The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

In keeping with their motto, “Let’s build something together,” Lowe’s has awarded Lake Local Schools a pair of grants totaling $54,800 to help the district rebuild in the aftermath of the June 6 tornado.

In addition, about 80 volunteers from four local Lowe’s stores are stepping up to lend their time and talents in a variety of projects to get the schools ready for the coming school year.

A $50,000 grant, awarded through the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation, will be used to help fund the construction of a multi-purpose room that will be used as a temporary cafeteria for the middle school until the new high school is completed, according to Christie McPherson, Lake Elementary principal.

A $4,800 grant, awarded through the Lowe’s Heroes grant program, will go toward replacing mulch and gravel around the elementary school playground.

“From the very beginning, the folks at Lowe’s reached out to help us,” McPherson said, adding that it was Darcy Mueller, manager of the Rossford Lowe’s who suggested the district may be eligible for grant awards through the home improvement store’s various corporate citizenship programs.

“She’s been so helpful – we have a `let’s try this together” kind of thing,” McPherson said of Mueller. “She has spearheaded the efforts and gets in there in the trenches with the volunteers.”

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Oregon City Council last Monday expressed concerns about the recent announcement by FirstEnergy that its FirstEnergy General Corp. subsidiary plans to cut back operations at the Bay Shore power plant as a result of the slow economy, a lower demand for electricity, and pending federal environmental regulations. 

“We all have mixed feelings about the announcement by FirstEnergy,” said Councilman Mike Sheehy at last Monday’s council meeting. “Clearly, they’re making reduced operations. I’m quite pleased the operation with BP will continue. It’s something we can all be proud of. It’s an operation that serves BP, FirstEnergy, and our community. I hope that continues to be ongoing.”

Years ago, BP upgraded its Toledo refinery and partnered with FirstEnergy in the use of petroleum coke, a waste byproduct from the refining process. A new boiler built by FirstEnergy uses petroleum coke to generate low-cost steam to make electricity at the plant. The process, which saves BP in disposal costs and FirstEnergy in fuel costs, also benefits the environment by reducing carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions.

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Oregon City Council is reviewing a proposed ordinance that would allow the city to manage its right-of-way by permitting reasonable access, conserve capacity and ensure the rights-of-way are protected.

City Law Director Paul Goldberg at a committee of the whole meeting last month said the city has been discussing ways to protect the rights-of-way for a long time.

“We had thought some time ago that it was appropriate, and the state legislature is giving the city the authority to control our own rights-of-ways,” he said. “We started working on this thing a year-and-a-half ago. This is a lengthy ordinance. We did look at it internally three or four times and made a number of changes. We invited all the utility companies that have utilities in our city rights-of-way to several meetings. We got their comments. We didn’t want to make it too onerous on them, so we did make some substantial changes to try and fit in with what they thought was appropriate but still protects the city’s interest.”

Goldberg suggested that the ordinance should be discussed further and that it get three readings.

“The main thing is to ensure our rights-of-way are protected. Anyone who is going to occupy our rights-of-way are going to have to have a permit, and give us all sorts of information,” said Goldberg, adding that Public Service Director Paul Roman needs such information to protect the city’s water and sewer lines in the rights-of-way.

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The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) wants parents to know that they are not alone if they are uncertain about bus service in the Toledo Public School District when school starts on August 26.

To help reduce a multi-million dollar budget deficit, the Toledo Board of Education reduced its transit service to state-mandated minimums, including the elimination of bus transportation for all high school students and any student in grades K-8 who lives less than two miles from the school they attend.

“TARTA plans to have additional buses available at key locations throughout the city that can be pressed into service, when it detects heavy usage on a given fixed-line route,” said James K. Gee, TARTA’s general manager. “With the radical change to its busing policy instituted by Toledo Public Schools, TARTA is not sure exactly what to expect during the initial days of this school year.”

The Toledo Public School System (TPS) will pay for transportation on TARTA for those who qualify in grades K-8, and will issue special passes.

