FAIRBORN — A pair of Bath Township Trustees are facing challenges in November.
Incumbents Tom Pitstick and Steve Ross are seeking re-election while Michelle Clements and Rob Hoffman are looking to join the trustees for the first time.
Here is a look at all four.
Clements grew up in Jamestown. She and her husband moved to Fairborn seven years ago and currently works in emergency management for Clark County. Clements is married to Zach Pitstick, a distant cousin of current Trustee Tom Pitstick and is using her maiden name in the election to avoid any confusion. She also said that she believes the name Pitstick currently has a negative connotation because of Tom Pitstick’s connection with the biodigester.
Clements believes that the biggest issue in this election is the biodigester. She feels strongly that the odor being emitted is due to waste that’s improperly processed and that the trustees should be doing more to hold Renergy and Dovetail Energy accountable.
“There are biodigesters all over the United States that, if run properly, don’t emit the odor that this one is emitting,” she said. “Working with Dovetail Renergy has to be step number one. We’ve got to get a cover on the lagoon. We’ve got to stop the expansion until we get the digester running appropriately.”
Another issue Clements believes is important in this election is fiscal responsibility.
“In 2020, Bath Township gave back over $340,000 in CARES act funds because they didn’t know how to spend the money. To me, that’s irresponsible and incomprehensible,” she said. She also believes that the disparity in salary between Bath Township’s administrator and other township employees contributes to the township’s high turnover rate.
“We need to look at current employees, their wages, their benefit package, and create a harmonious work environment,” she said.
According to Clements, the township’s lack of a strategic plan is a third issue.
“I come from the emergency management world where planning is my job. I think it’s very hard for a township to flourish if we don’t even know where we’re trying to go,” she said.
Hoffman moved to Fairborn in the early 90s when he was station at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He served two terms on city council and originally didn’t plan to run for Bath Township trustee.
“I started going to the meetings and watched how these citizens were being treated by the trustees,” he said. “It upset me so I decided to do something about it.”
He believes that the biggest issues in this race are the biodigester, fiscal responsibility, and a lack of trust between the current trustees and the citizens.
According to Hoffman, mitigating odor, preventing expansion, and developing an emergency plan are the most important things to consider with the biodigester.
“Fighting future expansion is a top priority. Right now they have over five million gallons of waste. The company that owns it is looking to expand it to over 30 million gallons of waste,” he said. He’s concerned that without adequate planning, the Fairborn Fire Department could be at a disadvantage when dealing with the biodigester in the future. He’s also concerned about how the funds Bath Township receives as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will be spent and how long they’ll last.
“They have about $890,000 coming to the township and I believe personally that spending that on a single large project is fiscally irresponsible,” he said.
Hoffman believes that increased collaboration between the Bath Township Trustees and Fairborn City Council will lead to an increase in problem solving and that he’s the best person to make that happen.
“We share roads. We share schools. We’re one community and two separate legal entities and there’s been no collaboration between us for the last eight years,” he said. He also wants to remind everyone that all Fairborn residents can vote for Bath Township trustee, even those who don’t reside in Bath Township.
Pitstick is a lifelong resident of Bath Township and a farmer. He believes the biggest issues in this election are the biodigester, which sits on his property, and how to spend the ARPA money from the federal government.
He believes that some of the township’s odor complaints are directly related to a class-action lawsuit that’s been filed against Dovetail and him for odor nuisance.
“There’s a lot of people that don’t know this class-action lawsuit exists and it might not hurt to let people understand why this group is so loud. It’s the same group that filed the suit,” he said. According to Pitstick, some of the complaints were filed specifically to to lay the groundwork for the lawsuit.
“We run into people all over the place that say I’ve never smelled it. In the same plat where people are complaining, people will say they’ve never smelled it,” he said.
“The digester is an issue, but so is how we spend this federal money that we’re getting,” Pitstick said. He believes that one place for where to spend the ARPA money is repairing Ravenwood Drive.
“There’s a deep road ditch through this housing development that’s probably in places five feet or more deep. When it rains hard, there’s a lot of water that runs through there. A number of years ago we had requests from some of the residents there to do something about it,” he said. He also emphasized that the township has two years to spend the money and that they should spend it wisely.
Another priority for Pitstick is to preserve the future of farming in Bath Township.
One way to protect farmland is to enter it into a conservation easement with the Tecumseh land trust. He worries that if township trustees have a vested interest in seeing the city of Fairborn expand, they’ll be less willing to enter into conservation easements with farmers and more farmland will disappear.
Ross and his wife moved their optical business to Fairborn in 1985 and have lived there ever since. He said he is running for re-election because the job isn’t finished. He believes that the biggest issue currently facing Bath Township is the biodigester.
The trustees have been trying to get Dovetail to fix Herr Road, where the biodigester is located, since 2018. They negotiated with the company, but Dovetail declined to pay for repairs and the township has been unable to force them to do so, Ross said.
“They said we pay our taxes,” Ross said. “A better owner/operator of that facility would have fixed Herr Road a long time ago. Likewise, a better owner/operator would have mitigated the odor a long time ago.”
Ross emphasized that zoning is the only tool the township has to fight Dovetail.
“Zoning is the only hammer that a township in Ohio has. The only thing we can enforce is zoning and they showed up with an exemption,” he said. The township tried to shut down the biodigester by bringing it before the board of zoning appeals. The company appealed the board’s decision, claiming it’s exempt from zoning laws because it’s a public utility, and a judge agreed. The township has appealed this ruling, but the appeal isn’t expected to be resolved until at least June 2022.
If the appeal doesn’t succeed, then the only solution may lie in changing the way Bath Township interacts with the EPA. Ross has proposed a coalition involving citizens of Bath Township and an environmental attorney, who he hopes can help them navigate the EPA.
“The EPA should be telling Dovetail Renergy, you have to be as efficient as other operators in the US or you can’t be an operator. If we lose the appeal, the only shot we have at dealing with Dovetail Renergy is through the EPA and we’d better be doing it correctly.”
Reach MacKenzie Tastan at 937-502-4534