The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Sep. 16, 2021

Cast members include (front row, from the left) Nancy Williams-Shuffle, Stacy Rife, Debbie Briggs, and Mary Ann Falk; (back row) Kristin Lee and Laura Warnement. VWCT photo

Independent staff and submitted information

“Live Theatre Better Than Ever” returns to Van Wert when Motherhood, the Musical opens at Van Wert Civic Theatre Thursday, September 23, for a two-week run. 

This funny show with book, music, and lyrics by Sue Fabisch and arrangements by Johnny Rodgers, takes a walk through all things motherhood — the good, the bad, the funny, and the touching.  This is an evening of pure entertainment.  

In fact, this year’s entire season is lighthearted fun. The theme for this season is “We’re Still Standing” and VWCT has persevered to bring shows back to its 170-seat intimate theater on South Race Street in Van Wert.  

Director-Choreographer Jerry Zimmerman and Music Director Dee Fisher have assembled a stellar cast for VWCT’s upcoming musical. This production is a collaboration with Amil Tellers Encore Theatre in Lima, which will have a six-show run of the musical after it closes at VWCT. Not only is the collaboration innovative, but so is the casting. Two of the roles are shared by actresses, and each performance will be a unique show. 

Debbie Briggs plays the soon-to-be mom, Amy, while Stacy Rife plays Barb, an overworked, underpaid, stressed-out mother of five. The role of Brooke, a lawyer who works too much and barely sees her kids, is shared by two actresses — Mary Ann Falk and  Laura Warnement.  Tina, a single mom struggling to balance work, family, and a divorce, is played by Kristin Lee and Nancy Williams-Shuffle.  


POSTED: 09/15/21 at 11:23 pm

Independent staff and submitted information

As of Thursday, the Van Wert County General Health District reports three additional Van Wert County residents died of COVID-19, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths to 60. Health department officials expressed their deepest sympathies for family and friends of the deceased. The age ranges of the newly report deaths one each in the 70-79, 80-89, and 90-99 age ranges. There were also nine confirmed cases who passed away due to causes other than COVID-19.  

The health department also reported an increase of 213 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since Thursday, September 9, for a total of 3,038 confirmed cases. There are five known hospitalizations of county residents due to COVID-19. To date, the health department has given 11,444 COVID-19 vaccinations. 

Isolation for those testing positive for COVID-19 is still 10 days from symptom onset, or 10 days from date of positive test date if a person does not have any symptoms. Quarantine is still 10 days from date of last contact with the positive person, or seven days if no symptoms and a negative test is received after the fifth day of last contact.  

There is no quarantine requirements for those who are vaccinated and come contact with a positive case, if no symptoms are exhibited.  

Van Wert County continues to see a high rate of transmission, based on the total new cases per 100,000 residents and the percentage of positive tests in the last seven days. This data can be found on the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker at 

The health department continues to offer Pfizer and Moderna vaccine every Thursday, from 2-4 p.m., at the Van Wert County Health Department. Pfizer vaccine is available for all those age 12 and up and Moderna for those age 18 and up. 


POSTED: 09/16/21 at 4:20 pm. FILED UNDER: News

Editor’s note: This is the first of a four-part series of articles on the YWCA’s new vision statement, and what it means for the local community. 

Independent staff and submitted information

The YWCA’s new vision statement — By lifting voices and providing safe spaces, the YWCA of Van Wert County will empower all to maximize opportunities and advocate for systems change — presents four clear action areas that center around the work the YWCA does locally. Each service and program provided falls within one of these four areas: Lift VoicesProvide Safe SpacesMaximize Opportunities, and Advocate for Systems Change. This week, the YWCA will take a deeper dive and explain in detail how it lifts voices in the Van Wert community.