Previously, TPS had paid TARTA for service during school hours at no cost to students, and had provided some yellow bus service. TARTA also previously operated special routes with buses picking up and dropping off students at school.

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For most of the teams that compete in the Waiter’s Race at the Birmingham Ethnic Festival, it’s

all about simply running fast and trying not to spill too much beer in the process.

But for Joe Sparks, there’s more to it than that. That’s why he’s been a member of the winning team for six years running.

“Learning how to balance the tray is where the skill comes in,” Sparks said. “You have to be really steady and light on your feet.”

Joe Sparks ran the race barefoot. (Ken Grosjean)

The Waiter’s Race is one of the more popular events at the Ethnic Festival, which was held on Consaul Street in the Birmingham district for the 36th year. The race, which was first held in 1996, usually kicks off the festival on Saturday night, but this year it followed a celebrity eating contest.

“Each year the crowd gets larger and larger,” Sparks said. “People are lined up on both sides of the street. They had about 1,000 people show up this year.”

The race consists of usually six to eight four-man relay teams. The Hungarian Club is a consistent competitor along with teams from Tony Packo’s, the Iron Workers, the VFW, the Rumpus Room, and the Steel Workers.

“Each team starts from Tony Packo’s all the way to the VFW and back,” Sparks said. “Each person has a bar tray and on the tray there is a pitcher of beer and two full glasses of beer. You start at Tony Packo’s and exchange with the other runners on a four-man relay.

“When a person comes in, you have to fill both glasses up to the top. If it spills, you have to fill it back up. There are judges at each exchange. Each person runs their part, a quarter of the distance to the next exchange point.”

Sparks said the Ethnic Festival Waiter’s Race was modeled after a long standing European tradition.

 The scoring is based on how much beer each team has left in their pitchers and beer glasses.

The Hungarian Club was this year’s overall winner, and Tony Packo’s and the Iron Workers tied for second.

Sparks, who was born in the Birmingham district and now lives in Perrysburg, was joined on the Hungarian Club team by Tim Whitney of Petersburg, Mich., Tom Fridrick of Toledo and Tony Szilagye of Rossford.

The Hungarian Club has won the Waiter’s Race six years in a row, tying the Rumpus Room for all-time wins.

“Tony and I practiced once for 15 minutes, and Tim and Tom practiced about the same amount of time about a week before the race,” said Sparks, who is a Hungarian Club committee member. “Because of our schedules, we didn’t all practice together. Tony and I have been on the same team for all six years. Tim has been on the team for five years and Tom for four years.”

Sparks is an expert in running, so he ran the anchor leg on the relay - barefooted. He has taught the Pose Method of running since 2002 and invented the EZ Run Belt, which teaches the skill of running properly.

Tim Whitney, Tony Szilagye, Joe Barocsi-Sparks and Tom Fridrick. (Ken Grosjean.)

“I put all the pressure on myself to be the anchor,” he said. “I teach people how to prevent themselves from over striding and using proper running mechanics, so I’m a good guy to be on the team. These guys knew how to run, but I tweaked their form - short, tiny steps so the tray doesn’t bounce.”

Sparks said he wanted to compete in the relay for the Hungarian Club in order to honor his Hungarian heritage and “reclaim my roots.” He is adopted, but both of his birth parents are Hungarian.

“I wanted to do something that was fun and something I knew I was good at,” said Sparks, 54, whose Hungarian birth name is Barocsi. “The guys on this team are my friends and we like to run.

“We’ve competed in races and triathlons. We were probably the oldest team, running against guys half our age.”

He added that it was a “thrill” to win the Waiter’s Race and have the Hungarian Club’s name etched on the trophy for the sixth straight year.

“The trophy is a big keg of beer plastered with all the different clubs that have won,” he said. “Here’s our name on it the last five years and now we get to put ‘2010’ on there. If we win (again) next year — no one has won seven times. The Rumpus Room has won six times and so have we, so next year we can be the winningest team. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a way to connect with other people. And, we love the competition.”