Vermilion resident chosen to christen museum tug boat

Jane Smith

On Friday June 21, 2019, long time Vermilion resident Jane Smith will smash a ceremonial bottle of beer (yes, beer) over the bow rail of the recently restored tugboat, OHIO, which will open as a museum ship at the National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo, Ohio. Christopher Gillcrist, Executive Director of the museum said that when it came to choosing one of the volunteers to christen the museum tug, the decision of the staff was immediate and unanimous—-Jane Smith!

Jane Smith was an employee of the museum for many years when it was open in Vermilion. She staffed the museum gift shop and greeted guests with not only a warm smile but a knowledge of all things Vermilion—where to eat, where to shop, where to get a prescription filled and of course, where Ritter Library was located. Gillcrist said that Jane thought nothing of coming in and volunteering in a pinch even though she was an employee. When the museum began to prepare for its move to Toledo, Jane joined the ranks of the volunteer crew full time. “Mailings are Jane’s specialty. She can stuff, stamp and seal like no one else” said Gillcrist. When the museum opened in Toledo in 2014, Smith continued volunteering with trips to Toledo six to eight times per year. “Because Jane never gave up on the museum, we are honoring her service by asking her to christen the museum tug.” When notified of the honor, Jane Smith stated, ““this is an extreme honor for me. Many members of my family have in the past and currently work on the Great Lakes and to be able to take that legacy into the 21st century is very exciting”.

The tug was donated to the organization in 2018 by The Great Lakes Towing Company and the museum has been hard at work restoring the tug. According to Gillcrist, “what makes this event unique is that not one but two tugs will be christened at the same event.” Great Lakes Towing Company will christen their recently built Damon tug and it too will bear the name OHIO! “Two Tugs, one name, the past meeting the present and the future” said Gillcrist. “It’s almost kismet!” The new tug OHIO will enter the Great Lakes Towing Company’s fleet of tugs that support the commercial shipping industry all over the Great Lakes.

The public is invited to attend the christening. Tickets for the christening (tickets to the christening event on June 21, admission to the museum, the Schoonmaker Museum Ship, the Tug Ohio Museum Ship and dockside viewing of the new Great Lakes Damon Tug) are $25 per person or $20 per person if you are a member of the museum. If you can’t make the christening event, you can come out on the weekend of June 22-23 for $17 per person and see everything but the christening. The museum tug will be available for tours from that point on. Members of the museum are admitted free on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available at or can be purchased by phone at 419-214-5000 extension 0.

The museum’s tug has a long history on the Great Lakes. She was built in 1903 as a Milwaukee Fireboat and served in that capacity till 1948. As a fireboat, M.F.D.S No. 15 participated as a first responder ins some of Milwaukee’s worst disasters including the CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS disaster which took multiple lives. Great Lakes Towing Company purchased the fireboat around 1952 and refitted her out as a lake class tug. She served under two names while owned by Great Lakes Towing—the LAURENCE C. TURNER and OHIO. During her service as a G-Tug she did all of the traditional things tug boats do. She towed barges, participated in salvage and wrecking activities, and towed freighters to the scrap yard. She is thought to be the only tug on the Great Lakes to have participated in the towing of two US Navy Submarines—the USS RUNNER and the USS CROAKER which came onto the lakes at two different times.
For more information go to http://www.nmgl .org or call 419-214-5000.


Take time to visit Vermilion’s “Rubberneck” park

By Rich Tarrant

There’s a reason many local folks refer to it as “Rubberneck” Park – and if you look close you can actually see why in this photo. The official name for it is “Exchange Place”. That’s because, a billion [an exaggeration of course] years ago Exchange Street was ostensibly supposed to run to and behind / below this park. But over the years that changed. Nonetheless it was still given the name. And probably because of the old marine cannons, a wooden marker inscribed with the names of local veterans (now in the library); and then much later the Memorial Clock as well as the bricks honoring local veterans were located in that park, some people quite naturally confuse its name with Victory Park. Victory, however, is the one located just down the street and across the tracks to the south. As a matter of local trivia it may interest some to know that Victory Park, in the heart of the village, was initially known as “Liberty Park”. I’ve no idea as to when that name was changed [yet], but it may have been sometime following the First World War (c.1919-20). Anyway, back to the park some known as “Rubberneck”.

