Archive for April, 2010

Bad Timing For Licking County, Ohio Levies

street post with promises ave and reality way ...
promises ave and reality way from Crestock High Quality Images

Sometimes things happen in a way that you would think a higher power is trying to send you a message. It’s like in the movies when the star says, “Show me a sign God!”, and there’s signs happening all over the place, but the star doesn’t want to see the truth. When a home loan escrow report comes at the same time that everyone is asking for more money, that’s one of these signs.

I like parks, nice schools, bike paths, and libraries. They are all nice things. I like many nice useful things that I sometimes cannot afford. On a personal level, it’s an easy thing to take care of, but on a public level, you’re at the mercy of the voters. When many of the voters will not be troubled by extra taxes and many have incomes high enough to absorb the costs, and many in the middle want to not see the signs, it’s hard to make your vote matter.

I bought my house 11 years ago and the payment has risen by $200 because I escrow the taxes and insurance. This amount could vary for everyone else, but $2,400/year for an average home is big to me. The income level since that time certainly has not kept pace. Taxes and prices on everything else have outpaced incomes as well. Now we have all of these public programs sticking out their hand for money like the good times are here again!

As I said, all of the entities asking for money are nice amenities. They try to make the case that if you cannot afford to give them more money on demand that you are against them and it certainly isn’t true. They also don’t tally up all of the things that have hit your wallet since their last levies. The fact that foreclosures are going up and incomes are leaving the city mean nothing to them. There are a myriad of factors that mean nothing to them. They just know that they need more money too.

The campaigns never tell you what they are doing to keep costs low. You would think they would love to tell you. All that the campaigns tell you is all of the great deeds and benefits they have given, and many of them are easily debatable.

I am only one vote, but I can tell you that many are in the same type of bind. The price tag to live in Licking County versus the benefits you receive are questionable. As the price to own a home moves up, people keep leaving, home foreclosures keep happening, and the wage base is slowly eroding away. Just as these levies have slowly crept up, so too has the tax base started leaving.

Some things to remember as they tell you that they don’t support them:

  • C-TEC is setting in a brand new school that we built them. They’ve squandered the money with poor management and things like acting classes in Granville and lawyer fees for their lack of care during the building project.
  • The park system here is nice. It’s also very extensive. How did it get that way in the first place if the public does not support them?
  • The library is in a nice building that is very nice and very new. It’s a great resource. How did it get that way if we did not support them?

As you go to place your vote think of those folks on the verge of losing everything and the steady creep of costs they’ve experienced. If you can’t understand their situation, I hope the long lists of layoffs and foreclosures doesn’t concern you either.

Newark, Ohio Homes Tax Appraisals To High – Here’s A Solution

Many people do not understand the tax appraisal process. I can’t understand the entire process well enough to tell everyone how to check their specific situation. The process is complicated on purpose. The process is meant to

Stacks of 100 dollar bills with gold key
Property Taxes To High? from Crestock Stock Photography

discourage you from getting a fair evaluation of your home.

A common misconception is that the tax appraised value and the actual value should be close. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Watch the sale values against the property values at The Licking County Auditor’s website. The website is also a good resource to see what other’s around you are paying. Live on a street with a bunch of nearly identical houses, but for some reason, you’re home is valued $25,000 higher? It’s not uncommon and you can dispute this with some time and effort.

Not long ago, a Newark, Ohio school levy failed along with levies all around the county. The answer was a gross evaluation of many, many homes in an effort to increase tax revenue. It’s not fair, but it is legal. There was an overwhelming number of people that learned the process of disputing an unfair appraisal, but many more did not know that dispute was an option.

New homeowners are also targeted for high appraisals. If you’ve bought your home within the past few years, you should at least check The Licking County Auditor’s website.

If you think there is even a chance that you are being unfairly taxed, get The House Tax Ax. It’s a full system to help you be sure you’re paying your fair share.

