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Walnut Township residents deserve better leadership

Tuesday night’s Walnut Township Trustees’ meeting was pathetic. Trustees Sonny Dupler and Ralph Zollinger and Fiscal Officer Pauline Ety didn’t say a word when Millersport Mayor Dean Severance asked about the proposed EMS/Fire contract. Acting Trustee President Wally Gabriel said, “We have not seen it.”

He could have been speaking for all four elected officials or just using the royal ‘we’ in referring to himself. Maybe Gabriel was doing a local version of President Clinton’s infamous ‘meaning of is’ rationalization by choosing his words very carefully. In other words, maybe Gabriel and the others, if he was speaking for them, didn’t actually see the contracts because they told someone else to hold on to them.

Whatever their story, we know for sure that six copies of the proposed contract were hand-delivered to zoning secretary Karen Kentosh last Friday. She signed a detailed receipt to that effect. Vince Popo’s cell phone documents a 12:37 p.m. call to Sonny Dupler that same day. While we haven’t heard the detailed message he left for Dupler about having the contracts, we are confident that is what he said.

Last week’s Beacon
detailed the proposed contract that would provide 24/7 on-station coverage at the Fairfield Beach sub-station. That report was available on our website late Wednesday night and copies of the Beacon were dropped off Friday at the township house. Our report stated that the signed contracts would be delivered to trustees on Friday. We are confident that all four elected officials were aware of the proposed contract and its details well before Tuesday night’s meeting.

All four have violated the public trust by playing word games or feigning ignorance. EMS/Fire protection is not a frivolous issue. It can be a matter of life and death. Township property owners are being billed nearly a million dollars a year for these services. Trustees have a responsibility to spend your tax dollars efficiently and wisely. Their collective performances Tuesday night didn’t come anywhere close to meeting that responsibility.

Rather than beginning a discussion about the important issues raised by the proposed contract – 24/7 coverage for Fairfield Beach for about $76,000 more in levy revenue – trustees and Ety apparently decided to play dumb. It’s a calculated risk, but it delays any discussion for three critical weeks during an election campaign.

Their next meeting (Tuesday, Oct. 13) is a 9 a.m. meeting which automatically reduces the number of residents able to attend. Their next evening meeting is five weeks away on Oct. 27, just one week before the election. We strongly suspect that trustees will do their best to push their decision past election day. They will likely demand detailed budgets from both departments or at least Millersport, certification estimates from the county auditor’s office and perhaps a detailed contract review by the county prosecutor’s office. They will be playing ‘rope-a-dope’ to delay their decision until after the election.

That could be a winning strategy if voters let them get away with it. It is time for voters to demand that trustees discuss this critical issue openly and honestly, making a decision before the Nov. 3 election. Trustees are playing games with your safety and your hard-earned money for their political gain. We hope voters remember these irresponsible antics when they cast their votes for trustee.

If trustees want to demonstrate their responsibility, they should immediately schedule a well-publicized, special meeting in the evening during the week of September 7 to specifically discuss this critical issue. We believe the Fairfield Beach Property Owners’ clubhouse would be an appropriate venue for this special meeting. Trustees must also pledge to make a decision on Millersport’s proposal at least one week before the election.

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