– The state of the Millersport vicinity fire departments and a proposed landfill dominated discussion at Wednesday’s Millersport Meet the Candidates night at Millersport Elementary School as Walnut Township Trustee candidates fielded the vast majority of the questions. Participating candidates for Millersport Village Council and the Walnut Township School Board didn’t seem to mind.
Millersport High School students Clayton Keller, Alexandra Reasoner, and Nick Jones presented questions to the candidates from the community and had the challenging task of keeping some of the candidates within their time limits. The session included Millersport Village Council incumbent candidates Charles Mesko and Jim Wright; Walnut Township School Board candidates Sandra Kay Lines, Tom Cumbow, and incumbent Carol King; and Walnut Township Trustee candidates incumbents Alan “Sonny” Dupler and Walter Gabriel, and hopefuls Bill Yates, Terry Horn, Robert Slater II, Richard Thompson, and Paul Whitaker.
Question: What attributes show you’re the best candidate?
Mesko: He said village officials asked him to run for council because he didn’t have any outside influences in the way he votes, nor would he vote in a certain way because everyone else on council thought something was a good or bad idea. Owning a small business has made him confident of his decisions.
Wright: He said he’s worked to make Millersport safer, such as helping to engineer the threeway traffic light, which allows for easier access to the Valero service station.
Lines: “My biggest attribute is my big mouth,” she said. Lines isn’t afraid to bring up the big issues.
King: She said the Walnut Township School Board hired many good people during her tenure and “fixed things that needed to be fixed.”
Cumbow: He said as a small businesses owner he’s learned to do more with less and he has a good relationship with parents and students.
Dupler: He said the township secured nearly $1 million in grants during the last eight years he’s been in office, and new parks and sports fields were constructed. He said there’s constant emergency services coverage in Walnut Township. “We have the best fire service we’ve ever had,” said Dupler.
Gabriel: “I think over the years I’ve proven myself,” he said, adding that he’s always tried to be fair in his decisions and the township has received FEMA grants and Issue 2 state funding during his tenure.
Yates: “I see a lot of issues with zoning,” he said. “How did we get a landfill on (SR 37)?” As Millersport fire chief he knows the roads well and understands drainage concerns. He said the trustees should devise a plan to distribute money fairly between the local fire departments.
Slater: “It’s very important to prepare for meetings” and conduct the necessary research, he said, adding that he’s very concerned about the township’s EMS and fire service.
Horn: Many years as a planning manager helps him to know how to form a plan and get things done. Details and research are always important. “I’ll make
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sure every decision is right,” he
Whitaker: His attributes are common sense and the ability to get along with other people. He the township was never sued when he was trustee previously. “Why give the people at Fairfield Beach (24-hour fire protection) two weeks before the election?” he said. “It should’ve been there all along.”
Thompson: He maintained success as a contractor through a tough economy. Some of the things in the proposed Walnut Township fire contract make him uncomfortable. He said a “Mt. Unpleasant” lawsuit is coming regarding the proposed landfill. “answer my phone,” he said.
Question: If elected, would you (as a trustee) ensure 24/7 fire departments and not change the hours (move hours to the Millersport station)?
All trustee candidates agreed, and they believe it can be financed with careful management.
Question: In today’s tough times, do you have a plan to reduce the township taxpayers’ burden and maintain services?
Dupler: “We apply for grants all the time, almost weekly,” he said, adding a the majority of a couple road projects were financed through grants. Fire department equipment is purchased through government programs at a cost savings. The township must be run like a business.
Gabriel: “You will see a onemill levy on the ballot,” he said, adding the township works off of six mills and one is up for renewal. “We’ve never put anything else on,” he said.
Yates: “The levy on the ballot is a replacement, not a renewal,” he said. The school board levy is a renewal.
Slater: It’s about trying to do more with less. He said he’s heard discussions about buying a miniexcavator. “How many hours has it been used?” he said. One must think about these things in order to save money.
Horn: He suggested EMS soft billing, whereby the fire department charges people who don’t live in the township for squad runs through their insurance companies. The fee is waived for those without insurance.
Whitaker: “If you don’t have the money, you don’t spend it,” he said, adding that the township secured roughly $1 million in grants when he was trustee previously. Using cinders on snowy roads would save on salt purchases.
Thompson: He suggested making sure the township is equipped to complete all projects in house and motivating the township crews.
Question: How do you feel about the proposed landfill on Ohio 37?
Thompson: “I think it’s awful,” he said. “How it happened, I don’t know.” He said the public went wild in opposition to a proposed power plant, but somehow this slipped through.
Whitaker: “Someone made a serious mistake,” he said. Zoning should be reviewed and corrected.
Horn: It was a mistake in the zoning. He said the trustees tried to correct it, but there was limited public input on the matter. “We need to listen and talk to each other,” he said.
