PREBLE COUNTY — From police K-9 units new and old around the area to failed school levies for one Preble County district, community news in 2017 covered all facets of life, good and bad. What follows here, and inside this week’s edition of The Register-Herald are some of the items which made headlines in 2017.
Jan. 7, 2017
LEWISBURG — There’s a new four-legged officer in town.
The Lewisburg Police Department has been working on training a German Shepherd named Apollo for its Ohio K9 Certification, and he will be certified by the end of the month. The department acquired the dog in early November and he has been living with Corporal Andrew Johnson ever since.
Corporal Johnson and Apollo are a team. They have to train together, live together, and eventually work together. Currently, Apollo does not go out into the field. He will not go into the field until he has received his certification, but he is going out into the community for “meet and greets.”
By the end of January, Apollo and Johnson should be working the road together.
The process of getting a K9 unit started for Lewisburg Police Department two years ago. They were trying to gain funds for the dog, without using tax payer dollars. This goal was achieved through numerous donors, including Royal Canin. Apollo’s food is provided by Royal Canin for his lifetime.
In early November department officials went to Vohne Liche Kennels in Indiana to look at the different dogs available. Royal Canin helped check the dogs out, including their medical records. The department chose three dogs, and Royal Canin recommended Apollo.
Apollo then had to do six weeks of training with Johnson.
Apollo is a 75-pound 2-year-old German Shepherd originally from Hungary.
Vohne Liche Kennels boasts having friendly dogs and Apollo is no exception to the norm. It is what Lewisburg Police Department most wanted in the dog they chose.
“We were looking for a personable, social dog to be out in the public,” Lewisburg Chief of Police Rick McGee said. “Some dogs are very high driven. For different cities, they are more aggressive. We did not want an aggressive dog. Apollo is high driven, but he is not an aggressive animal.
“We want to get him out in the public, we want to make sure he remains social,” McGee continued. “The way to do that is to make sure he does meet and greets. We will schedule him days so he can go out and do whatever. Or we will schedule demonstrations. We will do everything we can just to keep him out.”
“We want to be able to take him into the schools and have him not look like ‘there’s a chew toy,’ but like there’s someone to pet him,” McGee said.
While friendly, he is a hard worker.
“He is a dual purpose dog. He will do tracking, narcotics, and he will do apprehension and patrol work,” Johnson added.
Apollo will mostly be doing tracking and drug work, the apprehension part of his job is only a small part.
Johnson was chosen as the handler simply because he had an interest in being a K9 handler. However, with his shift, Apollo will be working the night shift. He will eventually “fluctuate” and work day shift, but Apollo’s biggest shift will be midnight.
Community support for Apollo is high. “It is crazy the amount of support we have gotten,” Johnson said. “Chief will go to the mail box and there will be four or five thank-you cards and checks to donate to our K9 fund.
“It’s very honorable to work for a department that the community stands behind.”
Jan. 11, 2017
CAMDEN — Preble Shawnee’s Board of Education approved a resolution last week to move forward with placing a bond issue and income tax levy back on the ballot for voter consideration this spring.
On May 2, voters will again be asked to approve a .75 percent income tax levy, and the issuance of bonds in the amount of $9 million, “for the purpose of paying part of the cost of constructing a new Junior/Senior High School and a new Camden Elementary, together with furnishings, equipment and site improvements, and all necessary appurtenances,” as well as a 2.5-mill tax levy throughout the life of the bonds to pay the interest on and retire the bonds.
The maximum maturity of the bonds is 37 years. The income tax would be imposed for 23 years, beginning Jan. 1, 2018, for the purpose of permanent improvements, according to ballot language.
According to school officials, the estimated local share is $7.29 per month for a $100,000 home in the Preble Shawnee School District. Additionally, the .75 percent income tax for permanent improvements will be used in conjunction with the bond issue to pay the cost of the proposed building projects.
