Vandalized signs cost counties thousands each year

Published: Monday, August 25, 2014 @ 8:00 PM
Updated: Monday, August 25, 2014 @ 8:00 PM

            Graffiti on traffic signs costs taxpayers money

Clark County replaces about 150 vandalized signs a year due to vandalism, costing between $10,000 and $15,000 annually.

“The price adds up. It’s money we could be using on something else,” Clark County Engineer Johnathan Burr said.

The cost to fix damaged traffic signs doesn’t include any damage from traffic crashes.

“We shouldn’t have to be spending manpower and money to fix this, because quite frankly, it’s senseless to have this happen,” Burr said. “It is just wasted taxpayer money I could be using on something else.”

The problem isn’t unique to Clark County.

Logan County used grant money to replace traffic signs last week and within 12 hours of a new sign going up, it had graffiti saying, “I love you. X-O-X-O.”

“It’s probably between $10,000 and $11,000 a year that it costs Logan County to replace signs,” Logan County Engineer’s Office General Superintendent Todd Bumgardner said.

Logan County was updating its traffic signs to a new sign material that is much brighter and more reflective for drivers.

“You can see them further away and in worse weather conditions,” Burr said.

However, the new signs reflectivity can get ruined by an egg and most paints.

“It’s a pretty fancy coating on them,” Bumgardner said. “Any type of paint remover you go to use on them damages the reflectivity of the sign and it needs to be replaced.”

The signs vary in price, but on average cost about $50 and could last up to 10 years depending on weather conditions.

But very few signs have a decade lifespan, Burr said.

“Three fourths of them are replaced due to vandalism and not the age of the sign,” he said.

The time period between the Clark County Fair and the start of school is the busiest time for vandals to damage traffic signs, according to Clark County’s Traffic Supervisor Tom Smith. Other popular times of the year for vandalism is spring break and right when school gets out for the summer.

“Kids love to write the year they graduated on signs,” he said.

Smith also said he notices some bullet holes in traffic signs during hunting season.

Clark County has 80 percent of its traffic signs updated to the new, more reflective surface and the rest should be changed over by the end of 2015, Burr said.

All counties are required to have the new signs by 2017.

Dayton Congressman Mike Turner files for divorce

Published: Friday, May 19, 2017 @ 3:34 PM
Updated: Friday, May 19, 2017 @ 6:23 PM

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner has filed for divorce from his wife, Majida, and asked that she be restrained from taking any of their assets, according to a divorce filing made Thursday in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.

“Ms. Turner is guilty of a fraudulent contract,” according to the filing, which does not elaborate on what that means.

RELATED: Congressman Turner’s divorce finalized

Fraudulent contract is one of 11 “divorce causes” allowed by Ohio law, according to the Ohio Revised Code.

Turner asks that the two equitably allocate their marital assets and debts, that she pay his attorney fees and that neither of them pay spousal support.

“Yesterday, Congressman Turner filed for divorce from his wife, Majida Turner. The family asks for privacy at this time,” Turner spokeswoman Morgan Rako said in an emailed statement.

Turner, R-Dayton, married Majida Mourad, 47, on Dec. 19, 2015 in Dayton. It was his second marriage. He divorced his wife, Lori Turner, in 2013.

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The Turners live in a Performance Place condominium in downtown Dayton and she is listed on county property records as owner, paying $209,000 for it in August 2015 before they were married.

Majida Turner could not be reached for comment.

Majida was a registered lobbyist for the liquid natural gas export company Cheniere Energy Inc. An investigation by this newspaper found Turner backed legislation that would make it easier for companies to export natural gas, but Turner said his work on that legislation had nothing to do with his relationship with his then-fiancee.

Cheniere’s most recently filed lobbyist disclosure form from April 19 says Majida Turner was a lobbyist for the group through March of this year. But the report lists her as one of two people “no longer expected to act as a lobbyist for the client.”

The report says Cheniere spent $440,000 on its four-person lobbying operation in the first quarter and lobbied on the issue of liquid natural gas exports.

The Summer 2017 Dayton Art Institute member magazine lists Majida Turner as a trustee and vice president of government affairs at Tellurian, Inc., a Texas-based liquid natural gas company.

In his Thursday’s filing Rep. Turner asks that a restraining order be issued that keeps her from taking any of their joint property and assets.

“This includes but isn’t limited to any items in the parties’ home safe or safe deposit box(es), and Mr. Turner’s piano,” the filing says.

It also asks that she not incur any debt or credit card purchases in Rep. Turner’s name or on any joint account.

Retired Ohio police, firefighters could see changes to health plans

Published: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 @ 10:56 AM
Updated: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 @ 4:34 PM

Retired cops and firefighters will likely see big changes in their health care coverage

Retired cops and firefighters will likely see big changes in their health care coverage but not until January 2019, said Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund Director John J. Gallagher, Jr., on Wednesday.

“This is all being done in an effort to preserve the fund and extend its solvency to allow members, especially those of a younger age, to prepare to more on their own for retiree health care expenses,” he said.

RELATED: Retiree health care cuts looming for cops and firefighters in Ohio

OP&F trustees reviewed health care and pharmacy costs incurred in 2016 and considered three options for premium changes for 2018 but did not make a decision.

