The Primary Election will be held May 5 and the General Election on June 2. In order to give voters a better look at the candidates, the Herald asked readers to submit questions on issues they considered important. Eleven of the 14 candidates for municipal office participated by answering the reader inspired questions.
The Herald is publishing the first five questions and answers this week and will publish the remaining five next week.
1. Would you support paying aldermen only when they attend meetings?
Mayoral candidate Robbie Ashford: Depending on the situation, yes. Without them showing up to the meetings they cannot represent the people.
Mayoral candidate William G. Norris: The attendance of aldermen is critical to city government. I would support measures to encourage attendance if the same could be legally implemented. However, there are extenuating circumstances such as illness or a death in the family, and I do not believe that aldermen should be “punished” in those instances.
Alderman at large candidate Donald Gray: Yes, I would support receiving pay only for meetings attended. I do not believe serving as an alderman is about the money. When someone runs for a public office it would be to serve. The election process is like interviewing for a job, if you are elected (hired), you should show up for work.
Alderman at large candidate Don Simoneaux: Yes. I think if they are not there then they don’t care. It should be mandatory for them to attend.
Alderman Ward One candidate Bobby J. Cox: Yes. There are Mississippi State Statues, Codes, i.e., laws that address this issue and they should be enforced. Exceptions should be made, such as death in the family or personal illness.
Alderman Ward Three Candidate Rubye L. Carr: No. I believe that a person elected to serve in the position of alderman is expected to take the responsibility to serve seriously and meet all of the obligations of the office, including attendance at all scheduled meetings. As long as an alderman is substantially performing the duties of the office, I believe he or she should be compensated. However, if an alderman fails to substantially perform his or her duties; I believe that disciplinary action should be taken in accordance with established practices, policies and procedures.
Alderman Ward Three Candidate Kagan Coughlin: Absolutely.
Alderman Ward Three Candidate Phillip Tallant: Alderman need to make all meetings if at all possible. In case of sickness or emergency they should be paid. If they miss for no reason, no.
Alderman Ward Three Candidate Jeffery Lyn Welch: Yes. Aldermen have a responsibility to represent his/her voters and should not get paid if they default in their responsibilities. However family death or hospitalization should be taken into consideration.
Alderman Ward Four Candidate Terry L. Allen, Jr.: Yes. I will also donate to the churches in my ward my entire salary less deductions each month and will have the amounts and the churches listed each year in the Herald for public record.
Alderman Ward Four Candidate Larry Bell: 1. Yes. This is a job just like any other. The difference is now we are working for the people that place their confidence in us to represent them and be there for work.
2. Do you believe the city took the appropriate actions in handling negotiations with Carothers when the company was looking for a new corporate headquarters site in Water Valley? What would you have done differently?
Ashford: No I don’t. I would have asked the aldermen who did not have extreme situations, why they didn’t attend to do the job they were elected to do.
Norris: Yes. Municipalities are legally bound to follow certain statutory procedures in connection with the sale of municipal property. Following discussions concerning other possible sites for relocation, Carothers formally expressed interest in the Railroad Street property at the Board’s October, 2007, meeting. The purchase was approved at the December, 2007, meeting.
Gray: I can only base my response to this question on the information published in the Herald. According to the Herald, a lack of a legal quorum at the regular board meeting, as well as a specially called meeting, prevented a timely vote on the sale of the property. As to what I would do differently, I would stress the urgency of a decision by contacting all other aldermen and encouraging them to come and vote on the matter.
Simmoneaux: I don’t know all the details but, I think if we have a company who wants to build an office complex that would be great. From what I understand, someone wanted to build a community center on the land that the city owns. That idea may never happen. I think we as a city lost a big opportunity.
Cox: The information on exactly what negotiations transpired between the Mayor, Board of Aldermen, and Carothers Construction seems to be privileged. The citizens of Water Valley have heard many different stories concerning this matter. What is the true story? If elected, I will work for business growth in our community in a positive manner.
Carr: I would encourage city officials to advertise the land for sale.
Coughlin: It took three months and multiple meetings for the City to give Carothers an answer on their request to buy and build on the City’s downtown property. The Board acted like Carothers wasn’t important, and so we lost a multi-million dollar company. The employers of our citizens are important and we need to act like they are.
Tallant: I did not see that action so I do not have an opinion.
Welch: I do not have all the key element factors that has taken part of the City and Carothers decisions. But, from what I do know with a little compromise and getting the math right we, the city should have and could have looked deeper for an alternative incentive to keep our home to business here and the tax dollars here at home.
Allen: No. I would have sold them the land as soon as it was legal so we could have kept such a vital industry.
Bell: After investigating I find that the city of Water Valley Board and Mayor did properly try to keep Carothers in the area but Carothers Construction was looking for an area where large equipment could be brought in and out. The new site was also near owner Mr. Sean Carothers new home which was a plus I am sure.
3. Would you support construction of a public swimming pool in the city, such as Water Valley used to have?
Ashford: Yes, with the majority of the voting people in Water Valley wanting it, along with being able to secure funding.