Defending The Animal Shelter And John Luzio

I made a few posts on The Advocate recently. Posting there usually leads to a dead end, but when I see something worth posting on, I’ll give my 2 cents. The pro-get-rid-of-John Luzio crowd has decided that anyone that will not join in their attacks on the Licking County Commissioners and John Luzio is an evil animal-hating heathen, so now I’ll defend my position on the Licking County Animal Shelter.

To set the record straight, I’m not John Luzio. I am Mark Spearman. I’ve only met Mr. Luzio once and I can’t even remember what was said to him. I’m sure he has no clue who I am unless he remembers a pizza delivery from 15 years ago. Doubtful. Also, I have no involvement in Licking County politics. I’ve simply lived here for many years and vote regularly. I happen to love dogs. I’m not employed by any government agency or any group that is contracted to work for a government agency. I’ve got 2 great dogs that I rescued from the dog pound.Not a saintly PETA member, but a dog lover who feels it’s best to rescue rather than pay for pets from puppy mills. I’m cheap too, so why pay for a dog when great ones are available for next to nothing?

Why then would I take a few minutes and defend this man that is claimed to be so dreadful? My first reason is that I know political blogging and persuasion when I see it and that is the main drive of the anti-shelter folks. They’re trying to use the shelter as a means to get a Commissioner elected. They’re doing it under the guise of “loving the animals”. Some of those joining in think that they are helping the animals, but all one needs to do is look at the political references in every post on The Advocate. “Get rid of the gas chamber!”, is their only proposed solution.

John Luzio has served Licking County for many years and I respect that type of dedication to a thankless and difficult job. His methods have changed over time and he’s rolled with the changes. Now they want to remove the gas chamber and I don’t see him putting up a fight over it. They offer no alternatives for dogs that are vicious and risk harming employees during the injection. He’s explained why and when it’s used, but that’s not good enough. Nothing is good enough for this crowd just keep saying, “Retire Luzio”, over and over.

They’ve tried to fabricate a bunch of loose evidence. They acquired a choppy video under the Sunshine law and before the video could be explained, they attacked Luzio. It turned out that there was an explanation for everything they were seeing. They tried to say that a volunteer form was outrageous when it was nearly a direct copy that every shelter in the country uses to protect everyone involved. The list goes on and on.

This is nothing new and I’m finding the trend of attacking dog wardens to be popular in Ohio and other states. Here’s an article about the trend of firing dog wardens in Ohio. No matter what they do, they’re used as pawns in politics to remove Commissioners. They tug at the heart strings of animal lovers and try to make the dog warden the evil person in the animal control problem. These attacks get very trendy at election time. The end result is a revolving door of inexperienced dog wardens that make the animal control problem even more difficult.

The anti-shelter group tries to claim that The Licking County Animal Shelter is trying to hide from the public by blocking them from photographing every detail of the shelter at any time. Can anyone name a functional government facility that doesn’t have some restricted access section to it? The do have to kill animals here and it’s not something that you want to show photos of. Imagine someone’s pet making the newspaper and the family’s children seeing it. Imagine criminals seeing some chemicals that they may want and having exact details of where they are located. There are many reasons to not allow full public access to every inch of the facility, but this is translated into John Luzio being a secretive evil agent of some sort of animal killing conspiracy.

I suppose it’s easy to pick on the guy that kills dogs, but the truth of the matter is he’s cleaning up society’s mess. They don’t take care of their animals and he’s forced to control the problem. The alternative is stray and possibly dangerous animals at large. I appreciate someone who will take on a job like this and the heartache that goes with it. I know for sure that I couldn’t do it. I know that none of the anti-shelter folks could or would do it.

This isn’t to say that I’m not for everything that would truly bring about positive change to the shelter. Who would not want better treatment for the animals? I think that pummeling an official that is currently doing the job on accusations of very little or no merit is a sure way to get a poor replacement. The only person that is going to take his place is going to be a person who is desperate for a job, has a plan for squelching any opposition like Luzio is facing, and is certain that his political ties are strong enough to beat any similar treatment.

