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The Daily



10-30-03: Voters to pick new mayor for Celina


Republican Sharon LaRue takes on Democrat Ron Hammons in the race for Celina mayor that will be decided by the voting public Tuesday.
LaRue, a Knapke Court resident, defeated Mayor Paul Arnold in the May Republican primary and says residents should choose her because she is dedicated to Celina and knows she can make a difference.


Hammons, a Fayette Street resident, ran unsuccessfully against Arnold in 1999, after beating Roy Orick in the Democrat primary. He said he is the clear choice because he will bring common sense back to the office and his door will always be open to the community.
“I care about Celina,” said LaRue, 61. “I want to make a difference and I know that I can make a difference.”
LaRue said bringing new revenue into the city is a top priority and will have to be done.
“Whether it be raising taxes or rates, that will be my last resort. But what I think what we need to do first is look within ourselves, with what we’re doing in the city and make sure that we are working as efficiently as we can,” she said. “And once I’m satisfied about that, then we can go on to other avenues.
“If we had all the revenue we needed, we wouldn’t have a problem with water. So it goes hand and hand,” LaRue continued.
“It’s not a water issue itself, it’s also a health issue. We need to provide the best and the safest water to our citizens in the most efficient way,” she said.
City officials have been looking into using well water for drinking water or making major changes to the current treatment plant, which draws water from Grand Lake St. Marys to use as drinking water. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency fined the city $10,000 and is demanding the city fix the illegal levels of trihalomethanes (THMs) in the drinking water. The group of chemicals known as THMs are believed to contribute to bladder cancer and other gastrointestinal complications.
Finding a plan to fix streets, sewers and boost parks also are on the agenda for LaRue.
“The infrastructure within the city, the pipes under the ground, that’s very important, and also our street paving,” she said. “We as administration need to sit down and make out a long-range plan of how we see the city down the road in five years, in 10 years, 15 years, and how we’re going to get that way.
“We can’t just go out there haphazardly and say: ‘Well, we’re going to pave this street, or we’re going to dig up this storm sewer this year.’ We have to know what all our problems are out there ... how we can tackle them and how we’re going to get the money,” she said. “And we can only do that through long-range planning.”
On the current West Bank Road boardwalk developments and the downtown revitalization master plan, LaRue said those items are good avenues for the city, but are not the economic cure-all.
“We need to have a balance. Tourism is good, it will bring in money, and some jobs. But those are seasonal jobs. We need jobs that will build up the tax base,” she said.
LaRue said voters should choose her because above-all, she is devoted to Celina.
“Since I’ve been on council, I have an excellent record when it comes to attending council meetings. I attend all the committee meetings, whether I’m on the committee or not ... so I can make informed decisions when it comes to voting,” LaRue said. “And I guess that’s another reason why people should vote for me, because I’m conscientious and I’m dedicated to what I’m doing.”
Hammons, 58, has been a third-ward council representative since 1986. He works in sales and service at Rino’s Auto Sales on Market Street. He has been a businessman in the community since moving here 30 years ago, owning his own business and being involved with the chamber of commerce. He also has been a member of the Celina Lake Festival Committee.
“I decided early on in his (Arnold’s) administration, seeing how things were going, that it was time to throw my hat in the ring again,” Hammons said. “Looking at what’s been done, where we’ve been, and where we need to go, it didn’t take me long to decide.”
As with LaRue, Hammons said the top priority issue is finding a way to bring more money into the city.
“The hot-button issue is the water situation, but I think the real dire need is to address our revenue stream,” Hammons said. “We’ve done as much as can be done on council with what we have, as far as the budgetary process, but I think the handwriting is on the wall.”
Hammons said council can either increase revenue, or decrease services. It seem residents don’t like service cuts, judging on the reaction when council removed the fall trash pickup, he said.
“I think there is a general feeling around the council table that the time is probably now to look at how are we going to increase revenue without cutting service,” he said.
In the area of economic development, Hammons said the department needs a direction change.
“I’ve been very frustrated with us over the years of really not being able to secure jobs, new jobs. That would be a real focal point of my administration, a tireless effort into doing everything we can to bring new opportunity here for people to work in this community,” he said. “I’ve been looking at what other communities have been doing and thinking, why can’t we do that here.
“In my observation, we have put an awful lot of time, effort and resources into the lake revitalization program. And as we continue to spin our wheels on that thing, what have we done outside of hiring someone to market our overpriced industrial park?” he asked.
“We need to switch gears. I think my position has been very clear on the West Bank boardwalk, or cement slab walk,” Hammons said, adding that too many questions remain on docking, maintenance issues and parking near the West Bank. “There’s just too much gray area hanging out there for me to be as excited as some people when in comes to what that may do for the community.
“Bottom line on that, my viewpoint is, let’s forget about the boardwalk, I mean sidewalk, let’s build a pier out there and put a three-level gambling boat like is down in Lawrenceburg, (Ind.) that brought those communities back. But that’s a state of Ohio issue,” Hammons said.
Hammons said this and prior administrations have failed to see the big picture.
“I think there’s been a real lack of leadership along with common sense. I think there’s been some real arrogant attitude on what is best for the city, but there is a whole cross section of people that live here, from the older section of town to the newer end of town,” he said. “Business is the engine that runs stuff, but you have to look out for everybody.”
When asked by The Daily Standard what changes they would make upon taking office, LaRue said: “As far as changes being made, I really think that you need to wait to get into office ... you really don’t know what needs to be done until you get in there.”
Hammons said: “Point blank, if I were fortunate enough to win, there would be a change in direction in our development department.”


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P.O. Box 140, Celina, OH 45822