- Nick Blizzard Staff Writer
One the area’s most rapidly developing communities next week will choose a majority of its legislative leaders at a time when state cuts have helped magnify local spending issues.
Miami Twp. voters will choose among five candidates for two trustees to help guide the next four years in Ohio’s seventh most populated township, which has witnessed more than $160 million in construction since 2014.
Incumbents Eric Flasher and Andrew Papanek face challenges from Don Culp, John Morris and Zebulon Music for pair of positions which pay about $20,000 a year.
Flasher was appointed to the seat this spring while Papanek is seeking re-election to a second term. Music, Culp and Morris are seeking elective office for the first time, although the latter two applied for vacancy created when Robert Matthews Jr. resigned this year.
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The township has witnessed significant growth to the areas in and around Austin Landing and the Miami Crossing District, formerly the Dayton Mall area. And the two-mile stretch along Ohio 741 between the two commerce centers includes some of the township’s largest employers.
State cuts to local governments and Ohio’s townships being “heavily reliant” on property taxes make funding among the most significant issues in the near future, Matthew J. DeTemple, executive director of the Ohio Township Association, has said.
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All five candidates say funding for services – whether it be for roads, safety, parks or other areas – is a key issue moving forward.
Two property tax issues to fund road and bridge repairs were narrowly rejected by voters in 2015 and 2016. This has limited funding on maintenance on the jurisdiction’s roads, which a study indicated more than one-third were rated as in poor or critical condition.
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Challengers in the trustee race have pointed to the inability to better fund roads, parks and other services as a shortcoming for the township.
But voters in 2014 approved a police levy that helped stabilize funding for law enforcement after a previous defeat followed turmoil within the department. A township fire levy, which funds a joint district the township shares with Miamisburg, was easily approved last year.
The following are brief summaries of candidates and what they see as key issues:
Culp, 53, is an engineer with bachelor’s degrees in aerospace engineering and French. He said he has worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base most of his career and currently supports major aircraft programs.
The Miami Twp. resident of more than 24 years said he wants to increase the township’s employment, have more control on township spending by cutting “waste and refocus resources on security and roads,” he said.
Culp said the township must focus on “maintaining a lean, effective administration.”
He said the most important long-term challenge facing Miami Twp. is “maintaining basic services even when revenue tied to retail and related economic activity decline due to the web-based economy.”
Culp said he wants to aggressively redevelop the Great Miami River corridor, and properly work to redevelop the Dayton Mall area and progress at Austin Landing.
Culp said he has been in Republican politics for several years and has helped in several judicial campaigns.
Flasher, 54, earned a bachelor’s degree in business and has worked in senior positions at Quest Diagnostics and Reynolds & Reynolds.
He chaired the two recent road and bridge levy campaigns, and previously sought election to seats in 2001 and 2005.
The longtime township resident is a Miamisburg High School grad who has served in leadership roles with in the Boy Scouts, the township community foundation and the veterans memorial committee. Flasher said he has always sought to be “a good neighbor and live a clean and upright life.
As a trustee, “I’ve extended my neighborhood to the entire township and use my experiences and skills to ensure we have the best local government possible.“
This year he has worked to achieve goals in the township’s strategic plan and believes “we are on the right path” with residents he has spoken with “all generally very happy” with the township.
Morris, 48, is a non-profit education executive with a master’s degree in economics, education, entrepreneurship; and bachelor’s degree in business marketing.
He is critical of township fiscal practices, saying trustees “have failed the citizens. They were elected to oversee smart spending and to maintain or improve services.
“Instead,” he said, “they have stripped parks of equipment, let roads decay and overseen a tremendous waste of resources on highway landscaping, new street signs, and extra administrative staff.”
Among added administrative positions in recent years - as outlined in the township’s strategic plan - have been in community development and a communications coordinator post.
The township, Morris said, must “get back to serving neighborhoods.
“Seemingly all resources have been focused on a few pet projects of the current trustees,” he said.
His focus will be on “safety through police and fire and services through roads and parks in the neighborhood.”
Music, 32, is a data storage customer support engineer with a degree in information technology.
Music said he would seek more prudent use of tax dollars, as the township – like many local governments in the state - has been in a “budget crisis” for many years.
“We must end the beautification projects in the township and focus on basic services,” he said, as “we receive less revenue from the state every year.”
More emphasis, Music said, must be placed on road maintenance and staffing in safety and service departments.
“Jobs have been cut to balance the budget,” Music said. “I will invest in our neighborhoods, parks, roads and first responders.”
A higher priority, he said, should be made to keep “our best and brightest here in the township. If we lose our best people to other communities, the opportunities will follow,” he said.
Papanek, 78, is vice president of Anderson Security Inc. and retired from law enforcement after 38½ years. He has an associate’s degree in applied science and attended the FBI National Academy, National Sheriff’s Institute.
Four years ago Papanek garnered the most votes in a six-way race for two seats and beat an incumbent.
He has served as trustees’ vice president and president, the latter a title he now holds. Papanek has helped shape much of the township’s direction the past four years and is the only trustee remaining from the board he joined.
He has been an advocate of the developing a strategic plan, improving the township’s park system and has been a guiding force in the township adopting limited home rule, which has broadened its authority.
Papanek points to a survey which shows 72 percent of respondents are pleased with the township’s direction. But he said it must work to combat state cuts to localities, noting “the loss of local government funding has impacted the township immensely.”