Portage's jobless rate

sees a slight increase

Portage County's jobless numbers ticked up in July, climbing to 5.3 percent from 5.2 in June, according to statistics released last week by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

It was the second month of increase. Jobless rates went up in 73 of Ohio's 88 counties. The state rate was 5.7 percent in July, up from 5.5 percent in June.

In Portage, the number of jobless rose from 4,700 in June to 4,800 in July out of a workforce of 90,500. Portage's jobless rate continued to be the lowest among its adjacent counties for a fourth straight month.

Four counties had rates below 4.5 percent, while seven had rates at or above 8 percent in July. Rates ranged from a low of 3.3 percent in Mercer County on the western border to a high of 12.2 percent in Monroe County on the Ohio River in Southeast Ohio.

July rates for counties abutting Portage (with their June rates) are: Cuyahoga 7.6 (7.9); Geauga 5.8 (6.2); Mahoning 6.8 (6.2) Stark 5.7 (5.6); Summit 5.6 (5.5) and Trumbull 7.0 (6.5).

-- Mike Sever, Record-Courier

New Goodyear blimp

christened in Suffield

About 2,000 people welcomed Wingfoot One, the newest addition to the Goodyear blimp fleet, with a celebration Aug. 23 on the grounds of the corporation's airship hangar on the shores of Wingfoot Lake in Portage County's Suffield Township.

They were joined by "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts, Goodyear CEO-Chairman Richard Kramer and a number of special invited guests and officials.

Kramer welcomed the crowd by saying the blimp is a "global icon" that has helped create awareness not only for the Goodyear brand, but for Akron. The first Goodyear blimp -- the Pilgrim -- was built there in 1925, he said.

The new blimp -- actually a Zeppelin because of its semi-rigid body design, and designed in collaboration with the Zeppelin company in Germany -- can reach speeds of 50 mph, he said.

"That doesn't sound fast," Kramer said, "but our pilots tell me it's really fast when you're used to going 35."

Goodyear plans to build two more blimps in the next four years, and retire the current Spirit of American and Spirit of Innovation airships as each of the new blimps is rolled out, the corporation said.

-- Dave O'Brien, Record-Courier

KSU team, fans mourn

football player's death

The Kent State University football family and the entire campus community last week mourned the sudden death of player Jason Bitsko.

He was found dead in the bedroom of his off-campus apartment by a roommate Aug. 20 shortly before 9 a.m. after he failed to show up for practice. The roommate called 911 after finding Bitsko in his bed unresponsive.

Brimfield police, who arrived on the scene within three minutes of the call, believe he died from an undetermined medical issue.

"Our players, coaches and everyone involved with our team are hurting because he was family," said second-year KSU head coach Paul Haynes. "As a team, we will come together and get through this one day at a time."

Bitsko's body was taken to the Summit County medical examiner's office for an autopsy, according to Brimfield Police Chief David Oliver.

Bitsko, a 21-year old Huber Heights native, was set to begin his fourth year on the team and would have been the starting center for this coming season.

-- Allen Moff, Record-Courier

Ohio Turnpike bridge

struck; traffic snarled

Parts of Route 14 and Interstate 480 in Streetsboro were closed for several hours Aug. 22 after a garbage truck struck the Ohio Turnpike bridge.

The westbound lanes of Route 14 between Singletary Drive and Frost Road were closed at about 12:30 p.m. after a Republic Waste truck struck the top of the Ohio Turnpike bridge, mangling one of the steel girders, according to Streetsboro Mayor Glenn Broska. Apparently, the lift arms that are used to dump the bin's contents into the truck were left up.

Broska said the eastbound turnpike exit ramp and the turnpike entrance ramp from I-480 eastbound also were closed. The westbound lanes of Route 14 and I-480 were reopened at about 3:40 p.m.

Adam Greenslade, director of governmental affairs, marketing and communications for the Ohio Turnpike Commission, said the commission is considering reducing some of the exit and entrance ramps to one lane with a traffic light controlling access until the damaged portion of the bridge is repaired.

Streetsboro Police Officer Josh Bartholomew said the driver has been charged with having a shifting load and having his equipment extended too high. He suffered minor injuries.

-- Bob Gaetjens, Gateway News