Record turnout expected for election

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 29, 2004

On Nov. 2, county residents are expected to vote in record numbers and decide who will govern them, represent them and serve them. In addition, they will decide on a number of issues on the ballot, too.

The issues

One statewide and six local issues will be decided upon.

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Ohioans are being asked to approve or reject a constitutional amendment that would stipulate that marriage is "between one man and one woman." Those in favor of the amendment contend it is necessary to prevent gay marriages from becoming legal. Opponents said the amendment is redundant in light of the Defense of Marriage Act approved by the state legislature earlier this year and is too extreme.


two fire levies are on the ballot. Voters in Lawrence Township will vote for or against a 1-mil, five-year renewal fire protection levy. This is the second renewal on that levy which provides approximately $13,000 annually for the volunteer fire department. Lawrence Township Fire Chief Phil Hardy said the money is essential.

"So far, we've been able to buy two used pumper trucks, and if this passes, we hope to buy a tanker," Hardy said. "It (the levy) is vitally important to us."

Hardy said voters really get some of their money back since better equipment helps provide a more favorable fire rating and thus lower insurance rates.

Upper Township voters will also vote on a 2-mil, five year renewal fire protection levy that would provide $37,000 to $38,000 annually for that township's volunteer fire department. The levy was first approved five years ago. Upper Township Fire Chief Jeff Scott said the money goes for general operating expenses and new equipment.

"Things have gotten so expensive these days. It's expensive just to get one man ready to fight a fire. The class, just for the basics, is a couple hundred dollars, and with the turnout gear, you can easily spend $5,000 just to get one man ready to fight a fire."

Upper Township firefighters will have an open house

at 5 p.m. Saturday at the fire station. Scott said the open house will allow residents to "see what we've accomplished so far and we have left to accomplish."

Voters in the Fairland Local School District will approve or reject a 2.6 mil bond levy that will provide money for some new athletic facilities and improvements to existing ones. A proposed $3.5 million project would include a new playground at Fairland West Elementary,

upgrades at the softball and baseball fields, new concession stands and upgrades at the high school stadium, including new bleachers, restrooms and other improvements.

Fairland Superintendent Jerry McConnell said Fairland West Elementary has no playground at all - the Ohio School Facilities Commission does not allow school construction money to be spent on athletic facilities so the levy that was used to build the schools could not be used for playgrounds.

And he said the condition of the high school stadium is a matter of safety.

"The current stadium was built around 1968," McConnell said. "It's deteriorating. It's not a good situation for the students or the public."

McConnell said he hopes in the future the improvements will allow for more community use of athletic space, such as the high school walking track.

The bond levy is opposed by some property owners.

John Ratliff, of Proctorville, said while he supported the previous levy to build new schools, he is vocally opposing this one.

Ratliff said heaping a bigger tax bill on taxpayers will hurt those on fixed incomes,

and that instead of picking the public's pocket with another levy, school officials should take some of the unencumbered money from the school's general fund to pay for the athletic projects.

"My Lord, they could have gold- plated fixtures in the restrooms for that amount of money," he said.

McConnell said general fund monies are necessary for daily operating expenses of the schools, such as salaries, textbooks, utilities and other services.

Ironton voters will be asked to accept or reject a slate of issues, two of which are meant to ease the city's budget woes. A 0.5-percent income tax increase and a five-year 1-mill floodwall levy are on the ballot, as is a constitutional amendment that would reduce the mayor's salary to half of the municipal judge's salary.

Currently, the mayor is paid at an annual rate of 65 percent of the judge's salary. Judges' salaries are set by the state legislature. Adjustments to the mayor's salary must be approved or rejected by a vote of the people. Until 1986, Ironton mayors were paid at a rate of 75 percent of the municipal judge's salary.

"This is something a lot of citizens and some council members have asked about over the years," Ironton city councilman Jesse Roberts said.

"If we have asked employees over the years to accept not getting pay raises, why should the mayor's salary keep going up?"