This park was unofficially, but very fondly, named after an activity – or non-activity, however one may see it – of those who spent time there sitting on the benches passing the time there watching (i.e. “rubbernecking”) the world pass by along Liberty Avenue. In the accompanying snapshot even the Village Police Chief (Ed Benson) can be seen sitting on a park bench “rubbernecking”. His police cruiser (it appears to be a 1938 Chevrolet sedan) is parked next to the bushes on the left. I’m guessing of course, but I’d say that this photo was taken around 1940-41 – during WW2.

At the time Vermilion had only one full-time policeman. He wasn’t really wasting village resources by sitting in the park. If anything happened, he was right there in the middle of town, where anyone and everyone could find him. And if he needed help? Well, as you can see he had plenty available.

For years Route 6&2 / Lake Road was the only major highway across northern Ohio. On the weekends when families were traveling between Cleveland, Cedar Point and the Lake Erie Islands their passage through Vermilion was exceptionally slow due to a “bottleneck” caused by sharp turns in the highway on Decatur Street between the tracks and Liberty Avenue. They were 90-degree turns and, unfortunately, surprised many a motorist. Accidents on those corners were common. The old Kyle Motors showroom and garage, that was located where the Vermilion Municipal Court and Council Chambers and offices are today was a regular crash site for eastbound vehicles. Over the years Kyle’s went through a significant number of gasoline pumps and showroom windows, etc. [An insurance adjuster could have set up a business desk on that corner.] Vermilionite Bob Kyle likely has a story or two, three, or even four about those days. This bottleneck / crash site was no small part of the reason the 4-lane road on the west part of town was finally constructed. But in the meantime, watching the traffic crawl through the village, especially on Sunday afternoons, was more fun than any television show – then or now. It was, in fact, a wonderful place to pass the time for kids of all ages.

Traffic literally crawled through town. In fact walking was faster than driving during those times. It was so slow you could speak with the weary travelers as they slogged along, some trailering their boats: “Hey Buddy, the Coast Guard’s following you!” and get a smile. There was only one traffic light at the intersection of Liberty and Main streets, and because there was no reason to use it during these traffic jams few paid any attention to it – including the Police Chief. Moreover, for spectators / rubberneckers as well as those passing through town there was a drinking fountain. And just across the street was Hart’s wonderful Drug Store making soft drinks, ice cream and candy readily available – as well as cigars if you were of age. The convenience of the nearby comfort station could not be underestimated. In the early years there was also “Mac” McDonald’s popcorn and peanut stand nearby. Later Furgie’s Popcorn stand located in the park and the water fountain was updated to produce refrigerated water. Who could have asked for more? Not me.

Vermilion resident Rich Tarrant is Curator of the Vermilion History Museum and a son and a grandson of the late proprietors of The Vermilion News (1897-1964). Readers may email him at:

YMCA Day Camp is grateful and still in need of life jackets

Officer Scott Holmes pictured with campers wearing their new life jackets.

The Vermilion YMCA Day Camp set out looking for life jackets for their campers to ensure safety while having fun. They were overwhelmed with gratitude for those that stepped up to support their efforts including Ferry Legal, LLC, ACC Adult Home Care, Bulan’s Boatyard, Julie Mac, Joyce Sherwood, Rick Thrasher, and Romp’s. The first day of camp was Monday, June 10, and Officer Scott Holmes was there to teach the campers how to properly wear their new life jackets.

As a waterfront community, teaching and enforcing water safety is essential, and the Vermilion YMCA Day Camp is still in need of more life jackets to ensure that every camper is able to fully enjoy their camp experience. They are still in need of life jackets in child size 30/50, youth size 50/90, and small/medium. For liability reasons, the jackets must be new. Vita-Plate Marine Distributors in Port Clinton has agreed to sell the YMCA life jackets at a reduced cost, so even a small donation goes a long way. For more information or to arrange a donation, call Carrie Gabriel at 440-967-4342.

Bennett named 2019 Festival of the Fish Father’s Day Parade Marshall

By Melanie Williamson

The Vermilion Chamber of Commerce has announced the Morgan Bennett, the 2018 Festival of the Fish Queen will be the Parade Marshall for the 2019 Festival of the Fish Father’s Day parade. Executive director Sandy Coe shared that they chose Bennett because of the amazing job she has done over the last year acting as an ambassador for Vermilion.

