July 30, 2014

Elyria
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AVON — COUNCIL AT LARGE

Eight candidates, including three incumbents, are seeking three at-large seats on Avon City Council.

What are the biggest issues facing the city?

Balmert: Infrastructure upgrades and planning for those upgrades so that they fall as close in line with new development is the most important issue facing the city. We have had a large growth in population, and many housing developments over the past 10-plus years and many of those have concrete streets, which have a finite life.
Berges: The biggest issue is to preserve the character and services in Avon in the face of rapid commercial and residential growth. I want to see better planning from city government. The Detroit Road widening was scheduled in 2006 and it took three years. That’s because we weren’t planning ahead for it.
Flanigan: I think the biggest issues facing Avon today are traffic flow and sidewalks.
Pelfrey: I want to see the growth in Avon continue, especially at state Route 611 and Interstate 90 where a new baseball stadium anchors a recreation complex that sits across the street from undeveloped land. It’s a significant opportunity for us.
Smitek: The issue that got me involved in this election was the bond issue and levy for a new library that will be on the November ballot. I think it’s a bad idea. It’s too big and too costly per square foot. I objected to City Council agreeing to place the library levy on the ballot on behalf of the library system. Council should have been a better watchdog of the public’s money by researching how much the project should cost. Council shouldn’t have approved this. Council should have been asking the tough questions.
Szilagyi: The biggest issue facing the city is taxes, and I take issue with tax abatements that are given to businesses and subsidized by taxpayers. Businesses don’t come here because we’re the mecca of shopping, they come here because it’s next to nothing to build. In my experience, shopping centers last about 15 years, so I’m concerned what will happen to the shopping centers in Avon if that’s what happens here.
Witherspoon: Growth is the single most important issue for the city of Avon. Development is going to continue because Avon has an excellent school system along with good city services, reasonable tax rates and economic stability. Action taken over the next 10 years will shape the face of Avon for generations to come.
Zegarac: Managing Avon’s growth as it relates to our residents’ quality of life is the biggest issue. Avon will continue to face many issues that will require much thought and research. Our taxpayers are concerned about these issues. We need to address the vacant buildings along Detroit Road. We need to locate more clean, industrial growth to our city. We are competing with other communities for these valuable companies. We need to deliver the best possible service to our residents on a consistent basis. People expect and deserve the most for their tax dollars.

How do you plan to address them?

Balmert: We need to get a plan to deal with future infrastructure issues and move forward. Part of that plan needs to be preparing for the cost of the improvements that will need to be made. We need a plan that says what infrastructure gets replaced and how frequently, at a minimum cost. Eventually we’ll need a new water tower in Avon and there’s talk of what we can do for the water tower, how much we need in gallons, but nobody is really talking about how we’re going to pay for this.
Berges: I want to deal with the residents as well as the business owners in Avon, making sure there’s enough revenue to support the need for infrastructure. I want to be reaching out to residents and communicate with them on a regular basis. A lot of them don’t know who their Council representatives are.
Flanigan: Discussions have begun through committees of Council and I’m confident we should have a sidewalk solution soon. The city of Avon has been lucky in regards to commercial and residential growth, but with that growth comes traffic. Traffic studies on state Route 611 have already been addressed and with the development and construction of our new Interstate 90-Lear Nagel exit, traffic should move more freely.
Pelfrey: I want to continue Council’s work drawing interest to the 611 and I-90 area and I’ve assisted in rezoning several areas throughout the city as mixed use, especially north of the freeway. The rezoning allowed businesses in those areas to come in that wouldn’t have been able to prior to Council’s intervention.
Smitek: I want to use city revenue to pay down the costs of some of its projects and want to work with the library to see that a more cost-effective library goes up.
Szilagyi: I want to work with businesses to ensure they don’t keep coming back to the city for abatements. I’m not against tax abatements, but don’t keep coming back to revive your business at our expense. Justify it.
Witherspoon: Growth can only be an advantage if you plan for it. Council spent several months updating the Avon Master Plan and because of our efforts, we have a guide for our future growth which includes residential, commercial, roads, parks, etc. I will continue to look into all opportunities presented to the city and take into consideration all information, comments and ideas.
Zegarac: I’ll address the issues with improved communication and research. Sometimes the first thought or answer isn’t the best answer. With Avon’s location and proximity to I-90, we will continue to have opportunities. Also, I’ll use our valuable resources, and that includes the opinions and talents of many of our residents.

What makes you stand out from the other candidates?

