The seven candidates running for three seats on the City Council of Webster City met for the League of Women Voters forum on Tuesday evening.
About 50 community members came to City Hall for the forum, which was also broadcast on KQWC and on local television. Candidates were given two minutes for open statements and to answer questions that were sent in by Webster City residents.
Many topics, from how candidates would stay informed of issues and how they would make the public aware of them, what they thought the city manager's role with the council should be, and several other questions were asked to the candidates.
City Council candidates, from left, John Hawkins, Linda Conaway, Jim Talbot, Logan Welch, Heather Kierzek, Mark Gillette and Matt McKinney fielded questions from the audience at Tuesday’s League of Women Voter’s Candidates Forum. The seven candidates are seeking three council seats in the Nov. 5 election.
How do you plan on getting more business and jobs here in Webster City?
Logan Welch said that recent work by Webster City Chamber of Commerce Director Deb Brown, including the business incubator project, were great ideas to bring more business into the community. He stressed the importance of promoting those small businesses and shopping local.
"No one likes it when their favorite restaurant or service provider closes their doors," Welch said. "You see that as a failure. We let one more go, and I don't want to see that anymore."
Heather Kierzek said the city needs to expand its tax base by bringing more people into the community, and attracting more businesses to town will keep the level of services in Webster City.
"Investing in a business is that, an investment," Kierzek said. "We need to make sure that we're going to get some return on our investment before we start making incentives."
John Hawkins said he would like to see new businesses come to town, but he wants to see more work put into infrastructure. He said the courthouse area and main street have been renovated in the 13 years he has lived in Webster City, but the rest of the town has not been touched.
"I think that if the town itself looked newer and cleaner, that if we had done more work with our infrastructure in the last 10 years, perhaps we would be looking at more people wanting to come here and that would help a lot," Hawkins said.
He also said the city should be pushing for as much state and federal money to make those infrastructure upgrades as possible.
Do you have any specific plans to fill the vacant storefronts, also plans to clean up the burned down homes in the city?
Jim Talbot said it will be a momentous task to fill the storefronts in Webster City. He said it's a challenge that will require the work of everyone in the community.
"I'm not for spending city money to entice buildings, but if we have an economic development director, he can work with local outfits to see what they can do and what it takes to get something started," Talbot said.
On burned houses, Talbot said there are several houses burned out and that falls to the city. He said that if the house is not fixed by the insurer or owner, the city should tear it down and bill the people who owned it last.
Matt McKinney said the city can look at ways to bring in new businesses, including looking at everything from tax rates to electric rates to bring businesses to Webster City and to keep them here.
On burned homes, McKinney said no one wants to see something like that on their block. However, the difficulty of getting the homes removed stems from the cost to the city and taxpayers and the council must make sure they will be reimbursed for demolition efforts.
"It's important for the city to work with the property owner, and sometimes that property owner might be a bank," McKinney said. "They need to work to try to get that cost recouped from who owns that property before taking the final action to tear it down themselves."
What steps would you take to make sure you are informed about the issues the council will be voting on?
Mark Gillette said doing one's own research and not relying solely on information from the city manager is the best route for a council member. He said the best information he has received over the years has been from citizens of Webster City.
"If you listen to the citizens, they're a lot smarter than they're given credit for," Gillette said."
He cited a sump pump issue where someone talked to him and asked why the city would need to check his sump pump while he lived with a slab under his home.
Linda Conaway said research is important as a council member. She said council members are given their packets before meetings early so they are given a chance to talk to city employees, the city manager, or anywhere they want to find it. Conaway said she wishes she would hear more concerns from the public and that no one who has called her with a concern has not received a call back.
"If you have a comment or a statement, you need to tell us," Conaway said. "As far as I'm concerned, yes, you have to do a lot of research. You can't be an expert on everything. We depend on those boards and commissions to bring us good information so we can make an informed decision."
Council candidates were given two minutes for closing statements before the Hamilton County League of Women Voters President Pat Powers closed the forum. Community members were invited to stay after and talk with candidates.
The council election will be held Nov. 5.