MOUNT VERNON — The co-owner of Smithhisler Meats Inc. on Columbus Road for nearly 29 years, Wayne Zollars, has been selected as Monroe Township’s newest trustee and will officially be sworn in during the trustees’ next regular meeting Monday.
Monroe trustee Kevin Henthorn said there were nine qualified trustee candidates, with Zollars standing out because of his interest in the position, his knowledge of Monroe Twp. issues as a Zoning Board member for six years, and his high regard in the community as a long-time resident and successful business owner. Zollars’ interest in replacing newly elected Knox County Commissioner Bill Pursel, once Pursel made known his intent to run commissioner, was direct and immediate, Henthorn said. The resolution selecting Zollars was passed Wednesday morning.
Zollars will fill part of Pursel’s unexpired term until November, and then need to run for office to stay in office for an additional two years left on Pursel’s term.
“He (Zollars) took a personal interest in the top duties that we are doing, and has the most knowledge of what we’re doing,” Henthorn said, noting Zollars asked about the trustee’s position right after Pursel won his commissioner seat in November’s election. There was one other serious candidate shortly thereafter, Henthorn said, followed by seven others once the position was publicly posted in the News, during public meetings and on social media.
“Wayne is well known in the county and his community as a person of integrity who also carries a lot of PR value because of how well he works with others and how he brings a lot to the table as a long-time business professional,” Henthorn offered. He added that “all nine viable candidates each had their own particular strengths they brought to the table” during interviews. Henthorn made the selection with fellow Monroe trustee Neil Bower.
“I am excited and honored they chose me,” said Zollars, who co-owns Smithhisler Meats with his wife, Kim, and has been part of the business since 1984. “I have been going to several (Monroe) trustee meetings over the past several months to keep up with what’s been going on.”
What has been occurring over the past two weeks or so, starting a few days before Christmas, was Monroe Township trustees turning over fire equipment and EMS equipment, which Henthorn said will extend into next week. Both sides, including College Twp. trustee Douglas McLarnan and Fire Chief Bill Smith, as well as Henthorn, said the turning over equipment has been in the spirit of cooperation. The “official” parting of ways took place Dec. 31, with Monroe Twp. opting during the preceding months to sever its contract with College Township for fire-and-EMS services offered through the College Township Fire Department.
On Dec. 23, McLarnan said the value of all equipment returned, including a high-tech heart monitor with communication capability valued at $40,000 alone, was about $80,000. There is an opportunity, both sides agreed, for Monroe Township to purchase some of the “surplus” fire gear College Township owns. Henthorn said Thursday those items are all aboard fire vehicles, including hoses, axes and other non-personal equipment.
Monroe Township has advanced a great deal in the past week on building its new fire department, including a functional crew, at the Monroe Township Fire Station, where Pro Care Medical Transportation Service is on site at least 10 hours each day, Henthorn said. The township is currently paying Pro Care $12,000 per month by contract through the end of the year, and public reaction to service calls to date have been highly positive, Henthorn said.
In building a fire department, Monroe Township held a meeting led by new acting Fire Chief Neil Bower and others. Out of 31 mostly qualified firefighters from the local area who expressed interest in serving as volunteers at Monroe’s fire station, about 15 of them have committed to serving when called, Henthorn said. Another seven have committed to doing so and have entered firefighting school; they should be certified by the end of February at latest, he added.
In addition, the township has received — free of charge — some used turn-out gear from Tennessee that has been refurbished and is in good shape, he said. The new fire department has also purchased seven used air tanks from a fire department in Hanover, Ohio, which are in very good condition, Henthorn said. The station has not stopped there; in order to have firefighters enter blazing structures with new fittings, a decision was made to order new turnout gear at a cost of just $1,360 per set for helmet with hood, jacket, pants and boots (the department already has gloves).