LOCAL HEADLINE NEWS
8:40 AM - February 24th, 2017
MAN DECEIVES CUSTOMERS, FACES 31 COUNT INDICTMENT
NEW PHILADELPHIA - A New Philadelphia man faces 31 felony counts for allegedly scamming at least two people into buying fraudulent investments for an energy drink company that never employed him. 50-year-old Keith Elsesser will be arraigned next month on 29 counts of unlawful securities practices and two counts grand theft. New Philadelphia Detective Captain Shawn Nelson says his department has been investigating the case since 2014, with the help of state forensic accountants.. Nelson says the Tuscarawas County sheriff’s office had been investigating Elsesser for related crimes since 2011. Nelson says he is aware of reports that Elsesser has scammed other residents as well, but only two have come forward to press charges for the combined loss of over $90,000. Elsesser is set to be arraigned in front of Judge Elizabeth Thomakos March 9th. He has also served prison time for related crimes in North Carolina.
OPPOSING SIDES SPEAK ON STREAM PROTECTION RULE
SUGARCREEK - Local watershed officials say they will continue to fight for the area’s waterways as regulations on the state and federal level keep changing. Earlier this month congress chose to repeal the Stream Protection Rule, which put restrictions on acid mine draining near waterways. Huff Run Mud Run Watershed Coordinator Marissa Lautzenheiser says her group will continue fighting for clean water and will be active in the legislative process. Meanwhile, 7th District Republican Congressman Bob Gibbs says the stream protection rule threatened the mining industry. Gibbs says there are already measures in place that call for environmental regulations without the need for the stream protection rule.
FIREFIGHTERS WARN OF CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING
UHRICHSVILLE - Firefighters are reminding residents the dangers of using fuel powered appliances without proper ventilation. Seven people from Wardell Hollow Road were transported to local hospitals Wednesday for carbon monoxide poisoning, likely from generator fumes that had accumulated in the attached garage. Fire Captain Nathan Crouse says generators should never be used indoors. Crouse says it is important to also back your car out of the garage before warming it up in the winter. He says it takes only a short time for the emissions to become dangerous. Crouse says carbon monoxide is taste and odor less gas so he encourages every homeowner to install detectors that work like smoke alarms. You can learn more by visiting http://com.ohio.gov/documents/fire_carbonmonoxide.pdf
DELIVERY TRUCK’S BRAKES CATCH FIRE
DOVER - Firefighters say a Smith’s Dairy delivery truck driver had to have a new ride brought to him when his truck’s brakes caught fire this morning. Firefighters say the driver had just arrived in the 900 block of N. Wooster Avenue from I-77 when another driver alerted him to the smoke coming from the rear of the truck just before 6 a.m. The incident blocked traffic as crews extinguished the small fire. Damage was limited to the brakes and two tires. The truck remained in the roadway while the driver waited for a replacement truck.
COUNTY ENGINEER SAVES MONEY WITH MILD WINTER
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Tuscarawas County’s engineer says the limited snowfall this season is helping his department save money. Joe Bachman says he has purchased only 800 tons of road salt so far to combat ice and snow compared with previous years when it took 7,000 tons to make roadways safe throughout the winter season. Bachman says he also hopes the limited need will keep costs low next winter. Bachman says the warm temperatures this week have also allowed his crews to complete work that typically has to wait at least another month or two. Bachman says in addition to material savings, he is also reserving money for future needs as each snowfall that requires county plow trucks and employee overtime typically costs $30,000.
COUNTY URGES STATE TO MAKE UP FOR REVENUE LOSS
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Tuscarawas County leaders say they are reaching out to our state lawmakers to help bring back a loss in Medicaid sales tax dollars. Commissioner Chris Abbuhl says the board passed a resolution Wednesday calling on state leaders to restore over $600,000 in Medicaid sales tax revenue taken away as part of the proposed state budget. Abbuhl says the cut just adds to the list of local revenue lost over the past few years. Abbuhl says the resolution will go to both the House and Senate for consideration.
DOVER LEADERS TO ATTEND POWER SUMMIT
DOVER – The city’s service director is among several city officials who will learn about the changing landscape facing electric plants across the country. Dave Douglas says the American Public Power summit in Washington DC runs Monday through Wednesday next week. Douglas says they have a lot to cover during the three-day event. Douglas says the summit gives Dover officials a chance to prepare for any policy adjustments that could affect the city’s light plant. Douglas says he is keeping an open mind going into the event as any changes help make Dover’s facility more efficient and reliable for the residents.
TRUCK FIRE SHUTS DOWN HIGHWAY
BOLIVAR - Firefighters say part of the interstate was closed for about an hour when a semi caught fire about 7:00 p.m. Tuesday. Fire Chief Shawn Lynch says the driver, Timothy Young, reported his truck had caught fire while driving southbound on I-77 north of the Bolivar exit. Lynch says traffic was backed up while crews worked to douse the flames. Lynch says damage estimates could be as high as six figures. He says the truck was transporting steel from Canton to North Carolina, but crews were able to control the fire before it spread to the cargo area.
