Posts tagged Bowling Green
By Max Filby
FROM PLANT TO TAP
For Chad Johnson, water is typically his only company while on the job.
As Johnson makes his hourly rounds, the smell of chlorine and other chemicals is as constant as the sound of rushing water in each sector of the Bowling Green Water Treatment Plant on West River Road.
Johnson, a life-long Bowling Green resident is also the superintendent of the plant where he’s worked for the past 20 years.
During his time at the plant, Johnson has worked to keep up with the “extremely strict” standards of the Environmental Protection Agency, he said. While Johnson is focusing on certain EPA standards, his competitors in the bottled water industry are obeying a different set of standards by the Food and Drug Administration.
“You never know what you’re getting in one of those bottles,” Johnson said. “I don’t really see any sense in it.”
Bowling Green water is free of any contaminant violations in all categories including ones testing for traces of lead and chloroform, according to a 2010 water quality report. The plant has actually been violation free since 2003, Johnson said.
“It’s something we’re really proud of, just to be able to say that,” he said.
After being violation free for so many years, Johnson continues to root for tap water of a bottled alternative. Johnson carries a reusable water bottle as he prepares to start his rounds again.
Instead of not knowing what he’s drinking, Johnson prefers his reusable bottle because he knows what it contains.
MAKING AN IMPACT
Johnson may work closely with what Bowling Green citizens are drinking, but a student group on campus is working toward a similar goal in a different way.
Every Tuesday night at 9 p.m. Gabriel Morgan leads a meeting for an organization called Net Impact in the creativity lab of the Business Administration Building on the campus of Bowling Green State University.
Net Impact has been around for a little over a year now and focuses on a World Water Week project to educate students on the healthiness of tap water and the wastefulness of bottled water in what Morgan refers to as a “global water crisis.”
“Drinking tap water is all around safer and it reduces waste, which is becoming a big issue,” Morgan said. “It falls into that first category of ‘the three R’s.’
Reduce, reuse and recycle is one aspect Morgan and his group of “social and environmental change-makers” emphasize while educating students with “dirty water bottles.”
In continuing its World Water Week project, group members like Alexandra Ordway are still trying to figure out how to make students understand that the convenience of water bottles doesn’t outweigh its lower standards, she said..
“I think it’s kind of unnecessary,” Ordway said. “I understand the whole convenience thing, but it gives people the false sense that what they’re drinking is sanitary.”
BOTTLING THE “BETTER OPTION”
While Johnson and the members of Net Impact are trying to bottom out the bottled water industry, a group of people in Virginia are trying to do just the opposite.
The International Bottled Water Association promotes itself as the “voice of the bottled water industry,” said Chris Hogan, IBWA vice president of communications.
“Drinking water is an excellent option when you are looking to stay hydrated, but we do promote what we think is the better option out there,” Hogan said, referring to bottled water.
IBWA and Hogan’s beloved bottled water is quickly becoming the second most popular beverage, right after soft drinks, according to the FDA’s website.
Although the tap water Johnson cares for is regulated by the EPA, the FDA regulates bottled water as a food item, putting it in the same category as a soft drink, according to the FDA’s website.
Despite talk of bottled falling short of standards similar to those of tap water, Hogan said that bottled water is held to a different set of standards that are still strict, even though they may not come from the EPA.
“That’s something we hear people talk about a lot,” Hogan said. “But, in some cases some standards for bottled water don’t exist for tap water.”
Hogan is referring to standards including certain traces of elements within bottled water, he said.
“It always seems if someone has a beef with bottled water, they’ll pull out the most inconveniently priced bottle of water from a hotel and compare it to tap water,” Hogan said. “The fact is that they’re two different things, they’re incomparable.”
BATTLING THE BOTTLE
At the water plant where Johnson works, him and his team of operators are working to continue bringing Bowling Green’s water qualities above or at the level of the bottles Hogan and the IBWA boast about.
In its battle against the bottle, the plant utilizes several large tanks of chemicals and machinery to get the city’s water up to one of the highest levels of quality in Ohio, Johnson said.
As Johnson continues on another one of his hourly rounds, he checks the filtration and disinfection systems, some of which date back to when the plant first opened in 1951.
“The newest equipment has been a big help,” Johnson said as he pointed to a small monitor attached to a series of tanks. “It’s taken the level of toxins in our water down to less than .03 percent.”
The improved treatment is just something Johnson associates as part of the everyday job of meeting EPA standards before pumping out between 3 million and 7 million gallons a day.
“The EPA is extremely strict, we’ve got all kinds of chemical testing and other requirements we have to meet and we do meet all of them,” Johnson said.
After taking care of Bowling Green’s water supply for 20 years, Johnson believes people just don’t know about the plant’s improvements in quality to what flows from each faucet.
