2023 Year in Review


This is Part 4 of a series looking back at just a few of the key stories in the pages of the News Journal throughout 2023.


Work begins on Creekview housing development

WILMINGTON (originally published on September 9) — Work is beginning on a new 113-lot housing division on the site of the former drive-in theater.

Wilmington Safety/Service Director Brian Shidaker told the News Journal that contractor Kelchner Construction is currently clearing trees and brush from the area where the housing division is planned on North Lincoln Street.

Local helps maintain memories of local veterans

BLANCHESTER (originally published on September 9) — A resident is making sure the final resting places for local veterans are kept in good condition.

McKenzie “Mickey” Weiss, of Blanchester, runs the Facebook page “Got Your Six Restoration & Preservation.” On this page, she documents her efforts to clean up and preserve the headstones of Blanchester veterans.

Weiss told the News Journal she does this to help maintain the memory of local veterans. She started this journey back in April 2022.

“I really enjoy going into cemeteries. I always find them peaceful,” she said. “I had noticed that a lot of our veterans’ headstones were so dirty that you couldn’t read them. I wanted to find a way to clean them so others can learn about their stories. Because we have some fascinating veterans that are buried here.”

Arrest made in fatal hit-and-run

WILMINGTON (originally published on September 16) — A Dayton woman has been arrested and charged in the Aug. 19 hit-and-run incident that killed 27-year-old Daniel Smith.

According to a news release from the Wilmington Police Department, Taylor Nicole Thompson, 26, was arrested Wednesday by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and booked into the Montgomery County Jail.

“After a lengthy investigation by the Wilmington Police Department, Thompson was identified as the driver who struck and killed Daniel Smith,” the release stated.

Liermann steps down from city council post

WILMINGTON (originally published on September 27)— Bill Liermann has decided to leave his position as Wilmington City Council Third Ward member because he is not running for reelection this year. Instead, he is running for the Wilmington City Schools Board of Education.

“Several months ago I filed my petitions for a seat on the (school board), as several community leaders indicated they would like to see me consider a return,” Liermann told the News Journal. “I am elated that (Wilmington Superintendent) Jim Brady has been chosen as our superintendent and I want to work with him to improve our school system.”

Liermann, who was recognized at Thursday’s city council meeting for his service, advised he felt it’s best to “wind it down now” as the workshops for the 2024 budget are about to get underway in October.

Former teacher pleads ‘no contest’ to child porn charges

WILMINGTON (originally published on September 27)— A former Kentucky teacher has pleaded “no contest” to child porn charges and will be sentenced at a later date.

Samuel Morren, 47, was originally scheduled for a bench trial on Tuesday in Clinton County Common Pleas Court. However, Judge John “Tim” Rudduck accepted Morren’s plea to four of the 41 counts of pandering obscenity involving a minor. The four charges he pleaded no contest to were fourth-degree felonies.

Morren was indicted back in March after the Wilmington Police Department was assigned on the case from the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC), referred to by the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Mayor accused of misspending funds

WILMINGTON (originally published on September 30) – The Ohio Auditor’s Office is alleging that the mayor of Wilmington misspent/misappropriated more than $24,000 in unapproved severance payments to former city officials.

On Thursday, the Auditor’s Office issued the findings for recovery in a news release. The two findings against John Stanforth, the city’s outgoing mayor, were identified as part of an audit of the city’s finances for 2022, the release states.

According to the release, as part of former Wilmington City Administrator Marian Miller’s severance in June 2022, she was paid $8,747, which was “more than allowed under city policy for unused sick and vacation time for continuation of health coverage fees.”

The second finding was regarding former Wilmington City Administrator and Human Resources Director Greg Muenchen, who was allegedly paid $15,748, which was “more than allowed when he left his position in August 2022.”


DRIVE acquires Masonic Lodge site

WILMINGTON (originally published on October 4)— The Wilmington DRIVE (Downtown Revitalization Investment Vibrancy Effort) Program — adopted a year ago with the goal of enhancing and accelerating Wilmington’s downtown revitalization and encouraging creative mix-use development — made its first strategic acquisition by closing on the Masonic Lodge site (28 W. Main St.) on Sept. 29.

According to a news release, the purchase provides site control for redevelopment and will allow for strategic planning to begin on potential redevelopment. The site, the historic home of the Wilmington Masonic Lodge, as well as home to many other retail, office, and art studio spaces over its history, is a strategic keystone location in downtown Wilmington and has been the focus of many local redevelopment conversations over the years.