It is not possible to kill a large number of animals without problems. It is a disgusting business and there’s no way to videotape the process. We cannot even do it to people in prison spending millions of dollars on the process without a problem, yet the dog warden is expected to do it many times weekly in a manner that appears gentle to the cameras?

I’ve asked the anti-shelter folks many times, “Who is going to replace Luzio and what methods are they going to use that will be better?”. The answer is always similar to, “Oh I’m sure somebody more qualified with do something more efficient and humane than Luzio.”. Really? They have nothing. All of the picketing, screaming, and shouting, but no plan for the next step after Luzio is removed. No Commissioner running for office is addressing the issue either.

Anti-shelter people, I understand your emotions. Anyone who’s owned a dog they loved can’t stand the thought of seeing one put to sleep. The thought that they’re tortured when they’re killed makes it even worse. Do they suffer in the gas chamber? I’m sure they must for a brief period and it’s sad. Are there better ways? Probably and we should keep working on viable solutions and listening to the professionals that know best. Nobody is disputing that we can’t constantly keep improving the situation.

The problem is that you will never make any progress by attacking people that must solve the animal control problem. Just doing the job itself is proven to bring on psychological problems to workers. As animal lovers, you should understand that what we do to them is a direct reflection of what we do to ourselves. You add to the employees suffering when you attack them for everything they do. Most of what they do is because they are following the procedures that the law requires. There are so many rules for every detail of the process that I’m sure nobody could follow every one of them without violation. Many of you cannot follow every detail of a simple employee handbook at your workplace can you? There handbook makes yours read like a business card and carries legal penalties.

It’s hard to argue with the anti-shelter crowd when the true means to their mission is a political end, but you’re welcome to comment. The followers are emotionally attached to the issue and so far I haven’t found one that can make a rational argument. I would welcome any that can.

Arbor Day Festival At Dawes Arboretum

May 1, 2010
10:00 amto4:00 pm

The Arbor Day Festival will be at Dawes Arboretum.

This is a great time for all, but especially the kids. Many activities are planned for the day.

Dawes Arboretum 7770 Jacksontown Rd SE , Newark , Ohio 43093

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Newark, Ohio Web Designers. Things To Watch Out For.

I have noticed some Central Ohio web designers advertising practices that are unfair. I will not name names and I’m not bashing them. I understand why they are charging what they do and making the claims that they make, but it’s still not right. For this article, I’ll discuss some statements in their marketing that just are not true.

  • You need a website redo specialist. Not exactly.
  • You need a website. Yes, but only as a part of your total advertising and communication.
  • It will cost thousands to get started and you have to pay a bunch of continuing fees. You need to use our special hosting services too. 10 years ago, maybe, but not today.
  • Any changes must be done by the designer. Run far, far away from this idea. It’s not true anymore.
  • E-commerce systems are extremely complex and expensive. The software is free. I’m serious and it’s great software.
  • We do SEO. Chances are, they don’t even understand it. Search engine optimization can be a waste of money.
  • Hosting (sometimes referred to as website housing) is hundreds of dollars per month and it must be done with us. About $5/month is all that it costs for most businesses.
  • Could you sign here please? Run! Would you sign a contract at a printer for them to print a flier? This is no different and I’ll tell you why.

I could come up with many more, but these should be enough to shine light on a bad web design company.

Web Design Basics For Today

Web design changes fast. A few years back, it took a special combination of artistic abilities, coding experience, and Internet experience to create a website. Today, a non-technical, non-artistic person can make a nice website in a few hours. WordPress has made this possible and it’s free. You could pay some online services that help you create one for a few hundred dollars too. Unlike a web design company, you retain total control and total ownership.

There are different parts of web design today.

