Community Issues Addressed at Morrison ‘Meet the Candidates Night’
By LYNNETTE FORTH | For The Prairie Advocate News
MORRISON – Members of the Morrison Chamber of Commerce held a “Meet the Candidates” night on Thursday, March 21st, in the Morrison Community Room. Stephanie Vavra of The City 1.com served as moderator for the evening which lasted nearly two hours. Mayoral and Aldermen Candidates present for the evening were given questions given by the public. A large crowd was present to hear what each Candidate had to say and help solidify their voting decisions for the April 9th election.
Superintendent of Schools Suellen Girard briefly informed those present on the proposed 1% sales tax being put onto the ballot. Girard stated, “I commend you all for coming. My goal is to provide you with the data and facts. If passed, the School District would raise about $561,000.00. The tax would not start until April 2014. The Board has pledged to use half of the revenue to reduce property taxes used to pay off bonds. The other half would be used for necessary maintenance projects and school safety projects. Funds would also be eligible in improving the safety of our students.”
Girard reported that expenses not permitted include “textbooks, busses, salaries, computers, operating costs, or instruction. Items not taxed and exempt in sales tax would include: any licensed vehicles, mobile homes, groceries, medicine and vitamins, farm equipment, parts, and input.”
The current school property tax rate is $5.06 on a $100,000.00 house; this would mean a school property tax of $1,686.70. If tax rates were decreased by twenty one cents to $4.94, the property taxes would decrease to $1,646.69. This is a tax decrease of $40 for each $100,000 of assessed value.
Individuals seeking election for Mayor of Morrison are left to right: Sarah Thorndike, Everett Pannier, and Martha “Marti” Wood. David Jindrich was absent.
Running for Mayor are: Sarah Thorndike, Everett Pannier, Marti Wood, and David Jindrich who was absent. Questions for the Mayoral Candidates were:
1) If elected, will you bring the issue of Sunday Liquor Sales back for discussion?
2) What is your background in financial matters, budgeting, and prioritizing needs?
3) What guidelines or criteria would you use to set the Council’s agendas?
4) What is your view of Historic Preservation, and how it pertains to economic development of Morrison?
5) Do you think we should operate in the red to allow some of the major infrastructure needs to be addressed? Explain your position.
6) Do you think City Council Subcommittees should be reinstated? If yes, how often should they meet?
7) What is one way to induce the residents, businesses, Council and City leaders to work together as a whole? How will you make this happen?
8) As Mayor, would you attend Mayoral trainings, conferences, and meetings that are available for elected officials to learn from and network with?
Candidates answers were as follows:
1. Yes, I think it’s only fair, to be fair, everyone gets to buy a drink or no one does.
2. Budgets are hard. I have spent twenty years reading City and School budgets. It’s hard to understand. I have worked at learning to understand those. Personnel are a big need. We have excellent people working here.
3. Have public comments at the beginning and after discussions. Look at what residents want, welcome input, and include personal agendas too (more trees).
4. Much in favor of. Don’t see a downside. Get a number of tax breaks to put into preserving buildings. Only brings economic development.
5. Unfortunately, you do have to operate in the red. Should we? “no.”
6. Sounds like a good idea in theory. In reality, it’s not such a good idea. Leads to going over the same information over and over.
7. Everybody play nice. It’s not that difficult. People disagree all the time. Listen to people and figure out where they are coming from, hear the thought process. Listening is key.
8. You betcha. More knowledge is never a bad thing. The more you know the better you can do your job. Conferences are a great way to network with Mayors and other people.
1. Not in favor of starting until noon. People have better things to do on a Sunday morning. Revenue is walking out of Morrison by not bringing Sunday liquor sales back.
2. I have spent much of my career doing that. I have the ability to look at financial problems. City streets can be prioritized and identified as what needs fixed how to do it, and how much it will cost.
3. The current agenda’s are not too terribly put together. Put items on agenda ahead of time so council has time to discuss and review ahead of time. Be concise, take input from Department Heads, make it concise and to the point.
4. In favor. Believe in the long run it does benefit. Could have done things better. Provide better education to public. It is a positive, but it takes a while.
5. It’s impossible not to operate in the red. We have to evaluate priorities. The trick is don’t get any redder.
6. I am somewhere in between. It never hurts to have more good eyes looking at something. I am not opposed. Meetings need to be done efficiently.
7. Bringing people is one of my strong points. After a decision is made.....move on. Honesty is the best thing. Be a diplomat.
8. Without a doubt. It’s important. I have no problem paying for that myself, that’s the job I signed up for.
1. Definitely. I would not recommend having alcohol sales at the Sports Complex.
2. I don’t have a financial background. I was a single mom learning to budget on very low wages. You need to prioritize. Pay for the things you need first. I may not have a big financial background, but I have common sense.
3. That’s a good question. Based on what’s going on at the time in the community. Set goals, deal with issues correctly, follow and enforce ordinances.
4. For it if done correctly. Need to have residents behind you. It could work if we start over again.
5. More cuts. Managing resources efficiently. The city has a lot of loans out that will need to be paid back.
6. I do believe it could be beneficial. Meetings would be up to committee members according to what’s going on.
7. Open communication. Always having the ability to use the phone. Listen and provide interaction. Share information.
8. Yes. I have attended training as an Alderman. I think we need an orientation of some type. Invite other Mayors in to talk with. Maybe a Mayors Corner in the newspaper.
