A look back at 2013

Last updated: December 30. 2013 3:01PM - 5789 Views
R-H Staff

With a show designed to please audiences of all ages, The Van-Dells, “The Nation's #1 Rock & Roll Review,” entertained a sell-out crowd as part of a benefit concert. The first Sweet Carole-line Memorial Concert was held Saturday, April 20, at Twin Valley South High School. Proceeds from the show will benefit the Preble County YMCA Strong Kids Campaign. The show was in memory of Carole (Caylor) Smith, who was a life-long Van-Dells fan, said her daughter Edie Steel, who organized the event. According to the YMCA's Executive Director Josh Haynes, the Strong Kids Campaign ensures that no one is denied the opportunity to share in the YMCA experience due to an inability to pay. Each year, thousands of kids learn to swim, play and compete in youth sports leagues, go to summer camp, learn new skills and make new friends at the YMCA. Pictured, the Van-Dells perform their final song of the night.
With a show designed to please audiences of all ages, The Van-Dells, “The Nation's #1 Rock & Roll Review,” entertained a sell-out crowd as part of a benefit concert. The first Sweet Carole-line Memorial Concert was held Saturday, April 20, at Twin Valley South High School. Proceeds from the show will benefit the Preble County YMCA Strong Kids Campaign. The show was in memory of Carole (Caylor) Smith, who was a life-long Van-Dells fan, said her daughter Edie Steel, who organized the event. According to the YMCA's Executive Director Josh Haynes, the Strong Kids Campaign ensures that no one is denied the opportunity to share in the YMCA experience due to an inability to pay. Each year, thousands of kids learn to swim, play and compete in youth sports leagues, go to summer camp, learn new skills and make new friends at the YMCA. Pictured, the Van-Dells perform their final song of the night.
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Last year saw many local news and sports stories crossing the pages of The Register-Herald. 2013 brought news of murders, court and government actions, school systems building new facilities, and some area athletes breaking school records.

What follows is a look back at the top local stories of 2013.


County ED employees

On New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, 2012 Preble County Commissioners discussed the transition of employees Shawnda Combs and Sarah Wyka from county payroll over to the Preble County Development Partnership.

Following an executive session to discuss “employment of county employees,” commissioners acted on a motion to proceed with the process of transferring the ED employees to the PCDP.

“This has been a year-long process, beginning when the partnership began; it was the idea that we would establish the economic development office in the beginning with the idea that within a year, it would be transferred to the Preble County Development Partnership. This is following along those guidelines. It’s a good move. It’s the best thing for Preble County and economic development, and I applaud the Partnership for what they’ve done,” then-commissioner Bob Stonecash said.

FOP questions sentencing

A sentence handed down in the Preble County Common Pleas Court has Preble County law enforcement officials questioning the judge’s decision.

Fraternal Order of Police officials spoke out regarding their displeasure with the punishment Judge David Abruzzo issued to a man who had not only been convicted of burglary and theft, but also had assaulted a corrections officer, and tried to escape from deputies while being transported. Judge David Abruzzo sentenced Thomas J. Reddy to a year in prison and gave him credit for 217 days of time served, meaning he will only serve an additional 148 days in jail.

According to Preble County Fraternal Order of Police President Brad Moore, Reddy was incarcerated on multiple felony counts which included two counts of burglary, theft, escape, and assault. Moore is a deputy with the Preble County Sheriff’s Office. “The issue we have is the judge’s sentencing practices. He, most if not all the time, runs sentences concurrently,” Moore said. “We would have liked to have seen it maxed out. Or if he was going to run it concurrently, give him the three years,” Moore said.

Eaton receives CHIP

The Ohio Development Services Agency’s Office of Community Development has announced that the City of Eaton has been awarded $500,000 for its Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP) for fiscal year 2012-2013. The program aids low to moderate income families in housing rehabilitation projects.

“This has proven to be a great program for the City of Eaton. The program activities have been particularly helpful for those on fixed incomes. We have seen several home repair and rehabilitation projects successfully completed in the last few years,” said Eaton City Manager Brad Collins.

Program funds will be used to bring housing units up to the Office of Community Development’s residential rehabilitation standards.

Gratis Fire/EMS

At an estimated cost of $300,000 to $500,000, a brand new fire and EMS building for the Village of Gratis is out of the question in the near future.

Previously, the department’s had been looking at the possibility of a new building on the lot of the old water tower. According to Gratis Mayor Gary Vest, there aren’t grants available for the construction of a new building, but the village’s emergency departments are now looking at a possible addition to the existing fire house on Harrison Street.

Vest said he spoke with a grant officer, and the addition is a more likely proposition for the village.

The rough drawings, discussed at the village’s Jan. 17 meeting, are for a 50-foot by 25-foot addition onto the west side of the current building.

The total cost estimate for the addition is between $63,000 and $70,000. “Everyone has worked very hard on this and looked at this,” Vest said. “This may be $5,000 grants, $10,000 grants, but there are grants available.”

The proposed building would include a 24-foot by 39-foot classroom, a 9-foot by 10-foot room for housing, and storage space.

Before any grants are applied for, though, the village will need architectural drawings, which Vest said would be about $1,200. Council approved the expenditure.

“We are in desperate need for a building,” Vest said. “This is an idea that (EMS Chief) Joan (Vance) and (Fire Chief) Paul (Raab) has come up with.”

Owen to lead Chamber

After a four month search for a new executive director, the Preble County Chamber of Commerce filled the position, which had been vacant since Aug. 31.

The Chamber announced it had hired Matthew Owen of Tipp City.

Owen brings with him over 10 years of experience as the President and CEO of the Tipp City Area Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director of the Downtown Tipp City Partnership.

Owen, who is married with three children, is a graduate of Liberty University, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Marketing.

Shawn Murphy, past chairperson of the Chamber Board, said the Chamber is very fortunate to have acquired Owen’s services since, with his ability, background, and experience with a Chamber’s operation, he can “hit the ground running.”

Owen will begin his duties with the Preble County Chamber on Feb. 1.

Owen replaces Matt Appenzeller, who stepped down in August to accept a position as Executive Director for the Southern Ohio Chamber Alliance.

Remembering Harbaugh

A group of former Eaton High School football players were responsible for the Harbaugh coaching matchup in Super Bowl XLVII.

At least that’s how it appears to them.

“If it wasn’t for us, I don’t think they’d be coaching against each other in this game,” Kem Medearis joked.

But you can’t blame Medearis and his former teammates for feeling that way. After all, it was this group that one Jack Harbaugh inherited in his first head-coaching job in 1964 at a mere 25 years of age.

It was in Eaton that Harbaugh began what would turn out to be a very successful coaching career at the high school and college levels, and it was in Eaton that he crafted his philosophies in both life and football, philosophies that these former Eagle footballers see in the sons of their old coach.


Kutter murder trial

The New Paris man who stood trial for the murder of 31-year-old Bobby Joe Grubbs was found guilty on two of three felony charges last week, but a mistrial was declared on a murder charge after the jury could not come to consensus.