Through awareness initiatives/events, empowerment opportunities, youth development programs and survivor services, the YWCA lifts voices on behalf of those who need it the most:

  • Awareness Initiatives/Events: HER Story Matters, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Stand Against Racism, Women of Achievement Scholarship Dinner, Get Out the Vote, Dignity for All, Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month
  • Empowerment Opportunities: Women’s Circle, Girl’s Circle, Unity Circle, Human Trafficking 101 Training
  • Youth Development: Girl’s Circle, Van Wert Middle School seventh grade Cougar Leaders community partner, The Council for Boys and Young Men (coming summer 2022)
  • Survivor Services: Legal advocacy, Women’s Circle, therapy groups

For a detailed description of each of these programs and services, visit the YWCA website at or contact YWCA President/CEO Kimberly Laudick at

The YWCA is partially funded by the Van Wert County Foundation and is a United Way agency. 

POSTED: 09/15/21 at 10:27 pm. FILED UNDER: News

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Eight people appeared in Van Wert County Common Pleas Court this past week for a variety of criminal hearings.

Two people were sentenced during the week.

Jessica Thompson, 35, of Van Wert, was sentenced to 180 days in jail on one count each of possession of a Fentanyl-related compound and aggravated possession of drugs, each a felony of the first degree. Judge Martin Burchfield ordered the sentence to run concurrently, while giving Thompson credit for 38 days already served.

Joshua Roberts, 39, of Van Wert, was given three years of community control on one count of attempted vehicular assault. The sentence includes 30 days in jail, while Roberts is to have no alcohol or drugs without a prescription, must undergo random drug screens, and must undergo substance abuse and mental health assessments and any treatment recommended. He must also seek employment.

Four people changed their pleas during hearings this past week.

Rodney Knauss, 32, of Scott, changed his plea to no contest to one count of gross sexual imposition, a felony of the third degree. He was found guilty of the charge and a pre-sentence investigation was ordered and sentencing scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, November 2.

Brandon Clark, 25, of Van Wert, changed his plea to guilty to an amended charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, a misdemeanor of the first degree. A sentencing and restitution hearing was scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, September 28.

Brandon Hershey, 34, of Van Wert, changed his plea to guilty to an amended charge of failure to provide notice of a change of address, a felony of the fourth degree. A pre-sentence investigation was ordered and sentencing set for 1:30 p.m. Thursday, October 22.

Sherry Ramsey, 45, of Van Wert, changed her plea to guilty to one count of theft, a felony o the fifth degree. She then requested, and was granted, intervention in lieu of conviction and her case was stayed until the successful completion of a substance abuse treatment program. Ramsey had also appeared in court on Monday for a bond violation hearing, and admitted violating her bond by having drug paraphernalia in her possession during a traffic stop.

Zachary Porter, 21, of Delphos, admitted violating his unsecured personal surety bond by being arrested for operating a vehicle while impaired (OVI) and having a blood-alcohol-content of .179. A new $10,000 cash bond was set in the case and a hearing scheduled for 1:30 p.m. September 28.

James Jewell, 39, of Middle Point, had his sentence modified to community control, due to a medical release from the Western Ohio Regional Treatment and Habilitation (WORTH) Center in Lima.

POSTED: 09/15/21 at 2:51 pm. FILED UNDER: News

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Freshmen and sophomores from the three Van Wert County public school districts received some hands-on experience — likely for the first time in their lives — in several building trades skills as part of Tuesday’s Build Your Future event.

Collage created using TurboCollage software from

The students received instruction in how to wire lightbulbs, operate construction equipment, drill through concrete, use various tools to frame walls, do pipefitting, weld, and also learned several other building trades operations during the event, which was held in and around the Commercial Building on the County Fairgrounds.. 

Workers were there from Alexander & Bebout, All Temp Refrigeration, Ayers Mechanical, and Vantage Career Center, to instruct students in the various skilled trades, while Vantage Building Trades students helped mentor students from the three high schools in the use of the various equipment.

The building was a cacophony of noise as students used a variety of construction tools, all at the same time.

A person very interested in holding the event, Sara Zura, president of Alexander & Bebout and a civil engineer with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toledo, said the fact that older skilled tradesman were leaving to industry to retire, with relatively few young people interested replacing them, drove her desire to give young students just coming into high school exposure to the various building trade disciplines — HVAC, electricity, welding, construction, and carpentry — in the hopes that some would be interested enough to attend Vantage to obtain training in one of those disciplines.


