Wood County

Utopia pipeline uses existing line to cross Wood County

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   One of the three pipelines crossing through Wood County found a different route – allowing it to transport its product without digging a single new trench through local fields. Rather than plowing its own route through the county, the Utopia pipeline built by Kinder-Morgan ended up using an under-utilized existing pipeline to pump ethane from the east side of Ohio to Sarnia, Ontario. “You’re not going to see that,” Allen Fore, Kinder-Morgan public affairs vice president, said recently as he sat in Kermit’s Restaurant and looked outside at the torn up pavement for the Columbia Gas project in downtown Bowling Green. The $540 million Utopia pipeline, which is capturing the gas being flared away from fracking in southeastern Ohio, has been in operation since January. But before Kinder-Morgan officials found the existing line to use, its route for the Utopia pipeline ran into court battles from Wood County landowners. Last year, local landowners who dug in their heels against Utopia’s eminent domain efforts won the battle to keep the pipeline from crossing their properties. Maurice Thompson, of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law which represented 26 Wood County landowners, said the use of existing pipelines is the best solution. “That’s what we’ve argued all along,” Thompson said. “Use existing pipelines instead of taking more land.” The proposed Utopia line would have run 21 miles through Wood County – south of Pemberville, then north of Bowling Green, then crossing the Maumee River south of Waterville. It would have affected 67 landowners on 117 tracts of land. “Sometimes these things start as adversarial and end in a good way,” Fore said. Meanwhile, two other new pipelines have been constructed through Wood County in the past year. The Rover pipeline cuts through the southern portion of the county, and the Nexus pipeline runs north of Bowling Green. The repurposing of a pipeline worked well for Kinder-Morgan and local landowners. The project started with 147 miles of pipeline being constructed from Harrison County to Seneca County. There the new line connected with the repurposed pipeline for 77 miles through Sandusky, Wood and Lucas counties. “It can work,” Fore said. “This was a real win-win for everyone.” There are more than 2 million miles of pipelines already buried across the U.S., according to Fore. “If you can utilize existing infrastructure, there’s a benefit. There’s more certainty,” he said. By using 77 miles of an existing pipeline, Kinder-Morgan avoided construction headaches, and landowners didn’t have acreage dug up. The environment also benefited, Fore said. The existing pipeline from the Clyde area through Wood County, eliminated the need to cross 103 streams, 16 wetlands, and 42 archaeological and cultural sites. “It lessened the environmental impact,” he said. Repurposing old pipeline also means no repaving of roads, and no restoring of land for owners after construction.   The older pipeline was built in the 1970s, and was in good condition, Fore said. “Pipelines don’t have an expiration limit,” he said, adding that the line was thoroughly tested before Kinder-Morgan bought it. “We did our due diligence before purchasing it to make sure it’s good.” According to Fore, the use of an existing under-utilized pipeline did not save Kinder-Morgan a great deal of money. An estimated 25 percent of the landowners…


BG asks county to help welcome immigrants to fill jobs

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   “Help wanted” signs are going unanswered in Wood County. So local officials are looking at attracting immigrants to the region to fill those openings. Bowling Green initially wanted to put out a welcome mat to immigrants because it was the right thing to do morally. Then as city officials researched the idea, they discovered it was also the right thing to do economically. As evidenced by the number of “now hiring” signs posted in the region, Bowling Green and Wood County economic development officials have been hearing for months that the region is running low on workers. In May, Wood County economic development officials were celebrating a banner year in business expansions – creating nearly 1,000 new jobs. But the issue waiting in the wings was the low unemployment in the region, wavering between 3 and 4 percent. While that low rate is great news to employees, it is worrisome to economic development officials. “It’s a good thing. But there is going to be a time when new businesses slow down looking at Northwest Ohio,” Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, said earlier this year to the county commissioners. On Tuesday, the county commissioners heard the same warning – this time from Bowling Green officials. “We hear the same message time and time again,” Mayor Dick Edwards said. “We need good workers.” City Council passed a resolution in 2017 welcoming immigrants and “condemning any discrimination, harassment or unjustified deportation of immigrant residents.” As the initiative was researched, it became obvious that the welcome mat could have far-reaching economic benefits. Ohio Means Jobs estimates there are 9,200 job openings within a 20-mile radius of Bowling Green. “We are looking for skilled and other kinds of workers to come to Wood County and Bowling Green,” Edwards said. While Ohio has always been looked upon favorably by companies because of the region’s work ethic – that means nothing if there aren’t people to fill jobs. Wood County Commissioner Craig LaHote said site selection teams will notice if the available workforce is too low. “We might get ruled out before they look at anything else,” he said. Communities around the region – like Toledo and Sandusky – have already adopted “welcoming” initiatives. And while the success of the region and Wood County to bring jobs here is great, it has created a critical need to attract more workers to the area, said Sue Clark, director of Bowling Green’s economic development commission. “That only makes the workforce demand more crucial,” Clark said. Clark explained the local effort is being designed to welcome immigrants and refugees. She listed possible refugees escaping the war in Syria or the unrest in Central America. “We’re not talking about bringing in illegal immigrants,” she said. The initiative would also extend the welcome mat to international students who come to Bowling Green State University. “We do not make it particularly easy for them to find a job and stay on,” Clark said. Beatriz Maya, from LaConexion and a member of the Welcome BG Task Force, said the initiative makes economic sense. “This is based upon hard demographic data,” Maya said. “There is a shortage of more workers, for a younger workforce.” Companies that can’t find workers won’t come…


