SIDNEY — From politics, to poultry to honoring the county’s veterans, the news in Shelby County touched the lives of many of its residents. Here are the top 10 local stories of 2015
No. 1: Mike Barhorst’s election battle
Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst found himself on a roller coaster in the political field when his petition for re-election was disqualified by the Shelby County Board of Elections on Aug. 17 during its certification meeting. Barhorst was running for a Sidney City Council at-large seat. Sidney City Charter calls for members of council to select who the mayor of the city will be. The petition was rejected because there weren’t enough signatures attached to the Circulator Statement.
“Due to an inadvertent discrepancy based on my interpretation of Ohio law, the Shelby County Board of Elections did not certify my petition,” said Barhorst on Aug. 19. “I am in the process of exploring legal options at this time.”
On Aug. 21, Barhorst filed a lawsuit in Shelby County Common Pleas Court seeking an order to certify his nominating petition and statement of candidacy for the Nov. 3 election.
In Barhorst’s suit it said, “Barhorst, however, accurately represented that the petition contained 29, rather than 30 signatures, since one of the signers of the petition both printed and signed his name as permitted” by an Ohio Supreme Court case.
On Sept. 10, the court ruled in Barhorst’s favor and stated that all Board of Elections “apparently did was look at the number of lines on the petition that were filled out and compared that to the number cited by Barhorst in his certificate without regard to what a line contained.”
The Board of Elections on Sept. 24 appealed the decision of the local court to the 3rd District Court of Appeals. After review, the appeals court upheld the Shelby County Common Pleas Court decision and Barhorst’s name was on the Nov. 3 ballot.
The voters showed their support for Barhorst by re-electing him to council. He received more than 3,258 votes. Newcomer Joe Ratermann was also elected with 2,298 votes. Janet Born was also re-elected to office with 1,988 votes.
On Dec. 14, after a brief executive session, council chose Barhorst to continue as mayor for the city for another two years.
No. 2: War stories and Field of Valor
The Shelby County Historical Society celebrated a Week of Valor that began Aug. 30 and comprised programs every day to commemorate 2015 as the country’s significant anniversary of several major wars. The Sidney Daily News ran a series of stories based on interviews with veterans or families of veterans who served in those wars.
There was a program in the Monumental Building honoring local servicemen who were heroes in America’s wars; a rededication of the Court Street Bridge by Ohio Senate President Keith Faber and other dignitaries; the escort by some 3,000 motorcyclists, installation and exhibit of the Vietnam War Memorial replica; an exhibit, coordinated by Gateway Arts Council, of art by local veterans; a concert by the Sidney Civic Band; a talk by author and veteran David Taylor; a cruise-in; a 5K race; a pancake breakfast served by the Sidney Rotary Club; two honor rides by motorcyclists; Mass celebrated by the Rev. Anthony Cutcher; opening and closing ceremonies; and a Field of Valor flying 1,000 American flags.
Participating in the event, along with the organizations named above, were the Sidney Altrusa Club, Sidney Boy and Cub Scouts, the Sidney Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Sidney American Legion, the Sidney Police Department, the Sidney Fire Department, Shelby County Gold Star Mothers, the Catholic Veterans Association, the Sidney Blue Star Support Group, the Gold Star Wives, the Sidney AMVETS and dozens of volunteers.
The historical society estimates that 45,000 people attended one or more events during the week.
No. 3: John Lenhart National Sheriff of the Year
Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart said he was humbled and shocked when he learned he was named the 2015 Ferris E. Lucas Sheriff of the Year. The award is presented annually by the National Sheriffs’ Association. He was chosen from 100 candidates from across the United States.
Lenhart was nominated by Chief Deputy James R. Frye, who said, “I believe John’s career speaks volumes for the type of leader he is and what he brings to the table.”
Lenhart returned to office during a difficult time for the Sheriff’s Office. “I truly believe he has turned around the image of the office,” Frye said.
Lenhart is the first sheriff from Ohio to receive the award. Lenhart has served six terms as Shelby County Sheriff. He has focused on school safety and placed armed-response teams in Sidney City Schools.
He received his award in June during the National Sheriffs’ Association conference in Baltimore, Maryland.
No. 4: Poultry banned from state fairs
There were no roosters crowing at the Shelby County Fair, nor any other fair in the state of Ohio, in 2015 when the state banned all poultry from the fairs in June. The ban included chickens, turkeys and ducks.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture canceled all live-bird exhibitions to help protect the state’s $2.3 billion poultry industry from the avian flue that has impacted other poultry-producing states.
Emails were sent to the 54 families who had children signed up to show poultry at the fair, said Laura Norris, Shelby County 4-H youth development education. During the 2014 fair, there were 380 entries.
Children were still able to enter their “poultry,” which included a poster of their project instead of a live chicken, duck or turkey. During the junior fair sale, bidders bid on a “pound of chicken.” The funds were divided up among the exhibitors who didn’t show anything except poultry.
The ban was lifted on Dec. 17.
No. 5: Mother, son die in pond accident
Two Shelby County Garage employees made a “heroic effort” to save the lives of two people trapped in an icy pond on March 12. Maurissa Bickford, 39, and her son, Noah Bickford, 3, died of their injuries at local hospitals after being rescued.
Zachary Rogers and Samuel Deatherage were doing roadwork in the area of Fort Loramie-Swanders and Scott roads when they observed a small child lying on the ice of a small pond. The workers pulled the boy from the ice and began CPR. A boat was used to find the boy’s mother, who was still in the water.
