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Former county jail ice box donated to county history museum

MONTPELIER — Another piece of the old county jail, which still stands in Bryan at 218 W. Bryan St., will live on forever for all to see — as soon as COVID-19 abates and the Williams County Historical Society can reopen its doors.

Williams County Sheriff Tom Kochert and Chief Deputy Jeff Lehman donated the former jail’s Leonard cleanable porcelain ice box, manufactured sometime between 1916 and 1926 by the Lenard Refrigerator Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan, to the Society on Tuesday afternoon. It will be incorporated into the museum’s historic 1900s kitchen display.

“Sheriffs are elected, but their wives used to be enlisted,” Kochert said in explaining why years ago an ice box was needed inside the jail. “They would serve as jail matrons, preparing all the meals for inmates, seeing to their well-being and resolving petty conflicts to prevent violence.”

Back when the ice box was new, that duty fell on Pearl (Guilford) Perkins, the wife of Sheriff Lewis T. Perkins, “who is giving a vigorous and effective administration of the office of sheriff of Williams County,” according to the “Standard History of Williams County, Ohio — Vol. II,” published in 1920.

Perkins, the account continued, “is a man of the vital, well-poised type that is potent in causing malefactors to ‘sit up and notice’ when they attempt to execute their nefarious work within his bailiwick, and he is making an admirable record since he became sheriff of the county, in 1919.”

The ice box may not grab as much attention as the original 120-year-old cell block door, which is also on display at the county museum, located in Montpelier, but it still has historic value.

“We’re losing so much of our history as it is due to cancel culture,” Lehman said. “This is a part of our history and it’s kind of like a kick in the teeth if we don’t preserve it. This is all about getting younger people involved in history before it’s gone and dead.

“If you don’t study history you are doomed to repeat it,” Lehman said.

HISTORY

The old jail has a lot of history no one wants to repeat.

Mention of it first appeared in a March 1864 editorial in The Bryan Democrat newspaper. “The voters of this county are invited to vote Monday on laying out $10,000 for a new jail. There is little question of the necessity for a jail — to imprison the officers who do not do their duty, such as the one who sneaked off when asked to stop a row in the public square Monday.”

That levy was “overwhelmingly defeated” in the November 1864 election but on May 16, 1867, The Bryan Press newspaper reported that county commissioners appealed to the state for a one-mill tax levy to fund construction anyway. In their defense, four inmates had escaped from the 1848 wood-built jail on West High Street the year prior, which by that time was considered “an eyesore.” That same day, commissioners offered a $25 reward for information on whoever shot through a window of the 1848 jail and “wrote something obscene on the walls.”

The state-mandated tax levy eventually raised $12,004.20 for construction and the jail went into service on Feb. 23, 1869.

A year and a day later, on Feb. 24, 1870, a sheriff by the name of Evans reported that inmates of the new Bryan Street jail included 41 males and four females charged with drunkenness; 14 males and one female charged with assault and battery; 10 men charged with burglary (including one for grand larceny and six for petty larceny); three individuals charged with “disturbing religious meetings” and three more who “violated government law.” There were also two counterfeiters, two forgerers, two vagrants, a horse thief, a swindler, an illegal voter, a madam who “kept a house of ill fame” (prostitution), six lunatics and one “bastard.”

The jail saw its first breakout on Oct. 25, 1877, when five inmates sawed through flat iron bars on the east side of the building. The Bryan Democrat reported there was a planing mill across the street which covered the noise of their efforts. The newspaper noted Sheriff William Darby, “had been into the habit of not keeping the men in individual cells.” Four immediately skipped town on the next train but one was recaptured the next morning while building a campfire in Rodkey’s Woods west of town. He reportedly told the deputy he was “the last one out and the first one in.”

On Oct. 15, 1909, Sheriff Charles Grim offered a $50 reward for two more escapees. “Both wore, when seen last, black derby hats, dark clothes with sack coats and shirts made for collars, but no collars,” he wrote. “Watch all trains for they will beat their way as they have no money,” he said, adding anyone with information about the suspects can “wire information at my expense.”

In 1932, The Bryan Democrat reported that Sheriff LeRoy Siders arrested six people from the same family north of Cooney for cultivating marijuana, which “has a drowsy debasing and deteriorating effect on the mind and some of the most brutal and beastly crimes have been committed by persons under its influence,” he said. (Editor’s note: It was an election year and Siders was on the ballot.)

EXECUTION

Historical Society President Kelly Michael welcomed the ice box and had a spot within the museum’s 1900s-era kitchen display cleared out and ready before a crew from the county engineer’s office dropped it off.

