Candidates attend forum

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Brundidge candidates fielded questions about utility costs and their plans for improving city government during a forum on Tuesday.

Seven of the eleven candidates seeking office in Brundidge attended the candidates’ forum hosted by the Pike County Chamber of Commerce.

Mayoral candidates Jamie Powell, Lawrence Bowden, Isabell Boyd and Cynthia Pearson were in attendance to take questions, as well as District 5 candidates Chris Foster and James Jones and District 4 candidate Jimmy Ramage. More than 40 people attended the forum, held at Brundidge Station and co-sponsored by the Tupper Lightfoot Memorial Library.

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The first question asked of the candidates was one of the most hotly discussed at the forum. The question posed that Brundidge utilities are some of the highest in the area and asked candidates what they would do to lower that cost.

Ramage countered the question by contending that Brundidge utility costs are not the highest in the area.

“Ours are a little bit higher than Troy’s because they have more demand, but our cost is lower than other places like Ozark, Andalusia, and Enterprise,” Ramage said. “Our rates are lower than Alabama Power and 15 to 20 percent better than they pay at the co-op.”

Boyd said that part of her platform is to have someone from outside the city come to evaluate the utility board.

“This is not one man’s game,” Boyd said. “And I am in the same boat as you all.”

According to Bowden, electric bill rates were 6 percent lower than they had been in the past few months. Pearson went even further to say that rates had dropped by 12 percent over the last few months.

Powell said that the other candidates had recognized the question, but not offered any solutions.

“We have one of the best electricity bills in the state,” Powell said. “The problem is that it’s combined with the garbage bill and water bill. That’s such a high amount to come up with at one time.”

Powell said that he would work to separate the bills and eliminate the fuel tax in the city.

Candidates were also asked about what they would work on first if elected to office.

Ramage said that he’d like to talk with consultants about ways to bring people in to fill empty houses in the city.

Foster was the first to say that he’d look into making the council meeting later to accommodate more people. Many of the candidates promoted this idea as well. He also said that he’d like to redevelop Galloway Park.

Jones said that he’s happy with the changes that are being made but that there’s always room for improvement.

Bowden was the first to say that he’d like to establish a mayor’s office to promote accessibility.

“You come in and talk, and if I’m elected, I’ll listen,” Bowden said. Several of the candidates echoed this message after the forum.

Boyd said that she’d like to have town hall meetings and make the city government more accountable and accessible altogether.

Pearson said that she would focus on rebranding the city.

Powell said that he’d put an end to closed-door meetings, and also said that he’d like to build a new city hall that could accommodate more people.

“The city hall right now is in an old house and the council meets in one of the bedrooms,” Powell said. “Even if people wanted to come you couldn’t fit many in there.”

Candidates were also asked about downtown revitalization.

Boyd and Bowden answered the question by saying that it will take the collaboration of the city, civic organizations and residents.

Pearson emphasized that the businesses recruited need to be local to provide more stability. Pearson said that a retail clothing option was especially needed.

Ramage said that the obstacle to downtown revitalization is getting commitments from the building owners.

Ramage and Pearson were asked about the situation regarding the landill and the Coffee County Commission, but could not say much due to litigation.

They did say, however, that there was never any formal offer in writing.

“If it’s not on paper, it doesn’t exist,” Pearson said.