Monday, September 28, 2009

Local Organization Thanks Dozens of Volunteers

Jessica Neidhard

It was a night to celebrate with music, food and friends.

Dozens of volunteers from Rural Action gathered at the Eclipse Company Store in The Plains to say goodbye--and celebrate--15 years of service from hundreds of VISTA volunteers.

VISTA volunteers from AmeriCorps will no longer serve Rural Action. Instead they will be working for other organizations around the country.

Rural Action Executive Director Michelle Decker said that although the organization is losing volunteers, it will continue projects to improve sustainability across Southeast Ohio.

The Party

Still, Saturday night was a time for celebration and gratitude.

The evening started with music from The Bob Stewart Band as volunteers and guests arrived. Along one wall was a timeline listing every VISTA volunteer since 1994. There were also photos over the years and a even a mock photo booth where volunteers could take pictures together.

Decker and other Rural Action staff gave out t-shirts during a VISTA game where the audience called out called out answers to questions about the local and national VISTA programs.

Shared Experiences

Former and current VISTA volunteers shared stories of their experiences working on Rural Action projects to improve Appalachia-like planting trees and starting up local farmers' markets.

Most volunteers work for Rural Action for only a year before moving on to another organization but some stayed on two or more years.

Colin Donahue volunteered for two years right after college and said his time at Rural Action was a blessing.

"I got to work for an organization that really helps people and makes a difference," Donahue said.

After serving as a VISTA volunteer some still continued to help the area in other ways like Athens County Commissioner Mark Sullivan.

He served as a VISTA volunteer from 1994 to 1996 working on a new office for Rural Action.

"Though the pay was terrible," Sullivan said. "I enjoyed getting up and going to work each and every day knowing that I, and my fellow VISTAs were making a difference in people's lives and the communities they lived in."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Reasons and Effects of the Athens Water Hike

Brian Boesch

The city of Athens has the legal right to increase the fees required to hook into its water and sewer system, Athens County Common Please Judge Michael Ward ruled this week. There will be a hearing Nov. 17 to decide how much money can be added to the original fees.

The debate began in 2008 when Les Cornwell, the developer who controls Cornwell Realty, filed a lawsuit against the proposed increase. He filed suit after getting a bill for his property, Palmer Place of Athens, well above his normal hook-up water bill.

The money needed has nothing to do with an increase in the volume of water used. Instead, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency told the city that it has to upgrade its water and sewer set-ups.

"It's about a circa-1950 structure there that's been retrofitted a couple times at different technologies," Athens mayor Paul Wiehl said in his weekly news conference Wednesday afternoon. "So we have to anticipate that things are going to cost more and we're going to have to fix them."

Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl discusses the necessary changes to Athens' water and sewer systems

Is Personnel an "Impact" Cost?
The argument in the Cornwell lawsuit is with the reasoning behind the increased water hook-up fees. There was no significant difference in the volume of water used at Palmer Place when Cornwell received the higher bill, according to the Athens News.

However, the city is citing increased personnel costs for future repair as the reason for higher water and sewer hook-up bills.

"Increased cost in terms of personnel, which usually, if you really look at it, is the larger portion of operation, is always going up," Wiehl said.

Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl discusses the personnel costs associated with the water and sewer systems repairs

How the Increased Prices Affect Developers and Buyers
With the economy already struggling, one concern is the effect the water hook-up cost increase will have on development in Athens.

Mayor Wiehl thinks that the challenges for finding available land will deter development more than any water hike.

"It's a fairly small piece of the puzzle," Wiehl said. "It depends on the house you build."

As for buyers and renters, Wiehl says the extra price may eventually be the buyers' or renters' responsibility.

Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl talks about the ramifications for buyers and renters

Les Cornwell and his lawyer Gerald Mollica were unavailable for comment.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Excited About Saving Energy

Max E. Resnik

Athens locals gathered by the dozens at Athens Community Center last night to discuss energy saving costs and inititatives to help the community go green.

The Panelists

Six presentations were given last night in an effort to inform community members about how they can make their home green, what costs include, and where residents of Athens can go to seek grants and state funding. Participants included the Sierra Club, Councilmember Elahu Gosney who represented the Residential Solar Energy Inititative, Athens Gas Aggregation Ballot Inititavtive, Ohio University's Energy Profile, Rural Action and AEP.

The Sierra Club presented audience members with the challenge to understand myths about energy saving initiatives. The club also provided the audience with interactive slides to better understand their message.

The Sierra Club's Ideas

"Business as Usual"

For the Sierra Club, the United States has been practicing "business as usual" when it comes to combating global warming issues. Representatives say business as usual can no longer be the status quo.