Balmert: The fact that I’ve been a resident nearly my entire life would serve me well in knowing what the city and the residents need. I also have an engineering background, which taught me how to be methodical in approach, how to budget time and money, and I have a better understanding and methodology about doing projects and handling things.
Berges: Well, it’s the fact that I’m interested and I tend to be proactive. I’ve been attending Council meetings regularly for the last five years and have seen how it operates. I also relish the role of being someone who likes to get things done. “Proactive” is a buzz word, but it’s important. If we wait for things to happen to us, we may be a little behind the eight ball.
Flanigan: I have the most experience out of all the candidates running for Council at large. I have two years of experience on the Zoning Board of Appeals in Avon, and I have four years of experience as a Councilman at large in Avon. Most importantly, I made an oath to myself and family that I would do everything in my power to make this the best city possible to raise a family and call home.
Pelfrey: I grew up here, spent most of my life here and I graduated from high school here. After two terms on Council, I have the experience necessary for the job and I have a fond memory of what Avon was like. I still remember its charm and appeal. It’s sort of a difficult thing trying to manage and effect positive development for the city and still maintain the charm of a small-town feel.
Smitek: My experience in both finance and construction gives me a better understanding of what development projects should cost, which I believe will be a necessity as Avon’s explosive growth doesn’t appear to have an end in sight.
Szilagyi: I’ve been in Avon for 33 years, so I know the city well. I’ll use my experience in real estate to help the city make good decisions with development.
Witherspoon: Experience. Thirty-four years living in Avon helps me understand the city’s growth because I have experienced it both as a resident and business owner. Two terms as Council at-large provides knowledge and continuity in city projects. I have no hidden agenda. I do what I do as a Council member for the good of the city and its residents. Avon is my home, my children’s and grandchildren’s home. While I am on Council, it is my job to help make the city the best it can be for everyone.
Zegarac: My experience in Avon sets me apart from most of the other candidates. Having seen this community grow, I have come to realize Avon’s true potential. I grew up here, went to school here and raised a family here. Avon is a very special place to me as it is to a lot of other people. My 30-plus years of successful business and management experience will also help. With every question and issue that comes up I will always ask “What is best for the city of Avon and its taxpayers?”

Steven Balmert

Steven Balmert

Steven Balmert
Age:
41
Education: Bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from The Ohio State University. Avon High School
Family: Wife of four years, Debbie, and two children, Mike, 17 and Matthew, 2.
Job history: Last 14 years as computer engineer for Rockwell Automation, Mayfield Heights.
 
Mary Berges

Mary Berges

Mary Berges
Age:
56
Education: Master’s degree in French from Kent State University and bachelor’s degree from John Carroll University
Family: Husband of 34 years, Tom, and children Nicole, 28, and Michael, 24
Job history: Thirty years human resource experience with higher education, manufacturing and financial services.
 
Kevin Patrick Flanigan II

Kevin Patrick Flanigan II

Kevin Patrick Flanigan II
Age:
37
Education: Baldwin-Wallace College, communications major
Family: Wife, Amy, and 18-month-old son, Sean
Job history: TV commercial advertising sales for CBS for the last two years and 10 years as sales director for Cleveland Scene and Cleveland Free Times publications and current at-large member of Avon City Council.
 
Clinton PelfrEy

Clinton PelfrEy

Clinton PelfrEy
Age:
44
Education:Master’s in economics from Widener University Graduate School of Business, Philadelphia; graduate of Cannon Financial Institute at University of North Carolina-Charlotte; bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University, Avon High School graduate
Family: Wife of 18 years, Catherine, and three daughters Rachel, 14; Grace, 12; and Evelyn, 9
Job history: Currently senior vice president and senior investment officer for Huntington Bank and at-large representative for Avon City Council.
 
Gary Smitek

Gary Smitek

Gary Smitek
Age:
44
Education: Master’s of business administration from Columbia University
Family: Wife Colleen and daughters Audrey, 5, and Natalie, 3
Job history: Has several years experience managing private investments and in home construction, including 11 years as an investment banker with Key Corp.
 
Jozsef Szilagyi

Jozsef Szilagyi

Jozsef Szilagyi
Age:
58
Education: Graduated from Admiral King High School and received training through Lorain County Community College
Family: Wife of 33 years, Sanwa, and children Sandor, 32; A.D., 28; and Victoria, 28
Job history: Spent last 27 years with FirstEnergy and 10 years with U.S. Steel, also has been involved with real estate for the last 10 years as well.
 
Craig Witherspoon

Craig Witherspoon

Craig Witherspoon
Age:
61
Education: Elyria High School graduate, Lorain County Community College — mechanical engineering
Family: Wife Carolyn, sons Brian and Jim
Job history: Previously owned Witherspoon Opticians in Avon and currently manages Berris Optical in Rocky River, currently serving as Avon Council president as an at-large representative.
 
Dan Zegarac

Dan Zegarac

Dan Zegarac
Age:
53
Education: Avon High School and two years at Kent State University and also continued education in managing retail operations
Family: Children Dan, 27; Joe, 24; Bob, 21; Paul, 19 and Katie, 15.
Job history: Sales manager at Ganley Chevrolet and has successfully managed companies with 50 to 100 employees and more than $30 million in sales.