Friday, October 28, 2005

The Trustee Candidates respond

Below are the received responses to the questionnaire that was delivered to each of the Windham Township Trustee candidates about two weeks ago.  Kevin Knight and Dann Timmons responded.  Those responses are listed beneath each question, rotating each time alphabetically.  I appreciate the time that these men have taken to fill this out.

1. Why are you running for a position as Windham Township Trustee?

Kevin Knight: There are many reasons why I decided to seek the position of township trustee. First and foremost I care about our community and the residents. I have four wonderful children that I hope will someday raise their families in our community. 

I believe that my job as a trustee would be to actively listen to your concerns, ideas and suggestions and to put your interests above my own. I have been going to the township trustee meeting for two years now and I do not believe that our current board actively listens and accepts resident’s viewpoints. An example of how our current board actively listens to the residents would be when the School Levy Committee, made up of many highly reputable township and village residents, approached the board of trustees wanting them to endorse the school levy. Before any real discussion could take place the trustees stated, " If you are here for us to endorse the school levy, we will not endorse it." Secondly was when the Windham Village approached the township trustees to discuss an operating agreement that was expired. Before any discussion the trustees said, "If you are here to talk about a operating agreement. We are not talking about an operating agreement Case Closed" How can you make an informed decision if you are not willing to at least listen to what your residents have to say?

I believe that we should be prepared for future growth and our zoning should reflect that. One of the ways to do this is to have open meetings to understand what the residents want and expect from our township in the way of growth, development and zoning. Then devise a plan to meet those needs. We need to plan for farmland preservation, green spaces, parks, housing developments, and even commercial and industrial uses. We can plan where, how much and if a certain type of development can happen in our township. Even if the growth is ten years away, we need to plan for it now, so we can manage it. I think we should be proactive instead of reactive.

I believe we need to be stronger in our efforts to enforce the zoning we currently have in place. Craig Alderman our zoning inspector is doing an outstanding job. However I think he often looks to our trustees for direction and does not get that from our current board. From the meetings I have attended I do not think we are consistent in enforcing our zoning. And I will work hard to be consistent.

I believe the health and safety of our citizens is a top priority. Our township’s fire and rescue services are very important. We need to make sure we have the proper equipment and training for our volunteers so they can continue to provide quality services to our residents. We need to have an emergency management plan in place. In the event of a major catastrophe we would have a plan for catastrophe headquarters, evacuation, communication and emergency shelter. And our residents need to be aware of the plan.

I believe we need to be fiscally responsible. Being a small business owner I have insight into cost-cutting and financial management methods. We just don’t spend money for the sake of spending it. And neither will I as your trustee. I will never finance or agree to purchase any unnecessary equipment or projects with your money. In the two years that I have attended the township trustee meetings I have never once heard any discussion about the finances or the financial status of the township. So I have to ask, how can you go to the voters and ask for tax renewals or replacement levies when you have never once discussed the township finances? How can you plan for the future when you have not discussed finances? Is that being fiscally responsible?

I believe elected officials should be honest. I sat at a trustee meeting when the current board of trustees decided they would ask the voters in the fall of 2004 for the replacement of the current fire department levy, which is 1 mill. At that time they also decided they would go to the voters again in February of 2005 and ask for an additional 2 mill operating levy. If you are operating in the best interest of the residents be honest with us and tell us exactly how much is needed for the operating levy and what the money will be used for and then put the issue before the residents? You will hear my opponents say no more taxes. Do they really mean it? I will work hard to make sure the residents of the township are aware of any issues or needs before they are put on a ballot.

I believe that a strong community is an informed community. When I asked for copies of a past township meeting minutes, our township trustees immediately passed a resolution to charge one dollar per page for the minutes. The resolution passed 3-0. According to the Ohio Sunshine Laws they can only charge for the actual cost to produce the copies, which is the cost of the paper and ink, they cannot charge for wages. As a taxpayer, living in the township those minutes should be free. Township residents should not have to pay to see what is going on in their township.

I am running for township trustee because I believe in this community and I care about the residents. I believe a good leader is honest, respectful and fiscally responsible. I am dedicated to making Windham Township a unique and special place to live. I will bring a fresh perspective and new energy to our township government.

Dann Timmons: I have always enjoyed serving my community. I have been a resident of Windham Township for 28 years and have served as a Trustee for nearly 5 years. Prior to becoming a Trustee, I served on the township zoning committee for 20 years. During my time as trustee, we, as a board have enacted more changes than any board in recent memory. If re-elected, there are some other projects I would like to explore as well as completing some of our ongoing projects.

