2012-01-07 / Front Page

Looking Back on 2011

By Scott Rawdon and Charles Prince


Bed races were a popular activity as Thornville celebrated its bicentennial last July. Bed races were a popular activity as Thornville celebrated its bicentennial last July. LAKE AREA – Last year saw a whirlwind of activity in the Buckeye Lake area -literally and figuratively. From a freak winter tornado to a life-changing coin toss, there was hardly a dull moment!

Township moves into church

January: The Union Township Trustees held their first regular meeting of the year and their first ever in the new Union Township Complex at 1380 Beaver Run Rd. Citing a need to centralize offices and operations, Union Township Trustees purchased the former Licking Baptist Church and its 7.1-acre lot for $310,000 during a Licking County Sheriff’s auction Sept. 3, 2010.

The property’s appraised value was $320,000 and the township was the sole bidder against the Baptist Foundation, which held the mortgage.

The township complex interior was slowly renovated throughout the year to accommodate the Union Township Police Department and its security needs. William Gulick Construction charged roughly $8,000 to complete the upgrades and the township complex was nearly ready to house the police department by the end of 2011.

New streets breaking up

February: It only took about six months for Buckeye Lake Village’s streets, newly paved following installation of a public water distribution system, to begin crumbling. Contractor ChemCote paved the streets for $756,000, but generally failed to apply a bond or tack coat to the existing surface or clean the roadway in front of the paver. Both steps were specified in the contract and represent industry best practices. They are critical steps to get the new asphalt to stick to the existing surface.

As a result, heavily traveled areas, particularly Cranberry Lane, quickly suffered damage. A ChemCote crew returned to Buckeye Lake Village July 20 for about a half day of repairs on Cranberry Lane. The crew ground up asphalt in the two areas where the paving had completely broken through to dirt. After a quick sweep, a new layer of asphalt –without a tack or bond coat – was applied to the deficient and in some areas, nonexistent base. Village personnel said ChemCote would not return after completing those repairs.

Freak tornado

February: A rare winter tornado touched down south of Millersport wreaking havoc on John and Kimberly Darst’s single story Lake Road home. The tornado also virtually destroyed the King Farm on Canal Road. Miraculously, there were no fatalities or injuries at either property, except for one head of cattle at the King Farm that may have suffered a leg injury.

It all happened so fast that Darst said he didn’t know part of his roof was missing until a firefighter told him.

At the King Farm two metal grain silos were torn from their foundations and dropped frighteningly close to the farmhouse, which also sustained damage. According to the National Weather Service, the tornado was considered weak despite the damage it caused. It was rated an EF1, with a 105 miles per hour wind speed. It was about 75 yards wide and touched down for 2.4 miles.

Very wet spring

May: Some local farmers believed they were experiencing 1958 all over again, when conditions were too wet to plant crops on time. “I don’t recall a season when there was no corn planted at this point,” said local farmer Ed Parrish, a farmer since 1974. He said if farmers had the opportunity to plant earlier in the season, the subsequent rain would’ve nearly destroyed their crops, anyway. Parrish said farmers were in a tough spot because they needed anywhere from three or four days to two weeks, in some cases, of dry weather before corn planting could begin. After May 10, crop yields steadily decline and June 5 was the deadline for planting corn.

In June, local farmer and Union Township Trustee John Slater said most lake area farmers were able to plant for the season, despite the particularly soggy spring. “We’re certainly fortunate in this area of Ohio. Eighty percent of the crops were planted at the end of May,” he said. Slater believed he and other farmers would have a decent season following a late planting.