The jury handed down guilty verdicts on charges of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony, and gross abuse of a corpse, a fifth-degree felony, in the case against Joseph M. Kutter, 78.

But after nearly eight hours of deliberation, the jurors charged with rendering the most important verdict in the case could not break a 10-2 stalemate which had them back in the courtroom at one point asking for further instruction from Judge David N. Abruzzo.

New Paris mayor

New Paris has a new mayor.

Rick Van Winkle was sworn into the office Monday, Feb. 4. He replaces former Mayor Neil Hoffman, who resigned two weeks ago due to personal reasons.

“We gave Neil a couple of weeks to think this over and make sure this was what he wanted to do,” Van Winkle said.

Van Winkle was the president of village council. Under the village’s charter, council president fills the mayor’s position if it is vacated. Van Winkle’s seat on council remained vacant as of press time.

Van Winkle will now be charged with guiding New Paris into a new year with old problems — the village’s funding remains limited.

“The biggest issue is the same issue everyone else is dealing with. We’re trying to survive with the limited finances we have to work with,” Van Winkle said.

Medical Center expansion

The Preble County Youth Foundation (PCYF) recently announced the third expansion of its partner and tenant, Grandview Medical Center.

PCYF’s partnership with Grandview Medical Center has provided myriad benefits to the area, from the increasing availability of local medical services, to their participation in funding a joint PCYF-Kettering College scholarship program for Preble residents, to the expanding employment opportunities they provide in the multi-practitioner facility on Washington-Jackson Road.

The construction will be adding a third specialty suite and providing Dr. Mark Vosler, Dr. Scott Vosler & Dr. Allen Ferguson with additional space to grow their practices. The PCYF embraces the expansion for the health, wellness and employment benefits it, and Grandview, can bring to the community.

As part of the expansion, the PCYF will see a West Alexandria native, Dr. Matthew Roberts, bring his Chiropractic & Rehabilitative practice and multiple employment opportunities to Preble County.

Eaton girls win 18th

The 2011-12 season was a successful one for the Lady Eagles’ basketball team. Now that the 2012-13 regular season is in the bag, the girls surpassed even last season’s triumph.

Eaton traveled to Monroe for the final game of the new 22-game season on Thursday, Feb. 7. Eaton took down the Hornets with ease by a final of 76-27. The win was the 18th of the season for the Eagles, which eclipsed last season’s win total by three. But it’s not the time to celebrate just yet for Eagles’ head coach Gary Peffly and his team.

“We finished the regular season undefeated at home, and also set a season record for most wins by a girls basketball team,” Peffly said.

EHS wrestlers champs

For the second straight year, the Eaton Eagles wrestling squad has earned the title of Southwestern Buckeye League champions. The Eagles claimed 199 points at Brookville High School last weekend at the annual SWBL Championships.

Eaton edged out Dixie, who placed second with 192 points.

“To say we’re proud of this group is a huge understatement,” said Mark Silvers, Eaton head coach. “They’ve worked through adversity and kept their focus and now are back-to-back champions. In this conference, that doesn’t happen very often. The SWBL is always very competitive.”

The Eagles had 12 wrestlers place in the top five of their weight class. Taking championships were Payton Ott at 126 lbs. and Tyler Claybaker at 170 lbs. Ott won a decision over Carlisle’s Jordan McKnight, 8-1, in the first place match. Claybaker pinned Oakwood’s Rocco Baker in 1 minute, 51 seconds to take top honor in his weight class.


Soldier dies in Afghanistan

A local soldier died last week during his first deployment in Afghanistan. Spc. Cody D. Suggs, 22, of West Alexandria, died at Kandahar Airfield on Thursday, March 7, according to a Department of Defense statement released late Friday, March 8.

The Department of Defense said his death was non-combat related, and is being investigated.

Ohio National Guard spokesman James Sims said Saturday that he had no further information about how Suggs died, and did not know how long the investigation would take.

Suggs joined the Ohio National Guard in 2009 shortly after graduating from Twin Valley South High School. He became a truck driver for the 1487th Transportation Company out of Piqua, part of the 371st Sustainment Brigade in Springfield.

Suggs’ unit arrived this year for a one-year deployment in Afghanistan.

Suggs is survived by his parents, who live in West Alexandria, and a sister who lives in Dublin.

Kutter agreement

A plea agreement was reached in the murder case against the New Paris man who stood trial for the killing of 31-year-old Bobby Joe Grubbs.

Joseph M. Kutter, 79, has agreed to enter a guilty plea on a count of voluntary manslaughter, a felony of the first degree. A plea hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, March 19 in the Preble County Court of Common Pleas. The sentencing hearing was to be scheduled at that hearing.


Homeless shelter closed

Citing violations of agreed-upon stipulations between them and the property owner, the Eaton planning board voted to close the city’s emergency homeless shelter at 131 North Beech Street effective April 11. The board’s decision stems from a lack of supervision and a slew of police dispatches to the shelter since it was granted conditional use as a multi-family residential district in 2009. The shelter is owned and operated by Community Action Partnership (CAP) of the Greater Dayton Area.

“The (planning) board and we (the city) were of the understanding that there would be supervision at the shelter 24 hours a day. But from what we gathered, there was basically no supervision at all,” said Eaton Assistant City Manager Joe Ferriell.

The board noted that since July 2011 there had been 26 incidents in which Eaton Police Department responded to the residence, and about one-third of those incidents ended in an arrest, Ferriell said. More specifically, there were five incidents in 2011, 15 in 2012, and six already this year. Calls have been initiated by both neighbors and CAP staff members on site, but a lack of full-time staff members at the facility concerned the board. Currently, CAP only has a volunteer on site.

“Quite frankly I’m concerned about the quality of life and the effect it’s having on the neighborhood and the welfare of the neighbors,” Eaton Mayor Gary Wagner said.

Some of those neighbors were present at the planning board meeting and voiced their concern over the management of the shelter. Complaints ranged from shelter residents using foul language around neighborhood children, violating the shelter’s 10 p.m. curfew, urinating on or outiside the shelter, and frequent drug and alcohol use.

“The board listened to the facts presented to them, and to the residents, and they’re there to help protect the citizens of the city, so they went ahead and made a decision based on that,” Ferriell said.

“It was a shock. It’s a great loss,” said Rita Daily, Preble County Director for Community Action Partnership of the Greater Dayton Area. “It’s the only emergency homeless shelter in Preble County, and I’m not sure where the clients who do need the shelter will go.

Reid gives WAEMS gift

Reid Hospital recently surprised the West Alexandria Emergency Medical Service with a new Lifepak unit — the 16th Lifepak it has presented to local communities in recent years. West Alexandria will pay the hospital just one dollar annually to lease the equipment as part of a program sponsored by Reid to help local EMS personnel provide high-level care for the community.