“I don’t think that people understand,” Johnson said. “The water quality is extremely high here. It’s just fine.”
By Erin Cox
The flowers of the future.
A 257-foot tall stem with three white petals spinning round in the wind and a generator in the center. The wind is strong today and the only noise that can be heard besides the rustling of the wind is the cars passing on a nearby road. Four wind turbines stand along the landfill on the edge of Bowling Green, Ohio. They are the first of many wind turbines that have popped up around the state.
Don Scherer of Green Energy Ohio helped get the wind turbines installed in Bowling Green in 2003 and 2004. He assisted in conducting the initial wind assessment of the area to see if the area’s wind was profitable as an energy source.
“It was a big deal then, but now they’re very small in the scale of what’s being done,” Scherer said.
Bowling Green’s four wind turbines put the city ahead of the rest of the state in 2003. According to Scherer, Daryl Stockberger, the Bowling Green Utilities Director during that time, took the initiative to make Bowling Green greener. Stockberger led the push to install the wind turbines, but now the city’s four turbines look small in comparison to the other wind farms being built around the state.
Ohio’s Renewable and Advanced Energy Portfolio Standard, a 2009 state law also known as Senate Bill 221, requires Ohio’s electric distribution utilities and electric service companies to generate 25 percent of their electricity sold from alternative energy sources. At least 12.5 percent of this must come from renewable energy resources, such as wind, and at least 0.5 percent from solar. The other 12.5 percent can come from other advanced energy resources. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, advanced energy resources are any energy-making processes that do not produce any extra carbon dioxide, such as nuclear power and clean coal. Half of the renewable energy these companies generate must come from Ohio and that has led to the development of wind farms throughout the state.
Emily Sautter, Wind Program Manager for Green Energy Ohio, said that Ohio’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard has created a demand for wind energy in some portions of the state.
“The wind farms have to be in a good wind spot so folks can get reasonable payback for their investment,” Sautter said. “Southern Ohio doesn’t have the best wind, so they probably won’t see as many wind farms pop up around that area. But in 2003 and 2004, Bowling Green worked with Green Energy Ohio to do a resource assessment and found that it would be a good spot for wind turbines.”
Bowling Green’s Utilities Director Brian O’Connell said the project cost several millions of dollars, which the city had to borrow to purchase the turbines. The city then entered a payback period where the money it made from the wind turbines would go to pay off the debt.
According to Scherer, Bowling Green’s wind turbines were bought with the idea that they would be paid off in 15 years from the energy produced. After paying off the cost of the turbines and building them, then the energy produced will be at its cheapest amount to buy.
Sautter said Bowling Green’s four wind turbines have performed at or above the expected amount of energy production.
Scherer also said Bowling Green’s wind turbines are ahead of the scheduled production. The wind turbines produce energy at capacity when the wind speed is between 19 and 33 miles per hour. The blades will turn at winds of three miles per hour, but the generator does not gage the rotation of the turbines until winds reach nine miles per hour. Currently the wind turbines are performing at an average of 25 percent capacity meaning a combined total of 1.8 megawatts of energy are produced an hour by the four wind turbines.
“Winds tend to pick up during the fall and intensify during the winter and stay strong until the end of May into June,” Scherer said. “Summertime sees the lowest productivity with 10 percent of production being done in the summer.”
Scherer said the initial wind assessment was conservative for financial reasons.
“You don’t want to overestimate the wind when it is such a large-scale financial investment,” Scherer said. “The wind was going to be good enough so at that point, you get into the next round of decisions, which is finding a site where a group of turbines can sit without blocking each others’ wind.”
Bowling Green’s municipal utilities is part of American Municipal Power, which is not one of the for-profit energy distribution companies that have to meet the Senate Bill 221 standards. As a nonprofit company, A.M.P. gets credit for the renewable energy it produces with the four wind turbines. Scherer said that if A.M.P wanted to, it could sell their credit to the mandated energy companies in Ohio to allow them to have that credit applied to their renewable energy resource requirement.
About 80 miles southwest of Bowling Green, along the county lines of Paulding and Van Wert, Ohio, the flowers of the future have become more like a field of corn. The wind turbines, 214 in total, scatter the fields of the area. Blue Creek Wind Farm operates 159 wind turbines built by Iberdrola Renewables, and the other 55 were built by Horizon Wind energy.
From four wind turbines sitting alongside Bowling Green’s landfill to now 214 wind turbines scattered throughout hundreds of acres of farmland, this is the look of the future of northwest Ohio.
Each of Blue Creek’s 152 wind turbines in Van Wert stands at 328 feet tall with a 148-foot long blade. People can catch a glimpse of the turbines spinning from miles away.
