Code 424

It was before midnight on Jan. 11, 2016, when Ohio University student Elise Rye looked at the carbon monoxide detector in her apartment. It was silent at the moment, but the alarm had been blaring a little less than two days prior, causing her apartment and the hookah bar directly beneath the apartment to evacuate.

The levels on the detector this night, however, were varying from around 30 parts per million (ppm) to 60 ppm rather than a constant zero. Still, no alarm went off. Not wanting to take any chances, she and her roommates called the fire department. Columbia Gas of Ohio arrived shortly after, tagged the detector as they had done when the alarm went off two days prior. After recording the CO levels at 27 ppm, the fire department turned off the furnace of Rye’s apartment as a precaution since furnaces are common sources of carbon monoxide leaks. With their flat filled with the colorless, odorless gas and having decided against getting a hotel room for the night, Rye and her roommates gathered their blankets and slept by the open windows of their living room.

From 2014 to present, the Athens Fire Department has responded to 103 calls related to carbon monoxide detectors. Of those calls, detector malfunctions— which can occur for something as simple as low batteries — account for 41 of the alarm calls, and 14 of the calls account for incidents where no carbon monoxide was found on site.  However, there have been 48 alarm calls for the incident types 424, which are the occasions when carbon monoxide was found on site, 18 of which have happened in 2016. None of those calls originated from campus dorms, but rather from rental housing units such as Rye’s apartment.

Carbon monoxide can be produced from any gas-run appliance, along with fireplaces and tobacco smoke, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea or a combination thereof. With increased exposure, carbon monoxide begins to affect oxygen flow to the brain, bringing about weakness in one’s muscles, confusion, vomiting and/or loss of consciousness.

“Carbon monoxide has affinity for hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying protein in red blood cells,” Athens City-County Health Department Commissioner James Gaskell said in an email.“When carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin, less oxygen is available to the cells of the body. As a result, our cells cannot produce ATP which supplies us with energy.”

Gaskell said this lack of energy culminates in extreme exhaustion, resulting in the body being unable to produce energy and the failure of the respiratory system.

A chart from the National Comfort Institute from 2010 shows that symptoms of a headache, tiredness, dizziness and nausea can show up around 200 ppm after only a few hours. At 800 ppm, the gas can render a person unconscious in less than two hours, and kill them within two to three hours. Double the parts per million to 1,600 and there’s no delay in showing symptoms. Death occurs in an hour. At 12,800, carbon monoxide will claim lives in as little as a minute, three if the person is a healthy adult.

According to OSHA, Carbon monoxide poisoning may have a greater impact on certain groups of people, specifically people with heart or lung disease, people living or traveling at high altitudes and people who may already have high CO blood levels, such as smokers.

Athens City Council passed an ordinance in 2010 following concerns that the current detectors were not effective in detecting carbon monoxide under a certain frequency. Enacted in 2012, the ordinance required all rental housing to have carbon monoxide alarms powered both by batteries and electricity.  

Now in 2016, Athens Fire Department Chief Robert Rymer is working on a proposal to change the legal code for rental housing in Athens. Instead of having the two sources of power, the current draft of the proposal suggests a transition to 10-year lithium batteries to eliminate the necessity of plugging in detectors.

One of the reasons the department is proposing a change in the code is because students were actually unplugging their carbon monoxide detectors, mostly because of the annoying sounds from the alarm that indicate the batteries are low. It’s important to note, however, that dying batteries were the cause of, at most, 41 calls to the fire department over the past two years.

The new carbon monoxide detector in 5 1/2 Mill Street.

“They’d (the residents) have an inspection and the detectors would be missing — to no fault of the landlord,” Rhymer said. “The landlord would put them in, and the students would take them out, put them wherever they want to put them, and they’d find them in the drawers somewhere.”

Like others, Rye and her roommates also unplugged their carbon monoxide detectors. Some of them were already unplugged when they moved in, while the remaining ones eventually dwindled in battery power and continued to sound even after the girls changed the batteries, at which time those were unplugged as well.

Rymer said it’s situations like this for which 10-year batteries could be a solution.