‘Food Truck Fridays’ offers change of menu to county workers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   “Food Truck Fridays” will soon be giving some Wood County employees a reason to leave their packed lunches at home. Who wants the standard fare of peanut butter and jelly, when they can dine on barbecue, chili and cornbread, or hot dogs with all types of toppings? When Bowling Green City Council passed an ordinance earlier this year allowing food trucks in the city, it got some county employees thinking. Staff at Wood County Job and Family Services, on East Gypsy Lane Road, approached Maricarol Torsok-Hrabovsky, special projects manager at their office, about arranging for food trucks to visit during lunch time. “We’re pretty much out where there’s not a lot of food actually,” Torsok-Hrabovsky said. She checked with the county commissioners, who had no objections. She called other county offices in the East Gypsy Lane complex – like Wood Lane, the Sheriff’s Office, and Wood County Health Department – and found out that their employees were also hungry for a change of pace. “We got interest from several of them. So we decided to try it out,” Torsok-Hrabovsky said. Then she talked with Joe Fawcett, assistant municipal administrator for Bowling Green, about local vendors. Fawcett directed her to the Wood County Health Department. Torsok-Hrabovsky quickly found out what food truck vendors are in demand. “Food trucks book really, really fast,” she said. With all the fairs and festivals, “they have their summers already planned.” But she was able to reserve a few vendors – creating “Food Truck Fridays” on July 27 and Aug. 17, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The trucks will set up in the lot behind the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services. The Food Truck Friday on July 27 will feature Country Lane BBQ and The Little Stand on the Prairie. Country Lane BBQ specializes in pulled pork “sundaes.” The Little Stand on the Prairie’s menu includes grilled bologna, mashed potato bowls, chili and cornbread, plus strawberries with homemade biscuits and whipped cream. “That was the big sell,” Torsok-Hrabovsky said. The Food Truck Friday on Aug. 17 will feature Country Lane BBQ, The Little Stand on the Prairie, and Weenie Dawgs. Weenie Dawgs sells hot dogs with all types of toppings, plus walking tacos. Many of the county employees at the East Gypsy Lane complex grab a bag of fast food and bring it back to work for lunch. Torsok-Hrabovsky is hoping they will want to change up their menu. “Maybe they will walk on over,” she said. Once the summer is over, Torsok-Hrabovsky would like to continue the Food Truck Fridays once a month. “Maybe we could get a few more vendors,” she said.


Parker a natural as county environmental coordinator

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Beth Parker’s appreciation for the environment comes naturally. She grew up near Pittsburgh, spending time outside, with a dad who worked as a canoeing instructor for the Red Cross. Her love of nature has led her to the position of environmental program coordinator for Wood County. “I guess it boils down to respect,” Parker said. “The earth is our home. We should respect it. We’re not going to get another one, so we need to treat it well.” Parker earned an environmental science degree from Bowling Green State University, with a specialization in education and interpretation. She went on to work at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in Ohio, the Long Lake Conservation Center in Minnesota, and most recently at the Wood County Park District as a naturalist. “When you have a love for nature, you want to protect it and make sure it’s well cared for,” Parker said. Parker took over the environmental program coordinator position just as the county opened permanent recycling sites at several satellite locations throughout Wood County. “That started the day before I started,” she said. “I’ve been out checking those to make sure things are going well.” The recycling sites are being used by many county residents, she said. But Parker has identified a need for education on some topics at the satellite locations. Some people are continuing to put their recyclables in plastic grocery bags, which cause problems. “They can tangle up the machines,” Parker said. And cardboard boxes should be flattened before being put in the drop-offs, she added. “But people are definitely using them, which is great,” Parker said. In addition to the county’s recycling efforts, Parker will also be giving tours of the wind farm and county landfill. She will be working on avenues for education, programs, and partnerships with community organizations. “I’m looking forward to being able to continue the educational opportunities they’ve been providing in the past,” she said. “I look forward to building relationships with other community groups, businesses, and governmental entities.” Parker is also interested in working on composting in the county. “It’s all about working toward a sustainable future,” she said.


