Wood County Commissioners

County approves $5 hike in license plate fee

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Wood County Commissioners unanimously Thursday (May 17) voted to increase the cost of getting a license plate by $5. This will bring the county portion of the fee to$20 or $25 depending on the community. The state fee is $34.50. County Engineer John Musteric said the Permissive License Fee increase will generate an additional $632,660. That money will all go to road and bridge projects, he said, not for personnel or operating expenses. The county, he said, is facing a shortfall of about $3.7 million meet the needs of county road and bridges. “This will only be a drop in the bucket, but every little bit helps,” Musteric said. After a study of road conditions, the engineer’s office determined 74 percent of the county roads are in marginal or worse conditions. To address all that work, would take about $6 million a year. The office now spends $2.3 million. Also, 52 of the county’s 441 bridges, which have an average age of 41 years, are in poor or worse conditions. To catch up, the county would need to replace nine bridges annually, at about $400,000 each. That’s double what it can do. This comes at a time when the cost of materials is increasing. Musteric said his office has tried to make cost savings where it could, including not replacing employees who leave and doing in-house work that had been outsourced. One county resident Wade Kemp commented on the license fee increase. He said he supported it but wondered why he had to pay the same amount for his motorcycles as for his truck or his neighbor had to pay for a recreational vehicle. That is set by the state, assistant county prosecutor Linda Holmes said. Commissioner Craig LaHote noted that if the state allowed the county to levy an additional 3.2-cent-a-gallon gas tax, it would provide the revenue needed to fully fund the road and bridge repairs. Given the fluctuating price of…


$5 license tax goes unchallenged at public hearing

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Talk of raising taxes normally raises the dander of local taxpayers. But when the Wood County Commissioners held a public hearing Thursday morning on a proposed $5 license tax, no one showed up to complain. The commissioners took that as a sign that local residents realize the poor condition of county roads and bridges. The public will have one more chance to voice opinions during the second public hearing on the tax set for May 17, at 10 a.m., in the county commissioners’ hearing room. The new tax was requested by Wood County Engineer John Musteric, who is tired of just spinning his wheels on endless road and bridge repairs. The $5 permissive vehicle license tax will be used only for road and bridge expenses, Musteric said. “Every little bit helps,” he said on Thursday. According to local county officials, state and federal government have no appetite for raising gas taxes themselves. And the revenue brought in by gas taxes isn’t growing to meet expenses, since more fuel-efficient cars mean less gas is needed to traverse the state. But the state has given local governments the option of tacking on the new tax. “They recognized the stagnant funding of local transportation systems and that counties were struggling to keep up with the need for bridge replacements and road repair,” Musteric said. The proposed $5 increase is projected to bring in an additional $632,660 annually for road and bridge repairs. Musteric pledged to the commissioners that the additional funds would be used only on capital expenses, not on personnel or operating costs. Currently the state registration fee is $34.50, and the local permissive fees are between $15 and $20, depending on the community. The federal gas tax of 18.4 cents has not been increased since 1993, and the state gas tax of 28 cents has not been increased since 2005. “Our revenues have been stagnant,” Musteric said. Meanwhile, the cost of building and…


Rumor about farm equipment fees spreads like weeds

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the weather warms and farmers start itching to get out in their fields, the Wood County Commissioners want to make one point perfectly clear – there will be no blanket fee for farm equipment on county roads. During discussions about an overweight truck program for the county, an initial annual blanket fee of $100 per vehicles was considered. However, the commissioners quickly nixed those plans, and removed any blanket fee for farm equipment from the overweight permit plan. While the word about the initial farm fee proposal spread like weeds in a soybean field, the word about the fee removal seems to have missed some people, Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said Thursday. In fact, the rumors worsened, with some farmers now believing they will have to pay $100 each time their vehicles travel county roads. The commissioners have heard that many farmers plan to show up to protest the non-existent fees at the next town meeting held by the commissioners on Monday at 5:45 p.m., in the Center Township Building. The goal of the Overweight Vehicle Permit program is to protect county roads and bridges from damage.  Overweight vehicles that travel state routes are required to obtain a permit from the Ohio Department of Transportation.  These same overweight vehicles travel state routes legally, then exit onto county and township roads with no permits or regard for the capacity of the roads or bridges. The only permit fee that could affect farmers is for vehicles that exceed 87,000 pounds – most likely semi-trucks hauling grain. “This is to protect our assets,” Wood County Engineer John Musteric said of the overweight permit program recently during a meeting with the county commissioners. “We’re spending a lot of money to improve these roads and bridges.” While many of the proposed county fees mirror amounts charged by the Ohio Department of Transportation for overweight traffic, the initial farm fees do not. The commissioners agreed that…


