Thursday, June 30, 2011

Atwood Lodge to be razed

I received this news release from my good friend, Darrin Lautenschleger of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District. While it is sad news, it is not unexpected. The lodge has had income issues from the start and current recreational opportunities for families and a depressed economy were just too much.
While I have not talked to Trustee Harry Horstman about the vote, I know that he is very disappointed. He wanted to save the lodge from the wrecking ball as much as anyone. Perhaps I'll have more to say later on.

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Atwood Resort will not reopen, building to be razed
The financially strapped Atwood Lake Resort and Conference Center will not reopen and the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) will focus on development of the future recreational use of the 500-acre property located in Carroll County.

 In a 3-2 vote, members of the MWCD Board of Directors approved the demolition of the 46-year-old main lodge building and golf pro shop during a special session held Thursday (June 30) to discuss the resort. Board members William P. Boyle Jr. of Richland County, Richard J. Pryce of Stark County and Steve Kokovich of Muskingum County voted in favor of razing the buildings and developing a plan for renewed recreation use of the resort property, while board members Harry C. Horstman of Harrison County and David L. Parham of Carroll County voted against the proposal.

 Atwood Lake Resort, commonly referred to as “Atwood Lodge,” closed last October and has suffered from increasing deficits that exceeded $1 million in each of the past two years. Historically, the resort has not been a source of revenues for the MWCD, losing an average of more than $159,000 per year since it opened in 1965.

Occupancy rates and use of the resort’s guest and conference rooms had decreased sharply in recent years, while utility and maintenance costs for the main structure had increased. MWCD officials also said the increasing losses have hampered the conservancy district’s ability to address basic maintenance, infrastructure and customer requests at its other recreational operations at Leesville, Tappan, Clendening, Piedmont, Seneca, Wills Creek, Charles Mill, Pleasant Hill, Beach City and Atwood lakes, including its parks, campgrounds, cottage areas and marinas.

The conservancy district was spending about $50,000 per month in utilities, insurance, taxes, general maintenance and security for the idle property, in addition to staff time. Sewer costs alone currently are $10,500 per month.

The Board’s action does not affect Atwood Lake Park or the two marinas located on Atwood Lake.

Since the closing of Atwood Lake Resort, the MWCD Board of Directors, administration and staff of the MWCD have sought alternatives to its potential continued operation as a resort complex, including discussions with Kent State University at Tuscarawas and a resort operator who focuses on renewing financially failing properties. Kent State University at Tuscarawas continuously expressed its interest in being a part of any solution, including a possible partnership with the MWCD. However, the losses incurred by the MWCD, together with the risks associated with further investment of time and substantial capital by the MWCD divided the Board of Directors in its decision to not pursue development of this kind.

 “We understand the sense of disappointment and loss that the community around Atwood Lake Resort shares in this decision,” said John M. Hoopingarner, MWCD executive director/secretary. “There has been a tremendous effort offered by local, state and federal officials and their staffs, and by the residents of the region, and we cannot thank them enough for their time and input.

“However, the MWCD now has been directed to focus its attention at the former Atwood Lake Resort property on creating and executing a plan more closely related to our core mission that will enhance the Atwood Lake community. One of the key components to the core mission of the MWCD is the enhancement of outdoor recreational opportunities. We are excited about what the potential holds for this beautiful property at Atwood Lake.”

 Board members agreed to leave intact at this time the 17 four-bedroom vacation cabins located across from the main entrance to the resort, the “chalet” building that formerly housed a snack shop, games and served as the shop for the par-3 golf course, the residence at the golf course and the golf course maintenance building for further evaluation of the property.

The MWCD Board of Directors announced in 2009 that one of its top goals was to divest the MWCD of the resort. Conservancy district officials spent all of 2009 and 2010 seeking alternative uses and owners for the property. The MWCD hosted a meeting for key stakeholders in the region in March 2010 at the resort to discuss the situation and participated in other public meetings throughout the year to obtain input.

