City expects to delay Internet cafe ban

Published: Sunday, September 02, 2012 @ 10:00 PM
Updated: Sunday, September 02, 2012 @ 10:00 PM

Nearly one month before Springfield’s ban on Internet cafes is scheduled to begin, city commissioners will likely delay its start until July of 2013.

Commissioners will likely vote on the updated ordinance on Sept. 11. Mayor Warren Copeland said he expects the revised ordinance to pass at the next meeting.

In December, city commissioners voted 3-2 to a delayed ban on Internet cafes, beginning this October, with hopes the state would regulate the industry in the state and to give local businesses time to comply.

The city has more than a dozen of the businesses.

Internet cafes and game rooms typically offer phone cards that can be purchased for time on computers and also includes sweepstakes entries for games where cash payouts are awarded. Many state and local lawmakers believe the computers are designed to take advantage of loopholes in Ohio’s gaming laws.

A statewide moratorium on new Internet cafes was enacted in May, but no other action has been taken by Ohio lawmakers. Attorney General Mike DeWine recently reiterated his stance that the Ohio General Assembly should adopt regulations on Internet cafes and sweepstakes parlors.

DeWine believes lawmakers must define the sweepstakes rules, establish a state-mandated payout, require certification of software and equipment, establish a computer system which monitors all machines in the state and the designation of a state agency to oversee the parlors. He also believes parlors should pay taxes and license fees.

City leaders wanted to give commissioners an opportunity to delay the ban in case the state does take action during the moratorium, according to Jerry Strozdas, the city’s law director. The statewide moratorium ends on June 30, 2013.

“We feel its appropriate to give (the commissioners) the option to wait and see what the state does,” Strozdas said.

Copeland said they’ve felt all along it was best to let the state take the lead on the issue of Internet cafes. If commissioners were to close down the Internet cafes in October, Copeland said, they’d likely try to move outside the city limits to stay open.

“We’re just trying to get out of the way to let the state what it needs to do and decide what the status of these facilities are,” said Copeland, who voted for the ban last December. “I hope they do that instead of sitting on the moratorium and not taking any action.”

Local Internet cafe owners or managers declined comment for this story.

Officials initially thought three Internet cafes were located within the city limits, but the number is higher. Affidavits filed through state Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office show 782 Internet cafes or sweepstakes parlors in Ohio, including 25 in Clark County.

Of those 25, 14 are located within the city limits, according to the affidavits. Three businesses call themselves Internet cafes, while other businesses like bars, drive-thrus and restaurants offer similar computer devices.

City Commissioner Kevin O’Neill said the attorney general’s report shed a little different light on Clark County because “there was more found than we ever thought were out there.” He was happy to see the ban extended and that the employees of the Internet cafes will keep their jobs.

“I’m still a firm believer that they aren’t causing any problems,” O’Neill said. “I believe everyone that goes in there are adults, and they’re treated as such.”

He also believes it’s a quality of life issue for some people, rather than a way to make money.

“They don’t want to sit around a bar, they don’t want to look at the TV all the time,” O’Neill said. “Maybe they’re not computer-literate enough to get on a computer at home. I think it’s a good thing. If we wait for the state to take the lead and it’s governed properly, it’s a good thing.”

The state Senate and House of Representatives each have bills in the early stages of development in committees, Senate Bill 317 and House Bill 195. According to his office, DeWine prefers HB 195, which mirrors his beliefs on Internet cafes, but said some form of regulation is needed.

State Rep. Ross McGregor, R-Springfield, said he supports the regulation of Internet cafes, especially after the creation of the Ohio Gaming Commission. He expects it to happen before the moratorium ends next summer.

“We’re regulating everything else, Internet cafes should also be subject to consumer protection regulations,” McGregor said. “They should be regulated and held accountable to make sure they’re not ripping people off.”

Clark County residents clean up downtown Springfield

Published: Saturday, April 22, 2017 @ 4:06 PM


            Students from Wittenberg University pick up litter along the railroad tracks of Springfield in an effort to clean up the city’s downtown area. HASAN KARIM / STAFF

More than 100 people participated in cleaning up downtown Springfield, with volunteers picking up litter, sweeping, mulching and planting in an area spanning 30 blocks.

The Clark County Solid Waste District organized its eighth annual downtown cleanup Saturday, with 106 volunteers participating from 8 to 11 a.m., making it the largest turnout in the event’s history.

Organizers worked with local institutions to make the downtown area aesthetically pleasing. The effort was sponsored by Keep Clark County Beautiful, a non-profit group that serves as an extension of the Waste District.

