City Council forum offers insight into candidate’s views on Charles City, Part 2
Second of two parts covering the Charles City Council candidate forum held last week.
By Kelly Terpstra, firstname.lastname@example.org
Five candidates for Charles City Council shared their thoughts on the creation of jobs, housing needs and various other community issues during a public candidates forum held last week.
Other topics like nuisance properties, the state of the ambulance service in Charles City and how to replace Simply Essentials were addressed by the people who are running in the Nov. 5 election for three available seats on the council.
There will be at least two new City Council members after two incumbents decided not to run again when their four-year council tenures expire.
Incumbent council member Keith Starr is the only person seeking re-election. Also running are Charles City middle school teacher Phoebe Pittman, tax accountant Phillip Knighten, custodian Craig Hamm and former bus driver and homemaker Ann Teeter.
Regarding nuisance properties in the city, Hamm said it came down to a matter of each homeowner doing their best to keep their property looking acceptable.
“I blame the landlords. I feel we need to educate more people, whether you’re a homeowner or a tenant, to have some pride and I think that’s where it starts. My mom and dad never had money. We rented a house, but you would have never known. We took care it of it like it was ours,” said Hamm.
Like Hamm also stated, Teeter felt that the code enforcement needed to be looked into.
“I think the codes need to be revisited because some of the nuisance properties out there have been looking the same for three-years plus and ongoing,” said Teeter.
Starr said the city is working on replacing around 60 furnaces in homes throughout town. Other times lawns are mowed and that work is then charged to property owner’s taxes, he said.
“I don’t think there’s a month that’s gone by at the City Council that we haven’t had a quiet discussion about nuisances,” said Starr. “When we had our priorities, we made that as one of our top 10 things that we wanted to look at. We have an ongoing list of homes that we think are nuisance homes that can be corrected.”
Pittman said that fixing up homes in the area can help bring young adults back to the community who may have to rent property.
“We have an aging population of homes that we really need to aggressively work to rehabilitate so that we can meet the housing needs of people that want to come back,” said Pittman.
Knighten talked about how an improved ability to remove frozen material from the road could help the condition of the streets.
“My big issue with the roads are in the wintertime. It seems like once we get that first snow of the season, we have snow and ice on the road and that continues until the spring. I think we need to look into more ways in order to clear the ice and snow and the elements off of the roads ,which may in turn improve the conditions of the road in the long run,” said Knighten.
Starr said he felt travel on the roadways wasn’t all that bad and future paving projects can only help travel in and around Charles City.
“I guess I have a dissenting opinion from what I’ve heard here. I think the roads in Charles City are really surprisingly good for this size of community or any size of community. This year you’ll see that we have two, maybe three major projects going on,” said Starr.
Knighten said that he hasn’t heard many complaints about AMR (American Medical Response) in Charles City. He said that helping out the hospital can in turn improve the ambulance service.
“I would like to tie that into the hospital initiative. I know they are a completely different issue, but we need to upgrade that as well. I think we need to actually vote yes in order to convert our hospital to a Chapter 347 status. I think that would also help assist with the ambulance service,” said Knighten.
Reimbursement reductions and several other factors have made it hard for AMR to turn a profit. In turn the ambulance service is subsidized by the city.
“I think it’s really important that we support that and whatever it takes. I look at it a little bit like I do the taxi service. That for many years ran without the city really being involved. But when it needed to, we stepped up and continued what I consider to be an essential community service,” said Starr.
Hamm said he has a son who has Type 1 diabetes and he said that the availability of medical transfers to other communities are very important.
“We have to do whatever we have to do to keep them afloat,” said Hamm.
The closure of Simply Essentials chicken plant in August saw over 500 employees lose their job in Charles City. Replacing that operation to allow more job opportunities was very important to the candidates.
“I have been and always will be a supporter of employment. Without employment, young people don’t come back to town. Without employment, houses deteriorate – things get tough,” said Starr.
Pittman saw the problem as two-fold. Where there are fewer jobs, there may be families struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table. She said 1 in 5 children are food insecure in the nation.
“Which means they don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said Pittman. “Jobs have to be first and foremost and that’s how we protect the youngest in our community.”
Teeter said it would be wise to reach out to similar type companies to see if there’s a need to relocate any of their production to the building that used to process chickens. She also said small-business owners would benefit the local economy as well.
“We need to bring more job opportunities and it doesn’t necessarily have to be big corporations, big businesses. Small mom and pops to start with will maybe draw bigger, larger industry to our community,” Teeter added.
Large-scale operations that would employ several hundred, if not thousands, would be Hamm’s ideal replacement for the chicken plant.
“I feel like if we’re going to be bringing in business, they should be high-caliber companies. Not just a competitive-type wage company, but more like Cambrex and Zoetis,” said Hamm.