Butler Township Trustee candidates answer questions

VANDALIA — This is the first of a three-part series in which candidates for Butler Township Trustee, the Vandalia-Butler Board of Education, and Vandalia City Council respond to a set of questions sent to each candidate by the Vandalia Drummer News.

This installment will publish the answers given by Butler Township Trustees Ken Betz and Mike Lang. Both candidates are running unopposed. Candidate order is alphabetical.


Name: Ken Betz

Current occupation: Retired Director of Montgomery County Coroner’s Office and Miami Valley Regional Crime Laboratory

Current elected office (if any): Butler Township Trustee

Prior elected offices held: None

Educational experience: BS from the University of Dayton, MS from Xavier University, graduate of FBI National Academy, adjunct professor at Sinclair Community College Criminal Justice program

Please describe the professional or other experience or attributesthat you feel qualify you for the office you seek:

On July 8, 2017 I retired after 45 years of public service from Montgomery County where I served as Director of the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office and Miami Valley Regional Crime Laboratory. I was responsible for the development and administration of budgets in excess of eight million dollars per year with a staff of over
60 professionals.

During my tenure, I served on many community committees including MC Child Death, Domestic Violence Death Review, Criminal Justice Council, Family First Council and others. I currently serve as Chairman of Lions Eye Bank of West Central Ohio, a non profit dedicated to providing corneal tissue to the sight impaired.

I was appointed to Butler Township’s finance committee where I served until I was appointed Trustee in January 2017.

Name: Mike Lang

Current occupation: Sergeant, Englewood Police Department

Current elected office (if any): Butler Township Trustee

Prior elected offices held: N/A

Educational experience: Purdue University, BS; University ofDayton, MPA

Please describe the professional or other experience or attributesthat you feel qualify you for the office you seek:

At nineteen years of age, just out of Butler High School, and barely out of my first year of college, I started work as a paid-on-call firefighter with the Butler Township Fire Department. I was sworn in when the township offices and meeting room were still housed in Vandalia Station 1, an arrangement made prior to the creation of the Vandalia Fire Department. Circumstances aside, that day, twenty six years ago, started my career of public service.

In the following years, I continued my service to the township by advancing through the ranks and finally “retiring” as Captain, fifteen years later. In the interim, I took another job as a public safety dispatcher with the Englewood Police Department. This job led me down the law enforcement path with EPD. Starting as a
dispatcher, and eventually patrol officer, detective, and currently Sergeant, I manage the daytime operation after 21 years as a full-time police officer.

I’ve balanced over two decades in local government with my
education at Purdue and the University of Dayton. The confluence of my experiences have ultimately given me guidance, experience, and knowledge to cover both operational and policy decision onthe board of trustees.

Ultimately, I have always been guided by the basic principle of service. To give back to the community I was raised is the highest reward.

Q: Bringing back local control has been a high priority of the Board of Trustees over the past few years. What is your view of this issue and how can the Board continue to push for more local control?

Betz: As a township in Ohio, we have limited authority by Ohio Statute. However, Butler Township has established an ongoing working relationship with the cities of Vandalia, Dayton and other neighboring communities to address opportunities and initiatives which benefit our citizens. We must continue to express the needs of our Township to our elected State representatives and greatly emphasize the negative impact financial legislation (local government fund) has on us. Our role as Trustees must be to keep the Butler Township citizens informed on Federal and State issues impacting our quality of life.

Lang: I firmly believe those closest to the problem are the best suited to solve it. I have, and will, continue to push our legislators to allow us to make decisions in our best interest. Continued conversations are key within our bounds of a statutory form of government. The short answer is we will always do what we can in our best interest when state law allows it.

Q: State and federal mandates can, and often do, contradict with the notion of local control. What in your view is the proper role of the local Board of Trustees, state, and federal government? If these conflict, what is the role of the Board of Trustees and the Township?

Betz: Same as answer above

Lang: As a statutory form of government, our ability to “go it alone,” is very limited. Our powers of governance are received directly from the state and in turn, the state is bound by the laws given to the federal government by the United States Constitution. Regarding mandates, our priority is to adhere to the law. Our focus is to educate legislators, before the law being made, so mandates are neither unfunded nor hardships. Unfortunately, neither is an easy task. We depend heavily and engage with frequently, the Ohio Township Association, who lobbies for us in Columbus.

Q: What do you see as the opportunities and challenges Butler Township will face over the next five years?

Betz: Opportunities for Butler Township over the next five years are many:
We will continue to promote the Miller Lane Business District, bringing additional businesses to the area making Butler Township “a place for people to go” for shopping, dinner and lodging.
We will continue to aggressively insure the safety and security of our residents by providing quality police, fire and road services.
Continue to support the Vandalia-Butler school district insuring quality education for our children.
Insure that the monies provided Butler Township through levies are allocated in a manner that provides the best services possible.

Lang: Our challenges as a township will always be financial. While we have made tremendous strides, over time, our operational costs will always increase at a rate greater than our revenue sources. Our challenge will be to responsibly control costs while continuing to maintain the quality of services residents have come to expect. It’s often a difficult balancing act, but with the creation of our Township Budget Committee, a challenge we are up to.