But, the massiveness of the turbines doesn’t have to be viewed only from far away. U.S. 30 runs alongside the wind farm all the way to the Indiana state line. Multiple turbines sit close to the road, giving drivers an easy distraction as they drive on the highway.
While some turbines stand in lines of five or six, others seem to have just popped up randomly in the middle of a field or in the backyard of a family’s home.
The drive that use to take forever with empty, dead fields during the winter, now seems to end too quickly as the wind turbines cause a hypnotic effect with the amazing expanse they cover.
O’Connell said that in 2010 Bowling Green already had 25 percent of its energy coming from renewable energy sources, only part of that was from wind. O’Connell said that he expects in 2015 the city to get 35 percent of its energy from renewable resources.
Bowling Green receives half of the energy from the wind turbines, and the other half goes to nine other communities who are part owners of the wind turbines.
According to O’Connell, the problem with wind energy in Ohio is that they are only performing at 25 percent of total capacity where as a coal plant produces energy at 90 percent of their capacity the majority of the time.
“With wind power, you can’t guarantee that wind will be there,” O’Connell said. “You have to realize that there’s a reduced capacity factor with wind power whereas with other energy sources, it can pretty much be guaranteed to generate a certain amount of energy.”
Not all wind turbines provide energy for the people of the county in which they are built though.
According to Sautter, the energy produced from the wind farm in Van Wert is disbursed to FirstEnergy customers. Iberdrola, the company that built Blue Creek Wind Farms in Van Wert, made a power purchase agreement with FirstEnergy giving it the ownership of the energy produced.
According to the Ohio Power Siting Board, Ohio has certified 662 wind turbines throughout the state with another 275 pending certification. This means the state can expect to have 937 wind turbines.
Stuart Siegfried of the Ohio Public Utilities Commission said the energy companies have been doing well so far. Each year has a benchmark that the companies must meet. It increases annually to make sure the company is on track to meeting the requirements of Senate Bill 221.
Scherer said that what made it easier for places like Kansas and the Dakotas, which has numerous wind farms across the state, is that the average farmer owns more farmland.
“The wind farms that are going up in Ohio spread across multiple farmer’s land,” Scherer said. “Many farmers have to agree and it’s a complicated dynamic to figure out how to get all the people to agree to give up some land for these.”
According to Scherer, the Ohio Farm Bureau has an employee, who is involved with Green Energy Ohio, to educate the farmers about the wind turbines and how little problems they cause.
According to Siegfried, 25 other states have a similar portfolio standard as Ohio does.
“Things have been looking good on the non-solar side. On the solar side, some companies have had problems with supply constraints,” Siegfried said.
Chad Smith, Deputy Chief of the Office of Energy in the Ohio Department of Development said while there has been an increase in wind farms in Ohio, Ohio’s main contribution to wind energy is the manufacturing of parts for the wind turbines.
If an energy distribution company does not make the benchmarks for the year, it has to give reasons for it. Seigfried said that if they have justifiable reasons, it can be excused, but the difference may be added on to the next year’s benchmark. Without justifiable reasons, the company will face some sort of fine or compliance payment.
Red flashing lights. As far as the eye can see, red flashing lights fill the night at the wind farms in Van Wert and Paulding.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the wind farms have synchronized the red lights of the hundreds of turbines so that planes can identify and avoid the wind turbines. The effect is entrancing.
Without knowing that the red lights sit on top of the wind turbines, passersby driving on the highway might have no clue as to what they belong.
The four in Bowling Green might be mistaken as radio towers, but the two hundred expanding across hundreds of acres of farmland, seems impossible to mistake as radio towers. Perhaps some day wind turbines will be the norm, the expected, and easily detectible at night by their synchronized, captivating red lights.
Electric car charging stations bring a new source of energy to Bowling Green
By Sarah Bailey
Bowling Green residents and BGSU students may notice people plugging their cars into a different source of energy: electric car charging stations.
Three of these small, futuristic-looking stations have been placed in various areas throughout the city. The stations offer a source of power that has been historically controversial and recently debated.
At the turn of the 20th century, the amount of electric vehicles on the road was more than gasoline-powered ones. In the early 1900’s, there were about 50,000 electric vehicles in the United States. Over time, the use of electric vehicles decreased as the development of gasoline became less-expensive and the electric starter took the place of the crank in gasoline-powered cars, according to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
While the climate continues to change and the amount of emissions into our atmosphere becomes a growing concern, many have turned back to electric vehicles as an opportunity and an advancing green energy.
While many cars on the road today are primarily gasoline-powered, worldwide adoption of electric vehicles and hybrids are expected to grow quickly within the next couple of years, with sales up to 3.2 million vehicles from 2010 to 2015, according to a report from Pike Research.
