Environmental group: Lake Erie beaches worst in nation
An environmental group says Lake Erie beaches in Ohio were the worst in the nation last year for water quality. The annual report from the Natural Resources Defense Council on coastal beaches ranked Ohio last based on how many times E. coli bacteria posed a health threat to swimmers at Lake Erie's 61 public beaches. The Columbus Dispatch reports that in 2012, E. coli was detected in 21 percent of beach water tests. That was down only slightly, from the 22 percent in 2011. The Ohio Department of Health says sewage overflows, failing home septic systems and feces from geese and gulls contribute to bacteria contamination.
State redirects $19 million to schools to offset federal budget cuts
The Ohio Department of Education says the state is redirecting $19 million to help school districts offset federal budget cuts. Ohio Superintendent Richard Ross announced Monday that $11 million in unused federal funds will go for special education and another $8 million for Title 1 math and reading intervention programs. The money is coming from untapped special project funds and money that had been awarded to now-closed charter schools. Ross said school districts had been making preparations for the triggering of the automatic spending cuts under federal sequestration. But he said Ohio wanted to minimize the impact. Overall, Ohio's federal support to K-12 education will be cut roughly $66 million, or more than 5 percent. Monday's reallocation takes the percentage cut to 3.6 percent on average.
Ohio schools still assessing impact from loss of property tax break
Ohio school districts are assessing the impact from the loss of a property tax break for homeowners who pay future local tax levies. The $62 billion, two-year spending blueprint signed Sunday by Gov. John Kasich eliminates a combined 12.5 percent state property-tax rollback on new and replacement levies passed in November 2013 and beyond. The effective tax break to property owners on levies they pay to local school districts, libraries, mental health agencies and other government entities would still be applied to renewals of existing levies. Lawmakers in favor of the change said most Ohioans weren't aware of the state help and the change will save the state $35 million. Beneficiaries of the rollback say the higher price tag could prevent voters from supporting future levies.
Turner launches Sec. of State bid
A fiery state senator from Cleveland has launched a campaign to unseat Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted next year. Democrat Nina Turner announced her decision Monday at an event in Cleveland. Joined by community and elected officials, Turner said she wants to assure all votes are counted. Turner has been a state senator since 2008 and is known for the passionate style of her floor speeches. Before that, she was the first black woman to represent Ward 1 on the Cleveland City Council. She faces an uphill battle against Husted, a well-funded Republican who's previously served as a state senator and Speaker of the Ohio House.
Davis-Besse plant to remain shut down for weeks
Operators of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant say it likely will remain shut down for a couple weeks for repairs. FirstEnergy says that the Davis-Besse plant east of Toledo along Lake Erie was shut down suddenly Saturday night. Workers identified a problem with wiring connected to the motor for one of the plant's four reactor-coolant pumps. The spokeswoman says there are no safety problems or threat to the public. Workers just want to make sure it's fixed before the plant is started back up. Electric customers should see no change in their service as a result of the shutdown.
State directs $3 million to help kids with mental illness
Ohio officials are directing $3 million in federal funds this year to community projects aimed at helping young people at risk of harming themselves or others because of a mental illness or developmental disability. The grants will support crisis intervention, family mentoring and screening programs along with other services in 20 counties. The state is using $250,000 in federal money this fall to train child welfare workers, school employees and others in first aid and trauma-related approaches. Officials said Monday that they hope to build off the use of the one-time money.
State launches new arson registry
People convicted of arson-related offenses in Ohio will have to register annually with local authorities under a new law in effect beginning this week. Ohio joins the few states that require convicted arsonists to register with authorities. Officials hope it will help solve more cases, deter repeat offenses and prevent deaths and property damage. The law applies to people convicted of such offenses in Ohio or elsewhere. It doesn't include those who already completed their sentences. The registry won't be public record. It will be funded by registration fees.
Former caretaker who stole from Longaberger mansion gets six years
A former caretaker of a mansion owned by the Longaberger Co.'s CEO has been sentenced to six years in prison for stealing $1.5 million from the basket company heiress. Fifty-three-year-old Douglas Thompson had pleaded guilty in March in Zanesville to one count of aggravated theft for stealing from Tami Longaberger, CEO of the Newark-based basket-making company. He has also agreed to pay Longaberger restitution. Thompson was caretaker of Longaberger's $10 million, 200-acre eastern Ohio estate from 2002-2011. Prosecutors said the thefts occurred when he was managing her personal finances.
Ancient artifacts stolen from Miami University
Officials at Miami University say someone broke into a classroom and stole $10,000 worth of ancient artifacts. The items – some 4,000 years old -- included a Neolithic flint dagger from Denmark and several Aztec artifacts. They were taken from a locked glass cabinet last week. A local philanthropist had collected the items from the 1920s to 1940s and donated them to the university in 1959. University police are investigating.