Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Local art exhibit boosts Athens economy

By Allison Herman

As the summer months inch closer, it is time to start planning summer vacations. However, in this economy, large, extravagant trips far from home are no longer an option for many people. Athens County is benefiting from more people staying close to home and spending less money.

At the Dairy Barn in Athens, their biennial Quilt National exhibit brings thousands of people to the area - and this year is no different. Kathleen Dawson, the Director of Quilt National, says when the exhibit opened to the public this Memorial Day weekend, they had over 800 people show up. Drawing on members of the Athens community and Ohio residents, as well as bringing people from all over the world - tourist attractions like the Dairy Barn help to boost the local economy. Dawson says it is especially helpful for local businesses during the summer months when Ohio University students have gone home for summer break.

Dawson explains the impact The Dairy Barn has on local tourism.

Quilt National 2009 is a collection of 85 quilts by artists from 25 states and 13 countries, and it runs through September 7, 2009. General admission to the show is just $6.00 - which is a cheap alternative to spending a week at the beach. The quilts themselves, however, are quite pricy. The cheapest one is $600, but most fall between $2,000 and $6,000. The most expensive quilt in the show, however, sells for a whopping $22,080. Dawson says to her surprise, the down economy hasn't stopped people from buying the pricy quilts. Opening weekend 7 were sold.

Dawson says the Dairy Barn is working with the county visitor's bureau to bring more Ohioans to the area, keeping them close to home and supporting local vendors, businesses, and attractions.

Dawson talks about bringing people within driving distance to Athens.

The Athens County Convention and Visitor's Bureau works to bring business and tourism to the area. In addition to the Dairy Farm, places like the Hocking Hills and Passion Works are big attractions. Also, events like Ohio Brew Week and Halloween also pull in big numbers of visitors - which means big money for the area.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New Drug Czar in Town

Joe Flannery

Athens County has been facing a drug problem for years, and Sheriff Pat Kelly has made it a point to address this issue.

Sheriff Kelly brought in Esko, a new part of the law enforcement in Athens County.

Esko is a German Shepard recently added to deter the growing drug problem in the area. The dog has paid immediate dividends as she has helped in three drug related stops in less than two weeks on the force.

John Morris, K-9 Handler

The stops were routine traffic stops but with the help of Esko, the officer was able to find marijuana in one stop, and pills in the other. The drug sniffing canine was crucial in the stops since the marijuana in particular was hidden in the trunk above the wheel, a spot hard to uncover for a normal officer.

The new found attention to drugs is something Sheriff Kelly has been advocating since obtaining his position. The hope is that with the help of a canine more drugs can be taken off the streets.

Lieutenant of Operations Bryan Cooper

The big reason for the canine unit is to act as a deterrent for those traveling through Athens County. The presence of a dog is expected to slow down the amount of drug traffic in the area.

This is not the first time Athens County has had a canine on the force. The police department formerly used drug dogs but hasn't employed one in months.

Athens County Sheriff's Police Department is expected to add a second dog in the next few weeks.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Censure: A Faculty Outcry

by: Jake Young

A censure, by definition, is "a strong or vehement expression of disapproval," and "an official reprimand, as by a legislative body of one of its members."

With few other choices, a disgruntled faculty at Ohio University will vote to censure President Roderick McDavis, Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl, and Vice President for Finance and Administration William Decatur at the next meeting of the Faculty Senate on June 12th. The reasoning stems from a new OU Faculty Healthcare Plan that will cost professors approximately $900/year. Faculty Senate member Joseph Slade says, more importantly, it is a breach of the faculty handbook.

Slade on Ignoring the Handbook

Censure, But No Evaluations

In an effort to gain opinions about the president from the faculty, former Faculty Senate Chair Sergio Lopez assembled an anonymous online survey with a variety of questions. Shortly after it was released, the survey was scrapped because of security issues. Lopez said the anonymity of the survey allowed faculty to re-take it multiple times, potentially skewing the results.

Current Chair Joe McLaughlin will release a new survey in the fall, but Faculty Senate member Kenneth Brown says a censure before a survey could cause the survey to reflect the censure result instead of holding honest opinions.

Censure Before Survey: Not Ideal

Public Condemnation

Brown added that the Faculty Senate has no legal rights in its situation, and cannot sue the university or its administration, even though the handbook was clearly violated. Faculty Senate wants to voice its displeasure with the situation, and that brought about the motion to censure.