Bennett was named 1st attendant at the 2017 Festival of the Fish and spent that year traveling to other festivals representing Vermilion. She shared that it was a great experience and really pushed her to compete again in 2018. She went on to say that it really helped her enhance her public speaking skills and build confidence, so that she felt more prepared going into the competition again.

After being named queen, Bennett decided to really focus her efforts on being more involved in the community and encouraging other young people to be more involved. This meant less traveling to other festivals, more activity in town. This has included participating in Third Thursday and other community events, attending ribbon cuttings for new businesses, and conducting radio interviews promoting Vermilion as a tourist destination.

As a member of the VHS cheerleading squad, she also participated in a senior prom put on at Kingston for the residents. She worked to get other VHS students involved in community events and service projects throughout the community.

When asked what she learned from her experience, Bennett replied that she really learned the importance of community involvement. She stated it was exciting to be at an event and have little children come up and talk to her, asking if she was the queen. She also shared that she learned a lot about public speaking and networking. She helped out however she was needed at city events and was able to answer a lot of questions for people visiting.

Her advice to young residents thinking about competing in the pageant is to “go for it!” She said she knows it seems scary, but it really isn’t. She encouraged those thinking about competing to be confident and authentic. “Don’t think to much about it” she advised, just be yourself.

Despite stepping down as queen, Bennett wants to continue being involved and encouraging Vermilion youth to be more involved in the community.

Police Blotter

June 3, 2019
06:33- 900 block of Decatur: Vandalism complaint involving school buses.
10:08- 2400 block of Sunnyside: Traffic stop resulting in citations for DUS, Open Container, and Littering from an auto.
12:54- 4200 block of Telegraph: Property damage complaint.
16:09- 4600 block of Liberty: Traffic stop resulting in citations for DUS and Drug Paraphernalia Marijuana.
18:15- 500 block of S. Shore Ct.: Assist with civil matter.

June 4, 2019
15:21- 4800 block of Liberty: Traffic stop resulting in a DUS arrest.
17:08- 3500 block of Liberty: Traffic stop resulting in a DUS arrest.

June 5, 2019
14:18- 5700 block of Liberty: Assist with civil matter.

June 6, 2019
13:24- 4800 block of Liberty: Property damage involving a vehicle.
17:33- 1900 block of Baumhart: Traffic stop resulting in a DUS citation.

June 7, 2019
12:10- 1000 block of Oakwood: Domestic dispute resulting in no arrest.
15:25- South St.: Traffic stop resulting in a DUS citation.

June 8, 2019
08:56- Lake Erie: Water craft call.
10:53- 300 block of Fairfax: Unauthorized use of a vehicle complaint. The vehicle was returned.

June 9, 2019
02:30- Liberty Ave.: Traffic stop resulting in an OVI arrest.
18:30- Vermilion Rd.: Traffic stop resulting in a DUS citation.

Friends of Harbourtown 1837 line Liberty Avenue with flags

By Melanie Williamson

Friends of Harbourtown 1837 under the leadership of “Flag Chairperson” Charl Gabel has completed their mission of placing United States flags along Liberty Avenue from the downtown area to Overlook Drive. This project was completed in two phases with the help of many generous donors.

The first phase of the project covered Liberty Avenue from the Vermilion Police Station on the West end of town, to the bridge at McGarvey’s Landing. The second phase continued east to Overlook Drive at Vermilion On The Lake. The third phase will continue to the City limits near Baumhart Road.

No City funds have been used in regard to this project, everything has been done through monies collected and volunteer efforts. The Flags and poles purchased through local company, Harbortown Flag, were assembled by Vermilion Cub Scout Troop 412 under the Leadership of Terry and Molly Anders and, the initial flags (60) were put out by Harbourtown member Paul Habermehl, Cliff German, Brian Myarski and Ryan Dewitt.

By all accounts this is a large, very worthwhile project and Char thanks everyone for their continued support of this project. Special mention must go to Mayor Jim Forthofer along with Tony Velarious for their support regarding this project. “The flags look wonderful and the people in this town are tremendous when it comes to stepping up for a worthwhile cause” says Flag Chairperson Charl Gabel.

