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Bona Vesta drainage issue a costly one to tackle

A plan is coming into place to deal with flooding in the Bona Vesta subdivision in Pulaski Township, but an obstacle to getting underway is the cost and who will pay for it.

During a continued hearing on the matter before Williams County commissioners on Thursday, County Drainage Engineer Brian Fritsch outlined a proposal to address the flooding and standing water issues in three phases.

Phase I would include new drainage tile south of the subdivision, that would divert drainage away from the Anderson & Vreeland property on U.S. 127. Currently there is a drainage tile under the property. Thirty- and 36-inch tiles placed west of the property would eliminate future problems that could occur with the tiles running under the Anderson & Vreeland property. At the same time, the new lines would be able to handle rainwater runoff coming from the Bona Vesta subdivision.

Cost of Phase I is estimated to be $95,671.

Phase II of the project would include the replacement of two 24-inch drainage tiles that are currently obstructed by roots and deterioration. These new tiles (either two new 24-inch tiles or one 30-inch tile), according to Fritsch, would run from Old Farm Trail to U.S. 127, where the flow of water would join new construction from Phase I.

Cost of this phase of the project is estimated to be between $326,000 and $336,000. Included in the scope of this phase is working around, or re-positioning cable and utility lines that serve the community. According to the county engineer’s office, those lines run parallel to the drainage tiles, making excavation for the project that much more delicate.

Phase III of the project includes construction of a detention basin just north of the subdivision. Preliminary plans call for an eight-acre basin that would hold water coming from agricultural fields north of Bona Vesta, and drained after rain events.

Cost of Phase III is estimated to be $505,000.

Standard practice for the county, when dealing with a ditch (or drainage) petition, is to evaluate the watershed affecting the area and evenly distribute the actual cost of the remedy to affected property owners — based on either the extent that their property is contributing to the problem, or evenly, regardless of how much property one person owns.

Property affected by drainage issues in Bona Vesta include several agriculture tracts and about 150 homes or businesses.

No exact amount of assessments to properties was released on Thursday, however at a recent information session on the matter, Fritsch noted that under standard assessment practice, two agriculture parcels could see assessments of $57,000 and $58,000. Another farm could be assessed $11,000, while the average assessment to Bona Vesta homeowners could range between $500 and $700.

“This is not how we’re going to assess this,” said Commission President Terry Rummel. He questioned, “How do we assess this so it’s fair to everybody?”

“My personal opinion is that without funding (grant funding) this project probably is not going to happen,” said County Engineer Todd Roth. “Farmers don’t want to get hit too hard and homeowners don’t want to get hit too hard.”

Roth told commissioners, property owners and township trustees in attendance that there were two government funding programs that may be able to assist with the cost of the project — Critical Infrastructure grants and an Ohio Public Works Commission grant.

“My recommendation is that we pursue these,” said Roth. Commissioners agreed.

The timeline for these grant programs is months away, so there will be no contracts for excavation and construction any time soon.

Commissioners have scheduled a public hearing on the matter for April 23, 2020, at 10 a.m. at the Williams County East Annex, 1425 E. High St., Bryan.

Between now and then, commissioners and the county engineer’s office will be dealing with ownership of the drain tiles currently in place. Currently, the county has no claim to the original tiles as they were either placed there previous to construction of the subdivision, or installed while the subdivision was being constructed.

The original petition to have the county place the Bona Vesta drainage tiles under county maintenance was made by a Bona Vesta property owner in 2008.


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Report presented by Portman highlights cost of political gridlock

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman chairs the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which recently completed a nine-month study of the financial impact of political foot dragging on taxpayers.

According to the report, during 54 days of partial or full government closures since 2014, $4 billion in costs for taxpayers was amassed, as was 56,938 years of collective missed work time by furloughed federal workers. Additionally, the shutdowns were found to have reduced economic growth by $11 billion in the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019.

The report is timely in that a spending bill is up for debate with a funding deadline of Sept. 30, though as of Thursday afternoon a vote was scheduled to potentially kick the can down the road for two months.

“I’ve been through five different shutdowns since my time working in the George H. W. Bush White House back in 1990. Three shutdowns just over the last five years. None of them worked,” said Portman. “I don’t know anyone who likes them now because we find out that when you shut down government, taxpayers actually pay more, not less.

“It might seem like if you shut down government, that’s good for taxpayers, but it’s actually bad for taxpayers. They foot the bill for back-pay for federal workers for the days those workers weren’t allowed to go to work. And they pay for other things, too, that they wouldn’t have to pay for if Congress did its job.”

