Tipp City residents filled the City Council chambers Oct. 23 to hear from the six candidates running for three seats on the Tipp City council.
John Kessler is the only incumbent in the race. The other incumbents Dee Gillis and Mike McDermott are not running again. In addition to Kessler, the candidates are Carrie Arblaster, Tom Merritt, John Roberts, William Roberts and Andrew Thornbury.
The chamber of commerce presented the candidate night.
Here’s a sampling of what candidates had to say:
John Roberts has been Tipp City resident for 22 years. He and his wife, Sue, have two grown sons. Roberts said he is running to protect Tipp City’s small town feel, promote economic development and be an advocate for responsible spending. Roberts is a former Scoutmaster, has served on the cable commission and has served with junior baseball.
Tom Merritt said he is a 30 year resident of the city. He and his wife Tammy, have three daughters. A lawyer, Merritt has served on the board of education for eight years. He said he is excited by the prospect of serving on the council.
Carrie Arblaster has been a resident of Tipp City since 2003 and has three children. She said she wants to be on council because public service has always been a part of her life. Among skills she said she would bring to council would be experience with nonprofits and with the state legislature.
John Kessler said he’s lived in Tipp City for more than 50 years, is retired from Wright State University and is the father of three sons. He has been involved in the American Legion and with scouting. He said he is looking forward to four more years on council.
Andrew Thornbury, a Tipp City native, said he and his wife, also a Tipp City native, have two young daughters. A member of the city planning board Thornbury said he understands both the resident and business perspective having worked most of his life in town. He said he is committed to ensuring the community remains the pride of Miami Valley for future generations.
Will Roberts said he’s lived in Tipp City for 45 years, is a Tipp schools graduate, is married and has three sons. He said he spent 23 years serving the Tipp City Mum Festival, served on the Tipp Monroe Community Services Board and has been a coach for Junior Baseball and other programs.
The candidates were asked to answer questions ranging from the rate of growth in the community commercially and then residentially and any controls that might be needed to whether heroin is a problem in the community. They also were asked to respond to questions from the community. Not all candidates were given the opportunity to answer all questions.
John Roberts said a strong economic development plan will keep taxes lower. While continuing to find other opportunities for bigger businesses to come to town the council also cannot ignore the downtown area. That would include continued support of the downtown partnership, he said.
Thornbury said he feels the city is at crossroads of growth and identity. He said the vision of the community is in jeopardy. The city needs to ensure skilled labor is available for those companies looking for locations, but also needs to focus on responsible growth both business and residential within the city’s small town framework. He said he is not a big fan of the latest housing development in Cedar Grove and said to allow that project wasn’t the right move.
Arblaster said she thinks that overall the city has done a good job at balancing incentive packages. When making decisions for growth and development, a vision is crucial, she said. Growth is OK as long as it is done incrementally, intentionally and with a good review process, Arblaster said.
Kessler said he thinks the city has done fairly well with residential development but also thinks the city needs to look closely at lower priced housing for people. Older homes are expensive to renovate and he doesn’t think $250,000 is a price for a starter homes. The city also needs to remember the old part of town and how to maintain it and its charm.
Merritt said he sees residential growth as an area of balance, and of degree. He said he is not opposed to residential growth as long as it is common sense, practical. The small town nature of the community is what makes it attractive and, at some point, someone will say enough is enough to protect that small town feel, he said.
Will Roberts noted a current discussion involving the historic district and a request by a resident for removal of a property from it. The issue is dealing with modernization of homes while dealing with the integrity of the district. The council will need to make sure it does the right thing for the community and work toward a positive resolution for the city, he said.
Will Roberts also said his biggest concern is how council will deal with increased costs that are part of life. The city will need to look at ways of balancing budgets and being fruitful with the tax dollars it is given, he said. Before the evening ended, the candidates all were asked to answer a question about the future of the stadium at City Park.
Question: Do you think we need a new football stadium? If no, why not? If yes, how would you or who will you partner with to pay for it?
Will Roberts: “Yes, we definitely need a new stadium. There are too many safety factors, too much risk happening right now. It’s great to have it where it is, but safety is a concern. I think there is an opportunity to look towards private funding. We don’t have to put this all on the backs of our citizens in looking at tax dollars to support it. There’s other opportunities and I think those should be researched fully before we look at a tax levy.
John Roberts: “I favor not moving the stadium. Any monetary burden on the citizens is a bad burden … I am not fond of paying more taxes as well. I agree we should look at private funding … I think there needs to be a dialogue. The last thing we need to do is tax the citizens. We need to talk to private investments because that’s the charm of Tipp City, that’s an awesome thing. I agree… it would probably cost less to renovate than to build.”
Tom Merritt: “I think a new stadium is necessary. It has been part of the discussion for as long as I have been on the (school) board. To suggest that private funding has not been pursued is not correct. The problem is nobody is stepping up. We tried that with the track and that fell flat. We had to borrow money for the track. The private funding, while it sounds great and we would love to do it, has not developed over time… There’s a good chance it is going to be on the ballot in March, a request for the taxpayers to go up or down with it… There is a safety issue. … We have the greatest town around … but we’ve got the worst stadium in the state.”
Carrie Arblaster: “I agree that we need a new stadium. I, too, am in favor of a private public funding model ...I think that’s the most prudent way … I think the process is equally important, the timing of when those questions are asked of the community are incredibly important. I do know over the last year that the school district (commissioned) surveys and asked them to rank priorities for the district … I know a stadium … ranked as a lower priority. That being said, I don’t think it is off the table … but do think it is important that if we are going to ask voters to pay for something that we be responsive to the priorities they have given to us.
John Kessler: “I really am not for it. I am on a fixed income, it is going to eat into my income … I am more likely to support a scholastic need than I am an athletic need … If there is a levy for a property tax, I personally won’t be for the stadium project. I personally cannot afford it.”
Andrew Thornbury: “There needs to be collaboration … there is no reason why we can’t look to businesses to help with the cost and also present it to residents as well. That is the great thing about the political system – we leave it up for a vote. We give it out to the community to decide as a community how we want to go forward. I have a personal belief, but collectively we will decide… There’s a lot of avenues we can explore … From what I’ve seen it does appear to be much cheaper to do renovation at the current location … That doesn’t mean we need to go full bore all at once. There is reason we can’t look at it as an ongoing process.”