FIRE GUTS RURAL HOME
RUSH TOWNSHIP - Fire fighters say no one was injured when a house at 12446 Ripley Road SE caught fire Friday evening. Fire Chief Rick Poland told WJER that the Derrick DeMattio home was gutted inside, but the one story brick structure remains in tact. No damage estimate has been set for the home that Poland says had a unique layout. Poland says it appears the fire started near a utility room, but the state fire marshal investigator will help determine the cause on Monday. He says six fire departments were called to the blaze mostly to shuttle water to the rural location. He says a 12-year-old neighbor girl out walking was first to report the 5 PM fire.
QUESTIONS REMAIN ABOUT FATAL FIRE
DENNISON - Fire fighters say further investigation into Wednesday's N. First St. house fire has yet to reveal what sparked the blaze that killed homeowner 75-year old owner Jay Craft. Dennison Fire Chief Dave McConnell says firefighters and the state fire marshal’s office went through the home again Thursday, but were unable to determine a cause or locate the origin of the fire. McConnell says investigators are unable to confirm a neighbor’s claim that the fire started with an explosion. The coroner’s office has made no official ruling yet on the cause of Craft's death. Meanwhile, funeral services for Craft will be at noon Saturday at the RK Lindsey Funeral Home. The family is encouraging donations in his memory go to the Dennison Fire Department.
YOUTH DEER GUN SEASON RETURNS
NEW PHILADELPHIA - The result of Ohio’s effort to get kids involved and excited about deer hunting is happening this weekend. Tuscarawas County Wildlife Officer Wade Dunlap says the state’s two-day youth deer gun season runs Saturday and Sunday for children 17 and younger with a valid hunting license and permit. Dunlap says an adult must accompany the kids in the field at all times, and this is a way to safely introduce them to the activity. Dunlap says this also assists the state as it tries to further trim back Ohio’s deer herd.
VILLAGE SET FOR FINANCIAL YEAR
DENNISON – Council has approved a temporary budget that may take the village through the entire year. Finance officer Kathy Norman says the $1.3 million in temporary appropriations passed Thursday reflects an increase in income tax collections. She also says the village should have no large equipment purchases in 2015, keeping the village in the black all year.
DOVER FINANCES FALL INTO PLACE
DOVER - Dover leaders are beginning to craft the 2015 fiscal appropriations. Auditor Nicole Stoldt says she recently reviewed the previous four years spending for each department and plans to meet with supervisors next week. Stoldt says much of the work is finished before the budget negotiations begin, thanks to the department heads. Stoldt says the financial figures for next year continue to look positive, including the health insurance and electrical fund, which just received a boost from newly adopted increases. Stoldt says if approved by council, the temporary appropriations should be in place by the end of the year with the new budget active by March.
PORTMAN DISAGREES WITH UNILATERAL ACTION
WASHINGTON - Ohio’s Republican U.S. senator says he’s disappointed that President Obama chose to take executive action on immigration. Obama’s plan aims to protect illegal immigrants from deportation if they have lived in the country for at least five years and have children living in the U.S. legally. Portman says Obama should have let congress address immigration reform rather than going at it alone. And while Obama plans to commit more resources for border patrol, Portman says the issue must be a higher priority. Obama also will expand the deferred action for childhood arrivals program to shield kids who were brought into the country illegally as minors before 2010.
BOARD WORKS TO CERTIFY ELECTION
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Tuscarawas County elections officials say they are still working to certify the November 4th results. Board of Election Director Chuck Miller says the board first reconvened on the 17th, but several paper ballots, including the absentee and provisional, require a second look. Miller says all county boards of election in Ohio have to complete the job by next Tuesday and the local board already has a head start. Miller says so far no races are close enough for a recount and the certification is unlikely to change any of the outcomes from Election Day.
GERBER SELECTED NEW CITY TREASURER
NEW PHILADELPHIA – City officials are welcoming a new treasurer to office. City Republican Central Committee members have selected former city safety director Tom Gerber to fill the vacancy left by Aaron Hillyer, who resigned last week due to time constraints after a year in office. Gerber, who is an Army veteran and retired state trooper with a master’s degree in business administration, says he feels his background has him well-prepared for the job of overseeing the city’s investments.
WEST HIGH OPEN
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Driving patterns are back to normal again for a main route between I-77 and downtown New Philadelphia. Mayor Dave Johnson says the stretch of W. High Ave. being widened from the five-points intersection to the railroad tracks has reopened. Johnson says the road that’s been closed for construction since mid September now has a new center turning lane. Johnson says the road is ready for drivers even though it will go without its top layer of asphalt until the spring. The $2.3 million project also includes new storm drainage, waterlines, curbs and sidewalks.
