Rossford hopefuls air issues
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Staff Writer
Tuesday, 29 October 2013 08:46
ROSSFORD — The city council candidates traveled familiar ground during a meet-the-candidates night last week.
Road repairs, development, blighted properties and a roundabout all came up for discussion at the forum.
Six candidates, including three incumbents, are seeking four seats on council.
They are incumbents Caroline Zuchowski Eckel, Chuck Duricek and Jerry Staczek and aspirants Robert Densic, Denny Foy and Daniel Wagner. One council member Michael Scott resigned as of Sept. 1 to join the Northwestern Sewer and Water District board.
Right out of the gate an audience member posed the question: How do you get money for roads without going back to the taxpayers for more money?
“We continue to work with federal government and state to look for grants,” Wagner said.
He went on to say that the Crossroads of America area in the southerly reaches of the city needs to be better marketed, with an eye toward attracting small businesses.
Wagner suggested having an “incremental taxation” in the area with companies paying based on the number of employees the business they have.
Eckel said the city has had success partnering with other groups on road projects. The city has “piggybacked” on water and sewer district projects, so work could be done while the roads were already torn up.
The federal Safe Routes to School program was used for Glenwood road and bridge improvements. However, she added, “not a lot is available for residential streets.”
Chuck Duricek also cited the Safe Routes to School money, as well as a 0-percent loan to do work on Wales and Glenwood.
He said he has been approached by a resident who said he would contribute $20,000 to get Eagle Point Road fixed, if the city would match it.
Densic praised that kind of spirit. He said that the city needs a comprehensive plan for its infrastructure needs.
Densic opposes seeking grants. Whether it comes from the state or especially federal coffers “that’s your tax money. We need to stop.”
He said it would be better if state aid came in the form of block grants that give local officials more flexibility in the way money is spent.
Duricek said “when we send our money out of town .... we have to go out and get it back.”
Eckel said it was wrong to turn down grants on “principle.”
Staczek said that “government money is quickly drying up.”
“Everyone out there is trying to get grant money,” and Rossford should get its share. “Ultimately no matter what, it’s your money,” he said. “It’ll come out of your pocket” whether it returns to Rossford or is spent in a neighboring town.
“We trying to get as much as we can,” Staczek said.
He said new sources of revenue needed to be investigated.
Foy said the city should go for federal and state grant “whenever possible.” But applying for grants is “very, very difficult.”
“You have to have someone really good at grant writing,” Foy said. He suggested working with Bowling Green State University, University of Toledo or Owens Community College, to provide an intern who may be able to help.
Wagner said that city officials should be working with state legislators to bring money back to Rossford.
He said the city needed to focus more on marketing the Crossroads area in order to generate more tax revenue.
One of the projects that has attracted outside funding is the proposed plan to improve the intersection, possibly with a roundabout, near Penta Career Center at Lime and Buck City roads.
Densic, an architect, said he felt “was a solution in search of a problem.” This was the kind of project that happens when the state and federal government get involved, he said.
Improvements are needed, he said, but more study needs to be done to find a more suitable plan.
Wagner said he would favor traffic lights with turn signals.
Staczek said he wasn’t against the project, or even roundabouts, but against the process.
Given all the school districts that send students to Penta, and benefit from the school, he questioned why its share was so small. He complained that too often Rossford gets stuck footing the bill for roadwork that benefits entities in Perrysburg Township.
Foy agreed the township and Penta need to contribute more, but said the roundabout “would improve traffic flow.”
Eckel, a civil engineer, strongly supported the roundabout. “It’s time to stop pointing fingers.” The roundabout is a “perfect” solution for an intersection that is only congested at certain times, she said. It helps control traffic during peak traffic periods while allowing it to flow unimpeded otherwise.
Duricek said when the plan was first proposed he strongly opposed it because he felt Rossford was left out of the planning. Now Rossford is fully invested and the addition of the Rossford Transportation Improvement District has added another dimension.
The smaller roundabout now envisioned would take less land that putting in lights and turn lanes. But he reiterated that the parties are currently looking at other options.
Staczek said that city’s image, and its economic development efforts, is harmed by so many “nuisance properties.”
He said he has “gone hard against nuisance properties.”
Staczek said that city officials lack the courage and blamed a “good old boy network” for impeding action against nuisance properties
Duricek suggested the city could look into a fee that would levied against a property for every year it is vacant.
Densic said he felt such a fee may be warranted.
These are not just blight, but safety issues.” He said a burned out house in his neighborhood became the home for vermin.
Neighbors should get together and approach city officials. It is a challenge to deal with, Densic said, because local officials “may have their hands tied” by federal and state regulations.
Foy, a former police chief, said these properties foster crime, “we need to get it cleaned up.”
Wagner, a Toledo police officer, agreed “blight is contagious.”
The city should be aggressive in going after negligent property owners. “If more of these landlords were called into court it would amazing how quickly” others would start making improvements.
Eckel said the city has acted against some of these properties and worked in conjunction with the school district to tear down a burned out home. A Habitat for Humanity house was then built on the lot.
Still officials have limitations on them, she said. “It’s a process you have to follow.”