As there is an ongoing battle over how many employees should be in the St. Clair Township Road District, and with memories of a controversial sewer rate increase, there are two sets of candidates in the township looking to win over voters in the April election.
The race features a group of independents in the non-partisan election, and a slate of candidates going by the name of Citizens for a Better Township for St. Clair Township.
Independents in the election include current Township Supervisor Dave Barnes, candidate for highway commissioner James E. Hursey, and two candidates for trustee — John Y. Vosler and Donald Wallace.
Candidates that are part of the Citizens for a Better Township slate include current St. Clair Township sewer employee Robert “Bob” Buechler running for supervisor, current Highway Commissioner Skip Kernan, clerk candidate Jana Armstrong Moll, assessor candidate Claire Prindable, and trustee candidates Michael Isenhart, Timothy D. Lockett Sr., Hart Morgan and Julie Zimmerman Miller.
Current Trustee Mary Carroll filed to run for re-election, and township resident Michelle Curry filed to run for clerk. Both were thrown off the ballot after they had some of their petitions notarized by a notary public in Missouri, instead of Illinois.
Kernan has battled with township trustees because he wants enough money allocated to have five employees in the road district during the 2017 fiscal year. Trustees have only approved 3.5 full-time employees and put more money toward road construction. The fight now has gone to court.
Kernan said his slate includes people who are frustrated with the township.
“These people (are) sick and tired with what’s going on with the current situation,” Kernan said.
The highway commissioner pointed out a township sewer employee is running against his current boss, which alone would indicate frustration within the township.
“Why would an employee run against his boss?” Kernan said.
I am surprised that he picked someone to run for assessor. That will cost the township $18,000 over four years when the county does it for $1 a year.
St. Clair Township Supervisor Dave Barnes
Kernan said residents want services in return for their tax dollars.
“A majority of the current board want you to have less services for their dollars,” he said.
Kernan cited the sewer rate controversy as a reason for why there are people who are unhappy.
The township and the village of Swansea signed a sewer agreement in 2014 that raised sewer rates for township residents who did not live in the village of Swansea.
“I think all these people got tired with how the township is ran and wanted to make a change, especially with sewer rates,” Kernan said. “A lot won’t forget how we were represented.”
Buechler said Barnes has not been working with employees of the township, even though he promised to do so when first elected. Buechler cited how an employee was laid off for a lack of money and lack of work but said there isn’t a lack of work.
Buechler added there was an incident where Barnes didn’t send an employee to a training even though it was promised.
“It’s been one thing after another,” Buechler said.
Barnes said he wasn’t surprised there is a slate of candidates running with Kernan.
“I am surprised that he picked someone to run for assessor,” Barnes said. “That will cost the township $18,000 over four years when the county does it for $1 a year.”
Barnes also defended sewer rates in the township, and added the board of trustees looks at sewer fees on an annual basis.
“We actually reduced our rates for our users,” Barnes said. “We reduced base rates, reduced transfer fees for ones living in Swansea by 35-40 percent. We still have to maintain lines, we still have get something to maintain those lines.”
“Next year if we could reduce it more, we’ll reduce it more,” Barnes said.
He said the township has been conservative with the sewer operations.
“I’m in the township,” Barnes said. “I get billed. I don’t want any more of my money going out of my pocket than I have to.”
Hursey, who has been an O’Fallon Township trustee in the past, as well as an alderman in O’Fallon, said he wanted to get more involved in the township after moving to Swansea.
The road commissioner candidate said he doesn’t like the spending by Kernan.
“The current road commissioner is not obeying the rules and you have to have someone who is accountable,” Hursey said. “I don’t like to spend beyond my budget.”