Four incumbents think the Huntertown Town Council is headed in the right direction; three new council candidates are not so sure.
Huntertown voters will be asked to select their top five at-large candidates Tuesday.
Controversy has dogged the council more than once, much of it centered around the town’s proposal to build an $11.2 million wastewater treatment plant.
A territory agreement between Huntertown and Fort Wayne City Utilities – which processes the town’s wastewater – expired last year, although City Utilities continues to treat the town’s wastewater.
Other issues include: Newly established sewer and water utility service areas outside the town’s corporate limits; a costly appeal of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s 2012 denial of the proposed sewer plant permit; a 100 percent increase in sewer rates in the past year; and a proposed annexation of much of the Twin Eagles subdivision between Lima and Coldwater roads.
Mike Aker is serving his first term on the council, and it has been a challenging, yet rewarding job, he said.
His 14 years as a firefighter have taught him how to deal effectively with the public and to remedy any situation, Aker said.
I don’t foresee our problems going away, he said. We will still have residents who oppose the wastewater treatment plant, issues with City Utilities and with people who think we are spending too much, he said.
Yes, it’s a huge investment, but we plan to keep expanding over time and get more and more connections into town water and sewer, he said. We want to keep moving – the job is not finished.
Jim Fortman is serving his 19th year on the council.
I am level-headed and try and use common sense when making decisions, he said.
Fortman said he has always been available to the public and numerous times has had residents stop by his home and ask about town issues.
The town’s major challenge in the next four years is to get the sewer plant up and running, Fortman said. If that fails to happen, Fortman said the town would have to negotiate with City Utilities.
In the long run, sewer rates would be lower if the town operates its own plant, Fortman said. He said that revenues would be added through annexation and connection fees from new development.
If re-elected, Patricia Freck would like to work on projects the council has had little time for in the past three years.
With the utilities services board in place and now taking on most of the responsibility of the utilities, I would have time to work on economic development, revitalizing the downtown area, the park and a trails project, Freck said.
She has encountered lots of bumps during her first term but doesn’t see many challenges ahead that are not utility-related, she said.
The town would have to finance a wastewater plant, but long term, we can keep the rates steady, she said. My specific skill set is negotiations, so I can bring some calm and rationale to the table.
Years of working as a police officer helped when it came to dealing with the public during his first term on the council, Gary Grant said.
I’m honest with the public and always have been, Grant said.
The town has a lot going on, and we are not going to wrap it up in the next seven months, he said as to why he is seeking re-election. I want to see everything through to completion.
If Grant retains his seat, he wants to work to bring the town back together. The town has been splintered by the wastewater treatment plant issue, he explained.
I’ve been very up front with people, sometimes even to the point of being at odds with other council members, Grant said. I’m a resident too, and I hope people see that I’m trying to do what’s best for the town.
Dave Garman has been a nearly constant presence at Town Council meetings for the past three years, asking questions and asking for documentation, which has prompted him to run for council, he said.
Garman wants to use some common sense to bring credibility back to the position and involve the community in town decisions, he said.
I firmly believe that Huntertown should not be in the utility business, Garman said. The town has shown the most growth while contracting the services of City Utilities, he said.
Town officials have not been forthcoming with information, he said.
Getting information is like pulling teeth, Garman said. I’ve had public documents that were finally handed to me and portions were blacked out like National Security Agency had gone through them.
Brandon Seifert is a newcomer to his hometown race for town council, although he ran unsuccessfully in the 2010 Republican caucus for an Indiana House seat.
In addition, his work as a member of the Lake Township Advisory Board has given him budgeting experience, he said.
A graduate of Carroll High School and Indiana Tech, Seifert threw his hat into the ring because he thinks the council could use some fiscal responsibility.
They are spending money hand over fist to keep battling City Utilities and build their own wastewater treatment plant, he said.
Fort Wayne is more than capable of handling the wastewater, Seifert said.
Seifert thinks town officials need to put their egos aside and negotiate with City Utilities, he said.
Michael Stamets is a curious newcomer to the council race.
There’s so much turmoil, he said, I’m not sure what is going on, but I’d like to find out.
A Huntertown native, Stamets is co-owner of Stamets Tool & Engineering in Auburn, a business started by his family in 1976.
Stamets has an associate degree in accounting from International Business College and thinks his financial and business background would serve him well if elected to the council.
The town has major challenges ahead with utilities and trying to stay financially secure, Stamets said.
As a council member, he would make documents and financial information available to the public, he said.