ODOT paves way for road, bridge work in Wood County

By JAN LARSON McLAUGLIN BG Independent News   Summertime – the season of vacations, longer days, and often long delays or detours due to road construction. “Orange barrels. Everybody’s favorite,” said Phil Senn, area engineer for the Ohio Department of Transportation District 2, as he told the Wood County commissioners Tuesday about projects planned in the county. “We’ve got a lot going on,” Senn said. Following is a list of ODOT bridge projects in Wood County this year: Waterville bridge replacement at Ohio 64 and Ohio 65, costing $14 million, with a completion date of September 2020. A 45-day closure of the bridge began on June 18 for construction of a roundabout on the Wood County side. Wooster Street over Interstate 75, in Bowling Green, with plans to convert the intersections to roundabouts, costing $9.6 million. The project, which includes redecking the bridge over I-75, and sanitary sewer and waterline work, will be completed November 2019. Ohio 281 over I-75, south of Bowling Green, involving a bridge deck replacement, costing $1.1 million. The bridge is open now, and all work should be completed next month. Ohio 579 bridge replacements over Dry Creek and Cedar Creek, costing $1.6 million, to be completed this October. CSX railroad bridge by the Ohio Turnpike will be demolished, costing $2.2 million, to be completed June 2019. Road resurfacing projects in Wood County this year include: U.S. 20 paving from East Boundary Street to Lime City Road, costing $3.4 million, to be completed in August; a new traffic signal at Thompson Road; sidewalk extension from Holiday Inn to Heartland driveway. The Route 20 paving work is complete except for land striping. Ohio 25 paving from Jefferson Street to south of Roachton Road, costing $3.4 million. The paving is complete, but striping must be finished. Ohio 199 paving from Ohio 105 to Niederhouse Road, costing $664,000, to be complete in October. Route 579 paving from Ohio 51 to Ottawa County line, costing $1.6 million, to be done in October. ODOT is planning the following intersection construction work in Wood County: Left turn lane to be added on eastbound Route 20 to Route 163, costing $850,000, to be completed in November. Roundabout on Route 199 at Carronade Drive, costing $1 million, was completed in March. Roundabouts on Buck Road at Lime City Road, and Buck Road at Penta Center Drive, costing $3.3 million, to be completed in October 2019. Wood County Commissioner Craig LaHote said the roundabouts in the northern part of the county seem to be working well. “I think people are gradually getting used to the roundabouts,” he said. Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said the roundabout at the Waterville bridge should help reduce traffic jams during busy times of the day. And Wood County Engineer John Musteric said the diverging diamond design on Route 25 at Interstate 475 has improved the traffic flow. “I think that has helped tremendously,” Musteric said. ODOT is planning crack sealing and pavement patching this year on: Route 6 Route 18 Route 25 Route 281 Route 582 Daily operations by ODOT include mowing, vegetation maintenance, ditch work, shoulder reconditioning, underdrain identification, and wildlife relocation – a nicer name for dead deer removal. Kasey Young, highway management administrator, talked about efforts by ODOT to set up specialized work crews for bridges, drainage and…


Citizens pledge to protect seniors from abuse, neglect

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As local residents joined in the “Pause for the Pledge” of Allegiance on Thursday morning, they also pledged to protect vulnerable senior citizens from elder abuse. Last year in Wood County, 338 cases of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation were investigated. That number had jumped from 260 cases the year before. “No senior citizen should ever have to be worried about theft or abuse,” Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson said during a program outside the Wood County Senior Center. Marc Briseno, supervisor of adult protective services in Wood County, said the number of elder abuse cases in the county continue to rise – probably due to the growing older population and the awareness being spread. The number for people to report suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation is 419-354-9669. Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw talked about the overall impact of elder abuse – with approximately 5 million cases investigated every year nationally. These are “valued members of our community,” she said. Dobson referred to senior citizens as “precious gifts.” “Everything that we have today is because of someone who came before us,” he said. It is up to members of the community to be aware of elder abuse and neglect, and to report concerns so the prosecutor’s office can do its job to protect older residents, Dobson said. “We in law enforcement will continue to defend our senior citizens,” he said. State Sen. Randy Gardner and State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, both R-Bowling Green, commended Dobson for his efforts, and recognized Wood County Committee on Aging Executive Director Denise Niese for her recent state award for serving seniors. Gardner and Gavarone mentioned the $1.6 million in state capital funds that will be put toward a new senior center in Bowling Green. And Niese recognized the support of the community and elected officials in serving seniors. It takes a “team effort,” she said, to serve “the most vulnerable population.” Following is a list from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services on what is considered elder abuse: Neglect occurs when an individual’s basic needs for safety and well-being (such as medical care, adequate nutrition, socialization) are not being met. This can be through the action or inaction of the individual or another person. Exploitation is the unlawful or improper use of another person’s resources for monetary or personal benefit, profit or gain. People who exploit older adults can range from total strangers to trusted friends and family members. Physical abuse is the intentional use of physical force that results in injury, pain or impairment. It includes pushing, hitting, slapping, pinching and other ways of physically harming a person. In care settings, it can also include placing an individual in incorrect positions, force feeding, restraining or giving medication without the person’s knowledge. Emotional abuse occurs when a person is threatened, humiliated, intimidated or otherwise psychologically hurt. It includes the violation of an adult’s right to make decisions and the loss of his or her privacy. Sexual abuse includes rape or other unwanted, nonconsensual sexual contact. It also can mean forced or coerced nudity, exhibitionism and other non-touching sexual situations. Warning signs of potential elder abuse, neglect or exploitation: Bruises, cuts or other signs of physical harm; Sudden behavioral changes, such as becoming less social;…


