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Huntertown primary winners in by default

Since no Democratic candidates stepped forward to vie for vacancies for Huntertown council and clerk-treasurer, four new people will join two incumbents in managing town business as of Jan. 1.

In May, new nominees Mike Stamets, Dave Garman and Brandon Seifert won the GOP primary race along with incumbents Gary Grant and Mike Aker. Monday was the deadline for Democrats to file for a spot on the November ballet.

The small town has been the center of controversy for several years as town officials have fought to build a wastewater treatment plant and fought Fort Wayne City Utilities, which treats the town’s sewage.

The first wastewater permit application was denied by the Indiana Departmental of Environmental Management in 2012, and the town spent hundreds of thousands of dollars appealing that decision. In May, the town dropped the appeal and filed a new permit application, which is under review by IDEM.

Huntertown recently received a permit to build a $4 million equalization basin to store and pretreat wastewater, which is necessary whether the town stays with City Utilities or builds its own plant, but that project is being appealed by several Eel River residents. A hearing with those residents and town officials will be held Monday in Indianapolis.

Developers of two new subdivisions are also opposing the town’s annexation – approved last month – of 530 acres between Gump, Dunton and Cedar Canyon roads, arguing that they have already signed an agreement with City Utilities for water and sewer services and that Huntertown is not equipped to supply those services.

Huntertown has paid $304,397 in legal fees in the first five months of the year – most of it going toward utility-related matters including the town’s disputes with Fort Wayne City Utilities and for ongoing litigation with local developers.

The election signaled a time to resolve conflicts and work for the people of Huntertown, Seifert said.

“I hope that current town officials realize that we need to come together and that transparency is important,” he said. “We need to put egos aside and prepare for a change of leadership in the coming year.”

Seifert said he has had difficulty getting information from some town officials, as has Garman, who said he is excited to take the helm in January but also apprehensive about what is around the bend.

“We need to find common ground and all work together, but I’m unsure of where we’ll be in January – especially financially,” Garman said.

“We’re going into office with a boat anchor around our necks,” he said.

Nonetheless, Garman is looking forward to taking office.

“I think common sense will prevail and we will find better and more open ways to conduct town business,” Garman said.

Stamets is also looking forward to his new post.

“I look forward to the opportunity to serve on council and have always stated my commitment to doing what I think is best for our community,” Stamets said. “I have no preconceptions and am open to weighing all facts before making any decisions.”

In the race for clerk-treasurer, Cathy Mittendorf beat Deputy Clerk-Treasurer Janine Rudolph in the GOP primary nomination, gathering more than 69 percent of the vote. She, too, is uncontested on the November ballot.

Rudolph has been filling in for the past two years for her husband, who was elected clerk-treasurer three years ago but became ill 10 months into his term and has not been able to return to work.

Mittendorf also filled in as deputy clerk for three months in 2012 for Rudolph and before that served 10 years as deputy clerk for former Clerk-Treasurer Robin Riley.

“I am very excited and honored that the voters of Huntertown elected me as clerk-treasurer. I look forward to taking office and serving the residents of Huntertown,” Mittendorf said.

Incumbent council members Pat Freck and Jim Fortman were defeated in the primary, and Sue Gongwer did not run for re-election. Grant and Aker did not return calls or emails seeking comment.