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Ohioans may be owed part of $4 billion in unclaimed money, department says

News Channel 4 - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 12:00

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) - The Ohio Department of Commerce is joining the Division of Unclaimed Funds and the Better Business Bureau of Central Ohio, all to help residents receive unclaimed money they may be unaware of.

The departments are holding a free webinar on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 10 a.m. providing information on unclaimed funds in Ohio and how residents and businesses can claim their money. The webinar will include details on what unclaimed funds are, how Ohioans can find out if they have any and how residents can receive them if they are available.

The livestream will provide other details on claiming funds on behalf of deceased family members, the documents required to do so and other resources.

Right now, there is about $4 billion in unclaimed funds that the Ohio Division of Unclaimed Funds is safeguarding. If you want to check to see if you have funds that could be claimed, go to unclaimedfunds.ohio.gov or check missingmoney.com.

To view the webinar, click here.

Categories: Ohio News

Masked, armed robbery suspects wanted in east Columbus home invasion

News Channel 4 - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 11:30

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Columbus police are searching for multiple suspects in connection to a home invasion on the far east side of the city early Tuesday morning.

According to an incident report, officers responded to the 3000 block of Gurtis Drive in the Turnberry neighborhood, near Pickerington, at around 1:50 a.m. Upon arrival three adult victims told police that three masked individuals robbed them from inside of their residence.

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The report said three suspects, armed with handguns, forced their way into the home and demanded property. The individuals fled the scene before officers arrived and it is unknown which direction they headed.

Police did not release a description of the suspects nor is there any video surveillance images available at this time.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact Detective Hall of the Columbus Police Robbery Unit at (614) 645-4665 or Central Ohio Crime Stoppers at (614) 461-TIPS (8477).

Categories: Ohio News

Ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder appeals conviction in state's $60 million bribery scandal

News Channel 4 - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 10:30

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) -- The former Ohio House leader sentenced to 20 years in prison for overseeing the largest bribery scandal in state history has asked a federal appeals court to toss his conviction.

Attorneys for ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder argued in an appeal filed Monday that a series of errors, ranging from jury instructions to inadmissible testimony, unduly prejudiced the jury against Householder and violated his rights as a criminal defendant. Householder also claimed in his appeal that the judge presiding over the case should have recused himself because Householder raised campaign funds for the judge's electoral opponent more than two decades ago.

The former elected official, a Republican from Perry Country, was convicted nearly a year ago of conspiring with executives at Akron-based FirstEnergy to pass a $1.3 billion, ratepayer-funded energy plant bailout bill in exchange for $60 million in bribes. He and co-conspirator Matthew Borges, former chairman of the Republican party, were sentenced last summer after a seven-week trial.

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Over more than 100 pages, Householder urged the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate his conviction and order a new trial. His attorneys wrote that the prosecution used Householder as a "scapegoat for what it viewed to be a corrupt piece of legislation."

Householder's appeal makes six main claims:

  • The judge improperly dismissed a juror for refusing to take a COVID-19 test or wear a mask without consulting Householder's attorneys
  • The jury was not given proper instructions on findings necessary to prove a racketeering case
  • The evidence did not show that Householder engaged in a quid-pro-quo bribery scheme
  • Testimony from the government's cooperating witnesses about their own guilty pleas in the bribery scheme should not have been allowed in court
  • The maximum sentence was unreasonable and amounted to the judge's "abuse of discretion"
  • The judge should have recused himself for the appearance of impropriety

The $60 million in bribes was mostly funneled through a campaign funding group called Generation Now, a 501(c)(4) organization not required to disclose its donors. The appeal contends that the evidence the state provided did not show bribery, but rather showcased how Householder "participated lawfully in contributions to dark-money groups."

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"The government relied on speculations, inferences, and generalizations to win a conviction. But those are insufficient to sustain one," the appeal reads.

Householder's attorneys further argue the judge, Timothy Black, gave Householder an overly harsh sentence of 20 years in prison. He also should have recused himself, they contend, because Householder raised money for Black's opponent for the Ohio Supreme Court in 2000 and 2002.

Borges has appealed his own five-year conviction in the case on similar procedural grounds. Householder's appeal comes about two weeks after two former FirstEnergy executives and the former chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio were indicted on state corruption charges related to the bribery scheme. Meanwhile, most provisions of the law whose passage the scheme secured, House Bill 6, remain in effect, costing ratepayers more than $100,000 each day.

Householder's attorneys have demanded oral arguments. The prosecution will have the opportunity to respond to the appeal.

Read the full appeal below.

Householder-Appellate-Br.-Final-2.26.24-01997861.DOCXDownload
Categories: Ohio News

Taylor Farm Park opens in New Albany as part of conversion project

News Channel 4 - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 09:30

NEW ALBANY, Ohio (WCMH) -- New Albany farmland dating back to the 1800s is being modified into a park, with a portion already available to visit.

Taylor Farm Park opened to the public after phase one of the project was recently completed. The park is located on the Taylor Farm site -- a nearly 100-acre tract of land -- at 5526 E. Dublin Granville Road.

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Adrienne Joly, New Albany Director of Administrative Services, said that part of the offerings available with the park's opening include a strong environmental component with wetlands on the site, a large bird population for birdwatching, an adventure playground, and walking space. And, she said there's more to come.

