BAN ON FESTIVALS, BLOCK PARTIES LIFTED IN DOVER
DOVER (WJER) (May 5, 2021) - The Canal Dover Festival will be back this Memorial Day weekend after taking a year off due to COVID-19. Dover city council this week lifted restrictions on mass gatherings that it put it place last year in response to the pandemic. Councilwoman Sandy Moss says in addition to festivals, block parties are allowed again if residents get a permit. The legislation lifts the ban on gatherings but includes language encouraging people to continue following social distancing and mask-wearing recommendations. Dover Exchange Club members are working on the details of the Canal Dover Festival, which will include a parade the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.

COUNTY VOTER TURNOUT LESS THAN SIX PERCENT
NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (May 5, 2021) - Less than 6 percent of Tuscarawas County’s voters turned out for Tuesday’s primary, but the ones that did overwhelmingly supported the tax issues on their ballots. Tuscarawas County Board of Elections Director Gail Garbrandt isn’t surprised by the light turnout, which is only slightly lower than the roughly 6.1 percent they saw for the 2017 primary. Garbrandt says absentee turnout was significantly lower in this election cycle with a combined total 509 early in-person voters and mail-in ballots compared to about 20,000 last November. 

FIRST TOWN DAYS, SUMMER SHOWCASE SLATED FOR RETURNS  
NEW PHILADELPHIA
(WJER) (May 5, 2021) - Organizers of the First Town Days Festival and Summer Showcase concerts say they are optimistic about having them return to as close to normal as possible in 2021. Joe Croft says he’s been working on establishing precautions with the city health department, which could include some spacing rules for spectators at first for the concerts that begin Memorial Day weekend.  But he also expects the state health orders to mostly be lifted eventually this summer. Croft says they are tentatively planning to host First Town Days July 1-4, Thursday through Sunday. Croft says they’ll be updating the schedules on the Summer Showcase and First Town Days websites and Facebook pages as details are finalized.  

LOCAL LEVIES, TAX ISSUES ALL PASS
DOVER (WJER) (May 5, 2021) - Dover safety forces and the Dover Public Library won’t have to worry about any potential operating cuts that eventually could have resulted from Tuesday’s election. Five-year operating renewals for those two entities brought out the most voters and were met with overwhelming approval. Unofficial results show Issue 9 for the library passed 962 to 116. Director Jim Gill says this is validation for the library to continue moving in the right direction. Voters also approved Dover’s Issue 1 684 to 190. It was first passed in 2016 and allowed the city to hire six additional firefighters for the north end station and one police detective. Fire Chief Russ Volkert says Tuesday’s results show people realize the great benefit from both additions. Voters also said yes to a half-percent income tax increase for road repairs in Midvale, fire protection levies for the Strasburg Fire Department and Oxford Township and renewals for Newcomerstown schools and Union Cemetery. 

CY YOUNG DAYS FESTIVAL ON FOR THIS SUMMER
NEWCOMERSTOWN (WJER) (May 4, 2021) - Organizers of the festival honoring a hall-of-fame pitcher with local roots are planning for its return. Newcomerstown Councilman David Shepherd is part of the committee that puts on the yearly festival celebrating Cy Young, who was born and raised in Gilmore. He was telling council members Monday that the three-day event is tentatively scheduled for June 25-27. He says it will likely be a scaled-back version of its pre-pandemic format but still with a parade, old-timers baseball game and 5k race. Shepherd says they’re also excited to welcome former Cleveland Indians relief pitcher and current Rainbow Connection Executive Director Perci Garner, who will serve as the event’s honorary guest, parade marshal and luncheon speaker. 

2020 ZEISBERGER HECKEWELDER AWARD WINNERS ANNOUNCED
NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (May 5, 2021) - The Tuscarawas County Historical Society is recognizing four individuals and one organization for efforts to preserve and promote the county’s heritage. Curator Kim Jurkovic says among the 2020 Zeisberger Heckewelder Award winners are retired Midvale Elementary teachers Candace Wilson And Brenda Stafford, who published three books on local history with help from their students. The pair will receive their medals during a ceremony in the Tuscora Park Pavilion next Tuesday evening alongside Zeisberger Trail and Parks President Joe Krocker and representatives from this year’s organizational winner - The Dover Public Library. The society is also extending the honor to Miller Studio Jeffrey Miller posthumously. Jurkovic says he was instrumental in the preservation of several historic buildings including one in Dover that he had moved onto property he owned to avoid demolition.

