2009-01-03 / News

Looking back at 2008

Liberty Union approves

bond issue

Liberty Union-Thurston School District voters decided by a 1,501 to 1,206 vote that updating the district's buildings at 60 percent off made sense. Voters had one year to approve a 2.8 million bond issue to pay for the balance of the district's 40 percent share for an expanded and renovated elementary school, a new middle school and a renovated high school. They did it on the first try.

Liberty Union Superintendent Paul Mathews expects it will take about a year to design and bid out the new middle school. He doesn't want to push the design process so fast that staff and community members don't have an opportunity to be involved. The new school will be built adjacent to the elementary school off South Main Street.

Renovating the high school will be a little trickier, Mathews added. It will take two summers for the work and some work will still have to be done during the school year. Lady Lancers win state

Division III softball

championship

After losing in the state finals in 2002, this year Criss Nadolson's Lady Lancers make it all the way.

The y overcame a bus breakdown, heat and a two-hour late start to defeat #3 ranked Bloomdale Elmwood 5-0 in the semifinal. Unranked and unheralded Wellington came from behind to defeat #2 West Liberty Salem in the other semi-final game. The Lady Dukes tried to repeat their semi-final comeback against the Lancers, but Lakewood ace Alissa Birkhimer and a strong defense held them to three runs for a 5- 3 Lakewood victory. Birkhimer overcame strep throat to win the state semi-final and final.

Millersport completes

new water treatment

plant

Millersport dedicated its new water treatment plant in November. The plant can treat 700 gallons per minute and is designed to easily accommodate additional treatment capacity. The plant includes iron and manganese removal, an ion exchange softening system and chlorine disinfection. The $4.7 million facility will also be providing bulk treated water to the Village of Buckeye Lake for its first public water system. Construction was financed with low interest loans and grants from the Ohio Water Development Authority and the Ohio Public Works Commission.

Early startup problems with water discoloration were resolved. The plant has been supplying water to customers since early October.

Walnut Township Schools sells bonds to

make improvements

Late last year, the district sold $3 million of Certificateof Participation (COP) bonds to finance long over due facility improvements. The bonds didn't require voter approval because they will be repaid over the next 28 years out of current taxes. The district had to prove that existing revenue is sufficient to repay the bonds. The first phase consists of five projects that will cost between $1.3 to $1.4 million. They are:

• Technology Improvements: The project includes replacing/upgrading data network equipment, a new terminal based high school computer lab, a mobile computer lab at the high school, and a new phone system. Currently, the district doesn't have voice or email available for staff.

• Heating and air conditioning upgrades: Roof-top HVAC units will be replaced at the junior/senior high school. Controls will be upgraded at the elementary school.

• Roofing: Replace entirely the leaking roofs over both schools.

• Parking and access: The junior/senior high school needs handicap, staff, student and community parking improvements.

• Bleachers: The unsafe home side bleachers at the football field were replaced before the first home game last fall. The new bleachers will be enclosed for safety and elevated so the front rows can see over the players' bench on the field. The new bleachers will seat 720.

New high school

principals

Millersport principal Roger Montgomery's contract was not be renewed last spring. He had led the combined junior/senior high school for seven years.

Charles Leedle is the new principal at Millersport Junior High/High School.

He has been the principal of the new Licking Heights Central Middle School since 2006. From 2002 to 2006, Leedle was assistant principal of the Licking Heights Jr/Sr High School. He served as a teacher in Columbus City Schools for 20 years.

It took just about three weeks to find a new principal for Liberty Union-Thurston High School. Board members unanimously approved a two-year contract with Ed Miller last August. Miller replaces Mark Fullen who resigned July 9 to become principal of Newark High School.

Miller left the West Muskingum School District after 26 years service there. He started as a teacher, was assistant high school principal for 14 years and high school principal for the last four years. West Muskingum High School has about 50 percent more students than Liberty Union Thurston High School.

Hurricane Ike

strikes area

Sustained 75 miles per hour ripped through the Buckeye Lake area early Sunday evening September 14, toppling trees and interrupting electricity. The storm left nearly 650,000 customers statewide without power, nearly half of whom live in Central Ohio. Power lines were down all over the Village of Buckeye Lake, although power was restored to most village residents Monday night.