“They don’t have to worry about batteries going dead for a longer period of time,” Rymer said. “They don’t have to worry about any special plug-ins that some landlords are doing. It’ll be safer for the students because it’s going to be less likely for them to tamper with and more convenient for the landlords.”

Luckily, Rye and her roommates had their carbon monoxide detectors fixed in September 2015 — and the alarms went off during the middle of the night on Jan. 9, 2016. When the firefighters arrived, they measured the levels of carbon dioxide in the apartment at 68 ppm, according to the call alarm report. According to a chart from the National Comfort institute, levels between 36 and 99 ppm have caused infant deaths. Even enclosed parking garages require ventilation if their carbon monoxide levels reach 25 ppm.

“Something was odd about it. You could tell it was almost in the chimney and the furnace upstairs. So we went downstairs in the hookah bar and that’s where we found the highest level of carbon monoxide,” said Paul Shulz, one of the firefighters who responded to the alarm call. L’Heureux Properties worked to install a new furnace for the apartment nonetheless.

The furnace room in 5 1/2 Mill Street.
The furnace room in 5 1/2 Mill Street.

The Athens Pyramids, the property which is also owned by L’Heureux Properties, sits just under Rye’s flat. Up until those incidents, there had been no carbon monoxide detector in the hookah lounge, even though smoking tobacco produces CO, according to OSHA. The chimney of Rye’s apartment, in fact, goes down through the hookah bar.

Majid Bottlewill, the employee who had been working at The Athens Pyramids the second night said that when the firefighters came, they checked both of the furnaces of the hookah bar, but found more CO readings the closer they got to the customers smoking the hookah.

“We have two furnaces in this building,” Bottlewill said. “They (the firefighters) checked the first one, and they didn’t detect anything.” According to Bottlewill, the same went for the back one.

He also stated that as far as he knew from what the firefighters had told them, “the amount that they detected here was way less than the amount that they detected upstairs.”

Although the carbon monoxide was coming from the apartment’s furnace as well, the levels of carbon monoxide on the call alarm reports were higher both times than the levels of the apartment. The first call registered levels of 88 ppm compared to the apartment’s 68 ppm. The second time, on Jan. 11, the apartment levels were as high as 27 ppm, and 68 ppm downstairs at the hookah bar.

“I was shaky, and I called my dad,” Rye said, after the second call to the fire department. “We were contemplating getting a hotel room, but we decided to just sleep down here by the windows.”

So the three of them slept in their living room that night with their windows open in the beginning of January without heat. Their furnace was turned off to prevent any more leaking of CO until the rental company could install a new one, and electric heaters that the rental company provided the next morning ran up their electric bill.

Rye’s apartment is among L’Heureux’s more expensive three-bedroom units. The building is located right off Court Street, though it does have the hookah lounge right below. Rye said the rental company didn’t offer to lower the rent after the incident.

“When you’re on Court, everybody wants to live there so bad, so sometimes you don’t do your due diligence and find the right place,” said David L’Heureux, the head of facilities management and an Ohio University alumnus. He listed complaints about noise pollution from apartments above Casa Nueva as an example.

In the middle of January 2016, Pyramid Hookah Lounge was shut down to install a new ventilation system.

“There are regulations (for hookah lounges), but they (Pyramid Hookah Lounge) were grandfathered in,” Shulz said.

The Athens Pyramids.
The Athens Pyramids.

He added that the National Fire Protection Association came out with guidelines, but the hookah bar had started business before the regulations had come into play.

Today, a step inside the lounge shows purple covering the walls and booths in dim lighting, with separate rooms branching off from the main area. On the wall near the clerk counter is a newly installed carbon monoxide detector, almost a year old. The lounge is currently empty, and the detector reads zero.


Note: Rye has moved out of 5 1/2 Mill Street. The video shows clips from the apartment, but new tenants have moved in. They were gracious enough to let me film their house for the video.

Bagelwiches by the bundle


If you ever feel overwhelmed with options off the extensive menu at Bagel Street Deli, you can always create your own sandwich.

Or you could go a step further and claim a spot on the menu for your bagelwich masterpiece. All it takes is just a few pickles.