2016 NEWCOMERSTOWN HOME EXPLOSION CAUSE RULED UNDETERMINED
COLUMBUS - State Fire Marshal investigators say they are closing a Newcomerstown explosion investigation without pinpointing an exact cause. A press release obtained by WJER says the explosion that killed 77-year-old Dean Taylor at his Beaver Street home in January of 2016 will remain undetermined, but investigators cannot rule out accidental causes involving a natural gas leak within the residence. Taylor is reported to have been installing a natural gas space heater in his garage. Orme Hardware Store in Newcomerstown reports Taylor bought a gas valve about 10:00 a.m. the morning of the explosion. The 11:00 p.m. incident caused over a quarter million dollars in damage and spread debris throughout a one-block radius. It also forced Newcomerstown Schools to cancel classes the following day.
SEVEN TRANSPORTED FOR CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING
MILL TOWNSHIP - Uhrichsville firefighters say seven people living in a Mill Township home had to be transported to local hospitals for suspected carbon monoxide poisoning Wednesday morning. They say the residents had no electric or gas and were burning wood in a fireplace, along with using a generator in an attached garage on Wardell Hollow Road SE. Their conditions are unknown.
EMPLOYEES HELP PREVENT LARGE FIRE AT PALLET FACTORY
DOVER - Firefighters say some quick thinking helped save a Progress Street business from extensive damage. Captain Bryan German says crews responded to a confirmed fire at Inca Presswood Pallets in Dover after a passerby called 911 about 10:00 a.m. when they spotted smoke coming from the building. German says the fire was contained between the ceiling and the metal roof. German says the employees’ fast action helped avoid costly repairs.
POLICE SAY COMMUNITY WATCH AND EXTRA PATROLS ARE WORKING
DOVER - Police say they believe vigilance is paying off in the north end of town. Police Chief Paul Bantum says eight burglaries have been reported since the beginning of the year, but he says the pace has slowed as residents are protecting their homes, leaving lights on, and joining as a community to be alert. Bantum says items of value have been stolen while residents were out, so he believes the crimes could be to support drug dependency. Safety Director Tim Tarulli says both uniformed and undercover officers are patrolling the area regularly, but he also commends the public effort and community watch group. Police also encourage residents to call if they see a suspicious vehicle or person in their neighborhood.
LOCALS ENJOY NICE WEATHER AT TUSCORA PARK
NEW PHILADELPHIA - Local residents are taking advantage of this week’s spring-like weather by heading to area parks. New Philadelphia resident Bob Goss says Tuesday was too nice to be spent inside, so he spend the afternoon at Tuscora Park. Tricidty Barnes says the nice weather already has her excited for the upcoming season. The National Weather Service is forecasting temperatures could reach the mid 70s by Friday.
MAYOR REVIEWS THE PREVIOUS YEAR
UHRICHSVILLE – The city’s mayor is reviewing his first year in office and looking forward to the next three. Rick Dorland says he is pleased with the city’s accomplishments throughout 2016 after he took over for Uhrichsville’s former mayor Terry Culbertson. Dorland says the transition process went smoothly. Dorland says he hopes recognizing city employees becomes a tradition for council after he started the process in 2016. Dorland says he is now focused on helping pass the quarter percent income tax levy slated for the May ballot that will be used to improve road conditions. He says he plans to organize a citizens’ committee to gain public support.
FIREFIGHTERS GET RAISES
DOVER – City officials say some changes are happening within the fire department as a new contract begins. Safety Director Tim Tarulli says firefighters are getting $0.65 an hour pay raises, and he says they will be working 52 hours instead of 53 a week. Tarulli says both sides worked to keep insurance costs low as premiums continue to rise nationally. Tarulli says the negotiations lasted about four weeks before council could approve the final terms Monday.
TAX OFFICIAL URGES EARLY FILING
NEW PHILADELPHIA - City officials say residents should file their income taxes now while the wait is short. Tax Administrator Vicki Daniels says April 18th is the national filing deadline, and she says her office becomes increasingly busy as the date nears. Daniels says residents who wait until the last minute risk late filing fees, which have increased this year. Daniels says anyone who files with the city should bring their W-2 to her office in the basement of the city building.
NEW STATE PARTY CHAIR LOOKS PROMISING
SUGARCREEK - Tuscarawas County’s Republican Party Chair says he is anxious to see what the new state party chair has in store for Ohio Republicans. Stark County Attorney Jane Timken was selected over incumbent Matt Borges last month. Local party chair Doug Wills says he has worked with Timken in the past and believes she will guide the party in a positive direction. Wills says he also appreciates that Timken resides in neighboring Stark County, as the two have similar party models and collaborate frequently. Wills says he believes Timken will only strengthen the party’s grassroots structure across Ohio.
