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Published: Monday, 10/27/2003

Port Clinton faces mayoral rematch

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

When Port Clinton voters go to the polls next week, it'll be a rematch of the 1999 mayoral contest.

Mayor Tom Brown, a Republican, is being challenged again by Councilman Joe Greer, a Democrat who's president of council. In 1999, a write-in candidate also appeared in the partisan mayoral race.

Mr. Greer, 49, said he decided to try another run for mayor partly because it's a logical step for him.

He added that he believes the 6,391-resident Lake Erie tourist city needs a new leader to help spruce up streets, attract grants, and work on economic development.

“People come to me and say they're not happy with the status quo,” Mr. Greer said. “They want a change and they think I can bring that change.”

But Mr. Brown said talking about change doesn't mean it will happen.

“It's easy to say it's time for a change,” Mr. Brown said. “It's harder to have a plan for that change.”

The Port Clinton race on Nov. 4 is one of four contested mayoral races in Ottawa County involving incumbents, while voters in Marblehead will decide on a controversial ferry tax and residents in Oak Harbor and Genoa will be asked to approve tax levies for their districts.

Mr. Greer said he believes he has a “better head for finance” than the mayor, something he said is needed in finding grants for the city.

Port Clinton is under a consent agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to improve its wastewater treatment plant to halt the discharge of untreated sewage into the Portage River. The first phase of that approximately $7 million project is about to go on line.

The councilman said he would work hard to attract funding for major city projects, including upgrades to streets and the downtown core, among others. He said that grants - not additional assessments to taxpayers - should be used.

Mr. Greer added that he's already eyeing possible grants for the city and has discussed possible allocations with state legislators.

Both candidates are retired from previous occupations.

In his first two four-year terms, Mr. Brown, 63, said the city has attracted $14 million in grants.

The mayor said he's running for re-election so he can continue the work he has started, including that of seeing the completion of downtown revitalization, a marina project, and the wastewater treatment plant.

“I don't want to leave it to another person,” Mr. Brown said.

The mayor said he continues to work on improving streets and parks in the city, something his opponent said is lagging in Port Clinton.

Mr. Brown pointed to the opening last summerof Friendship Park at Perry and Jefferson streets. It's the site of a giant mural that depicts three scenes from the city's waterfronts.

The mayor added that he's hopeful the city will be able to attract grant money to finish the third phase of a downtown revitalization project.

In the village of Marblehead, Mayor Joe Ihnat, Jr., 61, is being challenged by Jacqueline Bird, 41, the council president. The race is nonpartisan.

Both candidates were born and raised in Marblehead. Mr. Ihnat is a co-owner of Anchor's Away Marina, while Ms. Bird is director of social services at the Ohio Veteran's Home in Sandusky.

The candidates agree that the village is facing a financial crisis. As a result, each supports the Marblehead ferry tax, which voters also will decide on Nov. 4.

The measure - which imposes a tax of 50 cents per ferry passenger 12 years and older, 25 cents for children, and 50 cents per vehicle - is aimed at raising money for the village.

Mr. Ihnat became mayor in January, 2002, after former Mayor Steve Plottner unexpectedly stepped down. Ms. Bird, whose father was a Marblehead mayor, has been on council since 1997.

If elected, the candidates said that a priority would be to create a long-term plan for the village.

In other elections across Ottawa County:

  • Genoa-area residents will decide on the renewal for the school district of a five-year, 1.8-mill levy for permanent improvements. In addition, a 5.2-mill, 28-year bond issue will be combined with a five-year, 3-mill operating levy.

    School officials said that money is needed for construction of an elementary school and to avoid a budget deficit.

  • The Benton-Carroll-Salem school board will ask voters to approve a pair of renewal levies, both to run for five years. One is a 3.9-mill operating levy, while the second is a 1.2-mill permanent improvement tax.

    The operating levy generates about $1.1 million annually for the district, with the other tax bringing in about $400,000 a year.

  • Oak Harbor Mayor Thomas Leaser is being challenged by Fred Conley.

  • Genoa Mayor Joseph Verkin is being opposed by M. Thomas Perry.



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