The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, May. 25, 2024

Top 10: Agencies spar; demolished; airport

Editor’s note: This week, the Van Wert independent will be publishing what it judges to be the Top 10 stories of 2020. Articles featuring three stories each will be in Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, with the top story published on New Year’s Day.

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

A portion of the Home Guards Temple building crumbles as the structure is demolished in December. VW independent file photo by Bob Barnes

The Top 10 story article in Wednesday’s edition of the independent deals with the 2020 stories rated as Nos. 7, 6, and 5.

No. 7 — County Treasurer-Auditor problems
Not surprisingly, 2019’s No. 1 story is much further down the list this year, since the problems between the county treasurer and auditor’s offices were finally resolved this year.

The problems stemmed primarily from a lack of cooperation between the two county fiscal offices following the appointment of Nathan Vandenbroek by the Van Wert County Republican Central Committee as county treasurer.

Problems allegedly arose soon after Vandenbroek was appointed, with the two offices unable to balance county ledgers as required by law. Those problems increased when longtime Auditor Nancy Dixon retired and Phil Baxter was elected to his first term in the position in November 2018.

In simple terms, county treasurers collect the money a county is owed in taxes and other fees and revenues, while the auditor’s office pays the bills, and ensures money is available for expenditures and properly spent. A number of problems arose between the two offices, with probably the most serious being an inability to reconcile the amount of money received with what was in the county’s bank accounts — something the two offices are required to do by state law.

The bookkeeping issues ultimately led to the Ohio Auditor of State’s Office having to conduct an audit of the treasurer’s office’s books, action that cost the county well over $100,000.

In addition, Baxter and two deputies were indicted after Vandenbroek charged they had broken into his office and tampered with records. While one of the deputies later decided to enter guilty pleas and was banned from future county employment, Baxter maintained that he and his deputies were merely trying to do their job by getting information Vandenbroek refused to give them. The other deputy had the charges against her dismissed.

Van Wert County Auditor Philip Baxter. shown here during his arraignment, was later acquitted of charges against him. VW independent file photo

A jury agreed with Baxter, acquitting him of all charges following a two-day trial in July. In the meantime, Vandenbroek resigned as county treasurer, effective January 31, and took his name off the March primary ballot.

Jeff McIntosh was appointed to replace Vandenbroek and was elected without opposition in November. Baxter was reinstated as auditor after his acquittal.

No. 6 — Home Guards Building

A 114-year-old downtown building that was praised as one of the finest in Van Wert when completed in 1906 was demolished later in the year after a portion of the west wall collapsed after decades of neglect by a series of owners.

The Home Guards Temple first housed a fraternal organization, the Home Guards of America, formed by local businessmen to provide life and accident insurance for its members. After that group merged with another fraternal insurer in 1915, Van Wert Overall Manufacturing Company (later just Van Wert Manufacturing and now Universal Lettering) purchased the building for its operations. Van Wert Manufacturing filed bankruptcy in 1989 and the building has mostly been vacant since then.

Although one of the most luxurious structures in town when first opened, with lots of marble and other luxurious appointments, including a banquet hall that seated hundreds, damage to the roof a few years ago destroyed most of the interior of the building and led to the partial collapse of the west wall.

The Van Wert County Land Reutilization Corporation (land bank), which acquired the building late last year, was working with the Van Wert County Foundation to come up with a plan on what to do with the structure when the collapse of a portion of the west wall onto North Market Street forced the organizations to move quickly to demolish the building.

No. 5 — Van Wert County Regional Airport Terminal

Above is an artist’s conception of the exterior of the new Van Wert County Regional Airport terminal building. file photo

One of two major projects needed to turn Van Wert County Regional Airport into a prime development tool, a new airport terminal building, broke ground in late August.

The J.L. Rice Terminal, named for a former airport manager who did much to promote flying in the 1960s, the 4,600-square-foot structure will include a board room, a stand-alone pilot’s lounge, complete with shower and restroom, and a flight training center when completed in 2021. The structure replaces a 300-square-foot terminal built in 1939.

Van Wert native and philanthropist Scott Niswonger, who learned to fly at the airport when Rice was manager, provided seed money for the project, which was funded by a combination of grants and private donations.

The terminal, along with the extension of the airport’s main runway from 4,000 to 5,000 feet, will help attract larger corporate jets and lead to other development opportunities when both projects are completed, airport officials have said.

Thursday: Top 10 2020 stories Nos. 2, 3, and 4.

POSTED: 12/30/20 at 12:00 am. FILED UNDER: News