The Van Wert County Courthouse

Friday, Nov. 15, 2019


Van Wert County Auditor Philip Baxter listens during his arraignment hearing Wednesday morning in Van Wert County Common Pleas Court. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Three Van Wert County officials were arraigned Wednesday morning on indictments stemming from an intrusion into the County Treasurer’s offices in the County Courthouse back in May.

The hearing was held before retired Greene County Common Pleas Judge J. Timothy Campbell, who was presiding on assignment from the Ohio Supreme Court.

County Auditor Philip Baxter was not represented by legal counsel during the hearing, but entered not guilty pleas to three counts: breaking and entering and unauthorized use of property, each a felony of the fifth degree, and a first-degree misdemeanor count of intimidation.

Henry County Prosecuting Attorney Gwen Howe-Gebers, who is acting as special prosecutor in the case, has requested through the Ohio Supreme Court that Baxter be suspended from his elected position until the case is completed.

Baxter has 14 days to either agree to the suspension or request a hearing before the Ohio Supreme Court, Howe-Gebers noted.

The special prosecutor said the suspension process for an elected official was unfamiliar to her, leading to some additional research on the matter.

“It’s very rare (and) I have never been involved in it,” Howe-Gebers noted.

Deputy Auditor Julienne Rolsten also pleaded not guilty to three charges: one count each of tampering with records, a felony of the third degree; and breaking and entering and unauthorized use of property, computer, cable, or telecommunications property, each a felony of the fifth degree.

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POSTED: 11/13/19 at 11:51 am

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Van Wert City Council approved several pieces of legislation, including an ordinance modifying the speed limit on North Franklin Street near Vantage Career Center and Thomas Edison Center, during its meeting Monday night.

Council unanimously approved an emergency ordinance that lowers the speed limit from 35 mph to 20 mph from 8-9 a.m. and 2:30-3:30 p.m. on days school is in session. A sign will be placed approximately 950 feet south of Vantage’s main entrance for northbound traffic and from a school zone sign approximately 720 feet north of the main Vantage entrance for southbound traffic.

Health Service and Safety Committee Chair Bill Marshall talks about possible safety issues related to trash hauling vehicles within the city.
Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

City Council also approved an emergency ordinance authorizing Safety-Service Director Jay Fleming to negotiate and sign contracts with the Pleasant Township Board of Trustees to provide fire and EMS service to unincorporated areas of the township.

The legislation is the result of talks that have taken place between city officials and Pleasant Township trustees over the reinstatement of fire and EMS service provided by the city to township residents. It has been nearly 20 years since township officials ended a fire and EMS services contract with the city during the administration of Mayor Stephen Gehres.

Two pieces of legislation approved Monday deal with an annexation request on property owned by the Larry and Diana Greve Living Trust located on the southwest corner of Westwood Drive and Ervin Road. The first ordinance adopted accepts the property into the city, while the second then changes the classification from R-2 (residential) — the initial zoning designation for all property annexed into the city — to B-3 (business).

Also Monday, City Council approved an emergency ordinance authorizing Mayor Jerry Mazur to allow the city to remain in the opioid class action lawsuit that is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Toledo.

Attorneys representing the City of Van Wert in the lawsuit have noted that remaining in the lawsuit is still in the City’s best interest.

Also adopted or prepared were several pieces of legislation related to temporary appropriations for 2020, as well as a then-and-now certificate and several “housekeeping” transfers and supplementary appropriations.

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POSTED: 11/14/19 at 6:51 am. FILED UNDER: News

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

In addition to three Van Wert County officials, six other people were in Van Wert County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday for arraignment hearings.

Those arraigned include the following:

Daniel Craig, 37, of Van Wert, pleaded not guilty to one count each of domestic violence, a felony of the fourth degree, and assault, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was ordered held on a $10,000 cash bond and to have no contact with alleged victims in the case. A pretrial conference was scheduled for 8 a.m. Wednesday, December 11.

Abbey Eutsler, 33, of Venedocia, entered not guilty pleas to two counts of domestic violence, each a felony of the fourth degree, and one count of intimidation of a witness, a felony of the third degree. She was ordered held on a $50,000 cash bond, and is to have no contact with the alleged victim in the case. Eutsler will appear for a pretrial conference at 8 a.m. December 11.

Ronald Schumm, 22, of Willshire, pleaded not guilty to one count each of aggravated vehicular homicide, a felony of the second degree, and aggravated vehicular homicide, a third-degree felony. An unsecured personal surety bond was set in the case and Schumm will appear for a pretrial conference at 1 p.m. Tuesday, December 10.

Randy Maze, 60, of Lima, entered a not guilty plea to one count of passing bad checks, a felony of the fifth degree. He was released on a surety bond and will appear for a pretrial conference at 8 a.m. December 11.