2. What do you think is the biggest short-term issue for the Township?

Dann Timmons: We need to complete work on the operating agreement with the Village concerning the Windham Fire Department. In the next year, the Trustees need to begin the preliminary work for the new cemetery.

Kevin Knight: I think the first thing we need to do is to assess our financial situation and make a short-term and long- term financial plan. Then we need to inform and educate our residents on the township finances, explain what we have and what are financial plan is. The biggest short-term issue would be to bring stability back to our fire department.

3. What do you think is the biggest long-term issue for the Township?

Kevin Knight: With cost rising on materials, supplies and utilities, it is very important to be fiscally responsible by using our current revenue properly and not having to go back to the voters. With our current cemetery approaching capacity we need to plan for a new cemetery. The current site purchased for a new cemetery creates a challenge due to the location in relation to residential homes. We need to investigate all our options.

Dann Timmons: With the continuing prospect of less funding, the trustees need to continue the sound fiscal policies of the past to insure the residents continue to receive the best level of service. Secondly, our zoning commission has done an excellent job in working with the zoning resolution. As times change, Windham Township will experience continued development and we will need to continue to adapt the resolution to meet this challenge.

4. What is your position concerning the Township/Village Joint Fire District proposal and ongoing Operating Agreement discussion?

Dann Timmons: The Trustees have sent a proposed Operating Agreement to the Village officials and are waiting on their reply. The entire package includes a separate short-term agreement for a committee made up of Village and Township officials, the Fire Chief and some residents to gather information and make recommendations about a joint fire district. A joint fore district could be the best solution for the future, but I have expressed concerns about the financial drain at this time. If re-elected, I will serve on the exploratory committee and as agreed in our negotiations, will keep an open mind.

In the meantime, we need to get an operating agreement in place. The Township proposal shifts most of the day-to-day operations to the department. The people who serve know how things are done and the goal of our proposal has been to keep politics out of the fire station. Our proposal allows the Trustees to continue the more mundane tasks such as paying the bills in a timely manner and making minor purchases at the regular Trustee meetings. The most important part of the proposal involves the Township and Village working together on equipment purchases and policy decisions.

I am hopeful that we can reach an agreement soon since there are several projects on hold that we need to discuss, such as a storage facility for the department and a generator that could service both the fire department, Village Administration and the police department in the event of an emergency.

Kevin Knight: My primary concern is for the safety and well being of our residents. I want to ensure that every time there is a call for an ambulance or fire truck it will be there with skilled, well-trained, well-equipped fire and rescue personnel and with a short response time. Which would be better for our residents, an operating agreement with the village or a joint fire district? I have not decided yet. Since I have not seen a copy of the proposed operating agreement and the joint fire district is in the exploratory stages, I am being open minded about both. I have requested copies of all operating agreements and bargaining documents from both the village and the township in regards to the fire department, so I can get a better understanding of the issues.

I have just received the township documents and I am studying those. I am waiting on the village documents. (Please see attached request). I am contacting the local joint fire districts like Mantua, Newton falls and Garrettsville to get a better understanding on how they operate a joint fire district. I would like to get as much information as possible so that I can have a working knowledge of both options.

I would like to work together with all the trustees to get as much information as possible on all options, present the information to residents for their input and then put into place the best policy that affords our residents the greatest benefits. As a leader of our community it is our responsibility to always look for ways to improve.

5. Should voters approve the Township Fire District 1 mill 5 year replacement levy? Why or why not?

Kevin Knight: This levy is a heavy equipment levy. A 1 mill replacement-operating levy was passed last Nov. by the voters. I would never want to endanger the safety of the residents. Not knowing exactly what we are going to purchase and what equipment we need, makes it difficult to answer this question. Do we have the correct preventative maintenance schedule in place to protect our large investments? Again, here is another area we need to have a one-year, two-year and five-year plan in place to ensure our equipment is performing properly and we are getting optimal usage and life expectancy from each piece of equipment. I think we need to do an equipment inventory. We need to know exactly the condition of all our equipment, the issues with each piece of equipment and a comprehensive plan on how we will replace and repair the equipment. I think we need to aggressively pursue grants to help purchase equipment and take some of the financial burden off of the taxpayers.

Dann Timmons: The one mill levy that is on the ballot this year has been in place since 1965. Funds generated are for large equipment purchases and capital improvements and have nothing to do with operating expenses. If passed, the levy would generate about $51,000.00 per year with roughly equal amounts coming from residents of the Village and Township.

