BELPRE - Candidates for seats in Belpre city government and the Belpre City Schools District Board of Education introduced themselves to the community Thursday night during a Meet the Candidates event.
The eight-person panel gave their names and what seat they were hoping to fill while they also answered questions from the community members in attendance and by Karen Locke, a member of the Belpre chapter of Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE), which sponsored the event in the Belpre City Schools administration building's gymnasium.
Locke began the questions and answers portion of the evening by asking the youngest member of the panel, Steven Roddy, 29, what direction he wants for the city if he is elected to the council at-large seat he is vying for.
"Since being gone I have noticed a couple of things a lot fewer people my age here," said Roddy, who recently moved home to Belpre after living in Atlanta for several years. "If there's none of us coming into the city, there is an issue for when the current generation retires."
To aid the city, the Internet marketing specialist said he would like to bring his knowledge to the city and its businesses to help it grow.
"We aren't restricted to commerce just here in Belpre; once we understand that we aren't limited to that we can grow," said Roddy, who is running as an Independent.
Councilwoman Susan Abdella, who has held her at-large seat for eight years, was asked how the city has been able to remain financially stable.
"Compared to cities around us, we are doing very well," she said. "What makes the city do so well is that we have a core group of officials and council members that work very well together.
"I truly believe that no matter which party you are, in a community this size you have to be willing to be part of the team and sit down and hash it out because we're all going to live or die together," Abdella said.
Mayor Mike Lorentz, who is running for his second four-year term, said the city has been fielding a lot of business interest.
"It seems like the past few months that we have had a lot of interest with businesses wanting to move into the area," Lorentz said. "We are going to make that difference and most of us sitting here will have two to three years to make that difference.
"We will have to work as a community, together. It is going to have to be every one of us and I know that we can do it," he said.
The Belpre City Council race contested on the Nov. 8 ballot is council at-large. There are three candidates running for the two open seats on the Belpre City Schools District Board of Education.
Three of the four candidates for the three at-large seats attended the event: Abdella, Roddy and fellow Independent Bob Wallace. Councilman John Baker was absent.
Incumbent Bobbi Simmons, who is president of the school board, was the only Belpre City Schools Board of Education candidate in attendance. Incumbent Mike Wile and newcomer Pat Taylor were absent. The three are vying for two seats.
All others running for Belpre City Council seats are unopposed: 1st Ward Councilman Larry Martin, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Debbie Marshall, 3rd Ward Councilman Eric Sinnett, 26-year 4th Ward Councilman Dewey Robinson and council president Will Neff. Sinnett and Robinson were the only ones at the event.
City officials running unopposed are Lorentz and City Law Director Tom Webster, both of whom attended the Meet the Candidates.
The ballot issues discussed included a renewal of the Washington County Senior Levy, the city's possible energy aggregation and Ohio Issue 2.
All on the panel spoke in favor of the senior levy and in opposition of Issue 2, which would end many union rights in the state.
"I understand that sometimes things go too far, but I truly believe that there is a collaboration as long as the sides keep the communication," Abdella said. "I will vote no, but I understand the anger when the city workers get a 3 percent raise by the people who are on a fixed income and not getting a raise.
"I absolutely believe there needs to be bargaining," she said.
Resident Richard Briggs said he opposed the opt-out electric and natural gas aggregation for residents. Briggs also attended city council meetings in July stating his opinion against the issues.
The aggregation programs have the potential to save Belpre citizens money on gas and electric bills by using energy brokers, officials have said. With energy aggregation, local communities can join residents to purchase natural gas or electricity in bulk, usually at lower rates.
There was no discussion of an alcohol issue for sale of beer to be consumed off premises for a possibly incoming Go-Mart in the former BP station at the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Main Street.