LOCAL NEWS HEADLINES FOR FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2016
9:40 AM - December 02nd, 2016
COMPETENCY RESULTS TO BE RELEASED NEXT WEEK
NEW PHILADELPHIA - A Newcomerstown man facing murder charges is due in court again next week to discuss whether he is competent to stand trial. 31-year-old Charles Plants is accused of killing his mother with a hammer and seriously injuring his sister last July. He remains held in the Tuscarawas County jail on $1 million bond. He pleaded not guilty to a six-count indictment, including murder, attempted murder, and tampering with evidence. The competency hearing is set for Tuesday afternoon before Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court Judge Edward O’Farrell.
PARADES FOLLOW LIGHTING EVENTS IN NP, DOVER
NEW PHILADELPHIA - The Christmas season officially kicks off this weekend for Dover and New Philadelphia as both towns are hosting parades with more than 100 units scheduled to take part. New Philadelphia Business and Community Association Director Julie Levengood Stephon says this year’s festivities will be combined to create a one-night celebration, as the lighting ceremony is tonight downtown at 6 PM with the parade to follow at 6:30. Family activities will be held at the Tuscarawas County Public Library after the parade. Dover will hold its parade Saturday also following the lighting ceremony at 5 PM in the square. Parade Chair Jeff Beitzel says he is surprised to see such large turnouts every year for the cold-weather event, but the lighted units are fun to see, and kids enjoy hearing “The Night Before Christmas” story.
CITY TO TAKE NO ACTION ON PARKING CONCERNS
NEW PHILADELPHIA - City officials are responding to recent complaints about parking downtown. Drivers told the Times-Reporter newspaper they were fearful of traveling on the streets around the square with angled parking. Concerns range from cars backing into traffic to large vehicles blocking part of the lane, but Mayor Joel Day says the answer is to slow down and watch for hazards. Day says vehicles are also required to stop for pedestrians in all the crosswalks, including those in the middle of the block. Day says he met with the police chief and safety director earlier this week, and they all concluded no action by the city is required.
TOY DRIVE TOPS TRUCKLOAD RECORD
DOVER - The Tuscarawas Valley has once again pulled together to make sure needy residents have a merry Christmas. The WJER-Indian Valley FFA Toy Drive collected 23 truckloads of toys and $6,906 in cash donations for the Share-A-Christmas program. Wednesday’s 12-hour collection effort was held in the WJER parking lot. The donations top last year’s record set at 22 truckloads. Stephanie Wilson from the First Federal Community Bank says her office has made donations for the last 14 years because they like to give back to the community. Tuscarawas County Juvenile Court employees do the same as Will Love dropped off eight bags filled with toys. Dover resident Chris Gray says the Toy Drive has become a tradition for her family to help the less fortunate. Indian Valley FFA President Amanda Fowler says the hard work pays off in the smiles on the faces of families receiving the donations. T-4-C Director Louise Worsham says she is amazed at how many residents get involved every year. The FFA students will now organize and distribute the toys, bikes, and books in the next couple weeks.
POLAR EXPRESS BRINGS CHRISTMAS CHEER TO DENNISON
DENNISON - The Polar Express is preparing to pull out of the Dennison Depot and head to the North Pole once again. Dennison Depot Director Wendy Zucal says her staff and volunteers are finishing last-minute touches before families file in for the two-weekend event, including decorating a couple late arriving train cars. Zucal says she is also thankful for congressional support for the Polar Express and another contract with Genesee and Wyoming. Zucal says local celebrities, former Ohio State athletes, and others are again reading the famous book. Zucal says a few tickets remain for each weekend, and they can be obtained by contacting the Dennison Depot. The first trips are Friday night.
MENEFEE WAIVES SPEEDY TRIAL
CANTON - A Port Washington man accused of kidnapping and raping a 9-year-old girl in Massillon has granted the courts more time for his case. 46-year-old Dennis Menefee appeared in Stark County Common Pleas Court Wednesday to waive his right to a speedy trial. Another pretrial is set for December 21. He remains held in the Stark County jail on $2 million bond for the September 26 attack when he is accused of posing as a police officer to lure the girl into his pickup.
