people spend their shopping dollars locally, 68 cents of every $1 stays in the local economy. She also noted that local businesses are frequently giving back to the community. “They make a huge investment in our downtown and it vibrates out to our whole community,” she said. The mayor also recognized Wendy Chambers, executive director of the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau, for her efforts in the city being named one of Ohio’s Best Hometowns of the Year. This is the second time in 10 years for Ohio Magazine to name Bowling Green to the position. The November issue of the magazine features coverage on Bowling Green, “showcasing all our wonderful city has to offer,” Chambers said. The magazine mentions the historic downtown, vibrant campus, beautiful parks and community spirit. The November edition of Ohio Magazine is available at Ben Franklin and at the Four Corners office in downtown. The city will be recognized in another edition in January, plus the “Summer Fun” edition. A representative of Ohio Magazine will be at the city’s Holiday Parade to present an award to the community. “Way to go Bowling Green,” Chambers said. In other business at Monday’s meeting: Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter reported that city offices will be closed on Friday for Veterans Day. Tretter also mentioned the annual tree lighting will be held Nov. 17 at 6:45 p.m., in front of Wood County District Public Library. Planning Director Heather Sayler reported that Camiros, the firm working on the city’s Community Action Plan, was pleased with citizen feedback on the draft plan. A formal presentation of the plan is expected in January. Public Works Director Brian Craft said efforts are being made to complete roadwork on North Grove, West Evers and South Church before winter weather. Craft also reported the leaf collection started on Monday and will continue for weeks. He asked that residents keep the leaves away from curbs and gutters.