BELLBROOK — Four candidates, including one incumbent, are seeking three spots on the Bellbrook City Council in the November election.
Current councilman Forrest Greenwood is joined on the ballot by Meredith Brinegar, Katherine Cyphers, and Brady Harding. There is also an unexpired term ending Dec. 31, 2023 but no valid petition was filed, according to the ballot. Mayor is elected separately and current Mayor Michael Schweller is running unopposed.
Brinegar is running to “give back to the city that has served me.”
“Cities don’t run themselves,” she said. “It’s easy to forget this when our streets are regularly paved, snow is quickly removed, and we have competent and friendly police and fire service. Bellbrook does many things well … I would also like to help our city move closer to ideals for community belonging and inclusion, economic prosperity, and protecting our natural world.”
Improving community relations, caring for the city’s roads and drivers, and safe walkways are among the top issues facing the city, according to Brinegar.
“Our community has endured significant strife related to school funding in the last two years,” she said. “Neighbors are either afraid to talk to each other, or exchange heated words online. If you add on conflict related to COVID masks and vaccines, it sometimes feels as if the Bellbrook-Sugarcreek community is being torn apart. I propose that we make a collective effort to heal from this division.”
The city also needs to take a proactive approach to make sure roads, yards, and rivers can withstand the increasing amount of severe weather, Brinegar said. She also said the city needs safer pathways to schools “since they weren’t built as neighborhood schools.”
She would like to create a community culture and relations board, upgrade stormwater codes and infrastructure, adopt a plan for Little Sugarcreek Road, and have crosswalks with signs and flashing beacons at popular crossings downtown and near schools.
Cyphers said she is running because she has “an interest in maintaining the high standards of living we currently have and improving the quality of life for everyone who lives here.”
“I’ve been in federal public service for almost 30 years, I’d like to be able to contribute to the community I live in and keep it a great place to live,” she said.
Among the top issues facing the city are the stormwater management system, and unifying the goals of the city, residents, staff and businesses.
“Bellbrook has limited resources because the city does not have a city income tax,” she said. “We must efficiently use the resources we do have on essential city services while also applying for state and federal grants to fund projects like additional stormwater system improvements, major road repair to Little Sugarcreek Road, and safe routes for pedestrian travels. As a certified defense financial manager with decades of public service, I provide expert knowledge in government budgets, accounting, and audit that will ensure our resources are effectively utilized and safeguarded from waste.”
Cyphers said some want to use money for downtown aesthetics, while others want to invest resources into city-wide infrastructure, safety deficiencies, and green space. She would like to increase public input and collect concerns and priorities so she can “best represent the community as whole.”
She also said she would like more collaboration with Sugarcreek Township, the school district, and park districts to build and maintain a cohesive community.
Greenwood is seeking re-election “to continue serving the city to ensure we keep going with some of the projects and programs we have.”
The most pressing issues include downtown streetscape, Little Sugarcreek Road, stormwater, and continuing to support the fire, police, and service departments.
Little Sugarcreek Road will likely be the most expensive task.
“We haven’t got a final report from the engineers yet, whether it needs repaired soon or whether it can be managed,” Greenwood said. “That could be a large expense.”
The road started out as a cow path and has had “lots of fill” from over the years.
“It’s been settling at different times,” Greenwood said. “It’s not anything like its collapsed or anything. It’s been an ongoing thing for several years.” Heavy truck traffic has been stopped in order to minimize damage. The key decision is whether it can be managed or if it’s too dangerous and needs a complete overhaul, which could be upwards of $7-9 million, Greenwood said.
With increased rainfall, some areas will need to be addressed regarding stormwater runoff.
“We’re in an area where a lot of water comes from Cornerstone in Centerville and the township,” Greenwood said. “Water always runs downhill. We’re downhill. It’s just something we need to look at.”
Greenwood said the city can work with the other areas and engineers to solve the issues.
“A shift in upstream maintenance could help,” he said.
Regarding downtown, Greenwood said the streetscape plan incorporates “a lot of things that need to be done anyway.”
Those things include new crosswalks, and relocating and repairing sidewalks.
Harding, an architect, said his role is not simply to design buildings, “but to be a problem solver.”
“My job is to listen, dissect the issues at hand and help people understand what the best path is to solver their problems in the most cost-effective manner,” Harding said. “I am convinced my skill sets are well aligned with the city’s needs and I can serve our community in a positive manner.”
Infrastructure is the top issue facing the city and council, according to Harding.
“We need to find the best ways to finance the infrastructure needs that face our community without even thinking of an income tax or a hike in property taxes,” Harding said. “We need to work on the best ways to achieve approval of state and federal grants to help achieve our budgetary needs.”
A 25-year Bellbrook resident, Harding said if elected, he will “assist the mayor and council in finding the most economical solutions to the problems the city is facing. Support and publicly promote our fantastic police and fire departments. Seek new business growth in the area while maintaining the small-town charm that makes Bellbrook what it is. Drive community involvement in all aspects of government as we needs everyone’s participation to keep our community culture sound. Be available to all Bellbrook citizens who want their voice heard.”