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Road closures, street improvements in Hilliard for new recreation center

News Channel 4 - Tue, 07/09/2024 - 09:00

HILLIARD, Ohio (WCMH) - As construction continues for Hilliard's newest recreation and wellness center, pedestrians can expect to see road closures and street improvements in the area.

According to the city, crews are working on three new roundabouts as part of the Cosgray Road extension, which will give access to the city's recreation center named The Well. Starting July 8, Alton Darby Creek Road is closing for three weeks for a single-lane roundabout. This is south of Davis Road and north of Heritage Lakes Drive, according to the city's website.

(Courtesy: City of Hilliard)

The new roundabout will connect to the entrance of The Well and is expected to open back up to drivers the week of July 29. The alternate route is taking Scioto Darby Creek Road, Main Street/Hilliard Rome Road to Roberts Road, according to the city.

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Crews will also continue construction later this year on a multi-lane roundabout at Scioto Darby Road. Those plans also include adding crosswalks, street lighting, enhanced sidewalk and trail connections, shared-use paths and more.

The Well, located at Scioto Darby and Alton Darby roads, is expected to open in mid 2025. In June, the city gave an update on the site's construction progress. The campus will also be home to a medical health and wellness center through Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.

Categories: Ohio News

Korean BBQ joint opens second central Ohio location

News Channel 4 - Tue, 07/09/2024 - 06:00

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) -- A Korean barbecue and hot pot chain, which opened its first central Ohio restaurant just last year, has launched another Columbus-area location.

KPot is now welcoming patrons near Polaris Fashion Place at 8665 Sancus Blvd., the former home of a shuttered seafood restaurant named The Seasoning Crab. The new location marks the chain's second central Ohio eatery after the first opened in 2023 at 5240 Bethel Center Mall, a spot previously occupied by Buffalo Wild Wings.

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The barbecue spot is known for its all-you-can-eat menu where customers pick their own meats, seafood and vegetables before cooking them on a table-top grill and hot pot. Founded in 2018, the chain has expanded to more than 75 locations across 22 states, including two other Ohio locations in Canton and Strongsville.

KPot is known for its all-you-can-eat-menu where customers pick their own meats, seafood and vegetables before cooking them on a table-top grill and hot pot. (Courtesy Photo/KPot)

KPot is joining a lineup of Asian cuisine near Polaris, along with Wild Ginger Asian Fusion which opened its third Columbus-area eatery in 2022. Kura Revolving Sushi Bar opened near Polaris earlier this year, a global chain with more than 500 locations and known for serving dishes on a moving conveyor belt.

In addition, the chain is one of several Korean barbecue and hot pot restaurants to expand in central Ohio, including PJ Hot Pot Korean BBQ and Bar which opened earlier this year in a 10,000-square-foot unit previously home to a martial arts facility. The all-you-can-eat grill in central Ohio features a dining experience with ingredients delivered to each table by robots.

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Korean BBQ 궁 also launched this year at Dublin's North Market Bridge Park, on the east aisle in the stall between Hoyo’s Kitchen and On Paper. Owner John Jin is an experienced restaurant operator who previously managed more than 85 sushi bars in regional Kroger stores as well as a former Korean restaurant inside Saraga Market called "Bulgogi."

Polaris' KPot is open noon to 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and noon to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Categories: Ohio News

Preservation benefits granted to two development projects in Columbus

News Channel 4 - Tue, 07/09/2024 - 05:00

View a previous report on changes being made to the former Kroger Bakery complex in the video player above.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) -- Ohio has approved more than $68 million in tax credits to preserve historic buildings around the state, including the former Kroger Bakery complex and a century-old manufacturing building in Columbus.

The Ohio Department of Development recently announced 35 preservation projects across 12 Ohio communities would be awarded tax credits. The Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program aims to give financial incentives for the redevelopment of vacant and struggling historic buildings.

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"By supporting these renovations, we're reviving historic buildings that stood prominently in the past so that they can contribute to Ohio's strong economy and growth in the future," Gov. Mike DeWine said in a news release.

Kroger Bakery and Ford assembly plant

A project that would see the former Kroger Bakery complex at 457 Cleveland Ave. and the Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant at 427 Cleveland Ave. turned into "The Assembly," a mixed-use development with hundreds of apartments, office and retail space, will receive a tax credit worth $10 million. The total cost of the project is expected to be more than $171.8 million.

The vacated Kroger Bakery will be changed as part of a mixed-use development project. (Courtesy Photo/Franklin County Auditor's Office)

"This unique project will help to transform this neighborhood for the next evolution of Columbus," an application for the project stated.

Vacant since being sold in 2019, the historical industrial nature of the buildings will be maintained, with all new systems and finishes added. As of February, the nearly 700,000-square-foot site was expected to feature the creation of 363 apartments, interior parking, commercial tenant space, an entertainment area, and both indoor and outdoor amenities. It was projected to result in 628 construction jobs and 234 permanent jobs.

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The former Kroger Bakery building was added to Columbus Landmarks' 2019 list of Most Endangered Sites after its vacancy. Recently, the nonprofit released its 2024 version of the same list, which included the original Spaghetti Warehouse building.

