From left, Dan Wagner, Bob Densic, Jerry Staczek, Chuck Duricek, Caroline Eckel, and Denny Foy stand together during Tuesday’s candidate forum at Rossford High School. Residents were able to ask questions on such topics as economic development, nuisance buildings, and city services.
Most candidates for Rossford City Council said they supported the proposed pay increase for council members that city voters will decide on Nov. 5, although at last week’s candidates forum one described the requested raise as “excessive” and another said he flatly opposed it.
The Rossford council race features six candidates vying for four seats. They are incumbents Chuck Duricek, who has a family automotive-repair business; Caroline Eckel, a civil engineer, and Jerry Staczek, a Navy veteran who is in a family equipment distribution business. There is an empty seat left by the resignation of Mike Scott.
The challengers are Bob Densic, a licensed architect who manages facilities at Eastern Michigan University; Dennis Foy, a former Rossford police chief and councilman, and Dan Wagner, a Toledo police officer who is president of the patrolmen’s union.
The pay raise, if adopted, would permit council members to continue to earn a state pension. It’s a sensitive topic. In May, council finally voted unanimously to place it on the ballot as a charter amendment request, after months of discussion and indecision. It also sent to the voters a similar charter change for raising mayoral pay, rejecting Mayor Neil MacKinnon’s request that his office not be included.
It was Mr. Duricek who said the proposed pay raise was too much. Except for Mr. Densic and Mr. Staczek, who did not give a clear answer, the other candidates favored the pay hike.
Mr. Densic not only opposed the pay raise, he asked citizens to vote it down, and said he would not accept a state pension. He suggested a charter amendment that would peg council pay to the average hourly wage of a Rossford resident.
“This job is about service,” he said, and noted that the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System had changed its rules regarding council members because of an unfunded liability. PERS was not meant for council members, he said, but for public employees.
Rossford’s council is among the lowest paid in the area. Members are paid $250 per month, and its president, $275. The stipend has not changed since 1993. The charter change would increase the council salary to $700 per month. Starting Jan. 1, the minimum pay for full pension credit increases to $600 per month.
The three-hour council candidates forum drew about 60 people to the cafeteria, and was presided over by city resident Don Montague. Candidates had 90 seconds to answer citizens’ questions delivered to Mr. Montague on cards. Questions also included topics such as economic development, nuisance buildings, and city services.
Mr. Wagner said he believed the Crossroads was not being marketed properly, and suggested lowering taxes for employers who hired more workers. He and Mr. Densic found common ground on cost-sharing in the joint economic development zone there. Tax revenues were shared with Toledo, Mr. Wagner noted, but only Rossford tried to sell the area.
On the subject of nuisance properties and their landlords, Mr. Duricek said the city was making an effort. Mr. Staczek, however, said, “Nobody in the city has the [guts]” to take a hard line with scofflaw landlords. The problem was a lack of leadership and weak ordinances. “We have to make the decision to get these properties cleaned up,” he said. Mr. Foy said such properties led to crime, and Ms. Eckel noted that the city had demolished derelict homes recently.
No candidate favored cutting the city’s 2.25 percent payroll tax or reducing city services. Mr. Staczek noted that the community and its tax base were shrinking, and that the city may need a new levy for its fire department.