Voters turned down the issue on election day in November — the measure failed, 2,260-1,995.
The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) approved over $29.2 million in state funding for school construction work for Preble Shawnee.
The funding, combined with $15.7 million from the district, will allow the district to move forward with the construction of a new elementary school and a new middle/high school that will have the capacity for career-technical education.
The total cost of the project is estimated at just over $45 million.
Feb. 1, 2017
First Homeless Health, Information Fair held
EATON — In an effort to help local homeless individuals, a health and information fair was held on Tuesday, Jan. 24, followed by the annual Point-in-Time Count.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires every community to participate in the Point-In-Time Count each year, to better understand the funding needed nationwide to battle homelessness.
The fair was held at Eaton United Church of Christ in an effort to bring homeless individuals inside before the count. The thought was, by offering food and shelter, many would come to the organizations instead of the organizations having to search for them in the cold and dark.
This was a collaboration between Home is the Foundation (HIT Foundation), Preble County Job and Family Services, Preble County Health District, Preble County Mental Health and Recovery Board, Community Action Partnership, and Preble County YWCA Domestic Violence Programs.
The fair offered health screenings, dinner, prize drawings, coats, hats, gloves, assistance information, hygiene packs, and open showers to those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. Every organization which helps the homeless had a table at the fair. The more tables an individual would visit, the more products they could take away with them. This was an effort to give people who needed it the most help possible.
Every organization present brought something specific as to what they can provide to the homeless.
Becky Sorrell with Job and Family Service brought information related to financial assistance.
“What I brought tonight was applications for CASH, Food Stamps, and Medicaid in case anybody needed those types of services,” Sorrell said. “Applications for child care, because homeless people are eligible for child care during the day so they can find jobs or do what they need to do. I brought job fair posters and some different agencies they can contact to help them locate employment.”
“We actually work pretty closely with the HIT Foundation, they’re the entry point to the homeless in the community. We’re that second step,” Director of the Community Action Partnership (CAP) Keelie Gustin said. “They work with them in the shelters and once we get a verification of homelessness from them, they can come in and enroll in our homeless crisis response program, what that does is we search for housing for them, and then we can pay their first months rent or security deposit and get them in there until they can get on their feet.”
“We’re trying to get people health screenings, blood sugar and blood pressure screenings, because they might not have doctors,” Nan Smith with the Preble County Health Department said. “Also to let them know the type of clinic services we have.”
All the organizations brought information of which the homeless individuals in Preble County might not be aware.
This was the second annual homeless health and information fair held in Preble County — and this year attendance tripled, making the Point-in-Time Count.
Program Coordinator Toni Morgan explained, “It is a way for us to draw some at risk or homeless folks in, so that we don’t have to find them to count them.”
The information from the count gets sent to HUD. Those numbers are used when the county applies for funding.
Morgan added, “We do this every year, HUD requires it. We actually have to do a street count. We will have a meeting here around 8 o’clock, but we will have teams of people out all night in the county and various locations looking for homeless people. We actually have a form, it has a script on it. Our teams that are on foot here in Eaton, if they encounter someone will say, ‘Hey, can I ask you a few questions? Where are you going to sleep tonight?’ And based on their answers we go on or stop the survey.”
HUD requires the organization to have a backup shelter set up for the night, so that during the count they can send the found homeless somewhere warm. All those who attended the fair were permitted to spend the night in the cold shelter.
The cold shelter is an emergency cold weather plan. It is open any time the temperature or windchill drops below 32 degrees. It is held at a local church staffed by volunteers and is open from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.
All in the cold shelter are offered dinner, warm breakfast, and given lunch on the way out the door.
Anyone count participants encounter who is living in a place not meant for human habitation, or who does not have a place to sleep that night, is offered a stay in the cold shelter for the night.
After the count, these organizations will work with the individuals found to improve their housing situation.