COUNCIL SET TO REVIEW MAYORAL INVESTIGATION REPORT

DOVER (WJER) (May 4, 2021) - City council is tentatively scheduled to meet Wednesday evening to hear the findings of a law firm’s investigation into Mayor Rick Homrighausen. Council contracted the Ulmer and Berne law firm in March to look into the mayor’s conduct after Homrighausen refused to resign at council’s request. Homrighausen hasn’t attended a council meeting in months, citing health issues and the pandemic, and members have said it does not appear he can lead the city anymore. Homrighausen did call into council’s meeting via zoom last night to read an announcement about parks and recreation activities. Council two weeks ago unanimously agreed to forward the findings of the investigation to the appropriate local and state authorities.

ELECTION DAY ARRIVES QUIETLY
NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (May 4, 2021) - Voters in Tuscarawas County are deciding just a handful of issues at the polls today. There are renewal levies for the Dover safety forces and the Dover Public Library. Midvale has a half-percent income tax increase up for vote for road improvements. The Strasburg Fire Department is attempting an additional levy for voters in the village and Franklin Township.  And there’s a fire protection replacement levy in Oxford Township. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose says all the health and safety protocols from last November are again in place today. The polls close at 7:30 p.m. tonight. You can check the Tuscarawas County Board of Elections website to see if you have anything to vote on in your precinct.

CONCEALED CARRY POLICY FOR COUNTY OFFICE STAFF RESCINDED
NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (May 3, 2021) - Tuscarawas County’s commissioners say they continue monitoring the security procedures at the county office building and courthouse and will alter them as necessary. The two connected buildings started sharing a single, secure public entrance and checkpoint at the beginning of March. Commissioner Chris Abbuhl says that’s going well so far, but they did rescind the policy from just over a year ago allowing employees at the county office building to carry a concealed weapon since that practice isn’t permitted in courthouses. Abbuhl says the change does not impact employees at the Tuscarawas County Department of Job and Family Services on 16th Street. Employees have been allowed to carry there for a couple years now.

FINANCIAL HELP AVAILABLE TO RESIDENTS EXPERIENCING SEPTIC ISSUES  
DOVER (WJER) (May 3, 2021) - The Tuscarawas County Health Department is lending a hand to homeowners whose wastewater treatment systems are outdated or in need of repairs. The agency recently received a $150,000 grant from the Ohio EPA. Environmental Health Director Caroline Terakedis says they’re using it to fund the program that assists income-eligible homeowners with the cost of repairing or replacing their septic systems or connecting their home to a sanitary sewer. Interested homeowners can find program details and the application at tchdnow.org by clicking on Environmental Health under the services tab or call 330-343-5550. Terakedis says a health department representative will visit the homes of applicants to evaluate their septic systems. Applications for those found to be failing will be forwarded to the local CHIP office, which will solicit bids for the work. 

VACCINATED NURSING HOME EMPLOYEES DON’T HAVE TO BE TESTED
COLUMBUS (WJER) (May 3, 2021) - Nursing home and assisted living employees who are fully vaccinated do not have to undergo routine COVID-19 testing. Governor Mike DeWine issued that order Monday. He says non-vaccinated employees still must be tested twice a week. DeWine says numbers are trending in the right direction, with cases and hospitalizations declining. Ohio’s COVID-19 case rate is at 147.9 per 100,000 people. DeWine has said when it’s under 50, the state will remove health orders. In Tuscarawas County, the health department has been reporting less than 10 new cases per day in recent weeks. Officials say 26 percent of county residents are fully vaccinated.

LIGHT ELECTION DAY PREDICTED TOMORROW
NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (May 3, 2021) - Tuscarawas County’s elections director is expecting a light turnout for Tuesday’s primary.  Gail Garbrandt says almost half of the county’s polling locations, including those in Sugarcreek and most townships, don’t have anything on the ballot.  She says that won’t be the case in November when township trustees along with nonpartisan village and school board candidates will be up for election. Early voting continues at the Tuscarawas County Courthouse until 2 p.m. The polling locations for precincts with issues on the ballot open Tuesday at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 in the evening, which is also the deadline to drop off absentee ballots. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by or on Election Day to be counted. 

STRASBURG FIRE DEPARTMENT HOPES TO INCREASE STAFFING THROUGH LEVY
STRASBURG
(WJER) (May 3, 2021) - Voters in Strasburg and Franklin Township are deciding Tuesday whether the village fire department will get to increase staffing at the station to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Issue five is a 2.5-mill, five-year additional fire protection levy to raise about $327 thousand annually. Assistant Chief Shawn Zurfley says the department right now has part-time firefighters staffing the station just 12 hours a day, and only on weekdays. The village’s general fund has been paying for the part-time firefighters ever since the department’s SAFER grant from FEMA ran out in January. Zurfley says without the levy, they would probably have to go back to being an all-volunteer department, and likely the busiest volunteer department in the county. The levy would cost owners of a $100 thousand home about $87 a year.   