  • Graphics. The pictures that make up the theme and the pages.
  • Content. The articles and/or videos.
  • Promotion. This is the shady SEO I talked about earlier. Promotion has some “SEO”, but it’s really just a matter of following simple guidelines while creating the website and then adding links (references) back to the original website by posting on other websites.
  • Programming. Only specialized processes for unique needs require programming. Even the price for this is dramatically lower.

So what if you don’t want control or ownership, you just want to get a website that pulls in customers? There are freelancers and companies that will do all of this for you and they will charge reasonable rates. They just may not be using the title “web designer”. Some may do one or more of these functions, but rarely do all of them. The steps are simple –

  1. Hire someone to make a website and have it done in WordPress. If you need e-commerce Joomla or Drupal are fine. It’s very rare for anything else to be the right answer.
  2. Hire a theme designer to change the look of the website to something you need. Many times, you can skip this step because the WordPress person uses Artisteer or has a theme that you can buy at a low price.
  3. Pay writers or video producers to promote your business.
  4. Find SEO people that understand that you simply need this content distributed and linked back to your home website.
  5. If special applications are needed, find a company that knows how to integrate with WordPress. They are plentiful.

Does it still sound tough? Find a consultant that tells you that this is what they are going to do.

Now You Know The Basics. On To The Questions.

Those Crazy Redoers.

Many companies made a huge mistake a few years ago when WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla started. They were arrogant and thought that they would just discount them as bad systems. They told customers that they had a better system that they coded in-house. They were very wrong and now they’re going around telling old customers that they need to pay a redo guru to fix it. I wouldn’t pay the same people and here’s an example of why.

One local company claiming redo expertise created a website with a link that looked like this – . No address should appear this way. 2 minutes would make the same link look normal like . There are numerous other mistakes like this all over all of the websites they’ve created. If they are a redo specialists, it’s because the sites they are redoing need redone before they even get started. The sad part is that this company is an awesome graphic design firm! If they stuck to what they really know how to do, they could be the best in the area.

You need a designer that is going to approach you with a new website. The basics take about an hour to do. There is no “redoing”.

You Need A Website

Companies are promoting  just “the website”. You need much more. You need the website and promotion. Promotion should take up over half of the cost of the package. Websites in and of themselves do very little. The website is only a tool that is used in conjunction with all of your other forms of communication. If you’re website doesn’t have contact forms at the very minimum, it’s useless.

If you have the resources, Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, forums, and any other method that suits your business should be part of your approach. You need to communicate with your customers. Your company should use whatever the vast majority of your customers are using. If you don’t know what they use, you should be asking them.

It will cost thousands to get started and you have to pay a bunch of continuing fees. Hosting is expensive too and it must be done through us.

If you hear this, run, then go take a cold shower. You were just about to get, uh, you know, never mind. Here’s why.

  • WordPress takes about an hour for the basic setup.
  • Hosting is never more than $20/month for great service and usually much less. If your designer claims they have their own server and it’s better, ask to see it. If they do have one, run. There is no way a web designer can have a safe and secure server and they are a target for attack. Large companies servicing thousands are the only people who can afford the expertise to run a good server. Their reputation relies on it and I haven’t heard of a big company failing in many years.
  • Making your own content changes is no more difficult than using Microsoft Word, it’s easier. You’re not going to need to pay them for this unless you want to.
  • You should be paying the web host yourself. You should have the passwords and total control so that you may hire anyone you want to work on your website. Ongoing support from the original designer should be fully optional.

Is there anything in  the nature of this that sounds like something that start-up fees and ongoing charges should apply to? No. If you see this run.

Any changes must be done by us.

Run, RUN! The whole point of WordPress is that you can do changes yourself or someone of a very low skill level can accomplish them. Major changes may require help, but simply adding pages and new content should be very easy. If they have a “special” system, it’s not a good one.

E-commerce systems are extremely complex and expensive.