The lodge is located off Rt. 542 between Sherrodsville and Dellroy in Carroll County and when it was fully operational, included the 104-room main hotel, dining room and conference center, two golf courses (an 18-hole regulation course and a lighted, nine-hole, par-3 course), 17 vacation cabins and indoor and outdoor swimming pools, along with other amenities.

The MWCD, a political subdivision of the state, was organized in 1933 to develop and implement a plan to reduce flooding and conserve water for beneficial public uses in the Muskingum River Watershed, the largest wholly contained watershed in Ohio. Since their construction, the 16 reservoirs and dams in the MWCD region have been credited for saving nearly $10 billion worth of potential property damage from flooding, according to the federal government, as well as providing popular recreational opportunities that bolster the region’s economy. A significant portion of the reservoirs are managed by the MWCD and the dams are managed for flood-risk management by the federal U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

For more information about the MWCD, visit and on Facebook.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Casino developers bet Kasich wasn't bluffing

Originally published in the Bargain Hunter June 24.

Time will tell whether his poll numbers will improve, but I’ve got to give some props to Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Regular readers of this space know that I’ve been a little tough on the governor, criticizing his bull-in-a-china-shop style, his seemingly disregard for teachers and his apparent shifting of the tax burden from state government to local governments.

But I have to give him credit when he deserves it. And this week, he deserves it.

His bully-pulpit strategy with the casino owners-developers was at first widely criticized by the masses as an unwelcome intrusion into a deal that was struck by voters when they passed the constitutional amendment allowing casinos in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo.

Kasich’s bluster – he thought the casinos ought to kick back more money to the taxpayers – this time was blamed for stopping construction of the “temporary” casino being constructed within the old Higbee’s building on Public Square in Cleveland.

It didn’t take long for the TV stations to swing into action with man-on-the-street interviews after Dan Gilbert’s Rock Ohio Caesars LLC halted work.

“A deal is a deal,” was a typical reaction.  “Kasich should butt out.”

What the public failed to remember was that the constitutional amendment was written by the casino interests and in their interest. It wasn’t a great deal for the taxpayers.

After listening to Kasich’s presumably forceful argument, the casino developers – Rock Ohio Caesars LLC (Cleveland and Cincinnati) and Penn National Gaming (Columbus and Toledo) – both agreed to pay the state $110 million in addition to what that constitutional amendment wanted them to pay.

The constitutional amendment only required the developers to pay the state a one-time $50 million licensing fee and an ongoing 33 percent casino tax.

In a statement, Kasich said, "I know that many thought it was futile to push the gaming companies for a better deal, but the governor's job isn't just to enforce laws, it's also to make sure they benefit Ohioans in the greatest possible way."

The Kasich deal also allows Ohio’s seven horse racing tracks to add slot machines as long as there are significant property upgrades. That part of the deal allows cities such as Dayton and Youngstown to share in any prosperity that gaming will bring to Ohio.

(Of course, there’s some question about whether gambling will produce the projected revenue and jobs. Ohioans don’t have to travel very far now to satisfy their gambling entertainment needs. All neighboring states except Kentucky allow gambling in some form.)

The overall verdict on Kasich’s job as governor won’t be in for a few more years, but you can move the casino deal to the positive column now.


Meanwhile, the state is poised to allow guns in bars, stadiums and restaurants and to allow fracking for natural gas in state parks while requiring all voters to show a photo ID in order to cast election ballots.

Is it just me or has the General Assembly lost its marbles?

Here’s what we need to figure out in Ohio (short list):

–How to keep manufacturing jobs from leaving Ohio for China.

–How to stimulate an anemic housing market that is keeping Ohio from sharing in any recovery.

–How to eliminate blighted neighborhoods in our largest cities.

–How to better educate the children in our six largest school districts.

–How to create the necessary jobs to keep our college-educated young people from leaving the state in droves like they are doing now.

Some of the other stuff can wait. And do you really want to see a retention pond in a state park? Come on.