"Our objective with the park is to offer a variety of experiences for residents," Joly said.

Phase one of Taylor Farm Park is complete and open to the public. (Courtesy Photo/City of New Albany) Phase one of Taylor Farm Park is complete and open to the public. (Courtesy Photo/City of New Albany) Phase one of Taylor Farm Park is complete and open to the public. (Courtesy Photo/City of New Albany) Phase one of Taylor Farm Park is complete and open to the public. (Courtesy Photo/City of New Albany) Phase one of Taylor Farm Park is complete and open to the public. (Courtesy Photo/City of New Albany) $60 million in Ohioans’ student loans forgiven, with more expected: Are you eligible?

Taylor Farm Park will later bring a community garden, restroom facility, and storage building for gardeners to store equipment, according to Joly. There will also be an expansion of parking, the introduction of additional boardwalks, more landscaping, and the creation of birdhouses and bat houses.

Another development phase for the park would focus on a specific part of the existing property, the director hinted.

"There is a third stage, it's not funded yet, but the idea is to look at what the potential for the reuse of the historic farmhouse could be," Joly said.

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She said that they would then consider adding a barn for event space that could host community events and programs.

The City of New Albany website asked visitors to remember that the Taylor Farm project is a work in progress, and won't appear complete upon the opening of phase one. Crews will continue construction while visitors are allowed in the open portion of the park.

In total, the project will create 24 acres of forested wetland and 10 acres of emergent wetland. Additionally, there will be around 10 acres of upland buffer planted and restored, and five acres of forested buffer preserved. The restored wetlands will be designed for seasonal features that will be wet in the winter and spring but drier during the late summer and early autumn months.

Joly said that the community gardens and restroom building laid out in phase two are tentatively expected to be done early this summer and that the rest of the phase will be completed in early fall. There is currently no schedule for phase three.

Categories: Ohio News

Charges filed for man accused of urinating on LGBTQ+ Pride flag, then trying to apologize

News Channel 4 - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 09:25

For a previous report on this story, view the video player above.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) -- Formal charges have been filed against a man who was caught on a home surveillance camera allegedly urinating on an LGBTQ+ Pride flag.

According to the Columbus City Attorney’s Office, city prosecutors filed multiple misdemeanor charges against an individual who was caught on video surveillance urinating on a Pride flag and directing homophobic remarks toward residents at a home in Weiland Park, near the Ohio State University campus.

The incident happened just after 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 8 and was posted online three days later. In the video, a man can be seen walking up the porch of a home, exposing himself and urinating on the flag, saying, "F*** the gays, f*** the gays," while holding up a middle finger. The man then bangs twice on the house’s doors before he and another man seen at the bottom of the porch stairs run from the scene.

I-670 road-rage shooter indicted for murder claims self defense

The second man was reportedly recording the incident on his cell phone. After the video was posted online, one of the victims contacted Columbus police, which reported that the incident was being investigated as a hate crime.

Pride flag incidentA man was caught on video surveillance allegedly urinating on a pride flag at a home in Weinland Park.

On Feb. 13, the two suspects returned to the home, knocked on the door and attempted to apologize to both victims. Detectives also received six additional anonymous tips identifying the suspects in the alleged incident.

Charges filed include ethnic intimidation, criminal mischief, criminal trespass, and disorderly conduct. Penalties for all misdemeanor charges filed Tuesday could include hundreds of dollars in fines, possible jail time or probation, among other penalties.

Categories: Ohio News

PBR Cowboy Bar featuring mechanical bull opening at Easton

News Channel 4 - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 09:00

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A country-themed bar featuring a mechanical bull will soon open its doors at Easton Town Center.

PBR Cowboy Bar + Smokehouse, located at 3950 Gramercy St. -- the former location of Abuelo's Mexican Restaurant -- will open to the public at 9 p.m. Thursday after an invitation-only preview party.

The restaurant and bar will mark the concept’s first Ohio location and its 16th in the United States, with a majority of locations residing in the South. PBR stands for Professional Bull Riders, which is headquartered in Colorado.

  • PBR Cowboy Bar + Smokehouse rendering. (Photo Courtesy/Live Hospitality Entertainment)
  • (Photo Courtesy/Live Hospitality Entertainment)
  • (Photo Courtesy/Live Hospitality Entertainment)
  • (Photo Courtesy/Live Hospitality Entertainment)

The 8,400-square-foot bar and restaurant will feature a mechanical bull, line dancing, an LED media wall to watch sporting events and multiple bars. On top of its expansive whiskey and alcohol menu, the restaurant serves wings, ribs, burgers, sandwiches, tacos, salad and dessert.

After its opening night, the bar will host “Freedom Friday,” a monthly appreciation night for military personnel, veterans, first responders and public service members, starting at 4 p.m. Starting on Saturday, the venue will open for regular business hours.

The bar plans to offer special deals for wings, whiskey and tequila on Monday nights and deals on cocktails and food for ladies nights every Thursday. Regular hours for PBR Cowboy Bar + Smokehouse will be Sunday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Categories: Ohio News

Lion Cub's Cookies to open second central Ohio storefront

News Channel 4 - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 08:30

WORTHINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) -- Lion Cub's Cookies, a shop whose ooey-gooey cookies have twice been voted the best in Columbus, is opening a second central Ohio storefront.