Steve Schlather, a member of the Waste District, said the cleanup’s base of operations was at the local YMCA and volunteers were involved in different projects throughout the downtown area.

“This is a whole beautification project, not just picking up litter,” he said.

The Master Gardeners, a volunteer group that gives its members training in horticulture, also participated in the cleanup and helped maintain flower beds. Dennis Latimer of the group said this is his second year participating. He brought his grandson along with him.

“There is a great group of people here who just do so much throughout the year for the effort of plants and keeping Springfield looking wonderful,” he said.

Volunteer groups also planted flowers outside the Art Museum, swept the parking lot of the Clark County Public Library and a group of Ridgewood students mulched the City Hall Plaza.

“Any volunteer group can register with us and we will give them trash bags and gloves to clean up any public place in Clark County,” Schlather said.

Employees of the investment firm EF Hutton participated by mulching the courtyard of their building and cleaning the fountain area outside the company’s property.

Trent Swift, one of EF Hutton’s 12 volunteers, helped organize the firm’s cleanup effort and said they heard about the event at the Clark County recycling center and wanted to be part of it.

“The fountain is a well-known piece of downtown and it made sense to mulch it and make it look nice,” he said.

A lunch was provided for volunteers and was sponsored by restaurant chains in the area including Lee’s Chicken and Tim Horton’s.

The event was part of the national Great American Cleanup program that runs from March 1 to May 31. Schlather said 1200 Clark County residents participated in projects associated with the national effort last year.

Graham students give back to the community

Published: Friday, April 21, 2017 @ 11:00 PM

Graham Local Schools held the district’s first service day Friday, aiming to teach students the value of helping others in their community.

Students from the elementary school up to the high school took Friday to serve the community. Depending on the student’s age, they tackled tasks like planting flowers around the school, visiting a local nursing home, washing cars, painting lockers, picking up trash and other activities that made St. Paris and the surrounding area a better place than how they found it.

Middle school student Max Barela said the day was fun and taught him and his classmates a lot.

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“We are building a flower garden for our school,” he said of the task he was assigned. “It’s pretty cool, it’s a good way to get to know everybody and do some teamwork.”

“The community service is also great,” he said. “It really helps the kids understand how helpful you can really be if you put some time and effort into this stuff.”

School staff members said they were proud of students who worked hard throughout the day to help their community. Graham Director of Operations Don Burley said the students embraced the day.

“There were core teams of student leaders that planned this day,” Burley said. “They set up all the events and made the contacts. They coordinated with teachers and staff on who will be overseeing the different projects and those student leaders created an environment of service and selflessness.”

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The students are a great example for others, he said.

Staff member Emily Smith said the event is part of the school’s strategic plan to get students involved in the community and doing community service.

“Graham is very involved in providing service opportunities for our students,” she said. “We’ve worked for several months now to make the events today possible.”

Smith coordinated the event and said it was great to work with such determined students. Multiple companies from the area donated money, items and time to make service day a success.

Burley said he expects the service day to become a tradition at the school district.

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“This has been a great first attempt and this is something that Graham is going to do every year,” Burley said. “We want to create great citizens for our community. We are very proud of our students.”

Teen who suffered traumatic brain injury to attend Springfield prom

Published: Saturday, April 22, 2017 @ 8:00 AM

A local teenager will go to prom today — something his family and friends didn’t think they’d see after he was nearly killed when a van hit him in 2005.

Unik Crochran, 17, was struck on Grand Avenue in Springfield when he was 5 years old and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Doctors didn’t think he would survive, Crochran’s childhood friend, 18-year-old Tanae Dixon, said.

Crochran doesn’t talk and his family said he has a childlike mentality.

“When we got the phone call after everything happened and they tried to tell us that Unik wasn’t going to make it, it really crushed my world,” Dixon said.

She met Crochran before the accident and said they became fast friends.

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“We were in elementary school, and we would just start playing together and then we just hit it off,” she said.

And she’s maintained her friendship with him since the accident. She calls him often and even keeps his photo in her car as a constant reminder of him.

Dixon, a senior at Springfield High School, decided he was the perfect person to ask to prom.

“I feel like Unik just got robbed of certain things, and prom is one of them,” she said.

Crochran’s family is thrilled he was asked by Dixon. He’s obviously happy when around Dixon. He held her hand and smiled while the pair were together on Friday.

“This is my best friend,” she said.