Closing statements from Mayoral candidates were:
Marti Wood: I am excited about all of you here tonight. Get out and vote. A vote for me is a vote for integrity.
Everett Pannier: Good luck to you all and thank you for listening.
Sarah Thorndike: You don’t lie, always tell the truth. I want to make Morrison a better place.
Aldermen candidates left to right: Vernon Tervelt, Harvey Zuidema, Nancy Riggen, Scott Connelly, Curt Bender, and Dale Eizenga. (PA photos/Lynnette Forth)
Individuals seeking election for Alderman within the City of Morrison are: Ward 1 Cheryl Bush (not present), and Dale Eizenga; Ward 2 Harvey Zuidema and Nancy Riggen; Ward 3 Curt Bender and Vernon Tervelt; Ward 4 David Helms (not present) and Scott Connelly (2 year unexpired).
Questions for Aldermen were:
1) What are your top priorities that the City Council must address during the next term? State your viewpoint and suggestions for making a change.
2) There are many different people that live in your ward, with many different views. How will you represent all of your constituents especially when the majority may have a differing opinion than the loudest minority?
3) Name two or three things you would support to grow our local economy and generate some much needed revenue.
4) What is your view on the Recreational Trail, which would connect our community with Rockwood State Park?
5) How will you use your position to promote and practice shopping local?
6) Should the Sports Complex be subsidized by the General Fund?
Dale Eizenga’s answers are as follows:
1. One is East Main Street. We can’t even do 25 mph down that road, the new water treatment plant, well issues, general overall financial health is crucial right now. We have to improve our roads in town.
2. Let your conscience be your guide, in a majority of the cases you will be right.
4. I would rather see it go to the ballpark but it’s a limited amount to the City, at no cost to the tax payer.
5. We need to educate the citizens to shop locally. It will help us all.
6. I don’t have a problem with that. Yes, subsidize, we need to.
Harvey Zuidema’s responses were as follows:
1. Roads are the main thing. We have been moving money from the water/fuel tax to light city lights. Water well problems, and the sewer system needs to be redone.
2. Try to have monthly meetings. Look at views; try to figure out a compromising solution.
3. I would like to thank True Value for staying in town. The Thomson Prison will help get people in town if it gets going.
4. This is no guarantee of any cost to the City. An estimate was done over five years ago. The money should be spent in town.
5. I have bought my last six vehicles in Morrison.
6. The ball complex is a great thing. Our deficit needs to go in the other direction.
Nancy Riggens’ responses are as follows:
1. Infrastructure (streets), cuts, cut somewhere to get things done.
2. I am always willing to listen to the citizens in my Ward.
3. I don’t know. It’s a situation where you have to be in there to know what’s going on.
4. The bike path could bring in revenue, but we have other priorities.
5. Shopping local is good.
6. Totally not real happy with the Sport Complex. It’s a money pit.
Curt Bender’s responses were:
1. Streets, and the water treatment plant are very important. Figure out different ways to develop revenue. Be creative, help businesses.
2. Listen to everybody’s view point. You can’t please everybody all of the time.
3. Help existing businesses. Use the ball park as a positive rather than a negative, without being in there and seeing what’s going on, it’s hard.
4. In favor of Recreation and Parks. It’s important to the community. Enhance it and bring people into town. I hope the council will act on that quickly.
5. I practice shopping local. The Chamber does a wonderful job of promoting businesses.
6. I agree to subsidize. We own it; we are going to have to pay for it no matter what.
Vernon Tervelt’s responses were:
1. Roads, well, water and sewer systems, put Sports Complex on a positive note, make the city grow.
2. I was a referee for thirty years and have dealt with controversy on both the good and bad side, and always try to make the best decisions.
3. Have groups work together to bring businesses in. Bring money into the community.
4. It’s a good idea, but I question why the city is directly involved. We need to thoroughly look into the trail. Maybe build a trail to the Sport Complex?
5. I shop as much as I can in town. I promote the downtown area. Councilmen can do that.
6. I am a sports nut, so I support it. We just need to generate some income for it. It’s a constant effort to look at ways to get money in there; it will take a lot of work.
Scott Connelly’s answers were as follows:
1. Fiscal management, completing projects, planning for the future, sewer and water line replacement, and maintance.
2. I am receptive to the citizens in my ward. I am happy to hear their opinions and the views they express. I will consider all view points.
3. We need to come together as a community to showcase our schools and support businesses. Explore new revenue streams and be ready for opportunities.
4. I support 100% the city’s role.
5. Every dollar spent at a business can bounce between two or three businesses. It’s great to have a great grocery store and have a home improvement center.
6. At this point, yes, subsidize, we need it.
Closing statements from candidates for Aldermen:
Dale Eizenga: I will do the best I can to serve the City of Morrison and fix the problems we have.
Harvey Zuidema: All items need to be discussed in advance. We need to go back to work sessions.
Nancy Riggen: I will do my best. I am really for budget cuts.
Curt Bender: I would work really hard for my Ward. I would try to learn all I can. I am proud to say I live in Morrison.
Vernon Tervelt: I am running to preserve Morrison’s qualities and make it unique. We need a plan to allow Morrison to strive.
Scott Connelly: Thank you all for coming.
City Administrator Jim Wise recorded the meeting in its entirety, and it can be viewed on the city’s website.
Long time resident, Arlie Renkes spoke of the evening, stating “I felt it was very enlightening and very informative.” Following the question and answer session, citizens were invited to visit with those running for election, and were treated to refreshments.