INCOME TAX INCREASE WOULD FUND ROAD REPAIRS IN MIDVALE
MIDVALE (WJER) (April 30, 2021) - Midvale’s income tax revenue would grow by 50 percent if voters approve issue 3 in next week’s election. The village is requesting a half-percent increase that would generate an additional $90,000 annually. Mayor Larry Kopp says the majority would go toward repaving streets and replacing the water lines underneath them. Passage would take the village’s tax rate from 1 to 1 1/2 percent. Kopp says most residents employed outside the village are already paying that, but the half-percent has been going to the municipality where their workplace is located. Kopp isn’t anticipating any budget cuts if the levy doesn’t pass. He says residents will just have to deal with bumpy roads until the village can afford to repair them.   

DOVER VOTERS ASKED TO RENEW FIRE 4-MILL SAFETY LEVY
DOVER (WJER) (April 29, 2021) - Fire Chief Russ Volkert says the city’s safety forces have been able to provide a better response to emergencies since passage of a replacement levy in 2016. That 4-mill levy is up for renewal as Issue 1 on the May 4th ballot. Volkert says its passage in 2016 allowed the city to hire six additional firefighters and a police detective. He says prior to that, the city’s safety forces struggled to respond to simultaneous emergencies, often relying on help from other municipalities. Volkert says renewal will maintain services at their current level for another five years. The levy generates about $1-million dollars per year and costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $114.

METZGER RETURNING AS COUNTY COMMISSIONER
NEW PHILADELPHIA
(WJER) (Apr. 29, 2021) - The vacancy on the Tuscarawas County Board of Commissioners is being filled by someone who is more than familiar with the position. The county Republican Central Committee has appointed Kerry Metzger to replace Joe Sciarretti, who stepped down in March for a new career opportunity. Metzger, who retired from the board in 2018 after 16 Years, says he was asked to come back to provide stability for the remainder of Sciarretti’s term. He says he will not seek re-election in 2022. Metzger says he will be sworn in in a week and a half. In the meantime, he is coming into the office to catch himself up.

LIBRARY SEEKING SUPPORT FOR OPERATING LEVY RENEWAL
DOVER (April 27, 2021) - Voters in Dover Township and the city heading to the polls next week will decide whether to keep about 30-percent of the Dover Public Library’s funding in place. Director Jim Gill says that’s how much is represented by the 1-mill, five-year operating levy up for renewal May 4th. It generates approximately $351,000 for the library annually and costs the owner of a $100,000 dollar home just under $25 per year. Gill says this levy was first passed as new in 2011 with 73-percent of the vote, and then with 77-percent approval as a renewal in 2016. He says without passage, the library would have to start cutting hours, staffing, programs and new materials by next year.

STATE NEWS:
CINCINNATI (AP) — Voters in Cincinnati are making their choice to be the next mayor. Six candidates are in the running in Tuesday's primary, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the November election. The race is nonpartisan, but Democrats dominate the city's politics. Among the candidates are Democratic state Sen. Cecil Thomas, former Democratic congressional nominee Aftab Pureval and David Mann, a former Democratic U.S. House member who has served as mayor before. They are running to succeed Mayor John Cranley, who is term-limited after serving two four-year terms. He is preparing to run in the Democratic governor primary in 2022.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State University says in new court filings that it's planning an individual settlement program that could help resolve more of the remaining claims over alleged sexual misconduct by team doctor Richard Strauss. The now-deceased doctor is accused of abusing hundreds of young men during his two decades there. The university already reached nearly $47 million in settlements for 185 plaintiffs — or an average of about $252,000. OSU says it's committed to providing up to that same average settlement amount under the new program. That could allow some remaining accusers to resolve their cases even as others continue litigation.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — More than 400 supporters of former President Donald Trump have been charged in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, including members of far-right extremist groups. At least 18 of those cases, including one announced Monday, were against Ohio residents identified by the FBI through social media posts and surveillance footage. Federal prosecutors allege at least four Ohioans charged with the breach had links to the anti-government militia group the Oath Keepers. In most cases defendants are charged with entering the Capitol illegally and engaging in violent and destructive conduct while there. Some defendants remain behind bars, while others are free pending upcoming hearings.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A new legislative effort to crack down on distracted driving would make it illegal to drive in Ohio while holding a phone or any other electronic device. The bill introduced Monday by GOP House members Cindy Abrams and Brian Lampton would also make distracted driving a primary driving offense. That would mean police wouldn't need another reason to pull drivers over before enforcing the ban on holding devices. The measure incorporates many elements of a proposal that Republican Gov. Mike DeWine unsuccessfully pushed earlier this year. The bill allows exceptions for emergency responders. It also includes a "one-swipe" exception for people to answer in-coming calls and then disconnect them.

