The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020

Retired Van Wert Fire Chief Jim Steele holds his Fire Educator Lifetime Achievement Award plaque. photo provided

VW independent/submitted information

Retired Van Wert fire chief Jim Steele earned statewide recognition this week for his nearly four decades as a fire instructor.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that Chief Steele was one of the recipients of the Ohio Fire Service Hall of Fame and Fire Awards, earning a Fire Educator Lifetime Achievement Award for his service as a fire educator, both for the Van Wert community and statewide.

Chief Steele spent 37 of his 40 years as a Van Wert firefighter and fire officer also serving as an instructor for other firefighters. In addition, for many years he has also served at the state level by leading changes in Ohio’s training curriculum and promoting professionalism throughout the fire service. 

That desire to ever increase levels of firefighter training and fire officer growth led Chief Steele to serve as the chairman of the Firefighter and Fire Safety Inspector Training Subcommittee of the Ohio Division of EMS, as well as a research paper evaluator for the Ohio Fire Executive Program, a participant in the Maxwell Program: Designing Tomorrow’s Leaders, and to receive the 2010 Ohio Fire Chiefs Association’s Distinguished Service Award.

He remains active in the growth and development of future firefighters through his involvement with the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association, the Maxwell Program, and the Firefighter I and II programs.

Chief Steele was one of 12 honorees during the Ohio Fire Hall of Fame’s 40th annual awards program.

“With all the challenges faced this year, we felt it was important to continue our tradition of honoring these first responders and citizens for their selfless and courageous efforts,” said State Fire Marshal Kevin S. Reardon. “We are pleased to recognize these heroic individuals.”


POSTED: 09/30/20 at 11:30 pm

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

A Wisconsin man was sentenced to more than five years in prison this week on felony charges after he waived his right to a presentence investigation in Van Wert County Common Pleas Court.

Alcides Ordonez-Cruz, 27, of Kenosha, Wisconsin, changed his plea to guilty to one count each of gross sexual imposition and endangering children, each a felony of the third degree.

Judge Martin D. Burchfield then sentenced him to 60 months in prison on the gross sexual imposition charge, with credit for 187 days already served, and 12 months in prison on the child endangering count, with no credit for time served. Both sentences are to be served consecutive to one another, and Ordonez-Cruz was also classified as a Tier 2 sex offender, which would mean he would have to register as such every 180 days for the next 25 years.

Kelly Alvarez Jr.., 25, of Van Wert, was sentenced to an indefinite term of 4-6 years in prison, with credit for 173 days already served, on one count of felonious assault, a felony of the second degree.

Chad Diltz, 44, of Van Wert, was sentenced to 180 days in jail, with credit for 52 days already served, on a fifth-degree felony charge of possession of heroin. Judge Burchfield will consider drug treatment after a total of 90 days is served.

Two people were arraigned on grant jury indictments this past week.

James Robert Jewell, 38, of Van Wert, pleaded not guilty to one count of aggravated possession of drugs, a felony of the fifth degree. He was released on an unsecured personal surety bond and will appear for a pretrial conference at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, October 14.

Ashley McCarthy, 37, of Van Wert, entered not guilty pleas to four counts of possession of various drugs, each a felony of the fifth degree. She was released on a personal surety bond and will appear for a pretrial conference at 8 a.m. October 14.


POSTED: 09/30/20 at 11:21 pm. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

The Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission will be conducting an election of supervisors of the Van Wert Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), in accordance with Chapter 940 of the Ohio Revised Code. 

Van Wert supervisors will be elected to a three-year term commencing January 1, 2021, and ending December 31, 2023. Nominees are Kevin Heffelfinger and David Kemler

Individuals who own or occupy land within the Van Wert Soil and Water Conservation District and are 18 years of age or older may vote for Supervisor.

There are two ways an eligible voter can cast a ballot:

  • At the SWCD office from November 25 until December 8 during normal business hours
  • Voting absentee from October 26 until December 8 by requesting the ballot application and election ballot from the SWCD office at the following address: 1185 Professional Drive, Van Wert, OH 45891, by calling 419.238.9591, or by email at  

Absentee ballots must be received by the SWCD office by December 8.

POSTED: 09/30/20 at 11:17 pm. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

Local girls and their mothers are invited to join Van Wert County Girl Scouts to learn what it means to be a Girl Scout and serve the community, as local scouts clean up Hiestand Woods park in October.

The Hiestand Woods clean-up is scheduled for Sunday, October 18, from 2-4 p.m. Those wanting to participate can come anytime between the above times and should wear comfortable clothing and shoes that can get dirty and bring a water bottle. However, because of  COVID-19, anyone sick or showing symptoms of the virus should plan to stay home.