The project has currently raised over $5,000. $8,000 will be needed to complete all three phases. To donate to this cause, donate online or send or drop off your Friends of Harbour Town donation to Charl Gabel at the Encore Shoppe at 5487 Liberty Avenue in downtown Vermilion. Make checks payable to Friends of Harbour Town. If you see a flag that has fallen or is damaged, please contact Charl Gabel at 440-320-7184.


Superintendent Pempin makes clear statements about school and bus safety

By Melanie Williamson

The Vermilion School Board of Education met on Monday, May 13, for a regular meeting. Following the Vermilion Elementary School citizens of the month being recognized, the board started with the student liaison report.

Summer Camps
Nancy Mitchel and Jim Balotta spoke to the board about two summer camps opportunities that will be available again this year to Vermilion school students. The first is Camp Invention, which is in its third year in Vermilion. This summer program allows students to explore areas of robotics, science, and technology within the scope of learning about inventors. Mitchel shared the camp is open to students in kindergarten through sixth grade. They utilize high school students as counselors to help with the camp, which gives them the opportunity to learn leadership and organization skills. There are also five instructors including three Vermilion teachers.

Mitchel went on to explain that Camp Invention is a nationally recognized summer enrichment program. The curriculum used includes showcasing inventors and connecting with them through video, learning about farm technology, taking on the role of a superhero to help an inventor protect their patent, a deep-sea mystery, and the opportunity to build a robot.

The second summer camp opportunity being offered is through the Boys and Girls Club of Lorain County. This program runs five days a week throughout the summer. It includes meals, educational and recreational activities, and field trips. It is open to students aged 6 through eighth grade. There is a cost for this camp, but scholarships are also available. If parents are interested in either of these camps, they can contact their child’s school.

Swim team proposal
Mike Rini and several members of the swim team were again in attendance at the school board meeting to talk to the board about making swimming an official VHS sport. Rini stated that he understands the board and administration agreed to relook at the issue, and he wanted to get an update for the kids on the team.

He shared that last year’s team was comprised of 12 students, which they believe will be up to at least 20 for next year. Rini also stated that he understands it is a long reach for the district to fund 100% of the team, but they are willing to look at other avenues as well including fund raising and hosting swim meets, which he assured the board are revenue generating.

Before responded, superintendent Phil Pempin asked if anyone else wanted to speak on the topic of the swim team. VHS freshman Ben Rini addressed the board stating that swimming was great conditioning for your entire life. He went on to say that the sport helps to build bonds between the students and between the students and the coaches. He believes it is a highly beneficial sport to be offered to all students.

When Ben was finished, Pempin responded that they were expecting the swim team to again attend the board meeting, and the board and administration appreciates their persistence. He went on to say that he has been talking to the board members about it and has met with the district treasurer to go over the financial side of it, and they are closer to coming to a decision. Pempin stated that while he agrees with all of the positive aspects of swimming that they have brought up, there are also some drawbacks that the district has to consider including limited participation, funding, and competition with other sports. After significantly more discussion, Pempin asserted that they will have a clear answer by the next board meeting.

Shout out to athletes and coaches
Later in the meeting, Pempin read two letters that the district recently received regarding Vermilion athletes and coaches. The first was from an officiant not associated with Vermilion, who wrote that he was so impressed by how the Vermilion athletes and coaches conducted themselves during competition that he felt compelled to reach out. He wrote, “I have officiated every day this spring, and I don’t recall a more impressive group of individuals…from what I observed, your program is exceptional.”

The second letter was from an organizer of a recent track meet, who shared that one of the members of the Vermilion track team, who he didn’t know the name of, worked the entire time to help retrieve the discs from a fairly flooded field for both his team and all the other teams. The letter stated that the weather was bad the entire time, and the water was more than an inch deep in several areas. Despite this, the athlete he observed was friendly and helped the entire time. He ended his letter writing, “thank you for such a great coach and group of students.”

Pempin stated that he knows sports often gets a negative view, but he sees these letters are evidence that sports is more than just teaching students how to play a game and win. It is teaching them how to be people and work together. “You cannot underestimate the value of what sports do bring for students.”