Portman highlighted several examples of federal inefficiencies created by a backlog from last winter’s longest-ever U.S. government shutdown, such as processing of 501©(3) requests, processing of businesses making Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program requests, cancellation of over 60,000 immigration hearings and delayed contracting projects, among several others.

“All of this is indicative not just of a loss of purchasing power for federal employees but also a serious ripple effect of federal contractors, small businesses and others who serve the federal government,” said Portman. “Shutdowns have another effect. Each time our government fails to fund itself, the public’s faith in our institutions, including of course in this body, the Senate, the House, the presidency, falls even further. Not just here, but around the world.”

In recent years, Portman has advocated for passage of his End Government Shutdowns Act, which would aim to prevent future shutdowns by using automatic continuing resolutions to keep the government open at existing funding levels, according to a release from Portman’s office.

The bill has been put forth by Portman every Congress since 2010.


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Early figures show fair attendance was up this year

Preliminary figures show that attendance at this year’s Williams County Fair — Sept. 7-14 — was up about 5,000 to 7,000 over past years, Fair Board President Matt Kennedy said Friday.

The increase would stem a steady decline over the past several years. Last year’s attendance was a little more than 58,000, which was down from 61,000 in 2017 and about 66,000 in 2016.

Kennedy said the fair sold about 990 tickets to the Blue Oyster Cult/Rare Earth classic rock concert on Sept. 7, and it was well-received.

“We had someone who said they came all the way from Iowa to see (the concert),” Kennedy said.

He said concert attendance was less than the Fair Board had hoped for, but sponsorships would help cushion the deficit. He said ticket prices haven’t risen for about a decade — grandstand admission was $20 this year — and the Fair Board may look at adjusting ticket prices.

Kennedy also said the board is already making plans for next year’s featured musical entertainment, setting a concert budget on Thursday of $60,000 for 2020.

“We’re looking at the possibility of having two nights of music next year, having a classic rock on Saturday and a Christian rock band on Sunday,” Kennedy said. “It all depends on our sponsorships ... our goal is to keep (concerts) affordable.”

Mild temperatures and almost no rain helped attendance at this year’s fair, along with sponsorship from the county commodity groups, which made attendance free for Thursday. Kennedy said entertainment and events every day on the midway entertainment stage was also a big draw this year.

“It gave fairgoers a little more bang for their buck,” he said.

“We’re very appreciative of our sponsors this year and appreciative of all the support from everyone who attended this year and we’re looking forward to 2020,” Kennedy said.

RESIGNATION

Also at its meeting Thursday, the board voted 9-7 to accept the resignation of Fair Board member and board Vice President Alan Bennett. He was the District 2 representative to the board.

“I felt I needed to take a step back ... I’ll have the option to run (for the board) again,” he said, adding he hasn’t yet made a decision if he will run for a seat on the board again, but must make the decision prior to next month’s Oct. 17 monthly meeting.

“I don’t want this to detract from the team effort by this board, who put together the best fair we’ve had in the five years I’ve been on the Fair Board. I salute the senior fair board, the junior fair board, who stepped up big time this year, and all of our sponsors this year. No one can say the fair family didn’t work as a team to make this one of the best fairs we’ve had,” Bennett said.

The board will vote on officers on Nov. 2. In the meantime, Kennedy must appoint a replacement for Bennett.

Bennett, of West Unity, has served as a board member for about five years and as vice president for about three years.

Kennedy declined to comment on his vote. He said he did not hear any specific issues with Bennett from those who voted to accept his resignation.


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Election complaints filed against sheriff candidate Fulk

The Ohio Ethics Commission has requested that the Williams County Board of Elections forward one of two election complaints filed recently against Shaun Fulk, a candidate running for Williams County sheriff.

The complaint was filed by Bryan resident Joel Stevens. He alleges Fulk wore a Stryker police uniform while he campaigned for sheriff at a booth during at least three days during the Williams County Fair, in violation of two sections of the Ohio Revised Code — 123:1-46-02, and 124.57.

123:1-46-02 prohibits employees in the classified service of the state from engaging in political activity; 124.57 prohibits an officer or employee in the classified service of the state from engaging in partisan political activity.

County Elections Director A.J. Nowaczyk said Thursday while the Ohio Elections Commission saw no need to review the complaint, the Ohio Ethics Commission requested the board forward the complaint to them, which it has done.

A second complaint, lodged by current Sheriff Steve Towns, “has not been officially reviewed by the Elections Commission, but they do not feel any action will be necessary,” Nowaczyk said Thursday.

In that complaint, Towns alleged Fulk used a photo from a recent fundraising event for the late sheriff’s deputy Mick Frisbee on Fulk’s Facebook campaign page, “Shaun Fulk for Williams County Sheriff,” without permission of some of those in the photo, including several sheriff’s deputies.

