Township Trustee forum— New fire station addressed
- Published: November 7, 2013
Candidates for Miami Township Trustee agreed at a forum last Wednesday evening that the greatest challenge facing the newly-elected board will be constructing a new building for the Township offices and fire department. Most agreed that fixing the current building, with its small size and many deficits, isn’t an option, but they differed on their vision for a new building.
Six out of the seven candidates for the position — Steve McFarland, Don Hollister, John Eastman, Dale Amstutz, Mark Crockett and John Struewing — spoke at last week’s candidate forum, sponsored by the James A. McKee Group. More than 100 villagers filled the Mills Lawn gym for the event, which was facilitated by Jalyn Roe. Candidate Zo Van Eaton Meister was absent due to a family emergency.
Because the properties being considered for a new Township facility — the main one being the former site of the Wright State clinic — are larger than needed for the building, the opportunity is present for collaborating with the Village to build a facility that benefits both entities, according to Don Hollister and John Eastman.
“I think I’m well-suited to take on that sort of community process,” said Hollister, who has previously served as a member of Yellow Springs Village Council, and is currently executive director of Ohio League of Conservation Voters. “I bring to the job a background in collaboration and low-key facilitation,” he said.
An environmental engineer, Eastman said he brings to the table both his technical skills, which could be useful in designing the site and the building, and skills in communication.
“I believe I have the problem-solving skills to make this a place people can be proud of,” Eastman said.
To incumbent Mark Crockett, who has served 12 years as a trustee, the main challenge related to the new facility, as well as with overseeing Township road mainanence and opening a new section of the Glen Cemetery, is financial.
“It’s all about, where’s the income going to come from,” he said.
And after working on the Township’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan for the past 12 years, Crockett, who owns Rita Caz, emphasized that he also brings to the job extensive experience in collaborative efforts.
The need for a new fire station was also the top priority for McFarland, who served as mayor of Clifton between 1988 and 2012. In his role as mayor and longtime resident in the township, McFarland brings varied skills to the job, he said.
“I feel I have experience needed in zoning, street paving and the fire department,” he said.
Dale Amstutz, who lives on a 160-acre farm on Hyde Road in the township and works for the post office in Fairborn, also emphasized the need for fiscal responsibility in running the township. And as someone who grew up on a farm, owns a farm and has a degree in agriculture from Wilmington College, Amstutz said he brings to the job a deep knowledge of agriculture, a primary focus of township efforts. It’s especially important to elect a trustee with such knowledge since Lamar Spracklen, a longtime trustee and township farmer, is leaving the board, he said.
“I believe I’m the right candidate. I’m the rural candidate,” he said.
John Struewing said he’s running for the job because “Land use is my passion and there are things that need to be done.”
Struewing, a contractor who served 15 years on the Yellow Springs Planning Commission and five years on Township Zoning Board, brings his varied experiences with land planning, he said, stating he hopes to see more collaborative efforts between the Village and the Township around the issue.
He also stressed fiscal accountability, saying that while he supports the construction of a new Township facility, new taxes on farmers could lead to their losing their livelihood, if the increased expense coincides with a decline in farm prices.
During questions from audience members, candidates were asked what Township trustees should do to promote economic development in the village.
The trustees have only limited influence on the Village’s economy, according to Struewing, who said their main focus should be protecting the township’s open spaces, which contribute to the beauty of the area and help to bring visitors. Amstutz agreed that protecting the “rural feel” of the township contributes to the vitality of the village, by bringing in visitors.
“This is where people come to get away from the rat race,” he said.
While protecting open space is important, Crockett emphasized that the trustees can take a more active role in promoting the local economy. Specifically, he was one of several elected officials to visit San Antonio, Texas, several years ago, in an effort to interest Air Force employees scheduled to move to Wright Patterson in living in Yellow Springs. Crockett said he supports more “ongoing conversation” between Village and township residents on economic development.
The Township leaders also play a role in “protecting the assets” of businesses that locate in the village, which includes effective fire protection, according to Eastman. He also encourages developing a stronger “sense of communiy” between Yellow Springs, Clifton and the rural areas.
According to McFarland, it’s important to know what economic development is taking place at the time before speculating on what trustees could do.
In response to a question about why the new Township fire station is necessary, only Amstutz suggested that it might be possible to repair the current 50-year old station, which is deemed by the fire department too small and delapidated to refurbish.
While Amstutz said he’d “like to see a new facility happen,” he said the issue “comes down to cost.”
“Anything can be fixed, but is it feasible?” he said.
But “some things can’t be fixed,” according to Crockett, who said the current Township fire department facility is no longer usable.
Eastman, Struewing and McFarland agreed that a new fire facility is needed. Problems with the building include not enough space between fire trucks, a lack of sleeping quarters for volunteers, and the leakage of exhaust fumes into current sleeping quarters, according to Eastman.
“It’s a given that the current building won’t work,” Struewing said. “We need to look into the future, and a new facility would be a tremendous tool for recruitment” of new volunteers.
“It’s a no-brainer,” he said.