Steelton Village

The redevelopment of the Columbus Carriage Manufacturing Co. building at 2050 S. High St. will become part of a 36-acre neighborhood development with more than 1,000 residences called Steelton Village. The project was approved for a $1.9 million tax credit. In total, the building preservation is expected to cost $19.4 million.

  • A rendering of Steelton Village (Courtesy Photo/MKSK).
  • The mural at Steelton Village (Courtesy Photo/ Josh Miller).
  • Steelton Village's proximity to downtown Columbus (Courtesy Photo/Steelton Village).
  • Overlooking the four buildings making up The Fort at Steelton Village (NBC4/Mark Feuerborn).
  • Overlooking the four buildings making up The Fort at Steelton Village (NBC4/Mark Feuerborn).
  • City Winery, aiming to open at Steelton Village this winter (NBC4/Mark Feuerborn).
  • Overlooking the four buildings making up The Fort at Steelton Village (NBC4/Mark Feuerborn).
  • The Fort from across High Street at Steelton Village (NBC4/Mark Feuerborn).

Built in 1895 and operating as a carriage manufacturer through 1919, the building also housed the Ohio Sheep and Wool Growers Association, Welch Plastics Manufacturing and other small businesses. It will now be made into multiple commercial spaces, including restaurants, retail, office and event spaces, according to the Department of Development. The building's original brick, wood floors and ceiling joists will be restored as part of its preservation.

In 2022, plans for Steelton Village laid out a $350 million walkable community. Another historic building repurposed for this project was The Fort, a 19th-century ladder and fire truck factory.

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“We are a reflection of not the past, but rather what’s coming next,” Columbus developer Kyle Katz said in 2022. “What we want to do with Steelton is really design and build for that next Columbus, not for the one that exists today.”

Categories: Ohio News

Court: Drivers, not prosecutors, must prove they weren't illegally using phone

News Channel 4 - Tue, 07/09/2024 - 04:30

View a previous report in the video player above.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – An Ohio appeals court ruled it's the responsibility of drivers accused of violating the state’s distracted driving law, not prosecutors, to prove they were not illegally using their phone behind the wheel. 

A distracted driving law making it illegal for drivers to use their phone in most instances was passed in the state in April 2023. The law allows law enforcement to pull over a driver solely for using their phone. Previously, they had to wait until they observed a “primary violation,” such as disobeying a traffic signal. 

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However, there are exceptions to the ban. Under the law, drivers can still report an emergency, use their phone while stopped at a traffic light, hold their phone to their ear on a call (as long as it takes a single swipe to start the call), and use other functions that have “single swipe” controls.

In October, James Havens was cited for violating the law after he was reportedly seen driving while using his phone. Havens was found guilty in a November trial in Licking County Common Pleas Court and ordered to pay court costs. 

Havens appealed, arguing that, among other things, prosecutors failed to show that none of the exemptions in the law applied to his case. A Fifth District Court of Appeals three-judge panel unanimously decided against his argument last month.

In the ruling, Judge Andrew King said the exceptions to the distracted driving law are affirmative defenses, or a defense that admits the action but avoids liability through an excuse or justification; therefore, it is up to the defendant to prove an excuse applies.

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King argued that Ohio lawmakers intended to put the burden of proof on the defendants to show they had a legal excuse to use their phone while driving, by using information only the driver would know. For example, a person driving a public safety vehicle while using a phone in the course of their duties would be permitted under the law. 

“While an officer could observe whether the vehicle is a public safety vehicle, only the driver would know whether he or she is on duty,” the ruling read. 

Another example the ruling offered is that the law denies officers the authority to search a driver’s phone without consent or a warrant. 

“This further suggests the legislature intended the driver to come forward with evidence in support of his or her legal excuse for using the device,” King stated. 

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When the judge reviewed various relevant statutes and precedents related to other traffic offenses, he found it “consistently the case that whenever the offense can be negated by an excuse or justification, it is treated as an affirmative defense,” which must be proven by the defendant, the ruling says. 

Judges W. Scott Gwin and John Wise concurred with King’s opinion.

Categories: Ohio News

Man arrested for west Columbus Petland break-in had gerbils hidden in pants

News Channel 4 - Tue, 07/09/2024 - 03:35

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A man is in custody after reportedly breaking into several businesses in the far west side of Columbus, including a Petland where multiple animals were set loose early Tuesday morning.

According to Columbus police, officers arrived at the Petland store in Hilliard Station at 3:45 a.m. and found an open door. Many animals were roaming free, including birds, dogs, rabbits, gerbils and ferrets.

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Officers at the scene were able to recover most of the animals save for a few gerbils, ferrets and rabbits.

  • Columbus police recovered several animals set free at a Petland in Hilliard Station, July 9, 2024. (Courtesy/Sgt. Joe Albert)
  • Columbus police recovered several animals set free at a Petland in Hilliard Station, July 9, 2024. (Courtesy/Sgt. Joe Albert)
  • Columbus police recovered several animals set free at a Petland in Hilliard Station, July 9, 2024. (Courtesy/Sgt. Joe Albert)

Police said they were looking for a homeless man, who also allegedly broke into a Roosters and a Famous Footwear along Hilliard Rome Road. At the Famous Footwear crime scene blood was also found on some of the merchandise.