Mitchell Grote, 23, of Van Wert, pleaded not guilty to one count each of receiving stolen property, a felony of the fourth degree, and carrying a concealed weapon, a misdemeanor of the first degree. He was released on a surety bond and will appear for a pretrial conference at 8:30 a.m. December 10.

Phillip Graves, 26, of Columbus, entered a not guilty plea to one count of failure to register a sex offender, a felony of the third degree. A $25,000 cash bond was set in the case and Graves will appear for a pretrial conference at 8 a.m. December 11.

Three people were also sentenced on Wednesday.

Emily Bollenbacher, 28, of Van Wert, was sentenced to 6-9 years in prison on a charge of aggravated trafficking in drugs, a felony of the second degree, and 18 months on a fourth-degree felony count of aggravated trafficking in drugs. Both sentences are to run concurrent with each other, but consecutive to a prison sentence handed down in Mercer County.

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POSTED: 11/13/19 at 1:59 pm. FILED UNDER: News

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

A group led by local attorney and competition runner Justin Dickman is looking at improvements to the trails around the Van Wert reservoirs.

Dickman said the trails, first installed in 1993 and later expanded in the mid-2000s — and patched at various times — are in bad shape and need resurfaced.

A composite-aggregate surface such as this one near Spencerville could be installed on trails around the Van Wert reservoirs. photo provided

“That surface is currently asphalt and in a very deteriorated state,” Dickman explained. “We’ve reached out to three engineering firms to look at (the trail system) and give us quotes for different options.”

Resurfacing the trails totally with asphalt is probably not the best option, Dickman said, because of the expense and maintenance issues. Cost to resurface with asphalt would cost somewhere between $925,000 and $1.3 million.

“That’s not really economically viable for us to do,” he noted.

A better option, Dickman said, is using composite-aggregate materials to resurface the trails. That project would cost approximately $250,000, still a significant amount of money, but would also include new signage, drainage repair, and removal of outdated exercise equipment adjacent to the trails.

Aggregate is concrete and other materials that are ground up and put down as a base layer, while a fine aggregate layer comprised of a combination of materials — sand, gravel, crushed stone, slag, recycled concrete, and geosynthetic materials — is laid over top of the base.

Dickman said he and other stakeholders have reached out to area communities that use aggregate materials to see how the surface holds up, noting that the Allen County village of Spencerville uses an aggregate surface on community trails.

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POSTED: 11/13/19 at 8:07 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

LIMA — The Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) District 1 will hold a public meeting to share proposed safety improvements for the intersection of U.S. 127/U.S. 224 at Marsh Road in Van Wert County.

The meeting will be held Tuesday, November 19, in the community room at Vantage Career Center, 818 N. Franklin St. in Van Wert.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. with a presentation, followed by an open discussion, and questions from the public. Several exhibits of the proposed improvements will be available for viewing following the presentation. The meeting is expected to conclude by 8 p.m.

The purpose of the meeting is to present the proposed project and to solicit public comments regarding the proposed improvements.

ODOT and its consultant on the project, Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber Inc., are currently conducting a study of the intersection and evaluating options to improve its safety and operation. Among the alternatives being considered is a single-lane roundabout.

The project is tentatively scheduled for construction in 2022.

The public is asked to submit comments regarding the proposed project by December 19. A comment form and concept map of the project area will be available on the project website.

POSTED: 11/13/19 at 8:06 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

The Van Wert 4-H Exchange Club would like to invite area residents to the 2019 Holiday Lights at the Van Wert County Fairgrounds. This year marks the 12th year of the light show. 

In 2007, the Exchange Club began with only 13 displays and 500 vehicles drove through. This year’s show has more than 120 displays and 3,500 vehicles are expected to drive through. Exhibits are themed around the holidays and are supplied by local businesses, individuals, churches, and clubs. 

The first night of this year’s light show will be November 27 and the show will be open from 6-9 p.m. every Thursday through Sunday from November 27-December 8. From December 12-27, the display is open each day from 6-9 p.m. 

Carriage rides through the light show will be offered Friday and Saturday, December 13-14. Santa will be featured every Saturday night. The cost is $5 per car to drive through and $7 a car for the carriage ride. To access the light show, cars should enter at Fox Road Gate 4. Decals are also available for purchase for $10 to enjoy the light show unlimited times (limited amount). 

For additional information, contact Jay at 419.203.2234 or Cindy at 419.203.1413. Information is also available on the Exchange Club’s Facebook page: 4-H Exchange Club Holiday Light Show. 

The Van Wert County 4-H Exchange group is comprised of youths ages 13-18 from all areas of the county. This event is a fundraiser for the group to help support the cost to host or travel to other states in the summer. The 4-Hers experience other cultures and lifestyles, build friendships, and learn more about other areas of the country — making memories that last forever. 

