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March 1, 2014

City election set for Tuesday

Ada — Voters will decide the makeup of the next Ada City Council on Tuesday.

Three candidates — Ben McFarlane, Guy Sewell and Jason Smeltz — are running for two open seats on the council.

McFarlane, who was appointed to the council in January after former Councilman Shane Sweeney resigned, is seeking his first full term. He represents the 2nd Ward, which covers the northeast section of Ada.

McFarlane, who is unopposed in Tuesday’s primary election, said he wants to help Ada prepare for the future. He said steps toward that goal include securing additional water rights to accommodate the city’s growth.

“The other one is figuring out the best locations for police and fire and ensuring that the facilities we build for police and fire are adequate not only for today’s needs, but also for tomorrow’s needs,” he said.

He was referring to the as-yet-unbuilt new police and fire stations, which are funded by part of the proceeds from a special sales tax. Other capital improvements funded by the “Penny for Our City” tax include a sports complex and a water line engineering study.

McFarlane said the city’s biggest challenges include ensuring that Ada has enough water to meet demand and taking care of streets, water and sewer systems.

The 4th District race pits Sewell, an incumbent seeking his second term, against newcomer Smeltz. The 4th District covers Ada’s southwest quadrant.

Sewell said he is running again because the council has several issues on its plate, including a review of the city’s utility rates. He noted that the city is currently conducting an economic analysis of those rates.

“We need to look at that and evaluate whether we need to restructure, raise or lower rates,” he said.

Sewell said the city’s major challenges include upgrading its drinking-water system and deciding how to spend taxpayer dollars so they will benefit residents and make Ada a better community.

A former Ada firefighter, Smeltz was acquitted last month on charges that he used a computer to threaten another person in the summer of 2013. The charges stemmed from allegations that he threatened a police officer and the Ada Police Department following an April 2013 incident resulting in his wife’s arrest.

Smeltz, who is seeking his first term on the council, said Friday he decided to run because he thought it might help him win back his old job.

“The truth is, I originally saw it as an opportunity for leverage in my arbitration case over my job, as I am probably the last person our city leaders want in that position,” he said in an email to an Ada News reporter. “I still see it as an advantage. I believe they do too.”

Smeltz said he believes he has a legitimate chance of winning the council seat, but he does not have a lifelong desire to hold public office.

“I do not measure my success by holding a council position for the city of Ada,” he said. “I view it more as a civic duty at this point.”

Smeltz said if he wins his arbitration case, he will have to decide whether to take his job back or serve on the council. He noted that he cannot work for the city and serve on the council at the same time.

Smeltz said if he is elected, he would like to see the city move forward with plans for the new police and fire stations. He also said he thought the city’s need for more water was the most important issue.

Even though council members represent individual wards, registered voters who live within the city limits are eligible to cast ballots in all races.

The polls will open at 7 a.m. Tuesday and close at 7 p.m.

Reach Eric Swanson at adanewsreporter@cableone.net.

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