873 pinwheels show extent of child abuse and neglect

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The spinning pinwheels planted in the ground by giggling children tell a very different story than it appears at first glance. “Without alarming the kids, we let them know this is something to help other children who need help,” said Susie Dunn, who brought out children from Dunn’s Kiddie Kare to plant the pinwheels in the ground. The 873 pinwheels represent the number of child abuse and neglect investigations conducted last year by Wood County Children’s Services. This year the blue and silver pinwheels bear testament along Ohio 25 where motorists will easily see them, in the front yard of Thayer Ford/Nissan, 18039 Dixie Highway, Bowling Green. The annual display of pinwheels is part of Child Abuse Awareness Month in April. The display serves as a reminder that not all children have carefree and loving lives. “We continue to run record levels of investigations,” said Dave Wigent, director of the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services. Last year’s numbers dropped slightly from the 894 cases in 2016, but the severity of the cases continue to worsen. The pinwheels are a visual reminder that the public needs to notify authorities about child abuse and neglect. “We depend on the community to report child abuse,” Wigent said. In addition to the countywide pinwheel field, individual displays are once again being planted in communities to show the number of cases in each school district. “It’s everywhere in Wood County,” said Sandi Carsey, administrator of Wood County Protective Services. Area schools will have displays on their campuses, with the number of pinwheels indicating the number of families in the district assisted by Wood County Children’s Services. The breakdown per district is: Bowling Green – 198; Eastwood – 45; Elmwood – 46; Lake – 55; North Baltimore – 75; Northwood – 72; Otsego – 54; Perrysburg – 146; and Rossford – 90. The pinwheels will be on display throughout the month of April. Some of the continuing high numbers seen in abuse and neglect cases may be due to public education efforts, Carsey said. “I think people are more aware now to call us,” she said. Another reason may be increases in drug abuse. “The reports are very serious that we’re getting,” Carsey said. “We have parents overdosing in front of their children. It’s everywhere.” Carsey noted the recent creation of the Addiction Response Collaborative through the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office. The program responds to opiate overdose cases. “We’re hoping that will help stem the tide,” Carsey said. Last year’s investigation numbers included the following cases: physical abuse, 250; sexual abuse, 136; neglect 392; emotional abuse, 25; dependent, 16; families in need of services, 54; and other, 21. Drugs were involved in 209 cases; 97 involved opiates.


First responders honored for giving opiate addicts second, third and more chances

