2011 locally: The good, the bad, the blooming

December 26, 2011

LIMA — If you could categorize 2011 for local news, you might call it the year of big works in progress.Big works included the Elida Road reconstruction and the cutting — or gutting, for many — of municipal, business and household budgets. Big works like the cleanup of Grand Lake St. Marys and the tedious, unsteady recovery of the region's ailing economy.Many stories resembled a Grand Lake algae bloom in one respect: with no definitive beginning or end, many simply rose to the surface of our collective consciousness, demanding our attention and hanging around much longer than anybody wanted.Here, in no particular order, are some of the local news stories from the front pages of The Lima News in 2011.Weather/climate“Baby it's cold outside!” declared a Jan. 22 headline advising an overnight temperature of minus-2. Exactly seven months later, Lima sweated out its hottest day (99 degrees) in 22 years. July was the hottest month on record, with 19 days registering temperatures in the 90s.And when it wasn't terribly hot or cold, it seemed to be raining. Record rainfall saturated the region in 2012, with a record-shattering 54 inches recorded so far this year. Lima's annual average is about 37 inches.In early March, melting snow and rain swelled the Blanchard River into the streets and basements of Ottawa. The Auglaize and St. Marys rivers also flooded, damaging homes in Wapakoneta and St. Marys.The rain played havoc with corn farmers, delaying their late-April planting into mid-June. Wet fields have delayed the harvest, too. About 10 percent of the ripe corn crop remains in the field.Punctuating all that rain, a late-night tornado swept through the Celina area April 20, damaging homes and businesses and destroying an Aldi supermarket.And if an extended forecast published in October holds true, we're in for an Arctic blast of heavy snows and cold in early 2012.Economic doldrums“Better days ahead ... maybe,” was the New Year's Day headline for a report of area business analysts' forecasts for an uncertain year. It could have been the headline just about any day of 2011. The nationwide housing market collapse of 2008 and ensuing Great Recession continues to cast a shadow over the region's economy. A double-digit jobless rate persisted and mortgage defaults soared. Municipal, state and federal officials find themselves locked in a struggle to cut spending, faced not only with the burden of an eroding property/income tax base but also a dwindling of federal and state pass-through dollars as Washington and Columbus deal with budget problems of their own.Ohio's voters drew the line in November, however, when they rejected first-year Gov. John Kasich's bill severely limiting the collective bargaining rights of government employees. About 60 percent of the conservative-leaning Lima region's voters opposed the measure known as Issue 2.In the debt-ridden village of Fort Shawnee, voters rejected a proposed 4-mill levy that would have maintained police and other services. A new mayor, Pete Mariotti inherited the village's fiscal problems after running unopposed.Lima's response has included the closing of a fire station and proposed staff cuts in 2012.One of Lima's largest employers, the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, has watched as a $227 million appropriation for tank production has been inserted, removed and reinserted in the federal budget several times. A local task force has fought to keep the plant operating in the face of an Army recommendation to mothball the plant for three or four years.Postal Service woesNowhere have cutbacks been more painfully visible than at the United States Postal Service. The closing of Lima's postal distribution center in late 2010 coincided with a rash of complaints about slow delivery. One example: A Christmas offer mailed Oct. 29 by a local Harley-Davidson dealership was not delivered until the last week of January, long after the sale had ended.Faced with severe shrinkage in mail volume and revenue, the Postal Service anticipates more shutdowns — including the Toledo distribution center that has sorted Lima's mail since the local center closed.Grand Lake's strugglesA grand struggle continues for Grand Lake's future after two straight tourist seasons ruined by potentially toxic algae blooms that forced officials to close swim beaches and post advisories. An alum treatment in June was moderately successful and those trying to save the lake intend to try another alum treatment in the spring. Authorities have been forthcoming with information as they continued to promote the lake's recreational opportunities.Elida RoadFrom early June until late November, construction crews rebuilt Route 309 between North Eastown Road and Robb Avenue. The $7.5 million project was done just in time for Black Friday shoppers. While the safety-driven redesign features a new median barrier that eliminates left-hand turns, drivers were still getting used to making U-turns at designation intersections, and traffic generally has been slower than the newly posted limit of 45 mph.Noteworthy• Lima Police Chief Greg Garlock retired April 15 after 39 years on the force.• Kevin Martin succeeded Garlock as police chief. The 48-year-old major has been on the force since 1986.• Allen East graduate Cpl. Curtis Yetman, 22, wounded in an IED explosion Jan. 7 while serving with the Army in Iraq, continues his recovery. The Purple Heart recipient underwent a bone graft and extensive skin grafts for burns and a shattered femur. Once considered unlikely to walk again, Yetman was jogging on a treadmill by August.• Cpl. Nathan Carse, 32, another Allen East graduate, was killed in combat Feb. 8 while serving with the Army in Afghanistan. He was buried with military rites Feb. 18 in Ada.• Staff Sgt. Jamal Tirik Clay, 24, was buried July 6 in Lima after the decorated Army Airborne paratrooper and 2004 Elida High School graduate fell 800 feet to his death June 25 in North Carolina when his experimental parachute failed to open.Sgt. 1st Class Douglass Dahill was buried Oct. 5 at Arlington National Cemetery 42 years after being killed in combat in Vietnam. The former Lima resident had been listed as missing in action. His remains were positively identified earlier this year. • Ten sets of twins began kindergarten this year at Shawnee Elmwood school.Notorious• Dr. Mark Wangler, 56, is serving a 25 years-to-life sentence at Toledo Correctional Institution after a jury convicted him of aggravated murder in the 2006 carbon monoxide poisoning death of his first wife, Kathy Wangler. His first parole hearing will be in January 2036.• John Sowders, 20, of Cridersville, was shot dead Jan. 15 by Fort Shawnee police officers after he pulled a knife, cutting one of the patrolmen, during a traffic stop. An Allen County grand jury found no evidence to indict Officer Justin Bentz and Cpl. Darrell Fields in the shooting.• Kenyada Vorise-Jackson, 19, remains in a psychiatric hospital in Toledeo after she was acquitted Nov. 2 by reason of insanity in the May 31 fatal stabbing of her 4-year-old sister, Linda Jackson.• Kenneth Maag pleaded no contest Oct. 24 to solicitation and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, with 20 days suspended. Maag, 61, resigned as mayor of Ottawa after his arrest Aug. 29 at a hotel in Lima.• Mason Hayslip, 23, of Wabash, Ind., was arrested Oct. 28 on Interstate 75, where sheriff's deputies found him running in and out of traffic. Hayslip said he had ingested bath salts.• A Hardin County grand jury on Oct. 4 indicted former Lima teacher Whitney Chiles, 30, on three felony charges for allegedly having a sexual relationship and smoking marijuana with a student. • James R. Ream, 55, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity after the Shawnee Township man told Shawnee police Oct. 18 he'd killed his brother, Ronald K. Ream, 62, during an argument.• Kathy Beutler is in Ohio Reformatory for Women, in Marysville, serving a three-year sentence for aggravated theft. She has asked three times for early release and has been denied three times. Her husband, Putnam County Sheriff Jim Beutler, filed for divorce Nov. 7.You can comment on this story at