U.S. Trends

Business as usual will not be the norm for at least one Athens community member. Seth Crouser has a firm belief in how individuals should manage the energy that they have. He attended the meeting with his roommate in the hope of convincing his landlord to take advatage of the opportunities Athens has for going green. Crouser and his roommate would like their home become energy efficient by using solar panels

Seth Crouser's passion for energy conservation

For more information on each panelist and their proposals, check out these links.

Sierra Club
Residential Solar Energy Initiative
Athens Gas Aggregation Ballot Initiative
Ohio University's Energy Profile
Rural Action

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Businesses Recycle, But Look to City for More

By Craig Reck

The future of Athens' businesses could be much greener with the help of Athens City Council. Most of the bars and restaurants uptown frequented by Ohio University students produce heaps of waste daily. However, much of the waste is glass bottles and cardboard boxes that can be easily recycled.

Athens Uptown Business Association Chairman Thomas explains the uptown problem

Uptown Recycling
Andrew Shooker of the Ohio Enviornmental Protection Agency says that 22 million pounds of waste go to landfills a year, and half of it comes from homes and businesses. Approximately 60% of that half is recyclable material. With that fact in mind, the Athens Uptown Business Association wants to better the recycling outlets for stores around Court Street. Currently, they leave their recyclables on the curb.

This method may seem sufficient, but Josh Thomas, Chairman of the Athens Uptown Business Association, says there could be a better way. "Almost all the members of our business association would like to see the trash and recycling system get better, in one way or another," says Thomas.

City Council Help
For the past three years, the AUBA's approximately 40 members have been working with Athens City Council to find a better recycling method uptown.

AUBA Chairman Josh Thomas explains uptown's biggest concern

Councilmember Elahu Gosney says that curbside pickups can be difficult uptown. "There are things we can do better. We could do things to expand what we collect and how we collect it; long term change," says Gosney. Earlier this year, City Council proposed a centralized recycling center for Court Street Businesses. This would help businesses like Casa Nueva that leave large amounts of recyclables on the curb over night.


Chairman Thomas says that he is optimistic about the progress that is being made, but he realizes that a change this large will not happen over night. Until a plan is finalized, both Thomas and Councilmember Gosney say that the best way to improve recycling uptown is through education awareness.

AUBA Chairman says that improvements will take time

Recycling Tips
To help with uptown's recycling problem, the city of Athens' offers tips for recyclers. To find the various recyling centers for everything from batteries to furniture in your area, use the EPA's database.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hudson Could Overflow During Possible Flu Outbreak

By Pat Henderson

For the last two weeks students going to Hudson Health Center were turned away. Health administrators told Athens MidDay they just didn't have the staff to take care of all the patients. Now many students are asking what this could mean if there is a flu outbreak?

Interim Director of the health center, Jackie Legg, says the Unversity and Hudson are working together on a plan for a potential H1N1 outbreak. Legg says the current staffing situation is circumstantial and things should improve as the quarter goes on, as early as Monday.

The Long Wait
Athens MidDay reporter Jessica Neidhard conducted a field observation at Hudson during the second week of classes. She talked to several students who had been waiting for over an hour. One student waited for two hours to get a prescription for her asthma.

"I could have driven to Marietta and back. Had an appointment there and came back in the time I was sitting there," says fifth year Kerri Conway. "Hudson's always been really iffy. I never choose to go here, but if I have to I will." Conway says she doesn't think Hudson could handle a potential H1N1 outbreak.

Student Kerri Conway speaking about her visit to Hudson

At the end of week two of fall quarter, there were only three providers available to help students which is why the health center had to turn students away.

"When you have X number of providers you know how many patients you can see in a certain time frame," Legg says. Hudson Health Center lost three of seven doctors and nurses this month because of illness, surgery and a military call-up.

What if the Flu Hits?
Interrim director Legg says that if there were a large-scale flu outbreak like the one at Washington State University, Hudson could be overwhelmed.

Jackie Legg speaking about staffing and H1N1

A Plan for H1N1
Hudson administration and Ohio University have been working together on a plan to address the needs of faculty and students in the case of a potential outbreak. One proposed policy is controlling the flow of students into the health center. If students display flu symptoms, they will be directed to a separate waiting room.

Students with the flu will receive instructions and be asked to isolate themselves from others. The University has a website designated for the distribution of information on the H1N1 virus.

Jackie Legg speaking about university plans

Sick students will also receive alternate plans for class work.

"Students are going to be told not to go back to class until they are fever free without treatment," Legg says. "So that might have them be out of class for 4 to 5 days." The provost is working with faculty on developing ways of getting work to students who are sick.

Abigail Clem on her visit to Hudson

Griffen Weisberg on his visit to Hudson

Christine Fram her visit to Hudson

Hudson Health Center expected to be back up to full staff by Monday. Calls to the Health Center to confirm that were not returned Monday morning.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Green Program Saves You Money

Jessica Neidhard

Representatives from the Ohio Treasury are kicking off a listening tour Wednesday night at the Nelsonville Public Library to inform the public about Energy Conservation for Ohioans (ECO-Link), a new green program that helps people save money while conserving energy.

