Candidate Profile: James Hursey

Name: James E. Hursey (Jim)

Age: 55

Immediate Family members: Wife, Carmen.

Town: Swansea

Office Seeking: St. Clair Township Highway Commissioner

Why are you running? I am running to make sure that the township roads receive the best possible care at the lowest possible cost. Road Commissioner Kernan has wasted Road District money by hiring at least one unneeded employee, giving employees overly generous wages and benefits, failing to bid out 30 different road projects, re-opening the unneeded Mine Haul Road at a cost in excess of $200,000, and suing the township board to try to force the board to adopt his proposed road budget.

What is your view on Township Government and its role? Townships were developed long ago to serve rural areas. Townships are not well suited for an urban location where they overlap municipal government boundaries. This overlap creates inequities in taxation where municipal residents fund Township road districts but receive no services from the road district. I would favor changes in the state statutes to eliminate this taxation inequity. I also favor changes in state statutes to allow for township residents to be able to more easily put a binding referendum on the ballot to dissolve their township and transfer its duties to other levels of government. Current statutes make it practically impossible to put such a referendum on the ballot.

If you were writing a job description of the position you’re seeking, what would it say? The Highway Commissioner is responsible for maintaining the township roads, setting the road district tax levy, managing the road employees, negotiating a union contract that is fair to both the taxpayers and employees, proposing a road budget, working cooperatively with the board to adopt the budget, and then living within the budget.

What is the most important issue facing St. Clair Township? The most important issue for the Township Road District is maintaining the roads at the lowest possible cost while being fair to all taxpayers. Unlike Highway Commissioner Skip Kernan, I would work cooperatively with the Board of Trustees to develop a Road District budget, and then I would live within that budget. Unlike Kernan, I would not have to lay off the entire road crew because I overspent my budget. I would do everything in my power to reduce taxes, not raise them like has been done by Kernan. The tax that Kernan chose to raise was a tax that does not benefit municipal residents in the Township (Swansea, Shiloh, and Fairview Heights). Taxation should be fair to all township taxpayers.

St. Clair Township has had its share of controversies lately including sewer rates and the number of employees in the highway department. What are your views on these issues? The Road District should hire only the number of full-time employees necessary for the slowest work period of the year. Additional part-time employees or contractors could be hired during the busy time of the year. It is important to keep the work force as small as possible to reduce costs and to reduce the long-term pension obligations on the taxpayers. Keeping the employee numbers low will free up more money to do major road improvements that must be contracted out. Examples of these projects would be asphalt resurfacing and major concrete work.

The Highway Commissioner has no authority over the sewer rates but I would advise the board to work to renegotiate the sewer agreement with Swansea to lower the 30 percent upcharge. Highway Commissioner Kernan has publicly supported a lawsuit against Swansea over the sewer agreement. This shows terrible leadership and makes it nearly impossible for his party, “Citizens for a Better Township”, to be able to renegotiate the sewer agreement with Swansea.

Why should people vote for you? I am running as an independent candidate. I will work full-time to make sure the Township roads are well maintained and work hard to find ways to reduce costs and taxes. I will work cooperatively with the board of trustees in developing a road district budget, and I will live within that budget unlike Commissioner Kernan. I will not sue or advocate suing the township or neighboring municipalities as has been done by Commissioner Kernan as this will waste taxpayer money and produce ill will that will not serve the township residents well.