The cookie shop will mark its new location at 7105 N. High St. in Worthington with a grand opening party at noon on March 8, where each guest will receive a free cookie and the first 100 in line will be gifted a goodie bag. The new shop marks the brand's second after the first opened in 2021 at 1261 Grandview Ave. in Grandview Heights.

(Courtesy Photo/Lion Cub's Cookies)

Lion Cub's cookies have been voted the best in Columbus for the past two years in 614 Magazine's annual "Columbest" readers' poll. The brand's oversized cookies are available in classic flavors like chocolate chip and cookies 'n cream, along with lava cake, puppy chow and red velvet white chocolate.

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Lion's Cub is also known for its two-hour rule, where the brand does not sell cookies that have been ready for more than two hours. Once a cookie has come out of the oven and has cooled down just enough to serve, the clock starts ticking.

If a cookie is out longer than two hours, Lion Cub's no longer sells it. If the shop does have any "timed-out" cookies, Lion Cub's works with a variety of charities, organizations and food banks and donates the leftovers to them.

The concept began as a pop-up shop in 2019 and quickly switched to a delivery-only model when the COVID-19 pandemic began. The owner's turned to a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for its Grandview location and hit their goal in just 30 hours.

The Grandview Heights location is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday and closed on Monday.

Categories: Ohio News

I-670 road-rage shooter indicted for murder claims self defense

News Channel 4 - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 07:09

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A man accused in a fatal road rage shooting on Interstate 670 in November has been indicted on murder charges.

A grand jury formerly charged 37-year-old Tony Brock with the death of another man while the two were driving on I-670 east near downtown on Nov. 10.

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Columbus police were called to the area just after 5 p.m. between North 4th Street and Cleveland Avenue, where a shooting reportedly took place. Numerous witnesses called 911 alleging that a person inside a pickup truck shot a man in a maroon Subaru.

The pickup truck, a black Ford F-150, fled the scene and the victim, 51-year-old Bret Bennett was pronounced dead at Grant Medical Center at 5:26 p.m.

  • Police respond to reports of a road-rage shooting on I-670 East, Nov. 10, 2023. (Courtesy/Ohio Department of Transportation)
  • Tony Brock (Courtesy/Franklin County Municipal Court)

Interstate cameras and license plate readers captured images of the pickup truck’s license plate and an investigation led authorities to an address on Loretta Avenue in North Linden.

An attorney representing Brock contacted detectives and admitted that Brock was the person who fired the gun that killed Bennett. The gun was collected, and the pickup was impounded.

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Brock was arrested on Nov. 15 but his case was bound over to Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in December after a grand jury initially decided there was not enough evidence to indict.

On Monday, Brock was issued a $500,000 bond and was officially indicted on two counts of murder, felonious assault, discharging a firearm on or near a prohibited premise, and tampering with evidence. All five charges, in which Brock pleaded not guilty while claiming self-defense, come with firearm specifications.

Categories: Ohio News

Diverse senior class leaving storied legacy for Ohio State women's basketball program

News Channel 4 - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 06:00

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) -- It was a great weekend to be a Columbus sports fan as practically every major team from central Ohio came out victorious. That included the Ohio State women's basketball team, which paid tribute to its graduating seniors over the weekend.

The Class of 2024 is still writing an impressive legacy that includes a 14-game winning streak. The Buckeyes (24-3) remain at No. 2 in the latest Associated Press poll. And with Sunday's win over Maryland, they clinched the top seed in the Big Ten tournament and a share of the regular-season title.

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Over the weekend, seven graduating members got their moment in the spotlight: familiar names like Rikki Harris and Dublin native Jacy Sheldon, and transfer guard Celeste Taylor, who spent her final year of eligibility with Ohio State after playing for Texas and Duke.

"We've had incredible kids that have really represented the program on and off the court in a first-class manner. That's probably the happiest thing to talk about," coach Kevin McGuff said. "But they also have great on the court success as well. Just really great kids, though. I'm really happy I've had the chance to coach all of them."

The Buckeyes have one final home game, against Michigan on Wednesday, before wrapping up the regular season in a rematch Sunday at No. 6 Iowa (24-4). The Buckeyes won the first matchup 100-92 in January.

"It doesn't feel like five years, but it's finally kind of getting to the end," Sheldon said. "[I] got to build a lot of relationships. A lot of new best friends. It's been really a dream."

Categories: Ohio News

Ohio asks Supreme Court to block EPA's air pollution rule

News Channel 4 - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 05:00

View a previous report on the Ohio EPA's review of Columbus pollution data in the video player above.

WASHINGTON (WCMH) -- Ohio is leading several other states in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block a new Environmental Protection Agency rule aimed at reducing air pollution that drifts from one state to another.

The court heard oral arguments on Feb. 21 for Ohio v. EPA, an emergency petition by Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia to postpone implementing the "good neighbor plan" introduced by the EPA last year to require 23 "upwind" states to reduce emissions that affect the air quality in "downwind" states. The EPA said the rule would improve air quality for millions of people, saving thousands of lives, keeping people out of the hospital and preventing asthma attacks.