Landlord ordered to sell properties

WILMINGTON (originally published on October 25) — A local landlord was ordered to sell several properties before the end of the year after he pleaded guilty in October to 34 criminal counts.

Fred Haught, of Fred Haught Realty, age 88, appeared in Clinton County Municipal Court in front of visiting Judge Jerry McBride and entered his plea as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. Haught was joined by his attorney Anthony Satariano.

The charges include 25 counts of zoning violations, four counts of exterior structure violations, two counts of litter, two counts of public nuisance, and one count of reciprocity.

As part of the plea deal, Haught must sell the properties on or before Dec. 22, 2023 at 8 a.m.

Haught was sentenced to a total of 420 days in jail — a sentence that will be suspended upon proof of the property sales — and must pay a total of $3,500 in fine

Locals express concerns about potential housing project

WILMINGTON (originally published on October 25)— Locals expressed concerns at a Wilmington City Council in October meeting regarding a potential housing project on West Truesdell Street.

City council performed the first reading of an ordinance approving the concept planning unit development (PUD) for J.A. Development located on West Truesdell Street.

The PUD was approved by the Wilmington City Planning Commission on Sept. 5 after a public hearing and discussion, and was recommended for the council to approve.

Jean Haley, a local who lives in Timber Glen on Hickory Trail, expressed concerns that the new development would further issues already present in the area — one of those being a drainage issue around her area.


County lowers millage rate for property taxes

WILMINGTON (originally published on November 11) — The Clinton County Commissioners voted unanimously this week to lower the millage rate for the general fund portion of property taxes, according to a news release.

This action will help mitigate increases in property taxes caused by anticipated increases in property values, according to the commissioners. The impact is estimated at just over $1.68 million of tax relief for property owners in Clinton County.

“As property values increase, the taxes that the homeowner pays increase,” said Kerry R. Steed, president of the Board of Commissioners. “We’ve seen an unprecedented increase in property values, and we have an opportunity to reduce the impact of this increase by lowering the millage rate. This is possible because of the ongoing strong fiscal management and conservative spending of the county.”

WCS income tax levy fails by slim margin

(originally published on November 11) The Wilmington City School District’s proposed income tax levy failed by a slim margin in November’s general election, according to unofficial results from the Clinton County Board of Elections.

The unofficial results revealed that 3,248 voters, or 50.48%, opposed the levy, while 3,186 voters, or 49.52%, supported the tax.

The levy would have taxed 1% on the earned income of “individuals residing in the school district” for five years starting at the beginning of 2024. The money would have been used to help pay for current expenses.

Housing project ordinance rejected

WILMINGTON (originally published on November 18) — Citing public sentiment as the primary reason, the Wilmington City Council rejected an ordinance in November that would have approved a potential housing project for West Truesdell Street.

While a third and final reading was approved (4-2), the council voted against the ordinance, 5-1, at Thursday’s regular meeting.

Council members Jonathan McKay, Don Wells, Bob Osborn, Michael Allbright, and Nick Eveland voted “No.” Council member Josh Schlabach voted “Yes.” Council member Michael Snarr was not present at the meeting.

Blan native to perform at Grand Ole Opry

(Originally published on November 25) A musician who grew up in Blanchester is set to perform at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.

Nolan Taylor told the News Journal he’s thrilled to be taking the legendary country music stage tonight.

“It’s incredibly exciting,” said Taylor.

Taylor went on to describe the audition process he participated in to be a part of this monumental show.

“I got a call to come in and perform for (Opry personnel) and performed two songs for them,” said Taylor, who wasn’t sure what their position was with the show. “I don’t know if that’s how it’s done for others or how it’s usually done. But later on, I got the call from my manager saying I got on the show.”


City reaches settlement with subjects arrested at meeting

WILMINGTON (originally published on December 23) — Nearly $300,000 was awarded in a settlement to two local men who were arrested at an April Wilmington City Council meeting.

According to WCPO in Cincinnati, Darrell Petrey, of Clarksville, and Tony Thomas, of Wilmington, were each awarded $297,500 on Wednesday in their federal case against the City of Wilmington, Wilmington Police Chief Ron Fithen, former Council President Mark McKay, and outgoing Mayor John Stanforth.

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