Prairie Township residents will vote Nov. 5 for one seat on the three-member board of trustees.
Incumbent Douglas Stormont is being challenged by three other candidates for a four-year term commencing Jan. 1, 2020: Jennifer Flower, Jim Goudy and Alec Milam.
Flower, 34, is an insurance claims adjuster and Community Health Action Team volunteer. She is a graduate of Bowling Green State University.
Goudy, 66, attended Westland High School and holds a degree from Urbana College. He works in business marketing.
Milam, 24, attended Westland High School and holds a finance degree from Ohio University. He works as a property manager.
Stormont, 61, has held the trustee seat since 2004 and is serving as the board's 2019 chairman. He is a Westland High School graduate and small business owner.
ThisWeek West Side posed three questions about township matters to each candidate, requesting responses be limited to 200 words.
What is the greatest challenge/need facing the township and, if elected, how would you address it?
Flower: The greatest challenge Prairie Township is facing is the extreme water prices that a very large portion of our residents are forced to pay. In talking with residents on their doorsteps and out at community events, this is undoubtably the top concern. Over and over again, I have heard a household of two or three residents paying $400 or $500 per quarter for water without even watering their lawns or gardens. This situation has gone too long. The current board of trustees have brought in consultants and meetings and negotiations are in the works but the next board of trustees will be Implementing the solution. This solution needs to start with a strong advocacy for the residents of our township and just as strong a willingness to negotiate with Franklin County and the city of Columbus. Ultimately, I strongly believe we need to get some of the middle men out of the water and sewer services so one single agency is responsible for these services.
Goudy: There are several challenges facing Prairie Township. First of all, we have very, very high water bills. I would build a relationship with the Franklin County Commissioners and also the city of Columbus to work a plan and a program to lower our water bills. Safety is also an issue. I would like to see a Franklin County Sheriff's substation built in the township and also increase officers on patrol whether on bikes or more cruisers in the area. We also have a major rat problem throughout the township and I would work with the board of health to work on the infested areas.
Milam: Residents have shared that there are numerous needs and challenges currently facing the township. It is hard to determine which may be the greatest because they all carry the same level of importance. I believe the greatest challenge facing the township is communication. Several members of our community feel as if their voices are not heard, taken seriously or acknowledged, which is a problem considering that each resident within our community controls who is elected into office. I would address this, if elected, by starting a bi-monthly email that would be sent to residents and would discuss ongoing problems within the township, upcoming events, how tax dollars are being utilized, resident of the month, contact info, and other information. I would also hold town hall meetings for residents that are unable to attend regular township meetings. When communicating with residents I guarantee that you can always count on me to be professional, fair, actively listening and understanding.
Stormont: Our biggest complaints are Franklin County water rates. Which township trustees had no authority to make decisions on. But with the county wanting out of the water/sewer business an opportunity arose. We have been in meeting with city of Columbus and have negotiated an agreement in principal for the city to take over the township's water and sewer. Now the city and county need to work out the final details taking over of the system. This should be done mid next year with a considerable saving to residents. The second biggest complaint is the nuisance properties in the township. Our zoning staff handles more cases than any other township in the county. There is going to have to be talks about property maintenance code and other options to address the issue.
How do you feel your professional/personal background has prepared you to represent nearly 20,000 township residents?
Flower: I've had the fantastic opportunity to manage groups of employees and volunteers in a variety of settings. I have a wealth of experience in mentoring and motivating employees and volunteers from many diverse backgrounds. I am a natural relationship builder willing to work with anyone to accomplish a mutual goal. In my professional experience in insurance, I am required to navigate the needs of multiple interested parties, follow state and federal guidelines and solve problems on a strict timeline. I regularly set budgets and negotiate settlements and agreements. All of these rich experiences will help me as a trustee as I represent the residents of Prairie Township. As a trustee, I will be entrusted with helping negotiate utilities aggregation, service contracts and closely monitoring township finances. I will have to use my investigative skills and my relationship building skills when reviewing nuisances, to try to have a fair and timely resolution to resident concerns.