With the continued increasing costs of equipment necessary to serve the residents, the passage of the levy is necessary for the long term viability of the Department. We currently have over $200,000.00 in the equipment fund. From this, we have earmarked over $36,000.00 for the final two yearly payments on the rescue squad. While working toward getting an operating agreement in place, we have had some preliminary discussions with the Mayor and Fire Chief about our comprehensive plan to utilize the funds. It seems pretty much agreed that the top priority is a second rescue squad to replace the old squad which is a 1988 model. The Fire Chief’s car is a 1992 and the grassfire rig is from the 70's. The Fire Chief has brought forward a reasonable proposal to do away with both and replace them with a one ton truck with a crew cab that could be outfitted for fighting grass fires. The big problem looming in the future is the pumper. While our current pumper is still serviceable, it was purchased used and is showing some age. New pumpers can run in excess of $300,000.00 with a good used one, half to two-thirds that amount. We could cushion the blow now that Ohio law allows us to utilize lease purchase, as we did with the rescue squad, and spread the payments over several years, but we need to know that the funds will be available.

We were quite fortunate to receive a grant in 2004 that allowed us to purchase a new tanker for a little over $220,000.00 with only about $40,000.00 contributed from the large equipment fund.

Unfortunately it does not seem likely that grants will be available in the future. It will be a major challenge for the Township and Village, whoever is in office, to keep the fire department adequately equipped using the levy money over the next five years, but it will be virtually impossible if the levy does not pass.

6. How can Fire and EMS service be improved for the Township (and Village)?

Dann Timmons: I am very proud of the level of service the Department has provided to our residents. In January 2002, we received a letter from Community Ambulance that they would no longer serve Windham Township. At the same time, the Village was paying for Action Ambulance and receiving less than acceptable service and response time. This left us scrambling to increase our rescue service through the fire department.

Change has been slow but steady as our fire department has responded to about 85% of the calls over the past six months.

In order to improve, we need more people to serve as paramedics and EMT’s. We have appealed to residents of our community who are trained to join the department and give us some time. We have training available and a number of people have taken advantage. We would also like to see a more aggressive recruiting program in the high school. Any of you seniors that are 18 years old or soon will be, if you are interested in EMT training, let us know. It could give you a chance to serve your community, better yourself as a person and it looks great on a resume.

For the future of the fire department, the large equipment levy needs to pass. Beyond that, success builds success. As the Department is able to respond to more emergency calls, the billing revenue rises (as well as the safety of our residents) which lessens the chance of a need for more taxes or subsidies from the Village or Township.

Kevin Knight: I think our fire department is one of our communities’ strongest assets. We need a detailed study on what it would take to operate a 24/7 EMS Service. Then we need to do a root cause analysis of our strong points and weak points. Based on the data we receive from our studies we will make the right decisions to improve our EMS service.

7. What would you most like to accomplish while in office?

Kevin Knight: I would like to see our township operating at optimal financial efficiency. I would like to have a well-informed community, working together for the benefit of all residents. I would like to explore the possibility of a township park and recreation area through grant money. I would like to see the very narrow and dangerous bridge on Gotham Road replaced. I would like to work with ODOT to review and find ways to reduce the number and severity of accidents at the dangerous Mahoning Corners intersection. (St. Rt. 82 and Windham Parkman Road). For more information please visit my website at . I will serve with humility and respect, always remembering that I work for you. Thank you for time and consideration.

Dann Timmons: I would like to continue the sound financial management that has been the norm for so many years in Windham Township.

My 5 years on the board have been rewarding and I have enjoyed working with Howard, Brian and Jayme as well as the township employees, Mike and Rich. While we don’t always agree, and the Ohio Revised Code at times places limits on what action we can lawfully take, we have worked well as a team. Because of the years of sound financial management, Windham Township is in far better financial condition than many of our neighboring townships. We have some of the best township roads in the county and have been able to maintain them without seeking road levies like many other townships.

I remain hopeful that we can reach an agreement with the Village concerning the Fire Department. At this point, it seems that we are in agreement on most issues.

Some neighboring townships have created parks. Most were able to get started because of donations of land. Although townships currently can receive some grant money to develop a park, I am not sure this would be a prudent use of our money. I would like to see some type of joint effort with the Village to improve the Village Park possibly creating a joint park district that would allow us to obtain grant money. There have been some very preliminary discussions with the Mayor but more research is needed as to the legalities.

Since the Fun In The Sun committee is no longer active, I would like to see the festival replaced with more free summer concerts at the gazebo on the Township Green.

My personal project has been the newsletter that has been published now twice a year for four years. One of my original goals as a Trustee was to get more information to the residents about what we do and in a small way help build a sense of community. If re-elected, I plan to continue the newsletter.

Danny Burns and Howard Furl declined to comment.

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