The censure has no legal power. It is simply a vote of no confidence for President McDavis, Executive Vice President and Provost Kathy Krendl, and Vice President for Finance and Administration William Decatur.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Street Festival Ordinance

by Matthew Cramer

Athens Police
Chief Rick Mayer has proposed a new ordinance that would force Athens residents to acquire a permit for an outdoor stage setup. This ordinance was proposed in reaction to events from the Palmer Street festival on the 9th of May.

With the new ordinance, residents would be required to have inspections not only on the stage but also on their house. The house would be also inspected to make sure it is up to date on fire and electric codes.

Along with inspections of electrical and fire codes, residents would be responsible for providing a set number of port-a-pottys based on the specific permit for the house. Police Chief Mayer says that there are already existing regulations that call for these port a pottys but this ordinance would give more clarification.

Police and firefighters responding to a fire in the middle of the street encountered resistance getting through the street with people blocking all traffic. Once the people were cleared out of the street, large stages in the backyards of houses behind Palmer Street prevented exits onto either Stimson Avenue or Mill Street. With the police moving in one direction down the street, once the students were moved off to the smaller side streets, they were able to move behind the advancing police force and get back onto the main street.

Police Chief Rick Mayer talks about the improved safety measures with the new ordinance

Palmer Street resident Meghan McHugh says the ordinance will be a good thing for future spring festivals. This year Palmer Street residents had the opportunity to go to optional meetings to discuss safety measure for Palmerfest. McHugh says that a mandatory meeting for all residents of Palmer Street that would lay out strict guidelines for Palmerfest would be beneficial.

Meghan McHugh discusses her Palmerfest experience

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Gas Prices and Economic Recovery

by John Kerkhoff

The economic recession has been widespread and detrimental. Nearly every sector of the economy has been hurt and consumers are trying to stretch their dollars.

To add insult to injury, gas prices are going up just in time for the summer driving season. In fact, prices have risen nearly 40 cents in Ohio in only three weeks. Gas prices in Athens are seven cents higher than the national average.

Some economists say that the hike in gas prices is a positive sign for the economy. Rising prices may be an indicator that consumer confidence is improving, and the economy on the whole might be stabilizing.

Some economists say that deflation - falling overall prices - is a sign of economic decline. The price of crude oil fell from nearly $150 per barrel to $33 per barrel in one year. Now, the price of crude is up to about $60 per barrel. This could be a sign that the economy is recovering.

Ohio University economic professor Ariaster Chimeli says that higher gas prices show that consumer confidence is increasing, something that has plummeted during the recession. He also says that a change in consumer demand is more responsible for higher prices than an overall economic recovery.

Ariaster Chimeli Discusses Gas Prices

We all feel the effects of higher gas prices. We'll have to budget differently, spend less on other goods and services and travel less. Some say it is worth paying more if we are able to escape our current woeful situation. But Chimeli says that increasing prices can not be attributed to a recovery. The recovery, he says, is more than just gas prices. He says that higher gas prices in the summer are normal and should be expected, even in a recession.

Ariaster Chimeli Discusses Gas Prices

Chimeli says that people can expect gas prices to rise even higher this summer. He does not expect prices to hit the highs we saw last summer.

The Energy Information Administration agrees with Chimeli that prices will not reach $4 per gallon anytime soon. It says that prices are still below market level and they will gradually rise over the next few years.

According to the EIA, higher prices at the pump indicate a turnaround in at least some sectors of the economy. The EIA says it is uncertain when the recession will end. It says that the downturn is a long-term problem and there is still much that needs to be done before full recovery.

Monday, May 18, 2009

OU Airport to put Stimulus Money in use

by Jonny Griffith

The Ohio University Airport has received $3.15 million as part of the 2009 federal funds from the Recovery and Investment Act, which will be used to make much needed repairs to its terrain. Its runway safety area, which is a piece of real estate which all airports have running parallel to their runways, had a number of discrepencies that had kept it from meeting the latest airport standards.

According to Ken Carley who is the Director of the OU Airport, the dire need for repairs to the runway helped the airport receive the money in a timely manner. Carley says creating safety around the runway is the main goal the airport has with the use of the money.

Director of OU Airport-Ken Carley

Carley also says safety is especially important at airports where student training is taking place, like the OU Airport.