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Those being honored Monday in the war against opiate abuse weren’t front and center. As usual, they were gathered far from the podium. “The first responders are all in the back of the room,” Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson said. “Frankly that’s where they would prefer to be. They would much rather be out doing their jobs.” Those are the jobs they were being honored for on Monday – saving people from opiate overdoses. “They step into circumstances that we can’t imagine,” Dobson said. “They stand between us and danger in a very real sense on a daily basis.” EMS and law enforcement are being recognized across Ohio this week for saving people who overdose on opiates. In the Wood County Courthouse Atrium, the first responders were thanked by the second and third responders in the opiate crisis. To show appreciation in Wood County, that meant lunches will be delivered to fire and police stations throughout the week by Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “This is basically to say ‘thank you.’ We know it’s difficult work,” said Milan Karna, with the Wood County Prevention Coalition. A video was played, showing people who had been saved by first responders using narcan to revive them after overdoses. The faces thanked the first responders for not giving up on them – even if they had to respond to the same person for multiple overdoses. Tom Clemons, WCADAMHS director, used Dobson’s terminology of this war on opiates creating “refugees” in need of care. “It takes all of us working together on this,” Clemons said. On the front lines of this war are EMS, law enforcement, children’s services, and hospitals. “It is a widely recognized fact that a lot of first responders are putting themselves at risk,” with fentanyl being very dangerous to those treating overdose victims. But the use of narcan is giving opiate addicts another chance at life, Clemons said. “We’re seeing more and more people’s lives saved,” he said. “That’s where recovery begins. Treatment does work and people recover.” Evidence of that is seen with the county’s new Addiction Response Collaboration program through Dobson’s office. Since its inception about four months ago, the program has worked with 35 opiate addicts in Wood County. Of those, seven people have been sober for three months, and three have been sober for four months. That is a good retention rate, according to ARC’s Belinda Brooks. “I don’t think there’s an EMS or law enforcement in the county that hasn’t seen something” of the opiate epidemic, Brooks said. Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said his deputies had another save from an overdose this past weekend. He also said it’s not uncommon for the county jail’s holding cells to be doubled up with people detoxing. “I never would have thought I would be carrying narcan in my pocket,” he said, showing the small nasal injector. Wasylyshyn acknowledged that some people are critical of first responders making multiple rescues of the same addicts. “Why do you want to save them,” they ask. Simply because all of them are someone’s son, sister, mother, grandson, the sheriff said. “Gee, maybe you should only save them so many times,” some people…


BG pursues second solar field – for community power

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The City of Bowling Green sees a bright future for more solar power. The problem is finding big open areas for another solar field. The city could use some land it has purchased over the years for economic development. But Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell pointed out that while solar fields generate green energy, they do not generate long-term jobs. The city could use some of the 70 acres left at its current solar field on Carter Road, northeast of the city. But that property may be needed for land application of biosolids from the wastewater treatment plant. “With a solar project, you need a lot of land,” O’Connell said to the board of utilities Monday evening. So the city has approached the Wood County commissioners about using county land for another solar field. There are currently 71.5 open acres on the north side of East Gypsy Lane Road, between Interstate 75 and Wood Lane. Approximately 51.5 acres are owned by the county and 20 by the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The land is currently rented out as farmland. Both Wood County and the Board of Developmental Disabilities are interested in the solar project, O’Connell said. And they aren’t alone, according to Mayor Dick Edwards, who commended O’Connell and Daryl Stockburger, assistant director of the city utilities department, for pursuing an agreement to use the county land. “There’s real strong community interest in another solar project,” Edwards said. A three-year contract for the acreage was presented to the board of public utilities Monday evening. 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, O’Connell said. That would make this different from the 165-acre solar field recently constructed on city land at Carter and Newton roads. 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 commissioners are interested in the idea, according to 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 last year. 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 East Gypsy Lane site is appealing because it is close to existing city facilities that can be tied into. There would be no need to build several miles of power poles and wires. “We have the infrastructure near there,” O’Connell said. 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. “It’s a way that people can be more engaged in a solar project,” he said. “People who are interested can join.” “Instead of putting solar on rooftops, this…


Opioid war being waged, with casualties close to home

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The chief toxicologist with Lucas County Coroner’s Office studies death for a living. He has never seen anything like the opiate epidemic. “There has never, ever, ever, ever been anything in our country like this,” Dr. Robert Forney said Sunday during an opioid forum sponsored by the Eastwood Community Improvement Corporation and led by Dr. Ted Bowlus, a Wood County commissioner and physician. “We are killing more people every year than we lost in the Vietnam War,” Forney said at the meeting held in Pemberville. The death statistics are similar to a 737 crashing each day. “The numbers are just unbelievable.” Forney’s toxicology work covers 21 counties, including Wood. In 2010, his office saw eight opioid deaths. By 2017, that number had jumped to 350. “There are going to be more in 2018,” he predicted. Others on the panel are working to prevent those numbers from growing in Wood County. Most recently, Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson set up the Addiction Response Collaborative. “There is an industry out there that hates what we’re doing here today,” Dobson said of the illegal drug trade. “We’re at war with that industry.” Dobson, who lost a stepson to opiate overdose, said his office takes that war seriously. “We’re one of the most aggressive offices prosecuting drug dealers who kill their buyers.” But that isn’t enough, he added. “In a war, we take in the refugees.” That’s where ARC comes in. Belinda Brooks and Deputy Ryan Richards work with ARC to keep track of opiate addicts and give them every opportunity to get clean. For Richards, that means random checks. “I want to make sure he knows I’m watching him.” For Brooks, that means getting the addicts set up with Medicaid and other services. “We stay with them for the long haul. It’s so easy for them to relapse,” said Brooks, whose daughter was an opiate addict. Since ARC started in November, the program has worked with 15 addicts – 14 who are still sober, she said. More than 80 percent of opioid addicts get started by misusing prescription drugs, according to Kyle Clark, prevention education director with the Wood County Educational Service Center. “This epidemic is quietly creeping in several homes,” Brooks said. Many Wood County residents have lost loved ones, or know of someone who has, Wood County Chief Deputy Eric Reynolds said. “You’re all here today to be that spoke in the bicycle wheel,” he said. “All of you are here to do more.” Reynolds presented some stats on opioid deaths. In 2016, the nation saw 64,070 opioid overdose deaths, Ohio saw 4,050, and Wood County saw 21. The Wood County Sheriff’s Office administered six doses of Narcan to bring back overdose victims, while EMS departments used it 102 times. Recently, an off-duty deputy administered Narcan when an overdose victim ran his car into the deputy’s home, Reynolds said. A growing number of parents are losing their jobs and custody of their children due to their addictions, said Tom Clemons, executive director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board. “There’s a real crucial needs for foster parents,” to care for those children left behind, Clemons said. Dobson compared opioid deaths to road accident fatalities. Those killed on…


