Wood County

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…


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…


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…


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…


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…


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…


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…


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….


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,…


County to set up 10 full-time recycling drop-off sites

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Rural Wood County residents will no longer have to store recyclables in their garages or cart them around in their cars to recycling centers far from home. On Thursday, the Wood County Commissioners approved plans to offer full-time recycling drop-off at 10 locations throughout the county. “We know everyone’s excited about having recycling 24/7,” Kelly O’Boyle, Wood County assistant administrator, said Friday. The new recycling drop-off sites will not require sorting of items, including plastic bottles, office paper, newspaper, aluminum and steel cans, cardboard, magazines and glass. Those areas in line to get permanent recycling locations are: Bloomdale and Perry Township Grand Rapids Jackson Township and Hoytville Jerry City, Cygnet, Portage, Portage Township and Rudolph Milton Township and Custar Pemberville Perrysburg Township Stony Ridge Tontogany and Washington Township Weston The North Baltimore recycling site will remain open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. The Bowling Green Recycling Center and NAT near Bradner both already operate as 24/7 drop-off locations. “Our goal is to provide the best service at the lowest cost.  We believe the ability to accept mixed recyclables will provide ease of use to our residents and likely the ability to recycle additional material,” O’Boyle said. The goal is to have the drop-off locations operating by no later than June of next year. A survey conducted in 2015, through a partnership between the solid waste district and Bowling Green State University master’s of public administration program, was conducted to determine the interest in recycling among rural Wood County residents. A total of 2,725 surveys were mailed to rural resident, with 683 being returned. The study found: Rural residents had a favorable attitude toward recycling. A number of the residents said they drive to Hancock and Lucas counties to use permanent recycling facilities. Of those who use the satellite locations, 55 percent said they would increase their use beyond once a month if permanent sites were made available. As it is now, mobile containers are placed at each of the satellite locations so residents can drop off their recyclables once a month. The recyclables are separated at most of the sites by Scouts or other community groups. Those groups are paid a per capita allocation that adds up to roughly $127,000 a year, according to O’Boyle. The satellite site program contracts with the Bowling Green Recycling Center to maintain the locations and transport the materials to the BG site. The contract is $86,400 for the year and expires at the end of this year. Originally, the plan was to set up a pilot program of 24/7 drop-off sites in the county. However, no quotes were received for the pilot. So based on the strong support in the survey results, it was decided to proceed with the 10 satellite sites. On Nov….


Wood County likes its status on low sales tax island

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County is on an island of low sales tax in this region – and officials have no intention of moving from its haven for penny-pinching shoppers. The county is surrounded by neighboring counties with higher sales tax rates, except for Hancock County, which is the same as Wood County. Some officials suspect that at least some shoppers are lured into Wood County because of the lower sales tax. “It’s probably not the first thought in their mind,” but on bigger purchases it could encourage shoppers to cross county lines, Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said. The sales tax on a $1,000 refrigerator in Lucas County would be $72.5, compared to $67.5 in Wood County. “We’re like an island,” Kalmar said. “Everybody around us has a higher sales tax,” except Hancock County. In the recent general election, Hancock County voters had the chance to raise their sales tax there by 0.25 percent. The increase was soundly rejected, so that county will remain at the same low rate as Wood. Meanwhile most surrounding counties are 7.25 percent, including Lucas, Fulton, Henry, Sandusky and Seneca. The state takes the first 5.75 percent in sales tax revenue, then counties can raise sales tax up to an additional 2 percent. Counties and transit authorities are the only entities that can collect sales tax. The highest sales tax in the state is in Cuyahoga County at 8 percent, and Franklin County at 7.5 percent. Sales tax is a pretty solid revenue for Wood County. Last year, shoppers paid close to $21 million in sales tax. The receipts are even better this year, coming in at $1.8 million this October – a 13 percent increase over the $1.6 million brought in last October. “It’s a pretty decent amount of money,” Kalmar said. Wood County has benefited from a boom in retail growth, primarily in the Perrysburg and Rossford areas. Many stores that local residents previously had to go to Lucas County to patronize, can now be found on this side of the Maumee River. “Wood County is in a fortunate position because of retail growth in the county,” Kalmar said. Following is a list of sales tax percentages in Ohio: 8 percent – 1 county, Cuyahoga 7.5 percent – 1 county, Franklin 7.25 percent – 51 counties 7 percent – 13 counties 6.75 percent – 19 counties 6.5 percent – 3 counties, Butler, Stark and Wayne Because of the growth in retail, Wood County is seeing an increase in sales tax revenue without increasing the sales tax rate. That additional sales tax revenue is being eyed by the Wood County commissioners as a way to make up for at least a portion of the county’s loss in Medicaid sales tax. Since 2010, the state of Ohio and its…