School Safety
On Monday, April 29, a letter sent to parents regarding a threat at the high school. Pempin stated that it is always difficult when deciding to notify parents due to the delicate nature of the information. They want to keep the parents informed, but they also need to ensure privacy and adhere to the laws regarding information involving minors. The letter was sent out via Facebook, telephone, and email in an effort to ensure every parent saw it.

Pempin went on to say that whenever information is spread through social media, they are subject to a great deal of criticism, and that is okay. He stated they will keep utilizing social media to reach students and parents, and they will consider constructive criticism. Pempin then stated that the message he needs parents to hear is that if they hear of something said or done at school from their child, they need to contact the school. He said it doesn’t matter if it is about bullying, drugs, a threat or anything else, the school needs to be made aware so they can investigate it through the proper channels.

Pempin reiterated what officer Brian Beckwith has stated at previous board meetings; every reported threat is investigated. It will not go unnoticed. Pempin shared that they know there was another school shooting, and that heightens everyone’s awareness throughout the district. Students, parents, teachers, and administrators alike feel nervous when those things happen, and “it is heartbreaking.” If parents or students hear anything, even if it is secondhand, they are encouraged to tell someone at the school. Every report is looked into.

Safety on buses
After discussing safety in the schools, Pempin turned the topic to safety on the buses. He started by saying that they have talked to their drivers about this and they will again. Drivers are encouraged to not tolerate behavior that is disruptive or distracting because it is not safe. This includes students using profanity or putting their hands on another students. Pempin stated it is a short ride to the school and the kids have to behave. Administrators are encouraged to support the drivers and work together to keep the kids safe while on the bus. Pempin urged parents to talk to their kids about behaving while on the bus, so they can get to school without incident.

Mayor’s Notes – May 30, 2019

By Mayor Jim Forthofer

Last week, our heroic middle school teachers took their students on the annual town walk. They visit the water plant, police department, downtown merchants and…the Mayor’s office among other places. EVERY group asks me the same question, “What is your favorite thing about being mayor?” I always say, “You are.” And mean it.

The four waves of fourth graders who packed into my office this year had some good questions. Here are a few.

Kids: Why is your office so small?
Mayor: I didn’t think it was small until 30 of you packed in here to visit me. I didn’t think it was so humid either.

Kids: What do you do?
Mayor: (trick question) Number one is to keep everyone in town safe. Make sure the police, fire and ambulance people have what they need. Make sure the water we drink is safe. And, I make sure the taxpayers’ money is spent the best way possible. Not wasted.

Kids: Can I be Mayor?
Mayor: In only 8 years, you all can run for Council or Mayor or serve on a board. You should. Sometimes, not enough people get involved in helping the residents. Until then, you can still do things for the people of Vermilion. If you see trash on the sidewalk, pick it up and put in the garbage. If your parents’ say it’s ok, you can help your neighbors with their lawns or snow or whatever. It all counts.

Kids: Why do you have a picture on your wall of a man in a hole?
Mayor: That is a man from the water distribution department. He is in a hole fixing a water main break. It is six degrees BELOW zero outside. I have that picture so we remember the hard nasty work some City workers do to keep our city going. Like the people who work in the place that processes everything we flush down the toilet (collective ‘ewwww!”).

Kids: Do we have homeless shelters?
Mayor: The City doesn’t manage a homeless shelter. The local churches and service organizations will help people in Vermilion who need a bed and food.

Kids: Do you pay taxes? My Dad said I should tell you he pays too many taxes.
Mayor: Yes. I pay taxes.

Mayor: (changing the subject) Where do your parents work?
Kids: I think my Dad works at Cedar Point. My Mom works at the place with the big windows by Rite Aid. My Mom works in an office where they talk about fish.

So, let me take a second for one of those “teachable moments.” Where DO Vermilionites work? According to Finance Director Amy Hendricks, a 2017 RITA report tells us of the following payroll filings.
Cities where most Vermilionites work:
Vermilion -1,696
Lorain -538
Elyria -406
Cleveland -301
Amherst -230
Avon -218
Sandusky -193
Avon Lake -186
Westlake -177
Oberlin -119
Huron -100
Winners of the long distance commute:
Columbus -22
Dayton -3

The kids don’t need to be told twice when their time in my office is up. They are usually off to Granny Joe’s or Brummers for something more exciting than talking about taxes and civil service. But I am happy these citizens came to visit. Besides sticky fingerprints, they always leave me looking up an answer or two to questions I should know for next time.

