By BOB PALMER
Jimplecute News Editor
Three of the five candidates in the May 4 city council election answered questions during a forum Monday sponsored by the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, the Jeffersonian Institute and the Jefferson Jimplecute.
On the ballot are Jim Finstrom and Tyler Owen in Ward 1, Victor Perot and Darla McCorkle in Ward 3 and Tyrani Braddock is unopposed in Ward 2. Early voting begins April 22. The following responses have been edited for length.
Readers can also find responses to the candidate questionnaire sent to all candidates by the Jimplecute on Page 10.
Should the city spend down more of its $1.5 million fund balance? Or reduce property taxes?
Perot: We always need to have a rainy day fund. $1.5 million sounds like a lot of money, but if we had a water leak in the middle of Polk Street like we did on Sunday, that can cost a quarter of a million dollars to fix. $1.5 million is not a lot. The mayor has been busy obtaining grants. There will have to be some matches that we will have to come up with. We have to have something in the coffers just in case.
Finstrom: You don’t want your back to the wall, if you are on the council. You want to be flexible. That rainy day fund is a big help.
Owen: I agree. The unforeseen expenses a city can have in daily operations make a rainy day fund definitely needed. A tax reduction will not help us reach distant goals.
Many residents now opt for bottled water. Complaints about brown and black water flowing from taps have been heard. What can be done about Jefferson water?
Perot: I haven’t had any complaints about that. All of our water from the Northeast Texas Municipal Water District. We know that they use certain chemicals. One particular chemical is called TriPlus to keep the inside of the walls slick to reduce the friction to keep the water flowing down to us. Anytime you have a fire or release water from fire hydrant, it upsets the chemicals. It shouldn’t be brown. We have a taste difference from time to time when the lake turns over. If there are areas, it has to be chemicals coming off the pipes.
Finstrom: All the water comes from the same place. I don’t see that much at my house. I’m hopeful the new pipes we have been putting in the last few years will help.
Owen: I have seen an increase in the quality of water in Jefferson. I do get my water filtered through the icebox. It is one of the things I will look at when I am on the council.
What does the 27 percent drop in Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue to the city in the first quarter signify?
Finstrom: We are aware of the needs developing tourism and the need to work with the Tourism Board. It’s good income for the county. Even though the Hotel Occupancy Tax was down, sales tax revenue was up. I think the first quarter was an anomaly.
Owen: I think we need to look at social media as far as tourism is concerned is something we can improve on.
Perot: We have appointed some really, really great people to our Tourism Board. We are learning new tricks. We found that we were spending money from the B&B tax to maintain the Tourism Building. That’s a no-no. More money will now be available for our tourism people to spend on advertising. The nucleus of Jefferson is tourism. We have to put heads in beds.
The City of Jefferson has been without an animal shelter or an animal control person since last November. What should be done?
Perot: We are looking into a contractual agreement with the new Marshall animal shelter. For right now that is going to be our solution. I know there has been talk of the expenditures. We want animals handled humanely.
Finstrom: Being a small town that could be the best solution that we could have. We have a bad problem with feral cats. We need to have an animal policy that causes people to keep their pets at home.
Owen: Working in Marshall, I just don’t see Marshall taking on Jefferson’s feral cats and dogs. If they do it will be a shock to me. There has to be something done. There has to be accountability somewhere. The ball was dropped with the animal shelter. Something needs to be done.
Is there any plan for the city to do beautification? Visitors have been saying Jefferson is not as pretty as it used to be.
Perot: Mayor Haggard has applied for a grant to do a planning grant. We feel that money will come to us.
Finstrom: We would welcome Bed & Breakfast owners to come to the city council meetings and tell us what your customers are saying. What they are noticing. We would be glad to listen to those comments.
Owen: I would like to have a Bed & Breakfast committee to meet with city leaders. You’re right. Jefferson is not looking as good as it used to.
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