Wednesday, July 30, 2014

City candidates say their work isn’t done

By CRYSTAL HERBER and DOUG CARDER, Herald Staff Writers | 1/14/2013

Ottawa residents who are interested in running for openings on the city commission or school board have one week left to file their intentions.

Three Ottawa City Commission seats and three Ottawa school board seats are up for election this spring. The filing deadline for the city and school board positions is noon Jan. 22.

Ottawa residents who are interested in running for openings on the city commission or school board have one week left to file their intentions.

Three Ottawa City Commission seats and three Ottawa school board seats are up for election this spring. The filing deadline for the city and school board positions is noon Jan. 22.

The terms for city commissioners Gene Ramsey, Linda Reed and Jeff Richards are set to expire in April. Ramsey and Reed are wrapping up four-year terms, while Richards is completing his first, two-year term.

Incumbents Reed and Richards filed Jan. 7 to seek re-election. Former longtime commissioner Rocky Fleer also entered the race Jan. 7.

Fleer, who could not be reached for comment Jan. 7, said last week she was ready to give it another go.

She previously served 12 years on the commission, but lost her re-election bid in 2011. But Fleer said she isn’t ready to hang up her public service shoes just yet.

“I wasn’t done helping the people,” Fleer said.

Aiding the community became a way of life after working 31 years at the local department of motor vehicles, she said. Retiring from that position in 2011, Fleer, 63, Ottawa, said she now has more time to devote to the people of Ottawa.

An Ottawa resident for more than 30 years, Fleer said, she thinks she can serve as a voice for the people. She considers herself an approachable person, she said, who will listen to people and bring their concerns to the commission in a timely manner.

“As it was before, a lot of [residents] were wanting some help, and when they hit a brick wall, they’d call me up,” Fleer said. “So I just want to be their voice.”

Decreasing the mill levy and finding balance in the tax structure for the community would be Fleer’s top priority if elected, she said. People should not be expected to pay, she said, ever-increasing property taxes when they have not made improvements to their homes. Fleer has experience with the housing market as a real estate agent for the past 10 years.

“There’s a lot of people that are living way below poverty,” she said. “Their expenses in keeping up with their homes is so high with utilities and stuff like that and then to come along with a higher tax on their property ... it’s not fair to them.”

While she is in favor of continued economic development, Fleer said, she does not support continued tax exemption incentives for big businesses, especially while small businesses continue to pay taxes.

She is willing, she said, to continue promoting the Franklin County Development Council’s attempts to bring in big employers to the community.

“We should make it fair ... We need to find a way to work things out that’s fair for everybody,” she said. “We don’t need to want to just put the load on this bunch over here and the less load on the big bunch over here or the little bunch over here.”

Fleer is willing to concede, she said, that some big businesses came to the area partially because of the tax incentives, but she said they still should pay something in taxes to help lighten the burden on other smaller businesses.

Fleer said she plans to spend time before the election going house-to-house to get people’s votes.

Reed, 54, has served five years on the commission. Reed served the last year of Deborah Henningsen’s remaining term before being elected to a full term four years ago. Henningsen vacated the position when she moved outside the city limits. Reed said she thought improvements to city streets and sidewalks were some of the key accomplishments made during her term in office.

“Another one, though probably not as popular, was the establishment of a stormwater utility,” Reed said. “It took a long time to put together, and it was something this community definitely needed.”

If re-elected, Reed said, she would work to keep city taxes at an affordable level, while maintaining the services residents have come to expect.

“We want to make improvements, but you don’t want the cost of living to get so high you can’t afford to live here,” Reed said.

Richards, 44, said he would continue to push for economic development and to improve city streets, sidewalks and parks, if he were elected to another term.

“I feel like on paper two of the city’s priorities for a long time have been to improve city streets and sidewalks, and I feel like we’ve made some real progress in those areas in the past two years,” Richards said. “I thought we did some nice things to make Ottawa more business-friendly, and I would like to continue to push for economic development.”

Another point of focus for his next term, if re-elected, would be to lower the city’s property tax mill levy, Richards said.

[Editor’s note: See the Jan. 8 edition of The Herald for more comments from Reed and Richards.]

The top two vote-getters in the city commission race would each receive a four-year term, and the third-place finisher would receive a two-year term.

Persons interested in running for one of those seats have until noon Jan. 22 to file with the City Clerk’s Office at City Hall, 101 S. Hickory St., Ottawa.

Ottawa school board election

No one had filed as of 5 p.m. Monday in the Ottawa school board race.

School board members Bill Allegre, Brandon Jones and Marge Stevens will see their terms expire in 2013. All three seats are four-year terms.

Persons interested in seeking one of those seats need to file by noon Jan. 22 with the Franklin County Clerk’s Office, 315 S. Main St., Ottawa.

The general election is set for April 2. If a primary election is necessary, it would be Feb. 26.

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