Burlington group hosts election forum

Published 5:50 pm Sunday, October 1, 2017

Five of 12 candidates invited attended

BURLINGTON — The general election in Lawrence County is set for Nov. 7 and, as it has in past races, the Concerned Citizens of the Burlington Area hosted a Meet the Candidates forum at Burlington Elementary on Thursday.

While the agenda was lighter than usual, given the off-year nature of the election, voters still had the chance to speak with candidates in races on the ballot for the area.
Ed Moellendick, the president of Concerned Citizens, said invitations had been extended to 12 candidates in four races and five had chosen to appear at the forum, while two sent letters to be read in their place.

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Four ballot issues were also on the agenda, with one person, Lawrence EMS director Buddy Fry, attending to speak on the EMS funding levy.

Following the prayer and pledge, the forum began with Moellendick announcing that he would identify candidates for all races.

“As you may notice, most are not here, but I will bring up all of their names,” he said.

First on the list was the race for Lawrence County municipal judge.

Moellendick said Donald R. Capper, who is running unopposed, was invited, but was not in attendance.

South Point council
Four seats are on the ballot, with five candidates — incumbents Mary Cogan, Chris Smith and David Moore, seeking re-election, and Bill Patrick and Marlene Arthur also running.
Of those, Cogan and Patrick were present.

Patrick spoke first, first giving the audience information on his background.

“I’ve lived in South Point all of my life, except for two years, when I was in the military,” he said, adding that he and his wife, Yvonne, have two daughters and four grandchildren.

He said his employment history includes working at Dayton Malleable, where he served on the negotiating committee and was vice-president of the United Steelworkers of America Union there. Following that, he worked at the Ohio Department of Transportation, where he was transportation manager for 28 years.

Patrick said one of his priorities would be to work to replace the ageing water lines in the village and to work with the police department on the issue of drugs.

“They’ve done a good job,” he said “However, there is more that could be done.”

He also said he wanted to work to establish a new park for the village, through either donated or leased property.

“We need a nice park for kids,” he said, stating it would ideally feature new playground equipment. “Someplace where they’re safe, and it could be used for church functions. It’s needed. We need to get these kids off the streets and away from the drug problem.”

Cogan followed, also opening with her biography, stating that she and her husband have two children and that she has owned a business in the village, South Point Storage, for more than 20 years and has a real estate company.

“Having my own business on Solida Road has been a big benefit,” she said, noting that residents always know where they can find her.

“I have a lot invested here,” she said, explaining her aim is to be “community-focused” through her volunteerism work with various groups.

She also said her business experience has been an asset in her duties on council.

“My company has continued to grow every year, and it has qualified me as a financial steward,” she said.

Like Patrick, she complimented the village police for their work on the drug problem, which she said she would also like to focus on.

“It’s an ongoing problem, and we have made huge strides, with the passage of a police levy,” she said. “We still have a lot to do, but we have made tremendous progress.”

She offered her advice for voters making choices in the fall.

“Look not only at the candidates’ personalities, but consider the effectiveness of that candidate” she said.

Cogan said she has “a proven track record” and has worked to provide research and factual information to village residents.

“I will continue to contribute,” she said. “I promise you that.”

Fayette Township trustees
Two seats are on the ballot, with four candidates running.

Moellendick said incumbents Travis Wise and Perry Brock were invited, but were not present. Both had sent letters in their absence.

Wise explained in his statement that he was unable to attend due to a previous commitment with a coach’s clinic he was taking part in.

His letter sated that he enjoyed the privilege of serving as trustee for four years and cited his work on passing the fire commission levy.

Wise concluded by saying he felt he has done the best job at spending the taxpayers’ money wisely and asked for their support in November.

Brock said in his letter that just because he was unable to attend, it did not mean he was unavailable to voters’ concerns.

He asked residents to feel free to call him on issues facing the township.

He said it was a privilege to serve, and asked for voters to consider him in the election.

Appearing in person were challengers Mike Finley and Mike Jones.

Finley, who has served in the office before, first spoke on the absence of the incumbents.

“Unlike other candidates running, I’m here,” he said, stating forums provide a chance for those running to show that they care.

He called Jones “his running mate” and said they will work together, if elected.

“Everybody knows about the roads, they speak for themselves,” Finley said. “We’ll try to do the right thing and take the high road. I appreciate your vote on Nov. 7.”

Jones followed with his presentation.

“My buddy and I are running together for Fayette trustees,” he said. “We’re good friends, we work well together and we don’t argue.  We sometimes have disagreements on stuff, but we’ll get things done in the township.”

In the question and answer session following candidate presentations, Finley and Jones were asked on the need for water service for those on Macedonia Road.

“It’s a monumental task,” Finley said, stating he had worked on it during his time in office. “We had grants and material for it, then I got beat. But we will work on it.”

He was asked about the project of a walking path from Burlington Commons to Walmart.