On the second Friday in March, BSD host its annual Pickle Fest, centered around a pickle eating contest.

The ’08 Pickle Fest Champion, Balls Deep: meatballs, salami, banana peppers, mushrooms, provolone, lettuce, and Italian dressing. Photo by Eben George

Participants compete in heats of 10 eaters. Each heat last 10 minuets. When its all said and done, whoever eats and swallows the most pickles at the end of the competition wins the right to create and name their own BSD creation with an eternal spot on the chalkboard.


Punk, funk and everything in between. A journey into the Athens, OH music scene.

By Haadiza Ogwude


Haffa’s Records, a 30-year-old vinyl store and a staple in the Athen’s music community.

Located in the southeastern town of Athens, OH exists a thriving underground music scene where genres from across the spectrum are welcomed. From touring alternative bands, to local Pink Floyd tribute acts, there is no shortage of interesting music in this small town. With the collaboration of the Do It Yourself music community, the All Campus Radio Network, Haffa’s Records and more the music scene continues to be a prominent entity in the Athens’ community.

Want to know more about this independent music scene? Check out the video below.



Athens County Humane Society works to end cat overpopulation

Rural counties tend to have high populations of stray and feral cats, and Athens County is no exception. One organization that works to help homeless cats and kittens is the Athens County Humane Society, an all-volunteer group with no physical location.

The ACHS holds four spay/neuter clinics every month with the goal of cutting down on cat overpopulation by providing services to the community at a low cost.

Most of the cats that have been rescued by the ACHS are kept at Petsmart, but others, like Ted E. Bear, are taken in by the volunteers themselves.

Be nice to the dude sitting next to you, he could be a bouncer at your favorite bar

He sits next to you in class and you can’t remember why he looks so familiar. It’s because you drank until you blacked out last night. And also because he was your bouncer.

Ohio University located in beautiful Appalachian, Athens County, making it feel like it’s isolated from the rest of the world.

For the students lucky enough to have a car on campus most major cities are about an hour away. Unfortunately students who don’t have cars rely on GoBuses, a popular shuttle bus that goes between major cities, with a few detours in between which makes any trip longer.

So it’s no surprise when students pick the bars on Court Street as their main source of entertainment on any given night.

They’re the unrecognized heroes of the night, bouncers.

You see them every night, you just don’t recognize their faces. You don’t care about their names, unless being friendly will get you into the bar quicker.

Bouncers are the underappreciated heroes—or, pesky villains, depending on how bad your fake I.D. happens to be—of the night.

Three brave bouncers came forward and shared their experiences from their time on the job. This is what they had to say.
Photo of Julian with a friend inside a barJulian Pelfrey, formerly at Lucky’s Tavern

 It was the summer before senior year and I needed a job if I wanted to live in Athens over the summer instead of going home to work in a factory. I went to most of the bars on Court Street and applied.

It was something I always considered wanting to do when I started college. And I never regretted working there once.

If I wasn’t on a set career path I’d definitely do the job again. It was great while it lasted. You learn people and social skills because you must interact with nearly everyone that comes into the bar.

Every night you deal with at least one overly drunk person but they aren’t usually too bad to coerce out of the bar but it’s like at least once a month there’s someone trying to fight.

Once a patron threw a glass mug at the bartender. This was midday. Another time, a guy sucker punched one patron and ran out of the bar. Once someone even tried to fight the owner.

Every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we would see at least 10-15 fakes per bouncer. Each state has its own holograms to set them apart. Some people would have sailboats on their holograms which no state has.

Other people don’t understand that height makes a difference, one time a guy, around 5 feet 4 inches tall, tried to use an ID for someone that was 6 feet 9 inches tall—someone I personally knew played on the football team.

August Oberdick in hockey uniform on rink Gus Oberdick, formerly at Jackie O’s

I found out about the job from one of my mod mates who was working there as well. He said they were hiring so I went in with him and talked to the manager who eventually invited me back for an interview.

