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Timing favored city on safety project

Napoleon was favored with good timing on its application for a road safety project on State Route 108 just north of the city.

“Since I’ve started as city manager, I’ve heard people talking about that intersection being a problem,” said Napoleon City Manager Joel Mazur.

Those problems include 17 total crashes from 2016-2018 at the intersection of Rte. 108 and the on and off ramps for U.S. Route 24. Eight of those crashes resulted in injuries. The majority of the total crashes were motorists rear ending another.

In addition, Napoleon councils for years have advocated for a sidewalk to be placed from the area of a shopping center on Scott Street out to an area containing several hotels and an apartment complex on the edge of town.

“ODOT (the Ohio Department of Transportation) didn’t like the project (initially) because there have been no fatalities there,” Mazur said.

However, Napoleon applied for a safety project through ODOT to improve the situation. While it seemed unlikely it would be approved, Mazur said timing was on the city’s side.

He added while the application scored fairly low, being around the mid 30s with the highest-scored projects scoring in the mid 60s, Mazur said many other projects scored even lower than Napoleon’s, and there were few projects that applied.

“We’re very fortunate to have this application approved,” Mazur said. “It’s something we feel locally is needed, and sometimes the state officials don’t see these issues, so that’s why we advocate for them.”

The project is estimated to cost $3.9 million, with Napoleon’s share being $391,000. It would construct a roundabout at the intersection, including the sidewalk.

Mazur said statistics show roundabouts, though relatively new to this area, generally reduce fatal accidents by 90% and reduce injury crashes by 76%. Overall accidents are reduced by 35%.

“We expect to see less accidents overall and less severe accidents,” Mazur said.

Construction would begin in the state’s fiscal year 2022.

Brown warns of loss of ACA

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A day after the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments concerning the Affordable Care Act (ACA), U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, was warning of possible impacts if it is repealed.

Those impacts, according to Brown, include loss of consumer protections (such as pre-existing conditions), as well as the possibility of many Americans losing insurance altogether.

“Five million Ohioans under 65, about half the state’s population, have pre-existing conditions, and all of them would be at risk of losing their insurance if the Affordable Care Act is overturned,” Brown said.

He added the Trump Administration, after 10 years of failure by Republicans to repeal the law under the legislative process, has turned to the courts.

“The Trump Administration is pressuring the federal courts to overturn the Affordable Care Act,” Brown said. “They couldn’t do it through the democratic process, so they are turning to the courts.”

Brown was joined on a teleconference call with Ohio reporters Wednesday by Susan Halpern, a breast cancer survivor and small business owner in Columbus.

“As a breast cancer survivor and self-employed small business owner here in Ohio, I depend on the ACA for my healthcare,” Halpern said.

“As one of the 102 million-plus Americans with a pre-existing condition, I am very aware that without the ACA I would not be able to purchase health insurance for any price,” she added.

Brown said while Republicans have not been able to repeal the legislation, they have been able to chip away at it in recent years. Those efforts have, Brown said, resulted in the funding being eliminated for navigators who help consumers go through the exchange process, as well as the individual mandate requirement.

“It is inconceivable to me a president thinks he should upend the lives of millions of people,” Brown said. “There’s really no way of knowing the chaos (eliminating the ACA) would cause.”

The senator admitted the law could use some improvements, such as updating the language regarding pre-existing conditions and prescription drugs.

“But Republicans were only interested in repeal and replace, which is what they’ve campaigned on for the last 10 years, but they never had a replacement,” Brown said.

“There are some Republicans now that understand it is the law of the land and needs fixed, but the leadership is only interested in repeal,” he added. “For (Senate Leader) Mitch McConnell, it’s only about the politics of the issue, not fixing the ACA.”

Federal Reserve minutes show broad worries about economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Most Federal Reserve officials expressed concern at a meeting last month that the outlook for the U.S. economy was weakening, and many said the Fed should soon cut rates if uncertainty continued to weigh on growth.

Some businesses, particularly in manufacturing, have pulled back on spending and hiring because of greater uncertainty about U.S. trade disputes, Fed officials said, according to minutes of the June 18-19 meeting released Wednesday. Slower global growth is also dragging on exports, they noted.

For many Fed policymakers, reducing short-term interest rates “would be warranted in the near term should these recent developments prove to be sustained,” the minutes say.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told lawmakers in testimony Wednesday that the economic outlook hasn’t improved since June’s meeting.

Powell’s statement Wednesday boosted the U.S. stock market as it confirmed for many investors their expectations that the Fed will cut short-term rates for the first time in a decade at its next meeting in late July. The rate is currently in a range from 2.25% to 2.5%. A cut could lift home and auto sales by lower the borrowing costs for major purchases.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the Fed for raising rates four times last year and has called for a full percentage point cut. Economists expect the reduction will likely be a quarter-point.

The minutes showed widespread concern that the economy is losing steam. Nearly all officials cut their forecasts for the short-term rate that the Fed controls, compared to the previous meeting, the minutes said.

Many Fed officials said that “the economy appeared to have lost some momentum,” the minutes said, as business confidence, business spending, and manufacturing activity all weakened.

Also of concern was the fact that inflation fell further from its 2% target since the beginning of the year, the minutes said, and there were signs that investors and consumers expected inflation to remain low. That can make it harder for the Fed to push inflation, which fell to 1.5% last month, back to its target.

Several policymakers appeared to support cutting rates soon essentially as an insurance policy, because it “could help cushion the effects of possible future adverse shocks to the economy.”

Several others also noted that the current low unemployment rate had yet to push up inflation, which suggested that the steady hiring of recent months isn’t likely to overheat the economy.

Some Fed officials, however, said that while they expected fewer rate hikes than they had in the past, “there was not yet a strong case for a rate cut from current levels.” And “a few” officials said that cutting rates just to push inflation a few tenths of a percentage point back to its target would also risk inflating bubbles in financial markets.

Man charged with burglary

DEFIANCE COUNTY — One individual was taken to an area hospital and then charged with burglary following vehicles being driven into two structures Tuesday night.

Cody Bell, 26, was taken into custody by Defiance County Sheriff’s deputies after the office received a call of a possible burglary and damage to a residence at 8648 Scholl Road at approximately 10:15 p.m.

The caller reported they arrived at the home to find a vehicle in the residence, as well as one which had been driven into a barn on the property.

Deputies arrived and located Bell inside the residence. He was transported to Hicksville Hospital and then to the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio. He has been charged with burglary, a felony of the second degree.

Bell was set to appear in Defiance County Municipal Court Wednesday.

Damage to the residence, barn, out buildings and numerous motor vehicles was severe. Deputies are continuing to investigate and more criminal charges may be sent to the Defiance County prosecutor’s office for presentation to a Defiance Grand Jury.

Driver escapes injury when saguaro cactus pierces windshield

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona authorities say a driver escaped injury when his car’s windshield was pierced by the trunk of a saguaro cactus during a wreck Wednesday on the outskirts of Tucson.

Pima County sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Jelineo said the black sports car struck the cactus while crossing a median before ending up on the other side of a road and that the cactus ended up slamming into the car’s windshield.

The broken-off cactus ended up partially inside the car, with the rest jutting over car’s hood.

Jelineo said deputies detained the driver for further investigation after observing signs and symptoms of impairment.

The driver’s identity wasn’t released.