Overweight trucks weigh heavy on minds of county officials

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County roads took a beating from the Rover pipeline construction across the southern part of the county. So Wood County Engineer John Musteric wants to get an overweight truck program in place before more pipeline construction traffic rumbles over county roads and bridges. But while the program will keep an eye on pipeline transports, it was decided that it won’t target farm traffic. The Wood County Commissioners on Tuesday reviewed the proposed fees for an overweight truck program – with the ultimate goal of saving county roads and bridges from unnecessary wear and tear. “This is to protect our assets,” Musteric said. “We’re spending a lot of money to improve these roads and bridges.” At the same time, the engineer’s office is aware of many overweight loads using county roads and bridges. “We hope to God a catastrophe doesn’t happen,” with older bridges being weakened with every heavy load, Musteric said. The county has already posted signs notifying Nexus pipeline construction traffic of the route they are to take north of Bowling Green. The permit program will require the pipeline company to purchase permits for all of its trucks, and will allow the county to issue fines if the trucks stray from the assigned route that can better handle the heavy loads, Musteric said. “They better stay on those routes. They’ve been warned,” Musteric said. “If you get off those routes, you will pay.” The county learned a hard lesson from the Rover pipeline construction in the southern part of the county, Musteric said at a previous meeting. “Rover tore the heck out of the roads,” he said. Though the proposed overweight truck program has been unpopular with some, there are companies ready to pay for their permits, said Shane Johnson, of the county engineer’s office. For Nexus pipeline, the program will require more than 85 permits at a proposed $150 each. “They haven’t batted an eye,” Johnson said. But local…


County helps fund humane society cruelty investigator

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Last year the Wood County Humane Society responded to 221 complaints of abused or neglected animals. With the help of $32,500 from the Wood County Commissioners, the agency can continue coming to the rescue of mistreated animals. The commissioners presented the funds Tuesday to representatives of the humane society. The check was $2,500 more than the usual annual amount given. The money is used each year to pay for the humane agent’s salary, plus help with costs for the vehicle and equipment used to respond to complaints. Heath Diehl, president of the volunteer board, and Erin Moore, shelter manager, reported to the commissioners on changes at the shelter. Diehl said the agency is constantly focused on working more efficiently and being good stewards of donated monies. Moore said the agency had an operational audit conducted recently by an outside company. She also pointed out increased efforts to send staff to educational seminars. The humane society has a new humane agent, David Petersen, who responds to cruelty complaints. “He’s been pretty busy on education,” Moore said. Petersen, who has experience as Sandusky County’s humane agent, gets an estimated 16 calls a month about suspected animal abuse or neglect. In some of those cases, the owners are educated on proper care and the animals are left with them. For that reason, the humane agent also conducted 882 re-checks last year, according to the Wood County Humane Society’s annual report for 2017. In other cases, the owners surrender the animals, or the case is taken to court. “During the really hot times of the year and the really cold times, we get more” cases reported, Moore said. According to the annual report, the humane society set a record last year of the number of animals taken in, and the number of lives saved. A total of 1,055 animals were taken into the shelter – an increase of 20 percent from the year before – and…


County steers toward $5 license fee for roads, bridges

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Engineer John Musteric is tired of just spinning his wheels on endless road and bridge repairs. So on Thursday, he asked the Wood County Commissioners to consider tacking on another $5 permissive license plate fee to raise money for road and bridge maintenance. The commissioners seemed open to the proposal. “He’s done his homework,” Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said. “Our roads and bridges do need some attention.” The commissioners will be required to hold two public hearings before they make a decision on the permissive license fee. But Commissioner Craig LaHote said he believes most local residents already know the county’s infrastructure needs help. “People realize the roads are in bad shape,” he said. Musteric and the commissioners looked at a map of county roads – with several of the routes colored red or orange, indicating serious or poor road conditions. “We’re never catching up,” Musteric told the commissioners. “We do all these studies of where we should put our money. You try to spend your money where the most people will benefit from it.” The county engineer feels his office is in a Catch-22 situation. What’s the use of spending money to fix bridges, he said, “if you’ve got crappy roads going to them?” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said state and federal government have “no appetite” for raising gas taxes themselves. And the revenue brought in by gas taxes isn’t growing to meet expenses, since more fuel-efficient cars mean less gas is needed to traverse the state. “It makes the revenue generated remain flat,” Kalmar said. The proposed $5 increase is projected to bring in an additional $632,660 annually for road and bridge repairs. Musteric pledged to the commissioners that the additional funds would be used only on capital expenses, not on personnel or operating costs. Currently the state registration fee is $34.50, and the local permissive fees are between $15 and $20, depending on the community. The Ohio…


