Akron water main break leads to major flooding
Nearly a dozen Akron residents had to be rescued from their homes following a major water main break Thursday evening. The Beacon Journal reports a 36-inch water main broke on the west side of town, turning streets into “raging rivers and severely damaging homes and foundations.” Akron police, fire officials and dive team members responded and also had to rescue people from the tops of their cars. The city says it’s still assessing the cause of the break and is advising residents on the west side to boil their water until further notice.
Heavy rains lead to flood worries across northern Ohio
Flooding is a growing concern across many parts of Ohio as rain continues this week. The National Weather Service has posted flood warnings for more than a half-dozen rivers across northern Ohio including those in Lorain, Wayne and Trumbull counties until further notice. In northwest Ohio, the mayor of Findlay has urged residents in at least one neighborhood to evacuate. He says The Blanchard River is 14 feet this morning, about three feet above flood stage. The weather service predicted the river would rise by another two feet and crest Friday afternoon.
Strange bedfellows rally for Medicaid expansion
An estimated 2,500 demonstrators assembled at the Ohio Statehouse Thursday to urge state lawmakers to extend Medicaid coverage under the federal health care law. Thursday's rally follows a decision by Ohio House Republicans to strip the expansion plan from the budget. Health care providers, uninsured Ohioans, business owners and others clutched umbrellas and signs supporting expansion as they gathered under rainy skies outside the Capitol. Roughly 366,000 Ohioans would be eligible for health coverage beginning in 2014 under the expansion, and Ohio would see $13 billion from the federal government over the next seven years to pay for the newly eligible.
Ohio senators split on gun control debate vote
Ohio’s U.S. senators have once again split on a key vote – this time, whether debate should begin on a gun control bill. Democrat Sherrod Brown was one of 68 votes in favor of the debate. His Republican counterpart, Rob Portman, joined 30 others in voting no. Portman says his was a last-minute decision based on the preliminary wording of the bill, which includes universal background checks for gun purchases. The freshman senator says his main objection is that the bill as it’s now written would apply to family transfers and gifts of guns. That would likely be changed in a compromise amendment but Portman says he’d have to see that amendment before committing to vote for it. Sherrod Brown said this week that he thinks the amendment does not go far enough, but is a good place to start.
High-ranking Statehouse Democrat stepping down
The second-ranking Democrat in the Ohio House of Representatives says he'll step down to take a job advocating for a foundation serving construction unions. Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Matt Szollosi says he hasn't yet decided when he'll leave his seat serving the Toledo area. Szollosi has taken a job as the head of the new Affiliated Construction Trades of Ohio. Term limits prevent the 39-year-old from running again after his term expires in 2014.
Steubenville grand jury won’t hear from witnesses for two weeks
Ohio's attorney general says a grand jury investigating possible additional charges in the rape of a 16-year-old girl last summer in Steubenville won't hear from witnesses for about two weeks after it is convened Monday. Mike DeWine says the delay relates to his office's continuing evaluation of evidence. DeWine says the decision was made to get the seating of the grand jury out of the way first. A judge last month convicted two Steubenville high school football players of raping the girl after an alcohol-fueled party in August. DeWine said Thursday the grand jury will explore whether other laws were violated and could result in more charges or none at all.
Farm Bureau members’ information may have been leaked
About 16,000 Ohio Farm Bureau Federation members insured by Medical Mutual of Ohio have been warned some of their personal information may have been compromised. The federation and the insurer say an internet technology vendor mistakenly put an electronic file of information on an unsecured site used for file transfers. They say names, contact and Social Security numbers and insurance coverage information could have been accessed by someone without authorization, though there's no sign the data was misused. Affected members have free access to credit monitoring resources.
Stark County scrambling to prepare for primaries after roof collapse
Officials in Stark County are scrambling to make sure early voting for the May primary is unaffected by a roof collapse at the board of elections building. Repairs are underway after the combination of a downpour and a clogged drain caused about 500 ft. to cave in on Wednesday. The Board’s nearly 1,300 voting machines weren’t stored directly beneath it but Elections Director Jeff Mathews says equipment throughout the building will have to be evaluated piece-by-piece to see if any was damaged. And Mathews says the voting machines that had already set aside for use on Election Day have been moved to another location to make sure they’re in a climate controlled environment. Meantime, Board offices are operating and can still be reached via the internet or phone.
Edgewater Marina closed for the season after Sandy damage
Damage from last year's Superstorm Sandy has shut down a popular Cleveland marina for the boating season while the state works on repairs. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says demolition of the Edgewater Marina began soon after Sandy hit in October but was stopped by winter weather. The Plain Dealer reports that the Natural Resources Department notified concessionaire FDL Marine Inc. last month that the marina wouldn't be rebuilt this season. The storm sank or damaged dozens of boats at the marina and docks were dragged to the marina's bottom. The federal government will pay for about 75 percent of the rebuilding after President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in Ohio following the storm.
Wind power increasing in Ohio
Ohio is increasingly generating more wind power. A report from the trade group American Wind Energy Association shows the state nearly quadrupled its ability to generate power from wind in 2012. The growth in Ohio was almost all from one project, the 305-megawatt Blue Creek Wind Farm in Paulding and Van Wert counties, which went online about a year ago. It brings the state’s total to 428 megawatts. In generating power, Ohio now ranks 26th out of the 40 states that have at least one utility-scale project.
Two indicted in $3 million fraud scheme
Two men have been indicted on federal charges in the theft of $3 million from a northeast Ohio school district. U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach announced mail fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges Thursday against David Donadeo and Dennis Boyles Jr. A state audit of the Cuyahoga Heights district found former information technology director Jospeh Palazzo, who has been charged, authorized payments to vendors run by relatives and friends, but schools didn't get anything in return. Donadeo and Boyles are suspected of setting up sham companies. The district is suing to recover missing funds.