Also looming as a plan to switch from a self-insured system that provides subsidized health care coverage for retirees to issuing stipend checks for them to go purchase coverage on the private market.

“We hope to have some firm decisions by the end of the year, which would give us a full year of lead time to communicate and education whatever changes – if any changes – are determined by the (OP&F) board,” Gallagher said. In the next few weeks, the fund will request proposals from companies to present ideas on how the changes should be structured.

RELATED: Pension cuts looming for Ohio teachers and retirees

He added that there are no plans to ask the Ohio General Assembly to increase contribution rates or make other changes to plow more money into shoring up the health care fund. Lawmakers revamped the public pension funds in 2012 and emphasized the importance of preserving the pension benefits, which are mandated by law. Health care coverage is not required, though Ohio’s pension funds have provided it to retirees for decades.

“Whether or not we’re going to be able to continue supporting the cost of it, that remains to be seen,” Gallagher said.

OP&F plans to request proposals from companies this summer on how the health care system should be restructured. One option is to require retirees eligible for Medicare to leave the OP&F health care system and purchase coverage on the open market – and provide a stipend to defray those costs, Gallagher said. OP&F would still face the challenge of providing health care coverage to retirees under the age of 65.

Joe Silvati, 58, who retired in November after nearly 40 years with the Cincinnati Fire Department, faces years of buying insurance in the marketplace until he is eligible for Medicare. “I never had to go out and shop for health insurance and I never thought I would have to do it,” he said.

Silvati attended the trustee meeting to get up to speed on the coming changes. “It’s unknown. It’s the uncertainty of the whole thing.”

Police and firefighters often retire in their early 50s – or even earlier if they’re disabled. Currently, OP&F covers 75 percent of premium costs for its retirees and 25 percent of the costs for their spouses.

OP&F has $14.8 billion invested for the benefit of 58,000 police, firefighters, retirees and beneficiaries.

City amends sign code

Published: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 @ 1:21 PM

The Vandalia City Council gave final approval to an ordinance to amend the city’s zoning code regarding directional and instructional signs. 

The new code will allow two directional signs in the Industrial District up to nine square feet, if the two signs are combined. Currently, the city only allows two signs per driveway that are three feet high and three square feet in area. 

Sign variance requests have been common over the past few years, and that prompted city staff and the Planning Commission to review the city’s code. 

Ohio lawmakers react to report of Trump sharing classified intel

Published: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 @ 4:20 PM
Updated: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 @ 4:20 PM

Ohio lawmakers Tuesday say they’re hoping for more information about reports that President Donald Trump shared classified information with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador last week, saying if the reports are accurate, they should be taken seriously.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, cautioned that “we don’t know what the facts are,” but said “if the reports in the Washington Post are accurate then I’d be concerned.”

“That’s the problem with a lot of this stuff,” he said. “It’s just tough to know what the facts are. But if what the Post is saying is true, there are serious consequences of providing this kind of extremely sensitive information to Russia, especially if it was provided to us in confidence by one of our allies. So we’ll just have to figure out what happened and respond accordingly.”

RELATED: McMaster: Trump shared ‘wholly appropriate’ information with Russia

Trump Tuesday morning appeared to confirm some elements of the reports Tuesday morning, tweeting that he had the “absolute right” to share with Russia “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.” He decried the reports as coming from “LEAKERS in the intelligence community.”

Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, said “any reports of inappropriate disclosure or mishandling of classified information must be taken seriously.”

“That said, there has been a tendency by some to rush to condemn every action by President Trump before there’s been time to fully examine the facts,” he said. “The only people who know the whole story are those who were in the meeting, and they have refuted the accuracy of this report. Having not been in the room myself, it would be premature for me to draw any conclusions at this point.”

Through spokeswoman Kelsey Knight, Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, who is running for governor, declined to comment, calling the reports “speculation.” And Alexei Woltornist, a spokesman for Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, said it was too early to weigh in.

“Since this situation involves possibly classified information, we cannot make decisions based on anonymous sources that contradict first-hand accounts of people in the room,” he said. “That being said, the congressman looks forward to reviewing the information surrounding this…and acting accordingly.”

RELATED: What is code-word information and what happens when it is revealed

Democrats, not surprisingly, were quicker to condemn.

“If our allies question whether they can trust the President of the United States, we won’t get access to critical information we need to keep Americans safe,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “While we still need to learn more, even the suggestion that the President of the United States may have shared classified information with Russia puts our national security at risk by threatening our ability to work with key partners in the global fight against terrorism.”

Through a spokesperson, Brown said he wanted to learn more about the reports, and wants the White House to share details of the meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee.

And Columbus-area Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Township, said she was signing onto a House petition to force a vote on a bill that would create an independent commission to investigate reports of Russian interference in the elections.

“From President Trump’s irrational firing of former FBI Director Comey, to divulging classified information to the very Russian officials involved in an ongoing FBI investigation—not to mention the many conflicting reports and misinformation coming out of the White House over the past week—Americans are demanding answers,” she said, adding, “it is long past time that we finally get to the bottom of Russia’s interference in our election, as well as any possible collusion with the Trump campaign. The American people deserve to know the truth!

D.C. Bureau Chief Jack Torry contributed to this report.