Several homes were destroyed or severely damaged by trees blown over by the wind. Thornville Village Administrator Ron Koehler said most power was restored to his village Tuesday night. Baltimore Village Administrator Marsha Hall estimated about 25 percent of Baltimore residents were without electricity - about 220 residential customers and 10 businesses. North Main Street businesses had power as of Wednesday.

Tragedy did strike north of Baltimore on Clark Drive in Liberty Township. A falling limb is believed to have killed Randall A. Shaffer in his backyard. Shaffer became well known in central Ohio in his efforts to find his missing OSU medical student son. Hebron Village Administrator Mike McFarland said his village fared extremely well. Some places in Hebron's west side lost power, as did a few random pockets of houses. But, electricity was restored in most of them after several hours.

McFarland said many of the trees were trimmed back from the power lines following the 2004 ice storm, and he believes this saved most of Hebron's lines from Sunday's windstorm. Fairfield Beach and Thurston were still dark Wednesday. Walnut Township Schools were closed through Wednesday and weren't expected to be open Thursday.

Utility trucks were a rare sight Monday and Tuesday in the lake area, prompting complaints from some out-of-power residents. Outof state help arrived Wednesday. Crews from Consumers Energy based in Lansing, Michigan were working in Kirkersville and Buckeye Lake. Four crews from Dominion Resources based in Richmond, Virginia got their instructions Wednesday morning in the Pizza Cottage parking lot.

Lakefront residents said Buckeye Lake actually looked like Buckeye Ocean during the wind storm. Waves crashed over seawalls, sending spray onto some homes. Awnings were ripped from pontoon boats and the heavy waves swamped some boats in their slips. Some boats broke loose from their moorings. One canal front resident watched a steady stream of lawn chairs, cushions and umbrellas get blown down the canal and out into the main lake.

It appears only one tree on the 4.5 mile earthen dam was blown down during the record-breaking storm. It did not affect even the surface of the dam. A few other trees lost some limbs, but ODNR's fears that a major storm would bowl over trees with their root bases, threatening the integrity of the dam itself, didn't materialize.

Garver named Thornville

police chief.

Thornville hired Nick Garver, who served as a full-time patrol officer under former Police Chief Duane Moore from 2002 to 2006, as village police chief Jan. 29. Garver was among 12 candidates for the position.

Mike Schankle, who serves as auxiliary captain., was interim police chief after Moore-along with his wife, Elaine, formerly auxiliary captain-resigned from the Thornville Police Department Dec. 31, 2007. Both served in their respective positions for 13 years. Duane Moore is currently Thorn ville-Thorn Township fire chief. Garver was serving with the New Lexington Police Department when Moore resigned.

Garver was hired at the conclusion of a tumultuous period for the Thornville Police Department. In 2005, several of the village's funds-- including the general and police funds - were in debt for a total of $228,738.80. As of Jan. 1, 2008 all of the village's funds were out of the red.

Northern Perry

County sewer

connections begin.

The Perry County Commissioners announced Feb. 28 that the new Fireman's Park/Holiday Harbor sewer project was ready for customers. Commissioner Thad Cooperrider said that construction was nearly complete on the $4,085,792 project, which was begun March 16, 2007, almost exactly a year before the commissioners' announcement. The dilemma of providing sewer to the portion of Buckeye Lake's south bank in Perry County goes back to the 1970s, when Ohio EPA offered to install a public system, but the county commissioners who were in office at the time refused the service, fearing a public sewer system would attract too much development. After determining that some septic systems in the area were leaking into Buckeye Lake, Ohio EPA placed a moratorium on additional construction in the area. Frustrated property owners weren't able to build on lakeside lots for years. Connections to the sewer system began in April. More than 200 customers have signed onto the system as of Dec. 30.

Buckeye Lake signs

water contract with Millersport and signs

up customers.