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Ohio and 20 other states responded to the EPA by submitting their own plans on how to be a "good neighbor," outlining their methods to comply with the new proposed regulations. However, the EPA rejected all 21 states' proposals for failing to include any actual changes to their emissions plans, and instead published their own measures for those states.

Before the EPA's plan could go into effect, Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to block the EPA's plan while the legality of the rules is litigated. When the judges denied the state's request, Ohio and others sent an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court.

The court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, signaled on Feb. 21 it is likely to grant Ohio's request given the justices have previously been skeptical of federal rules regulating the environment. In a 6-3 ruling on West Virginia vs. EPA in 2022, the conservative justices ruled the EPA does not have the authority to regulate power plant emissions and said this authority should fall to Congress.

Ohio Solicitor General Mathura Sridharan argued before the court that the EPA's process was flawed, and noted 12 other states who challenged the EPA had their appeals granted by other courts. Sridharan said the EPA should not have assumed that all 23 states would participate in the rules and argued the measures are too hefty of a financial burden. The three states are "spending immense sums" and are "facing the threat of power shortages and heating shortages," she said.

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The court's conservative justices echoed Sridharan and asked why the other court rulings that granted the 12 other states' appeals didn't automatically undermine the EPA's validity. "It's just not explained," Justice Brett Kavanaugh said. The agency "pretended nothing happened," he added. Justice Neil Gorsuch noted that, when the EPA chose to continue with their own rules even when states made clear they didn't want to be subject to it, "nobody got an opportunity to comment on that."

However, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, one of the court's three liberal justices, argued it would be "fairly extraordinary" for the court to intervene when lower courts have not ruled yet on the legality of the rules. "I'm trying to understand what the emergency is that warrants Supreme Court intervention at this point," she said. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said it would be an "inversion of normal rules" were Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia to "bypass the very court who’s going to make the substantive decision."

The court's decision is expected by this summer.

Categories: Ohio News

Inside City Council's amendments to Columbus' $1.19 billion operating budget

News Channel 4 - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 04:30

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) -- Columbus City Council has introduced $18.5 million in amendments to the city's operating budget.

The original $1.19 billion draft budget, introduced by Mayor Andrew Ginther, prioritized neighborhood safety, affordability and core city services. Budget changes unveiled Monday councilmembers were a drop in the bucket compared with the originally total.

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"In November, Mayor Ginther presented a strong, balanced budget to this council," Council President Shannon Hardin said. "Council's job as a legislative body is to review that budget and make additions or changes to best serve our residents."

Hardin said that the council held five public hearings on the budget and that the amendments reflect the concerns of the city's residents.

The $18.5 million in amendments included $4.56 million being dedicated to the support of community agencies. Six of the 24 community agencies under that funding are proposed to receive $300,000 and over, which include the following:

  • ROOTT Doula Support ($500K)
  • Besa -- 2024 Sector Building Initiative ($300K)
  • Short North Alliance -- Public Safety Enhancements ($500K)
  • Columbus History Museum ($300K)
  • Experience Columbus ($350K)
  • Fashion Alliance ($450K)

A document outlining the newly unveiled budget amendments showed which members had introduced the individual funding items. Amendments credited to the entire council included $2.25 million for councilmember discretionary funds, $500,000 for owner-occupied home repair and more.

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Harden introduced a few significant amendments. His included $500,000 toward violence intervention and interruption, $350,000 for nonpartisan civic engagement to fund public service announcements and outreach to educate residents, and $300,000 to a STEM diversity initiative that exposes underrepresented youth to career paths in the field.

Two of the pricier amendments from Councilmember Lourdes Barroso de Padilla included funding for 614 Beautiful and Choice Network. 614 Beautiful, a program deploying low-dollar capital improvements and neighborhood beautification, would gain $300,000 in the proposed amendment. Choice Network, which provides assistance to residents making reproductive health decisions, would gain $350,000. Barroso de Padilla also added $500,000 to subsidize the cost of acquiring E-Bikes for low-income residents.

Councilmember Nancy Day-Achauer introduced $300,000 toward a Columbus Recreation and Parks program called Center Without Walls, which expands recreation opportunities for children and residents lacking immediate access to a recreation center.

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President Pro Tem Rob Dorans introduced $350,000 toward record-sealing support, to provide aid for Opportunity Port, Legal Aid, and others working in the space to increase record sealings and expungements. He also introduced $325,000 in workforce development grants.

Councilmember Shayla Favor introduced $350,000 for fair housing enforcement, to support additional full-time equivalents in Code Enforcement. The funding is intended to enforce existing city housing codes.

Federally qualified health centers in Columbus would receive a $485,000 boost from Councilmember Melissa Green. The amendment would provide additional financial support for FQHCs to increase patient access and quality care.

Councilmember Emmanuel Remy introduced three amendments worth half a million dollars each. They included funds for Cleaner Columbus, his paid litter cleanup and neighborhood beautification program; Project Taillight, which provides vehicle repair to low-income residents; and the Department of Public Safety to hire additional staff to more quickly respond to public records requests.

Councilmember Chris Wyche introduced, among other amendments, $400,000 toward supporting organizations to be open for free to residents impacted by power outages and heat waves, as well as winter warming centers.