Some people have started to charge their electric vehicles at these charging stations. The stations provide a source of electricity that can charge batteries in both electric cars and hybrids, according to Nicholas Hennessy, sustainability coordinator at BGSU.
Three electric car charging stations, located in Lot 1 off of East Court Street, Lot 2 off of South Prospect and Lot 3 off of South Church Street, have been installed and are ready to use, according to Brian O’Connell, utilities director for the city of Bowling Green.
View Electric Car Charging Stations in Bowling Green in a larger map
Three more stations will be placed on BGSU’s campus in the welcome center lot, the lot across from the union, and in Lot 8 by Falcon Heights within the next few months. The grant application to install the charging stations was approved in January. The university is currently waiting for the installation process to begin, and the stations are expected to be in place by the fall 2012 school year, Hennessy said.
When owners of electric vehicles’ batteries run low, they will be able to hook their cars up to these charging stations. The stations are similar to gas pumps. A customer can take the pump and plug it into the side of his or her car and electricity will flow into the car’s batteries, Hennessy said.
“It’s really the same type of concept as you would charge an iPod or a cell phone, except that it’s a car instead,” he said.
The time to charge an electric vehicle can vary depending on the vehicle and how big the battery is. The charging stations on campus and in the city will take a vehicle a couple of hours to be fully charged.
The city and the university will not be charging people to use the stations at first. The only price customers will have to pay is for the meter while their car is charging, Hennessy said.
O’Connell, the city’s utilities director, said he was approached by Anthony Palumbo, head of the university’s Electric Vehicle Institute, who informed him that the grant was available.
From there, the university and the city came together in order to get the charging stations. Each charging station, made by General Electric, cost $2,500, added up to a total of $15,000 for the city and the university combined, said Hennessy, who administered the grant process.
“We applied for the grant because we felt like we had an obligation to make more charging stations available to try and perpetuate the purchase of electric vehicles,” he said.
Clean Fuels Ohio, an organization that distributes money from the U.S. Department of Energy for green projects, funded $7,500: half of the money involved in the project. That left $7,500 for both the city and the university to come up with individually.
For the university, the Student Green Initiative Fund paid for the portion that wasn’t paid for by Clean Fuels Ohio. The fund is a pool of money that students have paid for in their student fees to support many of the university’s green projects. The fee is an optional $5 per semester, and many students agree to pay it, Hennessy said.
The city paid for the other half of their funds through Eco Smart Choice Program, a fund that provides a volunteer rate that customers can pay towards renewable energy or sustainability projects, O’Connell said.
Electric car technology is a cleaner energy than using fossil fuels, yet it all depends on where the source of the energy is coming from, Hennessy said.
“If your electricity is coming from a coal-powered power plant, then fossil fuels are still being used,” Hennessy said. “You are still connected to burning coal because the factory is.”
Hennessy explained that this is different from purely “green” energy that does not harm the atmosphere, such as electricity produced purely from windmills outside of Bowling Green. In reality, most of the energy produced in Bowling Green is connected to coal in some way, he said.
“Even so, it is better than using straight-up gasoline, which is 100 percent from a non-renewable source: oil,” Hennessy said.
Another concern is that even though the cost for electric vehicle technology is going down, it is still enough to remain a major factor in holding back the advancement of this technology, Hennessy said.
“Even though you have these cars on the market, the cost is still considered pretty high,” Hennessy said.
O’Connell and Hennessy both agreed that the price of the electric vehicles will be an issue that car manufacturers will have to face.
Thayer Nissan, part of the Thayer Family Dealerships in Bowling Green, has one of the only mass-produced fully electric vehicles on the market: the Nissan Leaf.
“Once it catches on, I believe people will see this as a good vehicle,” said Eric Walker, sales manager at Thayer Nissan. “It’s a great commuter vehicle.”
The Nissan Leaf is the only fully electric vehicle that Nissan sells currently, according to Walker. Nissan recently came out with this vehicle for mass production and it was initially sold on the east and the west coast before it became available in the Midwest.
“It’s not going to be a vehicle that you can take across the country, but for daily use it’s much more efficient than a gas vehicle,” Walker said.
There have only been a few of the vehicles sold in the Midwest region, and the dealership in Bowling Green has not yet sold any, despite the vehicle being available since January, Walker said.
Even though the vehicles have been on the market, people in the Bowling Green community haven’t had the
opportunity to get into this type of technology yet because of the way the ordering process works, he said.
The ordering process for a Nissan Leaf is done online. Customers can make an account online, send out a quote to dealers, and once their quote is accepted the process is moved forward through the dealership. The process takes about three to four months, he said.
