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The Van Wert County Courthouse

Monday, Mar. 2, 2015

2015 "Ohio Has Talent!" winner Sam Duquette (left) sings as Aaron Cooper accompanies her. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

2015 “Ohio Has Talent!” winner Sam Duquette (left) sings as Aaron Cooper accompanies her. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Sam Duquette, a 13-year-old Van Wert singer, is this year’s winner of the “Ohio Has Talent!” competition held over the weekend in the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.

Duquette, who has competed in several past “Ohio Has Talent!” competitions, was the audience’s choice on Saturday with her rendition of Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee,” accompanied by Aaron Cooper of Van Wert. Duquette earned a trophy and a cash prize of $1,000.

Second place went to Alex Schlegel, a Paulding High School student who performed an often humorous dance routine entitled “The Evolution of Dance.” He earned $500, while the pop a capella group Awakened Commotion from Hardin Northern Local Schools earned $250 for its third-place finish with a medley that included “As Long As You Love Me” and “Wide Awake”.

Honorable mentions included a saxophone quintet from Delphos St. John’s School that performed “What Does the Fox Say?” and Gabe Bailey, a multitalented 12-year-old from Berne, Indiana, who sang “Golden Slumbers Melody” while also playing keyboards, guitar and drums.


POSTED: 03/02/15 at 8:48 am

VW independent/submitted information

Van Wert City Council President Ken Mengerink has also filed petitions seeking the Republican nomination for mayor of Van Wert.

Mengerink noted his desire to foster economic development and work with City Council, the Community Improvement Corporation, Business Development Corporation, Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce, Ohio State University Economic Development Advisory Group and Van Wert City Economic Development office “in a total collaborative effort to secure and maintain jobs for our citizens.”

Ken Mengerink

Ken Mengerink

Mengerink stated that, as Council president, he has had the opportunity to work with many of those organizations and has been involved with economic development and the Jobs Ready Site (megasite) located north of the city.

“It is my personal opinion that the combined efforts of these groups and individuals in the future is the correct avenue for Van Wert to move forward,” Mengerink said, adding that encouraging a positive attitude and working together for the community is his No. 1 goal, one which he feels will benefit the city and its residents.

The mayoral candidate said he feels maintaining a close relationship with existing businesses and industries is important to grow and keep jobs in the city, while, at the same time, actively marketing Van Wert through the city economic development office, Governor John Kasich’s Growth Partnership program, the Ohio Department of Development and Ohio State Extension.

“Working in a joint effort with these groups and our local organizations will enhance our community’s potential success,” he added. “We are no longer an island by ourselves, but part of a region, that being northwestern Ohio.”


POSTED: 03/02/15 at 8:41 am. FILED UNDER: News

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

The Western Buckeye Educational Service Center Governing Board held a discussion on budget cuts proposed in Governor John Kasich’s biennial budget, as well as taking care of a number of personnel items during its February meeting last week.

Superintendent Brian Gerber spent the majority of the meeting talking about proposed cuts for Educational Service Centers included in Governor Kasich’s biennial budget. Noting that the governor is proposing a 25-percent budget for ESCs, Gerber said such cuts could actually raise costs for school districts served by ESCs.

Gerber, Brian 12-2010

WBESC Superintendent Brian Gerber

“During the past four years, the governor has bee advocating shared services to reduce cost,” Gerber noted. “Western Buckeye ESC has reduced the cost to our partner schools through a shared services delivery model, (but) the governor’s proposal of a 25-percent funding cut will negatively impact our ability to reduce costs by sharing services.”

Gerber told his board that, without a shared services model, it is possible that school districts served by Western Buckeye could see an increase in spending through the next two years.

“It’s very hypocritical of the governor to advocate shared services to reduce cost, then turn around and propose a 25-percent spending cut to the ESCs who lead in providing a shared services model to the schools they serve,” the WBESC superintendent said, noting that shared service delivery includes speech, occupational and physical therapists, as well as school psychologists and gifted education and grant writing personnel.

“ESCs provide curriculum directors and special education directors to meet the needs of our partner schools,” Gerber added. “ESCs all over Ohio are providing similar academic and operational support services to schools every day to ensure every child in every zip code has access to high quality educational opportunities.”

He added that other instructional services provided by ESCs include itinerant special education and related services staff, paraprofessionals, preschool special education support, 21st Century Grant after-school programs and alternative schools.

