Four candidates are running for an at-large seat on Urbana’s city council: Independent Teresa Beverly, Republican Mary Ann Collier, Republican Al Evans and Democrat Richard C. Kerns. Tony Pena resigned from the seat in March, and the city council appointed Jacob McKee to fill the vacancy. McKee decided not to file for election. The Urbana Daily Citizen sent questions to each candidate to better inform readers of their positions prior to the Nov. 5 election. The responses are in their words, unless otherwise noted.
Teresa Beverly: Teresa Beverly is currently the Executive Assistant at the GrandWorks Foundation. At age 34, she is a lifelong resident of Urbana and lives here with her family. Teresa began her working career at age 19 at Rittal Corp. Over the course of eleven years she held multiple management positions and took courses to further her education in management skills.
Later, she decided to become a stay at home mom and found a love for volunteer and service work. She participated in Project MORE, a reading program for children in elementary school. She volunteered at local animal shelters and used these opportunities to teach her children the importance of serving their community.
Mary Ann Collier: My name is Mary Collier and am a lifelong resident of Urbana. I am running for the vacated At Large seat of Tony Pena.
My commitment is to serve the citizens of Urbana and continue to contribute to its growth and prosperity; I will support public safety, encourage the continued improvements of city infrastructure, and encourage new economic development while supporting our local business.
I believe that public service is a responsibility that we all share and we should all be willing to contribute time and effort toward the well-being of the community in which we live, work, and play.
Al Evans: My name is Al Evans. I am a conservative Republican and a proud supporter of President Trump, Jim Jordan, Rob Portman and Mike DeWine
I came to Urbana in 1999 to take a job managing the Urbana Parts Co. In 2004 I was elected to Urbana City Council representing the 2nd ward. I served for 12 years. I am eager to serve again. Voters looking for an experienced leader to serve as your representative on council I will serve your interest with all my heart and soul.
Should any of you have any questions, please contact me at 937-869-4453 or e mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Kerns: My name is Richard C. Kerns; I am a candidate for Urbana City Council at Large (unexpired two year term). I am a lifelong resident of the City of Urbana, a member of St. Mary’s Church and the Knights of Columbus Council 1727. My wife of sixty years and I have four grown children, six grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. I have served on the Urbana Charter Review Board which has enabled me to work with city administration. I have the ability and the available time required to serve the residents of the City of Urbana as Councilman at Large.
What should be done about the persistent revenue problems? Higher taxes, lower expenses or both? What would you propose to cut?
Beverly: The community has watched our leaders spend money without a strategic plan and create duplicate paid positions in the administration. One plan is to find and secure grants to upgrade the city’s energy infrastructure, reducing operating costs by 20% or more. Our team is committed to eliminating at least $500,000 in government waste.
Collier: After reviewing the last five years budgets, I feel that an income tax increase would be the fiscally responsible thing to do. It has been 28 years since there has been an increase. The average salary for Urbana is $36,791. The .6% increase would be equal to a large pizza a month.
Evans: I believe the taxpayers have spoken. No additional income taxes for Police and Fire. If elected I will work with the UPD and the UFD to provide the excellent service that citizens deserve with the dollars budgeted to those divisions. I will also work with the administration, council, and the citizens to achieve additional funding to all departments.
Kerns: We have a duty to the taxpayers of Urbana to be fiscally accountable. It is essential for all departments to work within the budget and use the allocations provided responsibly.
What would be the ideal way for the city to pay for curb and gutter repair prior to street resurfacing?
Beverly: The Urbana Wins team would split the cost with people and allow them to pay their share over several years. The current leadership’s approach forces homeowners to front pay the entire cost and countless people we have spoken with see this approach as terribly unfair.
Collier: The city employees do a great job receiving grant funds. Unfortunately, they only are for certain qualified residents. The budget only allows for limited funds for the repair of curbs and gutters without grant funding. Twenty-eight years with the same levy funds is a lot to expect with labor and materials increasing every year.
Evans: The city should make every effort to secure grant funding to cover these costs. If funding sources are not available, city leaders should help negotiate best pricing and help with financing for individual properties.
Kerns: I am aware that grants have been awarded for accomplishing this for some regions of the city. I would suggest that we continue to apply for these grants to allow all citizens the same benefits. Funds could be set aside to do certain areas each year on a continual cycle.
What should be done to help the downtown merchants survive the roundabout redo and thrive afterwards?
Beverly: The Urbana Wins team will create a Business Coordinator in the administration for the express purpose of supporting our local businesses and attracting new businesses. We need to align the city with all the great groups in Urbana who are already working towards the vision a thriving downtown.
Collier: Unfortunately, construction of any kind can be difficult for retail. The roundabout will be so much more aesthetic for the city I am confident the downtown merchants will thrive better with the change. They are a creative group and already have events planned along with the Monument Square District to bring business downtown.
Evans: The roundabout is here, we need accept it and move on. The improvements made in the revamp are needed for safety and maintenance on infrastructure that was aging. I believe the merchants will survive and thrive going forward. A vibrant downtown is important to the continued success of or city.
Kerns: The hard-working merchants will survive and thrive!
Is the city responsible for protecting low-income residents at Settler’s Ridge from flooding in the Northwest Quadrant?
Beverly: When you are elected into a position of Public Service, it includes public safety. If you can fine property owners for weeds; why can’t you get involved when citizens are living in hazardous conditions (Many of those who moved to that location were unaware that flooding was an issue at all)?
Collier: The city is not responsible for that subdivision. It is the responsibility of the property owner.
Kerns: The City of Urbana has fulfilled its responsibility by installing larger piping to help eliminate the flooding problem. I feel the responsibility now falls on the owners of the Settlers Ridge Property. I am saddened that families had to endure the recent flooding.
How can Urbana improve communication between the city council and the residents they represent?
Beverly: I believe the most important thing Urbana needs to do right now is listen to its citizens. Throughout this campaign, I’ve heard over and over that citizens don’t feel like they are represented by our current leadership; and they certainly don’t feel supported. Our team will develop a strategic communications plan.
Collier: Councilor Pat Thackery has started a Coffee with Council. This is every second Saturday at the Urbana City Fire House. Residents are welcome to come in, talk openly with up to three councilors, and enjoy a cup of coffee (and sometimes donuts).
Evans: Better communication between council and the citizens in my view is not the City’s problem to solve. Council as a group should work on ways to get their message to the citizens. As candidates we find a way to communicate when we ask for citizens votes. It shouldn’t be hard to communicate after elected.
Kerns: By continuing to talk to the citizens we represent, getting their input on issues and listening to their concerns.
What should be the city government’s top priority in 2020?
Beverly: The Urbana Wins team laid out a comprehensive approach at UrbanaWins.com to address 2,250 people currently living in poverty (according to 2017 data from the Census Bureau) and our declining population. We have about 1,160 kids who are classified as disadvantaged by the Ohio Department of Education. We must address these issues immediately.
Collier: There are so many exciting things happening in 2020 in the city. The new Cobblestone Hotel will be completed in 2020. The grant financing for the Douglas Inn, South Elementary and North Elementary Schools will be under renovation.
Evans: Providing the best services to the citizens of Urbana. After all, these people pay the bills.
Kerns: I believe we should start working to build up the Fourth Ward, by providing sidewalks, curbs, gutters, sewer drains where needed and new pavement on streets. I feel that the Fourth Ward has been neglected for way too long and that we need to provide for the residents in this area.