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Park board, county candidates speak at forum

A public forum Monday gave candidates on the June 12 ballot a chance to offer their insights on the challenges facing Dickinson.

The forum, held at Dickinson City Hall and hosted by Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce, was attended by more than 30 people.

Brad Fong and Cara Utt are running for park board, both for the first time, and Carla Arthaud is challenging incumbent Russ Hoff for a seat on the Stark County Commission.

Fong, owner for 41 years of Parkway Ford and now retired, has participated in parks & rec activities, he said, and described the board as "pretty well run."

Fong said he's running for park board because he has experience as a business owner and manager.

"I don't plan on working for the park board, I plan on being on the park board and maybe seeing some things, maybe people in the middle of the trees can't see the forest."

Utt, a native of Utah and Dickinson resident for five years, taught at a nature center and has worked in weed control, she said.

She enjoys the recreational opportunities available in Dickinson.

"Recreation is an important part of my family and I feel I can be a good fit," she said.

Asked how they would improve parks in Dickinson, Utt said she's impressed with number of parks, but there needs to be a more direct way to communicate with the park board.

"The one thing I've seen a few times, as a mother, is toys that have been broken. Even then I was not sure where to go to report things like that," she said.

Fong noted weather is a problem for the parks.

"It's a little bit of a challenge to deal with outside elements, but for the most part I think the department heads are doing a wonderful job with the resources they have," he said.

Asked what their three priorities would be if elected, Fong answered, "making DIckinson a place where people would want to live."

"I want to be involved in an events center," he said. "We couldn't build a veterans facility without parks and recreation involved. I would want to be involved with things downtown."

Utt said she wants to "continue to keep recreation available" and finding those areas maybe lacking in the community.

The biggest challenge, Utt said, is meeting community growth in a fiscally responsible manner.

"Looking at the operations and how they're run, and just doing our best to manage those choices, and looking for those opportunities to bring in more money for parks and recreation, and continuing to look at our growth," she said.

Fong said the biggest challenge is "maintaining the good quality of people we have" on the park board and "not making deep waves."

Asked how they would manage the difference between budget and providing services, Utt said would listen to both departments heads and the community.

Fong said attention needs to be paid to what people are asking for and "not just throw money at this because we think it's going to take off." Fong noted the popularity of golf and softball in the community.

"We have to put our money where the users are," he said.

County Commission

Two candidates are seeking one seat on the Stark County Commission.

Arthaud is a long-time dairy farmer and with her husband was owner of Bogey's Diner.

"I think there could be more community involvement," she said. "I'd like to go through the budget more line-by-line. I think there's places to cut and maybe there's places you could spend more on."

Hoff has been a county commissioner for 12 years. He said he first ran for the seat because he cares about Stark County and still does.

The commissioners, he said, are able to distinguish between the county's needs and wants.

"We've taken care of a lot of roads. We've taken care of bridges. We've added on to our courthouse. We've done a lot of different things," he said. "The needs of Stark County don't change. There are always needs."

The biggest challenge facing the commission, Huff said, is keeping the county's mill levies down.

"There's always that issue of, what are the main needs of the county and keeping that down," he said. "There are different things taking place that we don't have a whole lot of control of, but we're in charge of the checkbook."

Arthaud asserted the county's boards could be better managed.

"I think it has been pushed to the wayside," she said. "You can go to your county commission meeting, you can look at the minutes and you know what's going on countywise. But then it just spiderwebs out."

She added, "I think some of the boards can be run a little better and run a little tighter."

Asked how to bring more retail to the county, Arthaud said she does not know.

"I'm not a politician," she said. "I'm not going to say something. I don't know how you would attract more retail to the county."

Key to retail, Huff said, is zoning. He serves as chairman of the zoning board.

"You've got to have organization," he said. "In order to attract these, you have to have them in the right area."

The three biggest for priorities for Huff, he said, would be keeping property taxes managed, finding a new site for Stark County Social Services, and keeping the roads and bridges in tact.

"The last few years we've been trying to do two to three bridges a year," he said. "Everything we do in the county comes back to the word safe."

Arthaud said her priorities would be a good budget, community involvement, and protecting the county's new outdoor arena.

Good governance, Huff said, is putting the "right directors in the right places."

"Whatever they do there, it comes back to you," he said. "It's a situation where you've got to watch what you're doing."

Arthaud agreed that having the right people on the right boards is important. She advocated having "time frames" for board members.

"On some of the boards, I feel people get stagnant. They want to stay on the board, and that's great, but they become quiet. They don't stay vocal. And it just goes back and forth," she said. "You don't see much of the fixing going on."

Huff said he envisions Stark County as a safe place for families to come and grow.

"We need to keep our young people here," he said, "and hopefully that's what we can do."

Arthaud said she would like to make a difference in Stark County's future.

"I think when you do something you do it to your best ability," she said. "I think there needs to be just a little, not a lot, but a few things that need to be fixed in Stark County."

The June 12 ballot will also include four candidates for Dickinson City Commissioners seeking two seats: Kyle Jost and Nicole Wolla are challenging incumbents Jason Fridrich and Klayton Oltmanns.