From staff reports
1. Player eligibility investigated
With the Wapakoneta Redskins on the verge of possibly winning the Western Buckeye League title and securing a stronger position in the state playoffs, news spread of a player being ruled ineligible â€” possibly costing the 9-0 Redskins at the time to forfeit all their games.
News of the player possibly being ineligible and the subsequent decision by Wapakoneta City Schools administrators to voluntarily hold the player out of the final game traveled both wing and fling.
The voluntary move to sit the player proved to be the top story of 2011.
The Wapakoneta Daily News website recorded more than 4,500 hits in the morning regarding the story broke â€” first on the website and later with an updated, complete version in print.
Superintendent Keith Horner confirmed the information on Oct. 28, noting Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) officials informed them Oct. 27 of the investigation regarding the player. An OHSAA investigator followed a student who was listed as living in the Cridersville area to a residence in Elida. The OHSAA rules state a player must eat, sleep and live a majority of the time in the school district, but they are permitted to stay with relatives, friends outside the district.
â€śWe are not going to allow him participation in contests until we get a final word from the OHSAA,â€ť Horner said. â€śWe donâ€™t anticipate knowing their decision until next week.
â€śWe also want to do our due diligence as well as we want to respect the rules of the OHSAA,â€ť the superintendent said.
On Oct. 31, Redskin fans could breathe easier. OHSAA officials cleared Wapakoneta on to compete in the football playoffs.
â€śIâ€™m glad to have this behind us,â€ť Wapakoneta Redskins varsity coach Doug Frye said. â€śWe want to move on and do whatâ€™s best for all the kids involved and continue to play football.â€ť
2. Wapak teacher, BOE talks
With the final days of the year being counted down, Wapakoneta Education Association officials informed Wapakoneta City School administrators that they may use their 10-day strike notice.
Talks between the teacherâ€™s union and school administrators, which started in April, failed to create much momentum regarding terms of new contract that expired June 30.
The Wapakoneta City Schools Board of Education filed a unfair labor practice in November, with board members approving a â€ślast, final and best offerâ€ť to the teachers at the last November.
â€śOur preferred option is to reach an agreement, but after a dozen bargaining sessions since April and with no end in sight, we have to move the district forward,â€ť Wapakoneta City Schools Superintendent Keith Horner said after a special meeting.
The boardâ€™s last proposal is for a three-year contract with no base raises for teacher salaries and no automatic increases based on teacher longevity in the second and third years. Teachers also would be required to pay more into the cost of health insurance provided by the board.
WEA officials stated in a prepared news release that they were disappointed but not surprised by the boardâ€™s approval of a formal resolution.
â€śSuch action had been indicated by the Board of Education when the board unilaterally declared an end to bargaining,â€ť said Pat Johnson, a labor relations consultant for the Ohio Education Association. â€śBoth parties in the past have been able to come to a resolution with contract talks â€” this action is unprecedented.â€ť
Johnson said the WEA is addressing its options and remedies as a result of the boardâ€™s action.
â€śAs far as the Wapakoneta Education Association is concerned, the bargaining process has not ended, and the Wapakoneta Education Association is ready and willing to go back to the bargaining table,â€ť Johnson said.
3. â€śBath saltsâ€ť hit area
Bath salts, a synthetic hallucinative drug, became a growing problem in Auglaize County and Wapakoneta with the beginning of the new year.
Wapakoneta Fire Chief Kendall Krites explained â€śbath saltsâ€ť causes a personâ€™s heart rate and blood pressure to elevate and it depletes the amount of oxygen in their blood. He also said the drug also can cause renal failure, acute myocardial infractions (heart attacks) and strokes in the more extreme cases â€” resulting in death. There have been at least four deaths in the country and one in Ohio blamed on the use of bath salts.
A troubling side effect, Krites noted, is people often develop a craving for the drug that prompts them to go on days-long binges. They said users tend to please their craving every 24 hours. The immediate effects can last 72 hours and even longer, while the long-term effects are unknown, but flashbacks are common.
These bath salts, engineered by a chemist in a lab, contain the active ingredients methylenedioxpyrovalerone (MDPV), a synthetic psychoactive drug with stimulant properties.
On July 12, Wapakoneta City Council members made the sale, distribution and use of â€śbath saltsâ€ť and other synthetic drugs illegal in the city. They later rescinded the ordinance when state legislation went into effect.
The drugs use created problems for emergency and safety personnel. Municipalities started passing laws banning the substance until the state could deal with the new scourge.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine pledged his help to law enforcement personnel earlier in the year.
2011 became the year of retirements.
Long-time Clerk of Courts Sue Ellen Kohler retired, followed by county Recorder Ann Billings. They were replaced Jean Meckstroth and Chris Lambert, respectively.
Mike Wurst, who worked as the emergency response coordinator at the Auglaize County Health Department, retired and was replaced by Wapakoneta City Council President Don Jump, who was replaced by his predecessor Council President Steve Henderson.
Doug Howard, who served as Veterans Services Commission officer, retired at the end of the year.
The last county official to retire was County Administrator Joe Lenhart. He was replaced by Michael Hensley.
Auglaize County Public District Library Director Jo Derryberry retired and was replaced by Youth Services Coordinator Beth Steiner.
