PLATE AUCTION KICKS OFF FESTIVAL
NEW PHILADELPHIA – Organizers say the First Town Days Festival is off to a great start. The 38th annual plate auction brought in $1,250 for the number one plate, purchased by Smith Ambulance owner Bob Smith. He says this year’s plate featuring longtime carousel operator Dave Miller will fit nicely with his collection. The festival continues through Sunday at Tuscora Park. The grand parade steps off at 6:30 tonight (Friday) with fireworks at 10 pm Saturday. Find the complete schedule at http://www.firsttowndays.com/Event%20Schedul.html.
RESIDENTS DEAL WITH WATER CONTAMINATION
OXFORD TOWNSHIP - Tuscarawas County health officials say 10 Oxford Township homeowners must now decide the best manner to treat their contaminated ground water. Health Commissioner Katie Seward says county officials met with nearly 60 area residents Wednesday to explain the options after potential carcinogen PCE and nitrates were found near the Mizer Addition following a diesel fuel spill in January. She says the contaminants were not from the spill but were found thanks to the testing. Seward says residents could choose to permanently tap into the village of Newcomerstown’s water or install their own filtration units. Seward says grants could help fund connection to village water, while individual filters would be at the homeowners’ expense. She says currently the residents are receiving bulk water from the village and bottled water from the state Emergency Management Agency.
TRAVEL INCREASE EXPECTED
UNDATED - AAA officials are bracing for a congested Independence Day weekend on the roadways across the region. Spokeswoman Chelsea Pompeani says more than 35-million Americans are expected to drive 50-miles or more to their extended holiday weekend destinations. She says that includes more than 6-million drivers in their east north central region that includes Ohio, which is about a .7% increase from a year ago. Pompeani says she is also encouraging drivers to make sure their cars are in good shape to reach their destinations as AAA expects to help 360,000 stranded motorists this weekend. Pompeani says AAA is expecting the most 4th of July travelers this weekend since 2007 as gas prices are more than a dollar less than a year ago.
OHIO ELIMINATES PARCC TESTING
COLUMBUS - Students across the state will have a new test to prepare for next year as lawmakers, in the recently passed state budget, stripped the sharply criticized PARCC testing. State Education Superintendent Richard Ross says the consortium was used to administer math and English assessments online a few times during the school year. He says the state now plans to work with the American Institutes for Research, which already administers science and social studies tests. Ross says he is also pleased that state lawmakers have contributed more funds to K-12 opportunities for Ohio students, while also promising funding levels no less than what districts are currently receiving. Ross says a timeline for creating the new tests is unavailable but he hopes to have information to school officials by fall.
MURDER SUSPECT REJECTS COURT-APPOINTED ATTORNEY
CADIZ - The suspect in a Dennison man’s murder is choosing to represent himself in court, for now. 52-year old Wesley “Buster” Clark, formerly of Uhrichsville, waived his right to a court-appointed attorney during arraignment in Harrison County Common Pleas Court Tuesday on murder charges in connection to the may shooting death of 26-year old Dustin Moreland. The court then entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. Harrison County Prosecutor Owen Beetham says Clark will still have opportunities to change his mind ahead of the trial. He says bond was set at $5-million in the event Clark is somehow released early from a nearly four-year prison term he is beginning on unrelated charges from Tuscarawas County.
COUNTY FILLS NEW HR MANAGER POSITION
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Tuscarawas County’s newest administrator is on the job. Commissioners hired Kris Lowdermilk of Massillon in the newly created position of human resource manager. Lowdermilk says his experience in HR for the Stark County Board of Developmental Disabilities and at the Kimble Company prepared him for the work. Lowdermilk says the first two days have already been productive as he is in the learning phase for the moment. Lowdermilk is starting off earning $65-thousand dollars a year. The human resources department will be housed in the renovated offices next to the county commissioners meeting room.
HEALTH DEPARTMENT FIRES NURSING DIRECTOR
DOVER - The Tuscarawas County Health Department has fired its nursing director. Judy Tornabene’s termination is effective July 7th but Director Katie Seward says the board of health attempted to end her employment June 25th. Seward says the board failed to follow procedure to notify the employee ahead of time and had to correct the mistake. Seward says the decision was under consideration for some time. Tornabene says she is seeking legal counsel in the matter and says she was fired because of her job performance and conduct, though Tornabene says she received no written or verbal warnings. Meanwhile, Seward says Diane Rusznak is filling in. Seward says she plans to hire a permanent nursing director later this year.