Director of OU Airport

The OU Airport is a general aviation facility without commercial flights. The airport sees around 50,000 operations a year, most of which are training operations involving OU students. The airport has 53 aircrafts, 20 of which are owned by the University, with others belonging to private owners.

Students in the Department of Aviation have to go through a number of steps before they are able to reach the sky. According to senior Matt Dipaola, students are expected to take a quarter of ground school, take a few written exams, take an oral exam on flying specs and complete a certain number of training hours before they are able to fly. Dipaola says that instructors main concern with new students is landing because of the difficulties some students have controlling planes. Getting students to go through checklists, take all safety techniques and scan for air traffic are also important steps that instructors teach students while flying.

According to Dipaola the biggest drawback to the department is the number of fees students are required to pay. Aside from tuition, students have fees that cover aircraft operating costs and fees for instructor training. Due to the high cost of being in this program, Dipoala stresses the importance of student commitment if they're in the program.

Matt Dipaola-Senior Aviation Major

The Ohio University Airport is the biggest general aviation facility in the state and is open to the general public. Carley says anyone is welcome to come to airport and check out how it operates. For a shuttle to the airport click here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Over 200 turn out for HIV/AIDS testing

by Allison Herman

Ohio University's Health Promotions office is helping to get out the word about HIV and AIDS by offering free, anonymous testing. Over 200 OU students, faculty, and administration turned out to get tested for HIV/AIDS Wednesday. However, just because the testing was free of charge, that does not mean the tests themselves were free. Each cheek swab costs about $100. Tammy Norway, an intern with Health Promotions, says the money to do testing like this comes from the Ohio Department of Health. For this event alone, the testing cost over $200,000.

Tammy Norway explains how the tests end up at Ohio University.

Ideally, OU Health Promotions would like to do this testing during HIV/AIDS Awareness month, but it is during the summer month of June, when college students are gone on summer vacation. Regardless of the time of the year, Norway says getting out the information is extremely important.

Tammy Norway says events like this are important, especially for
college students.

For OU Freshman Allison Maloney, getting tested was a no-brainer. However, she chose to go the confidential route instead of anonymous. Anonymous testing means your name is never used, you are only referred to as a number. With confidential, your name is used on official documents and would be visible to doctors and insurance companies.

Allison Maloney explains why getting tested is important to her.

The cheek swabs are 98.6% accurate, and even though they run $100 a swab, they
are a much cheaper and quicker alternative to blood tests.
Other testing sites around Athens include Hudson Health Center and Planned Parenthood.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Students React to Palmerfest Brutality

Mary Davies

In the aftermath of the near-riot at Saturday’s Palmerfest, the police are reviewing pictures and videos to identify unruly students.

Athens Police Chief Rick Mayer says they are using media from the incident to look for students breaking the law. However, the Athens Police Department declined to comment further on the investigation. Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi said that while the University does not have the man power to hold their own investigation, they will comply with the APD to help identify students if possible.

Dean of Students, Ryan Lombardi

Many Ohio University students are opposed to the idea of reviewing footage with the intent of identifying students. Jesse Dambrovia and Chris Locke, along with other students, said that “what’s done is done.”

Jesse Dambrovia, Resident 118 Mill Street

Chris Locke, Palmerfest Attendee

However, the APD are not the only ones who have rights. Students who complain of the police brutality they experienced can do something about it. According to the APD, if a student wants to file a complaint about police brutality, they can stop in at the station to pick up the necessary paperwork.

What Students Saw

The Post newspaper reported that several students felt that the police used unnecessary force in trying to restore order to Palmer and Mill streets. David Gold, a resident of 134 Mill, said that at one point during the chaos, police demanded that he clear his porch and then began pushing people into the house.

"The last guy, the last cop, pushed me into my house and slammed the door," Gold said, adding he tried to move everyone inside as fast as he could. "I lived here last year and it was nothing like this."

Sarah Meadema, a junior healthcare administration major, said that a mounted police officer ran someone into the bushes outside her house.

"The police, there's no reason for the violence they're doing. They beat a kid with a club for no reason at all.”

Chris Grimaldi, a senior MIS and marketing major, said that he witnessed police rip a screen, break a window and knock over a speaker.

Rebecca Rak, an OU student, left a comment on The Post’s website describing what she witnessed. She described a scene where a girl was backed into a tree by a mounted officer. The girl was crying and had nowhere to go. Then a male stepped in to help her.