“Our alternative school tailors curriculum around the emotionally disabled students to meet their specific learning needs,” Gerber said. “It effectively operates an opportunity school that serves those students who need to recover credits in order to meet graduation requirements.”


POSTED: 03/02/15 at 8:37 am. FILED UNDER: News

Peony Festival information

“Blooming Colors for 40 Years” is the theme for the Peony Festival’s birthday this year. To celebrate, the Peony Festival Committee is planning a couple of changes working to make the 2015 festival better than ever.

First, the YMCA will be bringing its run downtown this year with some exciting new changes to increase the fun factor. Then to give a nod to Peony Festival’s heritage, the parade will be going west down Main Street this year, which is the traditional parade route established in the 1930s and later in the first revival of the festival in the 1950s.

Peony flower artwork 2-2014“Since the march won’t be quite as long, we hope to increase the participation that has dwindled in the last few years and leave the participants with enough energy to come back to the park for more fun,” said Peony Festival Committee President Zoe Longstreth.

The Punt, Pass and Kick contest will return this year, and Longstreth urged local youths to come out and support the Cougar football team, while showing off their grid skills.

The local Girl Scouts will also be returning with their children’s games, as well as a small petting zoo to delight the young, as well as the young at heart.

The Main Street Van Wert organization is also busy making sure area residents have all their favorite food vendors on hand, while ArtRageous on Main will feed participants’ souls with the beautiful artwork of local artists.

“Speaking of beauty, we hope you will take some time during the festival to enjoy the display at Wassenberg Art Center,” Longstreth added. “Even the grounds around the ‘The Wass’ are becoming a work of art.”

This year’s festival will be held the first full weekend in June (June 5-7).

POSTED: 03/02/15 at 8:36 am. FILED UNDER: News

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

A veteran downtown Van Wert business has served its last cup of coffee.

Perks Cafe in downtown Van Wert is closing its doors after 14 years. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

Perks Cafe in downtown Van Wert is closing its doors after 14 years. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

Owner Laura Harshman has announced the closing of Perks Café, 105 W. Main St. in downtown Van Wert.

“After a monumental ride in downtown Van Wert, Perks Café has shut its doors after 14 years,” Harshman said in a news release sent out Friday.

Opened in 2001, “Perks,” as many loyal customers called it, was the first business of its kind in northwest Ohio. Perks was established to provide high-quality roasted coffee drinks in a warm, family-friendly atmosphere.

In addition to serving a variety of coffee drinks, beans and flavored syrups, Perks also offered a light selection of sandwiches, salads and pastries. Through the years, Perks also supported other small business endeavors by placing their products in the café.

Despite the challenges of opening in what was then a somewhat lagging downtown economy, Harshman said she was committed to locating her business on Main Street. A lifelong Van Wert resident, Harshman, one of only eight international certified baristas in Ohio, added that she believed that her unusual “big city” concept was not too large for the citizens of a small town. She also hoped, accurately, that the unusual café would spur new growth in downtown retail businesses.


POSTED: 02/28/15 at 8:50 am. FILED UNDER: News

Ohio Attorney General’s information

COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Friday issued a report detailing the work of “The Ohio Attorney General’s Moving Ohio Forward” Demolition Grant Program. The report shows the program, which concluded at the end of 2014, helped remove more than 14,000 abandoned and blighted housing units across Ohio.

“While the number of blighted structures we have removed is an impressive figure, the true success of this program is measured by its visible impact in the towns, on the streets, and through the lives it has touched,” said Attorney General DeWine.

Van Wert County has used funds from the program to demolish derelict structures throughout the county.

DeWine announced the program in February 2012 shortly after the National Mortgage Settlement was finalized with 49 states and the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers. The settlement addressed robo-signing abuses that worsened foreclosure issues during the recession. Affected borrowers received direct assistance in the form of cash payments, loan modifications, and reduced interest rates. States also received discretionary funds to help alleviate issues caused by foreclosure.

DeWine used the discretionary funds to create his Moving Ohio Forward Demolition Grant Program to benefit neighborhoods and communities which were also victims of the foreclosure crisis. The program dedicated $75 million of Ohio’s share of the settlement funds for the demolition of abandoned and blighted structures across the state. Each of Ohio’s 88 counties received a proportional allocation of the funds based upon the number of foreclosures in each county between 2008 and 2011. To maximize the reach of the program, counties were required to provide matching funds for any grant amount beyond the first $500,000.

