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Cleary to run for mayor again

Among the candidates running for Ironton mayor this year is Councilman Bob Cleary.

Cleary is familiar with the position because he held the office from Dec. 1998 to Dec. 2003. He ran for council two years later.

Cleary, who has 16 years of experience in city government, said he is running for mayor again because when he left office four years ago there was a $1 million surplus to start the next year.

“Within hardly no time at all, that money was almost totally exhausted,” he said. “The budget of this city is the most critical part, it’s like the heart, its what makes the city run.”

He said staff and budget cuts have hurt the city in critical ways.

“I think the budget we are operating under now, I think it has a lot of overspending,” Cleary said.

He is also concerned that a municipal fee that was passed two years ago, which he opposed, generates several hundred thousand dollars and is only a temporary band-aid.

He said expenses need to be cut and new avenues of revenues must be created. He said insurance costs continue to escalate and workers compensation costs must be brought under control.

“The taxpayers are getting taxed to death,” he said. “I think with my experience and knowing how the budget works, I think we can get back into the black.”

The second issue that weighs on Cleary’s mind is the Ironton-Russell Bridge, especially in light of the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis on Aug. 8.

“I went across it in a 1-ton truck towing a 1,400 pound excavator behind me and I tell you, when it dropped off the concrete onto the grating, I just kind of held on,” he said. “It was bouncing like the bridge was moving.”

He said he has been working with the Ohio Department of Transportation about getting the bridge replaced.

“They assured me they would get a new bridge started by 2006 or by the latest 2007,” he said. “Now they keep bumping it up. Now 2012 is the latest they will release it and it takes four years to complete a bridge. This is a vital link to our city.”

He added that not only do people cross the bridge to work or shop, but it is also the city’s access to medical facilities in Russell and Ashland, Ky. He said it might be fatal if people had to start driving to the Ashland Bridge to get medical help.

“We have to get Columbus to get funding in place,” he said. “We were made promise after promise.”

The plans for a new Ironton-Russell Bridge fell through after bids on the project came in at $110 million instead of the expected $80 million. The state decided to redesign the bridge and it is now scheduled for the 2013 fiscal year. In a meeting with ODOT officials last fall, council was told the bridge was perfectly safe.

Cleary is also upset by municipal water fees and said that even if a city resident uses no water in one billing period, they still have to pay around $40 in fees.

“We need to see what we can do to eliminate some of these fees,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Cleary also wants to see more job creation.

“We have the Industrial Park, we have the Ironton Iron site that is being cleaned up,” he said. “We have a lot of acreage that major manufacters or the health care system is looking for.”

He said he would work with local agencies to bring jobs to the city.