Six people appeared for a variety of hearings in Van Wert County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday, including a Van Wert man sentenced to prison for failing to register as a sex offender.
Dustin Hiser, 31, was sentenced by Van Wert County Probate-Juvenile Judge Kevin Taylor to 17 months in prison on a charge of failure to register as a sex offender, a felony of the fourth degree. Hiser pleaded guilty to the charge during a hearing held December 17.
During sentencing, Judge Taylor did give Hiser credit for 93 days already served.
A second case was also heard by Judge Taylor.
Bronson Pate, 33, of Van Wert, changed his plea to guilty to a charge of aggravated trafficking in drugs, a felony of the fourth degree. A presentence investigation was ordered by Judge Taylor and sentencing will be scheduled at a later date.
Four hearings were also presided over by retired Judge Charles D. Steele.
William Crutchfield, 42, of Van Wert, denied charges he violated his community control probation by being unsuccessfully terminated from the Western Ohio Regional Treatment and Habilitation (WORTH) Center in Lima. A hearing in the case will be set for next week.
Van Wert Fire Dept. information
Van Wert Fire Chief James M. Steele recently announced the retirement of Firefighter/Paramedic Gerald C. “Junior” Balliet Jr. from the Van Wert Fire Department.
Firefighter Balliet was hired on September 5, 1989, and was at the time, and remains today a volunteer firefighter for the Convoy Fire Department.
Balliet is a certified Firefighter 2, paramedic, and a fire safety inspector. He was also the water rescue/boat operator instructor for the department and maintained additional certifications as a hazardous materials technician and confined space rescuer.
Firefighter Balliet officially retired on January 2 with 25.3 years of service. A gathering was held at the Fire Department, where Balliet was presented with a gold watch from the department and a helmet award from the IAFF Local 681 honoring his time in service to the residents of Van Wert.
In attendance were family, friends, and current and retired firefighters from the department.
Crestview High School’s Student Council recently held a “Walk for Bailey” for three days during students’ lunch period, and high school students and staff raised money for Bailey Stegaman, whose family home was destroyed by fire. The Crestview FFA chapter also donated to the cause. Austin Cunningham, president of Student Council and Justin Overmyer, vice president of Student Council, presented the funds to Stegaman. Both boys are also FFA members and represented that group as well. Shown are (from the left) Cunningham, Stegaman, and Overmyer. (Crestview High School photo)
Ohio Attorney General’s information
COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine encourages Ohioans to protect their personal information and take steps to avoid identity theft. The warning coincides with Data Privacy Day (January 28), when organizations around the world promote data protection and cybersecurity.
“Everyone plays a role in protecting personal and private information,” Attorney General DeWine said. “At home and at work, many Ohioans are constantly connected, and as we use more methods to share information, we encourage Ohioans to take steps to help keep their data secure.”
In 2014, for the first time, identity theft was one of the top 10 consumer complaints reported to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Attorney General DeWine created a consumer Identity Theft Unit in 2012 to help victims rectify the effects of identity theft, and from 2013 to 2014, complaints to the unit doubled. Specialists helped to clear hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges.
To help Ohioans protect their personal information, Attorney General DeWine encourages individuals to take the following steps:
- Check Internet and social media privacy and security settings, as well as those of children living in a household.
- Understand how online behaviors can be tracked on computers and mobile devices.
- Don’t “overshare” personal information online, including through social media.
Attorney General DeWine also offers the following tips for businesses:
- Take steps to keep computers and mobile devices free of viruses and other malware.
- Back up data on a regular basis.
- Use a firewall to help secure Internet/data connections.
- Limit system access to only necessary employees.
- Keep payment systems separate from company email and other functions.
To help Ohioans better understand cybersecurity and data privacy issues, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office offers an eight-page cybersecurity brochure and conducts presentations to interested organizations as part of its CHIPP (Cybersecurity Help, Information, and Protection Program) initiative.
