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Calhoun, Costello merit re-election in Boardman race

As the largest township in the Mahoning Valley and one of the largest in Ohio, Boardman requires experienced, fiscally responsible and constituent-focused governance to retain its long-held reputation as a great place to live and do business.

Fortunately for the township’s 40,000-plus residents, the three-member governing board of trustees whose makeup has remained stable over the past 12 years embodies all those key traits.

As such, The Vindicator endorses incumbents Thomas Costello and Brad Calhoun for re-election to new four-year terms in the Nov. 2 general election.

Of course, some, including challengers Tabitha Fitz-Patrick and Jason “JP” Pavone in the four-person nonpartisan race for two seats on the board, think differently.

Fitz-Patrick and Pavone echoed a common refrain on the need for “new blood” in governing positions to guard against lackadaisical leadership. In Boardman’s case, both believe trustees Calhoun, Costello and Larry Moliterno could be doing more.

Both promoted a goal to have the township operate its own ambulance service. They believe the effort would help speed service at a reduced price to residents.

While we applaud their desire to improve emergency service, we aren’t so sure it could be done as efficiently as the current contract with Lane LifeTrans, which trustees say requires two ambulances be assigned to the township at any given time.

A study produced by a community group in 2019 supported more exploration of township EMT service, but indicated it would come with expenses of more than $1.6 million per year and an operating loss of more than $700,000 each year for several years during startup.

We are skeptical of Pavone’s belief that such an undertaking could be done at little or no usage fees to residents and without additional taxes.

Both incumbent trustees expressed interest in a township-run service, but each said it would be too costly.

Fitz-Patrick, a licensed clinical therapist, mentioned the need for raising police wages, aggressively seeking grants and forming more partnerships with the school district and others. But a quick glance at the records of Calhoun and Costello shows both successfully have tackled those very missions — and much more.

Pavone also was critical of the current board for failing to listen to constituents and not being customer friendly. He promises to hold regular “listening sessions” in addition to regular trustee meetings to help solve residents’ issues.

Against lesser competition, Fitz-Patrick and Pavone would deserve more serious consideration for a seat on the township’s governing board. Both came across as sincere in their desires to serve Boardmanites.

But after examining the backgrounds of Calhoun and Costello and interviewing all four candidates, The Vindicator Editorial Board was impressed most by common themes, goals and successes enunciated by the incumbents. Further, their constructive solidarity stands out as a far cry from the years of turmoil and fiscal irresponsibility that characterized the board before their arrival.

Costello and Calhoun have championed rebuilding a decimated police force. The department had fallen from about 65 to 45 officers. Through stronger fiscal management and successful passage of a police levy, the department today returned to full strength. Wages have increased considerably for starting officers in the latest recently ratified contract.

The Calhoun-Costello team also has dealt with these issues responsibly:

l They worked to resolve long-standing flooding problems in a number of areas in the townships. Work is ongoing on a $3 million project to alleviate flooding in the area of the former Market Street Elementary School that includes demolition of the school and construction of a large retention pond that should ease water woes for 1,400 homes and businesses.

l The two have been responsible stewards over taxpayers’ dollars by balancing township budgets for 12 consecutive years.

l They have overseen fire service improvements, including replacing an antiquated and decaying main fire station with a state-of-the-art station in Boardman Center with no tax increase.

l The two also have overseen managed growth and economic development in the township. Both say many businesses, medical organizations and others continue to knock on Boardman’s door for site possibilities.

Though Calhoun and Costello have shared similar priorities and have voted in tandem on most issues, each has his own persona and brings effective complementary skill sets to the board.

Calhoun, a recently retired 33-year teacher in Boardman schools, brings experienced labor leadership as former head of the Boardman Education Association.

Costello’s 40-year career as an employee and president of the James & Sons Insurance Co. arms him with a mature business acumen.

Given the many ongoing projects and challenges the township faces in the immediate future, this is no time to change course and risk losing experienced and responsible leadership.

Voters should re-elect Calhoun and Costello on Nov. 2.

editorial@vindy.com

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