In 2022, The Sun covered a wide-ranging number of issues in the county. With the year in the rearview, we look at 10 stories that commanded attention and resources.
The Sun reports anywhere between 300 and upwards of 650 original stories a year. Not being mentioned in this top 10 doesn’t mean the story wasn’t important or interesting. That said, if you want to stay in the loop on all the stories we cover in 2023, please consider subscribing today by calling 513-732-2511 during regular business hours or subscribing online at https://www.clermontsun.com/subscribe.
Before we get to the top 10, here are some honorable mention stories that you may have missed:
– The office of The Clermont Sun has moved to Williamsburg
The Clermont Sun has a new location. The Clermont Sun recently moved its offices from the village of Batavia to the new location. Rod Baker, Regional Publisher for Champion Media, oversees The Brown County Press, The Clermont Sun, The News Democrat, The People’s Defender, and The Ripley Bee. Of the move, Baker said, “We are very happy to return to our roots in Williamsburg where The Clermont Sun was founded. We have a rich history of providing local news and information to the readers of our publications in Clermont, Brown, and Adams Counties. Even though our physical location has changed, our mission of being your local news source remains the same. We encourage all our readers to visit our new office space and thank you for your continued support throughout this transition.”
– Voters in Williamsburg Twp. approve fire and EMS levy
Officials say added revenue will ‘improve run times and drive the quality of care
On Nov. 8, voters in Williamsburg Township approved a proposed 5 mills – continuing fire and emergency services levy, which will commence in 2022. According to unofficial election results from the Clermont County Board of Elections, the tax levy passed with 56.57 percent of the vote or 1,163 ‘yes’ votes. Some 893 voters cast a ballot against supporting the levy. Levy facts set forth earlier this year by the township showed that the estimated revenue generated by the levy is $645,000 annually.
1. Tornado touches down in Goshen
Recovery efforts show community is Goshen Strong
The Goshen community is showing its strength and resiliency as it recovers from a tornado, confirmed and categorized by the National Weather Service as an EF2, that touched down in the area a little after 3 p.m. on July 6. According to the report from the NWS, the weather event lasted from 3:06 p.m. to 3:14 p.m., and the estimated maximum wind speed was 130 miles per hour. The maximum path width was 750 yards, and the path length was 4.575 miles. The tornado resulted in no fatalities, and two injuries, according to the NWS report.
2. Zimmer closes
The William H. Zimmer coal-fired power plant in Moscow closed on May 31. On May 31, Media Relations Manager Jenny Lyon confirmed to The Sun that as scheduled, the Zimmer Power Plant would cease generating power later that evening. Lyon explained that afterward, Vistra Corp. would begin the decommissioning process. “The early stages include powering off the generation-related systems, removal of combustibles (coal), and general clean-up activities,” Lyon said in an email with The Sun. “Project work will continue through the summer, with the final duration of the project remaining flexible as Vistra responsibly decommissions the facility.” Plant owner Vistra Corp. announced the closing date in July 2021. In September 2020, Vistra announced that it would close the Zimmer power plant by “year-end 2027 or sooner should economic or other conditions dictate.” Last year, Vistra said it is accelerating the closure of Zimmer as the company continues its transition away from coal. Zimmer Power Plant, which opened in 1991, currently has about approximately 150 employees. The plant is a single-unit site with a capacity of 1,300 megawatts. Zimmer says it will evaluate the site for potential investments in renewables or grid-scale battery storage, utilizing existing infrastructure; Vistra is doing this work at its plant sites across the country. While news of the accelerated closure has made headlines, the assessed value of coalfired power plants like Zimmer has been in a steady decline. This follows a national trend of declining values of coal-fired power plants; many states are switching to natural gas, which is more abundant and cheaper to use, and renewable, less polluting forms of energy such as solar and wind. On May 31, Lyon also shared that moving forward, Vistra Corp will evaluate the Zimmer site for potential investments in renewables or grid-scale battery storage, utilizing existing infrastructure.