Norris: The City should do everything possible to provide recreational opportunities for our youth. While a public swimming pool is an option, there are numerous factors that would need to be explored, including costs associated with construction, upkeep, operation and supervision, and most importantly, safety of users and associated liability costs.
Gray: The easy answer is yes. I would support the construction of a public swimming pool in the city. But, before I could vote for the project I would have to obtain a lot of information. There are many factors that have to be addressed, such as the initial cost of the construction including land, the location of said pool, maintenance costs, liability issues, workers, day-to-day management and many other pertinent issues.
Simoneaux: Yes. I think everyone needs to have things to do with their children. Oxford has one that is wonderful, really nice and kept well.
Cox: Yes, if monies are available. One must not only look at construction costs, but, cost of yearly maintenance, staff for this facility and liability insurance in case of drowning or injury.
Carr: Yes. I fully support positive and safe recreational activities for youth in the community. A public swimming pool in Water Valley would provide community youth an opportunity to learn to swim in a safe environment and provide a healthy activity for our youth during the summer months. Currently, the ballpark is the only public recreational activity for our youth. Thus, a public swimming pool would provide an additional option to the ball park for youth, as well as adults, who would like to try or view a different sport.
Coughlin: Yes, if we can afford to build, insure, maintain and staff it properly. However, I would categorize this as a luxury, which would need to wait on more critical needs of the community.
Tallant: I would have to do a good study on this.
Welch: No. A swimming pool would only be of seasonal use. The expenses of maintaining a pool is very costly not to mention the infection control issues. A ike, skate park for all ages would be for year-round use and less expense to maintain.
Bell: No. I remember when we had the last public pool and how happy the Mayor and Board were when it was closed account of the cost of operation and the drain on tax payers.
4. Do you think the Water Valley Main Street is making a positive difference in the town? If so, are you in favor of the city’s continued financial support of the Water Valley Main Street Association?
Ashford: Yes, with the people attending the activities, and getting the community back together again. Yes, because of the interaction within the community and the drawing of people from outside the community. Thus enabling people from all walks of life to enjoy.
Norris: The Main Street Association is a tremendous asset to Water Valley. I have supported this program from the beginning and will continue to do so. The Association has made great strides and implemented numerous programs for the betterment of our City, and I am convinced its success will continue.
Gray: Yes, the Water Valley Main Street Association has been a great asset to our town. The different programs they have sponsored such as the Better Backstreet program and Founders Day have been huge successes. Not only have they improved the downtown area, they have helped bring people back to the downtown area. Yes, I favor continued financial support form the city.
Simoneaux: Yes. I think the Main Street Association is making a positive difference in our town. Yes. I think we should continue funding the Main Street Association.
Cox: I believe that the W. V. Main Street Association is having a very positive effect in our community. I am in favor of the city’s continued financial support of this organization and feel our community needs to get behind it 100%.
Carr: Yes. I believe that efforts to improve and beautify Main Street have been successful in renewing interest in the town. I believe that such improvements are essential to attracting new residents and businesses to the area. Thus, I am very much in support of the city’s continued support of this project.
Coughlin: Yes, I believe the Water Valley Main Street is making a positive impact, and I would vote to continue the city’s financial support. (Full disclosure, I am currently a board member of the Water Valley Main Street.)
Tallant: Yes, I am in full support of the Main Street Association.
Welch: The Water Valley Main Street Association has made a positive difference in helping our town strive into todays world and I support their funding. However, we also need to branch off of Main Street and onto side streets, our cemeteries and give them attention too.
Allen: Yes. Yes.
Bell: I have heard pros and cons on Main Street operations in small towns and I will have to study and investigate more before taking a position either way.
5. Currently city officials sit around a conference table during board meetings. Do you believe that the mayor and board should sit in an arrangement that allows them to face the public?
Ashford: Yes, I do for nobody likes to talk to someone with their back turned. It makes them feel their opinions and or concerns don’t matter.
Norris: If the public believes that an arrangement of this type is important, I would certainly support it as well as other measures which promote access to City government and an improved relationship with our citizens.
Gray: With all the challenges that we are faced with today, I really see this as a trivial question. I do not believe sitting arrangement affect the ability to make good decisions.
Simoneaux: Yes. I think they should face the public.
Cox: I believe that the Mayor and Board of Aldermen should be arranged at a table so as to face the public and cameras at all times in order for the them to be heard more clearly.
Carr: No. Although it is very important for the public to be informed as to issues before the board and to be able to participate in the public meeting process, the main objective of the meeting is to conduct the business of the city. I think this objective can be best accomplished by direct face-to-face communication between the mayor and aldermen.
Coughlin: Yes, I don’t believe any member of the city government should sit with their back to the public.
Tallant: I really do not believe this should make a difference.
Welch: We are community board members sitting at a table, not a panel of judges. It doesn’t matter where you sit. Your seat does not affect your job performance.
Allen: Yes. I think they should face the public so the person appearing can be seen and heard.
Bell: No. I have been in legislative and other meetings and always the members have faced each other and the director of the meeting. We have to remember these are business meetings and are not a showplace for public entertainment.