FINDLAY - The city's $34 million sewer project that 1st Ward Councilman G. Max Miles is so proud of is the same issue that makes his opponent, John Sausser, so irate.
It's not that Mr. Sausser, a Democrat, thinks improving water and sewer lines is a bad idea.
He simply believes the city spent too much money on that project, paying excessive and unnecessary fees to out-of-town consultants.
"What they call updates are totally out of control," Mr. Sausser said. "They have a $34 million sewer project for a city of 35, 40,000 people. That's a lot of extra money. It could've been done a lot cheaper, and I'm not talking out of my head. I've been there."
Mr. Sausser, 90, was mayor of Findlay from 1963-67 and 1971-75. He also is a lawyer and chairman of Sausser Steel Co.
Mr. Miles likened the sewer project to some jobs Mr. Sausser oversaw as mayor, such as buying land and building a huge reservoir.
"At that time people thought this was awfully extravagant. Water rates went up to take care of it," Mr. Miles said. "That turned out to be an excellent project. I look at the sewer plant and sewer lines along that same line. Yeah, it's a lot of money, but I really believe people down the road are going to say those guys had some good foresight."
Mr. Miles, a Republican city councilman for 12 years, said by taking care of its infrastructure needs, the city is poised "for some good sustained growth."
Mr. Sausser did not agree with the analogy.
"Investments and blowing money are two different things," he said.
This is not the first time the two men have faced each other at the ballot box.
Mr. Sausser was elected First Ward councilman in 1985 and defeated Mr. Miles for the post in 1989. Two years later, Mr. Miles defeated Mr. Sausser by five votes for the seat.
Mr. Sausser said his disagreements are not with Mr. Miles directly but with "the whole idea that the council has been allowing the safety-service director to get by with too much expenditures."
Mr. Sausser disagrees with the city's requirement that property owners pay to replace the sidewalks in front of their homes and businesses and disapproves of the city purchasing property for more than its appraised value.
Most recently, Mr. Miles cast one of two dissenting votes when council decided to purchase 22 acres near the Hancock Recreation Center for nearly $1.1 million. Mayor John Stozich later vetoed the purchase.
Mr. Miles said he thought that $50,000 an acre was too extravagant a price for land intended for ball fields. He said he did not believe it was appropriate for the city to buy land next to a county-owned facility with no agreement on use for the recreation center and adjacent land.
Mr. Miles, a local barber who will turn 61 the day before the election, said he doesn't see age as a big issue in the race with his 90-year-old opponent.
"What is age?" he said. "Some people say John's too old, but John is a very smart man. I don't think he's lost anything mentally. He's no one to take lightly. I'm not taking him lightly at all with this."
Mr. Sausser said some people said he was too old when he unsuccessfully challenged Mr. Stozich for mayor in 1995, "and I've gained about five or six years since then. I think that the voters are a little upset, and it's not going to be the major thing this time."
The only other contested races for city council in Findlay are: