The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Jul. 18, 2019

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

A total of 15 people entered pleas Wednesday in Van Wert County Common Pleas Court to grand jury indictments.

In addition, two Rockford residents were given prison sentences related to identity fraud, racketeering, and tampering with records offenses, among others.

Carolyn Sears, 59, was given a total of nine years in prison on two counts of tampering with records, both third-degree felonies; one count each of complicity, a third degree felony, and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity (racketeering), a felony of the first degree. Sears was sentenced to nine years on the racketeering charge and 24 months on the other charges, with all sentences to run concurrently, with no credit for time served.

Tommy Searles, 56, was sentenced to a total of 14 years in prison on one count each of having a weapon under disability and identity fraud, both felonies of the third degree; engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a felony of the first degree; and four counts of tampering with records. He received 24 months in prison on the identity fraud, weapons, tampering counts, with credit for 128 days already served in each case, except for the weapons charge, and 10 years in prison on the corrupt activity charge, with nine days credit for time served.

The weapons charge will be served consecutively to the identity fraud and tampering charges, while the corrupt activity sentence will be served consecutively to the other charges.


POSTED: 07/17/19 at 1:50 pm

VW independent/submitted information

With forecasters predicting high temperatures in the 90s and triple-digit heat indexes around the state over the next several days, state and local agencies remind people that extreme heat should be treated with the same care and preparation as a summer storm.

The Van Wert County Emergency Management Agency has issued an Excessive Heat Watch starting Thursday afternoon and running through Friday and Saturday. 

County Emergency Management Director Rick McCoy said temperatures are expected in the low 90s on Thursday, but will rise to over 95 both Friday and Saturday, with high humidity causing heat indexes to be over 105 degrees. McCoy said local residents should use extreme caution when outside and should also take care of animals and pets that are out in the heat.

The Ohio Departments of Aging and Health also have provided the following helpful information to help Ohioans avoid heat-related problems.

To stay cool during extremely hot days, the state agencies recommend:

  • Drink plenty of cool, non-alcoholic beverages (avoid extremely cold liquids and beverages with high levels of sugar or caffeine)
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing and rest frequently
  • Plan outdoor activities for cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening
  • Take cool baths or showers
  • Seek an air-conditioned environment, such as a store, restaurant, public library, or a family member’s or neighbor’s home, if the indoor temperature in one’s home is higher than is comfortable.

POSTED: 07/18/19 at 6:40 am. FILED UNDER: News

Van Wert Lodge 1197, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, made a donation to the Van Wert County Historical Society to help support the “Railroad Heritage Weekend” to be held July 27-28. The annual event will be held in the Commercial, Administration, and Junior Fair buildings on the Van Wert County Fairgrounds, with more model railroad vendors this year. There will also be operational O, HO, and N gauge model railroad layouts. As always, the event is open to the public. Shown are Elks Exalted Ruler Keith Collins (left) and Charles White representing the Railroad Heritage Committee.Elks photo

POSTED: 07/18/19 at 6:36 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

Van Wert County has been chosen to receive $5,925 to supplement food and shelter programs in Van Wert County. The selection was made by a national board chaired by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and consisting of representatives from the Salvation Army, American Red Cross, United Jewish Communities, Catholic Charities, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, and United Way Worldwide, which provides the administrative staff and functions as fiscal agent.  

FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program website provides information on the federal program.

The local board is responsible for distributing funds appropriated by Congress to help expand the capacity of food and shelter programs in high need areas around the country. The board is made up of Andy McMahon of St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, Jackie Teegarden of Northwestern Ohio Community Action Commission, Catherine Reed of the American Red Cross, Lt. Joseph Cantrell of the Salvation Army, Jamie Evans of the YWCA of Van Wert County, Kathy Taylor of Crisis Care, community representative April Diltz, and Vicki Smith of the United Way of Van Wert County.

The local board will determine how the funds awarded to Van Wert County are distributed among emergency food and shelter programs run by local service organizations in the area. The local board is responsible for recommending agencies to receive these funds and any additional funds available under this phase of the program.


POSTED: 07/17/19 at 7:13 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

WREN — Last year marked 15 consecutive years of Wren rib roasting fun. This year, the Wren Wiffleball Warehouse presents the first-annual “Better Burger Challenge” as a juicy alternative to the previous culinary contest.

This year’s cook-off will be held Saturday, August 17, during the Homecoming festivities. The theme for this initial installment will be “American Grandstand” in order to connect the cooking celebration with Wren’s patriotic heritage. 

Participating chefs will be provided with 2 pounds of ground beef ahead of the contest, and will be responsible for creating their unique recipes. Contestants will be encouraged to develop their own sauce(s) and/or condiments, a side dish, dessert, or accompanying beverage. Contestants will be judged on their creativity and cooking skills while weaving these elements into their final dish. Each contestant will present two final burgers on separate plates for the judging teams, and the remaining burgers will be auctioned off or sold to the public after the contest. 

Contestants will need to provide any equipment and supplies necessary for the cook-off. Ground beef will be provided, at no costto each contestant on the Thursday before the contest. All types of spices, marinades, and “secret recipes” are encouraged. All types of cookers and any fuel sources will be accepted. Cooking will take place outside the Wrenway Wiffleball Park, with preparation beginning as early as 8:45 a.m. and judging starting at 11:30 that morning. 

Burgers will be judged on taste and tenderness, while a separate prize will be given for presentation, sauce or condiment, and best side dish. 

For the fifth consecutive year, a “People’s Choice” award will again be presented. Visiting burger enthusiasts can enter a drawing to be one of two celebrity judges. All burgers must be prepared on-site the day of the contest. 

To sign up or find out more information, email James Lautzenheiser at Only the first 15 amateur cooks who register will be permitted to participate. Deadline to enter is Saturday, August 3. 

POSTED: 07/17/19 at 7:05 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

Van Wert City Schools, in partnership with Energy Optimizers USA, is poised to launch a sweeping energy and security improvement project that is expected to save the district more than $115,000 annually.

Starting this month, Energy Optimizers, USA, will begin work to:

  • Retrofit interior lighting at all of the district’s buildings with LED systems
  • Retrofit exterior lighting at the High School, Middle School, and Elementary School with LED systems
  • Install LED lighting in the Niswonger Performing Arts Center auditorium and lecture hall, along with improved dimming and control systems
  • Install upgraded lighting and HVAC controls at select buildings
  • Replace three water heaters with systems that are up to 96 percent more efficient
  • Install kitchen enhancements at the High School, Middle School, Elementary School, and Early Childhood Center
  • Upgrade security measures at all five buildings, including security controllers and readers

The project is expected to wrap up by mid-August, prior to the start of school.


POSTED: 07/17/19 at 6:57 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

The Van Wert Civil Service Commission will be meeting at noon Friday, July 19, in the City Council Conference Room to discuss an upcoming entry level exam for the Van Wert Fire Department.

POSTED: 07/17/19 at 6:55 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

First Financial Bank recently made a $25,000 donation commitment, payable over five years, to the Van Wert County Regional Airport to help finance expansion efforts at the airport.

Shown are (from the left) Airport Authority member Fred Fisher, Denise Frey and George Brooks of First Financial Bank, and Airport Authority member Mike Keysor. photo provided

In 1935, Van Wert created an airport that would open the skies to the people of the local community. As a steady stream of self-piloted business aircraft, corporate jets, air cargo, and much more use this facility, the airport has plans to make significant upgrades to its existing site. Those upgrades include a new terminal building to be constructed, new aircraft parking, a new public entrance, repair of current buildings, and room for future development of hangar facilities and more. 

“As a community-focused financial institution, First Financial Bank is proud to pledge a $25,000 donation towards helping the local airport complete their project,” said George Brooks of First Financial. “First Financial has a strong commitment to the local Van Wert area and pride themselves on serving and strengthening the neighborhoods where they live and work.” 

With more than 150 banking centers throughout Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Illinois, First Financial provides personalized service and has a continued commitment to helping others on their path to success.

For more information about First Financial Bank visit or

POSTED: 07/16/19 at 7:11 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

The Niswonger Performing Arts Center, along with Season Sponsors Central Insurance, Chuck and Karen Koch, and Statewide Ford Lincoln, announce the availability to “Bundle & Save” on ticket purchases for the 2019-20 season. 

Beginning today, Tuesday, July 16, at noon, ticket buyers can bundle three or more events and save 15 percent. To access the discount, patrons may visit NPACVW.ORG and use the code BUNDLE15 when tickets for at least three events have been placed in the cart.

Another option is to call the box office at 419.238.6722 for ticketing support. A visit to the Niswonger Performing Arts Center at 10700 Ohio 118 in Van Wert, beginning at noon, is also a popular option for selecting a series of events and saving. The Box Office provides personal assistance on selecting a year filled with NPAC entertainment.

Artist videos and more information on the 28 live events coming to the Niswonger stage this season are available at NPACVW.ORG.

POSTED: 07/16/19 at 7:11 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

The Van Wert Farm Bureau and Van Wert Soil & Water Conservation District are co-hosting the second annual Ag Banquet on Tuesday, August 6, at the Van Wert County Council on Aging, 220 Fox Road in Van Wert.  

The evening will begin with an election for two supervisors on the SWCD Board from 5-6 p.m., dinner catered by Gibson’s Barnyard BBQ at 6 p.m., and a meeting following that.

Matt Reese of Ohio’s Country Journal is the speaker for the evening. His presentation is titled “Making mud into mud pies from the toughest planting season in Ohio history” and will focus on the tough Ohio planting season, silver linings, and lessons learned for moving forward.

Tickets are $5 and are available from the Van Wert SWCD, 1185 Professional Drive in Van Wert. Deadline to purchase tickets is Tuesday, July 30.

POSTED: 07/16/19 at 7:10 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

MIDDLE POINT — The Middle Point Lions Club is holding its annual Benefit Auction and Ice Cream Social on Friday, July 26, at the Middle Point Community Building. Food is available starting at 5 p.m., with the auction starting at 6 that evening.

The menu includes pulled pork sandwiches, shredded chicken sandwiches, sloppy joes, hot dogs, Coney dogs, baked beans and other sides, pie, and ice cream. The auction features lots of great items generously donated by merchants in the tri-county area. 

Proceeds from this event fund all of the club’s service projects, including eye exams and glasses for Middle Point area residents in need, sponsorship of youth projects such as Lincolnview Boys and  Girls State participants, the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership program (HOBY), and DARE, and community projects such as wheelchair ramps for village residents.

POSTED: 07/16/19 at 7:09 am. FILED UNDER: News