For more information, call Katlin Shuherk at 419.225.3048 or email

POSTED: 09/30/20 at 11:14 pm. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

Just a reminder that the City of Van Wert has scheduled its Halloween Trick or Treat event for 2-4 p.m. Saturday, October 31.

Van Wert residents who want to participate in providing treats should turn their porch lights on during the above hours.

POSTED: 09/30/20 at 11:12 pm. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

COLUMBUS — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted provided the following updates Tuesday on Ohio’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Mike DeWine

Wastewater testing
Governor DeWine provided an update on the Ohio Coronavirus Wastewater Monitoring Network, which tests wastewater for gene fragments of COVID-19. 

Those infected with COVID-19 begin to shed the virus early in their infection, and a significant, sustained increase in gene fragments found in wastewater can be an early warning sign of a pending rise in COVID-19 cases in a specific area. The value of this information is that gives communities an opportunity to act proactively to prevent outbreaks.

Since the launch of the monitoring program, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) has notified health authorities in six communities of a sustained increase in gene fragments found in their wastewater: Dayton, Columbus, Akron, Oregon, Sandusky, and Mansfield. 

ODH is currently monitoring 36 sites across the state and an additional 25 sites will be added during the coming month. Communities found with a sustained increase in gene fragments are offered testing and contact tracing assistance.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC), in partnership with Ohio State University, has also begun monitoring wastewater at Ohio’s prisons to prevent spread among staff and inmates. A sustained increase in COVID-19 gene fragments in a prison’s wastewater will trigger a series of actions within the prison to prevent spread, including the testing of all staff. Staff members working in prisons free of COVID-19 will have access to on-site voluntary testing.


POSTED: 09/29/20 at 10:40 pm. FILED UNDER: News

Submitted information

COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced settlements Tuesday in a lawsuit against 10 defendants — six companies and four individuals — that deceived Ohio consumers with illegal robocalls offering bogus credit card interest rate reduction services.

“Not only were these fraudsters bombarding Ohioans with illegal robocalls, they were also peddling a bogus pitch and demanding upfront fees,” Yost said. “After identifying the fraudulent scheme, we went after every link of this corrupt chain to stop these people from doing it again.

Dave Yost

Ohio partnered with the Federal Trade Commission in filing the 2019 lawsuit in federal court in the Western District of Texas. In the settlement, Globex Telecom Inc. and associates agreed to pay Ohio and the FTC a total of $2.1 million, with $1.95 million coming from Globex.

Attorney General Yost and the FTC alleged in the lawsuit that Globex knowingly facilitated illegal robocalls for Educare Centre Services Inc., which defrauded consumers in Ohio and other parts of the country out of millions of dollars with a debt relief scheme.

This groundbreaking lawsuit was the first of its kind in the country to go after a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service provider that was knowingly facilitating the scheme.

“I want this case to serve as a warning to others who knowingly play a role in facilitating robocall scams – we will continue to aggressively pursue and prosecute all parties involved.”

Globex and its subsidiaries, including an Ohio VoIP service provider and two others, are subject to the following injunctive terms, among others:

  • Implementing and abiding by heightened client screening, monitoring, and review processes for current and potential clients and to re-screen any existing client who is subject to a subpoena from the government or similar investigative request;
  • Blocking any calls made by their clients that appear to come from certain suspicious phone numbers, including emergency numbers such as “9-1-1,” unassigned or invalid numbers or international numbers that charge consumers should consumers attempt to dial it;
  • Blocking calls that are using spoofing technology; and
  • Terminating relationships with any telemarketer that receives a certain number of official industry complaints about unlawful calls within a given time period.

POSTED: 09/29/20 at 10:35 pm. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

The Van Wert High School Theatre Department announces that its production of Disney’s Tarzan®, The Stage Musical, originally set for this past spring, will now be produced and available for streaming late fall. This allows the department the opportunity to perform its musical and share students’ hard work. 

There will not be a live audience, and specific streaming dates will be released in the near future. Streaming allows the department to share its production with family and friends, near and far.

Show updates will be posted on the Theatre Department website (, and on Facebook and Twitter pages. 

“Thank you for your continued support of our students and program,” said play director Melissa Bloomfield. “We are excited to share our passion for the theatrical arts as we continue to create, perform, and inspire.”

POSTED: 09/29/20 at 10:32 pm. FILED UNDER: News

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

Van Wert City Council received an update on the Home Guard Temple building from Van Wert Area Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Stacy Adam during its otherwise brief meeting Monday evening.