To receive a copy of the CHIPP booklet, to schedule a cybersecurity presentation, or to get help with identity theft, consumers should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800.282.0515.
Challenged Higher Drop-In Center held a successful open house event on Friday, January 23. The nonprofit center provides mental health peer support, education, and social recreation. Members celebrated a new logo and street sign. Pictured (from left) are: Lindsey Muhlenkamp, associate director; Megan Sanderson, executive director; Charles Hire; Ron Burt, trustee; Tami Hire, board secretary; Darlene Youtzy, board vice president; Jamie Fetzer, trustee; Jacob Smitley of Van Wert Taxi; “Boots” Miller; and Mark Spieles, board president. For more information, visit www.chpeercenter.org. (photo submitted)
OHIO CITY — There will be a benefit for Betty (Kline) O’Day this Saturday, February 7, at the Ohio City Community building.
O’Day was a resident of the Rockford Villa Apartments in recent decades, but was born and raised in Ohio City. She enjoyed making potholders and giving them to friends and strangers, and was known for her ready smile and cheerful nature. O’Day passed away on December 11, 2014, after battling vulvar cancer. The benefit is to cover funeral costs and to celebrate her life.
There will be two gun raffles to help pay expenses: a 250 Mossburg 500 12-gauge shotgun and a 250 Marlin 1894 45/70. All tickets need to be sold before the raffles. Tickets may be purchased for $10 each from Indiana & Ohio Firearm of Decatur, Indiana, BHS Guns and Chuck and Deb’s in Ohio City.
A pulled pork dinner will begin at 11 a.m. and a live auction will open at 4 p.m. The bands Kill the Rabbit, Bydus, and Evolution will provide entertainment, starting at 8 p.m. There is a suggested donation to see the band.
Monetary donations can be made to Den Herder Funeral Home: 419.399.2866.
Organizers of the benefit are asking for donations that can be auctioned off at the benefit. In return, they will acknowledge donors during the auction, provide their names on a “thank you” poster, and add donors to the list on O’Day’s fan page: “Benefit for Betty.”
For more information or to make donations, contact Scott Bigham at 419.953.9511.
DAVE MOSIER/independent editor
Van Wert County was one of just nine Ohio counties that saw a decrease in its unemployment rate in December, according to figures released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services on Tuesday. A total of 68 counties saw an increase in unemployment, while the jobless rate in the remaining 11 counties stayed the same in December.
Moreover, the Van Wert County’s jobless rate decrease was small, just a tenth of a point, from a revised 3.9 percent in November to 3.8 percent last month, and workforce estimates provided by the ODJFS, in conjunction with the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows more negatives than positives in the county’s new unemployment numbers.
ODJFS workforce numbers show a decline of 200 in the county’s total workforce, from 14,100 in November to 13,900 in December, while employment also dropped 100, from 13,500 to 13,400. Unemployment remained the same at 500.
In fact, jobless numbers would likely have stayed the same if the ODJFS hadn’t revised November 2014’s numbers up, from the 3.8 percent listed in December to an estimate of 3.9 percent this month.
Among neighboring counties, Mercer County was the only county to see a decrease in unemployment numbers, going from a state-low of 2.7 percent in November to 2.6 percent this past month. Auglaize County remained the same at 3.1 percent, while Paulding County also stayed constant at 3.9 percent.
Putnam County saw an increase in the jobless rate, from 3.5 percent in November to 3.7 percent in December, while Allen County also showed a rise in unemployment, from 4.4 percent in November to 4.5 percent last month.
Ohio Attorney General’s information
COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today released the Ohio Attorney General’s Office Human Trafficking Report, which outlines efforts of the Ohio Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission in 2014 to strengthen protections for victims, create stiffer penalties for traffickers, and educate Ohioans on human trafficking and what can be done to stop it.
“Over the past year we have worked to assist victims of human trafficking and to craft and pass legislation providing better protections to minor-age victims and stronger penalties for those who traffic children,” said Attorney General DeWine. “Nothing is more important than protecting Ohio’s children and families from harm, and the criminals who enslave and abuse vulnerable Ohioans must be and will be held accountable.”