3. COVID-19 vaccines now available for young children
Clermont County Public Health is now offering the COVID-19 vaccine to children six months through five years of age, which coincides with the Centers for Disease Control’s recent announcement that it has endorsed the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation that all children in that age group should receive a COVID-19 vaccine. With the recent announcement, the CDC notes that eligibility for vaccination has been expanded to nearly 20 million additional children, and means that all Americans ages six months and older are eligible for vaccination. The CDC explains, “COVID-19 vaccines have undergone—and will continue to undergo—the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. Parents and caregivers can play an active role in monitoring the safety of these vaccines by signing their children up for V-safe – personalized and confidential health check-ins via text messages and web surveys where they can easily share with CDC how a child feels after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.”
4. Humble Worldwalker walks again
Hundreds Walk With Steve Newman for anniversary event
Bethel’s Walk With Steve Newman event, a big celebration to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Bethel homecoming at the end of Newman’s solo walk around the world, is in the books, and the honoree said that the day was a success and that he was ‘very humbled’ by those who turned out to participate. The village of Bethel and the Bethel Historical Society & Museum partnered to put together the April 1 celebration honoring the Bethel-Tate High School alumnus, which served as a fundraiser for the museum. The community was invited to join in the occasion. Opportunities were: – On April 1, organizers recreated Newman’s April 1, 1987, return to his hometown of Bethel. Participants met at East Fork State Park to walk to Bethel’s Burke Park (about 4.5 miles) with Newman leading the way. – People also joined Newman and the walkers as they passed by Grant Career Center, and continued with them to Burke Park, a distance of about 1.5 miles. – The public met at Burke Park to welcome Newman and the walkers and participated in the celebration of his Guinness Book of World Records accomplishment. Newman said that more than 200 registrants participated in the walk events, and some 60 people joined the walkers at the celebration at Burke Park. Newman, who took the stage at the state at the park to deliver remarks, said that he was ‘very humbled’ by the event. “When I got up to the podium to give my speech at the very end, I couldn’t get it out of my mouth; I cried. I cried for several minutes,” he shared. Newman added that he was moved by the fact that the walk around the world still means a lot to a lot of people. “It still has an impact on people, and that they have not forgotten, and that they were willing to come out on a cold, overcast day and stand in the wind, and still show their love and kindness, gratefulness and respect to me
5. Amelia dissolved
Amelia is officially dissolved more than two years after voters approved issue at ballot box
It’s been a little more than two years since a majority of the voters in the village of Amelia approved a ballot issue to surrender the corporate powers of the village, and now it’s official, Amelia has been dissolved. It was on the Nov. 5, 2019, ballot that Amelia voters approved the issue to dissolve the village. When the village dissolved, it was absorbed into neighboring Pierce and Batavia Townships; about 65 percent of the village belongs to Pierce Township and the remaining 35 percent to Batavia Township. On Jan. 18, Batavia and Pierce Townships sent out a joint press release about the former village of Amelia, noting that representatives of the Office of Keith Faber – Auditor of the State of Ohio — hosted a post-audit conference that day. At Faber’s direction, all the funds from the former village of Amelia have been audited, accounted for, and disbursed between Pierce and Batavia Township, according to the press release.
6. Willhoff guilty on all 10 charges
Former Bethel-Tate coach found guilty related to sexual contact with a minor
Chad Willhoff, a former coach at Bethel-Tate High School, was found guilty on all 10 counts related to sexual contact with a student-athlete, a minor at the time, in the early 2000s. The five-day trial began on March 21 and concerned the first charges Willhoff, 42, faced. The trial was before acting Judge Alan Corbin, due to Common Pleas Judge Jerry McBride’s retirement last year. He was first charged on July 16, 2020, with one felony count of gross sexual imposition, three felony counts of sexual battery, and six felony counts of unlawful conduct with a minor. All the charges stem from incidents that occurred between 2002 and 2007. At the time of the incidents, the victim would’ve been between the ages of 11 and 16, and was a student-athlete at Bethel-Tate. Willhoff was employed as a Bethel-Tate High School coach of girls soccer, girls track, girls basketball, and boys track during that time. He is not currently a teacher or coach at any public school district. He had a three-year pupil activity permit, which allowed him to coach, between 2003 and 2006. He also had a two-year provisional license as a health and physical education teacher between 2010 and 2012, and four years, between 2012 and 2016. It’s not clear where, if at all, he used those licenses.
I’ve done terrible things’
Victim’s mother said Willhoff was ‘like a son to her’ FBI agent testifies about how child grooming works
The first day of the trial concerned jury selection for the 12 jurors, with two alternates, as is typical of jury trials.