No they’re free. Ubercart works with Drupal and it is capable of just about any e-commerce transaction I can think of. There are other competitors that come close and a few that are only a few hundred dollars that are nice too. The actual website and system should be standard and inexpensive.

The expense should come in where automation makes life easier for you. If you have thousands of products and you want to automatically track shipping and inventory on a large scale, yes, that’s going to be pricey. 50 products with different sizes and prices that you’re shipping with FedEx, UPS, or USPS, that’s inexpensive and should come in at well under $5,000. Maybe under $2,000.

We do SEO.

They might, but might not. Search Engine Optimization is the game of trying to get to the top of a search in a search engine. It changes frequently because search engines need to stay useful, but still turn a profit. There are no good tricks though. Any company who cannot tell you exactly what they do and has a “special sauce” type of solution is a scam. They may be able to temporarily get you to the top of a particular search, but it will not last long and could even get your site demoted into oblivion.

Google tells everyone exactly what they need to do to rank for search terms. It’s basic stuff that is easily done inside of WordPress with a few free plug-ins. The content only needs to specialized in the way that it’s written. For example, if you’re selling mens cowboy boots, you need to say that a few times in the article. You don’t just say “boots” when you refer to them. A true SEO expert could explain things like this to you. No special sauce required.

Could you sign here please?

No. Just don’t sign anything. Don’t do it. Run and run fast.

You should own everything. You should own the images being used, the hosting that the website sits on, the domain name, the content, the videos, everything. Why would you sign for your own property?

Given the information you gained when I explained the basics, you now know that you are going to need more than one person to make a website happens. If you find a web designer that is competent and has all of the expertise under one roof, you still do not want them to own your marketing property. You are paying them to develop this property for you and you should own it at the end. They do not run the server for the hosting, so why should you have a contract with them. Your only contract should be with the hosting company.

You should not need a contract for them to install software that is free, graphics that they are producing to your specifications, or content that is produced to your specifications. A big secret too is that should a website be produced and you turn that website down, it still has value. The designer can remove elements that you own, like your logos and submitted content, change the website to suite someone else and sell it. It’s done all the time. For example, you own an orchard and I produce a nice website, but we just cannot agree on it. You refuse to pay. If that website is truly a good one, there are thousands of orchards all over the world that will buy that website. I could even convert the work to another business. There are many website auction websites where this is done all of the time.

You should also have access to all of your files. Even if you don’t know what they are for, you should have the passwords and instructions in the case you need someone else to edit them or add to them.

In Conclusion

I suppose you’re wondering what I do and how I know about the business. I design my own websites and either make money from them or sell them for a profit to others. Sounds like a great business, but it’s not what you would think and it takes much more effort than you would expect. As I said, I appreciate the work the local web design companies do, I just find their marketing approach and packaging of services to be less than informative or fair.

Newark, Ohio’s Best Pizza Shops

Some of Newark, Ohio’s best pizza shops are not found online – yet. These shops are so well established that an added function like a website just fall short on their list of priorities. A typical night has people lined up outside of their doors, so who needs a website?

The Top Pizza Shops In Newark Ohio Are –

Don And Sue’s Pizza

Their mouth watering pizza is most notable by the type of pepperoni. They use the type that cups up into little grease cups. They have a thin crust. No delivery is available.

730 West Church Street
Newark, OH 43055-4230
(740) 522-8457

Website – http://www.donandsuespizza.com

Plaza Pizza

Just great pizza. They’ve been in business for a very long time and they are a Newark, Ohio tradition. It’s not uncommon for visitors to return home with a few Plaza Pizzas in their car. No delivery is available and parking is a hassle. Warning – don’t go to the restaurant next door while waiting. They will run you out if you just order a drink while you wait on your Plaza Pizza to be made.

1130 Mount Vernon Road
Newark, OH 43055-3984
(740) 366-2511

Pizza Cottage

Until a few years ago, Pizza Cottage was only in Buckeye Lake. I was sad to see The Buxton leveled, but it was a relief to find out that it would be replaced by Pizza Cottage.