Morgan added, “Some people are in a place in their lifestyle where they wouldn’t be able to function in a congregant living setting 24 hours a day. We work with them, with their behaviors and lifestyle changes, to get them ready to go into shelter. Some people we house directly out of cold shelter. It just depends on the person and where they are in their journey.”
Sometimes, people do not want help after the count. Morgan said, “Some people just want to come to cold shelter because it’s cold outside. They don’t want any other help. It’s client driven.”
It is important to note that the county only has one 10-bed shelter and it is first-come, first-serve.
Morgan added, the health and information fair links people to services they might not otherwise have access to. It also humanizes the people behind the organizations, by putting faces to them. It helps people feel connected by having conversations with the organizations, that normally they would not have time to converse with.
The fair also spreads awareness to the different organizations about services available to people.
Jail inmate overflow discussed
EATON — When it was built roughly two decades ago, critics felt the 70-bed Preble County Jail was too big. But then, as now, officials could not predict the future inmate population. And, in 2016, Preble County Sheriff Michael Simpson found himself in a situation where the 10 beds assigned for female inmates simply were not enough some days.
So, for several months last year, the Preble County Jail housed its overflow female inmate population in the Mercer County Jail, at a cost of about $70 per day, per inmate. In December, they also sent several male inmates.
Because of the current trend, the Preble County Commissioners requested a work session with Simpson to go over options as they move into 2017.
They met on Monday, Jan. 9 in the Commissioners’ Office.
“We booked 23 females into the jail in December which is four more than November,” Simpson said. “Our lowest population was on the 28th with five females. Our highest occurred on the 9th with 15 females. This is in-house. In December, we had seven females in Mercer….We still have seven inmates there (on Jan. 9).”
Simpson went on to explain that the jail had seen an increase of 24 percent in the number of female inmates booked between 2015 and 2016. In 2015, 284 females were incarcerated. That number rose to 351 in 2016.
The male population is also growing, just not as rapidly. In 2015, the male population was 1,010. It rose 9.5 percent, in 2016, to 1,105 inmates.
Commissioners are considering funding a study to determine what is the most cost effective method of dealing with the overflow of inmates. A study will allow them to compare the current process of out-of-county housing, building an addition onto the jail — or any other options industry insiders may know.
A snapshot of the county jail population on the afternoon of Jan. 24 revealed that out of the 69 inmates housed in-county, 11 were females.
Feb. 8, 2017
PCDP selected for award
EATON — In early December, the Preble County Development Partnership was invited to apply for the ACT Workplace Success Award.
The ACT College and Career Readiness Campaign celebrates high school seniors, high schools, post secondary institutions, and employers who promote or exemplify readiness for college and careers in states across the country.
According to Economic Development Director Brenda Latanza, the PCDP completed the application from a different viewpoint — it’s not a high school, college, or an employer.
The PCDP is a community which has worked very hard to obtain the ACT Work Ready Community Certification.
According to Latanza, the Partnership wasn’t was not sure if they would even be considered for the award.
Yet, they received an email informing them they had been selected as the Ohio Workplace Success Award recipient from among all the applications for the 2016-2017 ACT College and Career Readiness Campaign.
The Ohio ACT Council was incredibly impressed with the work the Partnership does to support economic development in Preble County, according to Latanza.
As the state employer award winner, PCDP received a banner and recognition certificate on Jan. 31. The Partnership will also move forward in the consideration process for national recognition.
National semifinalists will receive awards in recognition of their achievement. For those semifinalists, a national selection committee composed of national education and workforce leaders will choose four national exemplars. These national exemplars, along with all state exemplars and semifinalists, will be honored at an ACT event in October.
The national exemplars will receive plaques and recognition from ACT at an event in Iowa City, for which ACT will cover all travel costs for two attendees from each award winner.
Feb. 15, 2017
R-H, Mowen honored by ONA
COLUMBUS — The Register-Herald was honored with one of the highest accolades for weekly newspapers in Ohio on Thursday, Feb. 9, when it was awarded first place for News Coverage in its circulation division at the Ohio Newspaper Association’s annual Osman C. Hooper Awards.