Commissioners to review state of the county, March 13

(From BG Chamber of Commerce) Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, along with Wood County Commissioners Dr. Ted Bowlus, Dr. Doris Herringshaw, and Craig LaHote, present the 2018 State of the County Address. Live broadcast with DJ Clint Corpe of The Morning Show on 88.1 WBGU-FM. This event will take place on Tuesday, March 13 in the Alvin L. Perkins Atrium at the Wood County Courthouse. Doors will open at 7:30am, with the program beginning at 8 a.m. Light refreshments will be provided. This event is sponsored by the Northwestern Water & Sewer District, Wood County Economic Development Commission, McDonald’s, Panera Bread, The Morning Show 88.1, Wood County Commissioners and the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce. Attendees are asked to park in the lot east of the Courthouse, off Summit Street. All spaces (except those with a meter) are free to people on county business. This event is free and open to the public and RSVP’s are appreciated. Please RSVP by Monday, March 12th by calling (419) 353-7945 or email MarissaMuniz@bgchamber.net.


Hull Prairie ditch cleaning supported – but cost details sought

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Landowners along Hull Prairie Road are in favor of the county cleaning out the ditch that runs along the road. But they have one big concern – how much will it cost them. The Wood County Commissioners held a public hearing Tuesday morning on the Hull Prairie ditch project, which covers 11.6 miles in Bowling Green, Plain Township, Middleton Township and Perrysburg Township. The project extends from south of Newton Road to north of Roachton Road. For years, clogged ditches along Hull Prairie Road only affected neighboring farmland. But now, with so many homes and housing subdivisions growing along the road, ditch drainage is necessary to keep water from creeping into basements. The estimated cost for the project is $422,000, according to Wood County Engineer John Musteric. The watershed area covers 6,749 acres, with 1,378 parcels. A preliminary cost per acre would be $62.53. However, no surveys have yet been conducted, Musteric said. Several neighbors of the ditch project attended Tuesday’s hearing to voice their support for the ditch cleaning. Carl Barnard said several of his neighbors get water in their basements with heavy rainfalls. One neighbor recently had $6,000 in damage due to flooding. “This is very critical to us,” Barnard said. Musteric agreed that the project should proceed. “Prolonging implementation now will do nothing but exacerbate drainage issues later,” he said. Better drainage will not only result in better farm yields, but also help the residential areas, Musteric said. Unless the ditch is placed under the county maintenance program, the responsibility to keep it clean is on the townships and landowners. The benefits of the project are greater than the costs, Musteric said. But the landowners would really like some more specifics on exactly what those costs might be for them individually. “This is all well and good. But the bottom line is the cost,” Joe McIntyre, of Cogan Lane, said. Until the survey is done, those costs are unknown,…


BG and county may team up for ‘community solar’ field

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green and Wood County may be teaming up on bright idea for the area. The city has approached the Wood County commissioners about using county land for another solar field. There are currently 70 open acres on the north side of East Gypsy Lane Road, between Interstate 75 and Wood Lane. Fifty acres are owned by the county and 20 by the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities. If the solar field becomes a reality, it would likely be a “community solar” project – which means Bowling Green residents and businesses could sign up to be part of the project and get their electricity from the solar field, said Brian O’Connell, director of public utilities for the city. That would make this different from the 165-acre solar field recently constructed on city land at Carter and Newton roads northeast of Bowling Green. 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. By building a “community solar” project, all of the energy created at the proposed site could be used to power Bowling Green, O’Connell said. The city’s proposal was presented to the Wood County commissioners last week. It would require the county to commit the acreage to the project for 30 years. The property is currently rented out as farmland. The commissioners were interested in the idea, said Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar. “They said they were willing to consider it. We don’t see any county building boom” on the East Gypsy Lane property, Kalmar said. The county may be interested in using some of the solar power for its facilities on East Gypsy Lane. “We would certainly be willing to talk to them about it,” Kalmar said. The lease proposal from the city has been sent to the county prosecutor’s office for review. O’Connell stressed that the proposal is still in the discussion stage,…