Sexual harassment refresher – set policy and stick to it

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The workshop was intended to keep county governments from getting “caught with their proverbial pants down.” “I realize that is not a good metaphor considering the topic,” said attorney Marc Fishel on the sexual harassment webinar earlier this month sponsored by the County Commissioners Association of Ohio. Wood County government already makes sexual harassment part of its new employee orientation, and has policies in its employee handbook. But officials felt this was a good time for a refresher course. “We’ve been addressing this for many years,” said Pam Boyer, human resources manager with the county commissioners’ office. “This is a good reminder.” “We don’t see these things and not do something about it,” Boyer said. The webinar, titled “Top 10 Dos and Don’ts of Sexual Harassment,” was attended by 64 Wood County employees. Fishel, who regularly represents public employers throughout Ohio on employment related issues, presented the webinar. He started out stating the obvious. “Don’t have a lock on your desk that doesn’t let out a person, ala Matt Lauer.” “Don’t walk around naked in your office, ala Charlie Rose,” he said. “If you can avoid those, that’s a good start.” “Don’t invite someone to your hotel room and answer in your robe, ala Harvey Weinstein.” But beyond blatant offenses, the lines may get blurry for some people. Fishel tried to clear up any confusion. While discrimination based on sex is illegal, “there is no law that prevents sexual harassment,” he said. So it’s up to employers to make the rules. Employers need to set expectations for the workplace, enforce rules that prevent sexual harassment and respond appropriately if it does occur, Fishel said. Employers should not set the bar too low – believing that behavior is acceptable as long as it doesn’t violate the law. “You don’t want that to be your standard,” Fishel said. “The goal is to eradicate this kind of inappropriate conduct. Don’t wait till it rises to the level of ‘Oh crap – we could get sued.’” Set and stick by strong policies Employers must go further than set the right sexual harassment policies, Fishel said. They must take those policies seriously, make them clear to employees, make it easy for employees to report problems, and must not retaliate against those reporting wrongdoing. “Distribute the policy and educate the employees on the policy,” he said. Then, every so often, redistribute the policy, do re-education, and ask for questions. “Train and retrain on the policy and workplace expectations,” he said. Of course, that does not mean employers are in the clear. “If the employer does everything right, they may get sued,” Fishel said. But employers can better defend themselves if they set up safeguards against sexual harassment. Use those policies Once those policies are in place, they must be enforced. “Don’t ignore allegations or signs of a problem,” he said. “You don’t want this stuff going on in the workplace.” Once employers hear about sexual harassment problems, they must act. “Your obligation as the employer is to determine what has happened and take remedial action to fix it,” Fishel said. “You must take the action necessary to ensure the harassment ends.” Employers should not just throw up their arms, defining a problem as a “he said, she said”…


