Prairie Township voters will choose among five candidates Nov. 7 to fill two seats in a nonpartisan township trustee race.
Incumbents Ronald D. Ball and Steve Kennedy are facing challenges from James Beardsley, Mike McKay and Cathy Schmelzer.
Beardsley did not respond to a request for information from ThisWeek, and attempts to reach Schmelzer were unsuccessful. Here are answers from Ball, Kennedy and McKay:
Why are you running for office?
Ball: To be the voice of Prairie Township residents and to watch over taxpayers' dollars by maintaining a balanced budget. I also want to continue to push for the completion of several ongoing projects (sports complex) and continue fighting for lower water and sewer rates for residents. I will continue to work with the sheriff's office to have a safe community for our residents to live and work in. To continue ongoing efforts to revitalize the community, with improvements to businesses and residential housing, and to ensure the continuation of high-quality services the residents deserve.
Kennedy: I am driven by the belief that government should live within its means. Prairie Township has a $23 million budget. I am the only candidate with a 12 -year track record of managing the township's finances. The last 12 years have seen township services expand while maintaining balanced budgets. I have experience and broad knowledge of the issues facing the township and believe my knowledge of these issues is extensive. I want to use this experience to continue serving our residents.
McKay: I am running for office because Prairie Township is my home and I want to make it a better place to live, work and raise a family. I have the desire to serve and dedication to lead this township and, most importantly, the experience and skills needed to do so. For over 20 years, I have served our community as a member of the Westland Area Commission, where I currently chair the zoning committee and previously led the commission as chairman. I serve on the board of trustees of the South-Western City Schools Educational Foundation and as a member of the United Westside Coalition, focusing on revitalization and economic development.
Identify the top two issues facing Prairie Township in 2018 and explain how you would deal with them.
Ball: As a township, we need to continue to look for viable ways to lower water and sewer rates, including ongoing work with state and local government officials to address this issue. This has been an ongoing issue in the township for quite some time and we need to continue to look for alternative ways to address the problem. If re-elected, I will continue to meet and approach government officials at the county and state level who can assist us with the rates.
A second issue that needs to be addressed is safety on our community's roadways. Speeding has become an issue and affects the safety of our residents, especially our children. I will continue to work with the Franklin County Sheriff's Office and also solicit input from the residents on ways to address the speeding issue. Potential ways to address this issue could include traffic-calming devices where possible, utilization of digital speed limit signs that inform drivers of their current speed, etc.
Kennedy: Prairie Township has some of the highest water and sewer rates in the region. This puts a huge strain on residents' budgets. The problem is township trustees have no decision-making authority over these bills and have to depend on other county officials to resolve the problem. The current trustees believe the Columbus annexation policy is the main reason for the high water and sewer bills. I believe it is unfair for Columbus to have control over water and sewer for the region and provide them only when it benefits them. We have been working closely with our state House and Senate representatives to draft an amendment to address this issue. The Clean Water and Fair Pricing Amendment passed both the House and the Senate earlier this year but the governor vetoed the bill. We will be working hard in 2018 to get this bill re-introduced.
Prairie Township has several multi-unit apartment buildings -- Old Village, Beacon Hill, South Grener and Hilton Avenue, to name a few. Some of these draw heavily on township and county resources because they have a significant volume of sheriff and emergency medical runs, and zoning and Franklin County Public Health complaints. I believe the best way to deal with this issue would be to pass a Home Rule resolution giving Prairie Township's building inspector the authority to inspect both the inside and outside of these units to assure they adhere to all state and local building and housing codes, and to health and safety standards. This would greatly improve the quality of life for township residents living in the units and in the surrounding neighborhoods.
McKay: A top priority is to address the issue of water rates charged to Prairie Township residents. Many are paying $300, $400, $500 or more per quarter for water and it simply isn't fair. We cannot continue to absorb rate increases for such basic services. We must develop better communication with Franklin County officials to get rates reduced. Clearly, the current Prairie Township voices on this matter are not communicating effectively. It's time for a new voice in that discussion. I will work to change outdated policies and processes that are inefficient so we have fair rates for all.
A second issue that needs to be addressed in Prairie Township is economic development. The best thing we can do to improve the job climate is support our local small businesses. I will also lead efforts to proactively support and encourage new entrepreneurs with great ideas for new businesses so they can grow right here in Prairie Township. We need to create partnerships with our local lenders and work more closely with the schools to make sure we have the workforce needed for tomorrow's jobs. We also need to focus on redevelopment of certain areas in the township so we can create opportunities for new jobs and increase values on underutilized properties.