Sunday, February 28, 2010

Time to get serious about the bank robberies?

I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that in the worst recession since the Great Depression bank robberies would be on the rise.

What is surprising, to me at least, is the fact that financial institutions in Dover-New Philadelphia seem to have become an easy mark.

And what also is surprising is that neither the police chief in New Philadelphia nor the one in Dover have jumped on the issue to reassure the public. (At least I have found no evidence in the local media that they have.)

By my count, there have been a half-dozen or so bank robberies in the last year in Dover-New Philadelphia, including the last one on Feb. 25. The routine is similar. A man walks into the financial institution, hands a note to a teller, who then hands over the cash. The robber flees and is gone before the police arrive.

A former law enforcement officer told me that Dover and New Philadelphia police departments ought to be working together to help solve these robberies. He suggested a task force, of sorts, that would work undercover and in plain clothes, visiting financial institutions in both cities during hours of operation.

Of course it would just be easier to let the FBI handle the situation. Or would it?

In 2008, the last year for which statistics are available, there were more than 6,000 bank robberies in the U.S. (Clink on the link for the FBI's take on bank robberies.)

Given that fact, I think the FBI would welcome some kind of extra effort from our local police departments.

Fortunately, there have been no violent incidents connected with the heists in Dover-New Philadelphia -- no shoot-'em ups, no hostages, no out-of-control high speed chases.

At least not yet.

Be careful out there, folks.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Saving Atwood Lake Resort

The relatively small number of people who offer comments at the bottom of posted stories on a certain newspaper's Web site are as predictable as Ohio weather in February.

One guy ends most of his comments with "How do you like change so far?"

Gimme a break.

He's part of the same group of people who are willing to affix blame for any or all of our woes to any sitting body of government or political party.

On the hot seat currently is the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, which is looking for a buyer or some other solution to its red-ink-stained Atwood Lake Resort and Conference Center.

The comments offered by John Q. and/or Sally K. Citizen make one wonder if these people actually have any friends who want to be around them. My God, they are negative.

Here's the deal with the resort and it's simple really: Times have changed.

That's it, over and out.

It's kind of like the old Richfield Coliseum that was constructed in the '70s and was gone before the end of the century after the Cleveland Cavaliers were coaxed back downtown.

The coliseum, halfway between Cleveland and Akron, seemed like a good idea at the time. Apparently no one considered that it was in the middle of the secondary snow belt and that most NBA games are played when the weather is lousy. And when it was vacated, no one wanted it.

In 2009, the occupancy rate at Atwood was a hair more than 30 percent. That's horrible and it means that from Labor Day to Memorial Day the place is virtually empty.

It loses thousands of dollars every year.

What happened?

We've changed, i.e. people who take vacations have changed, companies that needed a place to meet have changed and brides who are looking for reception halls have changed.

Meanwhile, Atwood Lake Resort, except for some room upgrades, has pretty much stayed the same.

And it's not the fault of the MWCD board of directors, which has studied the numbers and concluded that it is time to change course.

Atwood competes with a number of similar properties at our Ohio state parks. Their occupancy rate in 2008 was 45 percent, which is a little better but not much. And all of them need taxpayer money to survive.

The resort hotels at our state parks and at Atwood were popular once upon a time. And like so many other places and things that we took for granted, now they are not. They are money pits. Public money pits. Taxpayer money pits.

Nothing is forever. And like it or not, change is constant. Ask the folks in Las Vegas.

The Sahara, the Sands, the Desert Inn -- all gone to wrecking balls everyone. And in their place, something newer and better.

I hope the MWCD can find a buyer with deep pockets. That's what it will take to save or reinvent the place.

Wait a minute. There's an idea -- Atwood Lake Casino and Wedding Chapel!

OK, I'm kidding. Relax.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oh, for the love of a plow and '30 Seconds' too

UPDATE: Thursday, Feb. 18: E. 12th St. east from Crater Ave. is now rut-free, thanks to the hard work of city plow operators over the last 24 hours. I can't speak for everyone, but I suspect the neighborhood appreciates the effort.

* * *

OK, I know that this might sound like whining or sour grapes or something, but don't count me among those handing out kudos to the city of Dover for its snow removal strategy.

I know we've had an incredible amount of snow over the last couple of weeks and that salt is expensive and hard to get and all that.