Our opportunities are bound by the continued success of the
region, along with the continued success of Miller Lane. Positive growth in our commercial district adds not only to the quality of life for our residents but a built-in tax base to support it.

Q: Many residents are concerned about crime, especially on Miller Lane. Are those concerns valid and if so, what can be done to reduce crime?

Betz: Chief John Porter has aggressively deployed his resources to make Butler Township a safe community. The department has hired additional officers to patrol our neighborhoods, being more visible in our community and promoting a number of safety programs in our neighborhoods.

Yes there are, on occasion, “problems” on Miller Lane. However, Chief Porter has partnered with other law enforcement agencies joining a task force in the area for the purpose of addressing the drugs, prostitution and theft issues. Proactive policing on Miller lane will restore the communities perception of a “safe place” to shop.

Lang: Crime will always be a concern, especially in a commercial area straddling two interstate highway systems. Our keys to success in the area are visibility, engagement with the business community, and help leveraged by our participation in various multi-jurisdictional taskforces. There is no doubt our local concerns are also impacted by larger regional issues like the current opioid epidemic.

Q: Another major area of concern for Township residents is development west of the airport and the resulting traffic, trucks, and noise. While these areas are primarily in the Cities of Dayton and Union, what can/is the Township doing to mitigate the impact on its residents?

Betz: There has been substantial development of property near the Dayton Airport by the Cities of Union and Dayton resulting in increased traffic, noise and heavy trucks. Neighborhoods are concerned that their quality of life is threatened by the development.

Our administration has been and will continue to work with our counterparts from the City of Dayton to develop service agreements and cooperative partnerships to address the business expansions near the Airport. We will continue to discuss concerns related to traffic, noise and other issues with both our citizens and the adjoining cities. Unfortunately, the Township is limited by Statute and the areas in question are not within our jurisdiction.

Lang: This has been and will continue to be a difficult issue. We have little control over what happens in other jurisdictions, as evident by recent annexations and commercial development in Union. Regardless, we will always advocate for our residents. The best approach has been to build and maintain relationships with our counterparts, specifically, the City of Dayton, who has been understanding and helpful in addressing our concerns.

Q: It is sometimes necessary to represent the needs of the community by taking an action that is not popular with the people in attendance at the Board Meeting, based on information available only to the Board. Please describe how you would address this issue when it arises.

Betz: My philosophy is simple. Keep the citizens informed through our newsletter, web page and our bimonthly workshops. Citizens are encouraged to attend the public meetings and participate. Open government creates an informed community. Community concerns should be raised at our meetings and the citizens must be recognized and respected for their suggestions and opinions. As Trustee, I have an obligation to listen to citizens, conduct open debate and interaction and most importantly, respect my fellow Trustees and citizens.

Lang: I believe in doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason. We are elected to represent the entire township and yes, at rare times, the needs of the township are greater than those in attendance at a meeting. While I firmly believe in governing based on the wants of our constituents, the best way to avoid a perceived unpopular action is a history of steady, informed, unbiased, and
consistent leadership.

Q: While the Board of Trustees has been relatively peaceful the past few months, that hasn’t been the case in the year prior. What is your view on debate and interactions with fellow trustees, residents, etc. when considering controversial matters?

Betz: Same as above answer.

Lang: I encourage and enjoy the rigorous debate of public policy issues facing the township. While the question refers to the unsteady year of 2016, the previous six years I served also featured rigorous debate from differing political positions. The distinct difference was decorum.

We all, and should, argue from our positions of opinion with
knowledge and passion. But with that said, no matter how much our opinions differ, the debate must be grounded in mutual respect. If not, the takeaway isn’t the issue, it’s the antics. The issue is what matters.

Q: Sidewalks on Little York Road to Smith Elementary and on Stonequarry Road to Morton Middle School are a significant concern to school officials and many residents. This would require significant funding commitments, especially by the Township for the Little York Road portion. Do you support building sidewalks and if so, how do you propose to fund them?

Betz: The expansion of sidewalks for Smith Middle School and Morton Junior High School are under current study and discussion with the Board of Education and our administrator. There are a number of financial and practical issues that must be addressed before moving forward. The County is responsible for the “cross walks” at Peters Pike and Stonequarry Rd., Vandalia is responsible for frontage at the sports complex and an assessment may be necessary for the property owners in the proposed area.

The Vandalia-Butler BoE is responsible for the frontage property for Smith Middle School on Little York Rd., and an assessment may be necessary for the property owners in the proposed area.

The Estimated cost for the projects is approximately $ 500,000.00. Butler Township is reviewing the opportunity for State funding or a combination of TIF (Tax Increment Finance District) monies, property owners assessment and general fund monies. Butler Township is not in a financial position to solely fund the project.

Lang: I support the idea of sidewalks, but at present, the cost makes the project impossible to support. Current engineering costs peg the project over a half a million dollars. Grant efforts, in an attempt to reduce local financial burden, have fallen short. Little York is a road maintained by Montgomery County. While long-term, there are plans to widen Little York, those plans could be decades away. I’ve long advocated for not sidewalks, but a bike path extension of the roadway. Regardless of its final form, the engineering, topography, and construction make this a very expensive project.

While presently, there is no current way forward, we will continue to re-evaluate and discuss this idea internally, as well as with the Vandalia-Butler Board of Education.