Every time a school administrator or coach retires and then gets rehired, the public goes crazy. It’s not fair, the public argues, because the educators/coaches are now being paid by two sources – the State Teachers Retirement System and their local school district – and are, in effect, doubling their income.

School districts say the move saves them money while retaining quality administrators/coaches. But the public doesn’t buy into that argument. It’s just not fair to the young people hunting jobs. If someone wants to take their retirement, then retire. It would allow for more movement in the ranks.

I don’t have a defense for double-dipping. But if I were in a position to work such a deal, I probably would.

Perhaps the loophole that permits double-dipping ought to be closed. There’s something for the Legislature to think about.

Dick Farrell is a contributor to the Bargain Hunter. You can access this column at You can read his blog at or follow him on Facebook and Twitter (dfarrell_dover).

The truth about Medicare? Really?

Originally published in the Bargain Hunter June 18.

A week or so ago, I received Rep. Bob Gibbs’ first taxpayer-funded quarterly newsletter.  I suspect most people in the 18th Congressional District gave it a passing glance and then tossed it in the rubbish.

However, I delighted in receiving the mailing because, well, I’m always looking for fodder. Rep. Gibbs’ mailer played right into my hands.

Gibbs’ Quarterly Update – that’s what he calls it – is headlined “The Truth About Medicare.” That got my attention. I’m always looking for truth.
The four-page newsletter also offered an index on the cover, including where to find an “Opening Message from Congressman Bob Gibbs,” “Protecting Your Retirement Security: Protecting Ohio Seniors and Securing America’s Financial Freedom,” “Medicare Fast Facts” and “Important Contact Information.”

In his opening message on Page 2, Gibbs wrote, “In 2010, you told the Washington politicians that enough is enough. No longer should our country continue to spend money we just do not have. No longer should we allow our country to travel down a course of devastating debt that will cripple the future of our grandchildren.

“The time has come to stand up to what Congress has done – and I am taking action.”
Gibbs goes on to say that he has taken on the challenge of moving the country from “destructive spending” and that he will help lead us to prosperity.

“As of now, the Medicare system is broken,” he wrote.
“…It’s time that you know the truth about Medicare and the budgetary proposal I and other congressional leaders are recommending to right the wrongs that have been done in Washington.”

He adds that the media has provided misinformation on the issue and invites constituents to contact his office.
OK, fair enough. Let’s learn the truth.

On Page 3 is a piece headlined “Protecting Your Retirement Security: Protecting Ohio Seniors and Securing America’s Financial Freedom.”
In it, Gibbs explains that the “plan is very simple.”

If you’re currently enrolled in the Medicare plan or if you’re 55 and older, you’ll see no changes.

But wait, you people who are 54 and younger, you might be in trouble. And this is where Gibb’s information gets a little dicey.

“The Medicare reforms will take place only for those who are 54 and younger. But rest assured that they, too, will receive the Medicare benefits they rightfully deserve. The Republican Budget Resolution will only change the manner in which they receive them.”
There’s a red flag. He refers to age 54 and younger people as “they,” switching from his casual use of the word “you” when addressing older people’s concerns.

He explains, “Rather than being given a ‘one-size-fits-all’ health care program, those who are 54 and younger will have greater input into which care plan best fits their life. Times have changed since Medicare was first instituted and with any new plan, we should give people the ability to customize health care to their needs.”
And then he says, “That’s it.”

Huh? What’s “it”? Where are the details?

Certainly the “Medicare Fast Facts” at the bottom of Page 2 would offer details.
“The failure to act now will bankrupt Medicare in nine years. Each year that Congress fails to act, the U.S. government gets closer to breaking promises to current retirees, while adding to a growing pile of empty promises made to future generations,” states the first “fact.”

But that’s not a fact. That’s an opinion.
Here’s the second “fact”:  “This budget puts an end to empty promises and political rhetoric, offering instead real security through real reforms for future generations. Under this plan, our grandchildren will inherit stronger programs they can count on when they retire.”