Entries for the overall News Coverage category consisted of multiple, complete issues of the newspaper from July 31, 2015-Aug. 1, 2016.
Judges said The Register-Herald provided a “good mix of features and issues-based reporting, solid writing with crime news and touching human interest. Good selection of newspapers.”
The R-H finished ahead of second place Putnam County Sentinel and third place The Press of Avon Lake.
Also honored once again was R-H Editor Eddie Mowen Jr., who received second place for his series “Digital Dangers,” which spanned several editions last year. Judges said, ” Digital Dangers is a timely series on our ever-evolving media — and Eddie Mowen Jr. includes a quote with a crucial reminder for teens as well as parents: ‘A lot of times Snapchat images which they think are only existing for a brief second and disappearing are in fact not disappearing. You can capture those.’ Yes, there are Digital Dangers, but there’s also a digital divide. This is a series of reports which helps readers understand the risk we face from digital bombardment. Interesting work.”
Mowen, who began his journalism career with The Register-Herald as sports editor in late 2000, has been editor since 2008. He has won multiple state and local awards for news and sports coverage, and his photography, in the past 17 years.
The Register-Herald was also honored once more with a first place award in Sports Photography, for a photo featuring a celebration on the court after a crucial win for the Eaton High School volleyball team.
The competition for weekly newspapers is presented by the Ohio Newspaper Association Weekly Newspaper Committee and the Ohio Newspapers Foundation.
Job fair a huge success
WEST ALEXANDRIA — Twenty-seven businesses and organizations were on site to meet potential employees at the Preble County Job Fair held on Wednesday evening, Feb. 8.
Every field from the U.S. Armed Forces to manufacturing was represented at the event, which organizers have said was the first true job fair for Preble County held in a community setting and organized through the collaborative effort of its sponsors.
The event, sponsored by the Preble County Development Partnership, Preble County Chamber of Commerce and OhioMeansJobs Preble County, was hosted at Twin Valley Community Local Schools in West Alexandria.
Twin Valley Superintendent Bob Fischer was a coordinator for the event.
“We’re excited about providing this new opportunity for the community to learn about potential employment opportunities in the county,” Fischer said in January.
Fischer and others were very happy with the turn out at the event last week. Potential job candidates were actually lined up at 4:45 p.m., before the doors opened and the event was scheduled to begin. Well over 100 job seekers attended, according to Fischer.
Organizers said the event brought out some “great applicants,” and the feedback from everyone, both the employers and job seekers, was good.
The Job Fair was a joint effort between the Preble County Development Partnership, Preble County Workforce Development Committee and the Preble County Job and Family Services.
“These groups have been working together over the past four years to create experiences for our students and community to learn about career opportunities available in Preble County,” Fischer said.
According to Fischer, the groups’ collaborations began with Preble County Manufacturing Day.
“Then we added the National Trail Career and College Fair and now we are adding the Job Fair,” he said. “Our next step is to work with local businesses to create internships/apprenticeships for interested students. All of these programs are being created with the focus of keeping our people in the county and creating an understanding of the career paths individuals can take.”
Feb. 18, 2017
‘Driven’ at NT
EATON — Roy Hall decided at the age of six, he was going to be that person who walked the “straight and narrow.”
He decided to be something better than himself, and to impact everybody.
“I’m going to give my all in all I do,” he said, encouraging others, “if you want to be driven and and make a difference, you need to step out of your comfort zone.”
A former Ohio State football player and co-founder of the Driven Foundation, Hall spoke at the Eaton Rotary Club’s meeting on Monday, Feb. 13, encouraging participation and support for Outreach Day at National Trail Schools.