DRUG ADDICTION PROGRAM PRODUCING RESULTS
DOVER - Local drug counselors are crediting a new treatment program for helping first-time criminal offenders. Tuscarawas County Alcohol and Addiction Center Counselor Tom Strimbu says the Substance Abuse Intensive Diversion, or “SAID”, program is a single day, seven hour intervention. He says once completed, court referred offenders can have their misdemeanor charges dropped. But he says the idea is to create a realization about drugs before they hit rock bottom. Strimbu says the program has been highly successful with many attendees remaining free of the court cycle.
MAN INJURES HAND IN GUN MISHAP
UHRICHSVILLE – A Uhrichsville man is facing charges after allegedly shooting himself accidentally in the hand early Wednesday morning. Police say the incident involving a .45-caliber handgun happened about 12:30 AM at an E. High St. apartment. The man declined an ambulance ride but later had his parents take him to the hospital. Police say nobody else was injured, however the bullet did go through the apartment’s wall and became lodged in the trunk area of a nearby parked car. Police say charges are pending for discharging a firearm within city limits, while the gun and ammunition were collected for evidence as the investigation continues.
TRAFFIC FATALITY COUNT SIGNS NOW UP
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Drivers on I-77 in Tuscarawas County will now get a blunt reminder about the hazards of the highway for the summer. The State Highway Patrol is now using electronic message boards across the state to display the number of traffic fatalities in Ohio so far in 2015. New Philadelphia Post Commander Lt. Mark Glennon says ODOT now has two of the mobile message boards up on crossovers along I-77 south of Strasburg and between Dover and New Philadelphia, showing 487 traffic deaths have been recorded through late June. Glennon says the message boards will also carry other words of advice, including messages about driving sober and wearing seatbelts. Glennon says the message board campaign was put in place for the busy July 4th travel holiday and continues for a trial period through Labor Day.
INDIAN VALLEY DROPS GRADE SYMBOLS
GNADENHUTTEN - Indian Valley School leaders say a plan to drop the plus and minus symbols from letter grades will have positive impacts on students’ chances of getting into college. Superintendent Ira Wentworth says the school board agreed to make the change this week but he says the numerical grading scale remains the same. Wentworth says the signs were previously used at Indian Valley to determine the top student in the senior class but he says now multiple students are recognized for their success at graduation with the top 10% classification. Wentworth says plus symbols provide no extra incentives on grade point averages while the negative sign potentially hurts grades and student efforts to earn scholarships for post-secondary education.
TRAIN FIXED, FERRIS WHEEL UNDER REPAIR
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Tuscora Park officials have some extra work to take care of as they prepare to host the First Town Days Festival this week. RTY spokesman Carey Gardner says both the Ferris wheel and the train were out of operation because of equipment failure over the past few days. The train engine was repaired late Tuesday night and he says he has high hopes that the hydraulic equipment for the Ferris wheel will be fixed soon. Gardner says while the train is back and running, he is unsure if the Ferris wheel will be ready for the festival, which starts tomorrow. He says RTY is more concerned about rider safety though. Gardner says it is unusual that two rides would malfunction at the same time.
COUNCILS ASKED TO RAISE TOBACCO PURCHASING AGE
DOVER - Local health officials say they are hoping more cities adopt a tobacco-21 policy. Tuscarawas County Health Commissioner Katie Seward says people should have to be 21 years old to buy any tobacco products, including cigarettes. She says each city can pass its own law requiring the age limit. Seward says she sent letters requesting the change to local town councils over the last month. But she says 70 cities and eight states already require smokers to be 21 to buy tobacco nationwide.
STATE BUDGET PROMISING FOR LOCAL PROGRAMS
COLUMBUS - Tuscarawas County’s representative in the state legislature says he believes the state budget bill represents his constituents well, as many area residents voiced their thoughts during the crafting process. State Rep. Al Landis says he is also glad to see that the proposal maintains school funding in Tuscarawas County and across the state for the next two years as prior plans to cut money for some districts were scrapped. Landis says the Senate and House also compromised to come up with a $0.35 per pack cigarette tax proposal. The governor signed the $72 billion package late Tuesday but used his line-item veto power 44 times.
COMMISSIONERS MAKE OFFER TO SEI, TUSCBDD
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Tuscarawas County commissioners say they hope a Common Pleas Court mediator will help sort out a recent decision by the Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Starlight Enterprises was asked earlier this month to leave the New Philadelphia workshop and find a new location, though Starlight officials believed lease negotiations were ongoing. Commissioner Belle Everett says the court mediator has agreed to work with both sides for free to possibly resolve the conflict. Everett says the county has no say in the decisions made by the TuscBDD but she says the commissioners have spoken with a number of concerned citizens. Everett says she hopes to hear from the two boards within the next ten days so mediation can get underway as soon as possible.