While the main streets are clean, many of the sidestreets are nearly impassable. Case in point: E. 12th St. east of Crater Ave. into Becker Creek, a relatively new housing subdivision. Navigating E. 12th St. from that point has to be a lot like driving a Humvee on the moon. Look out for the icy ruts and pray they don't damage your tires.

I don't want to belabor the point, but I am thankful that I have a four-wheel drive vehicle at my disposal. It helps.

* * *
"30 Seconds" was back in the news recently as the newspaper wanted new input on whether it should keep it or lose it.

A little history: "30 Seconds" can trace its roots to a similar feature in the Trentonian daily newspaper in Trenton, N.J. I don't remember what the Trentonian's version was called -- probably something like "Sound Off" -- but it was touted as a feature that all Journal Register Co. newspapers might employ.

Purists didn't like the feature because it allowed callers to remain anonymous. But at the time -- I believe it was 1991 -- talk radio was becoming wildly popular and callers obviously remained anonymous. What was the difference?

The Trentonian set aside a specific time and day for callers to phone in their "whines" to feature. A clerk would transcribe the comments.

Because The T-R never had the luxury of clerks sitting around and waiting for something to do, we employed an answering machine. The comments would be transcribed when it was possible.
We called it "30 Seconds" as a subliminal suggestion to readers to keep it short.

As we were setting up the feature, one of our editors proclaimed that it wouldn't work, that no one would call. Obviously, he was wrong.

The key to "30 Seconds" success has always been careful editing. While one editor selects the comments for publication, at least one or two other editors also would read the final offerings and strike those comments that would be considered cheap shots or mean-spirited.

Some comments got through that shouldn't have and I'm sure that's true today.

What was fascinating to me was how "30 Seconds" was taken so seriously by politicians and officeholders. My advice to offended public servants was to get a thicker skin. "30 Seconds" was the least of their worries.

"30 Seconds" will run its course eventually. You can bet that most of the comments today are coming from older readers, who unfortunately will fade in due time.

See you next time.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pics from Danny's event

Sherri Douglas was kind enough to send some photos of the fundraising event held Saturday to benefit Danny Jeandervin. Sorry, I don't have any caption info. The spaghetti dinner was held at the Masonic Temple.
And here's a link to even more photos.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Helping those in need: Danny, Larry

Sources tell me that Saturday's benefit spaghetti dinner and silent auction for Danny Jeandervin, the Dover High junior who was injured last month in a sledding accident on Deis Hill, was a huge success.
Danny remains in Aultman Hospital in Canton. He was seriously injured when his sled struck a tree.
Since then, the Dover community again has come together to take care of someone in need.
If you have photos from Saturday's event, or additional details, please send them to me at and I'll post them here.
Also, a carryout chicken dinner benefit will be held Super Bowl Sunday -- before the game -- at Fundays for Larry Williams, who is awaiting a heart transplant.

Remember the "Catcher" controversy?

The death of "The Catcher in the Rye" author, J.D. Salinger, has brought the controversial book back to the forefront.

Two years ago, controversy over whether high school students should read the book erupted when a minister publicly questioned whether it should be part of Dover's curriculum.

I wrote about the issue in a commentary, which attracted more than 80 comments from readers. You can revisit that column here.

* * *
U.S. Rep. Zack Space of Dover says he's against the Senate version of the health care reform bill and wrote a letter to House leadership, decrying the favors afforded to states such as Nebraska.

That letter is available here.

To reiterate, I think the issue should be shelved and revisited later after the economy recovers. The debate, I believe, has forced many companies to put hiring plans on hold because they are uncertain of new and additional costs.

* * *
People who believe there are simple new uses for old facilities in our region are naive.

Take, for example, Atwood Lake Resort and Conference Center or the county home.
The resort does fine in the warm weather months. But take a drive to the lake now and count the cars. There won't be many.

If they have money for getaways, vacationers want warm weather and/or trendy cold weather spots. Sorry, folks, east-central Ohio doesn't make the cut in January.
The county home? No matter what alternative use you'd pick for it, you'd have to have deep pockets to get the project done. And in this uncertain economy, no one is quite willing to pull the trigger.

The county commissioners have decided to reject a much-lower-than-expected bid on the project and sit on the facility until economic conditions improve. I can't argue with that strategy at least in the short term.

* * *
See you next time.