Lady Lions State Runner-up

June: An anticipated rebuilding year for the Liberty Union- Thurston Lions softball team ended up with the softball program’s first-ever trip to the state tournament. The Lady Lions defeated # 6 ranked and 2010 state runner-up West Liberty- Salem 1- 0 to reach Division III state final. The team, built around junior ace Sara Klopfer and senior catcher Megan Van Almsick, “jelled” into a team that finished as Division III state runner- up with a #3 ranking in the state before the tournament and a 27-3 record. In the state final against undefeated and # 1 ranked Warren Champion, the Lions quickly answered Champion’s one run in the first inning with two runs in their half of the inning. The Lions held that 2- 1 lead into the fifth inning when disaster struck. After getting the first Golden Flash to pop-up, Champion tied it up after two singles, then went ahead 3-2 on a triple. Ten straight batters got on base making the score 9-2 before the Lions got the second out. A triple made it 11-2 and the game was basically over. Neither team scored again.

Bowman resigns

June: Lakewood School Board member Joe Bowman Jr. tendered his resignation from the board citing irreconcilable differences with board members and administrative decisions he could not be associated with or support. He believed the board was focusing more upon adults and financial gain than students. “There are numerous adults that are doing the right thing and have a great passion for what they are doing, but unfortunately they become embroiled in battles about finances or funds that simply are not there,” he said.

Bowman said he believed the current board and administration were unable to align their decision making with the future needs of students, parents, and community members consistently. He apologized to those who voted him into office and said he was stepping down with regret.

Bowman was in his second term with about 30 months left in that term. Board member Tim Phillips replaced him and continues to serve on the board.

Thornville celebrates its bicentennial

July: An army of people worked together to make Thornville’s bicentennial celebration a success. Even though it was hot and humid, roughly 1,000 people visited the celebration. Former Mayor Beth Patrick said she expected roughly 30 vehicles for the event’s car show-there were 77 vehicles. Also, Thornville sponsored its first bed races in 50 years. Perry County probate and juvenile court Judge Luann Cooperrider, who participated in a previous Thornville bed race when she was very young, and her team won the first and third heats Sunday. Resident Terry Hill won the second of the three heats. One person rides on a bed, equipped with wheels, as four people push the rolling bed from behind around a long course, competing with another bed and team. Ohio Senator Tim Schaffer (R-District 31), Ohio Representative Bill Hayes (R- District 91), and Senior Field Director Kathleen Young, representing Ohio Congressman Steve Austria, all read proclamations congratulating Thornville on its 200 years.

$3 million windfall for township

July: Licking Township Fiscal Officer Jill Linn had quite a surprise for trustees when President Joe Hart asked if she had any correspondence. She told them that the county auditor’s office had notified her to expect a $3,034.434.36 estate tax payment for the township’s general revenue fund.The identity of the estate is confidential. The single tax payment represents about three times the township’s annual expenditures. Trustees have not spent any of the money to date.

Carp Fest debuts

July: More than 275 fishermen from as far away as Cincinnati and Cleveland turned out for the first ever Buckeye Lake Carp Fest. Their take of just over 2,000 pounds was hard earned as the nuisance fish seemed to abandon their usual haunts during the hot weekend. Fishermen told home $3,600 in cash prizes offered by the tournament sponsor Buckeye Lake for Tomorrow. The tournament was patterned after a similar effort at Grand Lake St. Marys to create awareness about efforts to reduce algae levels in the former canal lakes and to reduce the carp population. The bottom feeders stir up phosphorus in the sediment which is a key nutrient for algae. No one showed up to participate in the Buckeye Lake Carp Cookoff leaving $350 in cash prizes unclaimed. Both events, including a retooled Carp Cook-off, are expected to return in 2012.

Stadium upgrade for Sheridan

August: Northern Local School District unveiled a completely renovated Paul Culver, Jr. football stadium. The $1.2 million project, with some $500,000 in donated money and labor, replaced the 50 year-old condemned bleachers, installed artificial field turf, added restrooms and built a new concession stand and press box. Seating capacity is now 3,500 including a new student area holding 1,000 spectators. The Generals liked their new home, trouncing most of their opponents in what was considered a rebuilding year for a 9-1 record in the regular season. The #7 seeded Generals traveled to Dover for a regional quarterfinal with #2 seed Dover Tornadoes. It was a fast and furious game with 82 points scored in the first half. Dover held on for a 68-53 win.

