Council candidates square off: Ron Ballard

Ward 2 incumbent Ron Ballard says the job of a Councilman is to ask hard questions and give hard answers. He's hoping voters will keep him in the post.

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October 22, 2021 - 4:03 PM

Ron Ballard

Asking hard questions, and giving hard answers, makes an effective city council member, Ron Ballard says.

For example, a few years back Iola’s leaders were considering adding a solar plant on the edge of town, before voting it down.

Ballard was one of those who voted in opposition, “not because it was a terrible idea,” he said, “but because there were plenty of indicators that the power costs for that would drop in the future and it was not the correct time for the city to pursue that option.”

The debate illustrated what Ballard said is his strength as a Council member, one he hopes finds favor with local voters in the Nov. 2 city election.

Voters in Iola’s Ward 2, in the northeast part of town, will choose between Ballard and former mayor and councilman Joel Wicoff for the seat.

Read about Joel Wicoff here.

Ballard is completing the end of his first four-year term on the Council.

“As far as what I have learned on the Council, the budget definitely takes a few years to get a hang of,” he said. “It can be overwhelming at the beginning. I have also learned that making decisions on just information that is presented is not always in the best interest of the city and further research is generally due.”

There are several big-ticket items coming on Iola’s to-do list in the near and distant figure, from painting water towers to upgrading the city’s sewer lagoons and eventually rebuilding U.S. 54 through town.

And then there’s the ongoing ambulance issue.

Allen County commissioners voted earlier this year to end the city’s contract to provide countywide ambulance services, a pact that’s been in place since 2014. In response, the city has voted to continue offering ambulance services inside Iola’s city limits as a separate entity.

“The EMS contract is a huge deal and has a large financial impact on the city and we have had a very poor contract in place since the beginning,” Ballard said. “The contract that was and is in place had never been a benefit to the city. Hands down, I am the only person that has the logistical knowledge of how to make that contract the most effective for the city and county.

“The city provides the best care that we can physically provide and fiscally provide with what we have,” he continued. “I will not put the City of Iola residents, or anyone that visits our town, at risk of not having an ambulance in a reasonable amount of time which would have been in jeopardy if another service took over.”

While the city made an honest effort to make a better deal with the county, Ballard said, the county was less inclined to negotiate.

He’s confident Iola’s city-only program will be financially successful.

Ballard also spoke on economic development, and how a Council can attract — and more importantly, retain — businesses in Iola.

“It is important that we have a direction that we can and may go prior to a request being brought to us,” he said. “It is important that we keep the businesses in town that are already established in mind as well. We are very cautious about providing tax dollars to private industries or businesses when that may have a negative impact on a competitor in our town. There is a fine line with giving money as incentives because if we do give monies, we have to make sure it benefits our city as well as our residents and it is worthwhile to invest our money that way.”

Mostly, Ballard enjoys seeing progress in town, one he would like to see continue. “I like seeing a direction,” he said.

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