“We have one vehicle here at the dealership that can be used as a demo for customers to come in and see,” Walker said.
The electric car charging stations will help people in the outer areas of the community be attracted to purchase electric cars, he said.
One of the other major concerns surrounding electric vehicles is the distance the car can go on one charge.
Today’s purely battery-powered vehicles don’t provide the same distance as a gasoline-powered vehicle. Currently, an electric vehicle’s driving range is anywhere from 50 to 130 miles, depending on factors such as the vehicle’s weight, type of batteries and design, according to the same report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“People may want to go further than that and they may become trapped or not able to find a charging station,” Hennessy said.
One of the requirements of getting the grant was the electric vehicle charging stations had to be made available to the entire state, not just the people in Bowling Green or at BGSU, he said.
“If there is someone from Toledo, Findlay or any other city who wants to charge their cars, they can do so here,” O’Connell said.
O’Connell explained that the city plans to monitor the free consumption of the electricity for about a year. The parking meters the city has put in place will allow around an eight-hour parking limit, compared to the other meters that have a two-hour limit. Once the amount of consumption is figured out, plans can be made as to whether a fee will be given to use the stations.
“We computed it out and if a car were to charge for an hour it would consume less than 50 cents worth of energy,” he said.
Another factor the city considered when deciding on the stations was the rising amount of hybrid and electric vehicles on the streets, O’Connell said.
By the year 2017, it is forecasted that more than 1.5 million electric charging locations will be available in the United States. About 7.7 million locations are expected to be available worldwide, according to a report by Pike Research
For every 10,000 drivers who operate gas-powered cars that would switch to electric, CO2 emissions would be decreased by 33,000 metric tons a year. This is the same as the yearly CO2 emissions of 6,500 cars on road in the United States, according to General Electric’s website.
In other words, if this technology replaces gasoline-powered vehicles, General Electric thinks the atmosphere would be thanking us.
“If you want people to use these types of cars in the community, you have to give them a source to plug into,” O’Connell said.
By Ryan Satkowiak
Outlined by a blue-gray February sky, Oak Grove Cemetery has a particularly eerie feel to it.
It is quiet, except for the passing traffic on Merry Avenue. Standing at the center of the cemetery, its highest point, gravestones cloud the immediate field of vision in all directions.
Very little goes on at Oak Grove. Rolling hills make the cemetery an inviting place to take an afternoon walk, but the overwhelming sense of death turns off many from entering it.
Only about 40 people are buried here each year, according to an estimate by Tim Dunn, co-owner of Bowling Green’s Dunn Funeral Home. Those people are laid to rest on the northern-most end of the cemetery, the only place in Oak Grove that has empty patches of grass. The headstones in that area are often reserved spaces, ones that feature a name and birth year of a person who’s time to leave earth has not yet come.
Winter merely adds to the atmosphere of the cemetery. Trees that beem with life during the warmer months of the year are naked, as barren as the skeletons that rest peacefully in the ground underneath.
But there is something peculiar about the Oak Grove Cemetery. Something sets it apart. It is smack-dab in the heart of the BGSU campus, wedged between Merry Avenue and Ridge Street, right next to Olscamp Hall.
Many people walk past this place every day. The sight of Oak Grove has become so commonplace for BGSU students that many simply are complacent with its presence so close to their everyday lives.
“It’s something that you eventually get used to,” said Brian Hilliard, a junior international studies major who walks by Oak Grove every day to get to classes in Olscamp Hall and the Business Building. “At first it was sort of weird to have a cemetery so close to campus, but after seeing if for a couple of years, you don’t even think about it being there.”
While Hilliard estimates he has walked past the cemetery at least a hundred times, he has never entered it, or even thought about entering it: “I don’t really have a reason to. I don’t know anyone buried there.”
Many students who have attended BGSU would be familiar with Oak Grove’s existence. The cemetery was founded in 1873, about 37 years before the college was ever built.
While Oak Grove is the only cemetery in the Bowling Green city limits, it is not the only place in where people were buried in town.
There used to be two cemeteries in Bowling Green. One was located on present-day South College Drive on the south side of Wooster Street. The other was on the current site of Ridge Elementary School.
The reason for the incorporation of the land Oak Grove sits on has a political background to it.
Back in the early 1870s, Bowling Green was engaged in a political battle with Perrysburg, with each city fighting to be the county seat. During that time, having a rural cemetery was seen as a strong point of the development in the town, according to a 1996 newspaper article by James Kasser.
So in 1873, the City of Bowling Green paid $950 to John and Robert Eldridge for the nine and a half acres of land that Oak Grove Cemetery sits on.
The stones and bodies were transported from the two graveyards and reinterred in Oak Grove. In April 1873, the city began drawing lines and lots to divide up burial plots.
