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Published: Wednesday, 7/7/2004

Delta: Trustees blasted on appointment to water board

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

DELTA - The topic for discussion was better communication, but it was drowned out with accusations, interruptions, and, finally, an agreement to disagree.

A joint meeting between Swancreek Township officials last week turned into an episode of "The Water Board vs. Trustees," with a dash of Concerned Citizens of Swancreek Township Inc. mixed in - and recent water board appointee attorney Kim Baker got stuck in the middle.

Trustees, whose responsibility it is to appoint members to its boards, recently selected Ms. Baker of the Toledo law firm Eastman & Smith for an open position, citing her legal expertise that would be an asset to the board, rather than re-appoint treasurer Bob Westmark.

"I felt - knowing all potential applicants for the position - that Kim brought the skills that were necessary," trustee Randal Ruge said. "The appointment is purely based on skill set."

Ms. Baker declined to comment on her appointment.

Water board President Mark Fowler said his board was incensed that while trustees noted their concern over a lack of communication between the two boards earlier this year, they appointed Ms. Baker without notifying the water board that Mr. Westmark was not going to be reappointed.

"How is the board going to be cohesive if we're changing board members once, twice, a year?" asked water board Vice President Rick Kazmierczak.

"Especially if we're in the middle of a project," said Walter Lange, water board secretary.

The Swancreek Township water board has been under fire from residents since before it approved a $2.98 million contract in March for lines to provide public water to more than 600 properties. Almost half of those property owners objected to having to pay for the water lines.

Installation began in early April, and the main line construction is at least 90 percent complete, Mr. Fowler said. He expects the project to be done in late August or early September.

The water line controversy fueled the formation of the Concerned Citizens of Swancreek Township Inc. in opposition to the line, which dropped its fight after an out-of-court settlement in December. Ms. Baker is a member of the group and the only current water board member affiliated with it; board president Fowler and former board member Westmark attended a few meetings; and trustee Ruge is a former board member of the group, said Tom Sullivan, president of Concerned Citizens.

Mr. Sullivan said there was "a lot of waste of time and energy with the water board fighting over [Ms. Baker's] appointment. The water board ought to be mending fences."

Members of each board agreed that communication between the boards was insufficient and agreed to disagree if water board members should be notified before a new person is appointed to the board.

"When an appointment was made to replace the treasurer, we were blindsided by that when we tried to open the lines of communication," Mr. Kazmierczak said after the meeting last week.

The decision to appoint Ms. Baker was a 2-1 vote, with trustee Jim Meyers voting against her appointment because she was originally interviewed for a zoning board position.

"It's unfortunatethere's been this outcry," Mr. Ruge said, adding he doesn't believe the public is upset by Ms. Baker's appointment. "I feel we're acting in the best interest of the citizenry."

Contact Erika Ray at:

eray@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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