“I love it when children come because you can’t believe what they don’t know,” she said. “Rotary telephones with a dial? Utterly fascinating!”

The Leonard Refrigerator Company had its own Division of Electric Refrigeration Corporation, but this specific model has no cords. Built before power lines connected every house to a nationwide electric grid, it’s literally just a box for storing blocks of ice alongside perishable foods like milk and eggs within the sheriff’s official residence, which was built into the jail.

The jail on West Bryan Street stopped housing inmates in 1990, when the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio opened, but remained in service as the sheriff’s office and 911 call center until the building was decommissioned in 2014.

It is currently home to the Underground Paranormal Network, which should surprise no one. In 1926 The Bryan Press reported the old West High Street Jail was also haunted, with “strange and curious shapes and hapless forms and shadows that peeped and muttered and made it somewhat unpleasant for the inmates incarcerated therein.”

The most likely suspect who The Bryan Press said “caused goose pimples on the folks tarrying in the hoosegow” was Andrew F. Tyler, a convicted murderer who was hanged by Sheriff Daniel Langle at 2:15 p.m. Jan. 26, 1849, in Williams County’s first public execution — and again at 2:17 p.m. in the county’s second.

Bryan’s Spirit of the Age newspaper reported that Langle did not put enough slack in the rope the first time.


News
Bill aims to protect patients from surprise bills

When Joy Anstrom fell ill in January 2017, she thought she was doing the financially correct thing by visiting her local, in-network hospital.

Recovery involved two separate emergency room visits and two surgeries, but she said she received excellent health care and was starting to recover when the bills came.

“Everything was covered by insurance — every Band Aid, every IV solution — everything except the emergency room physician. Being in that position, being very, very ill and with things happening so fast, there’s no way I’d ever think to ask, is this covered?”

As an administrative assistant who often handled insurance issues at Lakeview Schools in Trumbull County, Ohio, Anstrom had become another Ohioan victimized by surprise medical bills, to the tune of $3,600 in her case.

Issues like Anstrom’s will be addressed via the No Surprises Act, which was signed into law by the president last month and took effect. Jan. 1.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who has been working to address surprise medical bills over the past few years, championed the legislation and stood next to Anstrom as she recounted her story during a conference call Wednesday with Ohio reporters.

“We know how much of a problem these out-of-control surprise bills have been and health care remains one of the most stressful costs families face,” Brown said.

“This new law will make the costs of medical care more transparent and ban most surprise medical bills. It’s a critical step that will help protect Ohioans from these surprise bills, giving them more control over the cost of their health care and the peace of mind to focus on their health and recovery — not exorbitant medical bills.”

In essence, the law protects patients from having to pay out-of-pocket costs beyond their co-pay. “Insurers and hospitals will have to work it out on their own, rather than charging people like Joy,” Brown said.

He acknowledged that insurers “may find occasional loopholes,” but still lauded the law as a “critical step that will deliver real savings.”

Brown also said No Surprises will complement similar legislation passed at the state level last January, with the added benefit of protecting Ohioans who need medical attention when they’re outside of the state.

He urged any Ohioan who may have illegal surprise medical bills to call 1-800-985-3059 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. any day of the week, or visit CMS.gov/nosurprises, to ask questions or report a potential violation.

FILIBUSTER

Also during the call, Brown voiced his support to “dramatically change or do away with” the filibuster in the Senate.

Republican filibusters have repeatedly been used to block voting rights legislation with Democrats pushing to overhaul the rules.

Brown said it’s become clear that voting rights have eroded, especially over the past decade, with politicians increasingly choosing their voters instead of the other way around. This has hurt representation for seniors and Black people, in particular, he said.

“I don’t care a lot about process,” Brown said, “I care about getting things done.”

According to an Associated Press report, Democratic holdouts to filibuster changes include conservative Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.


Ohio Justices toss GOP Statehouse maps, order fix in 10 days

The current, pre-redistricting Congressional map.

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court declared invalid on Wednesday newly drawn maps that had retained Republican supermajorities in both chambers of the state Legislature, giving a state redistricting panel 10 days to fix them.

The two-paragraph order, issued by Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, was a victory for voting rights advocates and Democrats who had challenged the lines as unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

The court sent the maps back to the Ohio Redistricting Commission to take another crack at complying with provisions of a 2015 state constitutional amendment requiring an attempt at avoiding partisan favoritism. Justices also retained jurisdiction over whatever maps the panel comes up with.

The maps of the Ohio House and Ohio Senate strongly favored the Republican party, although Ohio’s political mix is 54% Republican, 46% Democratic.

O’Connor, who is 70, must leave the court at year’s end due to age limits. She was considered a pivotal voice on a court with three other Republicans and three Democrats.