The man was located about an hour later in the parking area of a Big Lots on Roberts Road. Police said several gerbils were found unharmed inside the man’s pants. The man was treated for injuries sustained while breaking into the businesses.

Categories: Ohio News

LifeWise suing Indiana man who shared curriculum for copyright infringement

News Channel 4 - Tue, 07/09/2024 - 03:30

HILLIARD, Ohio (WCMH) – Christian education service LifeWise Academy filed a copyright infringement claim against Zachary Parrish, an Indiana man and administrator of “Parents Against LifeWise.” 

The Hilliard-based company provides religious education to public school students during the school day in accordance with federal law. Its claim, filed last week, accuses Parrish of using “unauthorized means” to access and distribute LifeWise’s curriculum, which he uploaded in its entirety to the Parents Against LifeWise website and Facebook group. 

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“He improperly obtained our entire copyright protected curriculum, and he posted to his website without our permission,” LifeWise representatives wrote in a statement to NBC4. “We asked him to remove the curriculum voluntarily, but he has refused to do so.”

Parrish said he stands by his actions, attributing them to part of a larger effort he began when LifeWise was introduced to his daughter’s school several years ago. 

“The whole point of the website and the Facebook group is simply to provide the resources and the support for parents,” he said. “I didn’t have that. In 2021, when I started looking around for information about this group, there was none to be found.”

A copyright certificate filed in 2019 protects the LifeWise curriculum. The complaint said only paid employees of LifeWise who have been issued login credentials can access the password-protected curriculum. 

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In both the complaint and an April 8 police report filed by LifeWise COO Steven Clifton, Parrish is accused of posing as a volunteer to gain access to these documents. Clifton also accused Parrish of hacking into training programs, according to the police report.

Parrish said he received documents that allowed him to access the curriculum after submitting an application with LifeWise. The police report confirms he used his own information to sign up and said it was unclear if a crime occurred. 

“The universal password is provided by LifeWise themselves in the training documents and videos,” Parrish said. “I took my regular Gmail account and their universal password and logged in and had full access.” 

Before filing the complaint, LifeWise sent Parrish a cease and desist letter on April 9 demanding he stop distributing LifeWise copyrighted materials.

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The complaint alleged Parrish responded to LifeWise’s cease and desist letter with a meme that read, “it’s called fair use b----.” Parrish clarified it was a GIF.  

A fair use claim would likely look at the intent behind using copyrighted material, how much of the material was used, and the effect on the potential value of the work, according to federal law. 

“Posting the entire curriculum is not 'fair use,' and we are confident that the judge will agree,” LifeWise representatives said. “We are hoping to settle this dispute swiftly.”

Clifton also reached out via direct message in June asking Parrish to remove the materials. According to LifeWise representatives, the curriculum is licensed through an unconnected third party. The nonprofit Lifeway Christian Resources created the materials LifeWise’s curriculum is based on.

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The complaint said LifeWise entered a white label copyright with Lifeway. White labeling refers to a licensing agreement that allows a company to adapt another company's trademarked materials with permission and even file its own copyright.

In return, LifeWise pays Lifeway an annual licensing fee based on total student enrollment. LifeWise has also agreed to limited distribution, including exclusive use in the U.S. and in a classroom setting.

LifeWise representatives said anyone can purchase the materials LifeWise's curriculum is based on through Lifeway's website. The complaint also accuses Parrish of avoiding these licensing fees.

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“We are not legally able to provide it to anyone other than the children we are serving,” Clifton said in the messages. 

Messages sent from LifeWise COO Steven Clifton to Parents Against LifeWise administrator Zachary Parrish (Courtesy Photo/Zachary Parrish)

Ohio law states parents and guardians can examine materials taught to their children in public schools upon request. Although LifeWise serves public school children during school hours, the classes occur off school property and LifeWise is a private organization, not a school, according to tax documents.

“I believe it should be able to be reviewed by the parents who are thinking about signing their kids up,” Parrish said. “I think it’s very shady that they’re not willing to provide this themselves to the school boards or parents.” 

LifeWise said it provides a 27-page sample curriculum on its website, which includes select lesson plans. These lessons are similar to those included in the full curriculum but do not include the full list of activity suggestions included in the full curriculum, according to curriculum documents. 

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The links for each lesson plan are still up on Parents Against LifeWise’s website as of Monday, but the material has been removed for legal purposes. A folder containing the curriculum uploaded to the Facebook group was also removed. Both were taken down by third-party hosts, not by Parrish, according to posts in the Facebook group.  

LifeWise is requesting Parrish remove and destroy all copies of LifeWise materials and pay for damages and legal fees. An email to Parrish from LifeWise’s lawyer indicated they would be willing to settle out of court. 

Categories: Ohio News

Very muggy today, tracking arrival of Beryl remnants

News Channel 4 - Tue, 07/09/2024 - 02:57
Central Ohio Weather and Radar QUICK WEATHER FORECAST:
  • Today: Chance of t-storms, high 89
  • Tonight: Showers & t-storms, low 69
  • Wednesday: Showers & t-storms, high 84 (69)
  • Thursday: Rain ending, high 82 (67)
  • Friday: Mostly sunny, high 88 (69)
FORECAST DISCUSSION:

Beryl weakened to a tropical depression overnight. The remnants from that storm will impact central Ohio over the next couple of days. As the storm moves through we will see a temporary drop in temperatures with some rain.

