Clinton County's top stories of 2013
The year 2013 brought repeated shouts of victory, a hazing controversy, a government theft case and continued hope of more jobs to a still economically struggling Clinton County.
Locals waited as officials made plans for the purchase of a new multi-million-dollar emergency communications system, enjoyed the county's spotlighting moment in a back-to-back state football championship and came together as a community while local emergency officials searched for a missing woman.
The News Journal was there throughout the year to cover the biggest stories that made readers hopeful, frustrated, saddened and proud.
THE SEARCH FOR CASEY PITZER
All eyes were on Wilmington for a week in March as emergency officials searched for the body of a missing local woman.
The body of Casey Pitzer was recovered from a retention pond near State Route 73 — a pond the Sabina woman fell into after a tumultuous evening ended tragically, despite the fact that all she wanted to do was “go home,” according to Wilmington police.
Pitzer, 32, a mother of two children, was reported missing Sunday, March 17 at 12:30 a.m. She was last seen running across four lanes of traffic on State Route 73 heading in the direction of the retention pond after leaving Uncle Louie's Lounge. Her body was located on the eastern side of the pond next to one of the ledges police were told could pose a problem for the sonar equipment that had been used for days in an effort to locate her.
The search involved dive teams, K-9 units, the use of sonar and dragging equipment and a remote operated vehicle (ROV) which helped narrow the search on Friday. Crews began pumping water from the pond throughout the week.
MARTINSVILLE OFFICIALS ARRESTED FOR MISUSE OF TAX DOLLARS
Five former Martinsville officials were charged with numerous counts of theft in office and other charges in November after law enforcement officials discovered more than $100,000 of village funds were reportedly used to buy equipment for meth labs, gift cards, beer, cigarettes and other personal items.
Indicted by a grand jury were the former council president, Carole Robinson, 74, her grandson, James R. Robinson, 33, a general laborer for the village, Patience Comberger, 35, who served as village administrator, and Sheri Watson, 55, former Martinsville fiscal officer.
An investigation by the Clinton County Sheriff's Office, Ohio Attorney Genereal and Bureau of Criminal Investigation was launched in early 2013 after Martinsville residents voiced concerns about how village funds were being used.
Confiscated by BCI agents were computers, village books, receipts and anything pertaining to business for the Village of Martinsville. Records were examined from 2008 through March of 2013, the sheriff said.
Another former Martinsville official indicted by the recent grand jury has not been arrested, according to Clinton County Sheriff Ralph D. Fizer Jr.
WILMINGTON COLLEGE FRATERNITY HAZING INCIDENT
A Wilmington College fraternity came under widespread scrutiny following an alleged Halloween night hazing incident resulting in a sophomore student requiring surgery.
Three pledges being initiated into the Gamma Phi Gamma fraternity — also known as the Gobblers — at Wilmington College all suffered bruises during the Oct. 31 incident, according to an affidavit.
Wilmington College issued complaints under its own student code of conduct against the fraternity and individual members, a first step in the college's judicial process which involves a judicial board comprised of faculty and students holding hearings and then ruling whether to sanction the fraternity and students.
Clinton County's prosecuting attorney said there will be a grand jury process, and potential felony charges presented for consideration.
There is a state law in Ohio against hazing, a fourth-degree misdemeanor offense.
CLINTON-MASSIE WINS BACK-TO-BACK STATE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
One week after beating the top passing offense in the nation, Clinton-Massie finished its state championship by defeating one of Ohio's most storied programs, winning its second consecutive title Dec. 6.
Senior Bayle Wolf's two-yard touchdown run with 1:10 left in the game broke a 21-all tie and gave Clinton-Massie a 27-21 victory over Youngstown Cardinal Mooney in the snowy Division IV state title game at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massilion. Wolf was also named the state's Div. IV Offensive Player of the Year.
The championship came despite an imperfect season. Riding the crest of the state's longest winning streak at 19 consecutive games, Clinton-Massie traveled to Columbus to face St. Francis DeSales High School back on Sept. 27 and was defeated 21-16.
The loss, however, clearly didn't ruin the season for the Falcons.
COUNTY ENTERS INTO $4.5M CONTRACT FOR EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM
Clinton County commissioners signed a $4.5-million-contract for a new emergency communications system, which includes building new towers.
The purchase includes more than 400 radios for all emergency agencies in the county, including all fire, law enforcement and EMS personnel.
The new system is the Ohio Multi-Agency Radio Communications System (MARCS), a statewide radio system that allows users to communicate from anywhere in the state and have interoperable communications with other MARCS users.
Currently, the county operates its own independent communications system, which has an end of life of December 2014.
Money from the sale of Clinton Memorial Hospital — along with casino revenue — will be used to pay for the new system, which is expected to go live in November 2014.
ROSENBERGER NAMED POSSIBILITY FOR OHIO HOUSE SPEAKER
Clarksville Republican Cliff Rosenberger may be in line to become the next speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, following several media outlets' speculation throughout the year.
The leadership in place next year will choose the successor to Speaker William G. Batchelder (R-Medina) who will be forced to step down at the end of 2014 due to term limits.
Articles have suggested that Rosenberger and State Rep. Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster) are the two leading candidates for the speaker's position, but that Rosenberger's candidacy is appearing increasingly stronger.
