The Democratic and Republican candidates seeking to replace Delaware County commissioner Glenn Evans last week touted their public- and private-sector experiences and said they have plans to tighten the county government's belt.

The Democratic and Republican candidates seeking to replace Delaware County commissioner Glenn Evans last week touted their public- and private-sector experiences and said they have plans to tighten the county government's belt.

On Nov. 4, Republican Ken O'Brien and Democrat Roger Van Sickle will be on the ballot for the commissioner's seat.

O'Brien, 48 and a lifelong Berlin Township resident, is a special needs teacher at Worthington Christian Middle School and a former Berlin Township trustee and clerk. An Ohio State University graduate with a master's of arts degree from Eastern Kentucky University, he earned his place in the election after defeating the incumbent Evans in the May primary.

"The reason for my candidacy is to stop wasteful spending and to ensure the best services for all Delaware County residents," O'Brien said. "I'm fiscally conservative. I will oversee your tax dollars so that our county government will function in a more effective, efficient and fair manner."

Van Sickle, 64, of Delaware Township, is a 22-year Delaware Township trustee, a former township clerk and a retired vice president of banking. He has a degree from the American Institute of Banking, and defeated Jack Carney-DeBord in the Democratic primary election.

"I am running to provide positive change in Delaware County, provide leadership by working for the best interest of the citizens of Delaware County, not a political party, self-interest or special interest group."

Van Sickle said his 29 years as a township official, service as past chair of the Delaware County Regional Planning Commission and 40 years in the banking industry have prepared him to run the county government, particularly in the current economy. A top priority, he said, would be to sort out the uncertainty over a $51-million courts building project being planned by the current board of county commissioners.

"I would like to put the courts building on hold, for the county budget does not support the expense," Van Sickle said. "We have a downturn in the economy, we have a decrease in income from sales tax in 2008, we have lost $3.2-million in invested income and have used $4-million in reserves and the $1.3-million in (property) rollback taxes.

"I believe further study of a re-established 20/20 committee can give a better outlook and I can assure it will be below the $51-million cost. Also, I believe this should be voted on by the citizens of Delaware County as a project of this magnitude."

O'Brien also believes the currently proposed courts building project is too costly, but he also has concerns its planned site next to the Rutherford B. Hayes Building would be prone to flooding. He also said the project would take parking from the Hayes Building, and final landscaping and furnishings could push the price tag higher.

"I will take a stand to terminate any contracts on the $51-million courts building," O'Brien said. "This building is clearly the wrong solution to a real, but simple, problem.

"The county courts do require additional space. Though not as convenient to the courts, the space should be provided in our currently unused portions of the Hayes Building, which has more than 20 percent unused space -- even with the board of elections staying in the Hayes Building."

Once the courts building issues are resolved, both candidates said the commissioners will have to look to ways to streamline county spending. However, neither called for sweeping cuts of programs or services.

"We have reserves and the purpose of them is for times like now," O'Brien said. "Programs and services cannot be increased at this time, but there should be no cuts.

"The residents deserve the services that they have already paid for. We must do what we can to keep our residents safe and healthy."

O'Brien cited the purchase and renovation of the former Hall's Furniture store as an example of poorly conceived conceived projects championed by the current commissioners. He said better planning by the new commissioners, and greater civility, should reduce strains on the county budget brought on by unneeded projects and lawsuits.

Van Sickle said his experience as a banker and on county planning commissions has prepared him to manage county finances wisely.

He added that building projects such as the courts facility could be placed on hold, new equipment purchases can be limited, and the commissioners should be more willing to take financial guidance from the county auditor.

"I would like to review all budgets for all the departments and look at the last three years, compare the needs and the wants to be realistic and see how we can tighten our belts, as most of us are doing now," he said. "We may have to hold off on new hires until we see the sales tax revenues and other income.

"I do not want to believe that we have to increase taxes. I think if all departments work together, we can get through our financial crisis and cut unnecessary expenses."

nellis@thisweeknews.com