POSTED: 11/13/19 at 8:06 am. FILED UNDER: News

Shown are members of the Wetzel Motorcycle Club, as well as Van Wert Developmental Disabilities/Early Intervention, Head Start, and Thomas Edison Preschool staff, with donated outerwear. Wetzel Motorcycle Club and an anonymous donor recently purchased several coats, hats, and gloves for children served by the three agencies. photo provided

POSTED: 11/13/19 at 8:05 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

The Van Wert City Planning Commission will be at 4 p.m. Thursday, December 5, in City Council Chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building, 515 E. Main St., to accept the final plat for Phase 1A of the Landing at Dickinson Farms Subdivision.

POSTED: 11/13/19 at 8:05 am. FILED UNDER: News

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Three Van Wert County officials will be arraigned Wednesday morning on indictments handed down by the November session of the County Grand Jury.

County Auditor Philip Baxter and Deputy Auditors Julienne Rolsten and Juliann Zinn are scheduled to appear in Van Wert County Common Pleas Court at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday to enter pleas to charges included in the indictments.

The indictments stem from an investigation conducted by Henry County Prosecutor Gwen Howe-Gebers, who is acting as a special prosecutor for Van Wert County, in conjunction with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.

The officials were served with the following criminal indictments related to the investigation this past Friday:

Baxter was served with one count each of breaking and entering, a felony of the fifth degree; intimidation, a misdemeanor of the first degree; and unauthorized use of property, a felony of the fifth degree.

Rolsten has been indicted on one count each of breaking and entering, a felony of the fifth degree; tampering with records, a felony of the third degree; and unauthorized use of property, computer, cable, or telecommunications property, a felony of the fifth degree.

Zinn was indicted on one count of breaking and entering, a felony of the fifth degree.

According to the indictments, the breaking and entering indictments against all three officials stem from an incident that occurred on May 30 of this year. That’s allegedly when a break-in occurred in the County Treasurer’s Office on the second floor of the Courthouse.

The intimidation indictment against Baxter states that, from August 1-September 30, he “knowingly attempted to intimidate or hinder the victim of a crime or delinquent act from filing charges… .”

Rolsten’s and Baxter’s unauthorized use of property indictments stem from attempts to gain access to computers or other devices or systems, while Rolsten was also charged with possible computer hacking.

Rolsten’s tampering with records indictment charges that, from March 1 to April 30, she attempted to “falsify, destroy, remove, conceal, alter, deface, or mutilate any writing, computer software, data, or record” … or “utter any writing or record, knowing it had been tampered with”.

Howe-Gebers noted Tuesday afternoon that more information may be released following Wednesday’s arraignment hearings.

Updated Tuesday, November 12, at 3:30 p.m.

POSTED: 11/12/19 at 3:30 pm. FILED UNDER: News

Van Wert independent

A Van Wert woman was killed in a two-vehicle accident that occurred Monday night at the intersection of U.S. 30 and John Brown Road.

Kathi R. Williams, 58, of Van Wert, sustained fatal injuries as a result of the crash, which occurred at approximately 10 p.m. Monday, according to a news release from Van Wert County Sheriff Thomas M. Riggenbach.

According to investigators, Williams was driving a 2011 Dodge Avenger south on John Brown Road and failed to stop at the intersection with U.S. 30. While attempting to cross the highway, Williams’ car was hit in the driver’s side by a 2018 Volvo CB driven west on U.S. 30 by Homer E. Bolin, 67, of Georgetown, Kentucky. Following the crash, the Volvo ended up in the median between the east and westbound lanes, while the Avenger ended up on the north side of U.S. 30. Both vehicles sustained heavy damage and were towed from the scene.

Mrs. Williams was pronounced dead at the scene by the Van Wert County Coroner’s Office and her body was taken to Van Wert Health. Bolin was not injured.

Sheriff Riggenbach said the crash remains under investigation. Assisting at the scene were Van Wert Fire and EMS, the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Van Wert Garage, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and Van Wert Police Department.

POSTED: 11/12/19 at 10:46 am. FILED UNDER: News

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

With Hiestand Woods Park in need of improvements, the Van Wert County Foundation is looking for public input on just what those improvements might look like.

Hiestand Woods has been a community asset since the 1950s. photo provided

Foundation Executive Secretary Seth Baker talked about the dual nature of the park, which was purchased by Van Wert County Hospital in the 1950s and later acquired by the foundation, noting that the park includes a recreational area in the front portion and a nature preserve in the back two-thirds of the property. 

“It’s an important asset to the community,” Baker said. “It’s really the only native woodland park in our county.”

That dual nature, however, also provides some unique challenges in park management, Baker added.

“Our efforts to preserve it as a nature preserve maybe have not been as successful as they should be,” he said, noting that invasive honeysuckle has taken root in the park and is pushing native plant species out.

Efforts are now being made to deal with the honeysuckle, Baker added, but that process takes time and manpower, since the honeysuckle has to be rooted out plant by plant.

“…it’s an intensive process and a thankless job for volunteers who are undertaking the project,” the foundation executive secretary noted.

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POSTED: 11/12/19 at 9:31 am. FILED UNDER: News