“Finally, a young man stepped in and asked the officer to leave her alone, because she was scared and trying to leave. Granted, the guy had to yell in order for the officer to hear him, but it in no way was in a threatening manner. Next thing I know, I see the young man being wrestled and clubbed to the ground by not one, not two, not three, but FOUR officers, and one of them saying, ‘B**** had her chance to leave.’”

What I Saw

I also witnessed the events take place from the roof of my house at 136 Mill Street . Around midnight, the festivities on Palmer Street were dying down but parties on Mill Street were really picking up. Students were partying in the street, taking up at least one full lane of traffic.

The trouble started when mounted police rushed the yard of 123 Mill Street , where a large party was taking place. The mounted police chased students all the way to the backyard. Then riot police with nightsticks forced students off of the street and sidewalks.

The riot police hit students with sticks as they tried to run away. Someone at 134 Mill also came outside and witnessed an officer continuously hitting a student with a nightstick. When the 134 Mill resident said, “Is that really necessary?”, the officer charged onto the porch.

Dambrovia, another Mill Street resident, is currently wearing a brace on his foot. He explained that a mounted officer actually ran him over in his own yard, causing him to seek treatment from O’Bleness Memorial Hospital.

According to the APD, no complaints have been filed against Athens Police Officers. However, Dean Lombardi says he is meeting with students who have concerns about how law enforcement officials handled the situation.

See For Yourself

Student recorded video of Palmerfest. (Taken from YouTube)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Aftermath of Palmer Fest

by Malcolm Morgan

The spring fest season is a time when Ohio University students as well as Athens residents can enjoy springtime in Athens. But this weekend Palmer Fest went from an enjoyable experience to pandemonium.

Late on Saturday night some congregants at Palmer Fest began lighting fires. Forty officers in riot gear were sent once the fires were reported on Palmer Street. As police put out that blaze, another fire was started. Ohio University Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi, says that local law enforcement was outnumbered compared to party goers. He also says the police acted appropriately.

Ryan Lombardi on Police Presence

Even though Lombardi commended the lack of police intervention, residents of Palmer Street, including Kristin Hascher were concerned about the lack of police presence.

Kristsin Hascher on Police Presence

When the police did intervene in the activities they were met with hostility from attendees. Bottles were thrown at police, and the danger was not limited to people. Five horses were also injured during the altercations.

After all of the excitement on Saturday, cigarette butts, cans, Solo cups, and other trash littered Palmer Street. Palmer Street residents spent much of their Sunday and also parts of Monday cleaning up. Some residents of Palmer Street want to keep their street clean and did not participate in the activities of the weekend. Residents like Hascher belive the problem lies with people that are not living in Athens.

Resdient talks about Out of Town Guests

Ohio University, is unsure whether future measures will be taken by the school that will affect the rest of the spring fest season or whether Palmer Fest will be adjusted in the future.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Habitat for Humanity Helps Athens County

By Katie Meyers

Athens County's Habitat for Humanity is raising funds to give a home to someone in need. They held a rummage sale last Saturday at Christ the King Parish Center to raise money to help build their 24th house.

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit Christian housing ministry. Habitat builds and fixes houses through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials. Habitat for Humanity's work is accomplished at the community level by affiliates, including the Athens County Chapter.

The latest Athens County housing project is for Darrick and Ashley Wires of Albany. They live with their three daughters in a dilapidated trailer in the back of Darrick's parent’s house. The Wires applied to the program with encouragement from family, and were approved by the coalition last September. The construction of the house is currently underway. Some of the proceeds from Saturday's rummage sale will go towards this project. This is the eighth year the Athens chapter has been hosting rummage sales. They have always generated a lot of attention from the community.

Lori Johansen talks about the success of the rummage sales.

George Bain talks about how the rummage sale has evolved.

Habitat houses are sold to families at no profit and financed with affordable loans. Since its creation in 1976, Habitat for Humanity International has built more than 300,000 houses around the world, providing more than 1.5 million people with shelter.

Habitat for Humanity is always looking for volunteers and donations to help out their organization. The Athens County chapter is selling blank notecards to those who want to help out.

Lori Johansen talks about the benefits of donations.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bonus Features Key to CatMail

by Jake Young

Days are numbered for Ohio University Webmail as CatMail prepares its takeover. A look at the CatMail website proclaims, "CatMail is Coming!" and that leaves many questions for students and faculty regarding just what makes the change worthwhile for OU users.

