All seven members of Delhi Township’s Board of Trustees are up for re-election this fall. And in next Tuesday’s primary, voters have some pretty clear choices.
In particular, they’re considering the message of a trio of conservatives who call the board a “good old boys” club that’s out of sync with voters on spending. Others say the township’s in great shape and accuse the group of spreading misinformation.
The primary is an extension of an earlier battle. In May, Delhi voters reversed a board decision to build a cutting edge sludge drying facility that would have cost taxpayers $2.6 million. The margin left little to doubt.
Republican Jeff Hall is a candidate for the job of a fellow Republican, Supervisor Stuart Goodrich.
“By 59 to 41 the people said, ‘This is not what we want. Do you hear us now?’” he says.
Hall led the effort to put the project back before voters. The GOP Supervisor contest has become the most talked about in the township.
Hall says Delhi has a ‘tax and spend’ board that needs to change. He claims the board has too many Goodrich appointees. He says the dryer episode in particular shows the majority has lost touch with residents.
“We heard person after person after person come up and give comment at the board meetings and then board just does the exact opposite with a 5-2 majority,” he says.
Hall’s running alongside two other fiscal conservatives—incumbent trustee Derek Bajema and Treasurer candidate Steve Dougan. They criticize the board majority for its approach to spending.
“Nobody’s gonna move here because we have a sludge dryer,” he maintains. “They’re going to move here because we have great schools, but our mills are what scare them away.”
Stuart Goodrich has been Delhi Township supervisor for 10 years.
“My opponents are lying about a number of things that are going on in Delhi Township,” he insists.
Goodrich counters the ‘good old boys’ charge by saying that all appointees are duly approved by a majority of the board. Since two recent ones are Democrats, he claims his support has aggravated his challengers. He admits to wanting diversity on the board and says he relies more on competence than party affiliation.
“I’ve never asked….NEVER asked…anybody to vote because I thought it was the way they should vote,” he declares.
Another hot-button issue involves the growing cost of processing the township’s storm water. Conservative candidates--adamantly against new taxes--are outraged by talk on the board of “a separate funding source” in the future to pay for storm water. They say there’s a pattern in Delhi of creating new funding streams that eventually frees up other money that ends up paying for more new projects. They call it a “money grab.”
Goodrich says lower property values and the recession have shrunk township revenue to the point that separate funding sources are unavoidable.
“We had already cut 11 positions, a couple of departments,” he says. “Our employees went a couple of years without raises. Their (insurance) has been cut.”
The atmosphere between the two factions has gotten so overheated that one Democratic Supervisor candidate, C.J. Davis, is running mainly out of a desire to clear the air of emotion and start over.
“I think the debate needs to be elevated a little bit and we need to learn to work together a little bit better on the township level than what I’ve perceived,” he says.
The atmosphere’s even more intense because Goodrich and others who supported the sludge dryer still maintain opponents recklessly exaggerated its costs.
Add up all the cross-currents, shifting spending priorities, the personalities and the emotion, and it appears Delhi Township leadership may be at a crossroad.