NEW VESTS FOR DENNISON OFFICERS
DENNISON - Dennison’s police chief says his department plans to update some safety equipment using village dollars and additional funding. Chief Todd Beeman says a donation from the Blair and Anna Zimmerman Foundation is helping officers get new bulletproof vests through a $3,000 grant. Beeman says the funding is expected to cover close to one-third of the $9,000 cost with the village paying the rest. He says the company providing the new equipment plans to fit the officers for their new vests soon.
INMATE BREAKS WATER VALVE, TURNS ON SPRINKLER SYSTEM
NEW PHILADELPHIA - A Tuscarawas County jail inmate created some wet conditions in his cell Sunday evening. Deputies report 22-year-old Lucas Thompson broke a water valve, causing the jail’s sprinkler system to turn on in his cell. It also sparked the fire alarm. Thompson could face felony vandalism charges for the incident.
TRUCK AND TRAILER ROLL INTO ATWOOD LAKE
WARREN TOWNSHIP - A small truck that was hauling a trailer had to be pulled from Atwood Lake over the weekend. Sheriff’s call records indicate the vehicle’s break line busted around 3 p.m. Sunday, and the truck and trailer rolled backward into the water while the owners were attempting to remove a boat from the lake. No one was injured.
COMMISSIONERS SCHEDULE EVENING MEETINGS
NEW PHILADELPHIA - The Tuscarawas County commissioners are giving residents who work during the day a couple chances to attend an evening commissioners meeting. The board typically gathers every Monday morning and Wednesday afternoon but recently approved meeting at 6:30 p.m. on March 6th and October 7th. Commissioner Chris Abbuhl says he hopes this encourages citizens to witness county government in action. Abbuhl says the commissioners also plan to move their meetings to the fairgrounds in Dover during the Tuscarawas County Fair in September.
GROUP ATTEMPTS TO REDUCE TRAFFIC CRASHES AND FATALITIES
DOVER - A group of Tuscarawas County professionals is working to decrease the number of crashes happening on local roadways. The Safe Communities program is a grant-funded initiative working through the Tuscarawas County Health Department and includes members from ODOT, safety forces, schools, health leaders, and more. Coordinator Kelly Snyder says the group is planning events to encourage drivers to slow down and stay sober with hopes that at least one person will get the message and be saved from being in a crash. Snyder says the committee also includes a fatality review board that will meet in March to discuss recent crash statistics as the Ohio State Highway Patrol reports investigating nearly 200 crashes so far this year, along with two fatalities. Snyder says the crash totals are currently up compared with the same time in 2016. The county had a total of six fatalities last year.
VENTO FOUND GUILTY ON ALL CHARGES
NEW PHILADELPHIA - A homeless man from Florida could be sentenced to life in prison without parole after being convicted on a six-count indictment Friday. Jurors deliberated for about two hours before finding 32-year-old Randy Vento guilty on all charges, including two counts of rape, felonious assault, kidnapping, and attempted murder for beating and sexually assaulting an 11-year- old Mineral City boy in June. Tuscarawas County Prosecutor Ryan Styer says he hopes the verdict can bring closure to everyone involved. Common Pleas Court Judge Edward O’Farrell thanked the jury for their service after rendering the verdicts. Sentencing for Vento is set for Friday at 1:30 p.m.
ATHLETIC DIRECTOR’S ATTORNEY MOVING FORWARD
UHRICHSVILLE - The attorney for Claymont’s suspended athletic director says he will continue to fight the allegations against his client. According to a press release issued earlier this week, the school board agreed to suspend Scott Beckley without pay and begin proceedings to terminate Beckley’s contract for what they call unprofessional conduct toward superintendent John Rocchi. Beckley’s Attorney Brandon Trent is maintaining his client’s innocence in the matter. Trent says there is still time to present Beckley’s argument to the school board. Rocchi declined to comment when contacted by WJER.
MAN FOUND DEAD, OVERDOSE SUSPECTED CAUSE
DENNISON - An obituary from R.K. Lindsey Funeral Home indicates a 29-year-old former Dennison resident who was last seen leaving Trinity Hospital Twin City Sunday night died of a suspected heroin overdose. Police Chief Todd Beeman says David Albright Jr. was reported missing after he walked away from the hospital without receiving treatment for an unknown cause. Surveillance video captured Albright heading towards the 700 Block of Dennison where he was found dead Thursday morning about 10 a.m. The Stark County coroner is determining an official cause of death.
BUS CATCHES FIRE ON INTERSTATE
BOLIVAR - Safety officials say Bolivar firefighters responded to a vehicle fire on I-77 North near the Bolivar exit. 911 dispatchers say the wheel well of a school bus that was being towed caught fire about 10:45 Friday morning. They say crews arrived on scene to a working fire and had the blaze extinguished by 11 a.m