Today ahead of the next weather maker skies will be primarily mostly cloudy. Spotty rain and storm chances start up in the late afternoon and evening hours. Central Ohio will see a marginal risk for severe weather. Highs will be in the upper 80s with a heat index in the mid 90s.

That marginal risk for severe storms continues into the night where our rain chanced will be the highest. Lows overnight will fall close to the 70 degree mark. Winds will be breezy at times.

Additional rain chances stick around Wednesday as the remnants of Beryl will move through the area. A washout is not expected, but at this point any rain is still welcomed. Very breezy winds will be very noticeable by the afternoon with gusts above 30 mph at times.

Skies will start to clear by Thursday afternoon. Plenty of sunshine returns by the end of the work week. This weekend high temperatures will return to the 90s and will remain there for several days.

Categories: Ohio News

Columbus plans safety, housing improvements in city's largest budget ever

News Channel 4 - Mon, 07/08/2024 - 21:04

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) -- Columbus City Council members discussed the city’s proposed capital budget on Monday, July 8.

A chunk of that budget will go toward safety and crime prevention efforts. The public safety category is potentially getting a big investment this year, covering things such as new police and fire facilities.

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This year, that proposed amount is almost $121 million, up 45 percent from last year. It’s also almost four times the public safety investment from the 2022 capital budget.

"Of the six departments up here, we actually have the smallest piece of the pie in this case, I'm sure my colleagues are okay with that given that the operating budget for public safety is so large," Columbus Department of Public Safety Deputy Director Dan Giangardella said at Monday night's budget hearing.

The capital budget is for infrastructure improvements. For public safety, that includes money for neighborhood safety cameras, renovations at police and fire facilities, and new fire trucks.

"We can all relate to inflation and what COVID did to our supply chain, we’ve seen drastic increases in, for instance, a ladder truck,” Giangardella said. “Typically it would cost around $1 million, $1.2 million; now we’re pushing $2 million.”

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Mayor Andrew Ginther is touting this as the largest budget in city history: almost $2 billion. Another category seeing investment is affordable housing; an issue driving rising rent and homelessness as more people move to Columbus.

"We need to build more housing at all price points, we need to invest in affordable housing for people who make less than $50,000 annually," Columbus Deputy Director of Development Bill Webster said.

The housing category, under development, is seeing a 38 percent increase in proposed funding. This includes housing preservation and affordable housing.

"We need to preserve our existing housing with grants to keep homes safe and lastly we need to include everyone who needs access to affordable housing," Webster said.

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Housing is seeing this increase as council members and the mayor continue to prioritize affordable housing.

A city council spokesperson said a big part of the 45 percent increase in public safety money would be for the campus that will be on Caroyln/Piedmont Avenue along I-71. This will include a crime center, a 911 emergency communications center, an emergency operations center and a substation.

City council will hold another public hearing on the proposed budget Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Columbus Fire Academy, 3639 Parsons Ave.

Categories: Ohio News

Missing Black women subject of art display

News Channel 4 - Mon, 07/08/2024 - 18:00

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) -- An estimated 64,000 Black women are missing in the United States. Now, a new exhibit is shining a light on that and the experience of Black women.

The show at the Urban Arts Space is titled, “No One Teachers Us How To Be Daughters.”

The show is curated by Ajanaé Dawkins, a community artist-in-residence at the Urban Arts Space. She said the exhibition is a love letter to Black women and their experience with love, joy, and grief.    

The idea of this exhibition was born from Dawkins thinking about the epidemic of missing Black women in this country, which she knows firsthand after her aunt went missing in the 1990s.   

“I have somebody in my family who had at one point gone missing and I watched and witnessed the impact of what it meant for a Black woman in my family to go missing and that impact on a lot of other folks,” Dawkins said. “So, I've done a lot of work around missing Black women.” 

The exhibit also features work from six other local artists and their perspectives on this topic. Iyana Hill is one of those artists and believes the art can show the variation of the lived experience of a Black woman.

“I think the show in itself is so important because it allows us to imagine that Black women celebrate Black women and also touch on topics of grief, touch on topics of community in that space,” Hill said.

Dawkins hopes the exhibition will be a place that gives people the opportunity to see Black women in a different light and that the show will have a lasting effect on all those who come to see it.

“I hope that people have the opportunity to reflect and maybe think about their own lineages, think about their own investment and whose voice is in stories they want to preserve, whose voices and stories mean something to them, and who's been important to the formation of their identity,” Dawkins said.

Artists like Matthew Pitts are looking forward to the public being able to see their work and leave feeling inspired and informed.

“I'm really excited to be able to showcase that here," Pitts said. “The Urban Arts Space, just because of the lineage of the work that they're doing and also the real intentionality behind the exhibit.”

The exhibition opens this Thursday, July 11, and runs through Aug. 3. Click here to learn more.

Categories: Ohio News

Hilliard businesses hold blood drive competition

News Channel 4 - Mon, 07/08/2024 - 17:30

HILLIARD, Ohio (WCMH) – A handful of businesses in Hilliard are taking part in a friendly competition to try and help a situation common for this time of year: low blood supply at blood centers.

