A candidate forum was held last night where the Mayoral candidates were given the opportunity to respond to some loaded questions from the Havre Daily News and also to some random written questions from the audience. While my writing format may make my former English teachers cringe I am going to present the questions and candidate answers in a rather loose grammatical form. I will leave out all personal comment until the comment section with the hope that our readers will provide us with some opinions
The first question presented to the candidates related to making an ordinance regarding eyesore properties. Rice stated that the problem was with section 8 rental assistance to landlords and is currently looking into proposing a new ordinance requiring landlords to be licensed and also requiring that the City take on the task of inspecting rental properties before the privately owned properties are rented to tenants to make sure they are safe. Rice went on to claim that he has personally went to some of the problem properties with city crews to do clean up. Tim Solomon responded that the City shouldn’t be doing the cleanup and he would take a look at some other solutions.
The next question dealt with the controversial issue of RV’s being parked on the city streets. Solomon said we should just work to enforce existing laws without making any new ordinances. Mayor Rice said that while they try to do just that it is very difficult as the current ordinance allows the offender to move the RV a couple of feet per week and still be in compliance.
How will you attack the age old problem of needed street repairs? Rice stated that the City has recently purchased a patching machine for $40,000 and it is out there every day getting it done. Solomon said residents should just call Public Works if there is a problem area that is getting missed so they are aware of the problem. He also agreed with Rice that the investment in the patching machine was a move forward.
Solomon stated that he thinks the key to increasing economic development is to push actively for the expansion of highway 2 to 4 lanes and continuing to work towards expansion of the Wild Horse port hours to around the clock. Bob said the expanded port hours would help and he works diligently towards that goal and claimed he was instrumental in getting the few expanded hours we did just recently get. He also said we need to make sure the town is clean and inviting to potential businesses. Rice went on to say that Quantum 5 had just called that day and offered to give the city 20 acres for a community center.
When asked if the City should look at raising taxes to improve service both Rice and Solomon agreed that people couldn’t afford more taxes. Rice also stated that he is looking into more stimulus dollars and that Bear Paw Development was doing a wonderful job of finding funds for the city.
When asked what they thought were the best opportunities for Havre, Solomon said as Mayor he would work towards stopping the loss of qualified city employees and would maintain and support the current department heads. He promised not to meddle in the day to day operations of the city departments. Rice responded that our opportunity is our way of life and he will continue to cultivate good relationships.
A person in the audience wanted to know how the candidates would include the disenfranchised people. Rice claimed that he currently does that by giving them 3 minutes at the council meeting to air their concerns and he also send personal postcard invitations to people that he thinks may have a personal interest in subjects that are on the council agenda. Solomon stated that he thinks people need more input to the council before the vote instead of at the end of the council meeting.
$15,000 was just allotted to the Transit System. Will you work for future allocations to support the buses? Solomon said we should see how it goes and in the future the System should get to the point of supporting itself but he does support looking at future funding. Rice said that the vote to give them the money was a good decision and possible the extra money they will get from annexation will help the city in future allocations.
What is your plan to reduce the excessive police turnover? Rice stated he has done just that and it is no longer a problem. The new chief has fixed everything and they are back on track. Solomon said he would support the Chief by staying out of the way and letting the Chief run the department.
A question was raised about supporting a dog park like the one in Great Falls. Rice said yes, he didn’t exactly know what a dog park was but if Great Falls can do it then we could too. Solomon made a quip about it being on the Quantium 5 property way out east of town but then said he would be willing to look into anything to improve Havre.
With the annexing of additional business there is a probability that the City Court will see a substantial increase in its case load. Would you support hiring another court clerk to help the City Judge? Solomon said he would wait and see what develops but would look into it and Rice state that yes; they could hire another clerk but maybe part-time at first.
How will you handle the current pool lawsuit and related pool funding problems? Rice said they have exhausted all venues and it should just go to court for a decision, but in the meantime he is looking into solar panels and related grants to help with the energy bills. Solomon’s approach would be to take another look at negotiating with the County.
When asked about what they thought were their differences Rice said that the buck ultimately stops with me and if you don’t get results I just do it myself. Solomon said he would focus on taking care of the Department heads and put the “buck” back where it belongs.
In their concluding remarks Solomon stressed that he has the experience and can get things done. He wants to take a look at again combining the dispatch services with the County and look at other areas where we can join forces to save money. Rice again stated that he just gets things done and then finished up by waving a couple property tax notices and inviting anyone to come up and take a look to see that he does in fact pay property taxes contrary to what defeated candidate Glock said about him in the primary.
Now lets have some comments to let our City candidates know the feeling of the voters.