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Wabash Township board president announces plans for trustee candidacy

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6/29/21 Angel Valentin and Brandon Betz

Wabash Township board members Angel Valentin (middle) and Brandon Betz (right) talk to a crowd member before the start of a summer board meeting.

Wabash Township Board President Angel Valentín has announced his plans to run in the township trustee election.

Valentín announced he filed the paperwork Tuesday to seek the Democratic nomination for the position. He intends to submit his Declaration of Candidacy on Jan. 5, 2022, the earliest date available to file the form, he said in a press release Tuesday.

The duties of the trustee involve providing fire protection, managing township property, administering township assistance and maintaining township cemeteries, according to the Wabash Township trustee website.

“His campaign will focus on engaging voters in the community about the need to restore — and enhance — our paid fire protection, provide the necessary Township Assistance and restore accountability and public confidence in the office of the Trustee,” the press release stated.

Over the last year serving on the board, Valentín said he’s become familiar with constituents’ concerns and sees the need for a better relationship between the board and the trustee.

“It’s not a hard job,” he said in a Wednesday phone call. “It takes commitment to learn, knowing who to reach out to, and when, and knowing what resources are available.”

A central piece of Valentín’s platform is making insulin more accessible to township residents, he said.

“The cost of insulin is unjustifiably outrageous,” he said.

The plan for providing that insulin would require more studying and collaboration with local medical providers, since he said most of his time has been taken up with figuring out a solution to the fire department situation.

Valentín will face incumbent Trustee Jennifer Teising for the Democratic nomination in the 2022 election, near the end of Teising’s four-year term.

Valentín has been a vocal part of the ongoing controversy in Wabash Township involving Teising, expressing exasperation with her in meetings, questioning the fulfillment of several of her duties and voicing doubt toward her reasons for firing the Wabash Fire Department’s paid responders.

The controversy began as early as Dec. 21, when Teising fired the then-WFD Chief Ed Ward and reached a head in May, when a grand jury indicted Teising on 20 felony counts of theft, according to previous Exponent reporting.

Teising is set to go to trial in December for the charges to face allegations of $21,346.20 in stolen wages from when Teising is reported to have lived outside of the township between Aug. 2020 to March of this year, according to previous Exponent reporting. The trustee position has a residency requirement that obligates the trustee to live in the township or they’re counted as “depriving the county of their salary.”

The trustee then fired WFD’s remaining three full-time firefighters a little over a month following her indictment, leaving the department on a crew of only volunteers, according to previous Exponent reporting. Teising cited the lack of adequate funding and a long-term spending solution to keep the firefighters on staff.

Township board meetings over the ensuing months featured angry citizens and board members, led by board president Valentín. Nearly every township board meeting since then has included bickering and frustration from Teising, the board and citizens, according to previous reporting by The Exponent and other local media.

The board has proposed multiple options to bring back the three paid positions, according to previous Exponent reporting, but Teising has remained firm that without a “long-term, sustainable plan,” like a fire district, which would reorganize the WFD and where it gets its funding, she can’t hire firefighters in good conscience.

“There’s no appetite for a fire district in our community,” Valentín said. “The concern there is most likely (the township would) lose a bunch of funding.”

The feasibility test for the fire district proposal Teising performed showed the plan would raise firefighter funds by $190,000 but would take away $110,000 from the general fund, Valentín said.

The better way forward is to apply for a population growth appeal, Valentín said.

The Wabash Township population is growing, he said. Once the finalized 2020 Census numbers come in, the trustee can apply for a population growth appeal, which would increase the tax levy. The figures he’s seen so far show at least 8% population growth, Valentín said, which could add an additional $220,000 to the budget.

The increased budget would also raise the funds used for paying firefighters’ salaries, he said.

“We have the funding for three firefighters,” he said, “so we need to honor our commitment to them and bring them back.”

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