WATER VALLEY – The Primary Election is less than two weeks away and political activity is reaching a peak. There will be at least three new faces on the Water Valley Board of Aldermen after the upcoming municipal elections.
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 published the first five questions and answers last week and the last five are below.
6. There has been some discussion about the cramped quarters that the police department and fire department currently share. Should the board discuss this?
Mayoral candidate Robbie Ashford: Yes, the board should discuss any and everything that concerns the city along with the citizens of Water Valley.
Mayoral candidate William G. Norris: Yes. These departments are arguably the two most important agencies of the City given their role in the protection of our citizens and their property. The City has looked into other alternatives and possible funding sources, including the purchase of existing facilities and the possible construction of new facilities.
Alderman at large candidate Donald Gray: The board should always discuss matters that deal with public services and the working condition of our public servants. At the same time we have to be realistic as to the cost of constructing new facilities or renovating existing buildings.
Alderman at large candidate Don Simoneaux: Yes.
Alderman Ward One candidate Bobby J. Cox: If the Police and Fire Departments are having problems with cramped working space, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen should discuss and find a solution for this important issue. These two departments are vital for the safety and protection our citizens and their property.
Alderman Ward Three Candidate Rubye L. Carr: Yes. I think the men and women who provide 24 hour service and protection to the people of the city should have adequate and comfortable space to conduct business. Thus, this issue should come before the board for serious discussion and consideration.
Alderman Ward Three Candidate Kagan Coughlin: If this is impacting the public safety, yes. If this is a matter of comfort, there are more critical issues facing our community.
Alderman Ward Three Candidate Phillip Tallant: I would be in favor of looking at this if I get elected.
Alderman Ward Three Candidate Jeffery Lyn Welch: Yes. The board should discuss this matter. Our police and fire dept. are “as you say cramped.” Expansion or seperation of the two should be done. I believe our city should have its own jail and not have to pay to use a county facility. Give comfort not cramped to those who protect and serve us daily.
Alderman Ward Four Candidate Terry L. Allen, Jr.: Yes.
Alderman Ward Four Candidate Larry Bell: I do believe that these departments should be in separate buildings. But I think the maintenance for both should be in the same building.
7. Like many other municipalities across the state, the City of Water Valley is entering the age of replacement when it comes to the water pipe infrastructure. What do you think should be done?
Ashford: We should have it mapped out and get quotes along with expert opinions.
Norris: It is obvious that our water and sewer system needs to be upgraded. One of the most important steps, and one that I have vigorously supported, involves the implementation of rate structures which not only cover operating costs but also provide for the system’s future functioning and growth.
Gray: The replacement of our aging water pipes may have to take priority over other projects that do not have an every day effect on all citizens. Everyone takes for granted the availability of fresh water when you turn the tap without thinking of the cost to deliver that water. We need to look at all avenues of paying for a project of this magnitude. This would include looking at water rated and applying for any federal or state grants that may be available. The reality is to have this service someone has to pay.
Simoneaux: I think the city should be sectioned off and start with the worst section and replace aged pipes. It is only going to get worse.
Cox: There are state and federal grants, as well as the new Federal Stimulus Package, for which cities may apply. These monies may be used to up-date infrastructure problems that exist in our community. We must do the necessary paper work to apply for this government assistance. This should be a priority for the mayor and board of aldermen.
Carr: The board should be proactive in identifying ways to fund these necessary projects. For example, the board could research available grants or other funding sources.
Coughlin: It is our responsibility to the next generation to maintain and improve on the basic infrastructure our parents left to us. We need to figure out a schedule of replacement that we can afford and get started.
Tallant: We will need to see if there is any grant money available to help with this. This will need to be done in stages.
Welch: If our water pipe infrastructure needs to be updated then we need to do so, be safe not sorry. If we let this matter go unattended, it will cost more in the long run not to mention the chaos of unexpected expenses. And, we would not be upholding our obligation to service our community.
Allen: I think the board should look into every available option. To include checking into grant money seeking help and advisement from the state and our representatives and other elected officials and checking with other towns and see how they are handling their situations.
Bell: I know our water lines are old and need replacing with updated PVC pipe. I do think this can be achieved by replacement of short spans at a time during late night hours when usage is low and citizen service will not be greatly interrupted.
8. Do you support revisiting the regulations governing beer sales in Water Valley?
Ashford: Yes, I do with the overwhelming support that the voters showed, so that all businesses are treated fairly and equally.
Norris: I believe that all city ordinances and regulations (particularly those which have been recently implemented) should be revisited from time to time to assess their effectiveness and to determine whether the purposes associated with same are being accomplished.
Gray: All regulations of our city government should be open to review from time to time. The regulations that govern the sale of beer should be no different than these other regulations.
Cox: I do support revisiting the regulations governing beer sales or any other regulatory issues that the citizens of Water Valley deem necessary.
Carr: No. We should continue to enforce the regulations that the board passed governing beer sales.
Coughlin: Yes. The public needs the opportunity to voice their opinions before these sorts of decisions are made.
Tallant: I would need to study the regulations before I could give you a good answer.