Baltimore/Thurston settle water fight

August: In a showdown that brewed since 2005, the Village of Thurston explored alternatives to purchasing public water from Baltimore before its contract with Baltimore expires March 3, 2014. Thurston explored building a 5.3 mile, $1.2 million waterline along the east side of Ohio 37 to Millersport to replace the village’s 1.3 mile waterline along Ohio 256 that has conveyed Baltimore water to Thurston for more than 30 years.

Thurston objected to Balti- more’s desire to purchase Thurston’s eight-inch diameter water line that connects the villages along Ohio 256. Thurston officials were concerned Baltimore wanted to use the waterline to promote development out to Ohio 37, while Thurston officials are only interested in purchasing water from Baltimore.

However, according to Thurston’s web site, Thurston officials met in a joint meeting with Baltimore officials Sept. 21 to discuss the water issue. After two and a half hours of talks, in-and-out of executive sessions, a tentative agreement was made.

New middle school opens on time

September: It went right now to the wire, but contractors and Libery Union Thurston school workers had the new medium school ready for students on the scheduled first day of school. The new school, adjacent to the elementary school on Ohio 158, replaces the old middle school and former high school next to the now renovated high school on Washington Street. In the last 10 years, the district has built new elementary and middle schools and substantially renovated the high school. A new district administrative office has been completed at the elementary/middle school complex and work is starting on a new maintenance building and school bus parking area. That should wrap up the district’s physical plant improvements for years.

State park loses Tim Waln

September: Buckeye Lake Regional Park Manager Tim Waln retired after 27 years service. He worked in 10 different parks during his ODNR career, coming to Buckeye Lake as park manager in 2003. About three years ago, he was promoted to regional manager with responsibility for Buckeye Lake, Deer Creek and A. W. Marion. Management ranks in the Division of Parks have been dwindling as the Division’s financial condition deteriorates. Regional park managers are being given management responsibility for more and more parks, increasing their time on the highway and cutting their time in the parks. Waln became frustrated being spread so thin and knew it would be getting worse. After ODNR Parks Chief Dan West retired, he became director of the Broward County, Florida Parks and Recreation Division. Waln applied for a regional park manager position with the division. He manages Tradewinds Park at Coconut Creek. Buckeye Lake is now overseen by Regional Park Manager Hal Harper who is based at Salt Fork State Park outside of Cambridge.

Township fire department adds paid staff

October: Thorn Township started staffing its new Zion Road fire station with two part-time EMTs/firefighters 12 hours a day, five days a week. The all-volunteer department had difficulty making fire and squad runs during the week when most of the volunteers are working at their full time jobs. The paid staff will be on duty from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays.

Donations build police station

October: More than $100,000 worth of donated materials and labor turned the former Millersport water treatment plant into the village’s first stand-alone police station. The new Millersport police station was completed after many months of sweat, elbow grease, and donated materials and man-hours. The project cost the Village of Millersport nothing.

The former water plant, which is just across a parking lot from the Village Offices, seemed like the perfect place to establish a new station, but it was crammed full of no longer used water treatment equipment. Hundreds of man hours later, the interior bears no resemblance to the former water plant’s interior.

Major contributors included Millersport’s Flooring Studio that donated $4,000 worth of flooring and installation labor, Millersport council member Charles Mesko, who donated $600 worth of doors, and Buckeye Lake Marina donated roughly $2,500 in plumbing and HVAC supplies. Other major contributors included the Liebert Corporation of Columbus, which donated $10,000 of furniture, National Safe and Security of Millersport, which donated $6,000 in security cameras and installation, and the Fairfield Career Center of Lancaster, which donated $15,600 worth of labor for electrical installation.