Nearly 28 years in the making, the Village of Buckeye Lake signed a contract April 28 for the Village of Millersport to supply Buckeye Lake with bulk public water. Buckeye Lake is responsible for building a distribution system. The Village of Buckeye Lake was incorporated in 1980. The village area has had public sewer since the 1950s, but must use private wells for water. The contract approval comes after years of debate whether the village should purchase treated water from an outside source like Millersport, Hebron, or Licking County, or build a village operated treatment plant.

The project went to bid in December with bids due in January. Contracts should be awarded in February or March and construction remains on track to begin during spring 2009.

Buckeye Lake officials estimate more than 500 Buckeye Lake customers have signed up for public water at year's end. Village officials have estimated that 900 customers will eventually want public water.

New police chief in

Kirkersville

The Licking County Sheriff's Office handled all police calls for about a week after former Kirkersville Police Chief Robert Chamberlain resigned May 7 for personal reasons. May 14, Kirkersville Sgt. Chris Martin was named interim chief until Mayor Terry Ashcraft appointed Buckeye Lake officer Jim Petrey as chief Sept. 3. Ashcraft said Petrey's July reprimand, where he admitted to leaving his post in a Buckeye Lake cruiser while on duty, wasn't enough to stop Ashcraft from hiring him. Petrey drove to Grove City to confront a person who owed him money. Ashcraft said no one would've known about the incident if Petrey hadn't turned himself in, and otherwise Petrey had a good work record.

Buckeye Lake Truck

Stop closes.

It was the end of an era when the Buckeye Lake Truck Stop, a local institution for more than 35 years, closed its doors June 22. Manager Charlie Moore said the garage would remain open. He said many factors contributed to the closure, including the soaring fuel prices last summer and a smoking ban.

Moore's career began at the Sunset Truck Stop on US 40 near Zanesville at Mt. Sterling Hill. When I-70 was built, Moore moved his operation to Buckeye Lake, where there was very little competition at the time. This changed as major truck stops bloomed at the I-70 and Ohio 37 intersection, a few miles west. But, the Buckeye Lake Truck Stop persevered although the other truck stops offered national fuel brands and credit cards.

Moore said his resilient truck stop weathered the fuel crisis of the 1970s and several trucking strikes, however, the 2008 economy finally proved too much to conquer.

Neighbors stand up to

Evans Foundation.

Last July, dozens of Licking Township property owners who live along the former rail bed for the Buckeye Scenic Railroad parked trucks, construction equipment, and themselves on the former rail bed to stop the T.J. Evans Foundation from paving it into a bicycle trail.

South Fork Road resident Joe Simon said the original railroad had the right to cross his property many years ago when the rail line was created. But, since the tracks are no longer there, the bed is no longer a railroad and the Evans Foundation, he said, doesn't have the right to turn it into a bike trail without property owners' permission.

Simon said four years ago, property owners signed a petition clearly stating that none of them wanted a bike trail to be placed arbitrarily across their property, but he said the Evans Foundation, which only holds a quitclaim deed from the railroad, ignored the residents.

An Oct. 15 pretrial conference set a March 2009 deadline for the co-defendants to submit their ownership claims. County Prosecutor Ken Oswalt filed suit, naming both the foundation and adjacent property owners as defendants, to force the dispute to be heard in court.

Captain Woody's

owners busted.

A federal grand jury indicted Captain Woody's owners Joseph Marasco, 42 of Pataskala, and Robert Fusner, 33 of Grove City July 16, alleging that they conspired to traffic in illegal drugs and launder the proceeds of the crime, as well as filing false income tax returns, according to a US Department of Justice news release.

The indictment alleges that since 1997 Marasco, Fusner, and others conspired to distribute cocaine and marijuana in Central Ohio. The indictment also alleges the men and others conspired to launder the money from the drug proceeds through buying a boat, cars, Captain Woody's, and other transactions.

Another count alleges the men spent drug money on a two-seat Mercedes-Benz, a 2001 Z06 Corvette, and a Mercedes- Benz E55, a boat, and Captain Woody's.

Robert "Pedro" Mar, Captain Woody's general manager, was not implicated in any wrongdoing, and there was no implication that any drugs were ever sold from Captain Woody's premises.