Goudy: Being a long-time resident of the township I have been very active in our school system and our booster club at the high school and also our youth programs in the past. I was approached by many Prairie Township residents to run for the trustees position. My management skills and great communication skills will benefit the township and its citizens.
Milam: Both my professional and personal background have prepared myself to represent nearly 20,000 township residents. An ideal that I have valued throughout my life is that in order to be the best version of yourself, you must be continuously learning. As time grows, change is always a possibility and you must be ready and able to adapt to change, good or bad, to ensure that residents are not placed in a bad situation. The ideology behind this campaign consists of the residents' best interests finally and rightfully being put first. No matter what happens each day, it is more important to remember that residents come first rather than myself. Ideals aside, I have learned that conservative financial management is a key determinant in any successful organization, business, or government. After graduating from the Ohio University College of Business in 2017 with a degree in finance, where I learned and applied business practices on a personal and corporate level, I then proceeded to apply my knowledge of business to my family rental property portfolio right here in Prairie Township. Since 2017, I've applied the skills I learned in college, producing an increase in revenue averaging roughly 20%.
Stormont: I have 16 years of experience as Prairie Township trustee. Being the owner of two businesses has given me knowledge and understanding of business ethics, principles and practices used to make the township's decisions. My excavating and construction experience has proven to be an asset in dealing with road, drainage and construction projects for the township.
Which services/facilities in Prairie Township would you like to see expanded and/or changed and why?
Flower: The Community Center is a cornerstone of our community. Unfortunately, it is not revenue neutral. As a trustee, I would work with the director to expand programs and services in a responsible way that will result in it being self-sustaining. This is more important than ever as the township opens the Galloway Road Sports Complex. As a trustee, I would cultivate relationships with local entrepreneurs and help showcase why they should expand their businesses into the township. Small-business partnerships are vitally important to the next 200 years of our township.
Goudy: Most concerning facility in the township that I have is the athletic complex on Galloway Road. They put in walking paths, a nice concession stand and a driveway and parking lot and it just sits idle. We need to get that completed and in operation as soon as possible so our kids in our township have a place to play athletics. Other area of concern is with our senior citizens of the township; they were promised many things back five or six years ago and many of those promises were not kept. I will work with our senior citizens. I will work with you and we will get programs to suit your needs and your wants. Making it better and great again.
Milam: The one service/facility in Prairie Township that I would like to see expanded and changed is the Prairie Township Community Center (PTCC) and Galloway Road Sports Complex. According to the 2020 approved Prairie Township budget the PTCC is expected to incur a $311,400 operating loss and the loss will be covered by transferring $500,000 from another fund and then placing $35,000 into the Galloway Sports Complex Fund, to make up for that funds loss, to produce a revenue of $205,824.99. I will work tirelessly to ensure that the PTCC and Galloway Sports Complex produce operating revenues each year. To do this I want to establish Prairie Township Youth Sports Leagues and partner with Westland High School and local businesses. Sports would include flag football, volleyball, basketball, softball, baseball and soccer. Students and coaches from Westland would be able to volunteer as coaches, referees, workers, etc. and earn volunteer hours that can be applied towards college applications or pursuing a trade. Local business would also have the chance to sponsor fields, courts, facilities and teams, as well as other opportunities.
Stormont: As the township continues to grow all services are constantly expanding. Fire and road departments equipment are constantly being updated with better technology to maintain the best services for residents. The Galloway Sports Complex is the new upcoming facility in the township. I led the way to buy the land. We used my contractor's license to install the utilities to save money that could be used on to build the fields for the youth of the township. I would like to continue developing the facility for the residents.
In addition to the trustee seat, Prairie Township voters will also see a 3.1-mill renewal levy for Franklin County Children Services, township fiscal officer and school board races on their ballot.
Early in-person and absentee voting began Oct. 8.