Vermilion Township trustees receive department updates

The Vermilion Township trustees met on Wednesday, May 15, for a regular meeting.

Road foreman Steve Young reported on the following: Berm cutting and tree trimming has been completed; Issue with the bus bar was discussed; The street light on Cemetery Road and Darrow Road has not been put back up; Poorman Road Drainage Project is moving along well weather permitting; Seven dumpsters were filled on clean-up day; and a big thank you to Cyclone Services for bringing two extra bins out on Saturday. They have been very good to work with.

Building official/zoning administrator Robert Kurtz reported the ODOT rock salt contract was finalized and through Erie County rock salt will cost $72.01 per ton. This is an increase of $12.40 over last year. The vendor is Compass Minerals America located in Overland Park, Kansas.

Some high grass notices have been sent to repeat offenders, but due to the rainy and wet conditions, notices have been postponed until weather improves.
The discrepancy issues between some addresses and parcel numbers through the DDTI program have been corrected as requested by the Erie County Auditor’s Office.
Effective July 1, 2019, the State of Ohio has adopted the new residential building code. It is the 2018 Residential Code of Ohio (RCO). It’s modeled after the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC) put out by ICC. This update happens about every six years for the State of Ohio. Trainings have been attended.

Fire department update
Fire chief Frank Triana reported that between May 1 and May 14, the department reposded to 16 EMS calls, two car accidents, and one vehicle fire.
Duty Crew’s have been busy at Station 2 with painting. The Chief’s appreciation and thanks to Lt. Willard for his leadership in this area. Firefighter’s moved some equipment to Station 2 on Sunday, May 12, 2019. Thanks to all who had time to help with this project. Finley Fire will be on station May 28, 2019 through May 31, 2019 for annual maintenance to the Engines, Tanker and Heavy Rescue.


Pavilion Food Truck becomes first to be approved under new legislation


At the Wednesday, April 10, Vermilion Municipal Planning Commission meeting, the board reviewed the conditional use permit requested by Tim Pence of Pence Lake Erie Lanes for a mobile food unit. Jeremy Crawford and Joe Jesko co-owners of the “The Pavilion Food Truck” were present to represent Tim Pence who applied for a conditional use on a Mobile Food Unit.

Board member Heather Shirley stated understands this Mobile Food Unit will be located on a property on an existing business. She said there is a checklist of items they are required to meet to receive conditional use approval. She asked what the food truck is manufactured of, and Crawford responded the structure is made of steel.

Shirley asked if restroom use is inside the existing business and it was confirmed by the co-owners. She also asked if there were any concerns from either of the neighboring businesses when they operated before. Crawford responded that there were no problems that they were aware of and they worked with Tim Pence in alleviating some of his food business as he has been focusing and investing a lot on the bowling end of things (computer systems and new lanes). They were able to help him out with the additional food production, and a lot of his customers have utilized them.

He added that Pence still has a bar menu within his liquor license. He said they run some specials together. He said they are happy to work next to Jim’s Pizza Box, and they have talked with the owner. Jesko said parking is not an issue as it’s a big lot, and this isn’t an issue with neighboring businesses. Crawford stated there is enough parking for their business and the bowling alley.

Board member Jim Chapple asked what percentage of their business goes into the bowling alley. Jesko responded around 20% to 30%. Crawford added their customers can take their food into the bowling alley, but they’re not going in the bowling alley with a server or anything like that. Jesko said they also encourage their customers to go into the bowling alley as well.

Shirley asked where the handicap parking spaces were in relation to where they will locate the food truck. Crawford said it is on the side of the parking lot; next to the main entrance which is at least 10 feet away.


Crawford informed the commission that they had their fire inspection performed the night before and they were approved. The only issue they had pertained to signage of “No Smoking” signs which needed to be located on the trailer and outside of the trailer in the proximity of 10 ft. from the propane tanks. Since then, both signs have been hung. Shirley asked if they received their inspection from the Erie County Health Department and Crawford responded it was done as well.

After more discussion, the members of the planning commission that were present at the meeting voted and approved the permit for the Pavilion Food Truck making it the first food truck to be approved for business under the new city food truck ordinance.