Driven Outreach Days provide school districts with a unique and exciting day of outreach and fundraising. Local businesses, organizations, and former Ohio State Buckeye football players collaborate to impact students in grades kindergarten through 12, and raise money to support local charities and school districts throughout the state of Ohio.
Community Outreach Days consist of elementary school reading visits, middle school motivational assemblies, high school group discussions/assembly, a student food drive, a Breakfast with the Buckeyes morning event and a charity basketball game, and a Bar-B-Q with the Buckeyes and “meet and greet” event.
National Trail Superintendent Jeff Parker, who introduced Hall, reminded those in attendance of last year’s successful first Outreach Day at National Trail.
The day’s activities raised $24,000 through fundraisers and the barbecue.
“It exceeded our expectations by far,” Parker said. He noted, a lot of last year’s sponsors, teachers and others purchased tickets for families who couldn’t afford to attend the barbecue otherwise. “We had 300-plus in the cafetorium that night,” he said.
Hall spoke to motivate the Rotary members in the room to get involved and be more than they are.
“We demand greatness from ourselves in our respective careers,” he said. “But when it comes to impacting our communities full time, we are part time.”
“You’re sitting in a position to give back, but you’re tired.”
Hall said people often feel they’ve done enough.
He questioned, could those in attendance look in the eyes of a family member in need and tell them, “I’ve done enough?”
“Think about all the young people who have no one to say ‘I’ve given my all for you,’” he said.
According to Hall, every cause, every outreach is important. He encouraged those in attendance, “Every opportunity you get, take it.”
“When your investment is in people, the harvest you get in return can be the greatest,” he said.
“Your purpose,” he said, “Is to use every bone in your body to help other people. If you live your life for yourself, eventually you’re going to fail.”
Hall touched on the ever-present heroin problem facing not only the state, but Preble County as well. People are overdosing, people are dying.
“My father was a heroin addict,” Hall told those in attendance. ” But I had people who stepped up to make sure I didn’t become a statistic.”
“We’re trying to build something that can change the landscape of this community,” Hall said.
This year’s Breakfast with the Buckeyes is set for Friday, March 3, from 7:45-8:45 a.m. in the National Trail Cafetorium. Doors open at 7 a.m. It will feature a visit with former Ohio State and NFL players Hall and Antonio Smith.
OSU Buckeye Football alumni will read with younger students, hold motivational assemblies for older students, and participate in a charity basketball game during the day on Friday, March 10, and the Family Barbecue with the Buckeyes is from 5-7 p.m. that evening. The evening will include 10 Ohio State Football alumni, silent and live auction with Buckeye memorabilia, free autographs and more.
Proceeds from this year’s Driven Outreach Day benefit the Preble County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the National Trail Community Foodbank and the Driven Foundation.
For additional information, visit NTOD2017.com.
Feb. 22, 2017
Camden K9 retires
CAMDEN — The Village of Camden’s furriest police officer will work his last day on April 2.
K9 Officer Maverick was born in Germany roughly eight years ago. He had a different handler when Camden first got him, but that officer left the police department and Maverick then got Chief Matthew Spurlock as his new handler. (At the time, the chief was a sergeant).
Chief Spurlock and Maverick have been partners for four years now, but Maverick has been a part of the department since 2011. He was acquired through Police Dog Services in Germantown. His purchase was funded fully through donations. His items have been handmade or donated. With the Camden Police Department being a smaller department, they tried to save as much money as possible.
When Maverick retires, he will retire to the home he has spent the last four years in, as a part of Chief Spurlock’s family.
“[Maverick has] turned more into one of my kids than a work animal. He can still get the job done, but he’s getting a little older. You know, German Shepherds, their hips get worn out with arthritis, and he’s a big dog. He’s about 120pounds.”
In his five years of service, Maverick has been involved in the seizure of over $100,o00 and over 300 pounds of illegal drugs. He has been involved in roughly 47 reports, in the tracking of burglars, and has enabled the department to catch those criminals. Maverick has even been involved in tracking elderly dementia patients.