Rosenberger represents Ohio's 91st District, which includes Clinton, Highland, Pike and part of Ross counties. He was first elected to the legislature in 2010. But despite being just 32 year old, a Columbus Dispatch story says Rosenberger has emerged as a strong leader and has support among the GOP caucus members.
C-M BOARD NON RENEWS SUPERINTENDENT'S CONTRACT
In a controversial decision, the Clinton-Massie school board voted 3-2 in June not to renew the contract of its superintendent, Dr. Mike Sander, a move which set off a series of events during the following weeks.
During a special meeting in which community members filled a classroom, some in attendance called for the board to reconsider its vote, and said the board's unexpected decision put the district's November income tax levy in jeopardy.
Weeks later, long-time board president Lynn Deatherage announced she would not seek re-election in November, citing the board's “new direction.” Prior to Deatherage's announcement, Dale and Jill Settlemyre, co-chairs of the district's levy committee, announced they were resigning from their positions.
Sander announced his resignation Aug. 1 to take the job of superintendent for the Franklin City Schools district in Warren County. His contract was not set to expire until summer 2014.
Warren Joseph “Joe” Scholler was selected as the interim superintendent Aug. 21.
The levy failed by a margin of 2 to 1, with 1,817 voting against and 886 voting in support.
HUNDREDS OF NEW JOBS PROMISED WITH STATE TAX INCENTIVES
Clinton County was promised the possibility of hundreds of new jobs following decisions by a state tax panel to offer tax credits to businesses considering a local expansion or move.
Among the local businesses which received the offers this year and began adding jobs are TimberTech Limited (85 jobs), Custom Molded Products LLC (40 jobs), DealerTrack Inc. (213 jobs), Polaris Industries Inc. (100 jobs), Praxair Distribution Inc. (25 jobs), Cole Taylor Mortgage (140) and Air Transport International Inc. (65 jobs), a subsidiary of Air Transport Services Group Inc (ATSG).
Between the six companies, 668 new jobs are expected to be created with an annual payroll of more than $20 million.
The credits were approved by the Ohio Tax Credit Authority, which acts on suggestions from JobsOhio and its affiliate institutions, which includes the Dayton Development Coalition, of which the City of Wilmington and Clinton County Port Authority are members.
Gov. John R. Kasich came to Wilmington twice to celebrate the announcements.
WILMINGTON COLLEGE ANNOUNCES KETTERING HALL EXPANSION
A modern, multi-million dollar addition to Kettering Hall will be constructed at the Wilmington College campus, college officials announced in April.
In order to finance the addition, the college has secured a loan for $19.7 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development.
Kettering Hall, which was built in 1960, houses the college's agriculture and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs. WC is one of just two institutions in the state which offer a degree in agriculture, with the other being The Ohio State University.
The new, two-story, 15,000 square-foot addition will boast more classrooms and laboratories and will be built into one of the college's grassy areas.
Groundbreaking on the addition is expected to begin January 2014 with construction finished by spring of 2015.
JOSH QUALLEN BREAKS STATE SWIMMING RECORDS
Wilmington High School senior Josh Quallen not only won two state championships, but set new state records in both events during the Division II Ohio State Swimming Championship in Canton in February.
He won the 100-yard butterfly in 47.95 seconds, eclipsing Erik Risolvato's 2012 record of 48.26. Risolvato defeated Quallen in 2012 in the butterfly event.
Quallen then came back and blistered a tough field in the 100-yard backstroke by clocking a 48.92 winning time. That mark erased Austin Quinn's day-old mark of 49.04 set during the preliminary heat.
Quallen won the 200 freestyle in 2011 and 2012 to give him four state swimming championships. He also finished second in the 500 freestyle in 2011 and second in the 100 butterfly in 2012.
Quallen swam in the Olympic Trials last summer in Omaha, Neb. and also was named the Division II Male Swimmer of the Meet for his Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 accomplishments.
He now attends the University of Louisville, where he participates in swimming.
ANIMAL CRUELTY CASE DRAWS REGIONAL ATTENTION
A Goshen man pleaded guilty to four counts of animal cruelty in December after four dead horses and cow carcasses were found on a property on Canada Road in Clinton County in September.
The discovery was made during a routine check as part of the man's probation for animal cruelty charges. Thirteen dead animals were discovered in March on the same property, including cows, goats, alpacas, donkeys and several unknown animals.
Kenneth E. Huffaker, 49, received a stayed jail sentence and a partial fine suspension, was ordered to attend 10 sessions with a psychologist, and must complete probation and finish 100 hours of community service.
Huffaker's attorney, Anthony J. Baker, said in court the Canada Road farm in Clinton County where the animals were kept has been sold, and his client intends to move out of state after completing probation.
WILMINGTON AIR PARK PASSED ON AS UAV TEST SITE
In a decision that surprised local officials, The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced during the last days of 2013 the Wilmington Air Park will not be attest site for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
The air park provided one of three segments of airspace for UAV testing in the Ohio/Indiana proposal. The other two segments involved Springfield, Ohio, air facilities and the Camp Atterbury complex, a training base for the Indiana National Guard in southern Indiana.
The purpose of the designated sites is to conduct test flights as the FAA seeks to safely integrate UAVs with other aircraft in the national airspace.
Air park officials have said in the past that being a test site probably wouldn't itself be a big jobs generator, but that it could help draw entrepreneurs and private companies to the site. The predictions are that the UAV industry is a growth industry, according to many observers.