PHILA MAN DIES IN CRASH
SUGARCREEK - The icy roads are being blamed for a crash that killed a New Philadelphia man near Sugarcreek Tuesday afternoon. Police say 63-year old John Wissman died when his semi truck went off State Route 93 and struck a tree around 4 PM. The State Highway Patrol is investigating.
JOB FAIR DRAWS AREA RESIDENTS
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Area job seekers had a chance to get noticed by employers from across northeastern Ohio and even other states Wednesday. The StarkJobs.com event featured Keystone Clearwater Solutions from Pennsylvania. HR Assistant Ken Kaufman says his company provides assistance to the oil and gas industry and is attempting to fill numerous openings this season. Tara MacLean with Siffrin Incorporated of Canton says her company works with developmentally disabled individuals. MacLean says she was looking for caring individuals at the job fair. StarkJobs.com Event Coordinator Stacey Richardson says client feedback enticed the agency to host the event in New Philadelphia rather than Stark County. The fall job fair included over 40 companies at the Kent State Tuscarawas Performing Arts Center.
COLD WEATHER HITS EARLY
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Forecasters say the big weather swings we’ve experienced so far in November are not that unusual after all. We hit the warmest day of the month last Tuesday at 71 degrees in New Philadelphia, followed by a snowstorm on Monday and some record low temperatures. However Pittsburgh National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Green says anything can still happen typically as we transition into the winter season. However green says there is no indication that this early cold snap means we are in for a repeat of last year’s extreme winter, according to the climate prediction center forecast. New Philadelphia set a record low by dipping to 14 degrees, beating out the previous record low of 18 set in 2005.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN FAIR HOUSING
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Tuscarawas County Fair Housing representatives say victims of domestic violence are highly likely to be discriminated against across the nation. Spokesman Tony Danzo says many cases begin with alleged attacks inside rental properties. He says landlords tend to frown upon multiple calls to the police but he says holding that against a tenant is illegal. Danzo says landlords can also get into some trouble when they refuse to rent to an applicant who has had prior domestic problems. Danzo says he is aware of no Tuscarawas County domestic violence housing discrimination issues, though he continues to educate county and city officials on the matter.
SUPERINTENDENTS JOIN COMMON CORE DEBATE
TUSCARAWAS COUNTY - Local school district superintendents are voicing their opinions on the Common Core learning standards as the curriculum faces repeal at the state level. If signed into law, House Bill 597 would scrap the new standards and revert to guidelines created more than a decade ago. New Philadelphia Schools Superintendent Doug Spade says it would be difficult going backwards at this point. Tusky Valley Superintendent Mark Murphy says after preparing teachers and staff several years in advance for the common core curriculum, changing the standards again would cause district wide turmoil.
CIC GETS MARKETING GRANT
NEW PHILADELPHIA - The Tuscarawas County Community Improvement Corporation is getting a boost from the Tuscarawas County commissioners for marketing purposes. The board agreed Monday to give the CIC $100,000 in both 2015 and 2016 for the effort. Commissioner Kerry Metzger says the proceeds will help make the county and its municipalities more noticeable to the rest of the state through social media and other platforms. Metzger says the funding comes from the county’s growth fund, which he says was set up many years ago to hold leftover money from the former sales tax and fails to impact the general fund. Metzger says the money will benefit all local agencies affiliated with the CIC, while also improving the Hi-Tech Park’s visibility in New Philadelphia.
PORTMAN WANTS NEW OPTIONS
WASHINGTON - Ohio’s Republican US Senator says he still feels the Affordable Care Act should be repealed and replaced with a better system. With the Obamacare open enrollment underway again, Republican Rob Portman says the program is costing most Americans more money and is especially hurting the middle class. Portman says he believes the insurance system should be more competitive, allowing companies to sell across state lines. Portman says he is also worried about high co-pays, deductibles and Ohioans who are without insurance as their previous plan failed to meet the Affordable Care Act requirements.
DOVER PURSUING PARKLAND FUNDS
DOVER - A plan to make the canal lands in Dover more inviting for recreational activity is gaining speed. Law Director Doug O’Meara says council has agreed to apply for the Clean Ohio Green Space Conservation money to increase access to the Tuscarawas River in town, while also adding bike and walking paths. O’Meara says he plans to meet with area homeowners to discuss obtaining their properties, though not all structures would be torn down as a few could be renovated to serve as public restrooms and community areas. He says the grant would fund 75-percent of the work and the city’s local share could come from a variety of sources. The application is due in February.
