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UP: Despite the economic and academic advantages, small, rural Ohio school districts have been reluctant to merge in recent years. An exception could soon take place in Seneca County, where 145 students at Bettsville may join 455 students at Old Fort in time for the 2014-15 school year. Merger talks began after declining enrollment at Bettsville caused a fiscal emergency earlier this year. If details can be worked out, Bettsville would cease as a district. The Bettsville school would be used for grades K-6, while students in 7-12 would attend Old Fort High School. The two communities, six miles apart, should be complimented for working together to do what’s best for both districts, and more importantly, their students.

DOWN: It’s spring and the flowers are blooming. But the usually plush lawns at the University of Findlay have the appearance of winter after a chemical used to kill weeds got mixed up with fertilizer and was applied to 54 acres. The brown-out is especially evident along Main Street. The school has begun re-sodding and reseeding. The mix-up, unfortunate and costly to correct, is an example of a problem that can easily occur if one isn’t careful. We have a feeling more than a few property owners can relate, if only on a smaller scale.

DOWN: It’s early but the late summer algae forecast for Lake Erie isn’t good. Monitoring of the Maumee River, near Waterville, has found levels of phosphorus that is comparable to the amounts present in 2011, the year of the record algae bloom. While phosphorus isn’t the only cause of algae, it is the plant’s main source of food, and high levels and warm temperatures are a recipe for trouble. Obviously, efforts must continue to minimize phosphorus runoff from farm fields, municipal sewage plants and other sources if the lake is ever going to have an algae-free summer.

UP: Members of the Hancock County Veterans Services Commission are underpaid when compared to some other similar-sized counties in Ohio. If the $100 per month pay hike requested this week is granted, the five commission members would still make just $500 per month. Members do much to help Hancock’s 5,607 veterans, and took a pay cut in 2006 when county money got tight. The commissioners should approve the reasonable request now that finances are better.

DOWN: Ohio may be one of the best places to work and raise a family, but, when it comes time to retire, you may want to consider your options. A recent Bankrate.com report ranks Ohio as the 38th-best state for retirement. The report considered various factors, including cost of living, taxes, crime, health care and weather. South Dakota came in first in the report due to its low tax burden and low crime rate. While Ohio had the 13th-lowest cost of living, the state also had the fifth-lowest score when it comes to overall level of satisfaction with our surroundings. The report showed that Ohio’s weather is the 14th worst. Imagine where we’ll rank when last winter is factored in!

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