The job was weird honestly. I loved the atmosphere but I didn’t enjoy the “bar life.” It was a different kind of world, the people who work jobs like this live a backwards life. You go into work at 8 p.m. and get off around 4 a.m. I’m an engineering major and I couldn’t make it work with my schedule and eventually just quit Jackie O’s.

I did like the job because the people at Jackie O’s are great. There’s not a lot of annoying underclassmen, no obnoxious music, and everyone is generally in a good mood. It just wasn’t the job for me.

At Jackie O’s you turn people away every now and then, it’s an older person’s bar so there aren’t as many underage people trying to get in.

The most uncomfortable I’ve ever been was when I had to kick out one of my TA’s because he had gotten into a fight with another patron. It was weird having that authority over someone who has some kind of “authority” over you.

Benny Lam with a friend at a party smilingBenny Lam, currently at Jackie O’s

I’ve always wanted to work at a bar and I knew Jackie O’s was a pretty established one so I called when they were hiring and they told me to apply online. I didn’t get a response until three months later.

Working at Jackie O’s is better than I expected. It’s a laid-back environment and the people who work with me are honestly down to Earth. Jackie O’s has a certain aesthetic when it comes to who works there and the patrons which is why it works so well as a bar.

I’ve had a few people get rowdy but it’s never gotten out of hand.

We do get fake I.D.’s, but fortunately because we have a reputation of not serving underage people like some of the bars on Court Street, it’s not a lot. Their fakes get denied and then it’s up to whoever is working to decide whether they want to take their fake I.D.

Before getting the job I frequently went out but once I got the job I had to cut back immediately. Working closing shifts every Friday and Saturday took a toll on me in the beginning because I had to sacrifice going out with my friends.


Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Rise and grind: Meet the night owls of Athens who make late night cram sessions possible

Pulling your first all nighter is a right of passage for college students. From the copious amount of energy drinks you consume, to the way your eyes seem to melt into the back of their sockets, to discovering that your laptop totally makes a great pillow after 4 a.m.  Nothing screams college more than busting out an eight page research paper in the back of a coffee shop while the rest of the world catches some Z’s.

Economics senior Mari Otero looks over her Econ notes shortly after 2 a.m. at Union Street Diner

But what about the people who support those late nights? Someone has to make that triple espresso that you have IV’d to your arm, and play the latest acoustic jams that mellow out the early morning.

We hate to see them but we love their work. Their presence not only signals third shift is about to begin, but also the realization that you probably shouldn’t have procrastinated so much on your projects. They’re the brave men and women who make it possible for you to pump out a semester’s worth of work in a single night. Whether you need some early morning fuel or a late night pick me up, they have your back. They’re the early risers and night owls who work in the coffee shops and diners in town.

At Ohio University,  three local spots are known by everyone. Donkey Coffee at 17 1/2 W. Washington St., Brenen’s Coffee Cafe at 38 S. Court St. and Union Street Diner at 70 W. Union St. have been servicing the Athens crowd for 13, 16 and five years respectively. Customers are guaranteed to always be greeted by a smiling face, even if their own face isn’t so lively.

Brenen’s Coffee Cafe

Brenen’s was founded in 2000 and has been a huge hit ever since. Pittsburgh native Erin Pogue, a senior studying strategic communications, has been working at the cafe since fall 2013, her freshman year. Pogue works a varying schedule of opening and closing shifts but definitely prefers to open.

“I think the best part about an opening shift is how calm Athens is at that time,” she said. “It’s usually before most other students are getting their days started so you can really notice how peaceful Court Street can be walking into work.”

Beautiful scenery aside, getting in at 6 a.m. throughout the week for work still isn’t a fun time. When asked about the downside of opening, Pogue commented:

“The worst part is definitely waking up. Luckily, working at a coffee shop makes it easy to get some caffeine in me once I get in.”

There are some saving graces that come with the sunrise shift though. Pogue says she loves seeing the regulars who come through every morning, along with her coworkers.

“We have a great staff working at Brenen’s. It makes a big difference when you have a great team working with you and keeping things running smoothly when you work together. Going into work is always easier when you get to work with friends and have a lot of fun while getting the job done.”