The Lifepak, which typically costs about $30,000, can take a patient’s blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturation levels. It can also perform electrocardiography (to record the electrical activity of the heart) and defibrillation (which delivers an electrical shock to restore normal heart rhythm). The unit can transmit critical data to any emergency department that is equipped with a Lifepak receiver. This allows emergency departments like the one at Reid to prepare the cardiac catheterization lab before the patient even arrives.

“With heart attacks, time is muscle,” says Ryan Williams, EMS Coordinator at Reid who works with the area emergency medical services. “Lifepak helps us treat patients in the emergency department as well as the cardiac cath lab as quickly as possible. We offer this lease program to help smaller communities provide the best possible care for their residents when it matters most.”

Williams learned that West Alexandria EMS needed a Lifepak when he received an invitation last fall to a chili cook-off designed to raise money to purchase the unit. He called the station and spoke with paramedic Charity Whiteaker. “Charity told me that the cardiac equipment they were using was 17 years old and very outdated,” Williams says. “My director and I agreed that inviting West Alexandria to be part of our lease program was the right thing to do. When I called Charity again to tell her, she was speechless.”

Neavin leaves Eaton

With one year left on his contract and no indication he was going to be offered an extension by the Eaton Board of Education, Brad Neavin decided to make a move.

Neavin has agreed to become the next superintendent at Vandalia-Butler.

Neavin, superintendent of the Eaton Community School District for the past six years, confirmed last week that he is leaving Eaton, although he won’t submit his letter of resignation until the Vandalia Board of Education officially approves the move.

The Vandalia board of education is scheduled to meet Tuesday, April 30 to officially approve Neavin.

Neavin, who has worked in the Eaton district the past 10 years, said he is going to miss Eaton but is exited about his new venture.

“It’s been a sprint for six years,” he said. “It’s been fun. It’s been real fun. I’m going to miss it a lot.”

Neavin has served as superintendent to Eaton Community Schools, a district of approximately 2,200 students, since 2007. He joined the district in 2003 as a principal, first at William Bruce Elementary and then at Eaton High School. Prior to that, he worked for Sugarcreek Local Schools, Trotwood-Madison City Schools and Twin Valley Local Schools.

Vest changes plea

Gratis Mayor Gary Vest, who pleaded not guilty in August of last year to felony unlawful interest in a public contract, changed his plea last week in Preble County Common Pleas Court.

Vest pleaded guilty before Judge David Abruzzo, Friday, April 19, to a first degree misdemeanor charge of unlawful interest in a public contract. He is scheduled to appear for sentencing, Tuesday, April 30.

He originally faced the felony charge for approving a contract for his daughter, Julie Sowder, in 2011.

Abruzzo informed Vest the maximum penalty on the misdemeanor charge is six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The Gratis Village Council originally heard nepotism allegations at the Jan. 19, 2012, regular meeting, and Vest was indicted by a grand jury on Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012, on one count of “unlawful interest in a public contract,” a felony of the fourth degree.

Van-Dell’s perform

With a show designed to please audiences of all ages, The Van-Dells, “The Nation’s #1 Rock & Roll Review,” entertained a sell-out crowd as part of a benefit concert. The first Sweet Carole-line Memorial Concert was held Saturday, April 20, at Twin Valley South High School. Proceeds from the show will benefit the Preble County YMCA Strong Kids Campaign. The show was in memory of Carole (Caylor) Smith, who was a life-long Van-Dells fan, said her daughter Edie Steel, who organized the event.


Murder charges filed

A 48-year-old man was killed in an apparent homicide in West Alexandria.

Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson said his office is currently investigating the incident which occurred at 5877 Lexington Rd.

Simpson said his office received a call at approximately 6:15 a.m., Friday, May 17, from a male subject advising that he had “just done something bad and that he needed to go to jail.”

According to Simpson, the dispatcher lost contact with the caller but the subject called back, identified himself and advised the dispatcher who he was, and that “he had shot his mother’s boyfriend” and that the person was deceased.

Deputies arrived at the residence within 15 minutes and located the male caller at the property.

Deputies also found a male subject dead in the residence. Deputies secured the property and obtained a search warrant. Investigators remained at the scene for several hours processing evidence, according to Simpson.

The victim has been identified as Jerry D. Mason, age 48. He resided at the residence. His body was removed to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office where an autopsy was to performed.

The suspect in this case, Tyler G. Smith, 22, was questioned by investigators. He was housed in the Preble County Jail on a preliminary charge of murder. Smith also resides at the residence where the incident occurred.

Solution to homelessness?

Area leaders may be close to a solution to homelessness in Preble County.

After the City of Eaton voted not to renew a zoning application for an emergency homeless shelter operated by Community Action Partnership (CAP) at 131 North Beech Street in March, support quickly grew to find either temporary or permanent housing for homeless individuals in the county. While nothing is finalized yet, Preble County Continuum of Care took a huge step forward in solving that homeless housing dilemma.

The group heard a proposal at a meeting on Tuesday, May 14, from Chris Farmer, pastor at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Eaton. Farmer proposed that the group consider an interfaith hospitality network (IHN), an approach taken locally in Clark County which saw area churches work together to provide transitional housing for homeless families in the area.

Farmer was part of a congregation in Enon when Clark County’s IHN program began. His proposal hinges on the cooperation of several Preble County churches. Ideally, 10 to 13 host congregations would work together to provide overnight accommodations and meals to homeless families on a rotating weekly schedule.

Healing Wall in Eaton

Terry Pendergraft watched as hundreds of people, some strangers, made their way to Seven Mile Park last weekend and shed tears, shared stories with one another, and he knew bringing the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall to Eaton had served its purpose.

The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall serves as a reminder of those who gave their lives during the Vietnam War.

It is known as the healing wall, the traveling Vietnam Memorial, and it may not have healed all wounds completely, but it at least helped along the process for so many still scarred by the most controversial, convoluted, cumbersome war in American history and its societal and cultural fallout that nearly pulled a nation apart at its seams.

Pendergraft, the Preble County Veterans Service Officer, organized the five-day event, in hopes of giving families and friends a chance to heal and to hold onto memories of long ago.

“You know, I’m simply amazed,” Pendergraft said Sunday during the closing ceremony. “I’ve been here at various times throughout this week and I’ve seen hundreds of people of all ages approach that wall. They point to a name. They take a piece of paper and they do an etching. They etch that name so they have something to take home. Something they can remember. They hug each other. They shed a tear. They start talking to strangers. And brothers and sisters that’s why the wall is here. It’s about showing love, bonding, shedding tear. It’s about educating our youth. It’s about never, ever forgetting. And I believe we did that this week.”

On Wednesday, May 8, nearly 200 motorcycles, and dozens of public safety and classic vehicles carrying veterans and public officials made their way to Seven Mile Park in Eaton, escorting the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Tribute Wall to its resting place for the remainder of the week.

Curry replaces Neavin

Members of the Eaton Community Schools Board of Education feel they were elected to make decisions for the district and they did just that in the hiring of Dr. Barb Curry as the district’s next superintendent.