On August 9, 1873 the city began selling plots to citizens. The money made from those sales went to planting trees and other foliage and putting benches in the cemetery in order to give it a “park-like atmosphere,” according to Kasser’s article.
The trees planted in the cemetery, mostly willow and maple trees, give Oak Grove the standard feel of a horror movie setting. The often vicious winds that sail through Northwest Ohio glide through the tree branches with ease. The sounds of tree’s movements encapsulate visitors from all angles, giving the feeling that someone else is there, even though no one else can be seen on the inside parts of the cemetery’s gates.
Not many of the names on the headstones are recognizable. The deeper one walks into the cemetery, the older the monuments become. One cites a date of death in 1887, another in 1883. As the sun begins the set along the horizon, the few lights that are in Oak Grove turn out. Visiting hours are listed as “dawn ’til dusk,” although the front gates rarely close.
This usual all-hours access has led to some problems at Oak Grove.
Vandalism at the cemetery has been an issue, given its proximity to a college campus. Perpetrators have caused damage to gravestones and other nuisances.
Vandals did their most recent damage in October 2010. The memory wall near Oak Grove’s entrance was destroyed, knocked out of the ground and broken into four pieces. Cost of replacing it was between $6,000 and $8,000, according to an article in the Toledo Blade.
However, those instances are becoming less frequent.
“I think since I’ve worked here, I can’t remember more than three or four instances in a year for the past 20 years,” said Tim Hammer, the cemetery’s sexton for the past 12 years.
Hammer handles the everyday care of the cemetery, including selling graves and preparing them for burial. He estimates that there are around 700 burial plots remaining in Oak Grove, leaving it at about 93 percent capacity.
BGSU expansion negatively impacted Oak Grove because as the university got bigger, it land-locked Oak Grove. Buildings surround Oak Grove’s east, west and south sides, while parking lots are on its north side. This prevents Oak Grove from ever expanding.
Additionally, the city of Bowling Green granted BGSU land that had at one point belonged to the cemetery, including the area now occupied by Overman Hall.
“There used to be a mausoleum on the southwest corner of the cemetery that the city had to tear down,” Dunn said. “We removed 332 deceased from that mausoleum and moved them to other areas of the cemetery that the city donated properties for or other cemeteries that the families paid of have them moved to.”
Plots of land at the cemetery cost $325 per grave, according to the Bowling Green finance department. Because of space in the cemetery running low, people are only allowed to buy two plots in the cemetery, Dunn said.
Dunn added that his funeral home has had preliminary talks with the city to find new burial grounds ince there is simply no room for Oak Grove to expand. This is to accommodate the citizens of Bowling Green when Oak Grove eventually reaches capacity.
“We’ve had some light discussions with the city to where they would develop new land and they’re thinking west of Bowling Green,” Dunn said. “Everyone needs to be assured that Oak Grove will not be disturbed; that cemetery will always be an ongoing cemetery that the city will maintain.”
While students rarely enter Oak Grove just to observe, the mere presence of it still induces spine-chilling sensations. Walking along the outside of Oak Grove’s gate, along Merry Avenue, the atmosphere of the cemetery still lurks. The unseasonably mild weather has created a thick layer of fog descending on Bowling Green. Visibility decreases, and the inner-most parts of Oak Grove can no longer be seen. The sound of the breeze echoes out from the cemetery, almost as if the deceased are calling out for living company.
View Oak Grove Cemetery in a larger map
Phillip Keck, trumpet player for Texas Pete and the Revolution, sounds his horn into the microphone during the band’s sound check. The reverberation of the trumpet blast, along with the remnants of smoke from the fog machines and the crowded room, make the stage feel like a pre-modern warfare battlefield.
However, Howard’s Club H (http://howardsclubh.com) is more than just a band’s battleground in the war of popularity — it is also a band’s great ally.
Because of the economic downturn and diminished demand for live music, owner Jim Gavarone has seen a fall in attendance, despite being one of the only remaining clubs in downtown Bowling Green that offer live performances. Gavarone scoffs at his competitors and what they find to be amusement.
“I’ve seen what kids spend their money on these days and it’s not real entertainment,” Gavarone said. “They could pay $3 to see a band here. Instead, they’ll go next door [to Skybar] and pay $10 … to listen to the same eight songs.”
There are not many places for bands to perform downtown anymore. Howard’s is the only place that has kept its stage open to traveling and local bands said disk jockey Brian Scavo.
“We have been here for over 80 years,” Gavarone said. “Ten years ago, half of these bars weren’t here. Cla-Zel, Skybar, none of them were here. Now, they are our main competition.”