Nope. That’s not a fact either. That’s another opinion.
On Page 3 is a highlighted Bob Gibbs quotation (“I will not support any benefit changes received by current retirees…”) along with a picture of him receiving an award from the 60 Plus Assn. (which bills itself as the conservative alternative to AARP) for his work “to protect and preserve our Medicare benefits.”

OK, here’s the truth as I found it:

Gibbs is right -- there will be no changes for people 55 and over. But for those younger, the proposal calls for providing vouchers so a senior citizen can shop private insurers for the best guaranteed coverage options, whatever they may be.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that out-of-pocket coverage costs for seniors would more than double if and when the old program gives way to the new plan in 2022. In other words, Rep. Gibbs would like to see the sun set on Medicare as we know it and pass off a hefty part of the cost of the replacement plan to the next generation. Out-of-pocket costs could amount to $12,000 annually, according to the CBO.

Perhaps those people are too busy trying to figure out how to fund their 401(k) plan without a company match to pay much attention to a proposal that likely will have a profound impact on their lives in the next decade.
Politicians are always accusing the media of disseminating misinformation. I guess it’s OK when politicians do it in their taxpayer-funded newsletters. No one pays attention to those things anyway.

Dick Farrell is a contributor to the Bargain Hunter. You can access this column at You can read his blog at or follow him on Facebook and Twitter (dfarrell_dover).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Entitled LeBron missed something important in his life

Here's what LeBron James said after the Miami Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals:

"All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before. They have the same personal problems they had to today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.”

I'm now convinced that if James had a strong father, or father figure, in his life, he wouldn't say such dumb things. If Lebron were my kid -- the product of a working-class, blue-collar Akron home -- he would have been given a lesson in loyalty and he would have been admonished to do the right thing by his fans in northeastern Ohio.

He would have stayed.

Additionally, he would have been encouraged not to brag about his insane wealth by saying to the world in a press conference that he's rich and you're not.

Perhaps the shortcomings of his early life are catching up to him, beginning with that silly "The Decision" thing a year ago. Buddies can't take the place of fathers.

Want a comparison? Read Dirk Notwitski's bio on Wikipedia.

How to make a budget crisis into hundreds of little ones

(Originally published in Bargain Hunter publications June 9, 2011)

Nearly six months into Gov. John Kasich's first term it's apparent that he doesn't give a darn about getting re-elected.

He is irritating just about everyone.

And his strategy for fixing the state's $8 billion budget deficit is simple: Shift the crisis from the state to local governments, which include your favorite public school system.

And then he tells the folks who have to educate children, pave roads and hire cops that they better not raise taxes to pay for the cuts the state is imposing on them.

In other words, he is solving the state's big budget crisis by creating hundreds of "little" budget crises.

Kasich is an equal-opportunity agitator, and his reformist tentacles will touch all Ohioans – rich, poor, rural, urban, students, parents, Democrats and Republicans.

Indeed, school systems whose parents are predominately Republican are facing the biggest cuts. That means those districts ultimately will have the biggest levy requests down the road. Fork it over, Mr. Kasich Supporter.

(What, you think school districts aren't going to ask for operating levies because Kasich told them not to?)

Veteran political columnist Brent Larkin of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has used the word "bluster" on a couple of occasions to describe Kasich's style. That fits.

And how about "bull in a china shop"?

So, you have to give props, sort of, to Kasich, who shrugs off lousy poll numbers, saying he doesn't care about such things, which I think means he doesn't care about getting re-elected. Perhaps his legacy is far more important to him than a second term.

My guess is that Ohioans ultimately will disagree with him on how to define that legacy.


I think most people agree that Dover could use a new high school, but that this is the worst possible time to ask for money to build one.

Evidence of that is all around us. The price of gasoline is more than a dollar-per-gallon higher than it was a year ago. Food costs are escalating because of extreme weather events and those higher fuel prices. There is virtually no new housing construction occurring in Tuscarawas County, which means contractors and others connected to that industry are scrambling to maintain their incomes.