The board accepted current Superintendent Brad Neavin’s resignation during a special meeting Sunday, May 5. Neavin resigned to take the superintendent’s position at Vandalia-Butler. His resignation takes affect June 30.

Curry will begin her duties Aug. 1, but will be named as the interim superintendent at the next board meeting for the period of July 1 to July 31, according to board President Joe Renner.

Curry has spent the past seven years as superintendent of the New Lebanon Local School District.

After being informed of Neavin’s impending resignation a few weeks ago, the board began discussing its options for a replacement and made a decision that on the surface appears to have been done quickly.

The board elected to bypass going to the community and forming committees for input on who the district’s next leader should be.

Balster to lead PCGHD

After serving as Preble County Health Commissioner for the past six-plus years, Melissa Howell is making a career change.

Howell recently accepted the Health Commissioner’s job in Greene County. Her last day at the PCGHD was May 16. She began her new job in Greene County Monday, May 20.

The Preble County Board of Health announced they have chosen Erik Balster as the new Health Commissioner for the county. Balster began working with the PCGHD on May 1.

Balster previously served as the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for Warren County. He has previous experience with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Health. Balster holds a Masters degrees in Public Health and is a registered public health sanitarian.

“Erik is a public health practitioner who rose to the top of the candidates applying for the position. He is very level headed and really researches issues before making decisions. That is really important in these economic times and he will do well here,” Howell said.

TCN Baseball wins titles

“Sectional Champions” had a nice ring to it for the Tri-County North baseball team, but “District Champions” sounds even better.

It’s nearly June, and the Panthers are still clawing their way through the postseason Division IV tournament. Last week, they took a Dayton Division IV sectional championship with a 2-0 win over Cedarville on Wednesday, May 22. They followed that with a 5-4 win in 10 innings over a strong Cincinnati Christian team on Friday in Lebanon.

“I was very proud of them,” said Larry Gray, Tri-County North head coach. “They never gave up against a very good team. It was a fun game to coach. It was 10 innings, and a lot of strategy went into the game.”

Eaton girls claim district

It has been a successful season for the Eaton Lady Eagles’ track and field team, and last week, they added another accolade to their list. The Lady Eagles put together a solid team effort in the Division II district championships at Graham Local High School. They came away with a top team finish with 97 points, edging out Northeastern in second place with 92.

“Our four first place finishers accumulated 40 of the 97 team points, but it was all the other places, especially those sixth, seventh and eighth place finishes that really put us over the top and solidly ahead of Northeastern to win the team title,” said Randy McKinney, Eaton head coach.

On the boys’ side, the Eagles also looked good at the districts, and their 55 team points placed them third behind the champion Versailles (146) and the second-place Springfield Shawnee (110).

McKinney considered the event a success, especially when compared to last season’s district team finishes. The boys finished in sixth place and the girls eighth a year ago.

Eaton wins SWBL

With just one more week of play left, the Eaton baseball team is already sure of holding at least a share of the Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division title in 2013. After this week, the Eagles hope to be the sole leaders of the division.

“We have four games this week, and our goal is to win them all and win the league outright,” said Joel Visser, Eaton head coach. “We’re going to try to come out and get a win Monday (against Oakwood). If we can win three of four this week, we’ll finish with 20 wins, and that’s a school record.”

Twenty is a big number for high school baseball wins, but judging by the pitching and, of late, the Eagles’ offense and a defensive improvement over last season, it’s attainable.

Last week, the Eagles made a big statement in their league by winning four straight league games.


Moving Ohio Forward begins

Preble County Commissioners helped move Ohio forward last week, when the second round of the Moving Ohio Forward (MOF) program started with the demolition of a house in West Elkton.

With over $330,000 in funding for the state’s demolition program, 10 Preble County properties are set to be demolished during the second round of the state’s MOF program. This is the first group of properties in Preble to be demolished.

Thirty-seven homes were submitted to Commissioners for the MOF program. While six were initially disqualified because they were commercial properties, only 10 of the remaining 31 made it to this point because the county was able to procure clean deeds and/or titles, as well as permission from the property owner.

The program allows the county to use state funding to level unsightly properties.

“It’s beautification for the county,” County Commissioner David Wesler said.

“And it increases property value,” County Commissioner Chris Day added.

Dollar General adding Gratis

It’s already a familiar sight within Preble County, and it’s about to become more familiar. There are currently two Dollar General stores in Eaton, one in Camden, and another recently opened in New Paris.

Last week, the Gratis Village council voted unanimously to approve a zoning ordinance to allow for the building of a Dollar General near “the point” at the intersection of Franklin Street and Ohio 725. A zoning change in the Village of West Alexandria has passed the 30 day waiting period for a referendum, and construction on a Dollar General on the 300 block of West Dayton Street will begin shortly.

Gratis council member David Johnston is also the village’s zoning inspector, and he said he thinks the addition of Dollar General to the village is a good thing.

CAP appeals Head Start decision

Community Action Partnership (CAP) of the Greater Dayton Area has notified the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of its decision to make a direct appeal to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius concerning the Head Start program in Preble County.

It was announced in April that HHS had preliminarily awarded the county’s Head Start grant to Council on Rural Services in Piqua after the grant was put up for re-competition based on new standards set by the national Office of Head Start in 2007. The new re-competition standards stated that any program with one deficiency would be subject to re-competition.

During a triennial review in 2009, Head Start facilities in Eaton and Camden were reported to have playground deficiencies. The playgrounds were equipped with outdated safety tiles that were deemed a tripping hazard. When CAP was made aware of the issue, they replaced the tiles with pea gravel to comply with the standards.

According to a press release issued by CAP last week, proposal review panels were to consider performance for the past five years, and their re-competition for the grant was not warranted because the lone issue with the playground was immediately corrected.

West Elkton out of fiscal emergency

After spending nearly a decade in fiscal emergency, the Village of West Elkton was released from it in late May.

On May 28, Auditor of State Dave Yost released the village from fiscal emergency, a status it has held since 2004.

During its regular monthly meeting Thursday, June 13, the village council was awarded a proclamation from Yost’s office for successfully completing the criteria which needed to be met.

“It was a lot of hard work. They were auditing us every 90 days. It was a challenge.” West Elkton Mayor Bill Crawford said. “We’re headed in the right direction.”

West Elkton was placed in fiscal emergency on Sept. 16, 2004 due to deficit fund balances in four funds and a treasury deficit.

“It takes a strong person to say ‘no, you don’t have the money and you can’t do it right now’ and I’ve had to to do that through two mayors since I’ve been here,” said Becky Wilson, the village’s fiscal officer. “But they’ve all cooperated. Everybody that has been on council and has been the mayor since I’ve been here have cooperated and have worked together. It’s been a group (effort). It’s not been one or the other.”

Wilson has been the village’s fiscal officer since 2010.

TCN falls in regionals

Tri-County North made a habit of late heroics in the Division IV postseason tournament. In the regional semifinal game at Carleton Davidson Stadium in Springfield, it was too little too late for the Panthers.

