Mayoral candidates answer key questions, and look to May 2 Primary

The Vermilion Photojournal invited all four candidates running for mayor of Vermilion to answer a few key questions. They were given a two-week notice and a limit of 600 words for their answers. All candidates were asked the very same questions.

According to the city charter if more than two people run for mayor, there must be a runoff at the May Primary which is Tuesday, May 2 this year. The two candidates with the most votes will face each other at the November general election. The winner in November will start his or her four-year term on January 1, 2018.

In 2016, Vermilion City Council raised the salary for mayor to $65,000 plus benefits up from $50,000. Hopefully, this question and answer session will shed some light on the four candidates who wish to be mayor of Vermilion.
The Vermilion Photojournal has also been running letters in the “Letters To The Editor” section from writers who would like to express their opinions on the candidates. This April 20 newspaper will be the last opportunity for letters about any of the candidates. No political letters will be run in the April 27 edition of the Photojournal because it is the week before the primary.

It is important for all voters in the city of Vermilion to come out to the polls on Tuesday, May 2, from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. to cast their vote for one of these four candidates who would like to lead Vermilion for the next four years. Voters can also do in-person absentee voting at the Lorain and Erie County Boards of Election until Monday, May 1, at 2 p.m.

 

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James Forthofer

Mayoral candidate — Jim Forthofer

Eventually, a decision has to be made about our water treatment plant – keep it and upgrade, close it and purchase water from an outside source, or build a new plant. Where are you leaning?

Handle with CARE! No other system has greater potential to cause harm to residents than water. There are two parts to our water issue;
Manufacturing: Keep the water plant. It manufactures 1.2 million gallons of EPA certified clean water daily. If we close the water plant, we lose whatever negotiating power we have with outside water providers.
Distribution: This is our big problem. Thirty to forty percent of the water produced by our water treatment plant never reaches a meter. We need to identify the technologies to reduce this costly loss.
KEEP THE WATER PLANT and let’s do a better job of delivering water efficiently to our residents.

 

Concerning the city budget, are there places you would cut to save money or funds you would like to increase.
We have small city revenue and big city needs.
We are facing involuntary cuts to our funding through federal, state and county grant cutbacks. At the same time, our infrastructure will increasingly demand our resources. Professional prioritization of budget expenditures has never been more important. Individual department heads need to be responsible for zero based creation of department budgets and first hand accountability for budget management throughout the fiscal cycle.
Above all, we cannot allow our finances to slide back into insolvency.

If the business community grows, so grows the city. How will you retain and bring business and industry?
The city’s position should be to GET OUT OF THE WAY of clean, law abiding, taxpaying businesses when they try to grow in Vermilion.
First, let’s do something about Liberty Avenue East. Vermilion was a different place when Liberty Avenue East was planned decades ago.
As mayor I will commission a Liberty Avenue Advisory Committee.
The commission will recommend changes in zoning and planning that will make Liberty Avenue attractive to taxpaying businesses on the move. As mayor I will help present these recommendations to Council and drive changes to make a new vibrant Liberty Avenue East.
Then MOVE ON to the east end of Liberty.

 

Most of our infrastructure (roads and waterlines) is old and in poor condition. Repairs are costly. How will you proceed with improvements?
As chairman of council’s Streets Committee, I can attest that Vermilion has about the same streets funding as other cities our size. The problem is that our roads are so badly eroded. This scenario is repeated in all of our infrastructure systems.
We need to establish multi-year repair plans for the most critical systems and communicate those plans and costs with residents. “Need of the moment” spending on our infrastructure gets us nowhere.

 

Not including the above topics, name one or two other priorities or problems you’d like to address.
Professional planning and prioritization doesn’t cost a thing. It’s, “Business 101.” With limited funds, following a PLAN for infrastructure improvements is critical. We cannot afford a reactive approach to the needs of the city.
Residents bear 89% of our city taxes. We need to diversify our tax base to lighten the burden on our citizens. We need to create a friendly atmosphere for tax-paying, people-employing businesses in Vermilion.

 

Why should voters choose you over your opponents?
Vermilion is electing a mayor, not a councilman.
Council approves budgets and contracts. It keeps an eye on the city’s housekeeping. We have good people on council. But, that is not a qualification to be mayor.
Mayor is a much different job.
The mayor,
• Creates a vision
• manages people and operations
• is the ambassador of the city
• forms alliances with important outside organizations

 

I have 35 years of business experience in managing sixty employees, budget creation, alliance building, and project management. No other candidate can claim that level of experience. My career as a successful magazine publishing executive prepares me to be an effective mayor of Vermilion on the first day. No on the job training necessary.
I have broader city service experience than any other candidate. It’s important to have a more complete view of the town than you get on council. My service includes Vermilion City Council, the Parks & Recreation Board, Historic Design & Review Board, Museum Acquisition Committee, Streets Levy Committee, and the Mansion Restoration Committee.
I can give our beautiful city the experience and clear vision needed to become a better Vermilion. http://www.forthofer4mayor.com.