EMPLOYEES GET OVERDUE RAISES
NEW PHILADELPHIA – City officials are giving wage increases to three employees who were left out of the non-bargaining raises awarded in September. Finance Committee Chair Darrin Lautenschleger says council mistakenly missed three positions while amending the legislation minutes before it was passed. Lautenschleger says the additions put no financial strain on city finances because the increases were included in the budget, just not the legislation that was passed. Lautenschleger says the human resources director, health department nurse, and sanitarian’s 3% raises are retroactive to January 1.
COUNCIL CONSIDERS WATER AND SEWER ORDINANCE UPDATES
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Officials say they are working to clarify two city ordinances related to water and sewer line connections outside of city limits. Law Director Marvin Fete says council held a first reading Monday for legislation that would allow council to deny any request for new utility extensions. Fete says he believes the current language that says outside hookups shall be permitted already gives the city authority to deny requests, but some council members have asked for the additional subsection. Fete says he doubts the proposed change would have any impact on the current court case filed against the city by developers who claim the city is wrongly demanding property in Goshen Township be annexed into the city to receive water and sewer services. Council also held a first reading on an ordinance that would set outside water and sewer rates at two times what city residents pay. The current legislation passed in 2000 states they will pay 50% more than those inside the corporation.
POLICE CALL SHOOTING ACCIDENTAL
DOVER - Police say one person was hurt when a gun accidentally went off in his Cross St. home. Employees at the Union Hospital emergency room contacted police when they were treating the man for a gunshot wound to his hand. Police believe he might have been cleaning the gun and forgot to unload it prior to the 5 PM incident.
UHRICHSVILLE WOMAN TO SERVE PROBATION FOR CAR BREAK-INS
NEW PHILADELPHIA - A Uhrichsville woman is avoiding additional time behind bars. Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court Judge Elizabeth Thomakos sentenced 31-year-old Ashley Bates to three years of probation Tuesday after Bates changed her plea to guilty for a list of charges including theft, petty theft, receiving stolen property, criminal mischief, and possessing drug paraphernalia. Investigators say locally, Bates and her mother shattered vehicle windows and stole personal items from YMCA and Planet Fitness customers and were suspected of committing similar crimes in other counties. Court officials say a sentence from New Philadelphia Municipal Court in another case will keep Bates in the Tuscarawas County Jail until May.
DEER SEASON OFF TO SAFE BUT SLOW START
TUSCARAWAS COUNTY - State wildlife officials say they are optimistic deer gun season totals will increase as the week goes on. Hunters killed over 18,700 white-tailed deer on opening day this year compared to over 22,000 on opening day in 2015. Spokesman and Harrison County Game Warden Nick Turner says Tuscarawas County currently ranks fifth in the state, as local hunters checked 645 deer Monday, down 13 from the previous year. He says rain and mild temperatures tend to impact the numbers. Turner says neighboring Coshocton County had the most opening day kills with 767, also down from last year’s 888. Turner says hunting access has a lot to do with harvest success in Coshocton because the county has more public hunting and wildlife areas. Turner says Tuscarawas County has experienced no injuries or major problems so far this gun season. Deer gun season runs through Sunday, December 4 with an additional weekend December 17-18.
LOCAL STUDENTS FEARFUL BUT SAFE
NEW PHILADELPHIA - At least two local students attending Ohio State University say they were scared but are safe after an incident on campus Monday. New Philadelphia senior Jamie MacAdam is a civil engineering major and was supposed to be in the Watts Hall engineering and science building where the incident took place. MacAdam says his professor canceled the class last week, but he says friends were sheltering in place in other buildings, stacking desks against the doors and turning out the lights. New Philadelphia sophomore Jenna Tolloti has similar stories, receiving texts from roommates about the problem even before the university alerts went out. The Associated Press reports Ohio State Department of Public Safety Director Monica Moll identified the now-deceased suspect as 18-year-old OSU student Abdul Razak Ali Artan. He is accused of driving a car into pedestrians and then stabbing people at the scene. She says Artan was born in Somalia and living in the United States as a legal permanent resident. Meanwhile, authorities say the officer who killed him was university police officer 28-year-old Alan Horujko, who had been on the job for less than two years. Ohio State Police Chief Craig Stone says it was fortunate there was a nearby gas leak that the officer had gone to investigate. Stone says it helped position Horujko to respond to the attack so quickly. Those injured in the attack included an Ohio State faculty member, four graduate students, and three undergrads.
