2 face off for Fostoria 4th Ward seat
FOSTORIA — Voters in the city’s Fourth Ward are to choose between two candidates Nov. 7.
In May, incumbent Councilman Thomas Lake and Michael Spencer were the top vote-getters in the primary election for the position. Lake received 55 votes, or 47 percent, while Spencer garnered 37 votes, or 31.6 percent. Ira Turner got 25 votes, or 21.4 percent, and was eliminated from contention.
Lake has served on council for 14 years, including four years as president pro tem. He said he has served on the Airport Committee and the Law and Ordinance Committee.
He said his biggest goal, if re-elected, is to get Fostoria out of fiscal emergency status.
“I don’t know where that’s going to go,” he said of the crisis. ” It’s not an easy job, doing a lot of things you don’t want to do, but you have to. There’s no way out of it. I just want to continue to work for the citizens of Fostoria.”
Lake also mentioned using the Seneca County Land Bank to clean up blighted properties in the city.
“They have approximately 20 houses to be tore down in Fostoria,” he said. “We need to take care of abandoned properties in Fostoria, get them cleaned up and make the city look better.”
Lake said he always has communicated well with constituents.
“When someone calls me about something, I always make sure I respond to them,” he said. “I talk to them or call them back. If I can’t fix it, I tell them, and if I can, I do.”
Spencer, who never has run for office, said he was born and raised in Fostoria and remembers better days for the city.
“I know what (Fostoria) can be like. … This isn’t it,” he said. “It’s going to take a while to get it cleaned up, but we’ll get it done. I see where a lot of things are changing, but they’re not changing fast enough. I want to get in there and help.”
Spencer said one key to improvement for Fostoria is bringing bigger businesses back to the city.
“We need the factories that employ quite a few people,” he said. “Even though we are in a rough spell, we’ve got to get out of that mode and go with technology.”
Both candidates believe it is imperative voters approve a 6-mill property tax levy for safety services.
“I would say, if you need EMS or a fire put out in town, you better hope it passes,” Lake said.
Lake also said if the levy does not pass, it will drop the city’s fire protection rating, meaning increased insurance rates for residents.
“We’re going to pay somewhere,” he said.
Lake also believes the levy is pivotal in keeping residents safe.
“If we’d lose our EMS and have to depend on Bascom (Joint Ambulance District) or someone to come here, it could be disastrous,” he said, adding the city doesn’t have money to contract with a private ambulance service.
Lake said he is retired and on a fixed income, but he sees the importance of the levy.
“No one likes to put taxes on people,” he said.
Spencer said passage of the levy is a “must.”
“It’s a problem that took a long time to get to where it is now and it’s going to be a process getting it taken care of,” he said.
Spencer said the levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 property $210 a year.
“It’s either that or we lose substantial safety forces. … That just can’t happen,” he said. “We’re already low on people.”
Spencer warned of the consequences of not approving the levy.
“If it fails, response times on everything is going to be delayed. You’re going to feel it when you need it,” he said. “I’ll stand behind the safety forces big time on that one.”
Lake said it will be difficult to get the city out of fiscal emergency status.
“The only way I see now is (approving) the levy,” he said. “The state just keeps taking money away. They’ve taken millions of dollars from us that we were getting before.”
Lake said the city has lost substantial funding because of government changes, one example being lost funding from the estate tax.
“Things have changed,” he said. “We save money somewhere and then they take it away. It’s just difficult to work with.”
Lake said that during his service, council has tried to do more with less each year.
“Every year we cut, cut, cut,” he said. “At this point, we just cannot cut anymore. We’re down to the bare bones.”
Spencer believes residents, city leaders and business leaders must work together to bring the city out of its economic funk.
“There’s no one thing that’s going to fix it,” he said. “We’re all going to have to work together. I’d like to see more people attend council meetings and voice their opinions there.”
Spencer said if he is elected, he would be open to ideas from constituents.
“Voice your opinion. It’s going to take the whole community to work together to get us back to where we need to be,” he said. “We need to be one big family in Fostoria, doing what we have to do to get there. We aren’t the only ones that are having these problems. … It’s just going to take a lot of hard work.
Lake said he would lean on his experience to guide him through another term.
“It takes a year or so for you to learn how to get things done,” he said. “I feel I’ve gotten a lot done, we’ve cleaned up a lot. I just keep working every day.”
Lake said he enjoys working for citizens and he hopes he has the chance to continue serving.
“When I see something that’s not right, I try and work on it,” he said.
Spencer said he believes he is the best person for the job.
“No matter what, I’m going to be me,” he said. “I can talk to everybody. Dealing with the public is one of my biggest strengths. It’s what council needs to do and that’s the way I plan on getting things done.”
Spencer said he believes he can relate to voters and he stressed the importance of residents getting out to vote, regardless of who they vote for.
“I haven’t come up with a catchphrase, but I don’t think I need one,” Spencer said. “People know we need to do something here. I’m just the better one for the job.”