 

ostrander

Fred Ostrander

Mayoral Candidate – Fred Ostrander

Eventually, a decision has to be made about our water treatment plant – keep it and upgrade, close it and purchase water from an outside source, or build a new plant. Where are you leaning?

My preference is to keep making water here in Vermilion, in our own facility, under our control. Buying from an outside source puts us at a disadvantage that we will not overcome. As to upgrade or build new, I support upgrading.   Once all of the engineering and financial data becomes available, we will be able to make the proper informed decision that’s right for Vermilion residents.  What if the average water bill goes up $100 per month to save the plant?  It would be irresponsible to make a decision on this without all of the facts presented.

 

Concerning the city budget, are there places you would cut to save money or funds you would like to increase?

The current Vermilion administration is well qualified and takes their positions seriously.  It is my intention to work with them closely to ensure a smooth transition.  In addition, I would like to propose adding one key position the city has been lacking, that of a utilities director/engineer director with the education, qualifications and required licenses to ensure our water and wastewater facilities are maintained and operated as efficiently and cost effectively as possible.  EPA compliance issues along with the major upgrades needed, this position would in the long run pay for itself, save future dollars, and would prove to be a prudent investment.

 

If the business community grows, so grows the city. How will you retain and bring business and industry?

I will work with city council to make sure that our business and zoning requirements are working for us, and not against us.  I want to see our current businesses grow, while supporting budding entrepreneurs.

As mayor I will be adding a direct line and link on the city website titled “Economic Development.”  I personally will be handling inquiries and working with all contacts.  With my marketing and business background, I have the background needed to understand the needs to successfully work with new and existing businesses, and business developers of all sizes. I have already established key working relationships within the city and county.

 

Most of our infrastructure (roads and waterlines) is old and in poor condition. Repairs are costly. How will you proceed with improvements?

The longer we wait the more our infrastructure deteriorates and becomes more costly to repair.  We have a new approved road levy, we have stormwater funds, and we have a recent water rate increase.  I will leverage these funds to identify and complete the larger projects, while still nibbling away at the little ones. These infrastructure updates need to be completed sooner rather than later.  I want to see and enjoy smooth roads as much as anyone.

 

Not including the above topics, name one or two other priorities or problems you’d like to address.

As mayor and as the director of public safety, I will give all those suffering from the opiate epidemic my top priority, and will work diligently to keep our neighborhoods safe

The “Bridge-to-Bridge” plan initiated by Mainstreet Vermilion would be a welcome update, and I would support even enhancing this plan to attract and sustain business.  However there are serious drainage issues in this area which must be addressed as the foundation to this project – let’s not put the cart before the horse.

 

Why should voters choose you over your opponents?

As a 45-year resident with 33 years of progressive local work experience and 15 years of city council experience, which includes 6 years as city council president I am certainly no stranger to Vermilion and the operation of government in Vermilion.  With a background in facility management, engineering and marketing, I understand the mechanics of the city and how to work well with people, on all levels on a daily basis.

My wife Nancy and I have been married for 38 years all of which has been as Vermilion homeowners first in Vermilion on the Lake, then Valley View, and now in Harbour town.  I know every nook and cranny of this great city.

In conclusion, as Vermilion’s mayor I will keep Vermilion a great place to live, work and play.  Together we can make that happen.

I’m counting on you and you can count on me. On May 2, vote Fred Ostrander for mayor.

 

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Shawn Perry

Mayoral candidate – Shawn Perry

Eventually, a decision has to be made about our water treatment plant – keep it and upgrade, close it and purchase water from an outside source, or build a new plant. Where are you leaning?

I have paperwork on my desk from the 1980’s where the same question was put forth to the city council by citizens who felt that the council was not doing their job concerning the water plant, so they formed the Vermilion Improvement Corporation. This debate has been a perpetual quagmire for the last thirty-plus years. I am open to keeping our plant open and/or building a new one, provided that it doesn’t cost significantly more than importing water from another municipality. That being said, our city is losing 30-40 percent (according to one expert I talked to, as much as 50 percent) of the water that is being pumped through our pipes. These pipes run parallel to and/or underneath most of our streets and are a major contributing factor to the ongoing disrepair of our roads. The decision to keep our plant or shut it down can’t be made until we fix all the leaky pipes, because if we start importing water with our current delivery system, it will cost the city and the end user a fortune.

 

Concerning the city budget, are there places you would cut to save money or funds you would like to increase?