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The only councilmember not to introduce an amendment equal to or exceeding $300,000 was Councilmember Nicholas Bankston. His largest amendment commitment would send $250,000 to a grant program supporting churches and other community-based organizations providing programming to the community.

The city will postpone the proposed budget for comment by one week, before voting on it on March 4. Then it will be sent to the mayor's desk.

Categories: Ohio News

Westerville superintendent resigns after five months on the job

News Channel 4 - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 03:45

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Five months after the new Westerville City School District’s superintendent signed a four-year contract, his tenure will end after less than one.

Dr. Joseph Clark, hired in August and the district’s superintendent since October, has resigned.

Clark was hired to replace Dr. John Kellogg, who announced last March he was leaving to become superintendent in residence with the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio and Columbus State Community College.

The resignation was approved by the school board Monday night and his tenure will officially conclude July 31.

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In a letter to Westerville City School District staff, Dr. Clark said he is stepping down due to personal reasons. It read in part:

It is with a heavy heart that I announce my resignation as the Superintendent of Westerville City Schools for personal reasons. Serving this community has been an honor and a privilege, and it is not without deep regret that I step down from this position.

To the staff and students of Westerville City Schools, I want to express my deepest gratitude for your unwavering dedication and commitment to excellence. You are the heart and soul of our community, and it has been an honor to serve alongside you.

I pledge to do whatever I can to support my successor in leading our schools forward. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving as your Superintendent. Westerville City Schools will always hold a special place in my heart.

Dr. Joseph Clark

Clark was previously a superintendent at Nordonia Hills City School since 2009 and prior to that as an assistant superintendent for Barberton City Schools and a high school English teacher for Springfield Local Schools.

His contract was slated to run through July 31, 2026, with a salary of $230,000 per year and a 3-percent pay hike every year of the contract.

Categories: Ohio News

Decades-old staple of Clintonville preserved as part of new Chick-fil-A

News Channel 4 - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 03:30

View a report that shows the sign in its previous form in the video player above.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) -- The sign at the center of a community initiative to save it has been restored as part of a chain's latest location in central Ohio, three years later.

The 20th-century sign has returned to 4910 N. High St., the former location of Tee Jaye's Country Place in Clintonville. Originally built as part of Jerry's Drive-In in 1961, it has since received a facelift as Chick-fil-A decided to incorporate it into their new vision for the property.

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Chick-fil-A Clintonville Owner-Operator Adam DiSibio told NBC4 that the company made some revisions to the sign, including replacing the neon lighting it previously used.

“We know this sign is not only important to the community, it’s also part of the community," DiSibio said. "When Chick-fil-A selected this restaurant location, we promised to retrofit the sign and design with LED features to ensure it continues paying homage to the city of Clintonville."

  • The Chick-fil-A in Clintonville going under construction, with its newly revamped sign. (NBC4 Photo/Mark Feuerborn)
  • The newly revamped Chick-fil-A sign. An owl figurine can be seen perched on it. (NBC4 Photo/Mark Feuerborn)
  • The Clintonville Tee Jaye's sign from the 1950s became a classic, but the location closed in 2021 and re-opened a few blocks away. (NBC4 Photo/Cyn Rosi)

Columbus Landmarks illustrated the importance the sign held with people in Clintonville, highlighting it in its 2021 list of the city's most endangered sites. When news broke that Tee Jaye's was leaving the space and before Chick-fil-A announcing it was moving in, Clintonville resident Bonnie Blaser-Garrison launched a petition in 2021 to save the sign. Her post on Change.org racked up over 2,490 signatures.

"With the news of Tee Jaye's Country Place leaving that location, several years ago now, I felt it was necessary to make any new tenant or owner aware of the importance of this beloved sign," Blaser-Garrison said. "The goal of the petition was to have [them] refurbish the sign or to remove it to be reinstalled as a community sign elsewhere."

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Chick-fil-A heard the message, and by August 2021, the company indicated it would keep the sign intact, including allowing an owl figurine perched at the top to stay as well. Blaser-Garrison said she understood the project was a work in progress but has been happy with the results so far.

"I feel as though the petition was successful. … The Clintonville arrow sign has gone through a number of transformations over its lifetime and hopefully this petition helped to preserve the landmark for years to come," Blaser-Garrison said.

Tee Jaye's Country Place operated out of the same property for nearly 30 years and left the sign untouched. In 2022, it moved to the former Bareburger space at 4560 N. High St.

Chick-fil-A representatives could not confirm an opening date for NBC4, nor does the company's website have any details. However, the Google Maps listing for the Clintonville location indicated it would open in March as of Tuesday.

Categories: Ohio News

Rain & storms return, big temp swings on the way

News Channel 4 - Tue, 02/27/2024 - 02:26
Columbus and Central Ohio Weather QUICK WEATHER FORECAST:
  • Today: Rain & storms, breezy, high 66
  • Tonight: Rain & storms, low 58
  • Wednesday: T-showers, windy, falling temps, high 58
  • Thursday: Clearing, colder, high 41
  • Friday: Partly sunny, isolated shower, high 49
  • Saturday: Clearing, warmer, high 58
FORECAST DISCUSSION:

Happy Tuesday!