And if Unik could talk, Dixon said he would say — “That’s my girl. That’s my girl, I love her,” Dixon said.

The pair will meet for pictures this evening before the event that will be held at the Hollenbeck Bayley Center in downtown Springfield.

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“Even though it’s for the both of us, it’s more about him and getting his boutonniere,” she said.

Unik is her motivation, she said, when things get hard.

“Sometimes when stuff gets hard, you just look at him like, somebody has it harder than you,” she said. “…He’s basically my key to keep it pushing.”

Dixon will graduate from Springfield High School this spring and plans to attend Wright State University in the fall to become an athletic trainer.

She plans to continue her friendship with Crochran.

“I always knew that he was going to make it,” she said. “I always knew it.”

Springfield won’t follow Dayton, plans to keep red light cameras off

Published: Saturday, April 22, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

The city of Springfield won’t be resuming its red light camera program any time soon, despite Dayton’s proposal to turn its red-light and speed-detection cameras back on later this month to improve safety at intersections.

Springfield leaders have said they won’t turn the city’s cameras back on until the issue is settled statewide in order to avoid driver confusion. The city has no intention of changing its policy, Springfield City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said.

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“We’d have to go back to the city commission before that happens,” he said. “I certainly support that direction, but we’ve not chosen to do that here at this time.”

Springfield has 17 cameras at 10 intersections that were turned off in 2015 once a new state law went into effect requiring a police officer to be present at the time of the violation. Those regulations have led to multiple lawsuits, including one filed by the city of Springfield, that allege the new rules violate local home-rule authority.

The city had issued about 77,000 citations between 2006 and 2015, collecting about $3.4 million in fines. Under the new law, Springfield estimated it would have to hire at least 42 officers to run its 17 cameras at 10 intersections.

In Dayton, traffic fatalities have increased 45 percent and crashes have increased 40 percent since 2014, city leaders said. The Dayton Police Department has proposed having 10 fixed cameras, six hand-held devices and two portable trailer units where officers would be present to improve safety at high-crash intersections.

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Springfield hasn’t removed its cameras, which Bodenmiller believes remains a deterrent to some drivers.

“The safer the streets are, the better,” he said.

In 2007, the intersections with red light cameras saw 90 accidents. That number decreased to 44 in 2014 — a 51 percent decrease. A year later, the cameras were turned off after rule changes.

Overall traffic crashes increased 8 percent between 2014 and 2016 and traffic crashes at monitored intersections increased 13 percent from 44 in 2014 to 50 in 2016, according to the Springfield Police Division.

“The facts speak for themselves,” Bodenmiller said. “I still believe in the concept.”

The city has already seen three crashes with four fatalities this year, Sgt. Brett Bauer said, two more than all of last year. It’s on pace to have more than the 10 that occurred in 2015, which Bauer said was the most he’s seen during his time on the force.

The Ohio Supreme Court likely will consider Springfield’s challenge to the new red light camera laws later this year. Springfield is one of several cities that sued.

Springfield’s arguments against the law were rejected by a Clark County judge in 2015 and the city later lost an appeal. The city then appealed to the state supreme court.

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The city of Dayton’s case was heard by the state’s high justices earlier this year, which could affect if Springfield’s case is heard or not.

The red light cameras make the roads safer, Springfield resident Francine Goldberg said, but it hasn’t changed the way she drives.

“We stop at the yellow (lights),” she said.

However, both Francine and her husband, Steve Goldberg, said they’re not sure if the right person is getting fined, depending on who’s driving the car.

“It might be someone else driving,” Steve said. “Maybe we ought to do away with the (red light cameras) and make the fine something stiffer if the police catch someone going through a red light.”

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Red light camera crashes

Here’s a look at the number of crashes at the 10 intersections with red light cameras during Springfield’s program:

2007: 90 crashes

2008: 56 crashes

2009: 75 crashes

2010: 52 crashes

2011: 56 crashes

2012: 48 crashes

2013: 46 crashes

2014: 44 crashes

Source: City of Springfield

By the numbers

77,000: Red light camera citations issued by the city since the program started

51 percent: Reduction in crashes at intersections with cameras after the devices were installed

$3.4 million: Fines from red light cameras collected since Springfield installed them between 2006 and 2015.

Source: City of Springfield

Staying with the story

The Springfield News-Sun has provided extensive coverage of red light cameras since Springfield’s program began more than a decade ago, including stories digging into the money generated by them, effect on crashes and lawsuits filed challenging new restrictions on their use.