City council candidates face off at Rotary
October 29, 2013
Public issues ranging from the library to the water system were discussed Monday afternoon at the Noon Rotary Club's informal forum for Carroll City Council candidates.
While Clay Haley expressed his willingness to answer any questions community members have, the forum focused on the contested race for an at-large council seat between candidates Amber Raak, 30, Jerry Fleshner, 56, and Kyle Fesenmeyer, 25.
Phil Phillips said that the position on council required the individuals to weigh what they felt was right with what the residents felt was right. He kicked off the questions asking each candidate to describe a time he or she took a stand that was different than the people that surrounded him or her.
Fleshner cited a school board decision, in which he voted against hiring a new administrator when a principal retired. Though he knew that would put additional work on the shoulders of people he not only knew, but considered friends, he believed the larger goal of balancing the budget was more important for the district.
"Most decisions in this type of thing are unanimous, but this wasn't," he said. "It really bothered me, and it was a difficult thing to do."
Fesenmeyer cited his decision to move to Carroll, something his family members in the eastern part of the state did not understand. Despite a lack of roots in the area, Kyle said, he trusted his instincts that Carroll would be better for him and his wife, adding that the decision was one of the best he ever made.
Raak referenced an incident that arose through her work as an event planner. She made the decision to cancel an event when the customers announced that they wouldn't be able to pay for it. Despite her personal desire to see the event conclude without a hitch, she knew canceling the event would be in the best interest of the company.
"That's what's required in my position," she said. "I have to check my desires at the door and take survey of what's best for Carroll."
Rhonda Mart asked candidates what part of the city's strategic plan each felt passionate about.
Raak noted her beliefs that Carroll needs a new city maintenance garage and a new library. She said that Carroll has some good equipment, but some of it is stored outside, which is not "protecting the people of Carroll or the tax dollar." She described the maintenance employees as "salt of the earth" people who never complained about the buildings quality, but said the need for a new garage is becoming a bigger issue than "Carroll wants to deal with."
She acknowledged that the library is a "hot button issue." She said that Carroll needs a new library but will compromise her own bigger hopes to work out a plan that the people of Carroll will support.
Fesenmeyer mentioned a desire to address the need for a train horn ordinance, citing the lack of quiet as a "quality of life" issue.
"I've had lots of complaints by people when I go to door knock," he said. "They just want that thing turned off."
He added that he could relate to those hopes. He lived near train tracks in Clarksville but never woke up to a train horn like he has in Carroll.
Fleshner addressed the improvements and expansion in the Graham Park area.
"That's an area of town that's become kind of a focal point," he said. "Carrollfest is a great example of how that area can really help the city show itself off to other places."
He said that any issues that can improve that area further, such as improving the shelter house or tennis courts, would be "of particular interest" as long as they're affordable.
"It could become a showcase for the community," Fleshner added.
Adam Pudenz asked the candidates how they would pay for any improvements or projects.
Citing stellar past financial management, Raak explained that Carroll does not qualify for means- or needs-based grant money. Any large projects would need to be bonded and taken to the people for a vote. She added that right now is a great time to borrow money because interest rates are so low.
Fleshner and Kyle agreed, saying that basic needs should be met first, and could be met through regular revenue streams. Larger endeavors would require a vote.
Gary Mart asked what Carroll doesn't have that each candidate would like to see.
Fesenmeyer said that his wife would love to have a Target store in the region but there is nothing else a neighboring community has that Carroll doesn't offer.
Raak recalled the connected trails and parks in Ames and her ability to run across the city without ever crossing a major thoroughfare.
"It was fun and beautiful and peaceful. I think Carroll is big enough that we could really benefit from that," she said. "It'd be a great draw I think to the younger generations that really love that sort of thing and the older generations that want to stay healthy."
Fleshner said Carroll should have an uninterrupted supply of water.
He said that the city doesn't want to have to tell a new business, potentially bringing jobs to the area, that they will have to ration their water.
"It's not the most exciting thing, but it's the thing that I think is probably the most important at this time for our town," he said.
The election is Tuesday, Nov. 5. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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