Two candidates appear on the Nov. 5 ballot for a seat on the Madison Township board of trustees.
Voters will select from incumbent John Kershner, who is seeking a second four-year term, and challenger Michele Reynolds.
The candidates recently were asked to respond to questions presented to them by the ThisWeek Canal Winchester Times. Their responses are as follows:
What is the greatest challenge/need facing the township and, if elected, how would you address it?
Kershner: Madison Township's fire calls continue to decline due to rigorous building codes and excellent supervision of home improvements and building codes. Since opening our new Fire Station 183, calls for medical assistance and transport within the township have declined while service to the surrounding area of Columbus has increased. We must investigate and address these changes to ensure that we maintain excellent services within the confines of a reasonable budget and coordinate future planning with our neighboring communities to ensure efficiency. We must also maintain high levels of service and safety for our first responders. Having worked hard to find a top-quality fire chief, I look forward to the opportunity to work with him (Derek Robinson) on improving communication and management of our fire services.
Reynolds: The greatest challenge facing Madison Township is the need to make necessary improvements to our roads, fire equipment and emergency vehicles in order to maintain public safety, yet with a limited amount of financial resources. If elected township trustee, I will work cooperatively with Madison Township officials and staff to prioritize the needs of our police, fire and public-works departments while ensuring fiscal responsibility for improvements that are within the limits of our operational budget.
Are there any township services or facilities that you'd like to see expanded? Changed? Discontinued? If so, which services/facilities and why?
Kershner: The trustees have hired more police officers and are developing a more professional and diverse force. We've improved reporting, safety and accountability. We now use body cameras and dash cameras and put safeguards in place ensuring safety equipment is up to date. We implemented technology to regularly update our officers and staff on our policies and procedures and to ensure compliance. We are working to improve communication with our fellow officers serving Canal Winchester. Madison Township has a problem, like many communities, with eye-sore properties; we are better utilizing our fire marshal to condemn structures that pose a threat to the community and continue to challenge the county to help eradicate them. We provide notices to property owners that have fallen behind on maintenance and most issues are quickly corrected through a cooperative effort. When appropriate, our staff works to ensure compliance while suggesting resources to help when possible. We have updated our website to improve communication in a cost-effective manner. I am proud of the savings that our aggregation programs have generated for our residents. We have championed relief programs for those in need on their utility payments and continue to suggest and improve these services.
Reynolds: I would like to see Madison Township expand government transparency by utilizing the technology of OhioCheckbook.com. Since 2014, small governments across Ohio have used this resource facilitated by the (Office of the Ohio Treasurer) to show taxpayers exactly how their tax money is being spent. The initiative has set a new national standard for transparency in state and local government. Currently, Madison Township is one of the few townships in Ohio that has yet to enroll its budget on this platform, and I would like to see that change.
The township faces a dwindling budget for road repairs. How would you go about increasing funding?
Kershner: Our public-works department budget is roughly half of what it once was and is being financed largely by the general fund, putting a disproportionate burden on residents who do not benefit from public-works services. Meanwhile, another department is operating on a surplus, which is approaching its entire annual budget with millions in surplus monies. I will continue to press for more fair and balanced budgets between departments and work diligently to increase our public works budget to the level needed while working hard to avoid any unneeded additional taxation. I will continue to demand that complete data be provided and proven accurate before approaching the taxpayers to do my part to insist that we do not overtax our residents. I have worked hard to ensure our management team capitalizes on grant monies and cooperative programs with developers and our county and city governments to stretch our existing budget.
Reynolds: In July 2019, a state gas tax was approved by the Ohio General Assembly, which is set to increase funding for road improvements in counties in Ohio by 42% by fiscal year 2020. Madison Township will receive its distribution of the gas tax that will increase the line-item budget for road repairs by approximately $180,000. If elected, I will convene a small group of residents from the community to serve on a six-week citizen advisory council (CAC). The CAC would be tasked with looking into problems with our roads, talking with the (roads) superintendent, identifying township roads in need of repair, grading each road a grade of A-F and providing a list of recommendations to the trustee board to determine what the best course of action should be with the limited budget we have to spend on road improvements.