‘A wolf in sheep’s clothing’
The second day, March 22, both sides put forth opening statements. Zipperer said Willhoff had “complete saturation and control” over the victim in the case. “The defendant was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He put on the front of a respectable man who was a deacon and volunteered at Landmark Baptist Church, a basketball, track and field, and soccer coach at Bethel-Tate Schools, and an honorable husband and father to those close to him, all the while behind closed doors, he was poisoning the mind, and putting a stranglehold on a 12-year-old girl …,” Zipperer said. [Editor’s Note: In places where we use ellipses, that’s indicating a reference to the victim’s name, which we will not use in this report.]
7. George Rooks passes away
‘The Ole Fisherman’ was beloved in Clermont County
The Sun is sad to report that our longtime columnist, George Rooks, passed away on Feb. 20, 2022. Known to our readers as, “The Ole Fisherman,” George wrote for The Sun for well over a decade about fishing, friends and his beloved village of Bethel. Thank you, George.
8. Cory Wright resigns as admin in Union Twp.; trustees approve concealed carry in Civic Center
Cory Wright resigned his position from Union Township as its interim administrator and director of planning and zoning. This move follows the resignation of longtime administrator Ken Geis — who is now an administrator with the village of Batavia — at the end of last year. Wright put in his resignation on Feb. 11 to accept a position with the city of Loveland.
Township approves resolution allowing conealed carry in the Civic Center
In a follow-up from last month’s meeting, John Becker, trustee, introduced a motion on a resolution that would allow concealed carry at the Union Township Civic Center. Reading part of the resolution, Becker said “public safety is paramount and no law-abiding citizen should be deprived of their God-given right to self-defense.” The resolution would allow somebody licensed to carry a concealed firearm to carry it into the Civic Center unless “otherwise prohibited in leased areas or by federal or state law.” An example of a leased area within the Civic Center would be the United States Post Office, which prohibits open or concealed weapons inside.
9. The Land of Grant
CVB’s Land of Grant Trail takes you through 17 historical sites in Clermont and Brown Counties that shaped the life of the general and president
Clermont and Brown County are teeming with the history of Ulysses S. Grant, and thanks to the Clermont County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Land of Grant Trail, you can experience all 17 historical spots ahead of the favored son’s bicentennial. The best two parts of the CVB’s 17-stop self-guided tour? Not only is it free, but you don’t even have to download an extra app. You simply go to discoverclermont.com/grant, click the “get yours” button, and a link will be sent to your phone via text or email. From there, you’re ready to travel back in time.
Jeff Blom, president of the CVB, told The Sun via email that the Trail was a team effort with Alexis McKinley, the CVB’s former intern/digital marketing coordinator; Brady Barnhill, an intern for the Land of Grant Trail brochure and app content; Sarah Gleason, marketing manager at CVB; Mary Doland, graphic designer at CVB; Bandwango Team, the CVB’s app technology platform; and of course, Blom also contributed, “to create and build this wonderful new trail.” Blom said history is important to visitors to Clermont County. “We are rich in presidential history with the birthplace of our 18th President Ulysses S. Grant and related sites, as well as the National Underground Railroad Freedom Trail sites, of which we have a large number,” he said. “People love to travel to explore our history and see the sites where significant history was made. Visitors coming to Clermont stay in hotels, spend money at local restaurants and retail shops across the county.” Grant mattered because he helped to unit a “very divided country” following the Civil War, Blom said. In addition, Blom said he enacted significant civil rights legislation to improve the lives of African-Americans in the country. “To share his birthplace and boyhood home site and related Grant family sites throughout Clermont and Brown counties is important to show how our region helped to shape Grant as a young man and build his strong character that enabled him to lead the Union Army, and later lead the country, as President,” Blom said. Blom added, “The Land of Grant Trail is a fun way for individuals, couples, families, student groups and more to explore 17 Grant historical sites and learn more about Ulysses S. Grant and his family.”
10. Goshen Board of Education unanimously appoints new member after former board president resigns
A new Goshen Board of Education member was recently appointed, this after former Goshen Local Schools Board of Education president John Gray resigned in April following a video of him allegedly attempting to pick up an 11-year-old in Indiana was streamed to YouTube. Melissa Paprocki was unanimously appointed to fill the open seat and was sworn into office during the regular board of education meeting on May 16.