After claiming sectional and district championships, North was knocked out of the regional tournament by the Crestview Knights on Thursday, May 30, by a 3-2 score. The Knights struck first with a run in the first inning. Crestview center fielder Cameron Etzler, the first batter of the game, reached base on a single to center field, and he advanced to third on two ground balls. The Knights’ first baseman and cleanup hitter Jake Harmon sent Etzler home with a single to the right side of the field. Crestview pitcher Damian Helm sat the Panthers down in order in the first two innings, with one strikeout. North pitcher Austin Hutchins settled down after that first inning for a 1-2-3 second inning, but Crestview took advantage of opportunity in the top of the third.

After starting the inning with a groundout, Etzler made it to second base following a Tri-County North throwing error, and scored when Helm singled in the next at-bat. Helm advanced to second on the throw home, and Bryce Richardson plated another Crestview run with a single to right field to put the Knights up 3-0.

McKinney wins state

Michelle McKinney lay on the track, sprawled between two lanes, just past the finish line at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. If you glanced at that snapshot, with an official kneeling next to her asking if she was okay, you might not think that runner had just won a state title.

But she did.

McKinney sacrificed her body in the last instant of the Division II girls’ 800 meter run, and that sacrifice paid off mightily. Like the week before, the Eaton junior ran a perfect race and edged out the runner-up for a championship. This one just ended with her on the ground, smiling, elated after winning a state championship on Saturday, June 8, in Columbus.

“I was laying there, and instantly I felt, ‘I’m done, I just won, did that really just happen? Yes, it happened. This is what I worked for.’ I kind of looked behind me, saw the girls, and just dove. I knew I got it,” McKinney said.

“It means everything. I feel so blessed. I’m so excited. It’s what I’ve been working for since cross country. Now it’s here, and I did it.”

McKinney was running fourth after the first 400 meters. She clung to the lead runners, and didn’t make a move to the front until there was 200 meters left, where she out-sprinted Defiance’s Samantha Murray to the finish line.


Ag center dedicated

Over the past several months, numerous Preble County organizations have come together to create the new Preble County Agriculture Education Center as they renovated an existing building on the Preble County Fairgrounds. The building received a complete “makeover” with new exterior siding, doors, and painted roof compliments of the Preble County Farm Bureau, FFA Alumni groups, Central Ohio Tractor Pullers Association, and Preble County Agriculture Society. The interior “makeover” took place as a result of all six Preble County and MVCTC FFA chapters donating funds and over 400 hours of volunteer student labor! Many students used their carpentry, painting, and problem solving skills while working through the recent summer weather to complete this great “makeover”project.

Officer killed in Afghanistan

A former Preble County Law Enforcement Officer was killed last week in an apparent suicide bombing while working as a private contractor training Afghani Police.

Kurt Muncy, 42, was working as an international police advisor with the Civilian Police (CIVPOL), developing the Afghani police force when a suicide truck bomber followed by heavily armed men reportedly stormed a NATO supplier’s compound Tuesday, July 2, in Kabul, Afghanistan, prompting a gunbattle that left a dozen people dead.

Muncy’s body was escorted back to Preble County Saturday night as hundreds of people lined the streets of downtown Eaton to pay their respects.

Muncy worked with the Eaton Police Division from the mid-1990s through the early 2000s before he moved to the Preble County Sheriff’s Office, according to Eaton Police Chief Chad DePew.

Kutter sentenced

A three-year sentence was ordered by the Preble County Court of Common Pleas last week in the case of a trespasser shot outside New Paris last year.

Joseph M. Kutter, age 79, was found guilty by a jury in February of one count of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony, and gross abuse of a corpse, a fifth-degree felony. The jury was deadlocked on a charge of murder, and in March, Kutter agreed to enter a guilty plea on a charge of voluntary manslaughter, a first-degree felony.

Kutter was originally charged with murder after he shot Bobby Jo Grubbs, age 31, to death while Grubbs was trespassing on Kutter’s property on May 26, 2012. Grubbs’ mother dropped him off at a location at the end of Fleenor Road in New Paris, where he was searching for ginseng, a valuable root. Kutter, armed with an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle, found Grubbs shortly after 11 a.m. on his property and announced his presence. Kutter told authorities Grubbs did not reply, but charged at him. Kutter shot Grubbs twice, killing him.

After the shooting, Kutter moved the corpse to three different locations on his farm property in an attempt to conceal the body from authorities, who began searching the property after a missing persons report was filed on May 26.

Veterans to D.C.

was the fourth time the Preble County Veterans Services Office has organized a bus trip to Washington, D.C. It’s been done biannually, and this year’s trip was a successful one, according to PCVS Director Terry Pendergraft.

“It was top-notch,” he said. “We accomplished everything we wanted to accomplish, and I think everyone in the group was pleased with what we were able to do in two days.”

It was a busy, and hot, couple of days for the veterans, which included 27 veterans from the county. Sixteen of those were from the Vietnam War Era, and the group included George Antill, a veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Others in the group served during peacetime, in Granada, World War II, Korea, and Iraq.

After a bus ride from Eaton’s American Legion 215 to D.C. on Thursday, July 18, the Veterans hit the town on Friday, being first welcomed with a speech from Representative Brad Wenstrup, who served in Iraq at Abu Ghraib prison in 2005 as a doctor. The group took in the sights at Union Station before a trip to Arlington National Cemetery, which finished with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which has been a tradition on the trip and one of the highlights for several veterans.

“A couple veterans came up to me after the laying of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and they told me that had they only been able to go to that point, that they would have gotten their money’s worth. They were very moved by that,” Pendergraft said.

Junior League takes district

Eaton’s Junior League All Stars cruised through the Ohio District 8 bracket last week en route to a championship win over Englewood in the Saturday, July 13 final.

Eaton took that win by a 7-3 score after three commanding wins put them into the championship.

The All Stars started the tournament with a 12-7 win over Englewood on Monday, July 8. Eaton jumped out to an early lead when Daniel Howard and K.J. Melling reached base on hits, and Dalton Walters hit a ball to the right-center gap to put two runs on the board.

Junior League to state

The players in the 2013 Eaton Junior League All Stars have had success in each of their years coming up through the Little League ranks. This year was no different. The Eaton Junior Leaguers traveled last week to the Ohio Little League tournament, played this year in Maumee.

They finished fourth in the tournament after four straight days on the field. They started the tournament on the right foot with a 13-3 win over Grand Valley the weekend earlier, and Maumee, the eventual tournament champion, sent Eaton into the consolation bracket with a 13-0 defeat of the All-Stars.

Last week’s games were a lot closer. Eaton started their consolation round with a 7-6 win over Cuyahoga Falls on Monday, July 22 in extra innings. Eaton took the first lead of the game in the first inning. K.J. Melling started the game in the top half of the first with a 1-2-3 frame. All three outs came via flyout.