Reasons for Change

Until now, users of OU's OAK email system have used the webmail or Mulberry email systems, and both have frequently been criticized for not having enough user friendly features, prompting many users to forward their emails to other hosts. Students like sophomore Robert Nyerges are the type of student that CatMail is targeting.

Outside Email Popular Among Students

The Features

Office of Information Technology Communications Manager Sean O'Malley said the main reason for choosing the CatMail system is the vastly improved features that are offered. A rundown of the new features include:

• 10 GB of inbox memory (webmail has 100 MB)
• a 25 GB "Sky Drive" where users can post documents and files and access them anywhere where a web connection is available
• 5 GB of Microsoft Office storage for collaborative work on group projects
• a personal calendar feature that can synch with iPhones and other Windows Mobile devices
• increased anti-spam and virus protection

O'Malley's goal is to offer students an email system that can compete with the online opposition, and to do it in a cost-saving manner.

Improved Product with Improved Cost

According to O'Malley, one of the best features of CatMail is the ideally seamless transition. In order to switch accounts, the user should be able to log-in using their existing email address, and the existing messages in webmail or Mulberry will move to CatMail, finishing the transition.

For current students, the transition will happen alphabetically between May 13 and May 21, and for alumni, the transition will be June 1. Because of contract limitations, OU faculty will not be making the transition at this time.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Swine Flu Increases Local Business

By: Joe Flannery

A small company born out of Athens has seen a recent increase in its productivity.

Diagnostic Hybrid Inc. (DHI), located in the State Side Technology Park on East State Street, is providing a test for the H1N1 virus or more commonly, the swine flu, in most of the country. DHI is now operating at four times its capacity in what normally would be a down time for the company.

With the recent scare from swine flu, residents from Athens and around the country are looking for ways to get tested for the virus. “I know if I should any symptoms of the flu. I’m going to get tested," says one Athens resident.

David Scholl, President & CEO Diagnostic Hybrids

Nearby residents are in luck, DHI supplies over 700 hospitals and provides for many of the major players in the business. The recent outbreak has forced the company into overdrive with many of its employees working more hours of overtime.

Excess Overtime

The shipping process has required all hands on deck now for the past two weeks. The process forces employees to have trucks loaded to be shipped at eight every morning. The tests are then sent to respective hospitals not only in the state, but across the country.

DHI just finished its normal busy season over the winter, but has had to adapt to the outbreak. The company has been able increase production so far and continues to do so as the extent of the outbreak is unknown.

The swine flu is a form of Influenza A and is tested the same way. If one is positive for Influenza A the sample is then sent to the CDC to further test for the H1N1 strand.

DHI is currently in the process of developing a new test of Graves’s disease as well. The test will be the first of its kind and is only pending FDA approval.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Alpaca Farming: A Thriving Ohio Business

By Allison Herman

While Ohio is more commonly known as the Buckeye State, you may be surprised to know that it is also the Alpaca capitol of the United States. More Ohioans are getting in on the Alpaca farming business with good reason - it is incredibly profitable.

Kittle explains the different ways to sell Alpaca fleece.

Keith Kittle is an Alpaca farmer in Athens County. He started Pleasant Hill Alpaca Farm three years ago. "Other livestock don't have the profit potential that alpacas do," Kittle said.
By day he is an instructor at Hocking College, but after a long day of work, he still finds time to care for his animals.

Kittle talks about a day in the life of an Alpaca Farmer.

The profit potential with Alpacas is two-fold. Kittle breeds and raises the furry animals for sale, as well as for their fleece. With just about 100,000 Alpacas in the United States, the animals are in high demand. The average Alpaca sells for between $10,000 and $20,000. Kittle owns 12.

The animals are shorn once a year and their hair is sent to a processor to be strung into yarn. While the hair is processed in West Virginia, Kittle sells the yarn locally at The Tattered Corner in Athens.
Alpaca farming can be a profitable business, but it is not recession-proof. Kittle says Alpaca farming has been hit - just as every other industry is affected by the down economy.

Kittle explains how Alpaca farming has been hurt by the economy.

Profit is not the only reason to farm Alpacas. Kittle says his huggable investment is kid friendly too. He has two young daughters, and he trusts the animals to play with his children.
To buy the finished product, you can visit The Tattered Corner, located at 18 Station Street in Athens.

For more information about the Alpaca breeding industry in Ohio visit the The Ohio Alpaca Breeders Association's website.