County gives BG $300,000 for roundabouts at I-75

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Commissioners have kicked in $300,000 for roundabouts being planned at the Interstate 75 interchange in Bowling Green. The commissioners presented the check Thursday morning to Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards. “I know these decisions aren’t easy to come by, with all the competing demands” for funding, Edwards said to the commissioners. But Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said the impact of the interchange improvements will reach beyond Bowling Green. “It’s important for all of us,” she said. The roundabouts planned for the interchange on East Wooster Street are intended to make traffic move more smoothly and reduce accidents. Work on the necessary infrastructure for the project will begin in 2018, according to Bowling Green Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter. The actual road paving work is planned for 2019, she said. “It’s got a lot of moving parts,” Tretter said of the project. Edwards thanked the commissioners for their “spirit of collaboration.” “We appreciate you recognizing the import of this,” he said, referring to Bowling Green as the capital of Wood County. “We do have this very important corridor coming in off 75. This will make a huge difference.” The improvements are even more needed with the expansion of the Wood Bridge industrial park off Dunbridge Road, the mayor said. “We do work together really well in Wood County,” Herringshaw said. “We actually communicate and talk about our issues, and solve our issues.” Bowling Green Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said the local share is due to the Ohio Department of Transportation in the spring. The current projected total local share for the road work and utility work is $5,150,000; $3,450,000 for the road work and $1,700,000 for the utility work. The overall cost for the project is $7,700,000. ODOT is contributing $2,250,000 and the county has contributed $300,000. A bond will be sold to finance this project and will be paid back over a 20-year period.  The timing of the county’s contribution…


Home Depot – big building, big workforce handle big chunk of dot-com sales

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Just about every detail of the Home Depot Direct Fulfillment Center in northeastern Wood County is massive. Walking around the perimeter of the store would put 1.3 miles on your pedometer. The site is staffed by 572 hourly employees and 68 salaried staff – all who wear the recognizable orange Home Depot aprons. The facility also uses about 45 contracted employees for services such as security and tech maintenance. Towering racks allow products to be shelved 33 feet high. Employees use 170 hydrogen fueled forklifts to move the items after customers order them online. On the average day, the facility in Troy Township ships out 28,000 to 30,000 units. That could be anything from a drill bit to patio furniture. The number of shipped units could jump as high as 70,000 on Black Friday. On this past Friday, the Wood County Economic Development Commission and Wood County Commissioners visited the vast Home Depot facility for the annual “state of business” tour. They learned that the distribution center grew a bit this year – adding 32,000 locations for different products to the 300,000 locations already existing in the facility. The company made a $4 million investment this year in fire suppression, electrical and expanded racking. And the local site saw its annual sales increase by 9 percent. The Home Depot facility, which sits in the middle of farm fields in Troy Township, handles 40 to 45 percent of the company’s dot-com business. Currently about 6.4 percent of Home Depot sales are online. Despite its mammoth size of 1.6 million square feet, the direct fulfillment center is quite nimble. Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, reported to the Home Depot officials that he recently ordered ceiling fans on a Tuesday, and they were delivered to his home on a Wednesday. Lance Hunt, general manager of the Troy site, said the facility works smart to speed up the deliveries. Items…


County hears pitch for business incubator to hatch inventors’ ideas

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A business incubator may be set up in Wood County to help local inventors hatch their ideas. The Wood County Commissioners heard a proposal Tuesday morning from Rene Polin, president and founder of Balance, a company that helps entrepreneurs turn their ideas into reality. “You can’t just be a dreamer. You have to be a dreamer with a business plan,” Polin said. And that’s where Balance would come in to the picture. “We want to bring our panache in the industry from Cleveland to Wood County,” Polin said. To do that, Polin needs some type of very basic workspace – something with office space, power and connectivity. “I know that sounds primitive,” but that’s all that’s needed, he said. The firm’s Cleveland space is an old factory building. The firm works with entrepreneurs, helping them assess their plans, fill out necessary paperwork, and determine if the project is worth their time and investment. After all, most inventors aren’t good business people, explained Doug Miller, of the Wood County Economic Development Commission which is working to bring Balance here. “They don’t have any idea how to run a business,” Polin agreed. “We bring the management acumen.” The business incubator can help entrepreneurs determine if there is a market for their product, Miller said. “People get focused on their invention,” but if the public won’t buy it, the idea isn’t going anywhere, he said. Sometimes, the dreams need to be tweaked. “We ask the hard questions,” Polin said. “We don’t kill the dream, but we change their idea of what their dream can be.” By using consumer research and focus groups, the incubator can help gauge the success of a product. The Balance firm has seen its own success – just by helping others achieve their dreams, Polin said. One such story is the Comfort Adjust Pillow that is currently being sold on the QVC shopping network. Several other ideas are being worked on…