Moellendick said grants had been approved, but there had been no progress.

Finley asked County Commissioner DeAnna Holliday, whom he thanked for attending the event in the audience, on whether the commission was working on it.
Holliday said the commission was planning to move forward on the project.

“If you keep on it, we will make it happen,” Finley said to her.

Another issue raised was the delay in the construction of a replica of the county’s first courthouse at Burlington Commons.

Finley said the project hit a roadblock when a grave was discovered under a concrete slab at the site, which could be that of a person or an animal. He said before work could proceed, it must be ascertained who or what was buried there. He said hiring a group was too costly for the current funding.

Finley said Marshall University had been contacted and there were plans to send an archeological team to study the find, which would be of no cost to the public, but that the project was waiting on movement there.

Moellendick said the site had gone back to the Concerned Citizens, who were currently using it for excess parking and that the group would “keep it pristine” until grants came in and more work could be done.

South Point BOE
The forum also invited two candidates, Jan Keatley and Josh Parker, who are running for the South Point Board of Education. Both are running unopposed.

Parker was not present, but Keatley spoke to the forum, which she said was still important for those without competition.

“You owe it to the people who elect you,” she said.

Keatley opened with her biography, telling the audience how she was from the small community of Pigeon Creek, West Virginia before attending Marshall University, where she received a Master’s and Bachelor of Science degrees.

She said she taught at Marshall University and in South Point for 37 years before running for the board.

She gave an update on accomplishments since she had joined the board, including money saved for electricity at the schools. She said she was amazed at the costs when she took office.

“I said, if you don’t have stock in AEP, we’re wasting money,” she said.

She said this led to a feasibility study being conducted, resulting in improvements which led to $92,000 in savings on electricity.

She noted other infrastructure improvements, such as the renovation of the board office, parking lot upgrades at South Point Elementary and the youth football and baseball fields, fence replacements and the addition of a bus garage.

“We’ve moved from a place that used tarps to a state-of-the-art bus garage,” she said.

She also said the schools had become better prepared for state testing, which will be done by computer, with the upgrades in computer labs, as well as the purchase of iPads, and laptops.

“We are ready,” she said of the next round of tests, set for spring.

As for athletic facilities, she noted the long-term savings from the installation of synthetic turf of the softball and baseball fields.

“Why do our kids not deserve what everyone else is having?” she said.

Ballot issues
Following the candidates, the forum moved to ballot issues facing voters.

Moellendick began by reading the texts of the crime bill and prescription drug price issues that will be statewide issues, before moving on to local issues.

First was the 2-mill levy for funding Lawrence County EMS.

Speaking in support of it was the agency’s director, Buddy Fry, though he said he was wearing “a different hat” and speaking as a member of the Friends for EMS Levy organization, which he said is a committee comprised of 30 members.

Fry summed up the need for the levy on three points — keeping service at its current standards, getting better equipment and bringing service to the northern part of the county.

He noted that Lawrence EMS had received two major awards this year for the quality of their response work, putting them in the top in the country.

He said this could be something touted to bring business to Lawrence County.

“If you have a heart attack, you’re going to get the best care possible,” he said. “That’s something we could say to attract industry, besides mentioning the new school buildings here.”

Fry said that heart monitor and defibrillator equipment had a lifespan of about five years and that EMS purchased these in 2012. He said the levy funding would allow for upgrades.

“If you have a heart attack, you better believe you want the best heart monitor and defibrillator equipment to save your life,” he said. “I know I do.”

He said the areas north of Ironton on Route 93 were in need of an EMS station.

“If you have a head-on crash at the 22-mile marker, the nearest trucks are in Ironton and Aid,” he said. “That’s not what we want to see.”

He said the station in Aid had been added since he was EMS director, but, if the levy passed, a new station could be built further north.

“It would become a reality,” he said.

Fry said effective Oct. 1, the state sales tax on money spent by managed care organizations, which currently funds EMS, would no longer be in effect, and the county would lose $1.4 million in funding.

If the levy passed, a stable source of revenue would be created.

“In order to continue to operate EMS, the commission placed this on the ballot,” he said.

In the question and answer session, one woman asked him “What’s this levy going to cost me, Buddy?”

Fry said someone with a home worth $100,000 would pay $70 per year.

“And, if it’s worth $50,000, then half that,” he said.

Fry also said anyone who thought he was backing the levy because of his job should be aware of one thing.

“You may have heard rumors that I am going to retire,” he said. “I am here to say that is absolutely the truth.”

Fry said his last day is set for Dec. 15, after working for EMS since January 1973.

Moellendick also read a letter from Sam’s Club, which is seeking the approval of voters in Burlington Precinct 3 for beer and wine sales.

The company said employees would be trained and tested on complying with local laws, including age verification.

The letter also stated the sales would allow customers one-stop shopping and that the tax on the sales would stay in Lawrence County.

Following the questions, candidates met with voters in a reception.