Versiti Blood Center of Ohio on Monday put out an alert and said its blood supply is "dangerously low." July is typically the center's lowest month when it comes to donations and last week was its lowest of the year, according to Danielle Falconer, area vice president of the Versiti Blood Center of Ohio.

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“We require volunteers to donate and I think it's really important for people to remember it can’t be manufactured, that we need community support, in order to help patient care," she said.

Before Monday, the first "Hilliard Battle of the Businesses" was underway. It's a month-long competition between five local businesses and the city to see which can collect the most blood donations. Each is having a drive later this month. Crooked Can Brewing Company, City Labs, Westwood Collective, Equity, Baesman and the city are all participating. Their drive dates can be found by clicking here.

“I think the competition is fun, and then we know it's for the greater good and we’re helping people out on top of that too," Megan Fry with Crooked Can Brewing Company said.

Those who want to donate can go to those drives or make an appointment at Versiti's donation center and tell the team which business they want their donation to count towards.

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"It's very similar to our blood battle we have in the fall against the team up north and OSU, so it's just a play on that but with community members and I'm really excited about this battle," Falconer said. "We hope that our loved ones are never impacted by this but we would hope that the blood is there when our loved ones are affected. So if we can have that continued community support, then we’ll never have to worry about that."

Falconer said a lot of their donations come from high school and college-aged community members who are not around as much over the summer. Organizers said they hope to make this an annual event.

Categories: Ohio News

Annual WAG! Fest canceled for 2024

News Channel 4 - Mon, 07/08/2024 - 17:15

WEST JEFFERSON, Ohio (WCMH) – An annual event for central Ohioans and their dogs has been canceled for 2024.

WAG! Fest announced this year’s event, scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 24, has been canceled due to “unforeseen circumstances,” organizers said in a statement.

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“The organizers examined several different avenues to allow the festival to continue,” organizers wrote in a statement. “Options were exhausted and it became impossible to put on the first-rate event central Ohioans expect under these current circumstances.  This was not an easy decision, and organizers are very sorry for any inconvenience this causes.”

Vendors who have signed up will be refunded their participation fees, the organizers said.

Normally held at the Darby Bend Lakes area of Prairie Oaks Metro Parks, WAG! Fest is one of the largest dog festivals in the country and helps dozens of central Ohio dog-serving rescue groups, shelters and organizations reach donors and potential adopters.

The organizers’ statement did not say when the next WAG! Fest would be held.

Categories: Ohio News

Higher education bill stalls at Ohio Statehouse

News Channel 4 - Mon, 07/08/2024 - 17:00

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) -- Two more votes stand in the way of a sweeping revision to higher education in Ohio for public universities and community colleges.

“We had a chance to be out front here on higher education reform to make it better in Ohio,” State Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) said. “And we have allowed too much time to lapse.”

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“The potential impact is devastating,” professor at the University of Cincinnati and president of the university’s American Association of University Professors Steve Mockabee said. “We've taken to calling this the Higher Education Destruction Act, and I don't think that's hyperbole.”

Senate Bill 83, or the Higher Education Enhancement Act, sponsored by Cirino, was introduced more than a year ago and is now on its eleventh version. The bill could have been on the governor’s desk seven months ago but has been stalled in the Ohio House.

“Ohio needs higher education reform and the time to display leadership in the House on this bill has come and gone,” Cirino said.

Despite the bill passing from the Ohio Senate more than a year ago, going through 11 changes, and it being ready for a House vote since December, the bill has yet to get to the governor’s desk, and time is running out this General Assembly.

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“If it starts fresh in the new year then all bets are off,” Cirino said.

“[SB83] would undermine the quality of higher education in Ohio to such a degree that we might never recover from that,” Mockabee said.

Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said his caucus has been talking about SB83 “for a long time” and it is important that college campuses have freedom of expression. But he said he has been “straightforward” of where the caucus and Ohio House stand on this bill.

“There’s always opportunity to discuss, I never want to shut down any opportunity to discuss an issue, that’s not how I operate,” Stephens said. “I think it’s important you stand up for what you believe in and what your issues are, but there’s always opportunity for discussion.”

The bill has more than 20 provisions. It does things like prohibit state institutions from providing or requiring training for any faculty that promotes certain concepts regarding race and sex and requires an American government class with certain mandatory readings as prescribed by the bill.

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“SB 83 is a big government overreach in our view,” Mockabee said. “It's an attempt to control higher education in a way that would deny students access to an honest education that's informed by the expertise of faculty.”

“That is the biggest chilling effect on academic freedom?” Cirino said. “To educate our students about our country and our history, the good, the bad and the ugly of our history. Anything that challenges the status quo has a chilling effect on something. That's the way they operate. And I understand why they don't like some of the aspects of this bill, but they need to be thinking about what's best for the students.”

SB83 also prohibits schools from endorsing or opposing controversial beliefs or policies, as defined in the bill, to include things like immigration policy and abortion.

“One of the ironies of SB 83 is that it purports to be about intellectual diversity and free speech, but it actually prescribes the way that we would have to teach certain topics that the bill deems to be controversial, things like climate change or even elections,” Mockabee said.