Glass recycling expected to start again Thursday at noon

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Load up the glass that’s been collecting in the garage for the last two months. If all goes as planned, the Bowling Green Recycling Center will start accepting it at noon on Thursday. The Wood County Commissioners and the recycling center have come up with a deal. The agreement works for the county – which is paying for it. The agreement works for the recycling center – which will do the work and arrange transportation. And it works for local residents – who would rather see their glass recycled than landfilled. According to Bill DenBesten, president of the Bowling Green Recycling Center, glass will be accepted at the 24-hour drop-off site in Bowling Green, the 24-hour drop-off in Bradner, the weekend drop-off in North Baltimore, and the satellite trailers. Two months ago, the Bowling Green Recycling Center stopped accepting glass. The decision applied to all the center’s locations, including the 24-hour drop-off site in Bowling Green, and the satellite trailers and satellite facilities scattered throughout Wood County. Glass for recycling is particularly difficult to haul since it is very important that a load not be contaminated. Glass collected in Bowling Green and throughout the county usually has to be transported every three to four weeks, when 22 to 23 tons are collected. Glass recycling has been a costly operation for some time. However, paying for glass to be landfilled isn’t cheap either – with dumping costs at about $40 a ton. The recycling center had been sending glass from Wood County to a recycling site near Dayton. It was costing $30 a ton to ship the glass, for which it was paid $25 a ton. Late last year, the shipping costs were raised to $40 a ton, and payments were cut to $10 a ton. Several solutions to the glass dilemma were discussed, but none worked until now. Officials talked with Bowling Green State University and Owens-Illinois in Perrysburg. They discussed using the…


Wood County selects solution for glass recycling

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The glass recycling operation may resume soon for Bowling Green and all of Wood County. The behind the scene operations may be a little different, but residents will once again be able to drop off their glass recyclables as they have in the past. “The public should see no difference from before,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said Thursday morning. The new solution calls for the glass to be shipped to a new location in Dunkirk, Indiana. “The commissioners are optimistic this will work,” Kalmar said. “The most important part is it doesn’t go in our landfill,” he added. The county commissioners selected a proposal from Strategic Materials, with costs of $20 a ton for shipping paid to Strategic Materials, and $10 a ton for handling paid to the Bowling Green Recycling Center. The county will pay the entire $30/ton fee. Strategic Materials is interested in a three- to five-year agreement. ”This arrangement is uncomplicated, restores glass recycling county citizens, cost effective, and keeps glass out of the landfill,” Kalmar said. Bill DenBesten, of the Bowling Green Recycling Center, said the center board will review the decision made by the commissioners. “Since this new proposal includes a change of partners, increased due diligence is required before we formally respond. We have already begun informal discussions and are planning a more comprehensive meeting, likely on Monday evening,” DenBesten responded. “I’ll let you know just as soon as the board has made its decision.” If the agreement proceeds, people dropping off glass will once again be able to use the bins at the recycling center. The option previously discussed of using the city’s old salt shed as storage for glass was discarded since it would have meant moving the glass multiple times. “The city was generous to offer,” but the idea would not have been efficient, Kalmar said. “This really should get us back to the arrangement we had before,” he said. Earlier this…


Wood County Commissioners make connections in D.C.

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Commissioners took their local concerns to a higher power earlier this week. The three went to Washington, D.C., to meet with federal officials about issues that matter back here in Ohio. As part of an invitation to the National Association of Counties, 82 county commissioners from across Ohio spent the first part of this week making connections in the nation’s capital. “The purpose was for us to learn more about the federal departments and what they can do for us, and open the lines of communication,” said Doris Herringshaw, president of the Wood County Commissioners. Though governors and mayors are frequently on the guest list in Washington, D.C., this was reportedly the first time the focus was on county commissioners. This was an effort to reach more local grassroots government, Commissioner Craig LaHote said. The expenses for all three commissioners – Herringshaw, LaHote and Ted Bowlus – will be picked up by county taxpayers. Flights, hotel lodging and food added up to a total of about $1,500 – with the education and connections made by the commissioners well worth the expenses, they agreed when they talked Thursday after their three days in D.C. While there, the commissioners met with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Vice President Mike Pence, toured the White House and heard from Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump. “She’s an excellent speaker,” Herringshaw said of Conway. The commissioners met with representatives of 10 to 15 federal agencies, and were scheduled to meet with others, such as HUD Secretary Ben Carson, but several officials were in Texas responding to Hurricane Harvey. While meeting with Perdue, many of the Ohio commissioners took the opportunity to talk about Lake Erie’s harmful algal bloom issue. Perdue promised to help the commissioners get answers to their questions about Lake Erie. “It may not be the answers we want to hear,” Herringshaw said. “But he said he would cut through…