POSTED: 09/15/21 at 12:52 am. FILED UNDER: News

Independent staff and submitted information

Isaac Van Wert Post 178 of the American Legion in Van Wert is celebrating its centennial this weekend.

Post 178 was chartered in Van Wert during the early months 0f 1920. The name was chosen to honor American Revolutionary War hero Isaac Van Wart, who is also the man the city was named after.

Following the end of World War I, a group of soldiers met in Paris, France, to discuss the need for an organization that could assist the needs of returning soldiers from the war. This idea was then brought back to the United States for further consideration. 

From these meetings at several locations an organization was formed and named the American Legion. The organization documents laid out the needs and services required by returning veterans from past, present, and future wars, and Indianapolis, Indiana, was chosen as national headquarters.

The chartering of the American Legion was passed by the U.S. Congress on September 16, 1919. To this date, there are more than 12,000 Legion posts worldwide that follow a guideline known as the four pillars: 1. Americanism, 2. Children and Youth, 3. National Security, and 4. Veteran Affairs and Rehabilitation.

The members of Isaac Van Wert post are proud of its 100-year history and want to share their celebration with the Van Wert community from 3-9 p.m. this Saturday, September 18, in Legion Park (former Memorial Park) adjacent to the Legion post on West Main Street. 

Area residents are invited to join Legion members, along with honored guests, U.S. Representative  Bob Latta and State Senator Rob McColley. 

There will also be food, fun activities, and live entertainment planned on the Legion stage.

POSTED: 09/14/21 at 10:25 pm. FILED UNDER: News

Independent staff and submitted information

Van Wert Service Club, Optimist Club of Van Wert, Main Street Van Wert, and the Van Wert Parks Department are partnering to raise the community’s holiday spirit again this year with a Christmas at Fountain Park event. 

The 2021 goal is to host a special opening night ceremony on Wednesday, November 24, in conjunction with activities hosted by Main Street Van Wert. It is sure to be a night to remember. The organizers have faith that this event will delight those of all ages and will serve as a family-friendly and fanciful experience.

Each year, the Christmas decorations used in the park experience some loss through damage or wear. To continue to bring the event to the community each holiday season, event organizers are looking for partner donors, and are diligently working to raise funds to continue upkeep on decorations, lighted displays, support the candy cane garden, and opening night expenses. 

The groups are asking local individuals, groups, and businesses to consider making a financial contribution. Those generous donations will help bring smiles and delight to many families this holiday season. Donors can expect to be recognized on social media throughout the season, as well as in the park for all to see in appreciation of their financial gifts.

Available donation packages:

  • Silver Sponsorship: $10 to $100
  • Gold Sponsorship: $101 to $499
  • Platinum Sponsorship: $500 and higher

Money previously raised for this event allowed organizers to replace damaged decorations, invest in new lights, and keep the displays in good standing. Any donation made will have an impact.   

In addition, for those interested in volunteering, there are several short-term and long-term volunteer opportunities. To get the process started, contact Thaison Leaser or Breanne Sudduth by the end of September. Set-up begins October 9.

Checks should be made payable to “Holiday at Home.”  For those individuals who prefer donations to be tax-deductible, make checks payable to “The Van Wert County Foundation” with “Christmas Park” in the memo line. All financial contributions can be mailed to P.O. Box 343, Van Wert, OH 45891. Donations must be received by October 31 in order to be included on the display banner in the park.

Donors may also contact Van Wert Service Club member Breanne Sudduth at or Optimist Club of Van Wert member Thaison Leaser at for invoices and/or W-9 paperwork.

POSTED: 09/14/21 at 10:20 pm. FILED UNDER: News

Independent staff and submitted information

COLUMBUS — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Tuesday joined with the Ohio Children’s Hospitals Association in a direct appeal to school superintendents to require masks for staff and students during the current surge of the coronavirus. 

Mike DeWine

The plea was made during a virtual meeting Tuesday with superintendents and the clinical leadership from six Ohio children’s hospitals, including Dayton Children’s Hospital, ProMedica Russell J. Ebeid Children’s Hospital, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Akron Children’s Hospital, and University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

“The data are now clear that there is a higher level of COVID-19 in school districts where masks are not required,” said Governor DeWine. “If we want our schools to stay open, the best way to do that is for those 12 and over to get vaccinated. But because those under 12 are still too young to be vaccinated, we need students who come in to school to wear a mask until we get through this.” 

