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Clermont hotel-tax budget battle over but bruises remain Jeanne Houck jhouck@enquirer.com

A Clermont County hotel-tax hike designed to woo an FC Cincinnati training facility to Batavia has survived a battle to remove it from the state budget. But it appears relationships did not survive unbruised between tax-hike proponents who wanted to keep the soccer franchise initiative quiet Beamer in the midst of competitive negotiations and tax-hike opponents who believe it should have been vetted by public officials and the Uecker public long before it ended up in the budget pending before Ohio Gov. John Kasich. A budget amendment that will allow Clermont County McGraw Commissioners to increase the county’s 6 percent hotel-tax rate by up to an additional 1 percent – which would amount to a nearly 17 percent tax hike – is in the two-year Wright spending plan approved by the Ohio legislature Wednesday, June 28. “It is frustrating that the surprise tax increase remains Uible in the budget bill that has been sent to the governor,” Miami Township Administrator Jeff Wright said. “A little bit of collaboration goes a long way towards better governing. “A large amount of collaboration is what the Board of Trustees and I desire for Miami Township’s businesses and residents,” Wright said. Trustees in Miami and Union townships cried foul when they learned that representatives of the Clermont County Commissioners and the Clermont County Convention & Visitors Bureau had recruited state Rep. Doug Green, R-Mount Orab, to put the hotel-tax hike in the Ohio House version of the budget passed in

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May. State Sen. Joe Uecker, R-Miami Township, says he was contacted by representatives of the Clermont County Commissioners and by representatives of Miami and Union townships when the House sent the budget to the Ohio Senate. Uecker met separately with people from each side. “The representatives of the county explained a plan whereby once authorized by a vote of the commissioners, the hotel tax would be used to lure a professional soccer team into Clermont County, bringing sports teams and national events to the county (and) filling yet more hotel rooms and bringing families to dine and shop in Clermont County,” Uecker said. “The two townships opposed the plan as they had not been consulted prior about the plan. “After hearing both sides, I believed the plan to bring a professional soccer team to Clermont County was, in fact, a good and viable idea as a whole for the county,” Uecker said. Hotel-tax hike opponents – notably Union Township Trustee John McGraw – have been complaining about its genesis for some time. But the entire boards of trustees of Union and Miami townships stepped up the opposition when the Ohio Senate approved its version of the state budget – leaving the hotel-tax hike intact – on June 21. With just days to act while the House and Senate hammered out any compromises in the budget that they were required to send to Kasich by Friday, June 30, Union Township and Miami Township lobbied state lawmakers against the hotel-tax hike via a resolution and a letter, respectively. “I am standing up for our township and residents. They are worth the fight,” McGraw said. “Without transparency in our government, we have no government.” The last-minute lobbying did not change Uecker’s mind about the hotel-tax hike. As delineated in the state budget before Kasich, Clermont County Commissioners can assess a tax increase on lodging expenses run up by hotel guests only if the Clermont County Convention & Visitors Bureau has a contract by Jan. 1, 2019, with a professional sports team to build, improve or maintain a sports facility. “While I do indeed represent Union and Miami townships, I

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Firefighters look over the wreckage of Continental Flight 3407 after it crashed Feb. 12, 2009, into a suburban Buffalo, N.Y., home. Survivor Karen Wielinski, a former Loveland resident whose husband Doug died when the plane struck their home, recently visited Loveland to discuss her new book on the tragedy and its aftermath.

Karen Wielinski’s story of survival and love Chuck Gibson

THE BOOK ...AND MORE

Community Press Contributor

T

he sound of a plane overhead was not unusual – the house was in the flight path – but the sound of this airliner was different. In an instant Karen Wielinski’s life was changed forever as Continental Flight 3407 tumbled out of the sky and smashed into her home on Long Street in Clarence Center near Buffalo, New York, on Feb. 12, 2009. Karen Wielinski was home with her husband, Doug, and daughter Jill. Jill was home preparing to begin a college internship at a golf club and was upstairs. Doug had just headed off to bed. Karen, who was watching television, heard a “weird” noise. The former Loveland resident thought if it was a plane it could hit something. “Immediately after that thought came into my mind, everything came crashing down,” Wielinski recalled. “My first thought was, oh my gosh, am I dead? Oh my gosh, it hit our house, it hit us.” Wielinski was still sitting on the couch. There was a small opening. She had to get out; no one was going to help her. There was an obstruction above her. Somehow it moved; maybe by an angel, or by God, she didn’t know, but she was able to stand. That’s when she heard the sound of a woman cry-

CHUCK GIBSON FOR THE COMMUNITY PRESS

Karen Wielinski shared her story and enjoyed a reunion with Loveland friends at a book signing at St. Columban Church in Loveland.

ing and hoped it was Jill. She pulled herself out and found herself facing the driveway looking at the cars and then turned and saw the house. “I still don’t know why I didn’t go berserk. The minute I saw the tail with this emblem, I thought this is no little plane,” she said. “Then I just turned around and there was Jill standing there crying; she was just so close.” Because of what she saw, Karen Wielinski knew if her husband was anywhere in that area, he wasn’t going to make it. All passengers and crew on board Continental Flight 3407 were killed. Doug was killed. Their cat was killed. The house was destroyed. Yet, she and her daughter survived. There was no way she

The Book: “One on the Ground: The Story of One Family Before, During and After Continental Flight 3407 Crashed into their Home” Author: Karen Wielinski The Douglas C. Wielinski Memorial Scholarship Fund has been set up to provide assistance to students who have a genuine love for history as Doug did. Donations to: P.O. Box 241, East Aurora, New York More: www.oneontheground.com

could have known the long road those first few steps to safety would lead her on. “That first year was crazy,” Wielinski said. “Everything was in that house.” That house was home to all the memories Karen and Doug Wielinski created raising their four daughters Kim, Lori, Jessica and Jill. Those memories included 14 years in Loveland, Ohio, where they were active members of the community, practiced their faith and sent the girls to school at St. Columban. That crazy first year soon became an even harder second year. “I had never lived by myself; that was an adjustment,” Wielinski said. See SURVIVAL, Page 2A

See CLERMONT, Page 2A

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Vol. 37 No. 15 © 2017 The Community Press ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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