Village administration unsettled

October: Buckeye Lake Village hired former Newark Service Director Daniel Coffman to replace retiring Buckeye Lake Service Director Tim Matheny. Although initially hired as service director, Coffman’s role with the village expanded to include director of development duties, displacing existing Director of Development Valerie Hans, who was relegated to many of Matheny’s former duties, such as clerk of council. Mayor Rick Baker intended for Coffman, who worked 30 hours per week, to take a leadership role with the village.

Coffman resigned his position, effective Dec. 30, to run for Licking County Commissioner against incumbent Tim Bubb.

Baker said he believed that Coffman’s campaign would compromise the village’s relationship with the county commissioners and other county employees and he asked Coffman to resign. “That’s the reason,” he said. “We have an excellent relationship with county officials.”

As of the end of the year, Baker was unsure if the village would replace Coffman’s position or divide responsibilities between the remaining administrative employees.

New mayor for Thornville

November: In the Thornville mayor’s race candidate. Gavin Renner defeated candidate Richard T. Daniels 150 votes to 130. Former Mayor Beth Patrick did not seek another term. Renner and his wife Mary, a former Thornville Village Council member who ran unopposed Nov. 8, were sworn into office Dec. 28. Mayor Renner has yet to appoint a member to an open council seat.

As of Jan. 4, a council and zoning board position were open, and no one had applied to fill the village council seat. It’s likely the village will operate with an empty council position for a while.

Coin toss decides trustee race

November: A coin toss at the Perry County Board of Elections decided the outcome of a Thorn Township Trustee race between one-term incumbent Dick Boring and challenger Robert E. Coleman, who tied in official results with 692 votes each. Coleman chose heads and won the toss.

Levy failure leads to layoffs

December: After voters soundly defeated a new four mill levy for police protection by a 633-355 vote, Baltimore Village Council members and administrators laid off four employees, including two police officers, an administrative assistant, and one service worker.

Former Village Administrator Marsha Hall said the layoffs became necessary due to reduced revenue and drastic increases in the cost of supplies, equipment, and fuel. Hall resigned at the end of the year to accept a position with City of Groveport.

Historical society to manage Cranberry Bog

December: The Buckeye Lake Historical Society announced it would take over management of Buckeye Lake’s unique Cranberry Bog from the ODNR.

“The idea is to benefit both the Buckeye Lake community and Ohio State Parks, as well as allow more people to enjoy the bog,” said Buckeye Lake State Park Manager Hal Harper.

The museum has helped ODNR hold its annual Open Bog Day for the last 13 years,with the museum supplying volunteer boats and drivers for the event.

Fire chief resigns

December: Millersport Fire Chief Bill Yates gave up his post on Dec. 31. He was elected in November to replace the retiring Ralph Zollinger as a Walnut Township Trustee. Two years ago, Yates fell one vote short of unseating incumbent Trustee Sonny Dupler. Yates joined the fire department in 1991 and became chief in December 2001, replacing Tom Dempsey.

Two long-time officials retire

December: Walnut Township Trustee Ralph Zollinger retired at the end of his fifth term, serving 20 years. He did not seek reelection. Hebron Village Administrator Mike McFarland retired from his second career after 10 years as village administrator. The former AT&T manager took early retirement to move to public service, first as Hebron’s income tax administrator and then as village administrator. Both the water treatment and waste water treatment plants were significantly upgraded during his tenure.

Buckeye Lake Library moving

December: After six years in a 1,200 square foot building on West 1st Street, the Buckeye Lake Library is moving into a 3,000 square foot space in the King Plaza on Ohio 79 opposite the KOA Kampground. The old library closed on Saturday, Dec. 31, and will reopen at 2 p.m. on Sunday, January 8. The move represents a significant additional investment by the Licking County Library in new furnishings and additional lending materials, a tremendous commitment by the volunteer Friends of the Buckeye Lake Library to raise additional operating funds and an extremely generous contribution from Chet and Pat Houck.

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