The program, which concluded on December 31, 2014, resulted in the demolition of more than 14,600 blighted housing units at an average cost of $8,148.75 per demolition. The program was able to dedicate more than $119 million toward blight demolition through both the program grants and matching funds.

copy of the report is available on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.

POSTED: 02/28/15 at 8:28 am. FILED UNDER: News

Gasoline price information

CHICAGO — The transition from “winter blend” to “summer blend” gasoline always brings increases in retail gasoline prices, but nothing Americans have seen over the past year is likely to match what GasBuddy anticipates over the next two to three weeks.

“Wednesday brought a big price rally in gasoline markets and gasoline wholesalers are seeing huge increases,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. “Wholesale prices today alone have increased coast to coast from 10 to 27 cents per gallon; and when you add that on top of the increases that occurred earlier this month, it’s inevitable that retail prices will climb aggressively in weeks ahead.”

Gasoline price graphic 8-2012“Just since Monday, February 2, wholesale prices nationwide have increased by an average of 54 cents per gallon,” DeHaan added. “And the west coast, by far, has seen the steepest increases, with Los Angeles wholesale pricing up 96 cents a gallon; San Francisco up 84 cents and the Pacific Northwest up by 73 cents.”

While some of the rally is attributed to the seasonal decline in gasoline inventory; reduced refinery output and the shift to summer grades of gasoline, there have also been significant operational issues at refineries in five states. And of course, the United Steelworkers Union strike that began February 1 exacerbates operations at 12 refineries where they’ve imposed “work stoppages” in California, Texas, Louisiana, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.

“Volatility is the name of the game right now and we expect that to translate into 10-cent increases in retail gasoline, week after week over the next two to three weeks, with larger, more immediate increases in West Coast areas,” DeHaan said.

POSTED: 02/28/15 at 8:27 am. FILED UNDER: News

Crestview Local Schools information

CONVOY — Parents or guardians residing in the Crestview School District having a child 5 years of age on or before August 1, may register their child for kindergarten for the 2015-2016 school year.  Parents or guardians requesting open enrollment for their kindergarten student to the Crestview School District should also register at this time.

Registration will be held Monday, March 16, through Friday, March 20, from 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. in the elementary office (enter at door 9). No appointment is necessary.

At the time of registration, parents or guardians need to present the following: child’s original birth certificate, child’s social security card, child’s immunization record, custody papers (if applicable) and one proof of residency document (mortgage statement, lease agreement, voter registration card, utility statement, bank statement, or rent receipt. A post office box cannot validate residency requirements.).

The incoming kindergarten student need not attend during the 30-minute registration time.

The State of Ohio requires the following immunizations for public school children:

  • 2 doses of MMR
  • 4-5 doses of DPaT, (5 doses are required unless the fourth dose was received after 4 years of age)
  • 3-4 doses of polio (final dose must be after 4 years of age)
  • 3 doses of Hepatitis B
  • 2 doses of Varicella (chicken pox)
  • The Hepatitis A vaccine is also recommended, but not required.
  • All immunizations are required to be documented by the 15th day of school.

Parents will need to update immunizations with their child’s physician or with the Van Wert County Health Department.  The Van Wert County Health Department (419.238.0808, extension 103 or 107) is currently scheduling appointments for immunization clinics.  Vision, hearing, and speech screenings will be conducted at the beginning of the 2015-2016 kindergarten school year as a part of kindergarten screening.

For additional information, contact Crestview Elementary Principal Kathy Mollenkopf at or 419.749.9100, extension 1002.

POSTED: 02/28/15 at 8:25 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Bob Latta (R-Ohio) has announced the opening of the 2015 Congressional Art Competition, encouraging high school students in Ohio’s Fifth Congressional District to submit their original artwork for the chance to be displayed in the U.S. Capitol.

“The Congressional Art Competition is a tremendous opportunity for us to showcase the wealth of artistic talent in Ohio’s Fifth Congressional District,” said Latta. “I encourage all high school students to submit their artwork this year and look forward to seeing our district’s artwork on display in the United States Capitol.”

All artwork will be on display at the Dudley and Mary Marks Lea Gallery in the University of Findlay’s Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion from April 27 through May 2. The winners of the 2015 Congressional Art Competition will be announced at a reception held in the Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion on Saturday, May 2. The overall winner will have his or her artwork displayed for one year in the U.S. Capitol alongside the artwork from other nationwide contestants. In addition, three honorable mentions will also be announced and displayed in Congressman Latta’s district offices.