Marasco and Fusner are scheduled for trial Feb. 9, 2009, . before Senior U.S. District Judge John D. Holschuh.

Union Township forced

to pay Granville more for fire protection and

EMS

Union Township Trustees reluctantly agreed to pay the Granville Township Fire Department $50,000 per year to provide fire protection and emergency services to the area of Union Township north of the CSX railroad. The previous year the township paid $18,000 for the same service, and only $14,000 for prior years.

The price hike came after new Granville Township Fire Chief Jeff Hussey reviewed his department's financial needs and contractual practices. He determined that Union Township was paying far less than other townships currently contracting with the department.

Hussey sent several scenarios for the trustees' consideration with annual totals ranging from $65,000 to more than $150,000. Trustees were somewhat relieved that Granville Township accepted the trustees' $50,000 offer for 2008. At the end of the year, trustees agreed to pay Granville Township $65,000 for 2009 and $80,000 for 2010.

Trustees hired fire service consultant William Kramer, of Kramer & Associates of Cincinnati, to evaluate the township's options. Kramer told trustees in November that Union Township has four options: To maintain the status quo and continue to contract with Granville, Hebron, and Buckeye Lake for fire and EMS services; form a joint fire district with Hebron and possibly (but not necessarily) Granville, Heath, and Buckeye Lake; contract with other fire departments, possibly Heath; or create an independent Union Township Fire Department.

Cortez busted in

Myrtle Beach, Joyce charged and sentenced.

Former Buckeye Lake Village Council member John Cortez, who is charged with 23 counts of unlawful sexual conduct with minors, one count of corrupting another with drugs, and a felonious weapons charge, was arrested Feb. 13 in Myrtle Beach, SC after being a fugitive from justice for nearly two months.

Licking County Sheriff Randy Thorp said his office received information leading them to believe Cortez was near Myrtle Beach. Two Licking County detectives headed s to Myrtle Beach in an attempt to arrest Cortez.

The detectives returned without him, but they distributed flyers with Cortez' picture and information to hotels and bars in the Myrtle Beach area.

On Feb. 13, a woman at Myrtle Beach's Dog House Bar & Grille who said she recognized Cortez from a flyer and he was in the bar. Myrtle Beach officers responded and Cortez didn't resist arrest.

Cortez is scheduled to appear at 8:45 a.m. on Jan. 9, 2009, before Judge Jon Spahr to submit a guilty or no contest plea to the charges against him.

Cortez' accomplice in his flight from Licking County was sentenced to two and a half years in a state penitentiary Nov. 25. Noel Joyce, 46, was accused of funneling money to Cortez while he was a fugitive from justice, then lying about his involvement to a grand jury. Licking County Common Pleas Judge Thomas Marcelain sentenced him to two years in prison on one count of perjury and six months for one count of obstruction of justice for a total of two and a half years. He was also fined $1,000 on each count and received three years of probation.

Snow storm hits

in March

Life in the lake area came to halt March 9 as more than 20 inches of snow buried central Ohio. It was the largest snowfall ever recorded in Columbus and a stunning postscript to a season already very generous with its precipitation.

For the new year, the Farmer's Almanac predicts temperatures will seesaw from January through March 2009. Precipitation will generally be below normal, with above-normal snowfall in the southwest and below-normal snowfall in most other parts of the region. The coldest periods will occur in December, early and mid- January, and in early and mid-February. The snowiest periods will be in early and mid-December, early to mid-January, early February, and early March.

April and May will have above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation, with hot temperatures in mid-May.

Summer temperatures will be near or slightly above normal, on average, with below-normal rainfall. The hottest temperatures will occur in early and mid-June and mid-July.

September and October will be cooler and drier than normal.

Surprising year for

Perry County

Commissioners.

It was a stressful year for Perry County Commissioner incumbents as an established commissioner lost his seat in the March primary and another incumbent won the November election by a mere eight votes. Republican Perry County Commissioner candidate Lloyd E. Harley defeated twoterm incumbent Thad Cooperrider 1,849 votes to 1,657. However, Democrat commissioner candidate Ed Keister edged out Harley 7,246 to 7,000 in November.