Data that support this appeal include: 

  • Since August 15, there have been 29,823 Ohio school-aged kids ages 5 to 17 with confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19.
  • Cases among this age group increased 198 percent from the week of August 15, as compared to the week ending September 4.
  • As reported Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics, COVID-19 cases among children have increased 240 percent nationally since early July when the Delta variant began to surge. During that same period in Ohio, there has been a 2,000 percent increase in cases among Ohio children.
  • COVID-19 cases are increasing at nearly twice the rate among school-aged kids as compared to the rest of the population. This past week Ohio saw a 44 percent increase among school-aged children and only a 17 percent increase among the rest of the population.
  • Over the two-week period ending September 4, there was an average of 909 cases per 100,000 school-aged Ohio kids versus 561 cases per 100,000 people comprising the rest of the population. 
  • The 16 days with the highest number of cases per day throughout the entire pandemic for kids ages 5 to 17 in Ohio have all been in the last 19 days. This includes every day except the three days of the Labor Day weekend.
  • In Ohio school districts where masks are optional among school-aged kids, there are both higher case rates per 100,000 at 945.7 and a greater week-over-week increase in cases. School districts where masks are optional have seen a 54 percent week-over-week increase compared to a 34 percent increase in school districts where masks are either required for all or required for some (usually K-8th grade).

POSTED: 09/14/21 at 10:18 pm. FILED UNDER: News

Independent staff and submitted information

A financial aid informational meeting for parents and guardians of Van Wert County juniors and seniors has been moved from October 6 to Wednesday, October 20, from 6:30-8 p.m., at Van Wert High School. 

Lawrence Matthews, financial aid director for Bluffton University, will explain the step-by-step procedures for completing the FAFSA form and also answer questions regarding the financial aid process.  

In addition, Van Wert County Foundation CEO Seth Baker will explain requirements and application procedures for securing grants from the foundation.

The meeting will be held in the First Federal Lecture Hall of the Niswonger Performing Art Center of Northwest Ohio  Attendees are asked to park on the Middle School side and enter through the side or front doors.  

For additional information, contact Student Services at Van Wert High School.

POSTED: 09/14/21 at 10:13 pm. FILED UNDER: News

This Chevrolet Equinox SUV (above) sustained significant damage when it rear-ended a milk tanker truck (below) in the 800 block of North Washington Street shortly after 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. No injuries were reported in the crash, which was handled by the Van Wert Police Department. Bob Barnes/Van Wert independent

POSTED: 09/14/21 at 3:30 pm. FILED UNDER: News

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Van Wert City Council prepared legislation to expand a Community Reinvestment Area in the Vision Park area and to amend downtown parking regulations, although neither ordinance is ready for passage without some further study and discussion.

City Safety-Service Director Jay Fleming uses a map of the city to show where a Community Reinvestment Area should be expanded. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

As part of his report to Council, Safety-Service Director Jay Fleming talked about the spec building that will be constructed in Vision Industrial Park in the near future and noted that developers of the project would likely seek a Community Investment Area abatement for the building. He noted that expanding the airport CRA map to include the northwest portion of the city — including Vision Park — would handle that eventuality, as well as any future projects there.

Council later unanimously voted to prepare an ordinance amending the airport CRA map to include the area in question. The ordinance will approved at a future meeting.

City Council also voted to prepare legislation related to changes in parking downtown requested by the Van Wert Forward downtown development stakeholders, although there will likely be more discussion of what exactly those changes will include before the measure is adopted.

Fourth Ward Councilman Andrew Davis abstained on the vote to prepare, noting he needs more information on exactly what impact those changes will have on downtown parking. While Council has held two “committee of the whole” meetings to discuss the issue with the Van Wert Forward group, which is spearheaded by the Van Wert County Foundation, there are still some on Council and in city government that aren’t completely on board with the idea of relaxing parking regulations.


POSTED: 09/14/21 at 1:06 am. FILED UNDER: News