His main usage was assisting with drug searches in the village.
“My perspective is just having a K9 deters a lot, even coming to our community,” Chief Spurlock said. “When they know we have a drug detection K9, they’ll go around. It still happens here, but people look at Camden and they think, ‘what really goes on in a small town?’ But it doesn’t matter what the population, the way drug activity goes, it can happen anywhere. Every agency in this county has requested assistance from our K9 program.”
Spurlock is sad to see Maverick’s career end, but “it’s time.” He wants the dog to have several years as “a regular dog.”
In a small town, the K9 department assists a lot of agencies and meets a lot of new people. Maverick is okay with female dogs, but does not like other male dogs, which is typical for K9s.
Being a handler takes a lot of dedication. The handler is never off the clock — there is always a dog to take care of. Chief Spurlock says that is what people should know when going into the field.
A handler must have total control of the dog at all times, or a tragedy can happen quickly.
Spurlock describes a K9 dog as a “weapon.” The handler gets attached to the dog, but it is a tool at the end of the day. The officer must be vigilant with the dog.
When searching for a K9 dog replacement, Camden does not want an aggressive dog. They want one with a “switch.” They want him to be social, but they want him to be able to do the work, according to Spurlock.
“What we used to say was, Maverick could chase a criminal at night and let a classroom of kindergartners pet him the next day,” Chief Spurlock said.
They looked for the same traits when searching for Maverick’s replacement.
Sergeant Brad Brown will be the handler of the new dog. He has already started his training. The cost of the K9 and training will be $14,000. The department has not yet raised all of those funds and is actively looking for donations. They will also be hosting fundraisers.
The department has reached out to local businesses for help funding the dog.
Camden PD wants to pay for the dog without tax payer dollars being involved. Rather, they have used the money from the drug fund (seizures performed) to help fund its purchase.
The new K9 will (hopefully) start on April 3, so there will be no lull in service,according to Spurlock. His name is Bandit and he is almost 2 years old. He was brought over from Germany roughly three weeks ago.
Sergeant Brown was paired with Bandit on Feb. 3, and they have been together since. The department hopes to get six years of service out of Bandit. Once he retires, they hope to continue the Camden K9 program.
Preble Park District growing
CAMDEN — According to Peakery.com, Devils Backbone is a 945-foot “mountain peak” near Camden which ranks as the 248th highest mountain in Ohio. According to some historians and storytellers, the area is haunted by the spirits of Native Americans.
But, what Devils Backbone is now, is the newest donation of land to become part of the Preble County Park District, where it can be enjoyed in the future by area families and even tourists.
Earlier this month, the Preble County Park District announced the family of Herb and Patricia Wagers generously donated the property known as Devil’s Backbone to the Park District. The property is located on old Ohio 725, west of Camden.
According to PCPD officials, plans for the property include putting in trails and picnic areas and “keeping the property in its natural scenic state.”
The property was owned by the Wagers family since 1966, a PCPD press release noted. The family cleared underbrush and kept the property in a park like condition for many years. In the 1970s several charity events were held on the property.
More recently the property has been allowed to go back to its natural state and has become a sanctuary for wildlife and native plants.
There are many stories about the Devil’s Backbone including tales of murder and Native Americans, as well as reports that the area is the most scenic place in Preble County with its limestone formations and waterfalls.
“When the Park District gets the trails open and ready for the public, you will find it to be a unique and beautiful place to visit,” the release noted.
The Preble County Park District also owns the Garber Nature Center located at 9691 Ohio 503 North, north of Lewisburg. The Nature Center features a restored farmhouse, trails in the 30-acre woods with a handicapped accessible boardwalk to a picnic area, a picnic pavilion, a wetland, a prairie and geo-caches along the trails. The Garber Nature Center offers educational programs and family events on a monthly schedule which can be found on the PCPD website at www.preblecountyparkdistrict.org.