On the outside, Howard’s Club H looks like a basic downtown bar, but on the inside, with its graffiti-covered tables, mural-covered walls and legendary stage, is where the club harbors its history and sets itself apart from the others.
Howard’s has been in business for more than 80 years. The establishment has seen wars, the Prohibition and thousands of students come and go each year at Bowling Green State University. Gavarone and general manager Jennifer Snyder look to preserve the culture behind Howard’s while annually bringing in a whole new crowd of students.
“No matter what you do with your life, you can come back here,” Snyder said. “You can walk through our door and it will always be Howard’s. We have people who come back as alumni and they look around for their names on the wall. They are looking for a little bit of their history. They know that they are a part of this place.”
Gavarone and Snyder allow patrons to write on the walls of the bathroom and carve words into the tables as they have for years. The bathroom looks like a vandalized train, almost completely covered in bright, nearly illegible writing.
Performers like Keck cite the writing on the walls as one of Howard’s most distinctive characteristics.
“We always joke about the graffiti,” Keck said. “There are some questionable messages in there. We also look around for our old stickers on the walls. We feel like we really are a part of the culture there.”
The club looks rough around the edges, with its graffiti and low lighting, but it holds some lifelong memories for many people, including the owner.
“I get a lot of pressure from people who want me to clean this place up,” Gavarone said. “I am a sentimental guy. I do not have the heart to shut this place down. In fact, I kissed my wife for the first time against the pole near the stage.”
That stage is where Howard’s differs from all the other clubs downtown. Bands like Panic! At the Disco and The White Stripes played there when they were first starting out, while Method Man, Andrew W.K. and David Allen Coe performed to maximum capacity crowds.
“I had Fall Out Boy play here in 2003, and people were bitching at the door about paying $3,” Gavarone said. “A few years later, they were selling out stadiums nationwide. Bands are nobodies here and then they become somebodies out there.”
Scavo agreed, adding that Howard’s is where many artists come to get noticed and bask in the light of the stage.
“Howard’s has its own character and its own stories,” Scavo said. “Bands coming through Bowling Green always go there. It has such a great reputation. It’s one of the only places left in Bowling Green that gives our downtown diversity.”
The club also played part of the famous blues tour known as the “Chitlin’ Circuit” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chitlin’_circuit) during the late 1950s, providing a place for blues artists to perform. The tour consisted of blues guitarists such as B.B. King, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.
“This place had legends play here every weekend back in the day,” Gavarone said. “Howard’s would get the big name blues guys who were on their way from Chicago to Cleveland.”
Deeper in Howard’s history is the tale of confectioner and founder Freddy Howard, a candystore operator turned bar owner.
“Legend has it that this candy store sold liquor out the back,” Gavarone said. “He was famous for his parties because he would have the entire football squad out here. The coaches began calling him Freddy the Falcon. The day Prohibition was overturned, he was one of the first ones selling [legally].”
Currently, the bar caters to anyone who walks through the door by providing food in-house and next door at Mr. Spots. Gavarone is also the owner of Mr. Spots (http://www.mrspots.com), which is how he received his liquor license.
The club is separated into two parts connected by a wrap-around bar. One side is more laid back, complete with a few TV screens playing sports games and the majority of the beer taps, while the other side is focused on recreation with four pool tables, a soundboard and a stage.
Snyder said she thinks of Howard’s as the town hangout, as well as the final stop during a weekend bar crawl.
“We have always been the closing bar,” she said. “We are open seven days a week and everyone seems to come here for their final round of the night. It’s been like that for decades.”
Whether it’s a night of just hanging out and shooting pool with the regulars or it’s a night of rocking out with the next band preparing for its big break, Howard’s and its operators look to keep the stage open and to continue to aid bands in the fight for stardom.
View Route from BGSU Campus to Howard’s Club H in a larger map
By Max Filby
Hot wings weren’t hot when Jim Gavarone opened his store in 1985.
Gavarone is a local businessman whose restaurant, Mister Spots, has heated up enough to boost his business into new locations and through an early rivalry with a big wig in the wing industry.
Gavarone developed the idea to open his original shops, and now his new one, after moving from Philadelphia to Bowling Green for college. Even after years of business, Gavarone says he “accidentally backed into,” his business.
“A few friends just double-dog dared me into it,” he says.
When Gavarone opened his store on Court Street on Feb. 17, 1985, his chicken wings quickly became one of a kind in the fast food market.
“We’ve done wings from day one,” Gavarone says. “We were kind of pioneers in that industry.”
Trying to wing it as a pioneer in the industry during the‘80s meant Gavarone was going up against another restaurant in Columbus, Ohio —Buffalo Wild Wings. At the time, Mister Spots and Buffalo Wild Wings were two of the only places in the area that regularly sold wings, Gavarone says.