Incumbent Fred Shriner managed to retain his seat against challenger Charles Van Horn, although barely. Multiple vote counts revealed that Shriner won 7,255 votes to 7,247 - a difference of eight votes.

Floods strike twice

Ironically, it was National Flood Safety Awareness Week when melting snow and continual rain brought another flood to the Buckeye Lake area in March. As of 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, the eastbound exit ramp from I-70 to SR 79 south was closed to traffic and the Licking River's rising waters threatened to close I-70 entirely by nightfall. Sandbags were stacked along Sellers Point as waters lapped the bottom of the SR 360 bridge. The Buckeye Lake Estates mobile home park experienced severe flooding, as did the KOA campground. The forecast called for more rain and snow into Wednesday night.

Thanks to last week's heavy snow melt which raised the lake level, Buckeye Lake couldn't hold more rain water and contributed to the area flooding caused by the South Fork of the Licking River. Water was pouring over the Seller's Point spillway Wednesday. This is the first flood in several years where water overflowingfrom Buckeye Lake contributed to the flood.

Friday, June 27 was a bad day for motorists and local businesses. Floodwaters closed I-70, backing up traffic for miles either side of the Ohio 79 overpass.

Torrential summer rains started early Thursday morning., June 26. The Buckeye Lake storm gage reported about 3.4 inches of rain with most of it falling between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. For a six hour storm event, the early Thursday morning rain was between a 50 and a 100 year event according to Julie Dian-Reed of the National Weather Service. About another inch of rain fell Thursday and early Friday morning.

The nearly 4.5 inches of rain pushed the South Fork of the Licking River over I-70 , first closing the exit ramp to Buckeye Lake, then the eastbound lanes and finally westbound lanes. I-70 was completely closed about 8 a.m. Friday morning with one lane westbound reopening about 11 a.m. Traffic was driving through 6-12 inches of water. Both westbound lanes were open by 4:30 p.m. and one eastbound lane reopened at about 7:00 p.m. All lanes were reopened by 8:30 p.m.

The closure and partial closures pushed heavy traffic through Buckeye Lake, Hebron, Millersport and Thornville. Hebron and Thornville Police spent much of the day on traffic duty.

"While the high water has had impact on individual ramps and specific lanes of 70, rarely do we need to shut down the entire interstate for an extended period," ODOT spokesperson Kate Stickle said. "Only after heavy rainfall like we have seen in the last few days and the impact from the Buckeye Lake spillway does the entire interstate get covered with water." Stickle said I-70 has shut down about once per year recently. A January flood shut down eastbound traffic, but westbound traffic was maintained.

She said ODOT has a proposed project to raise the existing roadway an average of roughly three feet, reconstruct the existing Ohio 79 cloverleaf interchange into a diamond interchange, and raise 10 bridges to match the heightened highway. The proposed project may run upwards of $55 million, she said. Stickle had no estimate of when or if the project would happen.

Liberty Union Thurston

football Lions

make history

The Lions made history when they won the school's first ever football regional final. Hundreds of fans made the trip to Hamilton Township High School, braving the worst weather of the season.

The Lions stellar defense turned back everything that Mother Nature and Columbus Bishop Ready threw at them for a 13-3 victory. Offensively, the Lions sputtered in the strong wind driven icy rain. Defense and special teams got the job done.

A Shane Little sack of Ready quarterback Brennan McCarty set up the Lions' first score. James Weaver blocked the ensuing punt which Ethan Pulvermacher recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.

Kicker Sam Tennant was a perfect two for two, kicking a 50- yard field goal in the first half and 47-yarder in the fourth quarter.

The Lions ran into #1 ranked and football factory Youngstown Ursuline in the state semi-final. The Fighting Irish were out to avenge a loss in last year's state and used their outstanding speed and depth for a 35-6 victory. The following week, the undefeated Fighting Irish won the state final.

Kirkersville voters void

water deal

Kirkersville voters rejected a contract for limited water service with the Southwest Licking Community Water and Sewer District. Some residents successfully submitted a petition for a referendum and voters rejected the village council approved contract by a 179 to 90 vote.