TEENS ACCUSED OF STARTING SMALL FIRE
STRASBURG - Firefighters say snow day boredom might have set in for two teens accused of starting a fire in a pile of leaves. Firefighters say the two fled the Strasburg-Frankin Park after the incident around 2 PM Monday, though a witness saw the act in progress. No damage was done to the Boy Scout shelter as the teens threw snow on the flames and put the fire out prior to firefighters arriving.
METH IN A SMALL TOWN
NEWCOMERSTOWN - Authorities say good police work and tips from local residents are key to busting meth operations. Officer Jennifer Lowery says her department acted on five search warrants last week and found two non-active meth labs. She says 25-year old Douglas Casteel of Newcomerstown was arrested from one of the properties for a probation violation and is currently in the Tuscarawas County Jail but lowery says drug manufacturers are getting more creative with rolling meth labs in cars. Lowery says meth makers sometimes dispose of their labs in fields and wooded areas in smaller, rural communities like Newcomerstown. Lowery says she believes meth will be a problem for a while, as it can be made with common household items.
UHRICHSVILLE MAKING CUTS TO SAVE
UHRICHSVILLE - Uhrichsville’s mayor says residents should expect a tough winter ahead as cuts will be made to help save the city’s finances. Terry Culbertson says strategic salting of only the municipalities main roads to help cut costs could leave some alleys unassisted. Culbertson says he expects the city’s general fund will end the year on a high note but says he’s apprehensive with what’s to come in 2015. Culbertson says spending caps will affect more than just road salting routes. He says the city has place a 100-ton order of salt in preparation for the upcoming plow season, but he says it’s too early to tell if it will be enough.
WINTER ARRIVES EARLY, SNOW DISRUPTS START OF WORKWEEK
DOVER - The first significant snowfall of the season is having its usual impact more than a month before winter officially starts on the calendar. All Tuscarawas County schools canceled classes this morning as a couple inches fell overnight, and a few more inches of accumulation were possible. There have likely been dozens of cars going off roadways and into ditches as drivers forget to transition to winter driving mode. State troopers say the worst conditions appear to be on the west end of the county around Sugarcreek while sheriff’s deputies have been keeping busy with accidents to the north near Strasburg and Bolivar. The situation has them again reminding drivers to take it slow and give some extra time to make it to your destinations.
CASINO REVENUE BOOSTS COUNTY IMPROVEMENTS
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Gamblers at the state’s casinos continue providing support for the county’s needs. Tuscarawas County Commissioner Chris Abbuhl says the county has received about $1.1 million in casino tax revenue from the state for 2014. Abbuhl says much of it is directed to the county’s capitol improvements fund, which has purchased new sheriff’s cruisers, county courthouse improvements and more this year. He says the rest is retained in the general fund, though it fails to cover the cut in local government shares from the state or the loss of investment income in recent years.
DEMOLITION GRANT EXTENDED
DOVER - The county is asking for more time to be able to demolish homes near the Dover Dam prone to flooding damage. County Flood Plain Coordinator Jill Lengler says a FEMA grant that reimburses the county for the cost to acquire and demolish these properties along the Tuscarawas River was set to expire in February. Lengler says the county commissioners agreed to request to have the life of the grant extended to next November because no contractors have been able to demolish the three low-lying homes the county has been able to acquire so far. Lengler says the properties will benefit the whole community though once cleared. Lengler says the county is also closing to acquiring a fourth home there, while a few other homeowners have turned down the county’s offer to purchase their properties through the grant.
RED KETTLE CAMPAIGN UNDERWAY
DOVER - Dover-New Philadelphia Salvation Army officials say the organization’s largest fundraising event of the year is underway. Lt. Scott Duperree says the Red Kettle campaign kicked off last week as Dover Mayor Rick Homrighausen collected funds outside of Buehler’s, while New Philadelphia Mayor Dave Johnson will took his turn at the New Phila location Monday. Duperree says the mayors generally collect a few hundred dollars each year, but he says volunteers are still needed for the rest of the holiday season. Duperree says he feels this year’s $80,000 goal is obtainable as Tuscarawas County residents donated $77,000 last year. Duppreee says other stores signed on to help through Christmas include Walmart, Big Lots, JC Penny, Tractor Supply, Rural King and Mako’s in Uhrichsville.