“It really became an intense rivalry,” Gavarone says.
The rivalry heated up even more when Gavarone later opened another Mister Spots in Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, Ohio State’s biggest rival. The move made Mister Spots and Buffalo Wild Wings even bigger rivals, Gavarone says.
After opening his second Mister Spots in Ann Arbor in 1986, Gavarome also catered at University of Michigan athletics events until about 2009.
“It gets to be too expensive after a while, they just keep wanting more and more of your profit,” Gavarone says. “It’s even harder to do when the teams aren’t winning anymore, too.”
Eventually, wings became more mainstream as Buffalo Wild Wings started to expand its franchise, Gavarone says.
Although he is still thinking about further expanding with the help of some Michigan alumni, Gavarone is just focusing on the new store in Bowling Green, for now. Gavarone still maintains Mister Spots’ Ann Arbor location by checking in with store employees at least once a week.
While hot wings may have been a rarity during Gavarone’s rivalry, about 33 percent of all wings are now ordered at “casual dining restaurants” such as Mister Spots, according to the National Chicken Council’s 2012 Chicken Wing Report.
“Wings used to be sort of disposable,” Gavarone says. “They used to cost 30 cents a pound, you know, and now they cost something like $3.30. They’ve just gotten so big.”
Although Gavarone may not be the man of a million locations or menu items, for the past 26 years, his sauce has been “spot on.”
“We make our own sauce,” Gavarone says. “It’s no garden secret though. We don’t have 82 flavors or any sort of nuclear sauce, but it’s pretty good. It’s basic.”
When Gavarone bites into a wing or sandwich at his shop, he’s so satisfied that the only word he can find to describe it is as basic as his sauce recipe.
“Deliciousness,” he says. “I truly eat this crap all the time.”
Although Gavarone’s sauce is “basic,” he won’t give away ingredients other than some peppers, pepper seeds and margarine.
At the original location, currently in operation, Gavarone tells his general manager not to give anything away, but he’s not talking about free food.
“Don’t give away any secrets,” Gavarone says as he laughs with Mark Koldan.
Gavarone nods and walks to the back of the restaurant.
“It’s great not just working with my best friend, but working for my best friend,” Koldan says. “My kids call him ‘Uncle Jim’.”
Koldan first met Gavarone when they played together on the club lacrosse team at Bowling Green State University back in the early ‘80s. When Gavarone played, Koldan was his backup goalie.
“Essentially, he’s my backup at Mister Spots, too,” Gavarone says.
Since being put in charge in 1986, Koldan has been “steering the ship” at Mister Spots, Gavarone says.
Although Gavarone is now more of a “behind the scenes kind of guy,” he sometimes still makes his own sandwiches and wings.
“Sometimes I’ll climb right behind the counter,” Gavarone says.
While Gavarone may not always be behind the store counter, customers such as five-year patron Michelle Crook still love his products.
“It’s on par,” Crook says as she finishes her dinner. “It’s local, casual and is pretty reasonably priced.”
As customers like Crook leave Gavarone’s old restaurant location, something similar will ‘mark the spot’ at 206 N. Main Street, his new location.
The doodle of Gavarone’s cat, Spot, wearing sunglasses, hangs on a sign above the doorway at each location. Gavarone did the doodle on the back of a textbook while sitting in a class at BGSU in the ‘80s.
“I caught a lot of flack for naming the business after him,” Gavarone says. “My land lord called it Mister Flops … he thought we wouldn’t last six months there.”
Beneath the sign at the new Main Street location, people peek in to ask if the new Mister Spots is open for business. They thank Gavarone as he sends them down to the Court Street location.
“Welcome,” Gavarone says as they walk away.
Inside his new restaurant in downtown Bowling Green, Gavarone plays around with Netflix on a newly installed TV as his electrician watches. With a few wires hanging below the screen there’s still some work to be done before Mister Spots officially moves to Main Street.
Gavarone nods as he talks with the electrician.
Everything inside the restaurant is new, from the pictures on the wall to the black table where Gavarone sits. Different from its Court Street location, the new Mister Spots is still “spotless.”
Although Gavarone never planned to settle down in Bowling Green, he’s glad his customers will continue to have the opportunity to taste something “authentic” at Mister Spots. Gavarone and his friends weren’t impressed with the edible options the city had to offer back in the ‘80s, a tradition he tried to break by opening his stores.
“I thought the food here was garbage for the most part,” Gavarone says. “If you want to eat pizza, then you want to eat pizza, but we were looking to offer customers something a little different and a little better.”
Gavarone sends another potential customer down to his Court Street location.
“The best part of all of this is the people,” he says. “At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.”