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Paul Harner makes late decision to enter supervisor's race against Charles Alexander

Erin Negley
Evening Sun Reporter

10/28/2003 - Liberty Township supervisor Charles Alexander was running for re-election unopposed in the Nov. 4 election until Paul Harner decided to run a write-in campaign a few weeks ago.

Harner's main reason for seeking the six-year supervisor seat?

He opposes a 1,140-home planned residential development that could triple the township's population if approved.

"It doesn't retain a rural area and it doesn't help the environment there," he said. " It's a suburb. It will result in major infrastructure changes."

Alexander, a plumber and a farmer, has served as a supervisor since 1998. Prior to becoming a supervisor, he was a member of the Fairfield Area School District board for eight years.

He said he decided to seek re-election because "I serve with Mr. (Leonard) Sites and Mr. (John) Miller, and we've always got along reasonable."

Harner, a retired aeronautical engineer, decided to run a write-in campaign in early October. If elected, he said he'd like to update the township's zoning ordinance to eliminate planned residential developments to ensure Liberty Township retains a rural environment.

Last week the township's planning commission voted 3-2 to recommend supervisors eliminate that type of development from the current zoning rules.

"This agricultural, rural area does not need planned residential developments," Harner said.

The write-in candidate said the supervisors must make decisions on upcoming developments based on whether the plan complies with the zoning ordinance, not just their opinions.

And Harner said the plan for the Community of Liberty ­ the 1,140-unit housing development ­ does not meet the zoning ordinance.

Alexander said he wouldn't be upset "one bit" if plans for the proposed development stop or proceed. But he said he believes the development will be approved.

"Paul Harner can't stop it," he said. "I don't care who's elected. You can't stop it. They already spent too much money. As long as they're in the law, there's nothing you can do.

"What upsets me is people doing all the complaining are newcomers," said Alexander, who has lived in the township since 1940.

But Harner said he doesn't fit that characterization.

"I'm not one of those outsiders who come in and want to change things," said Harner, who moved back to his wife's family's farm in 1981.

In addition to keeping planned residential developments out of the township, Harner also would like to adopt a uniform building code for the township to assure new buildings are structurally sound, keep taxes reasonable and put the public's welfare first.

"Also, I want open communication," he said. "Township supervisors should let people know about what's going on."

Harner proposes mailing municipal news to the residents monthly or bi-monthly. While campaigning, he said he has found a lot of people with questions about township business.

"They don't know what's going on," he said.

Alexander said sending out more information than the township's newsletter would be expensive.

"A lot of people ask me, Why are you wasting money on the newsletter?'" he said.

The public should attend the township's meetings to learn what's happening, Alexander said.

Alexander also wanted to make clear he is not a financial partner with his son, Randy Alexander, who is drilling wells for the developer who plans to build the Community of Liberty.

Harner said in addition to his administrative background and communication skills, he knows how to make, read and meet a budget. In 1991, he won a distinguished executive award from former President George Bush.

"I have never run (for election) or assisted with the administration of a township. However, my background is certainly something that would help in this area," Harner said.

Alexander said he is the most qualified candidate because he knows the township's rules and road equipment as well as the people, and he's attended township meetings for years.

"I have never made a hardship for anybody in the last term," he said.

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