april, johnstown, johnstownindependent, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews

Johnstown council might vote to abolish income-tax credit

By DEBBIE GILLUM
Monday April 13, 2015 12:28 PM

Johnstown Village Council on April 21 is expected to decide whether to eliminate the village’s income-tax credit for residents who pay income taxes to another municipality.

Johnstown’s tax rate is 1 percent for all residents who live and work in Johnstown. The rate is 0.5 percent for residents who work in and pay taxes to another municipality, according to village finance director Dana Steffan.

If council approves, the credit elimination could take effect as soon as May 21 and generate an estimated $123,500 to the village in 2015, according to information from the Regional Income Tax Agency. According to RITA’s figures for 2016 and beyond, the elimination would bring in an estimated $247,500 annually.

Village Manager Jim Lenner said the increase in revenue would be used for such projects as the Raccoon Creek pedestrian bridge, which was approved April 1 at a cost of $380,000 to the village.

Steffan said she wasn’t sure how many residents would be affected by the credit elimination but that she’s working with RITA to get more information.

Charter municipalities determine the manner in which income taxes and credits may be changed. In many municipalities, residents vote on changes. In others, councils decide.

Johnstown’s charter doesn’t specifically spell out council’s authority to adjust or rescind a tax credit, Steffan said, but it doesn’t state a vote of residents is required either.

“We have discussed the matter with our legal counsel, and we are certain to follow the letter of the law in all matters,” she said.

Johnstown’s tax rate is one of the lowest the area, she said.

For comparison, Granville’s tax rate is 1.5 percent, with a 75-percent credit on income taxes paid to another municipality.

A public hearing regarding Johnstown’s ordinance was held April 7, and no residents spoke about the issue.

Council’s April 21 meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in council chambers, 599 S. Main St.

2015, april, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

Board awards bids for summer construction

By DEBBIE GILLUM
Wednesday April 15, 2015 12:44 PM

The Westerville Board of Education unanimously voted to approve four bid packages for summer capital improvement projects at its regular meeting Monday, April 13.

Jeff LeRose, the school district’s director of facilities, told the board that 16 total bids were received and when the lowest most responsible bids were selected, the projects came in 39 percent under budget.

“These are all projects that need to be completed in order to make sure the buildings are conducive for their intended use,” LeRose said.

Work on the projects will start the day after students leave for summer break and will be completed by the time they return this fall.

Capital City Electric will complete electrical work at Whittier Elementary School and Central and South high schools, for a total cost of $142,300. These electrical updates will allow the district to be eligible for energy rebates.

The company 2K General will complete masonry work at Emerson Elementary School for $29,500.

LeRose told the board that the district has worked with Capital City Electric and 2K General in the past but has not worked with the company Rezod, which won two other bids for summer improvement projects.

He said all contractors go through a rigorous post-bid interview and that district officials are comfortable moving forward with Rezod.

“When bids come in under budget, we like to make sure the contractors understand the project and are still able to comply with our quality and schedule needs,” said LeRose.

Rezod won the bid for interior painting work at Annehurst Elementary School and exterior painting at Robert Frost Elementary School, for a total cost of $58,150.

Rezod also won the bid for restroom plumbing work at Hawthorne and Whittier elementary schools for a total cost of $45,500. This would replace the current floor-mounted urinals with wall-mounted urinals.

In other news:

The board recognized Westerville South High School’s boys varsity basketball team, which finished the season as Division I state runners-up, and Westerville North’s state swim champion, senior Mason Miller.

Nine exemplary employees also were honored with the Superintendent’s A+ Award:

• Sandy Bundesen, first-grade teacher, McVay Elementary School;

• Jill Fogel, intervention specialist, Whittier Elementary School;

• Jodi Dixon, clerk, Emerson Magnet School;

• April Thomas, secretary, Emerson;

• Amy Van Sickle, guidance counselor, Walnut Springs Middle School;

• John Sands, seventh-grade history teacher, Blendon Middle School;

• Scott Delligatti, science teacher, Genoa Middle School;

• Sandy Jones, clerk, Huber Ridge Elementary School; and

• Susan Pennell, food services, Westerville South High School.

2015, april, play, snow white, theatre, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