Pizza Cottage is more of a Chicago style pizza. It has a thicker crust and chunkier toppings. They only offer special deliveries to businesses and events.

If there are any that I forgot, let me know and tell me why you think they rate as a Newark favorite. There are many pizza shops, but very few reach the level of perfection that these have. Also, we have a list in the directory of Newark’s other pizza shops with websites.

Newark, Ohio Zip Code

Newark, Ohio’s zip codes are usually 43055, but 43056 can come into play on the south side of town.

Newark, Ohio Zip code

 

The Newark, Ohio Post Office is at 70 E Church St, Newark, OH 43055. 

Newark, Ohio 43055 Post Office

The post office for the zip code 43055 in downtown Newark, Ohio.

The Park National Bank. A Newark, Ohio Powerhouse

The Park National Bank in Newark, Ohio is not an obvious $1.7  billion dollar business. It’s building is modest for a bank established in 1908 and it’s numerous offices are spread out to for easy access to customer. The employees handle themselves in much the manner that I remember banks doing years ago. They don’t have that used car salesman buddy-buddy act that I’ve seen at other places. They’re simply professional bankers.

You have to dig a little to find out what The Park National Bank is up to. With fast rising assets in a down economy, curiosity got the best of me, and I did a few searches. I was surprised to find over 2900 properties under Park National’s name on the tax roles at The Licking County Auditor’s website. This did not take into account of their numerous subsidiaries. Most of the properties were empty lots. You can make many assumptions and guesses from a finding like this. Judging from the areas these lots were in, I’d have a guess where a few new neighborhoods will be going.

With unemployment on a steady rise at over 11% in the county, how does Park National continue to grow? They’re not investing in Newark. They’re funding massive projects like the Manhattan Harbor project.  They’re going where the money is and that is not at home. They’ve turned down local manufacturers, like armor manufacture Composix, in favor of taxpayer and bond funded projects.

There’s probably much more to this quiet giant, but banking is not my specialty. I think it is a good idea to watch where their money flows. Don’t let the unassuming main office and numerous little offices fool you.  I’m not saying this much money and power with one company is bad or good, I’m saying they’re very powerful.

Newark, Ohio Strawberries On The Square Festival

June 4, 2010toJune 6, 2010

Strawberries On The Square will have it’s 27th celebration on the square in Downtown Newark, Ohio. One of Licking County’s favorite celebrations is sponsored by The Kiwanis and the proceeds help fund Camp O’bannon, a summer camp for underprivileged children. There will be food, rides, crafts, and entertainment for the entire family.

Call (740)345-6910 for more information about the Strawberries On The Square Festival.

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Newark, Ohio Firewood Sales

If Newark, Ohio’s winter has depleted your firewood supply and you’re left without enough for camping or backyard roasts, here’s a list of Newark, Ohio Firewood suppliers.

Hope Timber has Granville and Newark, Ohio locations. They have firewood and a number of other products like mulch and pallets.

Kimshawn Firewood has no website available. There phone number is 740-763-4245.

A properly stacked cord of wood is 8 feet long by 4 feet high and 4 feet wide. A pickup truck cannot haul a cord of wood. It takes a heavy duty truck to haul that much. If your buying a delivery of a cord of wood and they show up in a pickup truck, turn them away. If they’re dishonest about what a cord of wood is, there’s a good chance there dishonest about how long it’s been seasoned and what type of firewood they’re selling too.

There are many sources that can be found on a country drive too. Craigslist is another good source to check. If you know of anyore that should be listed here, send them to me. Be aware that there are plenty of scammers out there selling softwood as hardwood and misrepresenting the firewood that they are selling. Know your laws and be aware of regulations prohibiting the movement of wood due to the Ash Bore insect problem. Ignoring these laws could cost you $4,000 in fines.

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