MONROE - Two Bedford Township men are vying to become the first person elected to the Monroe County Road Commission Nov. 2.
For the first time, Monroe County residents will elect a road commissioner, a position historically appointed by the county board of commissioners.
Hoping to improve accountability at what traditionally has been viewed as a dysfunctional, inefficient agency, the county board approved making the three road commission members elected officials.
Starting in January, they will be paid $7,500 annually, with no benefits, a reduction from the current $10,000 salary.
Election of the two other members will be decided in 2012, when the terms of Robert Duffey and Richard Turner expire. Road commissioners serve six-year terms.
Voters this year will choose between Democrat Stan Lewinski, 58, and Republican Bob Stammer, 51.
Mr. Lewinski was appointed a road commissioner in May to replace Anthony Majauskas, who moved out of the county and resigned.
He is a licensed contractor in Ohio, teaches in the apprentice program at the Sheet Metals Workers Union in Rossford, and has co-authored apprenticeship books used in teaching the trade.
Mr. Stammer has his own company, Bob's Handyman Services, and does home repairs.
Both candidates are political newcomers who say upgrading Michigan's roads is a vital part of the state's economic recovery.
"Our roads have declined to such an extent that it's not a matter of repair - it's replacement," Mr. Lewinski said.
He said only 6 cents of Michigan's 19-cents-a-gallon gas tax goes to roads. The remaining 13 cents is spent on nonroad matters and the state Legislature "won't touch it because it's political."
His solution is to take this discretion away from the Legislature so all gas-tax receipts are dedicated to roads. He plans to launch a petition drive with the aim of putting the issue on the Michigan ballot.
If such a measure were adopted, and the remaining 13-cents a gallon went to Michigan's counties, Monroe County's road budget would increase to about $27 million a year from the road commission's current $9.8 million budget, he said.
With this additional revenue for roads, Michigan would have the option of using part of it to service bonds the state could issue to finance road rebuilding, he said.
To Mr. Stammer, Monroe County's problem is that the road commission has been doing a poor job of road maintenance.
"A philosophical change is needed," he said.
"For every dollar spent on preservation, you save $6 on reconstruction."
For repairing potholes, he said, the road commission should purchase a $60,000 Dura Patcher machine, which is used by the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Both candidates have been campaigning door-to-door and visiting with township officials.
Each candidate also has a Web site: Mr. Lewinski's is at stanlewinski.
com and Mr. Stammer's at preserve
Mr. Lewinski estimates he'll spend $10,000 to $12,000 on his campaign; Mr. Stammer, $1,200 to $1,800. Each said his respective political party has contributed $1,000.