We'll see a few spotty showers and rumbles working through this morning, but they will be very light and quick. We'll then see a lot of dry time during the daytime hours, with highs in the middle 60s and breezy conditions. This evening, around and shortly after the evening commute, a few scattered showers then develop, out ahead of heavier, and more widespread showers and thunderstorms that develop tonight into early Wednesday morning.

The Storm Prediction Center has our area under a level 2-out-of-5 risk for a strong to severe storm tonight. Primary threats look to be damaging winds, and also the potential for hail. The tornado threat is very low with this system. As far as timing goes, most of it looks to arrive around and after midnight tonight, which should work in our favor, as the system will be losing some of its daytime energy.

Showers and storms linger through the first half of Wednesday, before tapering early afternoon, and leaving us with a few flurries. We start Wednesday morning warm, then temps fall through the afternoon. We'll also be fairly windy.

By Thursday, we're clearing, but colder. Expect more sunshine, with highs in the lower 40s.

For Friday, we're looking at an isolated afternoon shower chance, otherwise mainly dry, with highs in the upper 40s.

We continue to warm into the weekend, with lots of sunshine.

-McKenna

Categories: Ohio News

Meta opens innovation lab at Licking County school

News Channel 4 - Mon, 02/26/2024 - 21:12

JOHNSTOWN, Ohio (WCMH) -- Big tech is investing in the Johnstown community and Monday was another milestone in the partnership between education and business.

Community leaders, government officials and technology companies celebrated the new innovation lab at Johnstown High School. It is another step forward for Johnston students to explore the STEAM field firsthand.

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"We're going to actually be taking theoretical concepts and making them real life and project-based a lot of times; however, ultimately what we are trying to do is help prepare the workforce for the future. We need over 10,000 jobs in central Ohio," Johnstown-Monroe Schools Superintendent Philip Wagner said.

The innovation lab sponsored by Meta is another step in getting local students ready for those thousands of job openings.

"My hope is that with this partnership, kids now can kind of see themselves in our roles, and I think that's what it's all about, is being able to say one day I hope to have that job at Meta based upon our partnership but also our investment into this community," Meta Community Development Regional Manager Chris Suel said.

More than a dozen bills hope to relieve Ohio property taxes

Students showed guests what each machine could do and how it would help them earn credentials and prepare them for jobs while still in school.

"I think the people, the community are now starting to see the upside of it, that you have literally some of the most high-tech companies in the world investing in your own community, in your own children, helping them become students who have great skills, that are going have great career opportunities," Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said. "Central Ohio is really the tech hub of the Midwest for this high-tech manufacturing. And they're investing, this is a partnership between education and business."

Students said they are excited to get this hands-on learning.

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"I think that it's going to bring a lot of opportunities for a lot of the students to really dig into what careers they might want to do," Johnstown High School junior Yuli Staneart said. "I think it's going to bring a lot of jobs, opportunities and I think Johnstown, as a whole, is really going to get a new name for itself, but in a better way."

There was also a workforce forum where stakeholders including Meta and Intel spoke about educational and employment needs.

Categories: Ohio News

OhioHealth seeking breast milk donations amid shortage

News Channel 4 - Mon, 02/26/2024 - 18:00

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) -- Breast milk is often considered a vital lifeline for premature babies and staff members with OhioHealth are sounding the alarm and asking for donations to help restock the freezers at the Mothers’ Milk Bank.

Leaders with the milk bank said the increase in need has not caught up with donations, leaving them with what they consider a critical need.

“It really is lifesaving for premature babies,” Outreach and Operations Coordinator for the Mother’s Milk Bank Chris Smith said. “It’s like a blood donation for a trauma patient. It’s vital.”

Smith said the number of donations coming in from women like Grace Mason has not kept up with a growing demand.

“We dispensed over 40,000 ounces of milk, which was a record high for us,” Smith said. “Because of that, we have used all of our resources. We have used all of our supply, all of the stash that we used in the freezer.”

OhioHealth’s milk bank is the only one in the state and currently provides donor milk to 77 hospitals in nine states.

“Now with the shortage that we have, babies are being taken off of donor milk sooner rather than later to try and conserve our supply,” Smith said.

Staff members said the process to become a donor is easy and requires a brief phone interview, written health history, and blood work at no cost to the donor. For Mason, who has donated enough breast milk to feed 6,000 infants, she’s hoping others join her in wanting to help.

“It’s a nice feeling to be able to do a little extra,” Mason said.

Anyone wanting to become a donor can find more information by clicking here.

Categories: Ohio News

More than a dozen bills hope to relieve Ohio property taxes

News Channel 4 - Mon, 02/26/2024 - 17:00

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Property tax relief is top of mind for some lawmakers on Capitol Square, as at least a dozen bills are moving through the Ohio Statehouse between the House and Senate.

“We just can’t kick it down the road and say, ‘it’s a fact of life, people don’t like it, but life’s not fair,’” Representative Daniel Troy (D-Willowick) said. “I think in the case of property taxes, we can make life a little more fair.”

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“Property taxes don’t care if you’re a Republican or Democrat,” Representative Thomas Hall (R-Madison Twp.) said. “They affect everybody.”