In Wapakoneta, Electric Department Superintendent Bill Lambert retired, opening the way for Don Schnarre to take over.
Councilor-at-large Wilbur Wells ended 14 years of serving on Wapakoneta City Council, 10 years as the Finance Committee chair. He opted not to seek re-election and will be replaced by 4th Ward Councilor Dan Graf, who will be replaced by Chad Doll.
The city of St. Marys watched Todd Fleagle, their community and business development leader retire, and Safety-Service Director Tom Hitchcock left for a similar position in Celina.
Beverly Wood, Dorance Thompson and Jeff Bassitt left Cridersville Village Council and Ronda Knox and Chris Wilson left Waynesfield Village Council. Wood leaves a legacy of being one the longest serving councilors.
The Wapakoneta Daily News staff said goodbye to the guiding hand of Dianna Epperly, who served approximately 25 years as publisher.
5. Humane Society of Auglaize County, Gizmo case
Everyone is always interested when it comes to animals.
Timothy Scott Workman, of rural Montezuma, made one of his many routine visits to the Auglaize County Humane Society in early April this year to help assess a dog. What happened at that point kicked off a long court battle that is still going on and a second now alive in the Mercer County Court system.
While at the ACHS, Workman spotted a Pekingese dog that he claimed as his and had lost during a storm in 2008. However, ACHS officials have maintained that the dog was not in fact the same dog. Workman filed a civil suit in Auglaize County to reclaim the dog. During a routine check-up as agreed to by both parties at a veterinarians office in Celina.
ACHS director Sandra
Harrison filed menacing charges against Workman after alleged things he said to her during the checkup at the veterinarians office.
The story has sparked a huge amount of interest with very few people in the middle. Many letters-to-the-editor have came in both in support and other claims of mistreatment made by former ACHS patrons.
6. River floods
The Auglaize River broke its banks in February again after a thunderstorm dumped nearly 3 inches of rain and 14 inches of snow started to melt.
High water signs popped up throughout the city and the county and the weather prompted Wapakoneta City Schools to close.
â€śPublic Works Superintendent Meril Simpson said he heard the city received more than 3 inches of rain and that with all the melting snow from two storms last week is causing some areas of high water,â€ť Wapakoneta Safety-Service Director Bill Rains told the Wapakoneta Daily News. â€śWe have a lot of water and that really does not have anywhere to go because the ground is saturated and the Auglaize River is over its banks in places.â€ť
Wapakoneta firefighters saved a person stranded in a car on Krein Avenue.
Members of the Wapakoneta Redskins football team helped sandbag and save items at Mercy Unlimited.
7. Administrator position filled
County Administrator Joe Lenhart announced his retirement at the end of December, helping his successor in take the reins completely in January.
The position took time to fill.
The Auglaize County commissioners first tabbed Kim Everman of Mercer County, before they offered her more money to stay. Problems popped up with their second selection Tim Klopfenstein, who opted to withdraw his name.
The commissioners then pinned their hopes on Michael Hensley, who accepted the position.
8. Redskins win playoff game
For the second time in history, the Wapakoneta Redskins won a state football playoff game. They defeated the Franklin Wildcats, 24-13 in the first round of the playoffs behind strong games from running back Connor Pickens, who gained 193 yards on 26 carries, and quarterback Kyle Gibson as well as a stout defense led by linebacker Brendan Wilson, cornerbacks Connor Metz and Kevin Kraft and lineman Jim Knippen.
The Redskins, who lost in week 10 to the Kenton Wildcats, lost the next game to the Trotwood Madison Rams, who went on to win the state title. Kenton lost in the final seconds of their title game â€” meaning both Redskin losses came to championship game teams.
In March, Wapakoneta Redskin wrestler Logan Erb returned to the state championship, losing his title in exciting fashion. He joined Brent Miller as a state wrestling champion the previous year.
9. Grand Lake St. Marys, algae
A multi-million dollar alum treatment on a portion of Grand Lake St. Marys in June reduced phosphorus levels by more than 50 percent in a development officials say exceeded their expectations.
Directors of the Ohio departments of Natural Resources, Agriculture and the EPA released a report Wednesday afternoon detailing the effectiveness of the alum treatment on 4,000 acres of Grand Lake St. Marys. The report, compiled by Dr. Harry Gibbons of Tetra Tech, noted the treatment successfully reduced levels of phosphorus in the test region as well as the lake as a whole.
â€śThis was a high priority of the administration when we came in in January,â€ť Ohio EPA Director Scott Nally said. â€śWeâ€™re very pleased to report, based on Tetra Techâ€™s analysis that the treatment that we did this past summer was very successful.â€ť
The target goal, once the treatment was scaled down to the middle 4,000 acres of the lake, was to get a reduction of 50 percent. Nally noted the treatment reached a reduction of 56 percent â€” which he termed â€śexciting.â€ť
The $8 million renovation to the Auglaize County Courthouse should bring the building into the 21st century and will be devoted solely to the courts, prosecutors, public defender, victimâ€™s advocate, probation offices and law library.
The renovation included advancements in technology, while preserving some of the historic value of the building. It also includes switching from a coal-fired boiler to a state-of-the-art furnace and air conditioning system.
The building should be ready to be occupied in June. The project took approximately 18 months.