And there are a good number of us trying to figure out how to afford our remaining years on this planet.

Against that backdrop, the state has placed Dover on the emergency funding list for a new school, and those charged with shaping a vision of the future are trying hard to figure out a way to get it done. They are good people and deserve our appreciation for at least trying.

You might think about that before you lash out at them by leaving anonymous chicken-poop comments on various newspapers' websites or telephone answering machines.


I did not know Marine Lance Cpl. Peter Clore, 23, of New Philadelphia or his family.

Clore was buried earlier this week following services in Sacred Heart Catholic Church in New Philadelphia. He suffered fatal combat wounds last month while serving in Afghanistan.

I am humbled by his commitment to family, church and country and offer condolences to his family and friends.

And thanks to all who serve.

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tressel-gate: System is screwed up; good luck to KV

Originially published in the Bargain Hunter (Tuscarawas and Holmes editions):

I can’t speak to whether Jim Tressel got a raw deal when it became very apparent to him that he needed to resign as coach of his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes football team.

Apparently, under Tressel’s watch, more than just a few players were getting away with their own versions of “Pawn Stars” by trading memorabilia for tattoos, marijuana and who knows what else. Tressel’s “crime” was that he knew it was going on but failed to pass the information along to the university and the NCAA.

Players trading autographed jerseys for ink is a symptom of a system that is woefully out of whack. In 2007, the Wall Street Journal reported that Ohio State operates the costliest athletic program in the country, spending nearly $110 million annually.

Under this NCAA-regulated system, a lot of people are getting rich. In fact, television revenue is so lucrative that Division 1 conferences formed their own cable networks, which you, the consumer, pay for when you cover the cable/satellite bill every month.

But the players who put the show on every Saturday in the autumn aren’t supposed to share in the proceeds. Nope, they’re amateurs. They’re supposed to play for free.

Many are kids who honed their skills on the playgrounds of urban America. Their families, I suspect, are not necessarily functional in the traditional sense.

And then we make them superstars, elevating them well above their academic-oriented peers. Boosters slip them cash and provide cars to drive. And entrepreneurs apparently see profit in collectibles. What Ohio State fan wouldn’t want a jersey signed by Terrell Pryor hanging in his man cave.

Perhaps Tressel’s looking the other way was born of guilt over his handsome income and his inability to share the wealth with his players. I’d like to think so anyway.

Sanctions and suspensions at Ohio State will have a chilling effect for awhile. But eventually boosters and predators will tempt again while coaches gladly plead ignorance.

So it goes in college football. Bet accordingly.


I first met Kathy Vaughan at a party that some college buddies and I attended on a farm somewhere outside New Philadelphia. I’m not sure of the year, but it was while I was a student at Kent State in the very early ’70s.

At the time, Kathy was on the state desk at the Times-Reporter daily newspaper. I was studying journalism at the time and was in awe of someone who actually was earning a living doing it.

Needless to say, I asked for advice.

“Go into something else,” she said.

Obviously I didn’t take her advice and, as fate would have it, I took a job in 1973 at Kathy’s newspaper. It didn’t take very long for me to realize that I wasn’t a very good writer. I know that because Kathy told me so -- on numerous occasions.

Seriously, I had trouble writing a coherent police blotter item.

I began to question my career path. But with Kathy’s and other editors’ help, it began to click. And in the ensuing 36 years, Kathy and I spent more time together than most husbands and wives. And she is a principal reason why the newspaper once upon a time was so well received.

Kathy is retiring after a long, award-winning career. And while casual readers of the daily newspaper might not notice her absence, I certainly will.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Sandy Stewart, the T-R’s managing editor who retired in 2009. Sandy, like Kathy, is a stickler for details and continues to edit my literary pieces to this day. Perhaps Kathy can share in that task after she enjoys some well-deserved rest and relaxation.

Dick Farrell is a contributor to the Bargain Hunter. You can access this column at can read his blog at or follow him on Facebook and Twitter (dfarrell_dover).