Thursday, November 09, 2000

Butler leaders see mandate for growth

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — The re-election of Commissioners Mike Fox and Chuck Furmon means that Butler County will keep its foot on the pedal when it comes to economic development.

        Mr. Fox, Mr. Furmon, and fellow Republican Commissioner Courtney Combs, who did not have to run for re-election this year, have emphasized growth and jobs the past three years.

        They're planning more major highway construction and the creation of a fiber-optic network designed to attract high-tech businesses with good-paying jobs.

        “We want continued growth in employment opportunities,” Mr. Fox said.

        Both incumbents beat their opponents Tuesday by wide margins. Mr. Fox defeated Democrat Terry Bridge by more than 34,000 votes, and Mr. Furmon beat Catherine Stoker by almost 20,000 votes.

        “I'm really elated,” Mr. Furmon said. “We have a lot to be proud of in Butler County, but we don't want to sit on our laurels.”

        Mr. Fox said he was relieved the election was over.

        “Running for election,” he said, “is like sitting in a dunking booth on the midway at a fair, with every malcontent getting to throw at you until they dunk you. That's what elections in America are like.”

        One of the board's first priorities is to begin installing a broadband fiber-optic cable system that commissioners hope will eventually spread throughout the county and include residences as well as schools, government offices and businesses. The system will cost an estimated $6 million to $8 million.

        The county administration is negotiating with companies that submitted bids to install the system. Initially, the system would link Miami University's Oxford, Hamilton and Middletown campuses.

        “Then we'll push it out into West Chester and along the I-75 corridor,” Mr. Fox said.

        The county's next major road project is the extension of Symmes Road to Union Centre Boulevard. Construction may start early next year.

        Another high priority of the commissioners is the extension of Ohio 63 to Trenton.

        Both road projects are expected to spur commercial and industrial development.

        “So much of the Symmes Road area is prime for economic development,” Mr. Furmon said.

        Mr. Bridge and Ms. Stoker want growth to continue, but worry that the county won't make sure the growth is orderly and well planned.

        “I think a little more caution needs to be used,” Mr. Bridge said. “I'd like to see more public input and thought put into the growth and expansion of the rest of the county.”

        Ms. Stoker, a West Chester Township trustee, said the county commissioners need to keep quality-of-life issues in mind.

        “My concern is that on the county level, they get all caught up with roads and forget about the rest of it,” she said. “Businesses and residents want areas with low crime and a clean, attractive environment.”


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