When asked if she’s ever witnessed anything weird or noteworthy during her closing shift, Pogue had one oh-so-Athens story.

Erin Pogue preps the coffee machines
Erin Pogue preps coffee machines during a slow period during her shift

“You never know what you’re going to get when you have a closing shift on a busy weekend,” she said. “A guy came in off Court Street in a falling-apart costume, couldn’t manage to form full sentences when trying to tell us his order, then grabbed a baguette off the counter and ran out before we even had time to finish his sandwich. Luckily he had already paid!”

It’s like Bobcats say, “Athens happens.”

Donkey Coffee and Espresso

Six hundred and sixty three feet down the street and around the corner, just off the intersection of Court Street and East State is another Athens favorite, Donkey Coffee and Espresso. Open since 2003 and ran by Chris and Angie Pyle, Donkey has successfully been serving the locals “caffeine with a conscience” and has a long history of giving the town a space to be creative.

Moira Snuffer, a sculpture and expanded practice senior from Columbus, has been working at Donkey since June 2015.  She mainly works the opening shift, which means crawling out of bed and getting into the shop by 6:30 a.m.

Moira Snuffer, opening Donkey Barista, is all smiles, even at 7 a.m.
Moira Snuffer, opening Donkey barista. All smiles, even at 7 a.m.

Her favorite part about opening is getting a chance to just be by herself and start the day at her own pace.

“Opening is kinda nice because you’re by yourself and it’s this time to have your space,” Snuffer said. “It’s a nice way to start your day—to be here by yourself and do monotonous work.”

While nothing too crazy has ever happened during her closing shifts, she did have a story about an unexpected interaction this year on halloween:

Union Street Diner

Then there’s Union Street Diner, the go-to spot for anyone suffering from the late night munchies. The 24 hour mom and pop storefront has been in business since 2011 and caters to all walks of life, offering spacious seating, fair prices and friendly faces every hour of the day.

USD has personally reenergized me on multiple occasions (the BLT and pancakes are tier 1) and any place that offers milkshakes at 5 a.m. deserves a head nod.

My last visit to the diner introduced me to Ashley. Ashley has officially been working at Union Street Diner since August of this year, and strictly works third shift. Though working so late can be brutal, the shift time actually fits her overall schedule perfectly. Ashley and her husband are parents to a beautiful two-year-old so the odd times lets both of them work without the need of a babysitter. In regards to her coworkers, she loves them.

“We’re all very laid back. It’s a family here” she said.

While Ashley never went to college, she did become a certified nursing assistant when she was a junior in high school. When it comes to the few things she doesn’t enjoy about her job, Ashley simply can’t stand when students come in and vomit.

You can’t win them all.

Third year computer science major Justin Mosley takes a break from studying for his software tools exam
Third year computer science major Justin Mosley takes a break from studying for his software tools exam

Bobcat Banter Ep1: Trumped up Charges

Donald Trump has polarized the political world, pitting liberals against conservatives with a newfound intensity that has consumed newsfeeds and disrupted Thanksgivings around the country. In liberal Athens, Ohio, conservatives are about as commonly accepted as Miami fans or teetotalers, but can you really judge a Trump supporter by his cover? I spoke to Cole Neuhart, a member of the OU College Republicans, and Dan Kington, a member of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), to find out more.

(Music courtesy of Martijn de Boer (NiGiD), ccMixter)

A major announcement from Court Street Stories

Greetings, Court Street Stories enthusiast! Welcome back to the website that brings you all your favorite quirks of Athens, Ohio from the minds of the future of journalism!

As we continue to explore the future mediums of journalism, we have noticed that we are under utilizing our resources in one of the dominant mediums in the field today: podcasts.

Podcasts are commonly known as audible feature stories. Media consumers have shown in recent years that they find hearing stories told audibly much more accessible than reading a daunting, 2,000 word feature.

Podcasts are also a useful analytical tool for complicated matters that require a lot of explanation. It’s easier to explain what you mean in a free form conversation than it is within the constraints of the written word, AP style etc.