Eaton opens new schools

Eaton Community Schools welcomed the public into their newest facilities on Saturday, Aug. 24, with ceremonies at both the new William Bruce Elementary, and the new Eaton Middle School.

School Board President Joe Renner welcomed all those present at the William Bruce Elementary dedication.

“This is an event many years in the making; a lot of hard work has gone into making this facility something that the community is proud of, and will be proud of, in the years to come.”

Renner went on to introduce school board members and Treasurer Priscilla Dodson, and new Superintendent Barbara Curry.

Curry welcomed the community to the new Bruce School.

“It’s wonderful to be back in Eaton as your new superintendent, especially at this exciting time. This year marks the grand opening of two new school facilities and I am especially proud to be a part of that.”

In Dr. Curry’s welcome, she stated, “Today is truly a day of celebration for our students and our caring community who supported this vision to make a difference in the live of our student. This beautiful facility is an affirmation of the value that this community places on the education of Eaton’s children.

Appeals court affirms leachate decision

The Twelfth District Court of Appeals has upheld a ruling handed down by the Preble County Common Pleas Court in a dispute from the Village of Camden over a contract between Lakengren Water Authority and the Preble County Board of Commissioners.

The dispute originated after Village of Camden councilor Kelly Doran began discussion on behalf of the village on a potential contract to treat water runoff at the Preble County Sanitary Landfill. The Landfill had previously had a contract to transport the runoff, called leachate, to a community in the Cincinnati area for treatment.

Landfill officials later decided to look for a local community where it could build a pipeline for the leachate treatment. After beginning initial discussion with the Village of Camden, those talks were abandoned, and the project was eventually awarded to the private Lakengren community. Camden and the Preble County Commissioners entered into a cooperative agreement in October 2008, agreeing to share in the funding of a project to Camden, after which, the county published a request for proposals for the project.

Doran and the Village filed a dispute in federal court against the commissioners, which was dismissed, and later filed a case in Preble County Court. In the decision on the case, Preble County Court of Common Pleas ruled that Camden and Doran took too long to file the case, and that significant taxpayer money had already been spent in building a line from the landfill to Lakengren.

In the appellate court’s decision, it was stated that at the time the suit was presented, 79 percent of a force main sewer line to Lakengren had been built and nearly $900,000 had already been submitted to the county for payment.


Athletic/wellness facility opens

What started as a dream has become a reality, as a community has come together to show its support for its kids.

Eaton Community Schools held a dedication ceremony to unveil its new Athletic and Wellness Center last week in front of approximately 1,000 people, including donors.

The need for the new complex came about due to the City of Eaton widening Park Avenue. Park Avenue Field had been home to the Eaton football team for several decades, in addition to the boys and girls soccer teams, Last season was the final at the historic field.

Football won’t be the only events to be held at the new state of the art complex, which was privately funded. It will also be home to the boys and girls soccer teams, as well as the track teams.

The Building on Great Traditions Campaign has raised more than $4 million and will be constructed in two phases, the first of which included the completion of the new stadium, wellness center and auditorium.

The second phase, which includes baseball and softball fields, will be completed by next spring.

A plaque will be erected later with the names of every donor.

The new Eaton Performing Arts Center grand opening was scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 20.

Gratis income tax

Gratis residents with earned income will soon have to pay a one-percent income tax. The Gratis council followed suit with its neighbor Camden in its recent passage of the tax, citing a decline in revenue from the state as its reason for the tax.

The vote of the six-person council resulted in a 3-3 tie. JC Moses, Dale Smith, and Debby Vest voted in favor of the tax, and Julie Huff, David Johnston, and Donna Waller all voted against it. Gratis Mayor Gary Vest broke the tie with a vote for the tax.

The council bypassed the three-reading requirement for ordinances and passed the tax with one vote, so as to have the paperwork submitted to the Regional Income Tax Agency (RITA) before the agency’s quarterly meeting next month.

Camden income tax

It’s been a point of discussion for months in the Village of Camden. At the Sept. 5, council meeting, council passed a motion approving a one-percent income tax on its residents and others who work in the village.

Council approved the ordinance establishing the income tax in one vote, bypassing the three reading requirement at the recent meeting. Roy Ebbing was the lone vote against the ordinance. Councilor Melissa Shull was absent from the meeting as well.

According to councilman Kelly Doran, the income tax could generate around $250,000 per year for the village, though the true figure won’t be known until the tax has been in effect for three years.

With cuts from the state to all local governments, the Village of Camden is one of a few area villages that has decided to institute an income tax to curb the loss of revenue from the decreased local government funds.

“This is a boot strap thing,” Doran said. “We’re going to have to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, because going after a handout hasn’t worked.”

Doran equated the average cost per household of the income tax to 80 cents per day, not taking into account those households which won’t be affected by the tax. Only those residents of the village with earned income will pay the tax. Social Security and pension benefits will not be taxed.


1487th comes home

“There wasn’t a mission or task that the 1487th could not complete,” said the unit’s commander, Captain Stephen Sturgill when the 1487th Transportation Company was welcomed home at Piqua High School on Friday, Oct. 4.

It was Nov. 14 of 2012 that the National Guard unit was honored in the same gymnasium at Piqua High School to be sent off to training, and then to Afghanistan. That’s where they’ve been ever since. And according to those at the welcome home celebration, they were top notch in their work overseas.

Sturgill called the unit the “best transportation company” and commended each soldier for their professionalism and dedication.

“We actually ran 100 percent efficient,” said Sgt. Jamie White of Preble County. “We ran every mission that needed to be run. No injuries. Basically, couldn’t ask for anything more. Everything we did was one hundred percent and ran smoothly.”

“It’s not a toot of our own horn, but we ran more missions, more miles, more anything than any transportation company at the time, without incident,” said Sgt. Chet Turner of Eaton, who previously deployed with the unit to Iraq in 2004-05.

“It was a shorter deployment than the first one,” he said. “But I’m just glad to be home. We’re all glad to be home. It’s still a little surreal, and I’m just taking it all in. It’s a little overwhelming.”

Eaton installs cameras

Is the City of Eaton monitoring your every move on the city roadways? The recent installation of new traffic lights, some including cameras mounted several feet above the lights, have spawned several rumors spreading about cameras for use in red light and speed enforcement.

So is the city taking the route of now infamous New Miami and installing traffic enforcement cameras to drum up citation money? The short answer: no. That is, according to Eaton Police Chief Chad DePew and Eaton’s Assistant City Manager and Director of Public Safety Joe Ferriell.

Traffic enforcement cameras have been a controversial issue recently, especially with the Village of New Miami, just south of Preble County, setting up its mobile speed trap cameras up and down U.S. 127. That kind of enforcement, though, isn’t for the City of Eaton, and Ferriell is adamantly against it.

“As long as I’m here with the City, that will never happen,” Ferriell said.

“The cameras will measure traffic and communicate with the light system,” DePew said. “It doesn’t tell speed. We can’t look at the footage and read license plates.”