LANE RECONFIGURATION TO EASE CONGESTION
NEW PHILADELPHIA - City officials say plans are in the works to ease congestion and improve safety at the W. High Ave. and Bluebell Dr. intersection. Service Director Ron McAbier says the state transportation department has agreed to pay the entire $439,000 to transform an eastbound lane heading into town by McDonald’s into a westbound left turn lane onto Front Ave. McAbier says no new lanes will be added, but drivers will have to adjust to three westbound lanes and only one eastbound lane to the top of the hill. The project also includes adding two crosswalks to allow pedestrians a safe way to access restaurants and businesses in the area. McAbier says the work could include wider turning radiuses to help with truck traffic when the work is complete in 2018.
SCHOOL DISTRICT LOOKS FORWARD TO JOINT TRAIL PROJECT
NEW PHILADELPHIA - School officials say they are grateful for a partnership with the city. A project along Crider Ave. NE includes installing new water and sewer lines, but a grant is also allowing the school district to build trails for outdoor hands-on experience for learning. Superintendent David Brand says the work, which could be complete by the spring, will include more than just trails, and the collaboration with the city makes the $240,000 project worthwhile. Brand says students who have taken international field trips get a more intense experience, but he says the trails will offer similar hands-on work on a smaller scale, closer to home, and open to all grade levels as well as the community.
HOLIDAY EVENT KICKS OFF PARADE SEASON
TWIN CITIES - Community members are officially ready for the season following the annual Twin City Christmas Parade Monday. The annual event included dozens of floats and entries marching from Dennison into Uhrichsville this year. Spokeswoman Teri Edwards says the event was magical with the lights and effort put into each unit. Edwards says the parade also showcases area businesses to encourage residents to buy Christmas gifts from area stores. The parade is sponsored by the Clayland Lions Club. Other area parades are scheduled for this coming weekend.
TROOPERS COMMEND DRIVER SAFETY
NEW PHILADELPHIA - State troopers say they had few holiday traffic problems over the weekend. New Philadelphia Patrol Post Commander Lt. Mark Glennon says his troopers were called to just 14 minor crashes compared with 21 last year during the Thanksgiving reporting period. He says extra patrols and visibility helps drivers pay attention, especially when traffic volumes hit their peak. Glennon says drunk driving arrests were also down for the weekend, but troopers will remain vigilant for the rest of the holiday season. He says his troopers also wrote 78 tickets, mostly for speeding, down by three from last year’s Thanksgiving weekend.
FIRE SUBSTATION STAFFING FIRST, THEN CONSTRUCTION
DOVER - Officials say it will take a few years to open the new fire substation on the north end of town. Fire Chief Russ Volkert says he first plans to hire three firefighters in 2017 and three more in 2018, all paid for through the tax levy passed by voters last March. Volkert says the city has been saving money to construct the new substation for many years, and he hopes to put the project out for bid in 2018, but he says the city has already hired an architect to design the station, and utilities have been extended to the property off Dublin Drive.
ANNEXATION TECHNICALITY REQUIRED
DOVER - Officials say they are beginning the process to expand the city’s border. Council Zoning Committee Chair John Correll says city council passed legislation to annex 9.7 acres into Dover at the end of Dublin Drive. He says the property is already owned by Dover and the Dover Land Development company but needs officially annexed to extend utilities including electric, street, water, and wastewater services. Correll says council will also likely hold a public hearing to rezone the property as commercial to allow for future expansion, if the annexation is approved at the county level.
WASTEWATER PLANT UPGRADES PLANNED
NEW PHILADELPHIA - City officials say safety upgrades at the wastewater treatment plant are ongoing. Service Director Ron McAbier says the city has lined up a $70,000 grant, city money, and possibly an Ohio Public Works Commission loan to pay for the manual bar screen replacement. He says the system separates the incoming material but puts employees in danger as it requires hands-on action three stories up, and workers are often alone at the time. McAbier says the new system will be mechanical and have a finer screening system. He says the city has been working for the last several months to obtain funding for upgrades at the wastewater plant