Hall is sponsoring four of the several property tax bills in the Statehouse right now.

“We have a 200-year-old property tax system, and until last year, we really haven’t put property tax as a priority,” Hall said. “This problem is not going away. I feel like it’s just going to get worse.”

House Bill 263 is one of those bills, it is a bipartisan effort with representative Dani Isaacson (D-Cincinnati). 

“You can be property rich, your property values could go up 35%, but your income is fixed, so you don’t have the wherewithal to meet that increase,” Troy said.

HB 263 originally was written to freeze property taxes, for seniors who apply, if they are 70 or older, their income does not exceed $70,000 and they have owned their home for ten or more years. The bill has had several committee hearings and has undergone some changes. Now, that criteria is someone 65 or older, their income cannot exceed $50,000 and there is a two year residency requirement, instead of 10.

“A lot of seniors reached out to us and said you’re penalizing us for downsizing,” Hall said.

There is also House Bill 344 to get rid of replacement levies, to try and alleviate some of the increasing taxes.

And House Bill 57, which ended up in the budget, to address the homestead exemption but more work in that area is still being done.

Hall said Ohio’s homestead exemption is lagging behind other states.

“I think there is a bipartisan feeling that we want to do more on the homestead exemption,” Troy said. “I don’t think we get to a situation where we want to lower everybody’s property taxes, I think first we have to start with let’s address those who are really struggling and having to make tough decisions. Do they pay for their medicine, do they pay for food or do they pay for their property taxes?”

But the bill closest to the finish line is House Bill 187

“Its goal and aim was to curve out the steep property tax increases that we are seeing,” Hall said.

The bill was voted out of the House, nearly on party line.

“That’s kind of in limbo,” Troy said. “I thought it was bad public policy.

Meanwhile in the Senate, it did receive bipartisan support after several changes were made. Hall said, originally, the bill was primarily meant to allow for the temporary use of three-year average in the Ohio Department of Taxation’s (TAX) uses to review property values, rather than the typical one-year. 

“All it was going to do is maybe take a 40% increase from your value to a 29% or 30% increase,” Troy said. “So, it was still going to be a substantial increase in your value.”

Hall said he did approach TAX to work on bringing it from a one-year evaluation to three-year average but was met with pushback.  

“They basically told us, ‘If you want any change, you have to come after us and change the law,’” Hall said. “They were not willing to work with us. It was probably one of the worst meetings I have been a part of as a state representative and all we were trying to do was get relief for our residents with these steep property tax increases they are seeing.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for TAX said they have maintained from the beginning that legislation, such as HB187, would be necessary to change this part of the law.

“The ‘three-year average’ concept was recently litigated before the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals (BTA). The BTA concluded that Taxation’s reliance upon the most recent sales data, rather than averaging for the last three years, was consistent with Ohio law. The Ohio Tax Commissioner does not have the authority to unilaterally overturn her constitutional and statutory responsibilities by averaging three years of sales data. This was the basis of the conversation of the meeting Rep. Hall may be referencing.  Taxation offered to review any language the members present drafted,” the Department of Taxation wrote in a statement.

But that part of the bill was removed by the Senate. The bill now focuses more on homestead exemptions, reimbursing school districts for lost revenue through property tax cuts, and adds an emergency clause, so the bill becomes effective immediately upon the governor’s signage. Hall said, leadership in each chamber is working to find a compromise. He said his goal is to get the bill passed by the fall.

“I’ve heard from people their taxes are going up $200 a year, I’ve heard from people their taxes are going up $15,000 a year,” Hall said. “The property tax bills, I want to get done tomorrow, kind of thing. Those are bills I’m focused more on than any other legislation we’re working on.”

But, if that bill, as well as other property tax bills, do pass, that means county programs and public education could bear the brunt of the revenue cuts. Hall said public schools get 66% of property tax revenue.

“Their voice is just as important in the room as anyone else’s,” Hall said. “[Public schools] are not the biggest fans of our property tax bills because it is going to be less revenue going towards our schools in some regard.”

Hall said when you change property tax, just like anything else, there’s going to be people who benefit and people who don’t.

“Our school systems are still heavily dependent on local property taxes,” Troy said, “We have to make sure that the revenue stream is still there to fund these critical services, but make sure the contributions to the revenue stream are as fair and uniform as possible.”

Troy helped start the Joint Committee on Property Tax Review and Reform. That committee is meeting to evaluate and recommend best practice changes to Ohio’s tax laws.

“I think the first phase of this whole process is to educate ourselves as legislators as to how the system works,” Troy said.

Troy said the committee is evaluating different ideas to help give relief to Ohioans. He said the state has “diminished their participation” in funding programs like developmental disability ones, that have become more of a local tax.

“So, I think one thing we can do to help controlling the growth of property taxes, is the state should step up to the plate and increase funding in these services,” Troy said.

But Troy said, at the end of the day, it is all a balancing act.

“What we need to do is make it more uniform, more fair and again make sure that no one’s overburdened but make sure no one is under-burdened,” he said. “Because when you under-burden someone, you are going to overburden someone else. You’re just shifting the responsibility.”

The next Joint Committee on Property Tax Review and Reform is on Wednesday.