ADAMHS BOARD SEEKS LEVY RENEWAL
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Tuscarawas County mental health officials are asking for voters’ continued support on the upcoming November ballot. The county commissioners have asked the auditor to certify the valuation for the .5 mill renewal levy for the Tuscarawas County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services board. ADAMH Board Director Dave Schaffer says the tax has had a strong backing for the last 33 years. Schaffer says the levy is the agency’s biggest source of income. Schaffer says the levy generates about $872,000 annually for patient treatment and care.
DOVER DRIVERS ASKED FOR PATIENCE
Dover – City officials are reminding drivers to slow down along E. Iron Avenue and the Boulevard, especially in the curb lanes. Service Director Dave Douglas says road crews have been working to prepare for the bigger paving projects later this summer, leaving gravel-filled areas around the new storm sewer grates. Douglas says they have covered portions of the rough surface left by the harsh winter with only minimal materials because it will only be torn out in a few weeks by grinding down the pavement. State crews will start July 6th in the Tuscarawas Ave. and Davis St. area first, and the Boulevard could be last on the list.
SOAP BOX DERBY WINNERS ROLL ON
DOVER - The Tuscarawas County Soap Box Derby director is praising the city of Dover and area businesses for accommodating the event’s new home this year. Tim Hiller says Deeds Dr. worked out well for Sunday’s race, as road conditions became too poor at the previous event sites of Schoenbrunn and Wabash hill in New Philadelphia. Hiller says the wet and cooler conditions Sunday also did little to spoil the competition. Hiller says the uncertainty of a venue initially caused recruitment problems this year, but organizers rebounded by getting 33 kids to compete Sunday. Hiller says Sunday’s winners who advance to All-American Soap Box derby in Akron July 25 are 12-year old Nick Martin of New Philadelphia, 15-year old Mary Pahoundis of Cambridge and 8-year old Lauren Brown of Malvern.
ELECTRICAL BLAZE DAMAGES HOME
UHRICHSVILLE - fire fighters say no one was injured when a house caught fire in Mill Township early this morning. They say the blaze at the Mel and Tracy Roup home on US 250 SE, started in the basement near the electrical panel. The state fire marshal will assist in the investigation today to confirm that the cause was electrical. Damage to the 1-1/2 story wood frame house is estimated at $15,000. Fire fighters say the Roups awoke to popping noises just before 2 AM and called 911. Their smoke detector was missing its battery at the time. It took fire fighters, who were joined by Dennison’s fire department, about an hour to put the fire out.
TASK FORCE EXPANDS
TUSCARAWAS COUNTY - An expanded local drug enforcement unit is exploring funding options so it no longer has to rely on money from local police departments. Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Detective Phil Valdez says the multi-county LEAD task force, which has replaced the Tuscarawas County LEAD task force, is pursuing grants to cover operating expenses. Valdez says the county missed out on applying for a $75,000 state justice assistance reimbursement grant this year, but the county does hope to obtain the funds next year. Meanwhile, Valdez says the task force has been successful in securing a $15,000 grant from funds left over from the state’s offices of criminal justice services. Valdez says this grant will assist the task force with the cost of making undercover drug buys as well as some equipment for a new trailer to dismantle meth labs in Tuscarawas County.
WATER PARK REFI SUCCESS
UHRICHSVILLE - City leaders say making payments on the Water Park will be a little easier in upcoming years. Mayor Terry Culbertson says a refinancing plan was necessary as making the annual payment was becoming difficult following budget cuts. But Culbertson says the seasonal attraction does assist with the bill after operation expenses are paid off. Culbertson says he is surprised by how successful the refinancing plan has been. Culbertson says the current 4.75% interest rate on the $305,000 annual payment will be lowered to 1.75% after the plan is finalized on July 8.
RAIN HAMPERS HAY CROP
TUSCARAWAS COUNTY - Local agriculture officials say the recent heavy rains have delayed crop growth on several Tuscarawas County farms. OSU Extension Agriculture agent Chris Zoller says with some areas receiving more than three inches of rain around the valley, some farmers have had to replant their crops. But he is still expecting an average yield, as some crops may just require more time to mature. Zoller says the hay crop has been hurt the most as it is too difficult to harvest wet.
NEW FIRST TOWN DAYS QUEEN CROWNED
NEW PHILADELPHIA - The First Town Days Festival has a new queen to reign over this year’s event. 14-year-old Dover high school sophomore Sydney Mowrer of Dover was selected by the judges over four other contestants Friday night at Welty Middle School. The saxophone player is the daughter of Chad and Kerri Mowrer and also wins a $1,500 scholarship. Her first attendant is 16-year-old Camryn Main of New Philadelphia. The pageant master of ceremonies was WJER’s own Bill Morgan. The festival itself gets underway Thursday at Tuscora Park.