Ohio's watchdog wants ODOT to better monitor new paving projects
Ohio’s watchdog says there needs to be more safeguards on testing roadways during paving projects. The Ohio Inspector General launched an investigation into the construction company Kokosing after some asphalt core samples taken three years ago from an I-71 project were mislabeled and some came from a different test area. The samples are used to measure pavement density to ensure roads are less susceptible to potholes and cracking. Kokosing says the problems with the samples were the result of an employee error. Further testing showed the asphalt was up to standards. The report from the investigation recommends ODOT revise its procedures to better monitor the testing to reduce the chance of error. ODOT has 60 days to respond to the findings.
School districts given extra week for state testing
Ohio's state superintendent is giving schools an extra week to administer required state achievement tests to third- through eighth-graders due to the effects of severe winter weather that has delayed and canceled classes. Many districts are scrambling to keep pace with classroom topics that students face on the Ohio Achievement Tests starting in April. Superintendent Richard Ross told members of the state school board Tuesday that the testing window will be expanded from three weeks to four weeks, running from April 21 to May 16. The timetable for administering the Ohio Graduation Test has not changed. Many Ohio schools have exhausted their five allowable days off for snow or bad weather. State lawmakers are moving forward with a bill that would allow four additional days away from class this year.
House to vote on calamity day bill
The Ohio House is preparing to vote on a proposal that would let school districts take up to four additional days off this year due to extreme weather. Snowstorms and bitter cold have prompted many districts across the state to exhaust their five allowable calamity days. Some have cancelled classes for 10 or more days. Gov. John Kasich has been among those advocating adding extra snow days on a one-time basis this year. Expected House approval today would send the bill to the Ohio Senate.
Former Akron police captain sues department, says he was framed
A former Akron police captain who was cleared of murdering his ex-wife 15 years after his conviction is now suing the police department. The Beacon Journal reports that Douglas Prade has filed a federal lawsuit claiming he was framed for the murder. It names all the Akron commanding officers and investigators who worked on the case in 1997. Some are still active in the force. The suit says the department took part in a conspiracy to fabricate false reports, manipulate witnesses and destroy evidence. The city of Akron is also named in the case, alleging that city officials allowed the conspiracy to flourish. A year ago, Prade’s conviction was overturned, when new DNA testing cleared him of any connection to a bite on his ex-wife’s body. Akron police officials call the claims ridiculous and outrageous.
One injured, one feared dead after Pa. gas well explodes
A shale gas well near Dunkard, Pennsylvania, 70 miles southeast of Steubenville, exploded Tuesday morning. One worker was hurt and another is feared dead. The fire at the Chevron Corp. well shot flames several stories into the air and prevented authorities from getting closer than 300 yards because of the blistering heat. Chevron flew in a disaster team from Houston to put out the fire. Officials said 19 workers were at the site when the explosion happened and don’t know yet what triggered it.
Suspect in Toledo arson that killed firefighters appears in court
A Toledo apartment building owner accused of setting a blaze that killed two firefighters has made his first appearance in county court and had his bond amount increased. A judge on Tuesday set bond at nearly $6 million for 61-year-old Ray Abou-Arab, up from the original $5 million. Court documents allege Abou-Arab was in a garage at the site of the Jan. 26 fire near downtown Toledo just before an apartment resident said she saw the blaze break out. Firefighters Stephen Machcinski and James Dickman died.
Legislative committee approves early voting bills
A Republican-dominated state legislative committee has approved two bills that would affect early voting. The full House is likely to consider them next week. One bill would eliminate the chance for residents to register to vote and cast an early ballot on the same day. Another would set rules for mailing unsolicited absentee ballot applications. Ohioans can cast an absentee ballot by mail or in person without giving any reason.
Bill to ban e-cigarette sales to kids nears vote
E-cigarettes could soon be banned for kids in Ohio. The Ohio Senate is expected to vote today on legislation that would ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to anyone under 18. It’s already passed the House. The legislation is supported by the tobacco industry as well as anti-smoking groups, although some have expressed concern about classifying e-cigs as an “alternative nicotine product,” meaning their taxed lower than cigarettes. E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that produce a nicotine vapor, as opposed to smoke.
Cuyahoga County to hold college savings workshops
Cuyahoga County is getting the word out about its new college savings program. It gives each kindergarter in the county $100 in a savings account. The program fulfills a charter mandate, costing about $2 million a year. County Executive Ed FitzGerald and Keybank have scheduled financial literacy workshops this month, aimed at helping young parents better understand how the accounts work, how to adjust their spending to save for college and to help kids learn about saving.
Judge dismisses claims against Whirlpool
A federal judge has dismissed some of the claims made against Whirlpool Corp. in a civil lawsuit filed by families whose children have been among dozens sickened in a cancer cluster in western Ohio. The ruling will allow the families to move forward with its lawsuit linking Whirlpool's washing machine factory in northern Ohio to the cancer cases. The judge on Monday dismissed allegations of reckless conduct and fraud along with claims that the cancer cluster hurt property values around the city of Clyde. Michigan-based Whirlpool says the allegations aren't based on scientific or medical fact. The lawsuit says a chemical compound suspected of causing cancer came from the Whirlpool plant near where 35 children have been diagnosed with cancer and three have died since the mid-1990s.
New statistics show number of sexual assaults at Wright-Patterson
Ohio's largest military base has logged 32 alleged sexual assaults in the past three years. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton released the statistics to the Dayton Daily News amid demands in Congress for more transparency by the military in the handling of sexual assaults. The base reported the 32 cases from 2010 to 2013. Statistics showed that seven of the alleged assaults occurred in dormitories, five in military housing and 20 occurred off-base. Fourteen of the reported victims requested prosecution of the alleged perpetrators, while 11 victims did not. Three of the victims recanted the accusations.
Ohio approaching goal of contracts with minority-owned businesses
For the first time, Ohio is approaching its goal of awarding 15 percent of goods and service contracts to minority-owned businesses. The Plain Dealer reports that last year, more than 10 percent of contracts made by cabinet agencies went to minority-owned businesses. Nine agencies surpassed the 15 percent goal, with one topping 45 percent. Democrats are giving Gov. Kasich’s administration credit, but say more work is needed, including making businesses aware of what opportunities are out there and making the application process easier.
Amendment would require driver's education for more new drivers
There’s a new push to require driver’s education for those older than 18. Right now, only new drivers between the ages of 16 and 18 are required to complete the 32 hours of driver’s training. But an amendment to a bill in the Statehouse would require driver’s ed for new drivers up to the age of 20. The bill would also ban nonfamily members younger than 21 from riding with any driver who has had their license less than a year and would also keep probationary drivers off the road after 10 p.m. The current curfew is midnight.
Ohio sets export record for 2013
Ohio is among 16 states that set export records last year. The International Trade Administration says Ohio sold more than $50 billion worth of merchandise overseas. That’s a 4% increase, according to the Toledo Blade. More than 16,500 Ohio companies exported goods last year. The largest market was Canada, receiving about 40 percent of all merchandise exports. Mexico, China and France followed. Nearly $16 billion of Ohio’s exports were in transportation equipment.