First of two stories on the candidates for Ashland City Commission and the issues they are facing.
Six candidates, including all four incumbents, are running in the election for the Ashland city commission.
The four candidates voters choose on Tuesday will have a full plate in the coming term, grappling with issues ranging from water line replacement to liquor sales. They also will be working with a new mayor.
Candidates are incumbents Larry Brown, Tom Cantrell, Kevin Gunderson and Marty Gute, first-time challenger Tim Duley and former commissioner Cheryl Spriggs.
In interviews the week preceding the election, The Independent asked the candidates to discuss four crucial issues and then offered them the floor to touch on other matters they believe are important in Ashland.
Today and Sunday the candidates weigh in on those issues. In today’s story, they discuss Ashland’s aging and breakage-prone water and sewer lines, and talk about working with incoming mayor Chuck Charles.
In addition to frequent breaks, one of which snarled traffic in South Ashland for days recently when U.S. 23 was closed during repairs, the city is bound by a court judgment to upgrade its sewer system to comply with the federal Clean Water Act. The city’s system, which combines storm runoff with sanitary sewer discharges, can overflow during heavy rainfall or snowmelt, in what is called combined sewer overflow. When that happens, untreated sewage runs into streams and the Ohio River.
The city has until 2017 to fix the system at its own expense, which is estimated at $44 million.
The Independent asked candidates if case-by-case repairs of system problems is adequate or whether the city should develop a long-term plan — and what such a plan should entail.
Improved infrastructure is critical and the city must continue to make improvements whenever necessary, Cantrell said.
The $44 million CSO mandate has interrupted any long-range plans the city had for improvements. The city has filed for a deadline extension to 2025 to get the CSO work finished, he said.
But Cantrell said infrastructure is at the top of his to-do list if re-elected.
“We have to try work out a plan to alleviate some of these water main breaks and sewer breaks,” he said. “I think that’s one of our most pressing issues. If you don’t have (good) infrastructure, you can’t get business to come in here. We have to continue repairing on a day-to-day basis and keep good maintenance.”
The department of water will also have a mandated study on potable water at a cost of $26,500, Cantrell said.
“We’ve got to have a comprehensive plan to replace the (old) lines,” he said. “Infrastructure is necessary. We’ve got to have a comprehensive plan to replace the old lines first.”