TROY — On Wednesday evening, candidates and ballot issue representatives fielded a variety of questions concerning the Nov. 5 General Election ballot at the annual Leadership Troy Meet the Candidates Night at Troy Junior High School.
The majority of the questions were directed to the contested races for Troy City Council. Zachary Allen and J. Russell Wheeler are vying for the 1st Ward council seat. Incumbent John Terwilliger will run against Cynthia Schaefer for 2nd Ward council seat.
Candidates addressed the city of Troy and current council’s transparency with the public.
Wheeler, who noted there is a transparency issue during his opening statement, said he feels strongly about the lack of transparency issue.
“There have been actions taken by council that have not been explained clearly to the community,” Wheeler said. “I think transparency needs to be there as well as responsiveness from council when questions are asked. I’ve been to council meetings and its futile to ask a question. I’ve noticed that the questions just don’t get answered, so I feel very strongly about that.”
Allen said if a resident believes there are transparency issues, they should meet with the council members before the meeting to discuss the issue.
Terwilliger said during his tenure on council, efforts have been made to address transparency issues, especially with at-large council members who hold quarterly meetings with the public.
“There are lines of communications, but one of the things I’ve found as a council person is that if you have some idea as to what the questions are going to be, you are more apt to be able to respond to those questions than to blindly talk and to use political terms that don’t answer the question because of the complexities that may be involved in the answer,” he said.
Schaefer said the lack of transparency was one of the main reasons why she was running for council. Schaefer said she’s lived in downtown Troy since 2013 and never had a council member visit with her and neighbors regarding the bike paths and downtown parking issues.
“No one showed up in our neighborhood to let us know in advance to plan what’s going on, so I do believe there is a transparency issue,” she said. She did say when she attends council meetings, her questions are answered and she appreciated it.
Media panel member Steve Baker asked council members to convince him how to vote on the Duke Park levy issue. The city of Troy is seeking a 10-year, 1.2-mills levy to raise $4 million to add baseball and soccer fields, a miniature golf course and a splash pad.
If passed, the levy would generate $676,000 per year for the proposed park improvements only. The cost of the levy of a $100,000 home would be $39.60 a year, or $3.30 a month.
The total cost for the proposed park improvements is around $12 million, which includes city funding of two-thirds of the project and one-third funded by Troy residents through the levy. If passed, the city plans to spend $5 million of the project from the city’s general fund, $3 million to be financed by municipal bonds and the remaining $4 million to be funded by the proposed property tax levy.
Terwilliger said he supports the Duke Park levy because a large variety of children would be well served from the park improvements, which he said are family friendly. He also said it would add quality of life for young families. He said money continues to be wasted at the Troy Junior Baseball complex at Knoop fields, which are prone to flooding.
Schaefer said she also supports the Duke Park levy, but believes the miniature golf should be moved to Miami Shores to offer all levels of play. She said she’s concerned with the safety and security of children using the park, but will support the levy issue.
Allen said he too, will support the Duke Park levy.
“I think it comes down to simple dollars and cents answer. It’s $30 a year for the next 10 years. For a $100,000 house, I think our property values would increase by way more if we continue to do projects like this around the community,” Allen said.
Wheeler said he already has voted against the Duke Park levy.
“The reason I did was because there are $5 million coming out of the city coffers that could be used to build baseball fields. I believe the ball fields are needed. I served as president of Troy Junior Baseball for two years and walked on the fields that were flooded. I don’t think the splash pad and the putter golf … it would begin to be a maintenance issue in the city that I don’t think we need to fund.”
Council member at-large William Lutz represented the Duke Park levy organization “Kids Up First.”
Panelist Baker said Troy residents voted down the $25 million Operation Recreation levy in May 2017 and the city and council moved forward with the rebuilding project for the Miami Shores clubhouse using general funds. Baker asked if the levy is defeated, would the Duke Park improvements be implemented anyway?
Lutz said city administration was clear regardless of how the Operation 2020 levy turned out, the city had to remodel the Shores clubhouse and add the driving range.
“We are not hearing the same messages now. If this doesn’t go through, nothing goes through,” Lutz said.
• Troy City Schools Superintendent Chris Piper represented the district, which has a five-year, 5.9-mills property tax levy renewal on the ballot. Piper said the levy will not raise taxes in spite of the recent county-wide property revaluations.
• Upper Valley Career Center Superintendent Nancy Luce represented the school, which seeks a new 1.5-mills continuing property tax for operations. Luce said the career center is in high demand for skilled labor for both students and adult education. She said there are often waiting lists for students trying to get into the programs the school offers.
• Moderator Tom Dunn also addressed the Trafalager rezoning issue that will appear on the ballot for the 19th time since 1995. Voters in unincorporated Concord Township will review the rezoning request of 50 acres at 1619 Monroe-Concord Road from general agriculture to single family residential zoning. The Miami County Commissioners approved the zoning change. To support the rezoning, voters will select “Yes“ and to turn down the rezoning issue, voters will select “No.”
• Miami County Board of Elections Director Laura Bruns reviewed the new paper ballot system with the audience. She also reminded the public that early voting will be held at the Hobart Center of Government at 510 W. Water St., Troy. Bruns said approximately 1,000 early votes have been cast to date.
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