The contract would've allowed the village to enter into an agreement with Southwest Licking to provide public water only to properties along Ohio 158 (Phase 1), including the Flying J Travel Center, Phantom Fireworks, Kirkersville Elementary School, and several parcels proposed for development.

In order for the village to enter into Phase II, which would provide public water to the rest of the village, council must approve a separate ordinance.

Kirkersville landlord Theresa Green and others exercised their right to submit the issue directly to voters. Green said that Phase I of anything is usually followed by Phase II. She feared that Kirkersville would expand quickly in the same manner as Pickerington or Pataskala if public water were available and she would like Kirkersville to remain a small town. The local schools are already crowded, said Green, and available public water would only attract development and make the schools even more crowded. The majority of Kirkersville voters agreed with her.

Thornville's Letherman

House survives

Last July it was anyone's guess for a while whether Thornville's historic Letherman house would remainstanding, or be destroyed per the terms of the late owner's will. The late Mary Letherman, who willed the home to the village in 1980, asked that the home, next door to the Thornville Post Office, be used as a community recreation center, a doctor's office, or be destroyed if neither use was possible. Village Administrator Ron Koehler estimated it could cost up to $280,000 to bring the old house up to the necessary specifications to become a recreation center or a doctor's office, and the village doesn't have that much to spend. Council member Ron Dittoe said he understood that the house could no longer be insured and posed a liability threat to the village. Council member Terry Lynn, formerly Thornville's mayor, said the situation was complicated because the village has both accepted and denied the Letherman property on various occasions since 1980.

Council members were torn between preserving the home's historic value and protecting Thornville from liability. Village Solicitor Michael Crites, recommended council let the courts decide the home's fate. Crites said Letherman's will was "less artfully written" than it could have been, and left much to interpretation. He said it may be possible for the village to keep the property and use the house for something other than what's described in the will, or the village may be able to raze the house and build a new structure in its place as long as that structure relates to a community center or medical office in some manner.

Buckeye Lake

Museum to expand

The Buckeye Lake Museum broke ground Oct. 19 for its Phase Three expansion. Museum director J-me Braig said the front wall will be knocked out to accommodate an atrium to hold the old "rocket ship," which hung from a ride at the old Buckeye Lake Amusement Park. There will also be a two-story addition on the back of the existing museum.

Braig said the expansion is possible through a generous bequest from Fairfield Beach resident Norma Dixon. She has a large collection of dolls, figurine bears, and Native American artifacts. The two-story addition will be called the Bard & Dixon Family Building and will hold Dixon's entire collection.

Industrial zoning designations prompt

referendum requests

Two controversial decisions that created the first industrial zoned property in Walnut Township lead to petition drives for referendums.

Walnut Township Trustees unanimously approved the township's first I-2 district on May 6 for an approximately 66 acre tract owned by Jerry and Barbara Mock on the west side of Ohio 37. The site is currently an I-1 district. The Mocks' son operates three businesses on the site.

Trustees termed their approval of the zoning change as correcting a mistake made by township officials who had told the Mocks that I-1 zoning would be sufficient for the planned business activities.

Neighbors opposed the change, claiming the Mocks have expanded their operations far beyond their original plans.They are also concerned about a possible C&DD landfill on the site.

Trustees approved the township's second I-2 tract by a 2-1 vote on May 12 with Trustee Wally Gabriel voting "no." This 289 acre tract is owned by Licking Fairfield Corporation and was rezoned from Rural Residential to I-2. Licking-Fairfield owner Ed Parrish said he was solicited by Walnut Township Trustees for industrial zoning on this tract several years ago and again early this year. Parrish lives on the site which stretches east from Ohio 37 and across Millersport Road. He has no specific development plans and has emphasized that he is a farmer, not a developer.

Opponent gathered enough signatures to place both decisions before voters. However, both property owners successfully challenged the referendum petitions before the Fairfield County Board of Elections. Board members turned down both petitions. Opponents have appealed the rejections and decisions are still pending.

Return to top