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But Cirino said, in part, the legislation is about ensuring the” best kind of campus” so students “on the conservative side” do not feel the need to self-censor. 

“This bill is about creating more speech opportunities, about creating an environment in our universities, of more opportunities for diverse opinions to be expressed so it's been accused, I've been accused of promoting something that is limiting speech,” Cirino said. “How could something that creates more speech and more subject matter for speech at the same time reduce free speech?”

Mockabee called it a “myth” that faculty indoctrinate students.

“Universities are a marketplace of ideas,” Mockabee said. “Some ideas fare better than others in that marketplace, and the sponsors of this legislation have their own ideas, many of which do not fare well in the marketplace of ideas. And so they like to impose those ideas on students.”

The legislation also changes tenure review policies and expands prohibitions on collective bargaining for faculty.

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“Yes, it has an impact on collective bargaining, but we need to give our presidents and their boards the ability to make movements and changes to meet the changing needs that their institutions are facing,” Cirino said.

“Tenure is not a guaranteed job for life,” Mockabee said. “It doesn't mean that faculty don't still have to do their jobs. What it means is we can't be fired for writing or saying or teaching controversial things that administrators or state senators may not like. This myth that there are all these lazy faculty hanging out, doing nothing is just false. And frankly, it's offensive.”

The legislation also makes several changes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) laws by, in part, prohibiting any mandatory training regarding DEI.

“It's really just about helping students to be successful,” Mockabee said/ “So, whether that's, you know, a first-generation college student that doesn't understand how to navigate going to a university, whether it's a person with disabilities who needs some assistance to be able to manage their coursework, that’s all DEI. The vast majority of so-called DEI programs are just about helping students to be successful. They're not disadvantaging anyone.”

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“This bill is about creating more speech opportunities, about creating an environment in our universities, of more opportunities for diverse opinions to be expressed,” Cirino said.

SB 83 has brought out nearly 600 opponents to the statehouse, and about two dozen supporters have testified. Mockabee said that should make the message about this bill clear.

 “You would think that legislators would get the message that Ohioans don't like this bill. It's not popular,” he said.

But Cirino said when he asks supporters, who have told him they favor the legislation privately, to come forward and testify, they said they are worried to do so for fear of retribution by other faculty or students. He said that alone has “strengthened” his resolve to push ahead with SB83.

“I don't care where you are in the political spectrum, you should not have to hesitate to make your opinions known about things,” Cirino said. “You shouldn't have to worry about losing your job or being ostracized at cocktail parties.”

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When asked, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said SB83 remains a “work in progress.”

“It is my hope that this bill will get to a position where we have a consensus in favor of the bill,” DeWine said. “I think that we will end up with a bill that will get passed and that I can sign. But it is still a work in progress and we continue to see reiterations of that bill. So I think it's premature for me to make much comment beyond that at this point.”

Categories: Ohio News

Whitehall police chief justifies officer termination

News Channel 4 - Mon, 07/08/2024 - 16:41

View a previous report on the officer termination in the video player above.

WHITEHALL, Ohio (WCMH) – The Whitehall police chief responded to claims that an officer was terminated unfairly, revealing new details Monday in the internal investigation that removed a union representative from his position.

Whitehall Public Safety Director Van Gregg fired Officer Enrique Ortega last Friday, prompting outrage from the Fraternal Order of Police. In a news release, FOP alleged Ortega was discriminated against after conducting a union survey of Whitehall police officers’ working conditions and mental health. 

According to a news release from the Whitehall Division of Police, the termination followed an internal investigation of Ortega that allegedly found he threatened his supervisor and repeatedly behaved unprofessionally. Among the allegations detailed in the release, Chief Mike Crispen accused Ortega of unsafe acts with weapons, making negative comments to the public about the department and a “substantiated complaint involving racial profiling.” 

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The news release also claimed Ortega said if the city considered him a poor employee, then he “planned to show them just how bad of an employee he could be.” 

Ortega was terminated after a pre-disciplinary hearing conducted by Gregg last Friday. FOP no. 9 president Brian Steel said Friday’s hearing lasted only 19 minutes. Crispen said Ortega was terminated because he would not correct his behavior. 

According to a lawsuit FOP filed against the police department last month, Ortega was relieved of duty shortly after presenting the working condition survey’s findings to the mayor of Whitehall.

Drive-by shooting leaves toddler in critical condition

Whitehall officers also held a vote of no confidence last month against Crispen, which Ortega was heavily involved in, according to FOP. 

Categories: Ohio News

Homicide unit investigating drive-by shooting of boy, 2, in east Columbus

News Channel 4 - Mon, 07/08/2024 - 16:00

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) -- A two-year-old boy is fighting for his life after he was shot in a drive-by shooting Sunday night on the east side of Columbus.

Columbus Police are still searching for the shooter, who they said left in a gray or silver four-door sedan. 

A friend of the family said the mother is still at the hospital with her son. 

Man pleads guilty to criminal mischief charge in death of teenager

Neighbors said they are nervous knowing the shooter is still out there, and are shaken and heartbroken. They called for solutions to the violence in this area before more people are hurt.