NATIONAL NEWS:
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Relentless wind and rain have pummeled large swaths of the South, spawning tornadoes, sparking a flash flood emergency in Alabama and damaging homes from Texas to Virginia. Crews are preparing to continue cleaning up debris and assessing destruction across the region as some schools canceled classes or moved them online due to damage at buildings and surrounding areas. The National Weather Service's prediction center warned Wednesday morning that flash flooding could also now affect the Central Gulf Coast as storms move southeast. Rain continues to soak much of the region. So far, three deaths have been reported.

UNDATED (AP) — On Wednesday, former President Donald Trump will know his fate on the world's biggest social platform, Facebook. Since the day after the deadly Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol, Trump's social media accounts have been silent — muzzled for inciting violence using the platforms as online megaphones. Now Facebook's quasi-independent Oversight Board will announce whether Facebook must restore his account around 9 a.m. ET. If it rules in Trump's favor, Facebook has seven days to reinstate the account. If the board upholds Facebook's decision, Trump will remain "indefinitely" suspended. Either decision could lead to major repercussions for U.S. politics and regulation of social media.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has set a new vaccination goal to deliver at least one dose to 70% of American adults by July Fourth. He's focusing on easing access to shots as his administration tackles the vexing problem of winning over the doubters and those who are reluctant to get inoculated. Demand for vaccines has dropped off markedly nationwide, with some states leaving more than half their vaccine doses unordered. Biden is calling for states to make vaccines available on a walk-in basis and will direct many pharmacies to do likewise. Biden's goal equates to delivering at least the first shot to 181 million adults and fully vaccinating 160 million by Independence Day. 

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. birth rate fell 4% last year — the largest single-year decrease in nearly 50 years. That's according to a government report being released Wednesday. The rate dropped for moms of every major race and ethnicity, and in nearly age group. It fell to the lowest point since federal health officials started tracking it more than a century ago. Experts say the pandemic no doubt contributed to last year's big decline. Anxiety about COVID-19 and its impact on the economy likely caused many couples to delay children. But many of the 2020 pregnancies began well before the U.S. epidemic.

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — Emergency officials in Mississippi say four people were killed when a small plane crashed into a home. Hattiesburg police were called to the scene of the crash just before 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. Initially they said two people had died; now they have found four victims. Officials didn't immediately identify them or say whether they were on the plane or in the home. Police have called the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate the cause, and they're asking anyone who finds debris or wreckage to notify police. Hattiesburg is about 90 miles southeast of Jackson.

SPORTS:
MLB: Harold Ramirez hit a go-ahead double in the eighth, pinch-hitter Jake Bauers added a two-run homer later in the inning and the Cleveland Indians beat the Kansas City Royals 7-3. Strong bullpen work by Nick Sandlin, Nick Wittgren and Cal Quantrill shut out the Royals over the final four innings as Cleveland rallied from a three-run deficit. Wittgren earned the win, while reliever Josh Staumont took the loss for Kansas City. Salvador Perez had the big highlight for the Royals with a homer that splashed into the fountains an estimated 460 feet from home plate. 

NBA: Devin Booker scored 31 points, Chris Paul had 23 and 16 assists and the Phoenix Suns stayed in step with Utah atop the Western Conference by outlasting the under-manned Cleveland Cavaliers 134-118 in overtime on for their fifth straight win. Mikal Bridges made two 3-pointers, dunked and had a block as Phoenix scored the first 15 points in OT to finally put away the Cavs, who were missing six players with injuries. Phoenix outscored Cleveland 20-4 in the extra five minutes. Cavs rookie Isaac Okoro scored a season-high 32 points and Collin Sexton 29 for the Cavs, who lost their seventh straight.

Anderson Varejão is back with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He signed a 10-day contract to begin a stint to celebrate his 12-year run with the team. The 38-year-old center hasn’t played in the NBA since 2017 with Golden State. The Brazilian agreed to come back and finish this season with the injury-thinned Cavaliers, who are staggering to the finish of another losing season. Cleveland has seven players sidelined with injuries. Varejão played for the team from 2004 to 2016 before he was traded just months before Cleveland won the NBA title.

WEATHER:
TODAY: Cloudy, High 55
TONIGHT: Mostly clear, Low 37
THURSDAY: Partly sunny, a slight chance of showers after 2pm, High 61
FRIDAY: Partly sunny at times, showers likely, storms also possible after 2pm, High 57