The investigation by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office determined that Noah fell through an area of open water in the aerated pond. Maurissa went into the water and was able to get Noah onto the ice. She was unable to get out of the water.
No. 6: Lake Loramie death under investigation
A Lake Loramie State Park official on Nov. 15, discovered a body, burned beyond recognition but later identified as that of Charles Sellner, of Sidney, in a car, also burned, at the park. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources opened an investigation into the incident.
The car was found a park spoil site at the end of a gravel road near the terminus of Schmitmeyer-Baker Road by a Department of Watercraft officer on routine patrol of the lake. A spoil site is used when the lake bottom is dredged. It’s where what has been dredged up gets dumped.
To date, no one knows how long the car was there before it was discovered, what caused it to burn, whether Sellner had been missing, or what the cause or manner of his death was. The investigation was ongoing at press time.
No. 7: Mississippi River Adventure
Forrest Schoessow, of Sidney, Shea Selsor, of Piqua, and Alex Ross, of Sidney, took the readers of the Sidney Daily News on the adventure of a lifetime as they traveled down the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. They provided weekly updates on their adventure.
They departed from Minnesota on May 20 and traveled roughly 2,340 miles and achieved their goal of reaching the Gulf of Mexico on July 27. They shared their encounters with a bear who woke them up one night, the floods and dangerous waters they paddled through in their canoe. They talked about the people they met along the way, and how grueling the trip was on their bodies.
“Arriving in the Gulf was one of the more strange moments of the entire journey,” said Ross during his final Sunday interview. “Our families had all followed us down into the fingers of land that make up the end of the Mississippi, and when we ducked off into a canal that shot us out into the Bay of Adam, we were already surrounded by the faces that we’d missed for 10 weeks.
“I think they were a little confused by our apparent lack of excitement. It’s not that we weren’t excited to be done (of course we were), but after 10 weeks of getting a rhythm specifically to get this far, it just felt odd. When we actually get out in it, we were quiet. We just sort of paddled around in this big blue nothing and didn’t say much. Later, when we were all back in New Orleans with all of our family and friends, it seemed to finally hit us and we collectively freaked out with joy.”
No. 8: Woody’s Market closes
Woody’s Market, which had operated at 684 Fair Road for 40 years, went out of business, Nov. 28. Owners Roger and Carl Wooddell had tried for more than a year to find a buyer for the store, but were unsuccessful. Several people had expressed interest.
“But small-business loans are very tight through the government right now. (They) couldn’t get the loan,” Roger said in November. The building and its contents were auctioned Dec. 12.
The store had served about 100 customers daily, from those who purchased freshly butchered meat to those who just wanted a can of pop. For years, neighborhood residents would send their children to Woody’s with notes listing what groceries they wanted. Woody’s staff would fill the orders. They also delivered groceries.
A neighborhood market had stood in that location since 1957.
No. 9: Mike Hensley commits suicide
The man who took the lives of three Shelby County teenagers and his Bible study teacher in 1999 and a fellow inmate two years ago is now dead.
Lawrence Michael “Mike” Hensley, an inmate at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, apparently committed suicide Sunday morning, June 21.
“I can confirm that Lawrence Michael Hensley died Sunday at the prison,” said Jo Ellen Smith, of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Corrections communications department. “It is being investigated as a suicide.”
Hensley’s killing spree began on July 8, 1999, when he killed three teenagers — Sherry Kimbler, 16, of Sidney, Tosha Barrett, 16, of Port Jefferson, and Amy Mikesell, 14, of Sidney — at his residence on Queen Street in Sidney. After those killings, Hensley and his wife, Julie, drove to the home of Brett Wildermuth, who was a Bible study teacher at a church the couple had attended. Hensley shot and killed Wildermuth.
A nationwide search began for Hensley, who had fled the Wildermuth residence. The manhunt ended on July 13 when Hensley returned to Sidney.
He was charged with four counts of aggravated murder, three counts of attempted aggravated murder and three counts of kidnapping in Shelby County Common Pleas Court. In March 2000, Hensley was convicted on the charges. He avoided the death penalty through a plea agreement and was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.
No. 10: Construction begins on Sidney projects
Two major city projects that have been in the making for many years got their official starts in the fall.
Ground was broken Oct. 14 for a pipeline that will provide Sidney with a new source of water. City and county officials and contractors gathered at the end of the Canal Feeder Trail behind Graceland Cemetery for the groundbreaking. The pipeline will bring water from wells in Washington Township to Sidney.
The 30-inch transmission line will extend from Sidney more than 7.5 miles to the well field near Lockington. The transmission line will cost about $13.7 million. The well field will cost about $7.5 million.
Ground was broken Nov. 6 for the wastewater treatment plant expansion. The improvements are mandated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. As a result of negotiations between the city and the EPA that extended over several years, the city was able to reduce the scope of the project, and its cost, from more than $70 million to $12.5 million.
Currently designed to handle an average capacity of 7 million gallons per day (MGD), the plant averaged 5.27 MGD in 2013. That compared to 4.66 MGD the previous year. This expansion will increase the plant’s capacity to 16 MGD.
Other top stories
Other stories receiving recognition from 2015 include the crazy Ohio weather which included flooding in June and December, and the snow and ice which blanketed the county and led to a 20-vehicle pile-up that closed Interstate 75; the city of Sidney changing its refuse pickup to an automatic trash pickup; SCARF unveiling its plans to raise money for the construction of a new animal shelter; an HIV investigation by the Ohio Department of Health in the county; Fort Loramie girls basketball team winning the state championship; and the Jackson Center volleyball team winning the state title.