Sandy Kirkland said she saw the young boy and his family outside all day Sunday.

“The neighbors were having a nice little party, had the door open. Kids were playing out front. They were grilling out," Kirkland said. "As the day went by, the party got louder. Music was up, blaring pretty much the entire day."

Columbus police said things ended abruptly when an unknown person drove by the complex and fired shots just before 9 p.m. The shooter drove off immediately, according to police.

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“I can hear shots going on," Shawna Stewart, a neighbor, said. "And I said to my husband, that's not fireworks, and he agreed."

The shooter hit a two-year-old boy, leaving him in critical condition.

“The child hasn't even begun to live life and already he's about to lose his life,” Stewart said. “Something needs to stop with this gun violence.” 

One woman said she heard fighting before the shots. On Monday, there were bullet holes in doors and toys still in the yard.

Both Stewart and Kirkland also pointed out a memorial just steps away from where the boy was shot, explaining it is for another two-year-old who was killed in a hit-and-run crash about three years ago. Both were emotional when talking about how violence has impacted innocent lives.

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“Very hard and difficult ones to see these babies out here,” Kirkland said.

They said violence, especially gun violence, is all too common in the area.

“It's getting worse. It's getting so much worse. You hear it almost every single night, close by somewhere," Kirkland said.

They said city and state leaders need to step up and do something about the violence.

“At some point, let’s cut the crap," Stewart said. "We lose enough of our own children and our own people because of gun violence, and y'all getting bitter with each other and having these fights back and forth. For what."

Columbus police said due to the severity of the boy's injuries, their homicide unit is investigating this case. They asked anyone with information on the suspect or car to contact them right away.

Categories: Ohio News

Man dies after Marion County motorcycle crash

News Channel 4 - Mon, 07/08/2024 - 15:36

MARION, Ohio (WCMH) -- A man is dead after a motorcycle crash in southern Marion County Monday morning.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) is investigating a crash that happened at the intersection of Gooding Road and Bethlehem Road at approximately 5:30 a.m.

Man pleads guilty to criminal mischief charge in death of teenager Imperial Stewart

OSHP said a 1995 Kawasaki Vulcan 750 driven by Robert Daso, 48, of Marion, was driving south on Gooding Road while a 2012 Honda Civic driven by a 20-year-old Richwood man was traveling east on Bethlehem Road.

Police said the Honda failed to stop at a stop sign at the intersection and was hit on the driver's side by Daso's motorcycle. The Honda then drove off one corner of the intersection before stopping.

Daso was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said he was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. The Honda's driver was taken to Marion General Hospital for possible injuries and was later released.

Survivor of Ohio State Fair Fire Ball accident awarded $20 million in civil lawsuit

Charges, if any, against the Honda driver are not known at this time.

OSHP was assisted at the scene by Fort Morrow Fire and EMS and Pleasant Township Fire and EMS.

Categories: Ohio News

Murder charges filed against mother, girlfriend after boy, 8, found dead in attic

News Channel 4 - Mon, 07/08/2024 - 14:14

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) -- Two women, including an 8-year-old boy's mother, have been indicted on murder charges by a grand jury in connection with the death of the child whose body was found hidden in an attic.

Lashanda Wilder, 32, the mother of 8-year-old Martonio Wilder, and her girlfriend Johnna Lowe, 33, were both indicted Monday on murder, felonious assault, endangering children, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence charges, according to online court records. The grand jury charges replace the pair's original charges and moves the case to Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

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According to Columbus police, on June 28, Lashanda Wilder called 911 to report Martonio Wilder was missing. When officers arrived at the home and began a search, Lashanda Wilder became uncooperative and left the scene with Lowe and her two other children, ages 9 and 3, court records state.

Police found Martonio Wilder's body in a garbage bag inside another bag in the home's attic around 6:30 p.m. that day. An Amber Alert was issued a few hours later for the other children, but they were soon located at the home of an acquaintance of Lowe.

According to the Franklin County Coroner's Office, Martonio Wilder died from "deep neck compression."

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Lashanda Wilder and Lowe turned themselves in on June 29; Lashanda was initially charged with murder and Lowe was initially charged with obstruction of justice.

Lashanda Wilder and Lowe are in custody at Franklin County Jail and are scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday.

Categories: Ohio News

Children playing with lighter caused fatal Lancaster fire, officials say

News Channel 4 - Mon, 07/08/2024 - 12:14

A previous report can be seen in the player above.

LANCASTER, Ohio (WCMH) -- The Lancaster Fire Department determined that a fatal house fire on June 26 was caused by children playing with a lighter.

Just before 3 p.m. on June 26, Lancaster firefighters went to the 800 block of North Pierce Avenue after reports of a house engulfed in flames. A 55-year-old man was found in the front yard injured and was taken to a hospital in critical condition.

Before firefighters arrived, a 54-year-old woman, a 3-year-old girl, and a 5-year-old boy got out of the house. The boy was taken to a hospital for treatment. Inside the house, firefighters found a 3-year-old girl, who was pronounced dead. Two dogs also died.

North Carolina drowning victim from Columbus identified

According to the fire department's investigation, the fire was accidental as the children were playing with a lighter inside the house. The house received extensive damage and did not have working smoke alarms.