911 system will take text messages by late next year

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Next year at this time, Wood County residents should be able to text messages to “911” to get help during an emergency. Wood County and others partnering in the local 911 system are investing about $1 million to upgrade the current emergency system. Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said the existing 911 system is at the “end of its life,” so the upgrades are necessary. But along with the expensive upgrade comes a valuable addition, the sheriff said. Once completed, the new system will allow people in need of emergency assistance to text a message to 911. “I’m really excited about it,” Wasylyshyn said. “It will allow someone who doesn’t want to be heard to text us.” That could include someone hiding from an intruder or someone who wants to alert law enforcement without others knowing. The texting option will also allow someone to communicate with dispatchers from a very noisy location, he said. “This could be used by someone who is a victim of domestic violence, and texting from a closet,” the sheriff said. “I’m really excited about what this will allow for victims.” Photographs can also be texted to 911, where they can then be forwarded by dispatchers to law enforcement and EMS crews who will be responding to the scene. The new system will also allow dispatchers in the communication center to send back texts to the person who sent the emergency 911 message. Wood County will be the second county in Ohio to have the technology in place to allow for 911 texting. Delaware County is expected to have its upgrades in place early next year. Wood County’s upgrades will be made throughout 2018, with the texting technology to be completed by the end of next year. “We’ll be the first in this area to get this,” Wasylyshyn said. “I think it’s a great step forward.” The Wood County Commissioners approved an appropriation last week for the 911 upgrade at the sheriff’s office. The upgrade contract is spread over five years, costing just over $1 million. Sharing in this cost are Bowling Green State University ($56,211), Ottawa County ($166,680), and Sandusky County/Clyde ($215,513). Following is some information about texting 911 from the Federal Communications Commission: Texting during an emergency could be helpful if you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, or if a voice call to 911 might otherwise be dangerous or impossible. But if you are able to make a voice call to 911, and if it is safe to do so, you should always make a voice call to 911. Check with your wireless phone company. In general, you must have a text-capable wireless phone and a wireless service subscription or contract with a wireless phone company. You may also need a “wireless data plan.” Remember, you can make a voice call to 911 using a wireless phone that does not have a service plan, but you cannot send a text message to 911 without a service contract that includes texting. Texting to 911 is different from making a voice call to 911 in this respect. When you make a voice call to 911, the call taker will typically receive your phone number and your approximate location automatically. This is called “Enhanced 911” or…


Wood County to give 3% raises, update 911 system

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Approximately 1,000 county employees will see 3 percent pay raises next year, an upgrade will begin on the county’s 911 system, and plans will proceed for an expansion of the county jail booking area. Those expenses are part of the $44.6 million in appropriations for 2018 approved Thursday by the Wood County Commissioners. The county appropriations for 2017 totaled $43 million. “In recognition of our most valuable asset – the people who work daily to provide service to Wood County citizens – we agreed to provide a wage increase of 3 percent to employees of all commissioners’ departments,” a letter signed by the three commissioners stated. In addition to the commissioners’ departments, the 3 percent raises will also be extended to employees in the prosecutor’s, recorder’s, court security and public defender’s offices. Most other county offices will be given the equivalent funding to be distributed as the elected officials see fit. The county commissioners have spent the last couple months listening to funding pitches from county offices. “It certainly takes all of us working together to make this happen,” Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said. “I now appreciate how much work” the county budget entails, Commissioner Ted Bowlus said. Commissioner Craig LaHote also voted in favor of the appropriations, but was unable to talk because of laryngitis. Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar praised the reasonable requests made by county officials. “No one asked for anything unusual,” he said. Some of the bigger items on the appropriation list include $800,000 for architectural and engineering work that is needed to renovate the booking area at the Wood County Justice Center. The other major construction project that came up during appropriation discussions – the moving of the county highway garage – did not receive any funding. The possibility of relocating the facility to the county’s East Gypsy Lane complex needs more study, Kalmar said. The appropriations also include a contract for upgrading the 911 system at the sheriff’s office. The contract is spread over five years, costing just over $1 million. Sharing in this cost are Bowling Green State University ($56,211), Ottawa County ($166,680), and Sandusky County/Clyde ($215,513). “The upgrade is a significant thing to do,” Kalmar said. “It’s an important thing for citizens.” The upgrade is necessary because the current system will no longer be supported by the manufacturer. The new system will have enhanced features, such as allowing people to text “911” for emergencies. The commissioners also continued efforts to rebuild the county’s permanent improvement fund, by setting aside $1.2 million. That funding is used to maintain and improve county owned buildings. New in 2017, was a shift in security at the courthouse complex, which led to some funding complexities. Court security continues to be provided by the existing court security program, while the security of the courthouse complex was taken over by the sheriff’s office. The combined budget for both security programs was set at $415,188. To remain within budget in 2018, both departments will have to schedule carefully using part-time staff. The county budget suffered a hit in 2017 from not being able to collect Medicaid sales tax. That change meant a reduction of $900,000 in sales tax annually, Kalmar said. However, the rest of the county’s sales tax revenue remains healthy, at…


