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Published: Wednesday, 7/23/2008

Erie Township incumbents face challenges

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

ERIE - Incumbent office holders in Erie Township - all Democrats - face contested races in the August primary election.

Democratic Party voters will have choices to make in the races for supervisor, clerk, treasurer, and township trustee.

In the supervisor's race, incumbent Bill Frey is asking township residents to keep him in office for four more years. However, he faces opposition from William Jacobs, who is the owner of a construction company and retired assistant fire chief.

Mr. Frey, 65, a former Monroe County prosecutor, was elected supervisor in 2006.

He was disbarred from the practice of law for allegedly steering clients to specific personal injury attorneys while he was in office.

As supervisor, Mr. Frey guided the township successfully in legal battles on controversial issues, including challenging a zoning request from the owner of a strip club to move the business closer to I-75 and the threat by U.S. Rail Corp. to use eminent domain to build a $90 million rail yard.

"All our legal issues have been resolved while I was in office," he said.

However, Mr. Jacobs claims that Mr. Frey is not doing his job and does not put in a full day in the office. "We got a guy who isn't doing his job. We are paying $40,000 a year and he is not here," he said.

Mr. Frey denies the accusations made by his opponent and said the only time that he is away from the office is when he is performing duties associated with road drainage.

"I am certainly here. I've got a cell phone. I return my calls," he said.

Mr. Frey, who was prosecutor until 1990, is a 1979 graduate of the University of Toledo College of Law.

Mr. Jacobs was on the volunteer township fire department for 18 years. He never has been elected to office, but he has held appointments on the township's storm water management committee and the township's board of zoning appeals.

He is the levee inspector and hazardous building ordinance officer for the township.

Two Erie women are on the Aug. 5 Democratic primary ballot for township treasurer: incumbent Cindy Baum and Cynthia Wisbon.

The township treasurer since 1996, Ms. Baum, 56, resigned from the office in December, 2005, days after she was charged with two counts of improper safekeeping of public monies.

She was re-elected to treasurer in November, 2006, to the remainder of her four-year term and pleaded no contest to reduced misdemeanor public money safekeeping.

The treasurer is responsible for the handling of tax billings, charges for waterline assessments, maintenance of billing records, and compiling of the budget.

In the clerk's race, incumbent Jolene Upchurch is being challenged by Amy Whipple, who was voted out of the office in a recall election in May, 2006.

Ms. Upchurch, 52, won the primary election in 2006 and won election to the office in November, 2006.

No Republicans have filed petitions for the offices, and the winner of the primary ballot for supervisor, treasurer, and clerk will go on to take the office in the fall.

Township Democrats will have five candidates to choose from for the township's two trustee positions.

Incumbents Tad Cousino and Denise Gordy are seeking re-election. Michael Grodi, who ran unsuccessfully for supervisor against Mr. Frey in 2006, David Cousino, and Jesse Oyerbides are also vying for the office.

Ms. Gordy is seeking her fourth term on the board.

Erie Township is also asking for approval of a new 1.25-mill, 10-year tax to support its fire department. The levy is expected to generate $180,500 its first year.

The tax would cost the owner of a $100,000 home, with a taxable value of $50,000, about $62.50 annually but could be less for those who have owned their homes for longer periods.

The township is also asking voters to restore a 1-mill tax, rolled back to 0.8046 mills by state law, for general township operating expenses.

Approval would increase the amount of money collected from $112,813 to $140,210 during the first year and would not raise voters' taxes significantly.



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