Preserving mountains, lake among hot topics
With topics ranging from preserving the lake and the mountains of Lake Lure and addressing sediment control, four candidates for Lake Lure Town Council met the public Tuesday night during a political forum.
Hosted by The Chamber of the Hickory Nut Gorge and Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, incumbent commissioners John Moore and Mary Ann Dotson-Silvey and political hopefuls Derek Papesh and Stephen Webber, made comments and received questions from the audience.
The forum lasted 40 minutes longer than advertised but the audience wanted to stay and the candidates said they didn't mind.
Whoever is elected to the two seats will serve with Mayor Bob Keith, who is running unopposed, and council members Diane Barrett and Bob Cameron.
More than 100 people were in the audience that was preceded by the Chimney Rock Village political forum.
Candidates were introduced by Keith.
Moore moved to Lake Lure in 1998 and is seeking his second term of office. He said running a municipal government is similar to running any type business and he believes the town has made strides in the budgeting process and personnel issues. He saidhe is responsibile for implementing the hiring freeze during the 2012 budget year and if elected, he hopes the town will be able to address more personnel issues regarding retirement of employees and reducing expenses.
"It is a big deal to raise taxes," Moore said. He voted against a tax rate in the current year and said the town can have capital improvements by reducing expenses.
"I will do all I can to spend money wisely," he said.
Dotson-Silvey is also seeking her second term on the board.
"I am very excited about things the town has accomplished," she said.
Dotson-Silvey said the needs are ongoing.
She said people know Lake Lure is a great asset to the town, "but people are the most valuable asset." Lake Lure is run by volunteers who serve on numerous boards and committees and said more participation would be good at town meetings, Dotson-Silvey said.
She doesn't like tax increases.
"I fussed the most," she said, but the town must have a balanced budget.
She said the renovation of the Town Marina was done without taxes.
She said as other needs are brought forth the town must ask, "But where will the money come from?"
Dotson-Silvey told the audience she is a person on a fixed income and understands that many other Lake Lure residents are on fixed incomes.
"To make things possible there has to be cooperation rather than competition. I believe with God's help and people working together miracles can happen," Dotson-Silvey said.
Papesh is a former Lake Lure police officer and now works for the town of Spindale as a police officer.
"I do not know it all but I am a hard worker and will try to come to good solutions for the town," Papesh said.
He believes one of the town's greatest problems is the dredging Lake Lure.
"This needs to be moved to the top of the priority list. We need a comprehensive plan for dredging," Papesh said.
Webber has been involved with town government for many years and serves on the Board of Adjustment and Lake Lure Appeals board.
He decided to seek office to "better serve the town."
He is retired from the military and said he decided last year to seek office on the council and since then has attended all council and budget meetings.
"I want to be your commissioner to serve you better," he said.
One resident thought the town was using $400,000 for infrastructure at the new school and asked why the town gave the property away and why the town was spending the money. The question was addressed to Dotson-Silvey.
Dotson-Silvey said she never suggested the town use its tax dollars for school infrastructure, but that the town could partner with the school and seeks grants for the infrastructure.
Moore said he supports the school and will also help the town apply for grants and added the town could not spend money on the school.
Papesh has a 10th grader at the school and told the audience he totally supports the school and believes it is very important for the growth of Lake Lure.
Webber said in a perfect world the town would build the infrastructure but it is not possible.
"The town can assist the school in applying for grants and be willing to help," Webber said.
Erin White asked commissioners why she received information in the mail that there would be no tax increases and taxes have been raised twice since 2009.
Moore said taxes were raised in 2012 due to the property evaluation since so much property in Lake Lure decreased in value. The increase was of 3.6 cents per $100 property valuation.
"I didn't want to do that but we couldn't cut services or lay off town employees," Moore said.
He said regarding the other 3 cent tax increase.
"I didn't vote for it. Expenses have been cut. I believe more expenses can be cut and more can be done that is done. I didn't support the tax increase."
Dotson-Spivey said there were tax increases due to the property valuation and the town had to fund safe clean water and sewer service.
"When the funding was not available I voted for a 3 percent increase marked for infrastructure," Dotson-Spivey said.
Papesh said no one likes to pay taxes and cutbacks are difficult to swallow.
Webber added that his integrity and being honest is more important to him than winning an election and he actually suggested the town raise taxes this current year 5 cents per $100 property evaluation because it is what was needed to help fund some projects.
Bruce Barrett asked about the dredging issues and said the town needs to address silt removal as well as ways to keep the silt from the lake.
"Anything we can do to keep silt from getting in the lake, it's cheaper than getting it out," Moore said.
He told the audience he plans to travel to Ohio to investigate a machine that can keep silt out but the cost is about $1 million.
He said silt is a problem and it needs to be a priority.
"There is nothing more important than preserving the lake," Moore said.
Papesh said the problem has been unattended a long time and dredging needs to be a priority and moved to the top of the town's project list.
Webber agreed saying sedimentation is a problem and it needs to be addressed. "We need to attack the problem. Without the lake, Lake Lure is gone," he said.
Resident Dianne Richard talked about preserving the mountains and the natural heritage of the town.
"The mountains are as important as the lake," said Moore. He said the town is building more trails and the land must be protected.
Dotson-Silvey told the audience she was the first person to put in a conservation easement. She said the town can't separate the integrity of the mountains it must protect the runoffs.
Chimney Rock Mayor Barbara Meliski, who owns property in Lake Lure, asked the candidates if they support recycling. As a member of the county's recycling committee, she encouraged them to continue recycling since with commingled recycling it's much easier.
Another resident talked the ordinance regarding vacation rentals.
Candidates said they all with the ordinance in place that allows neighbors to have a voice in the rentals.
Another question centered around the town's new medical facility to be constructed in the near future. One person wondered if there is really a need for a new doctor/dentist complex.
All candidates agreed there is a need.
In closing statement Moore talked briefly about the county/municipal sewer study project, congratulated the town's volunteers, mentioning especially the Flowering Bridge project; he said the physical appearance of the town continues to improve and he wants the area to remain environmentally friendly.
Dotson-Siley applauded the work of Town Manager Chris Braund and the staff and said the "town is all of us." She said everyone must be willing to work together and be willing to pay for the projects and find ways "to make this happen"
Papesh said is he's elected, he will make the time required to be a good commissioner.
"I want to do what's right and bring a different perspective," he said.
He said he hopes the school is built and hopes the county wide sewer project moves forward. He also believes there should be term limits on commissioners. He believes no one should have more than two terms on the board.
Webber said he is not seeking office because he doesn't agree what the current board is doing. "I can give Lake Lure more than I'm giving right now," he said.
He said the comprehensive plan is outdated. " We need to bring the plan up to date," he said.