The proposal is getting thumbs down from the man who now holds that office. Mayor John Elam said he believes that reducing the salary is not the answer and will do little to address the city's budget shortfall.

He also questioned why some members of council wanted to reduce the mayoral salary but proposed increasing the assistant finance director's salary by more than $5,000.

The adjustment would not affect Elam's current term in office, but would take effect Dec. 1, 2007.

The floodwall levy is used to fund the city's flood protection program and will not cost the residents any additional money, since it is a renewal levy. A 1-mill levy means that property owners will pay 10 cents for every $100 of assessed value for the next 5 years, ending in 2008.

The income tax levy would generate approximately $400,000 annually for city coffers. After wrestling with the issue of how to balance the books, council decided that the voters should select - or reject - the solution.

Elam said while he favors a municipal fee to a tax increase, the money has to come from somewhere.

"Ironton is approaching a fiscal crisis," Elam said. "Our residents have spoken and told us they are in favor of a municipal fee. On Nov. 2, we will find out if the residents would be more in favor of an increase in the payroll tax."

Similar increases have been resoundingly voted down at least twice in the past, but city officials hope that the residents will have a change of tune.

The income tax increase is one of several options city leaders have discussed this year in an effort to

close a $500,000 gap between revenues and expenses in the general fund.

Flying solo

If you've heard very little about or from some candidates this year, there is, perhaps, good reason: several have no opposition. Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier is seeking reelection but is unopposed, so are Lawrence County Engineer David Lynd and Lawrence County Coroner A. Burton Payne, all Republicans.

U.S. Sixth District Congressman Ted Strickland, a Democrat, has no G.O.P. opposition. Jane Sonenshein, who is running for the Ohio State Board of Education in the 10th district has no challenger. Paul Pfeifer is seeking reelection to the Ohio Supreme Court, and is also unopposed.

Local races

Will the makeup of

the Lawrence County Commission change or stay the same?

Two incumbents are seeking reelection: veteran Commissioner George Patterson, a Democrat, and Republican Jason Stephens, who is seeking his second term.

Patterson is challenged by Republican Ken Ater, a retired businessman.

Stephens faces opposition from Democrat Mark Malone, a former county commissioner and former state representative.

The face of one county offices will undoubtedly change as long-time Lawrence County Treasurer Kenneth Howell is retiring. Democrat Stephens Dale Burcham, a local certified public accountant and Republican Rod Depriest, a local banker, seek the office.

Earlier this year, two other veterans of the courthouse retired: Dale Burcham, who had been Clerk of Courts for more than three decades, hung up his hat. The Democratic Party chose to appoint former Hamilton Township trustee and former Common Pleas Court official Bob Blankenship as Burcham's interim successor. Blankenship is facing opposition from Republican Les Boggs, a local businessman.

Also retiring earlier this year was long-time Lawrence County Recorder Sue Deeds. Sharon Gossett Hager was appointed Deeds' interim successor and won her party's nomination in the primary election. She now faces Democrat David Classing, a South Point Village council member.

Lawrence County Sheriff Tim Sexton is asking voters for a second term in office. He is facing opposition from Chesapeake Police Chief Russell Bennett.

At the statehouse

In the 14 district state senate race, Republican Tom Niehaus and Democrat Paul Schwietering are asking for voters' approval. In the 89th district, incumbent Republican Clyde Evans is challenged by Democrat Philip Roberts II. In the 89th district, incumbent Democrat Todd Book is challenged by Republican Richard S. Holt.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer is seeking another term on the bench. Moyer's opponent in C. Ellen Connally. Two other seats on the supreme court are also up for grabs. Nancy Fuerst and Judith Ann Lanzinger are both seeking one of the the other available seats on the court. Terrence O'Donnell and William O'Neill seek to fill the unexpired term ending Dec. 31, 2006. In the Fourth District Court of Appeals, Douglas Bennett faces Matthew McFarland for an available seat.