I am not sure that there is much room to cut anything from the budget; instead, Vermilion needs to expand its tax base (both figuratively and – possibly – literally). The city needs more road crew workers, a few full-time employees to help address the opioid epidemic, and to expand recreational and sports programs.

 

If the business community grows, so grows the city. How will you retain and bring business and industry?

Bringing in new businesses will require creating an enticing environment for retail, manufacturing or other entities looking to open locations in Vermilion.  Plentiful commercial real estate already exists in the East Liberty district; however, much of it is in disrepair and owned by absentee landlords who are asking unreasonable prices to lease the units. Citizens and the council alike must exert social and/or legislative pressure on these landlords to rehabilitate their properties and offer lease rates that reflect our current economic environment.

 

Most of our infrastructure (roads and waterlines) is old and in poor condition. Repairs are costly. How will you proceed with improvements?

All of the previous infrastructure repairs in the city have been compartmentalized and short-sighted. At this point, most of our infrastructure problems are linked. The leaking water pipes get contaminated by the leaking sewer pipes, which are exacerbated by the inefficient storm water removal system, all of which run directly beneath or parallel to our roads. From this point forward, the less costly option (regardless of actual cost) is to complete these repairs from the ground up, correctly, with all new pipes and an all new road on top of them.

 

Not including the above topics, name one or two other priorities or problems you’d like to address.

Two of my lifelong passion projects are fighting addiction (specifically heroin) and building a civic center like the ones in communities such as Rocky River and/or Westlake. These may sound like separate issues, but they are in fact intertwined. Providing Vermilion citizens – both young and old – with a clean, modern facility for recreation, learning, enrichment, and support is key to fighting this epidemic now and keeping kids off of drugs in the future.

 

Why should voters choose you over your opponents?

First of all: I can’t be bullied, and I’m not afraid to tackle the city’s current or future controversial issues. I will never avoid the difficult or uncomfortable conversations that we face as a city. Second: I have demonstrated throughout my life a willingness to listen to and prioritize the needs of others, regardless of their social, economic, religious, or other status. That is how I intend to conduct myself as mayor. For more information about my experience and platform, please visit: www.shawnperry.org

 

monicapic

Monica Stark

Mayoral candidate – Monica Stark

Eventually, a decision has to be made about our water treatment plant – keep it and upgrade, close it and purchase water from an outside source, or build a new plant. Where are you leaning?

At the February council committee meeting, I was the first council member to publicly state that I want to see us keep our water treatment plant.  We need to maintain control of this operation as long as possible.   If we give up the plant we will be at the mercy of another entity, it will be nearly impossible to ever get our own plant again.  In addition to upgrading the plant our distribution lines need repaired or replaced.  The recent rate increase by the current administration should allow us to begin to upgrade our distribution lines.  This is a huge move in the right direction to begin upgrading our infrastructure.

Concerning the city budget, are there places you would cut to save money or funds you would like to increase?

The city budget is a working budget that can be adjusted throughout the year. Once I am on the other side of the budget as the mayor, I will work to keep this budget under control while being sure that the city has what it needs to operate effectively.

If the business community grows, so grows the city. How will you retain and bring business and industry?

As mayor of Vermilion, I will work closely with our current business and industry, as well as work to bring new business and industry to our community.  I will listen to their needs and work with them to make their businesses prosper, as their businesses prosper, so does Vermilion.

 Most of our infrastructure (roads and waterlines) is old and in poor condition. Repairs are costly. How will you proceed with improvements?

Since the road levy was passed in 2013 the City of Vermilion has seen 16 roads replaced or resurfaced valued at over 4.2 million dollars.  Vermilion is moving in the right direction.  We will continue working on our roads as well as begin replacing the water distribution lines as mentioned previously.  Growing our business district will improve the ability of the city of upgrade our infrastructure.
Not including the above topics, name one or two other priorities or problems you’d like to address.

I have enjoyed talking to so many of you as I have been campaigning.  I particularly have enjoyed everyone’s perspective on our great city as I have visited the different neighborhoods.  It is such a blessing to see the love and dedication you all have for Vermilion.  I’m glad so many of you have shared your views on the water treatment plant and the museum property.   I share your concern and look forward to working with you to keep Vermilion’s established water system and historical site intact.
Why should voters choose you over your opponents?

I will be a mayor that you can be proud of, working to keep Vermilion a safe and affordable community for all. I am young and energetic, I have a can-do attitude. My husband Mike and I have 6 children that we are proud to raise here in Vermilion.  Mike has been elected to serve as a school board member and I am now serving my second term on city council as council-at-large.   As mayor I will make myself available to you.  I will not be leading from behind a desk, I will be working right beside you, we will work together to make Vermilion a great place to drop anchor.

 

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