County to address sexual harassment in workplace

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   In response to the growing outcry against sexual harassment in the workplace, Wood County government will soon be hosting a workshop for its employees. The webinar is being offered by the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, and will cover the “Top Ten Dos and Don’ts for Sexual Harassment.” The program is being created by attorney Marc Fishel, who regularly represents public employers throughout Ohio on employment related issues. “Their emphasis is going to be – how do we keep public offices from getting into trouble,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said. “Are there things you have been doing over time that might get you in trouble?” Though the CCAO promotion material for the webinar said the presentation will review “the most crucial areas that an employer should focus on in order to avoid claims of sexual harassment,” Kalmar said the emphasis will be on avoiding not just the claims, but the actual sexual harassment. “It will focus on how to make sure the culture of your workplace is respectful to all,” he said. The webinar will also discuss how to investigate alleged misconduct, and how to discipline employees if they engage in improper conduct. In a recent article on sexual harassment, Fishel defined the term and gave examples. “Sexual harassment is severe or pervasive conduct that can take many forms, including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and inappropriate sexual comments or references. Often, sexual harassment is physical, verbal or visual and involves an express or implied expectation that harassing actions must be tolerated in order to get or keep a job. Such an expectation also may be considered “sexual harassment” when used to make employment decisions (e.g., giving raises or promotions), or when inappropriate sexual behavior creates a hostile or intimidating work environment,” Fishel wrote. As far as examples, Fishel wrote, “Generally, circumstances determine whether conduct is considered sexual harassment. Examples may include sexual teasing, jokes or comments, massages or sexual touching, certain personal gifts, the display of sexually suggestive material and personal questions about an individual’s sexual life. But note that “sexual harassment” does not need to be lewd or sexual in nature to be illegal. Any severe or pervasive harassment aimed at a person because of his or her gender is considered sexual harassment. Further, a woman subjected to constant physical or verbal bullying and hostility because she is a woman may bring a claim of sexual harassment even if the harassment is not sexually explicit.” No county employees will be forced to attend, but all managers and supervisors will be expected to be there, Kalmar said. “If we offer a training, it’s my expectation that you will be there,” he said of his department. The webinar will take place in the county commissioners’ hearing room, which can hold approximately 70 people. Kalmar said the county’s showing of the webinar is not an indicator that the county has sexual harassment problems. “It’s certainly not rampant. My guess is it’s rare,” he said. “I think the county offices are a pretty good place to work. But it’s good to have it refreshed periodically.” The subject is currently addressed by a policy in the employee handbooks – “as with any other issue you might have,” Kalmar said. The first step is to bring the…


KKK history in Wood County unmasked by BGSU prof

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When the Ku Klux Klan took root in Wood County in the early 1920s, the members wore the traditional white robes and hoods, but there was little secrecy about their activities. There was no need to conceal their hatred since the membership roster included many local politicians, businessmen and ministers. Every Ohio county in the 1920s had an active Klan group, according to Michael E. Brooks, author of the book, “The Ku Klux Klan in Wood County, Ohio.” “Wood County is not particularly unique in having a history of the KKK,” said Brooks, a historian who teaches at BGSU. “What is unique is that the records survived.” Included in those records is a membership ledger that was reportedly rescued from a burn pile in 1976. The ledger, which is included in Brooks’ book, reads like a “Who’s Who” of Wood County, with familiar surnames recorded from every community. Brooks explains that economic uncertainty in the 1920s was one of the most significant factors in the rise of the reborn KKK in Ohio. Newspapers told of historically high unemployment rates, declining farm incomes and sluggish postwar economic growth. Membership records in the Center for Archival Collections at BGSU show that nearly 1,400 members paid dues to the Wood County KKK in 1924 and 1925. Once accepted into the Klan, the new members would be fitted for robes and hoods. Measurements would be taken at the local KKK office, and the information would be submitted to the national Klan headquarters for tailoring. No women or children were allowed. A 1927 phone book lists the KKK as having an address at 182½ S. Main St. in Bowling Green. “They didn’t have to sneak around at night. They could parade around in their robes,” Brooks said. “It was fashionable to be in the Klan.” The Klan was welcomed into many local churches during Sunday morning services. Many of the local ministers were members of the organization, like Rev. Rush A. Powell of the United Brethren Church in Bowling Green. Powell, a charter member of the Klan, told his congregation that he stood for the same principles as those held by his hooded guests – against criminal activity, undesirable immigrants and a decline in morality. Recruitment during church services was common. “The extent to which that was going on was very surprising,” Brooks said. Churches were used to add to the “moral legitimacy” of the group. According to records, nearly 40 percent of the Protestant clergy in Wood County were KKK members. People with political ambitions also were not afraid to add the Klan to their resume. “It helped get people elected,” Brooks said. In the 1920s and 1930s, Klan members in Wood County served as mayors, county commissioners, county sheriffs, county judges, county prosecutor, police officers, and village marshals. Also on the list of Klan members were school principals, superintendents and school board members. The KKK used large outdoor open rallies as recruitment tools. The gatherings often included band music, food concessions and games. Klan members, wearing their robes and hoods, would also make school visits. The prearranged visits often used ritual and ceremonial activities, with the Klan presenting gifts like flags and Bibles. Klan chapters purchased athletic sweaters for local high school sports teams, possibly…