Fulk has removed the campaign Facebook posting.

Nowaczyk first noted the complaints at the elections board meeting Tuesday.

Both Towns and Fulk acknowledge conflict between them, with Towns alleging “work-related misconduct” by Fulk, a former sheriff’s officer, and said in late November 2018 he gave Fulk the choice to resign or be fired. Fulk resigned and joined the Stryker Police Department effective Dec. 19, 2018, according to Fulk’s personnel file provided by Stryker Police Chief Steve Schlosser.

Fulk alleges Towns misused the sheriff’s office evidence room and resented Fulk’s advice that Towns not post documents from Williams County Job and Family Services on Facebook. The posting led to four misdemeanor charges against Towns currently in Bryan Municipal Court. Fulk also said Towns had a vendetta against him once Fulk made known his interest in running for sheriff.

Stevens’ complaint also includes a letter dated Nov. 16, 2018, from Towns to Fulk, putting Fulk on administrative leave effective that day “pending the completion of an investigation of allegations of work-related misconduct while an employee of the Williams County Sheriff’s Office.”

In interviews with The Bryan Times, Towns alleged that Fulk falsified documents and was derelict in his duties. Towns provided documentation that when Fulk was on night shift in 2018, he sat in his car for anywhere from 90 minutes to up to almost four hours without any radio or computer activity, which Towns said could rise to the level of theft in office.

Towns said the complaints indicate Fulk lacks knowledge of the law.

Fulk said Towns placed a tracking device on his car and not on any other deputy’s car, and it was placed there without his knowledge. While Fulk provided copies of several commendations, he also provided copies of eight reprimands that did not include dates or specific complaints, saying they were an attempt by Towns to retroactively smear Fulk’s reputation and force him to resign.

Towns said he forwarded his investigation of Fulk to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI). Friday, Steve Irwin, spokesperson for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, confirmed that BCI is conducting an investigation of Towns’ allegations against Fulk, but could not comment further because it’s an ongoing investigation.

Fulk said Friday he’s unconcerned about the BCI investigation. “I don’t feel like I’ve done anything wrong and I’m not worried about it,” he said. In this instance, Fulk believes Towns “throws a whole lot against the wall to see what sticks.”

“I’m not running that kind of campaign. I’m not slinging mud. I’ll stand up to Towns like I always have,” Fulk said, adding, “He says I should have knowledge of the law. But I’m not the one facing charges.”

Besides Towns and Fulk, at least two others have indicated they could run for sheriff. Edon resident and retired Ohio Department Of Natural Resources officer Tom Kochert said Wednesday he will submit his nominating petition in October and Pioneer Village Police Chief Tim Livengood has also pulled a petition.

Friday, Fulk said he’s undeterred by the complaints and Towns’ criticism.

“I’m confident in what I’m doing. I have the most on-the-job experience and I’m the most qualified to go out and do this thing,” Fulk said.


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Taylor pleads to two charges, awaits sentencing

Phillip H. Taylor

Phillip H. Taylor will now await sentencing after pleading to two charges in Williams County Common Pleas Court Thursday afternoon.

Taylor, 54, of Bryan, pleaded no contest to one felony count of animal cruelty and pleaded guilty to a count of possessing a weapon under disability, following a deal with the Williams County Prosecutor’s Office prior to a pretrial hearing in which several other charges dropped.

Taylor had faced four counts of felony animal cruelty, one felony count of menacing and one felony count of possessing a weapon under disability stemming from a June incident in which he was alleged to have used a 9 mm pistol to kill four dogs at his now-estranged wife Theresa Taylor’s County Road 13 home following a dispute.

Last month, Reeve W. Kelsey, a retired judge of the Wood County Court of Common Pleas General and Domestic Relations divisions, was chosen by the Ohio Supreme Court to hear the remainder of Phil Taylor’s case following the recusal of Williams County Court of Common Pleas Judge JT Stelzer upon recommendation of the Williams County Prosecutor’s Office.

Kelsey said that Phillip Taylor faces a maximum of four years in prison, as well as more than $15,000 in fines for both offenses. The sentences could potentially be served consecutively, rather than concurrently.

A pre-sentencing investigation was ordered, and a sentencing hearing set for Oct. 30.

Taylor, who was already confined to his mother’s home on bond, also had his request to remove his ankle monitor granted as part of the day’s proceedings.

Theresa Taylor owns a pet grooming and boarding businesses in Archbold and is awaiting her own trial in Fulton County Court of Common Pleas on two charges of animal cruelty in an unrelated matter. Her charges stem from video obtained by authorities of her alleged conduct while operating the business.