Categories: Ohio News

Historic $1.2 billion operating budget prioritizes quality of life in Columbus

News Channel 4 - Mon, 02/26/2024 - 16:30

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) -- Columbus city leaders are proposing another historic budget.

Monday, city council announced $18.5 million in amendments to the already $1.2 billion proposed operating budget. They are prioritizing improving quality of life, affordable housing, workforce development and safety.

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“We're wanting to make sure that we reflect the values of this community and the values that this council sees for the fastest growing city in the Midwest,” said Council Member Emmanuel Remy. 

The proposed budget has an emphasis on affordable housing. The council is investing money into tenant protections and emergency response housing. They are putting funding toward non-profits to help displaced residents like those at the Colonial Village Complex.

Councilmember Shayla Favor said they are also making an effort to keep housing affordable as the city grows. 

“So here's the reality. We have a supply and demand issue in the city of Columbus. And as long as the demand outpaces the supply, we're going to continue to be on the wrong side of the affordability issue. And so that's why you're seeing revisions to our CRA policy that is incentivizing development just in general, but then also ensuring that there is a carve out for truly affordable housing in our community,” Favor said.

Favor said they are planning to host more town halls about housing in the summer. She said they are always accepting community input on how to make it better for residents.

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Two thirds of the budget is designated to public safety. Remy said more than $7 million will help mental health crisis response teams in the city.

“We won't stop until we answer every single call that comes into the city the right way every single time. And so that's the commitment that this council has. That's the commitment that the public safety department has," Remy said.

Councilmembers say another layer of safety is cleaning up the city. They are investing a significant amount of money toward neighborhood clean up programs.

This is something Ralph Carter, the founder of We Are Linden, has already been working on.

“Last summer, city council helped fund our ‘We Are Cleaning’ initiative. With that initiative. I mean, we were able to tackle 23 alleys of, I want to say over 3,000 pounds of trash, it was a lot of trash,” Carter said.

Carter said there is an illegal dumping problem in the area.  He said it will be a collective effort from residents as well, but support from the city can help.

“When it's clean, you feel comfortable with being outside and playing in it. Having your children running around. I mean, no one wants their child to run around in a neighborhood that's dirty. That is, you know, a field that may have broken glass in it, you know, things like that, man, we want to keep you safe,” Carter said.

Councilmembers are also making investments into city recreation centers to ensure children in all areas have a safe space to play. This will also go toward staffing those centers.

The budget also includes $20 million toward summer youth programming. 

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The city is accepting applications for those grants now and will award that money accordingly.

The council also plans to invest $400,000 to support minority small businesses in the city to help them thrive. 

Council members have added a significant amount to the city’s rainy day fund bringing the total to more than $100 million.

They will have their final vote on the budget on March 4. It will then be sent to the Mayor's desk for final approval.

Categories: Ohio News

Babysitter arrested in 2021 death of Coshocton infant

News Channel 4 - Mon, 02/26/2024 - 14:25

Watch a previous report on Graclynn Young's death in the video player above.

COSHOCTON, Ohio (WCMH) -- A babysitter has been arrested in the death of an infant more than two and a half years later.

On Monday, the Coshocton County Sheriff's Office announced the arrest of a 36-year-old Coshocton woman who was the infant's babysitter at the time. NBC4 is not naming the woman because she has not been formally charged with a crime.

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The woman is accused in the death of then-15-month-old Graclynn Young on Aug. 10, 2021. The sheriff's office credited "additional forensic information" as to why deputies arrested the woman on Monday.

The Coshocton County Prosecutor's Office is reviewing the case for a decision on formal charges, the sheriff's office said.

The child was in the woman's care when, according to Graclynn's mother Cheyene Untied, the woman sent a message to Untied that Graclynn was sick and running a 101-degree fever.

”I called her when she said it was 101 again, and I said ‘What’s going on?’ And that’s when she told me she couldn’t talk because she needed to call 911. That Graclynn wasn’t breathing,” Untied said in an interview with NBC4 in January 2022.

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An autopsy report revealed that Graclynn suffered a skull fracture caused by blunt force trauma, an injury estimated to have happened between three and four hours before the child died.

Categories: Ohio News

Teen suspect in Ohio drug deal gone wrong turns himself in to police

News Channel 4 - Mon, 02/26/2024 - 12:17

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) -- A teenage suspect in a drug deal that led to an assault has surrendered to authorities after a warrant was put out nearly two months ago.

Romeo Dorsey, 19, had been wanted by the Columbus Division of Police in connection to an aggravated assault and by the Washington County Sheriff's Office for robbery since late December. At the time, a source from the U.S. Marshals Service of the Southern District of Ohio raised the alarm to try and find Dorsey.

“Romeo is a violent criminal. He viciously stabbed a female several times causing major injuries to her,” Marshal Michael Black said.

In December, it was revealed that Dorsey was wanted in connection to a drug deal that led to an aggravated assault of a woman. According to another source from the U.S. Marshals Service, the victim wanted to buy drugs from Dorsey and he stabbed her before stealing her purse.

Dorsey was also wanted by the Washington County Sheriff's Office for failure to appear on a charge of robbery. On Feb. 19, Dorsey turned himself in to the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

Categories: Ohio News

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