Republicans who controlled the map-drawing process had argued the commission met its constitutional mandates by complying with a host of other protocols that made the partisan favoritism and proportionality provisions moot.

The decision impacts all three lawsuits against the maps brought on behalf of Ohio voters by a host of national groups, including the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, CAIR-Ohio, the Ohio Organizing Collaborative and the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

Legal arguments in the case centered on whether it was OK for a powerful new redistricting commission, comprised of four lawmakers and three statewide officials, to disregard constitutional language passed overwhelmingly by Ohio voters about avoiding partisan favoritism in maps for 99 Ohio House and 33 Ohio Senate districts.

Republicans argued those sections were not triggered as long as the commission abided by other requirements laid out in the Constitution, such as those requiring districts to be compact, contiguous and of similar population.


Gas prices are shown at a gas station, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Miami. Prices paid by U.S. consumers jumped in December 2021 compared to a year earlier, the latest evidence that rising costs for food, gas, rent and other necessities are heightening the financial pressures on America's households. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)


Local
Pioneer offers $200 rebate, again

PIONEER — Many citizens in Pioneer will again receive a $200 rebate on their electric bill.

Anyone who has been a Pioneer resident for at least a year, has at least a $30 average electric bill and is not delinquent on their bill or taxes will receive the rebate. People with more than one meter on their property will receive a single rebate.

This has been a tradition for the last several years.

“My theory ever since I became mayor is we are a village, not a bank,” said Mayor Ed Kidston. “We should not store up our citizens’ money. If we have the money, we should give it back to them.”

With roughly $3.95 million in the electric account, he said they can afford the rebate, which will cost around $120,000.

The council suspended the rules and passed the resolution allowing the rebate unanimously.

Kidston also dispelled the claim the village raises its rates to store this money ahead of time.

“This is done through good management and good practices,” he said. “Our normal electric rate is as low or lower than the rest of the county.”

Separately, Kidston again thanked residents preemptively for their cooperation with the reconstruction of State Street, which started at the beginning of the month.

He requested residents not take State Street, if at all possible, especially with construction expected to start in earnest next week.

“We’re just beginning; It’s going to get a lot worse, hopefully not too much worse, but it will get better,” he said. “There is going to be a lot of tearing out, especially over the next two, three weeks.”

Village Administrator Al Fiser said three crews will be in town working on Monday, two construction crews as well as a gas crew.

The project involves a full reconstruction of the road, with new storm, sewer, gutters and more.

“It will look like a war zone for about six weeks and then they’ll all start putting it all back together six or eight weeks from now,” Kidston said. “That’s all dependent on weather, too, so don’t quote me on the six to eight weeks.”

In other business, council:

• Went into executive session to discuss possible litigation, land acquisition and personnel with no action reported as of press time.

• Approved renewing the village’s property insurance through the Ohio Plan. Premiums this year came out to around $60,000.

• Thanked April McMillen for 11 years of service as the village fiscal officer as she will be leaving the position soon.

• Swore in three new council members: Traci Filson, Trever West and Ben Fiser.

• Selected Randy Cochrane as council president.


Local
Edgerton OKs bid for new autism center

The Edgerton Local Schools Board of Education is moving forward with plans to establish an autism center for students within the village and adjoining districts.

The board approved a $510,000 bid from Siebenaler Construction Monday evening to renovate the school’s annex, which includes converting two classrooms for cross-categorical use with staff provided by the Northwest Ohio Educational Service Center.

“The focus will be on autism,” Superintendent Kermit Riehle said. “Demolition on the front office renovation starts Wednesday (Jan. 12).”

The board also approved spending $40,023.68 to purchase 170 HP Chromebooks with the Google Chrome Education upgrades, licensing and protection plans from Insight. “We’re ordering these a little earlier due to supply chain delays,” Riehle said. “This will hopefully help to having the units arrive in time by summer setup.”

Also approved were 18 supplemental contracts for athletics, including: Mike Caryer, softball; Noah Landel, baseball; Adam Keppeler and Jacob Ferrebee, volunteer track; Kennedy Flower, volunteer softball; Sharon Shaffer, softball; Krista Pahl, Melissa Goebel and Sarah Herman, volleyball; Jason Zumbaugh and Jacob Ferrebee, cross country; Toby Kennerk, golf; Brody Flegal, Nic Archer, Jordan Bower, Chase McClellan, Jeremy Goebel and Jim Radabaugh, football.

This year’s spring musical will be “The Wizard of Oz,” April 8-10, with 45 students participating.

During the board’s 2022 organization meeting, Bob Siebenaler was re-elected board president with Chris Herman to serve as vice president.


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