How ECO-Link Can Help You

Through the ECO-Link program, homeowners are able to receive a three-percent interest rate reduction
on qualifying bank loans for five years. Homeowners can also qualify for federal tax credits and other rebates for making energy-efficient improvements, said Stuart Osborne, Southeast Ohio Regional Community Affairs Director for the Treasurer's Office.

"This program is basically about informing Ohioans about how to make their homes more energy efficient and reward them for that effort," Osborne said.

The ECO-Link Listening Tour

Although the program was announced last week, the listening tour is designed to meet people all across Ohio and explain how they make improvements to their home to save energy costs, but also how to qualify for the tax credits, he said.

The nine city tour features different panelists at each location who will answer questions and explain the best ways homeowners can lower their energy costs between 10 and 20 percent, he said.

Stuart Osborne explains who will be on the panel.

Some of those improvements include installing high-efficiency windows and doors or insulating your water heater.

"Another goal of the project is to boost Ohio's economy because (ECO-Link) would create more green, sustainable jobs," he said.

Making the Program Work Across the State

Although the tour will stop in several larger cities, Osborne said the ECO-Link program is for all Ohioans--not just those living in the big cities.

"While people in the city might have higher energy costs, ECO-Link is designed to help everyone save money, no matter where they are living in the state," he said.

Stuart Osborne explains why the tour is kicking off in Nelsonville.

The discussion begins Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Nelsonville Public Library, located at 95 W. Washington Street.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How To Protect Your Family From H1N1

Katie Boyer

While parents see their children off to school with all the proper tools they need to succeed, new items are on this years’ list of necessities. Not only are parents needing to purchase pencils, pens, and paper, they are finding items like disinfecting wipes, tissues, hand sanitizer and hand soap. With the threat of the H1N1 virus becoming greater with fall in full bloom, the community is doing their part to help make the children in Athens County safe and prepared for a possible outbreak.

Chuck Hammer, Athens County Health Department Administrator, urges parents to make sure their children are taking care of themselves by getting a seasonal flu vaccine, keeping up healthy habits, having a responsible diet and getting plenty of rest. Hammer says that the H1N1 virus has a tendency to effect young people more than it does older folks, so it is very important to keep their immune systems healthy.

Chuck Hammer, Athens County Health Dept. Administrator talks about H1N1

Doctors urge parents to teach their children proper hand washing techniques, to cover their mouths when they cough and to try not to touch their faces. Hammer stresses the importance of teaching children to cough or sneeze into a tissue, or into their sleeve. He says that doing so tends to catch any airborne droplets, which allows them to dry out and the virus will die.

The symptoms for the H1N1 virus are not that different from those of the seasonal flu. The symptoms include fever, upperrespiratory problems, cough, lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and feeling achy all over. Patricia Parker, Infection Control Coordinator at O’Bleness Memorial Hospital, says that if a person’s temperature rises uncomfortably high, or if there is any change in behavior, then it is time to seek medical attention.

If a person is feeling the onset of any symptoms of the H1N1 virus, Parker encourages people to eat a nutritious diet, get plenty of rest, wash hands often and practice good personal hygiene. Hammer noted the importance of getting a seasonal flu shot also, stressing the importance of keeping immune systems strong. He explained that the H1N1 virus has no immunity at this time, and if a person is already down with the seasonal flu, then their risk is higher because their immune system is weaker.

The vaccination for the H1N1 virus is currently in the works and according to Parker, it is going to be released on October 15th. The Center for Disease Control is providing the vaccine first to target risk groups including; pregnant women, people from six months to 18 years of age, health care workers, and people with asthma or diabetes.

Patricia Parker, Infection Control Coordinaor for O'Bleness Memorial Hospital explains how to take care of yourself when experiencing symptoms.

The CDC has provided some additional recommendations to keep the community safe and help protect people from contracting the virus. The suggestions include:

· Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

· Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

· Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.

· Be prepared in case you get sick and need to stay home for a week or so; a supply of over-the-counter medicines, alcohol-based hand rubs, tissues and other related items could be useful and help avoid the need to make trips out in public while you are sick and contagious.

· Frequently clean your living quarters. If you live together with other students, you should frequently clean commonly-used surfaces such as doorknobs, refrigerator handles, remote controls, computer keyboards, countertops, faucet handles and bathroom areas.

· Plan to monitor your health by checking for fever and other symptoms of flu.

· Talk with your health care provider if you are at higher risk for complications from flu.

· Update emergency contact lists.

For additional information regarding the H1N1 virus and the vaccination, visit