By Kalea Hall
All five candidates running for two open positions on the township board of trustees want to see more growth.
Incumbent Jim Davis, 36; former trustee Kenneth Carano, 69; Bruce Shepas, 40; Robert Raymond, 53; and Dave Stryffeler, 53; all contend they are the ones to continue township growth responsibly.
“This is the time right now where Austintown is moving into a new era, but wants to stay in old tradition,” Carano said.
Carano was a trustee from 1996 to 2001. He went on to become a state representative until 2007. Carano said he decided to run again because he’s experienced in government and believes it is important for Austintown to have an experienced person in office, especially with the development of the Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course.
Penn National, the company building the racino, will provide $1 million for infrastructure for 2014 and 2015, and then $500,000 each year as long as the facility remains open.
Carano said he doesn’t agree with the current board of trustees when it comes to the racino.
“The point is, don’t take money right now,” Carano said. “Don’t spend the money before they are open.”
The joint economic development district, or JEDD, offered by the city of Youngstown earlier this year was a major topic of discussion in Austintown. A JEDD allows the city to provide water services and other infrastructure to the township at a taxed cost. Income tax from racino employees would be shared by the city and the township.
Such a deal would bring additional funding to both communities, but the township trustees repeatedly turned down the JEDD.
“The idea is, if you run away from any offerings, you are an amateur, not a professional,” Carano said.
Davis contends, however, the JEDD would have been detrimental to the racino project, which is why the trustees were vehemently against it. Davis did sit down and talk with Mayor Charles Sammarone about the JEDD.
“The city of Youngstown could have cost the Mahoning Valley this project,” Davis said. “If it wasn’t for our [the trustees] continued support, Penn National could have left.”
Davis said any further decisions about a JEDD should be decided by Austintown voters.
Davis was elected in 2009 and began serving in January 2010.
If re-elected, Davis hopes to continue to support both the police and fire departments, reinforce land-use policies and nuisance laws, develop more parks events and work with other communities in the Valley on projects such as the joint-paving project among Canfield, Boardman and Austintown townships.
“I’ve always been an advocate of being proactive instead of reactive,” Davis said.
Shepas is running on his honest character and ability to be a leader, public servant and businessman. He wants to support any new business coming into Austintown, make sure the infrastructure is there to support future development and see more use of the parks and senior center.
“Austintown is going in the right direction, and I want to be a part of it,” Shepas said.
Like the current trustees, Shepas is against a JEDD.
“This [the racino] is big for everyone,” Shepas said. “I know it will bring in jobs to the community, and one of the biggest priorities is infrastructure.”
Raymond also believes he is the person to lead the township because of his business background.
“I see a little bit of missed opportunities from the department heads,” Raymond said.
He would like to see more action within the parks system, which he believes is understaffed. In fact, he suggests a levy might be necessary to continue maintaining the parks. The current trustees, Raymond said, are so focused on the monies coming in from the racino they haven’t thought of other state and local grant opportunities to benefit the parks system and other areas of the township.
Raymond also feels the trustees were “irresponsible” in how they dealt with the JEDD.
“I don’t have any confidence in the leadership we have now,” Raymond said.
Stryffeler would like to continue his contributions to the community. He also believes the growth of the township needs to be properly managed. When it comes to a JEDD, Stryffeler said if it is needed, then why not take it?
“I will definitely like to sit down with the mayor,” Stryffeler said.
Like all the candidates, Stryffeler is all for removing any blight that hurts neighborhoods. He also would like to maintain the safety services in the township, develop the senior center and township parks and attract new business.
“I think I have a better skill set,” Stryffeler said. “I have not endorsed anyone. I am just running on my merit.”
In addition to the trustee race, there also are three candidates running for the position of fiscal officer. The incumbent, Laura Wolfe,45, has been in office since January 2012. Dale Basista, 56, and Mark Cole, 44, also are running for the position.