‘Snow White’ is North’s first children’s play

Wednesday April 15, 2015 12:46 PM

The Westerville North Theatre Department this week is presenting its first children’s theater show, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Showtimes are set for 7 p.m. today and Friday, and 2 p.m. Saturday, April 16-18.
The play is not just the 1938 Disney movie performed on stage, but rather it is a comedic interpretation of the well known fairy tale written by the Brothers Grimm in 1812, said director Kim Mollohan.
The show was adapted by William Goldsmith, artistic director of Columbus Children’s Theatre and Mollohan.
“Bill and I are great friends. Originally, the script was written for a touring group of four, but he gave me permission to rewrite the script to expand the cast up to 12,” Mollohan said.
The show does include many of the original characters; however, the dwarfs’ names have been changed to avoid Disney copyright infringement.
For example, instead of Doc, Happy and Dopey the audience will meet “Bo-Bo,” “Be-Be,” and “Tu-Tu.”
In some scenes, the students “break the fourth wall” by directly interacting with the audience or breaking out of character.
“It’s a nice deviation from previous plays we’ve done and this way, each show is different every night,” said senior Sarah Bright, who plays Snow White.
In one scene, characters start to sing a song from the Disney movie but senior Dalton Reyburn, who plays Bo-Bo the dwarf, interrupts the song and tells them they are violating Disney copyright laws.
Since the show is North’s first children’s show, the actors needed to learn how to perform for younger audiences.
“With children, everything needs to be constantly fun and more animated in order to hold their attention,” said senior Emma Dumford, who plays the dwarf Be-Be. “We are incorporating a lot of audience participation, kind of like in Dora the Explorer, where every time we say the word ‘forest,’ the audience makes bird noises.”
Audience members even will have the opportunity to participate on stage, if they are lucky enough to be selected to star in the role of the “handsome prince.”
The previous theater production at North, Hello Dolly!, ended in mid March, and with state testing and spring break, the cast found it challenging to pull together a new show so quickly.
“We had a lot of long nights of rehearsals, like sometimes where we would stay until 9 p.m. and we had to do most of the memorization on our own,” Bright said.
Mollohan said the show is fun for the whole family and great for all ages.
“It’s a really funny show. During our first read-through of the script, the cast was constantly laughing,” she said. “I think fans of the Snow White story will appreciate our modern take on the classic.”
As an added bonus, a “Dine with the Dwarfs” will take place on Saturday before the 2 p.m. matinee.
“This is a great opportunity to get to know the dwarfs,” said Mollohan.
The cost of “Dine with the Dwarfs” is $5 per person, which includes lunch and photo opportunities before the show. Reserve your seat by emailing vestal@denison.edu by Thursday, April 16.
For Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs general admission tickets are $6. For additional ticket information, contact: birtchea@westerville. k12.oh.us.
2015, april, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

Volunteers of all ages help young readers at Wilder

Read it on ThisWeekNews.com 

Wednesday April 8, 2015 12:39 PM

Senior citizens, church members and even home-schooled students are volunteering their time to help Wilder Elementary School children improve their reading skills.

Through the Pioneer Pals program, members of the Westerville Senior Center come to the school on their own, at various times, and help read one-on-one with first-graders.

Senior Center member Lloyd Kuschner said he helped launch the program when he read about how many children are struggling with reading.

“I thought about how the seniors are an untapped treasure and would be able to help these students,” he said.

In the summer of 2014, Kuschner met with Wilder Principal Victoria Hazlett, and the program supervisor at the Westerville Senior Center, to discuss initiating the program that fall.

“When we asked for volunteers, we expected maybe 10 to show up. But 30 people came to the first meeting,” he said.

One of the volunteers, Mary Sue Blevins, said she has been working with the same student since the beginning of the school year and is starting to see progress.

“I always come on Wednesdays and work with William. He has some struggles but I can tell he’s doing better. It’s been a slow process but I’ve really enjoyed it,” she said.

The Pioneer Pals hopes to branch out their volunteering to other schools in the future.

Kim Wickham, an instructional coach at Wilder, said sometimes in the classroom, struggling readers can hide in the back of the room or they might not be reading at home.

But, with tutoring like this, they can get the help they need, meet an adult role model and have fun while learning, she said.

First-grade teacher Kate Stenger said she loves the program because she knows her students are spending time reading one-on-one.

“With over 25 students in my classroom, I can only read with them in groups,” she said. “With the volunteers, it’s been so beneficial to all of our kids. It provides extra support for them and helps them go farther in their reading.”

In addition, a group of members of the Grace Polaris Church volunteer during their lunch breaks to read with students.

Church member Allison Jenkins said she comes to Wilder on her lunch break and meets with second-grader Christopher Litteral. They sit in the library as he stacks Fritos onto his peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Jenkins reads a chapter book aloud to him, asking him questions along the way.

“Now, do you remember why this character is called ‘Cam’?” she asks.

“Because he likes cameras!” Christopher answers.

Jenkins said she really enjoys getting to know the students and watching their reading improve.

“We always assume someone else is going to volunteer and we think we are too busy,” she said. “But, I made a commitment to help Christopher and so now I arrange my work schedule so I can honor that commitment.”

The volunteers’ sacrifices do not go unnoticed by school staff.

“The generosity of their time and talent is so amazing and inspirational. They are such lovely people to give themselves to us like that,” Wickham said.

The Rev. Dustin Speaks, pastor at Grace Polaris, tutors second-grader Brianna Slone. He recently helped her read the American Girl book she received for Christmas.

The girl reminds Speaks that, “I’m really good at reading. In first grade, I was bad at reading. But now I just finished reading the bonus words for second grade.”

Together, they read slowly down the page of her book, pausing to point out mispronunciations.

Speaks also helps a fourth-grade student who recently moved to America. He helps him with reading and they also do activities such as counting plastic coins to help him learn American currency.

Even home-schooled students, such as freshman Danny Coffy, help Wilder students with their reading.

“I started volunteering last semester and it’s a lot of fun,” Coffy said. “Now, the student I’m working with is reading fluently and has almost read every book in his grade level.”

Wickham said no matter who the volunteer is, the goal is to build a relationship and read together. “We want students to learn to enjoy reading and also be able to read a book at their level one-on-one with their volunteer there to support them.”