“Hopefully, we can educate the community and educate those so we can hopefully prevent something like this from happening ever again,” Assistant Fire Chief Slade Schultz said.

Categories: Ohio News

Survivor of Ohio State Fair Fire Ball accident awarded $20 million in civil lawsuit

News Channel 4 - Mon, 07/08/2024 - 10:30

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A woman who was severely injured from a 2017 malfunction on the Ohio State Fair's Fire Ball ride has won a massive lawsuit against its manufacturer.

According to a spokesperson for the law firm Cooper Elliott, Keziah Lewis was awarded $20 million. The judge's decision in the case was read in the Somerset County Courthouse in New Jersey, where KMG, the ride’s manufacturer, is located. The lawsuit stems from an incident in which one person was killed and eight others were injured after one of the rows of seats on the ride “snapped off” while it was swinging with a full load of passengers on board.

North Carolina drowning victim from Columbus identified

All victims were transported to the Intensive Care Unit in three Columbus area hospitals. One of the victims was Lewis, who spent months in the hospital and underwent 12 surgeries after she was ejected from her seat before falling to the ground.

Lewis’ boyfriend, Tyler Jarrell, was pronounced dead at the fairgrounds following the incident.

State Fair Ride Malfunction_340452An Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper removes a ground spike from in front of the Fire Ball ride at the Ohio State Fair Thursday, July 27, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio. The fair opened Thursday but its amusement rides remained closed one day after Tyler Jarrell, 18, was killed and seven other people were injured when the thrill ride broke apart and flung people into the air. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Lewis was awarded $20 million, which included $10 million designated as punitive damages. The total amount awarded by the court was $78 million, which was disbursed among four injured parties, including Lewis and the estate of Jarrell.

The Cooper Elliot firm stated that “the court found KMG was aware of the defect in the ride as early as 2012 and failed to alert ride owners nationwide. This negligence, combined with the oversight by inspectors and the ride’s operators, culminated in the tragic incident.”

After Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers presented their final reports, no charges were filed after Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said there was not enough evidence to proceed with a criminal case.

Categories: Ohio News

Pickerington schools superintendent announces retirement

News Channel 4 - Mon, 07/08/2024 - 10:00

View Pickerington Superintendent's raise from 2023, which sparked frustration among district teachers in the video player above.

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) – Pickerington Local School District Superintendent Chris M. Briggs submitted his letter of resignation last week, to take effect Jan. 31. 

In a letter to the Pickerington Board of Education, Briggs said the resignation was for “retirement purposes.” He has served for the past seven years, joining the district in July 2017.  

“It has been an honor to lead this district and I will always treasure the relationships formed with staff, students, community members and the board,” Briggs wrote.

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Briggs said he will support district leadership and assist with the transition to a new superintendent. Before his role as Pickerington superintendent, Briggs worked for a number of districts around Ohio, including as regional executive director of Columbus City Schools. 

The Pickerington Schools Board of Education will meet at 5 p.m. Monday for a regularly scheduled meeting. Among other agenda items, the board will vote on whether to accept Briggs’ resignation. 

Categories: Ohio News

Man pleads guilty to criminal mischief charge in death of teenager Imperial Stewart

News Channel 4 - Mon, 07/08/2024 - 09:51

A previous report can be seen in the player above.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) -- A man charged in connection to the death of Imperial Stewart has pleaded guilty to a criminal mischief charge.

Raymor Dumas, 43, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge in Franklin County Common Pleas Court on Monday after being charged with obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence in Stewart's death on last fall.

Dumas' wife, Genee, was scheduled to appear in court Monday afternoon, but her appearance has been rescheduled to Aug. 6. She also faces felony charges of obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence.

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Both were accused of covering up the fatal shooting of Stewart, a 17-year-old who was reported missing on Sept. 20 and was found dead on Oct. 3 in northeast Columbus. Genee Dumas allegedly attempted to break her daughter’s phone because the girl was dating Michael Bowles, one of two people charged with murder in the Stewart case. The circumstances surrounding Raymor Dumas‘ charges are unknown.

Police said Stewart was trying to buy a gun from Bowles when the 16-year-old suspect attempted to rob him. Police said that is when Michael Bowles allegedly shot and killed Stewart.

Charged in the case along with the Dumases are:

  • Michael Bowles, 20 — one count of aggravated murder, two counts of murder, and one count each of aggravated robbery, abuse of a corpse, and weapon under disability. No trial date is scheduled, according to online court records.
  • 16-year-old (at the time of arrest) male — murder and obstruction of justice charges
  • Tywisha Peterson, 40 — one charge of obstructing justice. She is the mother of Michael and Mi’quel Bowles. No trial date is scheduled.
  • Mi’quel D. Bowles, 19, pleaded guilty on May 17 to a third-degree obstructing justice charge; he was sentenced to three years in prison and two years of probation.
  • Michael R. Bowles Jr., 37 — one charge of tampering with evidence. He pleaded guilty in December 2023; he currently has a sentencing date scheduled for Aug. 23.
  • 17-year-old (at the time of arrest) female — one count each of obstruction of official business, tampering with evidence, and resisting arrest. She admitted to the obstruction charge on Feb. 22.
Categories: Ohio News

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