Rather, the cameras installed throughout Eaton are incredibly low-definition cameras used solely for traffic light control. Eaton currently has loop detectors at many intersections. Those detectors are installed in the pavement, making repaving a pain for the city. Those loop detectors are also becoming outdated.

ENB becoming LCNB

On Monday, Oct. 28, it was announced Eaton National Bank will be merging with LCNB National Bank, and Eaton National Bank branches will become branches of LCNB National Bank.

“We are very pleased to be expanding into the Preble County market with this transaction. Eaton National is well respected and its team has done an excellent job in building the bank to its current position. Now, as part of LCNB, we believe that we will be able to broaden our reach in serving consumers and businesses in this new market and adjacent markets,” Stephen P. Wilson, Chairman and CEO of LCNB Corp., said.

Steve Foster, President of LCNB National Bank, added, “LCNB’s success, like Eaton National’s, has been built on providing excellent customer service.” He continued, “We are confident that we can now provide to Eaton National’s customers the same products and services as the region’s larger banks, but we deliver them with a community bank’s level of personal service.”

Fair Board election

The Thursday, Sept. 26, Preble County Fair Board meeting included heated discussion about the recent member election, and tempers flared over the issue.

According to fair board officials, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has received calls from the Ohio Fair Managers’ Association office regarding the 2013 Preble County Fair Board election and the alleged violation by candidates of a rule which forbids campaigning on the fairgrounds.

Performing arts center opens

It was an afternoon to honor the arts, as a community came together to celebrate with a grand opening concert at the new Eaton Community Schools Performing Arts Center.

“It’s so appropriate today to have our first event, not only with our high school talent and musicians, but also with our community band and our community choir,” Eaton Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Barb Curry said prior to the performance Sunday, Oct. 20. “I believe in my heart that music truly is medicine for the spirit and the soul. There’s nothing more uplifting than music.”

The nearly hour and a half-long show featured the Eaton High School Band, Eaton High School Choir, the Eaton Area Community Band, and the Eaton Area Community Choir, as more than 200 musicians gathered to celebrate the grand opening.

The facility was made possible through the private donations of the community, as well as part of the master facilities project, which included a new middle school and elementary school.

Willis to State

Eaton’s Cameron Willis will get a chance to defend his Division II state golf championship, although it took a playoff to get him there.

Willis, who shot 73, won a 3-way playoff with a par to qualify for state for the second-straight year.

Willis, a sophomore, shot a 35 on the front nine and he carded a 38 on the back nine.

“It was not an easy 73, as he had to rely on his short game to get the job done,” Eaton coach Randy Titkemeyer said. “He had eight one-putts and was able to get up and down to save par.”

Titkemeyer said the playing conditions were not the best as the golfers had to battle through a pair of weather delays at Weatherwax Golf Course on Thursday, Sept. 26.

Willis takes 4th

Eaton sophomore Cameron Willis was seeking to win back-to-back state golf championships last weekend when he competed in the state tournament at NorthStar Golf Club in Sunbury, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 11-12.

Willis shot a two-day total of 150 and finished 4th overall, just four strokes behind state champion Tripp French of Dayton Oakwood.

Willis shot a 1-under par 35 on the front nine during the opening round on Friday. He followed with a 3-over 39 on the back for first day total 79.

On Saturday, Willis carded a 1-over 37 on the front, before shooting a 39 on the backside again.

Willis was seeking to become the first Eaton golfer to win two state titles. Jim Caplinger is the only other Eagle to have won a state golf title, which he did in 1985.

NT makes school history

National Trail made school history on Friday, Oct. 18, taking down Bethel for the Blazers’ seventh win of the season.

“We’re all really excited to get that seventh win,” said National Trail’s head coach Tony Sonsini. “It’s the first time in school history that we’ve ever gotten that seventh win.”

Eaton cross country take title

Eaton’s girls cross country team did something last Saturday at the Dayton Division II District meet that it had not done since 1999 — win a district title.

In the process, the Eagles snapped Kettering Alter’s four-year reign as champions.

Eaton’s girls, as well as the boys team, will advance to the regional meet to be held Saturday, Oct. 26, at Troy. The boys team placed third to advance.

Eaton coach Randy McKinney called the feat an “outstanding accomplishment” for the program.

Trail takes CCC title

The National Trail Blazer boys cross country team won the Cross County Conference Championship for the first time since 1992, last Saturday, Oct. 12, at Bethel.

With nine of 10 runners posting personal record times on the way to Blazer victory, Cole Dudley, Peyton Harrison, Lane Unger, and Sam Eyler finished the race as All-Conference Performers. Josh Cook rounded out the top five for the Blazers with a 19th place finish.

Placing third was Dudley in 17 minutes, 5 seconds. Harrison was 8th in 17:49. Unger took 9th in 17:50 and Eyler placed 14th in 18:12; Cook was 19th in 18:50.

Trail’s girls finished third.

Shawnee volleyball league champs

Preble Shawnee’s volleyball team continued their reign as Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division champs last week. The Arrows took home league wins over Milton Union and Madison for their third-straight league title. Shawnee also upped their record to 17-5, with a win over Tri-County North last Monday.

The league title hopes came down to the Milton Union game on Tuesday, Oct. 8. The Preble Shawnee gym was packed with fans from both schools, creating a playoff-like atmosphere for the showdown.


Phillips sentenced

Last week, the saga that began with $62,000 in funds missing from the Village of Gratis came to an end.

Former Gratis fiscal officer Serrer Phillips had previously admitted guilt in the Preble County Court of Common Pleas, and that court handed down a sentence on Tuesday, Oct. 29.

The court ruled the admitted thief of public funds shall hold no future public office or position of trust. Phillips was also sentenced to six months in Preble County Jail. She may avoid half that sentence by competing 300 hours of community service within 12 months of her release from custody.

Preble County Prosecutor Martin Votel asked for the maximum jail time of three years.

Phillips is also ordered to pay restitution to the Village of Gratis in the amount of $34,486.44, as well as release for that payment any monies accrued in her Public Employees Retirement System account.

Phillips previously entered guilty pleas on two counts of theft in office and one count of tampering with records.

Her crimes first came to light as a result of an audit by the Ohio State Auditor’s Office, which is tasked with ensuring all public funds are accounted for in each public municipality. Each village, city, township, and other public bodies are subject to regular audits.

Park Ave. finished

It’s been a long time coming for residents along Park Avenue in Eaton. Last week, the project finally came to a close with final striping and the installation of signs.

Most importantly, the barricades blocking the roadway were loaded onto a trailer and hauled away.

Though work on the project has been ongoing since February, the Park Avenue project actually came in way ahead of schedule. When originally awarded to Milcon, Inc., the project was slated to go as long as May 2014. With the completion last week, it came in about five months quicker than the final completion date.

The bid was awarded last November with an original estimated cost of nearly $4 million. The City of Eaton is putting in nearly $1.5 million with about $2.3 million coming from the federal government, $200,000 from the Ohio Public Works Commission, and $51,500 coming from the State of Ohio.

