|Russ Tierney was first elected as a Highland Township trustee in 2004. He has been the owner and operator of RT Sales for over 20 years. Tierney has also served on the Highland Planning Commission and the township’s Sidewalk Committee.|
Ten candidates — Mary Pat Chynoweth, Charles Dittmar, Jim Gorman, Brenda Granroth, Brian Howe, Bob Husic, Joe Jozwiak, Beth Lewis, Raymond P. Polidori and Russ Tierney — are competing for one of four trustee positions on the Highland Township Board of Trustees in the Tuesday, Aug. 7 Republican primary election. Since no Democrats filed to run for a trustee position on the township board, the top four vote-getters will each earn a four-year term that pays a base annual salary of $5,531.
The following are questions we posed to Tierney, and his responses to those questions.
BUDGET: All municipal governments in Michigan have faced difficult budget scenarios over the past few years, as declines in property values have produced a revenue stream that can’t keep up with various rising costs. What changes in township budgeting priorities or processes do you advocate to deal with these hurdles? Where could the township’s budget be trimmed back? What, if anything, in the budget should be held harmless from the budget ax?
TIERNEY: Over the course of the last four to five years, Highland Township has reduced the number of employees at the township offices. It may be possible to make another reduction in employees without affecting services residents expect. Benefits also could be subject to changes.
DEVELOPMENT: Some in the community are striving to preserve the township’s rural character while others are yearning for more business development in Highland. Is there a way that Highland can maintain its rural ethos while attracting new business and development? If so, how? If not, why not?
TIERNEY: Highland has maintained its rural character and most residents support that. There are several business opportunities in Highland Township as there are already several vacant properties. We need to create a more welcoming environment at the Highland Township offices for potential proprietors and development. The Highland Downtown Development Authority is working on revitalizing the downtown area.
PUBLIC SAFETY: Highland voters are being asked to authorize a two-year, 0.75-mill increase in local property taxes to continue providing for police services in the township, with the increased revenue generated in the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) District being disbursed to the DDA. Please explain why you do or don’t support the ballot question.
TIERNEY: I support the Oakland County Sheriff substation in Highland Township. Because of the rising cost of sheriff services and the declining tax revenue caused by declining property values, the township has been paying for the shortage of the existing police millage out of its General Fund. In early 2012, Highland Township representatives met with Oakland County Undersheriff McCabe and the decision was made to eliminate 1 patrol officer and 1 investigation officer and replace Lt. Pement with Sergeant Snyder. Sergeant Snyder determined that we needed the two (deputies) replaced in order to be efficient and safe. I rely upon the commander of the substation to operate it as he sees fit. The police millage should support police services and I support the millage request.
I DO NOT SUPPORT ANY MILLAGE REQUEST IN A PRIMARY ELECTION. THIS SHOULD BE ON THE NOVEMBER BALLOT WHEN WE HAVE A LARGER VOTER TURNOUT.
PATHWAYS: The township is considering a master plan for future non-motorized paths in the community, after about a year of work. Please state why you do or don’t believe embarking on future path projects should be a priority in the township.
TIERNEY: A majority of Highland Township residents would like to see pathway and sidewalk improvements and I support them. The only funding available at the moment is within the DDA budget. These funds need to be spent in the most responsible way possible. I would like to see basic sidewalk improvement first rather than a complete streetscape project.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the township, and how do you propose to address them?
TIERNEY: Maintaining a balanced budget is always the top issue.
• The vacant Highland Middle School building and what is going to happen with this vacant property.
• Sidewalk improvements as well as pathway development. We need to get these projects moving.
• The development of the Downtown Highland area. We need to work on improving the infrastructure in this area to make it more desirable for potential businesses.
WHY YOU? Why specifically should voters choose you over your opponents?
TIERNEY: Voters should consider me as their choice for Highland trustee because I strongly believe in small government and low taxes, my history of scrutinizing every expense, and making decisions based on common sense and what benefits the residents and business owners.