Local Economic Development Director Stacy Adam provides an update on the Home Guard Temple building situation during Monday’s Van Wert City Council meeting. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

Adam first noted that there has been a lot of comment, some of it negative, on social media about the building, and she wanted to clear up some misconceptions people have. While some people have blamed the Van Wert County Land Reutilization Corporation (Land Bank) and the Van Wert County Foundation for the current structural issues with the building, Adam noted that the building has been privately owned, vacant, and neglected for the past 25 years. The Land Bank just took ownership of the building in December 2019. In addition, there was known contamination on the site as well.

The economic development official told Council that it will cost $402,000 to demolish the building, adding that local officials have been looking at “every conceivable option” for funding that would cover the cost of demolition, which includes dealing with contamination and any hazardous materials found on the site.

Officials also contacted U.S. Representative Bob Latta’s office, as well as those of State Senator Rob McColley and State Representative Craig Riedel about the possibility of grants to help defray the cost to demolish the building, a portion of which collapsed September 13 onto North Market Street.

Three days after the building collapse, Van Wert Fire Chief Jon Jones issued an order to stabilize or demolish the building within 60 days, giving the need to find funding an extra impetus.


POSTED: 09/29/20 at 7:52 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

The United Way of Van Wert County was established in 1922 to “increase the organized capacity of people to care for one another”. For 98 years, the United Way of Van Wert County has been caring for those in this community who may be less fortunate.

The United Way campaign theme this year is #AlwaysUnited and its 2020-21 campaign video shows how now, more than ever, it is important to pull together to make a difference. Even in these uncertain times, people must remain united — #AlwaysUnited. Sharing needs with business and industry may be limited and United Way events may look different as well. The organization recognizes that personal donations will also look different this year, which is why it has have created many ways to participate throughout the year and donate at one’s comfort level.  

The campaign goal is $500,000 and was established by 2020-21 Campaign Chair Kim Bruns. The United Way knows there are many people who have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with loss of jobs, lack of food, kids needing extra educational support, and the organization wants them to know that it is #AlwaysUnited and there for them.  

The United Way has been leading the way with its programs and agencies, which have supported the hard times, and it is going to need every donation this year to be able to continue to support its 34 agencies.

By filling out a pledge card or donating online, a local resident’s tax-deductible donation will help to support this year’s goal. The money that people give stays in Van Wert County and supports the 34 agencies funded by the United Way. The organization pays out less than 1 percent in United Way worldwide dues, so donors can rest assured their contribution is impacting Van Wert County United Way agencies. 

This year, the United Way is giving people the opportunity to donate to one of its agencies directly. Be sure to reach out to an agency of choice to ensure a donation serves them the best way possible.  

Check out the United Way website at for upcoming events and additional giving opportunities.

For help donating online or to get a pledge card today, call the United Way office at 419.238.6689 or email Local residents’ consideration in supporting this year’s campaign is vital.

POSTED: 09/29/20 at 7:47 am. FILED UNDER: News

VW independent/submitted information

The Vantage Firefighter Training program has been awarded a $12,000 training grant from the Ohio Department of Commerce, Division of State Fire Marshal.

Vantage Ag and Industrial Power Tech student and 2020 graduate Preston Browning (Willshire) is pictured during his Firefighter 1 practical testing at the Van Wert City Fire DepartmentBrowning completed the Firefighter 1 training program during his senior year at Vantage, earning his Firefighter 1 certification prior to graduating. Vantage photo

The Vantage Adult Education Firefighter program launched in February 2019 after working with many local fire departments to identify training as a need for the surrounding communities. The program has been training community members and students in courses for Volunteer Fire, Firefighter 1, and Firefighter 1 Transition.

Prior to receiving the grant, fire departments had to pay for an employee to take the training course, then apply to the state for a reimbursement grant. With Vantage receiving the grant, the fire departments are eliminated from the transaction and Vantage will be reimbursed directly from the state.

“This grant allows fire departments to add personnel without tying up their budget money for sometimes an entire year,” said Firefighter Training Program Coordinator Brian Ankney.

Firefighters continue to be in high demand, especially in rural/volunteer areas. Vantage training courses prepare individuals for serving their local communities, as well as give them a solid foundation to further their training as career/paid firefighters. In addition, employment of firefighters is projected to grow 7 percent from 2016 to 2026, about the average for all occupations.

The Vantage Adult Education Firefighter training program continues to offer quality training to firefighter personnel at all levels of education, and is currently enrolling students. The next program start date is January 6, 2021. Interested applicants should contact Vantage Enrollment Coordinator Maria Diltz to obtain program information at 419.238.5411, extension 2118. 

POSTED: 09/29/20 at 7:45 am. FILED UNDER: News