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September 19, 2018

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Letter: Three candidates for Bluffton council seats state their case

Dear Bluffton Voters:

We are candidates for Bluffton Village Council. We are all former Councilmen with combined total of more than 50 years of service to the Village. Our candidacy stems from alarming events witnessed in the past several years.

Example One. Experienced, key employees were treated poorly and are no longer with the Village. The loss of these employees has put the Village at risk and tarnished the image of Bluffton.

Example Two. After the enactment of a water surcharge, Bluffton has the highest water rates in the area (see chart). In 2017 the water portion of the village utilities bill for a household using 4 hundred cubic feet of water per month is $53.35 (this includes a $16.50 surcharge enacted by Council in 2016). The cost of that 4 hundred cubic feet of water is $22.95 (based on 2016 actual costs and the agreed upon rate of $2.13 per hundred cubic feet or $8.52 per 400 cubic feet with Ottawa for 2017). This $30.41 spread represents a profit to the village of 132.48%.

Although the surcharge improved the balance in the water fund it did so on the backs of residential users. The Village has a graduated scale with higher rates to lower volume users and reduced rates for higher volume users.

It is our opinion that generally, water charges should be a flat rate based on cost; we should negotiate the rate for the large industrial users. These industrial users are a major contributor to the economic engine of the Village and our negotiated rates must be competitive with other municipalities. Any shortfall in the water fund should be a general fund subsidy in recognition of the many economic benefits of having these large users in our Village.

Jerry Cupples Statement:

If elected, my first order of business would be to eliminate the water surcharge as it is totally unfair, and unnecessary. The Village receives more than 2 million dollars in income tax per year which is enough to operate this Village conservatively.

I promise to bring Bluffton back to respectability. I will not tolerate individuals whose egos, and quest for power, put their agendas ahead of the residents of the Village. I will work with Village employees; to share my knowledge with their knowledge; and return to a relationship of mutual trust. I will re-connect with our Industry, to insure they are happy, as they are a huge part of the success of Bluffton. And finally, I want all voters to know that Bluffton belongs to you, the residents and tax payers. You can trust that I will put your interests first in all decisions.

Mitch Kingsley Statement:

Three years after retiring from Bluffton Village Council I am seeking to be re-seated in the upcoming election. I seek re-election because I believe our village can do better. As a public servant I need to serve with the qualities of cooperation, reason and transparency. The resignation letter of our fiscal officer – the most recent loss of a valuable public employee –- offers some insight into the current atmosphere in our Town Hall. I hope Bluffton voters will consider this carefully at the polls in November.

All of us are sometimes frustrated with government rules. But we are the government. Regulations are enacted to serve the good of all people – and granted, there are times the rules don’t serve their intended purpose. In local government we have a great opportunity to set (and re-set if needed) the rules so as to best serve the needs of all. Brash talk of ignoring government regulations may momentarily feel good, seeming to relieve our frustrations. But what we need is thoughtful, open discussion about the problems we face and possible solutions. If elected, I pledge to join that kind of discussion.

David Steiner Statement:

I have concerns about some of the decisions made by Council over the past couple of years. In 2017 the Village has lost two key administrative employees. At its January 23, 2017 meeting, council voted to go into executive session “for the discussion of contracts and personnel/ performance.” The Mayor announced that there would be no action taken after the executive session. The public left, but when council reconvened, the Mayor recommended and council voted to terminate the Village Administrator immediately. An action of this magnitude should not be done without warning to the employee, and not at a meeting without public attendance.

When the Village Administrator was terminated, the Mayor assumed the duties of Village Administrator, effectively destroying the separation of powers set up by the Ohio Revised Code (§ 735.271). I would have insisted that an interim village administrator be appointed. On August 14, 2017 the Fiscal Officer resigned, bringing further stress and disgrace on the Village.

I feel that I can bring some experience, institutional knowledge, and integrity to the council in light of the way village government has been handled in that last few years. If elected I will collaborate with others to restore reason and order to Bluffton’s government.

Jerry Cupples, Republican
Mitch Kingsley, Democrat
David Steiner, Republican