Podcasts have been a prominent part of our sports staff’s repertoire for a few years now, but we are looking to expand our podcast network as well as improve the quality of our existing audio content. To lead us in our endeavor, we will be making the regular host and producer of our sports podcasts, James Watkins, the head of our podcast expansion efforts.

Watkins has been a hard-working contributor to our written content in his three years with the publication, but he came to our higher-ups with a vision of what our audio product could and should be, and we are going to give him a chance to make his visions a reality.

The exact details will be revealed when we release the detailed plan to our consumers, but in overarching terms, major changes will be as follows:

Expanded network: Essentially, sports has been the only staff consistently producing podcasts over the past few years. Even then, most of those podcasts have been related to interests unrelated to our product. We will touch on that below, but every staff is capable of producing a podcast.

There are tidbits that don’t make the final version of every story. New information comes to light that can add to a story from the previous day but doesn’t constitute writing a new story. Podcasts are a perfect medium to fill in the blanks and add further context to even the most basic stories.

You can dive into the process of how you wrote your 2,000 word Magnum Opus internship portfolio piece, hold a forum among friends about how to approach The Number Fest safely, interview a source about a pressing topic related to your beat, and everything in between.

Watkins comes from the sports angle, but he will not control everyone’s content. No one knows news better than news, culture better than culture, and so on and so forth. But, he understands how to approach a podcast, and he can help our staffers understand as well.

Improved current product: This is the primary motivation behind Watkins’ proposal. Between writing and podcasting about his beat, hosting and producing the leisurely podcasts on the side, and school work, he has spread himself too thin. He believes that with his energy focused solely on the audio product, our podcasts will be more frequent, more related to what we actually cover, and better researched and produced. The sum of all these things will make our audio product sound infinitely more professional, which could open other avenues for the medium in our future (sponsors, better guests, etc.)

Increase in hirability: This would be the product of all these changes. Journalism students are constantly being told how much they should be diversifying their skills in the industry to make themselves more attractive job candidates. Here at Court Street Stories, we see the writing, and we see the videography. Adding a podcast to every staff would only further raise the eyebrows of every employer who gets a resume from one of our staffers. It’s likely that at some point in our careers, we will be juggling multiple journalistic skills at the same time, and the best way to prepare is to practice.

What happens to our favorite Bobcat bands after graduation?

College is a chance to discover the real person that’s been cultivating under the parental units for the last 18 or so years. For some it’s exploring the vices their parents attempted to curtail, others it’s the chance to think differently how they were raised, but in general it’s a time for self-discovery.

A few braves souls chose to do this in front of crowds atop one of the many stages in Athens. The music scene in Athens is unique as the influx of new blood from the university allows for a large diversity of musical acts to form and flourish.

The constant flow of new musicians is sadly accompanied by the older generation leaving Athens as they graduate or decide to move on. While the desire to play may linger on, it can be extremely difficult to continue when members may be scattered across the country. As their time in Athens comes closer to the end Wes Gilbert of Smizmar and Evan Amerio of Apemode spoke of their personal experiences.

Does your team have what it takes to make a run in the NBA playoffs? Listen to these NBA fanboys tell you why or why not.

With more than a quarter of the NBA season in the books, it’s about time for  sportswriters and basketball junkies alike to get together and start arguing about the impending NBA playoffs.

The amount of time my friends and I have spent discussing the landscape of the NBA is mind-boggling. While we may not be professionals, we certainly do know an awful lot about the teams and players that can shape the future of the league.

Not only do we love the NBA, but college football is wrapping up and that can only mean one thing: OSU vs. Michigan. With both teams seasons on the line, we wrap up the podcast with a short discussion on who we think has the edge in the biggest game of the season.

Find out below who we think will make some noise this season and reach the playoffs and who will win this years edition of “The GAME.”

Listening Guide:

2:15 – Picks for Eastern Conference Playoffs

12:50 – Can anybody stop the Cavaliers?

18:57 – Picks for Western Conference Playoffs

41:12 – Are the Jazz real contenders?

43:42 – Lakers or Timberwolves for first out of the playoffs?

48:52 – NBA MVP picks

54:28 – Picks for OSU vs. Michigan game