Slater: He said a document refers to it as a construction and demolition debris facility. He’s worried about the aquifer beneath the site, which provides drinking water to the township.
Yates: He said he attended all trustee meetings but doesn’t remember the issue being discussed directly and openly. He also worries about the ground water.
Gabriel: The township spent $10,000 in legal fees to fight the landfill. A lawyer was hired because the health department went along with it, he said. “The health department told us to leave it alone,” he said. “I’m against it; we’re fighting.”
Dupler: “This is not a landfill; it’s in litigation,” he said. Until a judge orders the township to allow it, there is no landfill. “We will continue to fight it.” He said he couldn’t comment too much because it’s an active legal issue.
Question: How will you end the turmoil within the fire department?
Dupler: In the fire department proper, there is no turmoil. “There’s financial turmoil,” he said. The trustees used to simply allocate the money each station needed, but now with more personnel, a closer look at expenditures is necessary.
Gabriel: “I think we need to get the contract off an election year,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be political.” We have a great fire department, he said. If it isn’t broken, why fix it?
Yates: Three additional mills were passed for additional coverage. He favors a joint fire district between all departments, but the public should have a chance to vote on a district. “Put it in the hands of the people,” he said.
Slater: “These are competitive groups, there’s a sense of arrogance there,” he said, although he appreciates what they do, especially when they saved his father several years ago. He said the turmoil started when three mills were bumped up to six mills.
Horn: He doesn’t think there’s conflict within the department, although he favors a fire district or a township department. “If we were one department, we’d be trying to save money. If you’re getting 65 percent, what’s your motivation to spend less?” he said.
Whitaker: He’s not opposed a fire district, but firefighters are very territorial. “We’re getting the best bang for the buck the way it’s run now,” he said. “I would support the way it is now.”
Thompson: “You can’t beat the fire department, the services we have,” he said. He’d let things operate as they are.
Question: Would you use the Internet more to inform people?
All trustee candidates agreed communication is important and all available methods should be used as much as possible.
Question: What inspired you to run for trustee?
Dupler: I like to deal with people; I like to talk to people,” he said. He tries to put out the facts. “I won’t tolerate a liar or a thief; I am neither,” he said.
Gabriel: “Somebody told me eight years ago I was nuts to run, but I enjoy it,” he said. Since he grew up here, he thought he had something to contribute.
Yates: He disagrees with the way the fire department’s being run and specifically with Dupler’s thinking. “I think I can do a better job,” he said.
Slater: Two years ago he was prodded to run for trustee, but was working with the school board. The fire department issue motivated him and he thinks he can contribute to other issues as well.
Horn: He wants to fill a void of mistrust and inconsistencies. He heard from many people who are concerned about the township. He’d try arbitration to keep the township out of the courts. “We need to talk to one another,” he said.
Whitaker: He spent 31 years in public service and he’s not happy with the way things are going. People came into his restaurants and asked him to run. As far as the fire department, “It’s not a tough issue,” and should be resolved. “Vote two new people in, even if it’s not me,” he said.
Thompson: Trustee Ralph Zollinger told him he should run. He lost the first time he ran, although he said he didn’t campaign much. “I feel I can make a change.”
Thompson: He supports the Millersport fire proposal and 24/7 service to the whole township. He opposes the landfill and wants to reinstate recycling.
Whitaker: The township’s issues can be readily resolved with common sense.
Horn: This is his first time to run. He wants to regain public trust and accountability for the trustees’ office. He’s detail oriented and will think through and explain his decisions.
Slater: He’s completely in favor of conservative spending and improving public communication.
Yates: Communication is the number one issue and he would be absolutely open and honest with people. He will give his opinions and even resign from the Millersport Fire Department if necessary.
Gabriel: “I run on what I’ve done in the last eight years,” he said. He’s made mistakes, but he’s only human. “If you like what I’ve done, vote for me,” he said.
Duper: He said people talked about lawsuits, but not specifically what they are. He said the township purchased property from a resident who was paid for it, but wants more money.
“I’m the guy they call at 2 a.m. to check the roads” and then inspects them, he said.
Cumbow: He wants to do his part in the community and bring fresh ideas to the school board.
King: She said Millersport Elementary was selected as a “school of promise” for reading. She said the community has a lot to be proud of, and she likes to be part of it.
Lines: She said nearly half of Millersport Elementary students are on the free lunch program, yet they still excel regardless of income. It says a lot for the district.
Wright: His main concern is keeping the community safe for young people. “Vote the ‘Wright’ way,” he said.
Mesko: “I’m dedicated to our community,” he said. He’s proud of the police and fire departments, and the utilities. “If we serve you, the community will be a better place,” he said.