Each student is allowed one entry. Eligible artwork includes the following categories:

  • Paintings: oil, acrylics, watercolor, etc.
  • Drawings: pastels, colored pencil, pencil, charcoal, ink, markers
  • Collage: must be two-dimensional
  • Prints: lithographs, silkscreen, block prints
  • Mixed Media: use of more than two mediums, such as pencil, ink, etc.
  • Computer Generated Art
  • Photography

The deadline for students to submit their artwork is Wednesday, April 1. Applicants can drop off their application and artwork at one of the Congressman’s district offices:

  • Bowling Green – 1045 N. Main Street, Suite 6, Bowling Green, OH 43402
  • Defiance – 101 Clinton Street, Suite 1200, Defiance, OH 43512
  • Findlay – 318 Dorney Plaza, Room 302, Findlay, OH 45840

District staff is also available to pick up artwork from students. To arrange a pick-up time, contact Congressman Latta’s office toll-free at 800.541.6446.

For more information about the 2015 Congressional Art Competition, click here. Additional rules and guidelines can also be found here.

To share the Congressman’s attached graphic with information about the Congressional Artwork Competition, click one of the following links: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

POSTED: 02/28/15 at 8:24 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment, News

Van Wert SWCD information

The deadline for seedling orders has been announced by the Van Wert Soil and Water Conservation. The seedlings are available in packets of 10 at a minimal cost.

The seedling available include American Arborvitae, Austrian Pine, Colorado Blue Spruce, Eastern Red Cedar, Eastern White Pine, Norway Spruce, Arrowwood, Black Chokeberry, Forsythia, Pin Oak, Red Bud, Sawtooth Oak, Sugar Maple, Sweet Gum and White Flowering Dogwood.

Special assorted packets that are available include the Homeowner Packet, which consists of two of the following:  Norway Spruce, Black Chokeberry, Pin Oak, Red Bud, Sugar Maple.

Three seed packets are available. They include: Wildflower Seed, Hummingbird Seed, and Bird and Butterfly Seed. The 1-ounce Wildflower Seed package contains 10-12 different annual and 10-12 different perennial species adapted for this area that will cover 250 square feet. The half-ounce Hummingbird Seed packet that contains 4-6 different annual and 4-6 different perennial varieties that will cover 150 square feet, and the 1-ounce Bird and Butterfly Seed that contains 7-9 different annual and 7-9 different perennial varieties and will cover 250 square feet.

This program is open to the public. Order forms are available in the SWCD office, 1185 Professional Drive, Van Wert, on the web at, or by calling 419.238.9591. Orders will be accepted until Friday, March 13. The delivery date is mid-April. Payment (cash or check) is required when placing an order.

POSTED: 02/28/15 at 8:23 am. FILED UNDER: News

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Further discussions were held Thursday on the possibility of a partnership that could bring new life to now-idle Starr Commonwealth campus in Van Wert.

Starr President/CEO Marty Mitchell (left) listens as Starr CFO Christopher Smith provides information on the Starr-Van Wert campus. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

Starr President/CEO Marty Mitchell (left) listens as Starr CFO Christopher Smith provides information on the Starr-Van Wert campus. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

This time, Starr’s top management, including President/CEO Martin “Marty” Mitchell, Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer Christopher Smith, Starr Senior Vice President Thomas Tate (who is also a Van Wert resident and former Starr-Van Wert director), and Starr’s chief strategy officer Elizabeth Carey, were also on hand to provide input from Starr on its plans for the Van Wert facility.

Those back from the first meeting on the topic included County Commissioners Stan Owens, Thad Lichtensteiger and Todd Wolfrum, Northwest State Community College President Thomas Stuckey, Cindy Torppa from the Ohio State University Extension, Marsh Foundation Trustee Gary Clay and County Economic Development Director Sarah Smith.

Also attending was Sue Gerker from the county ED office and Commissioners’ Clerk Ryanne Bollenbacher.

Those attending first looked at a business plan drawn up for the facility by Sarah Smith, which proposed connecting business and academia in a partnership that would train and educate local young people and adults.

“By studying locally and completing coursework through programs like College Credit Plus in the county high schools, a significant savings in both housing and tuition would be experienced across the board,” Smith wrote in her business plan.


POSTED: 02/27/15 at 9:06 am. FILED UNDER: News