County discusses new highway garage, jail booking area

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Every fall, the Wood County Commissioners listen to funding requests from county offices. And every year, the commissioners weed through the requests and reject the ones they feel aren’t necessary or can wait. This year, they have discussed yanking a couple biggies – $8.3 million to expand the county jail booking area, and $2.5 million for a new county highway garage and office space. It’s not that the commissioners don’t see the value in those projects – they just don’t see room for the nearly $11 million in the county’s 2018 budget. But in both cases, the commissioners are planning ahead for the possible building projects. The county engineer’s highway garage, located at the corner of East Poe Road and Thurstin Avenue, is at least 60 years old. “Things are showing their age out there,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said. “We’re at the point where we’re going to have to do some work there – or move.” Over the decades, the open space around the highway garage, which sits on the edge of Bowling Green State University, has been gobbled up for other uses. So there is no land left at the current site for expansion. The commissioners and Wood County Engineer John Musteric discussed the possibility of moving the highway garage out to county land in the East Gypsy Lane complex. That location already has a fuel facility, and it has good access to county roads. It would also allow the county to sell the land currently used for the highway garage – which should be desirable property on the north side of BGSU. Though the commissioners may reject the $2.5 million request, they did discuss hiring a consultant to study the needs and costs of a new highway garage. That consultant would cost an estimated $10,000, Kalmar said. As for the sheriff’s request for an expansion of the jail booking area – this will not be the first time it got the ax. A few years ago, Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn had to make a choice – add more beds to the county jail or add more space to the jail booking area. The jail expansion was priced at about $3 million and the booking area reconfiguration was priced at about $5 million. And since the county was already spending money by paying other counties to house Wood County’s overflow inmates, the 75-bed jail expansion project won out. A few years ago, the basic architectural work was done on the booking area project, and those plans were refreshed this year – with the estimated cost jumping to $8.3 million. The expansion would reconfigure the booking area to add more holding cells and move the medical area closer to booking. But Kalmar said he does expect an architectural firm…


County and BG team up to resume glass recycling

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It’s still not crystal clear, but it appears a solution is in sight for glass recycling to be resumed in Bowling Green and Wood County. Last month, the Bowling Green Recycling Center announced that effective immediately, the facility would no longer be accepting glass. That applied to all the center’s locations, including the 24-hour drop-off site in Bowling Green, plus the satellite trailers and satellite facilities scattered throughout Wood County. On Monday, the Wood County Solid Waste Management Board reviewed four options for glass recycling presented by Bill DenBesten, chairman of the Bowling Green Recycling Center. On Tuesday, the Wood County Commissioners said they preferred “Proposal D,” which requires some buy in by both the city and county. “This proposal focuses on keeping the overall costs as low as possible, sharing both risk and rewards with the county,” DenBesten stated. “It leverages the city’s offer to load glass at no charge to further reduce costs. The plan calls for the following steps to occur: The recycling center will again start accepting glass in its drop-off and satellite sites, and schedule shipments with both the transport and glass processing companies. The city will make its old salt shed, next to the recycling center on North College Street, available for storage of glass in between shipments. The city will also use its equipment to load the glass into trucks to be transported. The county will be responsible for all charges billed by the hauler, who will invoice the county directly. DenBesten said the recycling center is reluctant to start up glass recycling again if the city’s loan of the salt shed is just a temporary solution. But Joe Fawcett, assistant municipal administrator, said the city would be willing to let the salt shed be used for a couple years for glass storage in between shipments. Mick Torok, of NAT Transportation in Bradner, said his company would be willing to continue the transports – but only if the recycling center can’t find another hauler. “We didn’t make any money on it. We broke even,” Torok told the solid waste district board on Monday. “We’re not anxious to go back to hauling glass. If you can find another carrier, I wish you would.” 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. The recycling center is preparing to have to do some catch up once glass recycling is started up again. “I think we’re just listening today, and not making any decisions,” Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said during Monday’s meeting. “Yes, we want to reinstate glass recycling, but we want…


County flooded with calls about Portage River cleanup

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Nearly 9,500 letters have been mailed out by the county to the owners of parcels that drain into the south and east branches of the Portage River. The letters are one of the final steps in a river cleanup process that has taken a decade. The Portage River project is the biggest river cleanup ever attempted by the county – covering 46 miles of waterway. The notices mailed out alert the landowners of their estimated assessments for the river cleanup and of a hearing scheduled for Aug. 22. The cleanup of the Portage River branches is intended to reduce future flooding. However, the notices have led to a flood of phone calls to the Wood County Engineer’s Office – many of them from people questioning their responsibility to help fund the project. “We’re getting a lot of calls. ‘What’s this got to do with me? My water doesn’t go there,’” Wood County Engineer John Musteric said of the typical comments from callers. Many landowners don’t realize where their water drains – they just know that it goes away after heavy rains, Musteric said. Though the river cleanup project is the longest ever undertaken in Wood County, it is less extensive than many projects in the past. There will be no digging, no widening, no channelizing. The river branches will be allowed to keep their meandering paths. The work will only remove logjams and trees leaning into the river. “This one is actually very mild,” Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar said of the Portage River cleanup plans. But while the cleanup may be minor, the distance is massive. In addition to the miles of waterway in Wood County, the project also includes portions in Hancock and Seneca counties. That is likely the reason that it’s taken 10 years to get to this point of a final hearing on the cleanup. The project was initiated by Jack Stearns, a Bloom Township farmer who was tired of his fields flooding. He circulated a petition, which was signed by many other farmers along the river who were also weary of losing crops when the river overflowed its banks. That was in 2007. Stearns and the others waited as the project drowned due to its own mass. Meanwhile, the logjams and debris in the river have just worsened. When county engineer staff walked the river routes after the petition was filed, there were approximately 243 log jams, 4,300 dead, fallen or leaning trees. It is believed there are now many more downed trees due to ash borer beetles. Stearns started out the process a patient man. But as he watched the river repeatedly flood his fields, his patience ran out. “We’re losing topsoil all the time,” Stearns, who desperately wanted the river cleared out in his lifetime,…