Candidates for the State Fair Community College Board of Trustees, Pettis County Ambulance District Board of Directors and Sedalia City Council in April 5 races participated in a candidate forum Tuesday night to help inform voters.
Less than 40 people attended the forum hosted by the League of Women Voters Sedalia-Pettis County in the Thompson Conference Center at State Fair Community College. Citizens were allowed to directly ask candidates questions after their opening statements, but only two people asked one question each, so moderator Mary Merritt asked the remaining questions.
SFCC candidates Nick La Strada, Justin Hubbs and incumbent Randall Eaton participated; candidate Marlin Hammond, who did not attend last week’s SFCC candidate forum, was not present.
PCAD Sub-district 1 candidates Tim Padgett and incumbent Dave Clippert and Sub-district 4 candidate Bill Griffith participated; Sub-district 4 candidate and incumbent Les Harrell did not attend due to attending the Sedalia Police Department annual awards ceremony, as he is a member of the Police Personnel Board.
All six council candidates were present: Ward 1 Jeff Leeman and Chuck Leftwich, Ward 3 incumbent Don Meier and Tom Cunningham, and Ward 4 incumbent Tollie Rowe and John Fritz.
PCAD candidates were asked what they thought were the top three issues facing the district. Clippert talked more about how the district is growing, but noted completing the state Route TT site will alleviate pressure on the current headquarters until a new one is built on 16th Street.
Griffith gave a two-minute answer, but did not offer any top issues facing the district.
Padgett said issues include fully staffing the district and “the tax revenue, there needs to be some sort of projected goal, it was agreed to be a half cent, eventually there needs to be projection on possible rollback application if that’s possible.” He didn’t cite any specific issues with PCAD providing service to the Windsor Ambulance District, but said “we probably want to make sure we help them and not possibly, maybe put them in the hole further.”
Merritt asked council candidates about a hot button issue: what is your position on using TIF for development in Sedalia?
Both Cunningham and Leftwich said they are in favor of using TIF when appropriate and in certain locations. Others had more specific stances on the issue.
“I’m going to come out and share the Galaxy West TIF project, I disagree with the council vote in that regard,” Fritz said. “… In my opinion the city council unnecessarily diverted millions of dollars from our education to support a developer from Liberty, Missouri. It’s probably one of the No. 1 reasons I filed as a candidate — I disagree with my opponent on that issue. … There are times and places for the TIF to be used not only in development, but in redevelopment; downtown is a perfect example.”
Rowe said he talked with local citizens not involved with the TIF before making his decision, and he said most people he talked to were in favor.
“I voted for it, I think it’s a good idea for the City of Sedalia,” Rowe said. “When I made my decision on the TIF, I talked to a lot of folks not involved in the situation. … I voted for it because a TIF is nothing but a retail version of an Enhanced Enterprise Zone. … I think it is a great economic tool to make our community grow.”
Both Leeman and Meier both said they were strongly in favor of utilizing a TIF.
“We utilize different avenues to get the development in town and it all goes together,” Leeman said. “We have the TIF, we have the Enterprise Zones, we have Economic Development. It all comes together. I’m very much in favor of utilizing the TIF. … We can’t be stagnant, we have to keep moving forward.”
“I am for the TIF. I voted for it,” Meier said. “There’s all these people, I’ve asked what do you find negative about this program, and they never can nail anything down. I’m for growth, whatever it takes.”
Merritt asked a few people specific questions. As the former chair of the Clean Up Sedalia Committee, she asked Leftwich, whose main platform is improving the appearance of Sedalia through graffiti clean-up and a rental inspection ordinance, why he didn’t attend Clean Up meetings during the Broadway Boulevard front yard parking discussion.
“I really don’t know why because I am totally opposed to the vehicles parking in yards,” he replied. “There is an ordinance against that … and I do not see it enforced; it’s one of my pet peeves.”
The only person to be asked about a proposed rental inspection ordinance was Fritz.
“You recently indicated on your webpage you oppose rental inspections. Is it true that you currently have relatives who own rental properties and that you’ve been employed to help Sedalia housing, and if so would it prevent you from seeing this issue objectively?” Merritt asked.
“I can’t say that anything that I do in this community is swayed or influenced by my belief that this community is a place I was born; I love this community,” Fritz replied. “That question — you shared at the beginning Mary that we weren’t going to go personal on this — when I look at the rental property inspection issue, a few things come to mind. That is, one, where is the community, specifically our mayor, in enforcing current laws we have on the books? I do not believe that creation of additional laws is the answer when we have sufficient laws on the books.
“The second part of that issue, my family has rental property; I don’t think the city has any business coming inside our property and telling us how the inside of the property should be.”
Merritt also asked the candidates if they would be in favor of extending the 90-day moratorium on demolition permits on Ohio Avenue between Main Street and Broadway Boulevard, which council approved in February. The Democrat previously reported the moratorium allows the city enough time to produce the legislation needed to protect the area from demolitions that impact long-term strategic planning.
Cunningham, Fritz, Leeman and Leftwich said they were unaware of the decision. Leftwich declined to comment further until he had more information while the other candidates instead talked about downtown needs.
“It blows my mind you’re unaware,” Merritt commented.
Meier and Rowe, who both voted for the moratorium, said they would be in favor of an extension if it was needed to allow more time for the Certified Local Government Commission to forward their recommendations to council.
“The moratorium was put in because we want to preserve our history,” Rowe said. “We don’t want a building to be torn down merely for parking alone. If it’s a dangerous building, the city will address that. That’s why I stand behind that moratorium, that’s our history.”
SFCC candidates were asked what they saw as top challenges facing the college. All three candidates said addressing declining enrollment is a top priority. Eaton added that keeping to the school’s Master Plan and the included technology center is a challenge, while La Strada said a balanced budget and communication with students and staff is important.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.