Missing woman remains ID’d

Eaton police have confirmed the remains of a body found at Art Van Atta Park in Vandalia are those of missing Eaton woman Aria Marie Spradling, the 20-year-old who was last seen on Sept. 28 on Dixie Drive.

Spradling’s mother, Melissa Spradling, recently interviewed with local television and print media to get the word out about her missing daughter. Her daughter was officially reported as missing on Oct. 16.

On Monday, Nov. 18, public workers found decomposed human remains in Art Van Atta Park, and those remains were taken to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office for identification.

On Tuesday, Nov. 19, family of Spradling had posted messages on social media stating the body was, in fact, that of Aria Spradling, after learning of a tattoo on the arm of the body. The missing woman had several tattoos.

The coroner used dental records to confirm the identity of the body.

Aria Spradling left behind an infant daughter, Maleigha.

Pratt Industries breaks ground

Pratt Industries, America’s leading 100 percent recycled paper and packaging company, will hold an official ground breaking ceremony for its new $44 million box-making plant in Lewisburg, on Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 2.30 p.m.

Pratt executives including company owner Anthony Pratt will be joined by state officials and executives from JobsOhio at the event to be held on West Clay Street, Lewisburg.

The plant, which will occupy a new 350,000 sq. ft. facility, will have a full-time workforce of 140 at capacity and save the equivalent of up to 10,000 trees a day by using 100 percent recycled paper from Pratt’s mill system.

Start-up is scheduled for next summer.

NT takes TCN, moves to postseason

For the first time in the program’s history, fans of National Trail football will get to see an 11th game. The Blazers took the biggest win of Head Coach Tony Sonsini’s three-year tenure, and certainly the biggest win in Trail football history, on Friday night with a 15-12 victory over county and Cross County Conference rival Tri-County North.

And it all came down to a field goal attempt from North with 23 seconds left. The kick sailed outside the goal posts with a chance for the Panthers to tie the game, and the Trail bench went wild.

“The kick was off the mark, and I turned around to get the offense on the field, and there wasn’t anyone behind me,” Sonsini said.

That’s because they stormed the field. Trail had just sealed an 8-2 record and a playoff berth, and the anticipation of the players on the sideline had swelled like a balloon inflated to near its breaking point. When the field goal went wide, the balloon popped.

“It still hasn’t sunk in from Friday,” Sonsini said. “It’s been kind of a hectic weekend, going from not knowing if we would make the playoffs or not to all of a sudden having to turn all the attention to the playoff berth.

“I’m excited for all the players, coaches, and the community.”

Sometimes just making it to state is accomplishment enough.

State cross country

Earning all-Ohio honors, though, is icing on the cake.

Two of Eaton’s cross country runners capped off their seasons in style with all-Ohio honors, after placing in the top 25 Saturday, Nov. 2, at the state championship meet at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.

Sophomore Kayla Ste. Marie, who ran her final race in an Eagle uniform, placed 25th in 19 minutes, 25.50 seconds in the girls Division II race. Ste. Marie is moving to North Carolina this week.

“It was a rough start. You had to get out of there fast or else you were boxed in. But once you got out of that pack it was a whole lot better,” she said.

Ste. Marie was making her second appearance at state. She placed 49th last year.

“I thought the race went really well,” she said. “It was a step up from 49th last year. I was pretty proud of myself. I couldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been for the coaches and my mom, my biggest supporter, and my teammates.”

Eaton coach Randy McKinney said Ste. Marie used her experience of the previous year to her advantage.

“Kayla ran a great race. She definitely took advantage of having been here before,” Coach McKinney said. “I hate to see her go. Overall, she’s had a great season.”

Junior Andy Newport, who missed qualifying to state last year by one spot, didn’t want that same thing to happen again.

Newport earned the final all-state spot with his 25th place finish in the boys’ Division II race with a time of 16:49.73.


Grimme resigns, Bullen seated

The Preble County Fairgrounds lost a manager last week, but the PC Agricultural Society Board of Directors (Fair Board) accepted a new member.

After attempting it earlier in 2013, Preble County Fairgrounds Manager Duane Grimme officially resigned during the Thursday, Dec. 19, meeting of the PC Fair Board.

In other action, board members accepted their 2013 election results and seated Mary Bullen to the Gasper Township seat which has been a topic of contention since the election occurred during fair week.

Board President Rodney Mann explained that Ohio fair officials were “not doing anything unless they get a formal complaint.”

The only options the state gave the fair board were: have a complete new election for all seats again at the Ag Society’s cost, or appoint Bullen to the three year term to which she was elected.

According to Fair Board Vice President Mark Bruner, the state is also requesting a letter be submitted to them from the board stating the board recognizes the error of having a “meet the candidates” event on the fairgrounds and that it won’t happen again.

The 6-4-1 vote (Turner, Kerrick Wilson, Bruner, Carole Fritz, Cathy Combs, Brad Johnson, yes; Petry, Monebrake, Joe Ferriell, Ryan Grimme, no; Christy Millhouse, abstain) will culminate with Bullen being seated in January.

HIT purchases school

The building most recently known as Eaton Middle School will be under going a transformation in coming years, now that its purchase by a local non-profit was approved at the Monday, Dec. 9, meeting of the Eaton Community Schools Board of Education.

The Home Is The (H.I.T.) Foundation, the local not-for-profit organization that addresses the affordable housing needs of Preble County, came to an agreement with the Eaton School Board and purchased the vacant former Eaton High School (and later Middle School) located at 307 North Cherry Street in downtown Eaton.

The 1920s-era school building sits unused in a primarily residential area near the center of Eaton’s downtown. H.I.T. has developed plans to re-purpose the building into a mixed-use facility with an expected 44 affordable and market rate units as well as commercial and office space. It is estimated to be an $8 million project to be completed by the end of 2015.

The ECS BOE accepted the sale price of $140,000 and approved the selling of the property in a unanimous vote during the Dec. 9 meeting. The sale is expected to close in January.

Eaton looking at shortfall

The City of Eaton is looking to cut expenditures or increase revenue — or both for upcoming years. Stephanie Risner, City Finance Director, presented a preliminary budget to Eaton council at the regular meeting on Nov. 18, that shows about a $3 million shortfall between revenues and expenditures for 2014.

The budget is just a beginning one, and the City’s departments are working to close that gap.

The preliminary budget shows about $10.5 million in estimated revenues and $13.4 million in estimated expenditures for the 2014 year.

“It doesn’t look very good,” said Mayor Gary Wagner at the meeting. “We’re going to have to figure a way to either increase revenues or definitely cut expenses, probably both. I’ll be looking forward to the administration recommendation of what we need to do to balance this thing out.”

“There are some significant issues,” Risner said. “The things we’re working on is general public safety. That’s an area where we have some work to do, in terms of balancing that.”

The budget shows a $524,000 shortfall in the general fund in 2014. The public safety fund, which includes police, fire, EMS, and dispatch, shows a $1.039 million shortfall.

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