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VW independent top stories: Nos. 5-1

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of articles on The Van Wert independent’s top stories of 2017.

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent writer

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten (left) chats with VWECC preschool teacher Laura Foster while U.S. Education Secretary Betty DeVos (kneeling) interacts with preschool students. VW independent file photo

2017 is winding down, and this week The Van Wert independent has been looking back at the top 17 local stories of the year. Since any list such as this is subjective, the stories are in no particular order.

5) Business changes in Van Wert

After declaring bankruptcy in May, the parent company of Marsh Supermarkets agreed to sell a number of its stores. The former Marsh Supermarket in Van Wert was one of the locations that was sold, and it was rebranded as Chief Supermarket in September.

Ground was broken in October on a 100,000 square football speculative building along Bonnewitz Road. Local and state economic development representatives remain optimistic that once the building is completed in early 2018, a manufacturer will occupy it. The project is a joint venture between the Van Wert Business Development Corporation (BDC), JobsOhio, and Jerry Robinson, who utilized a $1.225 million Revitalization Grant and $1.775 million loan from JobsOhio for the project. Additional funding assistance was provided by the BDC.

Several new businesses opened in Van Wert in 2017, including 133 Bistro, The Curvy Closet and Pet Valu. Other existing businesses and agencies relocated to new locations, including the Salvation Army and Goodwill. A longtime business in Van Wert – Laudick’s Jewelry – changed hands.

4) Van Wert teachers, school board tentatively agree on a contract

Earlier this month, the Van Wert Board of Education and the Van Wert Federation of Teachers worked out a tentative three-year contract that
includes a two percent across-the-board raise in each of the three contract years, as well as increases in supplemental contract stipends. The union made a concession that would move teachers currently on a PPO (preferred provider organization) health plan to high-deductible Health Savings Account (HSA) plans, while the board withdrew its request for cuts to the current severance and benefit package for retirees. The deal is expected to be officially ratified next month.

Prior to the tentative agreement, the two sides met with a federal meditator, and union teachers spent about 10 days in December working “bell to bell”, working regular school hours without coming in early or staying late.

Teachers had been working without a contract since July 31.

3) Peters convicted of murder, sent to prison

Following several delays, Delphos resident Christopher Peters stood trial in September on charges of aggravated murder, felonious assault and endangering children. The charges were tied to the November, 2016 death of 15-month-old Hayden Ridinger. The boy died at the Old Lincoln Inn, while in Peters’ care.

After hearing more than three days of testimony from emergency responders, medical officials, expert witnesses, neighboring residents and others, a six man, six woman Van Wert County Common Pleas Court jury found Peters guilty on all counts. Peters did not take the stand during the trial.

He was sentenced in October to life in prison, without the possibility of parole. He’s currently incarcerated at the Warren Correctional Institution.

Ridinger’s mother, Valerie Dean of Delphos pleaded guilty in late November to charges of involuntary manslaughter and child endangering. She’ll appear in Van Wert County Common Pleas Court for sentencing next month.

2) Van Wert County Hospital breaks ground on North clinic

Van Wert County Hospital officials broke ground in August on a 19,000-square-foot outpatient and ambulatory care center in the Towne Center retail development.

The new facility, which is expected to be completed by June 2018, will include a walk-in clinic, family medicine, physical medicine and rehabilitation, occupational health, a specialist clinic, laboratory, and radiology/imaging services that will include a 1.2-tesla open MRI, CT scan, and x-ray capabilities.

1) Betsy DeVos stops in Van Wert

It’s not often that a high-ranking federal official visits Van Wert, but U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos paid a visit in April. She was joined by Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6-million-member American Federation of Teachers union.

During the daylong visit, which was covered by a number of national media representatives, both women took part in building tours, program demonstrations, and roundtable discussions and, afterward, Weingarten and DeVos were complimentary of what Van Wert has done in a community where more than half the students are eligible for the free and reduced lunch program.

DeVos and Weingarten also both agreed with one of complaints voiced by local educators: teachers spend too much time doing unneeded paperwork that could better be spent educating students.

DeVos said she would work on a solution to the federal part of that problem.

POSTED: 12/29/17 at 8:26 am. FILED UNDER: News