Oregon City council Candidates talk about the issues at forum

By Katie Siebenaller & Kelly J. Kaczala

        Downtown development, 911 consolidation, and quality of life issues were among the topics discussed at an Oregon City Council candidate forum last Thursday, held at the Oregon Municipal Complex.
        The moderator of the forum, sponsored by the Oregon Republican Club, was Toledo City Councilman Tom Waniewski.
        Three of five Oregon City Council candidates were at the forum: Incumbents Tim Zale and Kathleen Pollauf, and write-in candidate Steve Salander. Incumbent candidate Steve Hornyak and challenger Marvin Dabish were not present due to previous commitments..
        “Every time I drive out here, which is too infrequent, I’m always impressed by the development that is going on out here,” said Waniewski in kicking off the forum. “The people are always friendly.”
Quality of life
        The first question he posed to the candidate was, “Do you rest on your laurels, or is there more to do for the quality of life in Oregon?”
        Zale said there is more to do.  
        “We continue to discuss the development along the lakeshore area. We’re still looking at possibly putting in a kayak launch along South Shore Park.”
        He added that the city is also looking at putting in a boat ramp.
        “I think it would be good for us. We don’t actually have a boat ramp we could use with a regular sized boat.”
        He would also like to see an extension of bike trails in the city. “We continue to put bike trails in. We have a new stretch of bike trail going in at Brown and Pickle roads,” he said.
        Pollauf said she didn’t think any city should rest on its laurels.
        “I think there’s always room for improvement in every aspect of our city. Our population went down by 1,000. We want to bring people in. One of the biggest aspects of our population is our seniors. We want to make it safe for them, make it a great place for them to live. But we also want people to raise their families here,” she said.
        “The services we have could not be done without all the hard work of city employees and city departments,” said Pollauf. “The recreation department has expanded, getting more services out that are not just sports. The city is working closely with Oregon City Schools to make our buildings safer. Instead of resting on our laurels, I don’t want a government that is reactive. I want a proactive government that looks to the future. ”
        Salander said downtown development is important.
        “I hear that from people as well,” he said.
        Salander, who was a volunteer with the Woodville Township Fire Department for 10 years, is currently involved in the movement to prevent the consolidation of 911 services in Lucas County.
        “It got me into this whole thing (running for council). I think we should protect people who keep us safe,” he said.
         “I very much commend all of the city workers on the jobs that they do. They are the reason I came to Oregon,” said Salander, who has lived in Oregon for four years. “I think it’s important to maintain that level of service and protect Oregon first over anybody else.”
Downtown development
        Waniewski asked the candidates about how they would develop a town center.
        “Downtown could be viewed as a gathering place - central business district where everyone wants to come. Would it be pulling from business from other areas? What does it do in terms of the traffic? Specifically, how would you develop it and make sure it doesn’t become an albatross?”
        “I would make sure we get very premium developers that have vision,” said Pollauf. “But they have to share the same vision we have. The town center we’re talking about is from Isaac Streets and Dustin Road. In this area, you have neighborhoods up against Navarre and Pickle, you have a refinery, and two hospitals. So it is a gathering place. But you could also get residential area for people who work in these fields so they can be closer to their workplace. It depends on who wants to invest. So it’s a chance for us to grow an area that hasn’t really been developed yet.”
        She said she would like to see a movie theater, restaurants, and more residential.
        “But it’s all in the hands of who develops it,” she said. “If you want to open up a business, if you want to open up a restaurant, it’s a great opportunity.”
        “I agree we should find the right developer that fits the vision that council and residents have,” said Salander. “I think it’s a team effort.  I don’t think any one person has all the answers.
        He would also like to see a movie theater and residential developed downtown.
         “I think the big thing there would be families. I’d like to see things that will bring families,” he said.
        “I know we have one developer out of Cleveland who is interested and is very excited about this project,” said Zale. “They are currently working to see what kind of things we can bring into this concept, business-wise and residentially. When we talk about residential, we are looking at the area behind Kmart toward where the old WOHO radio station is at. The reason we look at it is we want people to come to Oregon and stay here. If you look at St. Charles Hospital right there, it’s our largest employer. Most employees at the hospital don’t live here. So if we did have apartments and condos, we would want them to live here. We would like to have the town center have businesses that they would like to go to and walk to. My vision is I want to see a common area where people could gather and enjoy green space, and a mix of smaller but better restaurants, and a small theater. The developer we are currently working with seems to be very excited about it.”
911 consolidation
        Lucas County has proposed consolidating all Lucas County 911 dispatching operations into a single entity, which includes six primary PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Points) currently operating in Lucas County hosted by the Lucas County sheriff’s Office, Oregon, Maumee, Sylvania Township, Sylvania and Toledo.
        The plan calls for the dispatchers to move to the emergency services building in downtown Toledo.
        A 911 planning committee, set by law, will have the final say on consolidation by a majority vote from its five member board.  
        Oregon City Council recently passed a resolution in opposition to the consolidation plan.
        Waniewski asked the candidates about their thoughts on the issue.               
        “There are concerns about our police officers being able to communicate with the dispatchers when they need help and information,” said Salander.  “To be delayed on that puts them at risk and we need to protect them as they protect us.”
        The plan is supposed to save communities money.
        “I can’t see dollars and cents being more important that the lives of the citizens of Oregon,” said Salander. “They’re speculating right now that Oregon will save $500,000. We don’t see that as happening.”
        He also said Oregon dispatchers know more about the city than dispatchers in Toledo.
        “You can’t replace personal knowledge about out city. So calling someone in Toledo who doesn’t know Oregon is a bad idea,” he said.
        Zale, a retired Oregon Police officer, was also opposed.
        “We’re not going to be able to provide the same service as efficiently as we have all these years if we consolidate. Police officers do a lot of things 24/7 here. They’re constantly asking for personal information about people. They’re constantly trying to get information for their reports. These people won’t be able to do this. So how is that going to happen? I don’t think people are going to die. But it’s never going to be as efficient, not for the citizenry, not for the police officers. It’s not good for Oregon,” said Zale.
        He noted it seemed almost certain that the plan will pass, as Sylvania Township trustees voted in favor of it. Lucas County and Toledo have already gone on record as saying they support it. So a majority, three of five members on the 911 planning committee, are already in support of the plan.
        Pollauf was also against the consolidation.
        “I don’t want that. Nobody wants that. We have services here in the city paid for by our city tax dollars. When I think of 911 consolidation, I think we’re going to lose our emergency 911 calls.”
        She wondered if dispatchers in downtown Toledo would know about the location of water main breaks in Oregon compared to the current dispatchers in Oregon.
        “We have a lot of water main breaks in the city. Are dispatchers going to know about this? 911 dispatchers in Oregon live here. They are a part of Oregon. They know better than anyone else what goes on in Oregon. It is that kind of community,” she said.
        Waniewski asked Pollauf what her next step will be now that consolidation seems like a foregone conclusion.
        “I would like to see us retaining someone in dispatch that will answer that non-emergency 911 call. They say we’re going to save $500,000 per year? No we’re not. We’re going to pay somebody else.  We’re going to fight to make sure we’re going to maintain the level of services here, even though they will be dispatched from somewhere else.”


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