Flooding causes problems over the weekend
Flooded roads are a concern for people who live in communities near two overflowing rivers in northeast Ohio. The National Weather Service issued flood warnings until noon today for southwestern Lake County and northeastern Cuyahoga County as the Chagrin River backed up due to ice buildups. A flood warning is also in effect for the Rocky River, west of Cleveland. Some roads in Willoughby were closed by mid-afternoon Sunday as the Chagrin River overflowed onto the streets. A number of residents voluntarily left their homes. Some residents of the suburb of Rocky River — where the river of the same name empties into Lake Erie — voluntarily left their homes because of the rising water.
Deep freeze proving to be costly for cities
The winter blast that brought snow and dangerous temperatures to much of Ohio will end up costing cities and businesses quite a bit of money. The price tag for water main breaks and busted pipes is adding up for the Cleveland suburb of Elyria, which has had 14 water main breaks since the beginning of the year. Sub-zero temperatures caused water pipes to burst in over 30 buildings at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton. Toledo officials estimate that the storms that have dumped about 20 inches of snow since the end of December will cost the city up to $1 million, mostly in salary and overtime for city workers. The city also had to hire private plow contractors to help out.
Dispatch: Nearly 30 percent Ohio charter schools have closed
A newspaper reports that 29 percent of Ohio's charter schools have closed dating back to 1997, including 17 schools last year in Columbus. The Columbus Dispatch reports that publicly funded charter schools that are often privately run became legal in Ohio in 1997. About 75 of the 400 charter schools currently operating in the state are in Columbus, where nine of the 17 schools that closed in 2013 lasted only a few months. Some of the nine schools closed because of money problems and some due to health and safety troubles. Some were closed by their sponsors. Advocates and critics of charter schools say one way to avoid closings is to do a better job deciding who should be allowed to open.
Summit County wants to create Ohio’s first conversation bank for bats
A northeast Ohio park district has requested federal permission to create a conservation bank intended to help a dwindling bat population. The Beacon Journal reports the Summit County agency's request would create Ohio's first conservation bank, aimed to help northern long-eared bats, whose numbers have been sharply reduced by a deadly fungus. Developers would pay to get credits enabling them to proceed with projects that could hurt the species. That money could be used to protect bat habitat in and around Liberty Park in northern Summit County.
Ohio and Indiana team up for drone testing
Ohio and Indiana will operate their own test ranges for unmanned aircraft and seek ways of promoting more research and development to attract drone-related businesses after losing in their joint bid for a coveted FAA test site. The states sought one of six Federal Aviation Administration drone test sites being set up as the agency develops a plan to safely integrate commercial drones into U.S. airspace. An industry-commissioned study predicted drones could produce thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic impact after that integration. Officials say they are seeking more ways of individually and jointly promoting their shared region as a location where unmanned aircraft businesses can thrive.
Ohio schools can apply for funds for walk/bike safety
The state Department of Transportation will award $4 million to Ohio schools this year for projects designed to help children from kindergarten through eighth grade walk or bike to school safely. The department will accept applications until March 3 for the Safe Routes to School Program. Department Director Jerry Wray encourages every community that needs the program to apply. The department is currently working with Akron Public Schools, Toledo Public Schools, and Columbus City Schools to determine ways of improving safety for students walking and bicycling to the districts' schools. Local and regional governments, schools and community organizations are eligible to apply for funding.
Report: Ohio’s crowded prison system worse than feared
Ohio's already crowded prison system is projected to climb to more than 51,000 inmates by the end of June. The Plain Dealer reports that number is more than 4,000 higher than what state officials predicted in 2012, raising concerns that crowded conditions could lead to violence. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction director has said that crowding may have been a factor in a recent rash of prison suicides. State officials and prison experts attribute the rise in prison numbers partly to an increase in crime.
Potential gubernatorial candidate to launch campaign swing
A southwest Ohio Democrat plans a campaign swing around the state before deciding whether to go forward with his run for governor. Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune announced Dec. 30 he would run. He said he had been hearing from rank-and-file Democrats about their desire for a choice after Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald has been running for months. But Portune said he wouldn't file by the Feb. 5 deadline if he determined there wasn't enough statewide support. Portune plans stops over the next week in cities including Lorain in Northeast Ohio.
Groups threaten to sue over turbine
Two groups are threatening to sue the Ohio National Guard over plans to build a wind turbine along Lake Erie. The guard plans to build the wind turbine at its Camp Perry site near Port Clinton. The American Bird Conservancy and Black Swamp Bird Observatory said this past week that they are looking at taking legal action because the turbine could endanger migrating birds and eagles that inhabit the area. The groups say plans violate several federal laws. Ohio Air National Guard officials have said an assessment found the turbine won't cause significant impact.
Report: Fewer cases go to trial in Ohio
The number of criminal and civil cases that go to trial in Ohio has reached an historic low. Based on numbers from the Ohio Supreme Court, The Columbus Dispatch figured that just 2.5 percent of criminal cases in the state's common pleas courts were resolved by going to trial in 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Experts are citing a number of reasons for the low trial rates, including the escalating cost of taking civil cases to trial and tougher sentencing laws that make criminal defendants more willing to take plea deals. Trial rates are similar in municipal courts.
Former Secretary of State to be federal observer in Cairo
Former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has headed to Cairo to serve as an international observer in Egypt's constitutional referendum. The Columbus Democrat will be present for the Jan. 14-15 vote on an amended charter as part of a team from Democracy International. The organization is active in more than 60 countries on democracy and governance issues and to assist on rule-of-law questions. Brunner is a former judge and founding partner and principal in the Brunner Quinn law firm based in Columbus. She oversaw Ohio elections as secretary of state from 2007 to 2011. This is not her first foray into international election issues. Since re-entering private practice, she has made multiple trips to Serbia to provide technical assistance on judicial reform and anti-corruption in elections.
Youngstown murder trial of couple leaving church delayed
A murder trial has been postponed in one of two separate slayings of elderly parishioners as they left their northeast Ohio church in 2010. The killings outside St. Dominic Roman Catholic Church in Youngstown left the neighborhood shaken and prompted a police crackdown. The trial of 32-year-old Aubrey Toney was to begin today with jury selection. But The Vindicator reports the judge granted a prosecution request to postpone the case because a key prosecution witness is in a high-risk pregnancy and can't travel. The trial has been reset to April 28.
Gas prices up to start the week
Ohioans will be paying a little more for gas as the new work week begins. The average this morning is $3.38 for a gallon of regular gas in the survey from auto club AAA and its partners. That's up 9 cents from last week but lower than the national average. The average diesel price in Ohio is 3.85 a gallon.