In 2014, the Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Commission continued its work on a wide range of projects aimed at helping to put an end to human trafficking in Ohio. In addition to working to pass the End Demand Act, which was signed into law in June, the commission also facilitated the sharing of information related to human trafficking investigations between law enforcement jurisdictions and focused on developing tools and guidelines for educators and community members to engage youth on the issue of human trafficking.
The commission also continued its work toward the reduction of demand for forced labor and compelled commercial sexual activity in Ohio and worked to increase 24-hour emergency response coverage in the state.
The report also includes statistics submitted by local law enforcement agencies regarding human trafficking investigations statewide. The statistics reveal that more law enforcement officers are conducting human trafficking investigations and identifying more potential traffickers and trafficking victims in Ohio than ever recorded in the past.
According to the report, law enforcement agencies across the state conducted at least 85 human trafficking investigations which led to 98 arrests. Law enforcement also reported the identification of 181 potential human trafficking victims, 113 suspected traffickers, and 68 suspected buyers/johns.
In addition, the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, which is part of the Ohio Attorney General’s Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, reported the rescue of 17 potential victims and the referral of 67 potential victims to social services.
A total of 4,975 Ohio peace officers took part in and completed human trafficking training provided by the Attorney General’s Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in 2014.
The entire Ohio Attorney General’s Office 2014 Human Trafficking Report can be found on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.
U.S. House of Representatives information
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) were the leads on a letter, which included other members of the Ohio delegation, to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell expressing concern about guidance released by CMS that describes the types of settings in which states may use federal Medicaid funds to pay for home and community based services (HCBS).
Under this guidance, a “farmstead or disability-specific farm community” is listed as an example of a residential setting that has the effect of isolating individuals receiving HCBS from the broader community.
“Our state is home to several farmstead programs, like Bittersweet Farms, which is located in Ohio’s Fifth Congressional District,” said Latta. “These programs provide vocational and education programs, as well as residential support, for people with autism that enable these individuals to maximize their potential. CMS’ guidance could inhibit the availability of these types of services for the individuals who benefit from them.
“I join my colleagues in urging the Secretary to remove rural, farmstead or disability-specific farm communities from this list, so all Ohioans can continue to have a choice in participating in these farmstead programs,” Latta added.
“Programs such as northwest Ohio’s jewel, Bittersweet Farms, provide crucial services for those with autism as well as confidence for their families and guardians,” said Kaptur. “We urge the Secretary to review the proposed exclusion of farmstead environments in CMS rule making. Experience shows that settings such as Bittersweet Farms have measureable benefit in better outcomes for participants and result in improvement in the daily lives of so many with autism.”
A copy of the letter can be found here.
Van Wert SWCD information
The Van Wert Soil & Water Conservation District is accepting orders for fish fingerlings. The types of fish available are: largemouth bass, blue gill, channel catfish, minnow, and white amur. The bass, blue gill, and channel catfish can be purchased in lots of 25, the larger hybrid blue gill can be purchased in lots of 20, the minnow in quantities of 100 (with a 500 minimum order), and the white amur individually (with a minimum of two ordered).
Suggested stocking rates are available at the office. Orders will be accepted through May 1. The fish will be delivered to the S.W.C.D. parking lot on Wednesday, May 6, at 3 p.m. promptly. Orders will be boxed for your convenience. Order forms are available at the SWCD Office, 1185 Professional Drive, Van Wert, on the website at www.vanwertswcd.org or by calling 419.238.9591.
Paulding County Sheriff’s information
ANTWERP — The all-clear has been given at Antwerp Local Schools, according to the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office.
The building has been searched by the Allen County Bomb Squad and nothing was found.
Paulding County Sheriff Jason Landers said his office assisted the Antwerp Police Department, along with the bomb squad and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office’s Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation’s crime scene unit based in Bowling Green.
Updated 5:25 p.m.