Welch: For years our surrounding counties and cities have profited from our beer purchases and now we have an opportunity to profit. Cold beer sales I am in favor of but beer sales on Sunday I am against. Fines for selling to minors should increase substantially so sellers are being responsible for their actions.
Bell: No. This situation has been approved by a majority of the voters and seems to be working well. I haven’t heard any disagreement either way.
9. What do you feel would be the best approach for economic development in Water Valley?
Ashford: To push for small business along with industries. Since small businesses help maintain the economy.
Norris: The City needs to work closer with all agencies which assist municipalities in fostering economic development. It is also important to continue to work with our local industries to determine their needs and future goals and look to ways to attract new industry to increase the city’s tax base.
Gray: I do not know if there is one “best” approach to economic development. I believe we have to look at all aspects including promoting and supporting existing businesses and industries. The “Main Street” program of encouraging the growth of small businesses in the downtown area may be the most practical ideal of economic development. While we continue to support development of small businesses we should continue to back the Yalobusha County Economic Foundation in their efforts to lure industry into our community.
Simoneaux: We need to look for businesses to come to Water Valley. Let try to get some that bring jobs to our community. We have businesses now where we spent money, but few where we can make money.
Cox: I feel one of the best approaches for economic development is to elect a mayor and board of aldermen that can work together harmoniously. The interest of our community should come first, not personal interest. The mayor and board should work with the Yalobusha County Economic Development District, Mr. Bob Tyler and the North Central Planning Association, Mr. Steve Russell. To grow a community it takes teamwork and I would like to be elected so that I may be a part of that team.
Carr: The best approach to economic development in the city is to solicit new businesses to the area. New businesses can create and enhance employment opportunities locally. Currently, with so few businesses in Water Valley, our residents are likely to go to neighboring cities or states to obtain services, products or employment; thereby causing our local economy to continue to suffer.
Coughlin: A business-friendly environment. This means being able to respond to their requests or question in a timely manner, provide clear and equal rules and enforcement, and work together to make Water Valley a smart place for people to do business.
Tallant: We will have to be very aggressive with this. The mayor and board will have to work well with all county and state agencies on this. We need to be a clean, attractive town with good schools to help get people to looking here to locate.
Welch: We hae restored a great foundation in our home town and now we need to step up, involve the community and our neighboring towns to see what a beautiful thing we have here, build here, start businesses here and become the prosperous town Water Valley once was.
Allen: Be open. Have a open meeting with the citizens of Water Valley. Ask for public help involve as many people as possible to include citizens organizations, county officials, state elected officials, and other interested parties.
Bell: There are several which I don’t have the space to elaborate on. One is the development of Duncan Street which would be to move a lot of the electrical wiring underground to remove so many poles and unsightly wires. I also believe there will be several grant programs available if we just investigate and take advantage.
10. The town’s tax millage rate has not been raised for several years while the cost of doing business has steadily increased. Do you think taxes need to be raised or should there be cuts made to services?
Ashford: I believe with the state of economy now is not the time to raise any taxes, but the time to tighten the belt. Along with better usage of the resources we have available.
Norris: I don’t support cuts to services. Services should be maintained and improved. However, costs have increased. I have worked to implement reasonable rate increases to cover increased costs. A tax increase may be necessary; however, it should be designed so as not to adversely impact taxpayers any more than necessary.
Gray: No one would say they want to pay more taxes but at the same time they would tell you not to cut their services. Without having access to all the city’s financial information, revenues and expenditures I would not speculate on what direction to take. I believe we need to be prudent with every dollar of our city’s money and practice good stewardship.
Simoneaux: I think the tax should be raised. If we start cutting services the town will start going backwards.
Cox: Water Valley’s last census: population 3,766 individuals. City operating budget: 2006 2.6 million, 2007 2.55 million, 2008 2.48 million. Due to the enocomic times,
our tax revenues have declined steadily over the past three years. We need to increase
our tax base by being positive toward existing businesses and adding new business. Without the addition of a larger tax base, the mayor and board will most likely have to
address the issue of raising the mileage rate or cutting services. If the decreasing budget issue must be addressed in this fiscal year, the citizens could and should be involved in what would be the best solution by using town hall meetings and/or a public survey.
Carr: We should not compromise the services we are currently receiving, therefore we should investigate other funding sources and/or consider increasing the millage rate to keep pace with the cost of doing business.
Coughlin: There are services that we cannot do without, and if we need to increase the millage rate to pay for those, I will vote to do that. I do not see sacrificing public safety to save on taxes or borrowing money to pay today’s bills and as options.
Tallant: This will take lots of studying to see what is best to do.
Welch: It is easy to speculate if one rate increases raise the other. This cannot be done without the knowledge of what services to be cut, the effect the cuts would affect the issues on hand. Where there is a will there is a way to balance and resolution.
Allen: I think that taxes should be raised or services cuts only as a last resort. At the last resort I would be for raising taxes before I cut services.
Bell: Millage rates don’t mean anything if value rates are steadily being increased as they have been in the last two years as most of us know that pay taxes. I being a staunch conservative will naturally try any approach to keep tax burdens at their lowest. Services will not have to be cut if we are fiscally conservative.