The race for two seats on the Madison Township Board of Trustees is shaping up to be a highly contested one, with seven candidates seeking election on Nov. 7.
Only one of those seven -- Edward B. Dildine -- is an incumbent.
Incumbent Victor Paini decided not to seek re-election.
Others on the ballot are: Angela M. McDonald, Deborah K. Miller, John J. Pritchard, Maria Stewart, Kathleen Walsh and Sharon K. Whitten.
Dildine, Miller, Pritchard, Walsh and Whitten responded to questions from ThisWeek. Stewart and McDonald did not.
Why are you running for office?
Dildine: I have been a trustee for eight years. During my time as a trustee, we have seen increased staffing on the police department and the fire department. We have purchased new vehicles and equipment to provide better service to our residents for all three township departments. We have also broken ground on fire station 183 that the residents supported and approved. This will help improve response times and in the area to our residents. I am running to continue the progress we have made over the years.
Miller: Being a trustee is something that has always interested me and now that I'm retired, I can focus all of my attention to serving the residents throughout the township. I will bring management and budgeting experience, as well as common sense. I will work hard and always consider the benefits to all township residents before making a decision. I will be respectful and listen to any resident who has concerns or suggestions and I'll follow up with them on the outcome.
Pritchard: My life has been about service to our nation and our community. I was elected in November 1999 to serve as trustee. After our nation was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, I had to do something and I made the difficult decision to resign as a trustee to serve our country in the U.S. Army. I returned home to find our township facing many challenges. These challenges require a trustee with the right leadership skills, professionalism and fiscal responsibility to hold it accountable to the taxpayer; and it has driven me to serve my community again.
Walsh: I am running for Madison Township trustee because I am not happy with the direction of the township. Madison Township is my past, present and future and is very important to me and my family. I have a lifelong vested interest in our community and a strong want to make noticeable improvements to all of Madison Township. I will work hard to fix what's broken and improve what's working to make sure that all of Madison Township has a successful future.
Whitten: I have lived 50 years in the township. I want to protect, preserve and possibly expand services, work with schools, local businesses and surrounding communities to establish a youth leadership program and possibly begin a VIPSS (Volunteers in Public Safety Support) group trained by the Franklin County Sheriff's Office. I also want to research ways to obtain grants for much-needed road repairs, monitor and encourage growth within township, work with local, county, state and federal entities to assist in stopping ever-increasing drug activity and support addiction treatment programs. I will communicate with the community openly and honestly and establish biweekly gatherings. I want to improve transparency and be a good steward of tax dollars and build better relationships with Canal Winchester, Groveport and Obetz that are part of the township.
Identify the top two issues facing the township in 2018 and explain how you would deal with them.
Dildine: In changing economic times, cost savings are very important. I will continue to keep to striving for cost-effectiveness and cost-saving measures and transparency. This is best done by keeping open lines of communications to the residents and our employees. I will continue to improve the services that we provide to our residents as I have done over the last several years.
Miller: There are a few more than two; however, the top two issues that come up every time you talk to a resident, specifically from the unincorporated areas, are roads and crime. Our roads are in terrible condition and the patching jobs are not helping. I believe that a better job of budgeting will make it possible to actually pave the roads in 2018.
As for crime, it is on the rise everywhere, the township is not an exception. Building a larger, stronger police force is needed and possible through proper budgeting and sticking to the budget. There are also other options we can look at; for instance, working with Chief Braden, I was able to start a Citizens Patrol in Blacklick Estates. Recruiting more residents there and in other areas would be extra eyes and no cost to the township. Looking into reserve officers would be another option with very little cost to the township.
Pritchard: Strategic planning. Madison Township does not have a written strategic plan for the township administration, the police department or the road department. Although the township fire department has a five-year plan published in 2014 on the township's website, it is woefully lacking the specific information, planning and foresight one would expect. There have been no updates or amendments to the plan as it promises. Strategic planning is an organizational management activity that is used to focus on priorities, allocate resources, strengthen operations, ensure that employees and other stakeholders are working toward common goals, establish agreement around intended outcomes and results, and adjust the organization's direction in response to a changing environment. The township needs a long-term strategic plan, along with annual updates to ensure that we are providing effective services at a reasonable cost.
Lower property taxes by reallocating funding priorities. Our residents deserve to have the best safety services and drive on good roads. Township spending lacks the necessary oversight to ensure that the township is getting the best value for each dollar spent.
The road department is being gutted, township roads left in disrepair, and the general fund is hemorrhaging money. In contrast to the road department struggles, our police department's current funding is satisfactory, but faces future funding challenges, and the fire department is flush with money.
Walsh: Improve the performance and image of our police department. The Madison Township Police Department is a business and should be run using best business practices.
Unincorporated Madison Township suffers from poor leadership. Lack of proper planning during development has created road and traffic problems. Poor planning and dismal infrastructure have caused lost revenue. Crime and drug abuse has risen. Through economic development and partnering with concerned stakeholders, Madison Township can increase revenue to help address these issues. Trustees must actively seek to bring new business development to the township. If not, we will continue to lose valuable tax revenues to other municipalities.
Whitten: Crime and illegal drug activity, addiction and possible human trafficking are major concerns in unincorporated Madison Township, Groveport, Canal Winchester and a small part of Obetz. I would like to see if it would be possible to obtain a grant to add an additional officer to work solely with surrounding Groveport, Canal Winchester, Obetz, Franklin County Sheriff. I believe the increase in crime activity and domestic violence is definitely tied to this. I know the Madison Township police department already works with Groveport, Canal Winchester, Obetz and the sheriffs' offices in Fairfield and Franklin counties. However, their resources and manpower are limited.
The budget, accountability and transparency are also concerns of mine. Our budget is so tight. I would like to see companies somehow be encouraged to locate in the township to increase our revenues. The police and fire departments have passed levies that can only be used for what they were intended for. The general fund is so limited. Currently, the roads are a mess. I would like to encourage the trustees to seek input from the community as to their concerns and ask their input before the next budget is proposed. Until I or anyone else would be elected as a trustee, we cannot speculate what we would be able to do.