On Tuesday, voters will decide between current Sedalia City Councilman Steve Galliher and former Mayor Allen Hawkins to fill the vacant mayoral seat. The Democrat asked each candidate four questions about several important topics facing the city and its citizens. The answers have been edited to fit the newspaper’s style, but not for content.
Q — Improving streets was cited as a top priority for both candidates. Next year the county transportation tax will be up for renewal. If elected, do you believe the city should encourage its residents to vote to continue the tax? In FY15, the city has budgeted an additional $200,000 for street repair. Is this an adequate amount?
Galliher — I think the county transportation tax should be renewed in order to maintain our county roads. The city receives $91,350 of the tax quarterly. The city budgeted an additional $200,000 for street repair; it was $800,000 and is now $1 million. I would like to see more dollars budgeted for streets but this is what the city is able to do this year. I would like to see more money last year.
Hawkins — Next year the county transportation tax should be renewed. I believe the city should encourage its passage by residents. $200,000 is not an adequate amount. It should be around $500,000 for streets, alleys, curb, guttering and the city crews doing the work. With major projects contracted out.
Q — Economic development and bringing new jobs to the area is an ongoing issue every city faces. Today, Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County, with help from various city and county officials, is generally the main point of contact in bringing in new businesses. What specific role, if any, can the mayor play in attracting and retaining business?
Galliher — The mayor and city council should support and partner with Economic Development in any way possible to make sure that jobs are brought to the area. Thanks to Linda Christle (executive director of Sedalia-Pettis County Economic Development) and her staff, the money the city budgets for economic development is well spent. This is a team effort, no one person can do it alone.
Hawkins — Being an economic director I will pursue it for Sedalia and Pettis County and prepare an area for a new industrial park area. I will work with state economic board and with the city council to create a package for large and small industries to come to Sedalia. To grow and prosper you also need some annexation.
Q — Last year the Sedalia City Council approved the Parks Department’s $1 million purchase of Jennie Jaynes Stadium with the intention to use the land to build a community center. Do you believe Sedalia needs a center? Do you agree with the land purchase? As mayor, would you support a tax to pay for the construction and/or ongoing maintenance of a center?
Galliher — A community center would be great for the city if we can afford it. It would be up to the taxpayers if they want a new tax or not. I do not agree with the purchase of Jennie Jaynes Stadium. I thought it was a bad idea for the Park Board to turn down a $1 million donation from the Heckart Foundation and then spend $1 million of taxpayer money for property that had an appraisal of $260,000 for residential and $890,000 for commercial. The property does not have to be zoned commercial to have a community center.
Hawkins — Not at this time. The community center will take $22 million to build, maintain, support and staff. Sedalia supports streets, hospitals, library, jobs, airport, cemetery, special interest groups, businesses, snow removal, sewers, bridges, water department, police department, parks, pools, storm shelters. With the purchase of Jennie Jaynes Stadium by the Parks Department, it still can be used for special programs and events, and the school systems. Future growth with about $50,000 maybe?
Smoking Ban, Downtown Inspections
Q — Two controversial issues were heavily debated by council and the mayor last year — the creation of a city-wide smoking ban and the approval of a downtown building inspection ordinance. Do you believe the government was too intrusive with these decisions? What is the right balance between the city’s obligations to protect individual property rights while also protecting the health and safety of the public?
Galliher — I do not think the council was too intrusive on our decision concerning the Clean Air Ordinance or the downtown building inspections. Public safety should be the No. 1 concern of the city and we have an obligation to the citizens of Sedalia to protect property rights and investments.
Hawkins — The smoking ban was unconstitutional, passed without the will of the citizens. Should have been on a ballot. (The) national constitution requires the council to follow personal rights on all matters, pertaining to all issues. Downtown buildings inspection ordinance was too intrusive. Now (the city spends) $162,422.50 just to tell city and owners what has to be done to bring buildings up to code. City does have an obligation to protect individual’s property rights and welfare and safety of citizens in all neighborhoods.