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Marshall commission candidates identify city needs at final forum

By Caleb Brabham
April 20, 2017 at 4 a.m.

Candidates for the May 6 Marshall City Commission election talk Wednesday during the Harrison County League of Women Voters forum at the Central Fire Station.

During the final candidate forum for the May 6 Marshall City Commission election, hosted by the Harrison County League of Women Voters, many candidates defined what they saw as their core obligations to the city of Marshall.

District 1 candidate Lenora Waldon Reed said she wanted to hold other commissioners accountable to the city's needs.

"In our city, we need to make sure that the things that are important to our survival - infrastructure, streets, water and sewer - are the utmost important things we deal with on a daily basis. … As a commissioner of Marshall I want to make sure our residents have a great existence here … and that it is is inviting for other residents to live and businesses to want to move here," Reed said.

District 1 incumbent Gloria Moon said she wanted to continue to make sure the city uses all of its resources to make the city the best it could be.

"I would define co-obligations as taking the necessary measures to insure that full usage of all resources available to build this economy," Moon said. "I feel this can be done by continuing to work with MEDCO to bring more high paying jobs and starting steps on our newly developed strategic plan to get more retail business here in the city. Another co-obligation is providing the best possible police and fire protection in the city. Another obligation is to provide for the infrastructure. The needs are streets, drainage, storm system and maintain of all facilities the city owns."

District 2 candidate Gail Beil began by listing what she feels is essential to an effective city.

"Police, fire, animal shelter are a must," Beil said. "Streets are a must, but the way in which we do the streets are important, making sure that we use tax money (prudently).

"We are in danger of losing Community Development Block Grants and frankly I haven't heard the current city commission even requesting a lobby with our U.S. congress to say 'we want Community Development Block Grants.' Nobody said a word, and yet most of that money goes into District 2."

Beil also showed concern for the future of Marshall sales tax revenue.

"MEDCO comes up with $100,000 a year jobs and 100 people get them. Do you know where they go? To Hallsville," Beil said. "And when they do we don't get the sales tax revenue, which is one third of our budget and we don't get the property tax revenue, the other third of our budget. And we cripple the school system as well as ourselves by not looking at making Marshall the place everybody wants to live."

District 2 candidate Leo Morris said the city owed much to its residents.

"The city's core obligation(s) ... are to one, provide a safe and secure community, two, to provide a strong, diverse and viable local economy, three (provide a) financially stable city, four, provide a higher quality infrastructure and (lastly) a place to live, work and play in thriving neighborhoods with a high value of life for all residents."

District 3 candidate Terri Brown said the city is obligated to have a commitment to quality.

"The city commission should set the overall direction of the city of Marshall with planning and monitoring through the long-term strategic plan to insure the future of our city," Brown said. "The city is responsible for delivering quality services, including roads, sewer and water lines."

District 3 incumbent Eric Neal said throughout his term he made sure he met the city's core obligations as he saw them - infrastructure, public safety and cleaning out dilapidated structures - to the best of his abilities.

"In the last two years, once this road project goes underway, there will be 97 new roads in Marshall. … There will be three major rail intersections, meaning those that have not been addressed for years and years are being redone, as well as two major drainage projects. What should we expect in another two years? Another 97 roads, another three rail spurs and another two drainage projects."

Each candidate was given a chance to answer whether they believed money had been mismanaged by the current commission. All denied that the commission had mismanaged money, but said they wish the commission had better budgeted the money, or used it in different ways.

At the end of the forum, District 4 incumbent LaDarius Carter was asked to discuss the impact the ever raising local tax rate has on the local economy.

"We've talked tonight about the fact that we have a pretty low median income in this community," Carter said. "Unfortunately what that means is we have fewer people paying into sales and property tax. Nobody wants to raise taxes.

"Unfortunately, I feel like we have some previous governing bodies who didn't want to be the ones to raise taxes or the water rate and did a sub-par job addressing our core obligations. We started this discussion tonight discussing the core obligations of this city … then the challengers said they didn't feel like we were mismanaging funds; we are doing the best we can with what we have. Unfortunately, things nobody wants to do like raise tax and water rates had to happen over the past two years … the revenue had to come from somewhere."

District 4 candidate William "Doc" Halliday quickly rebutted.

"But it's interesting that you just piled on top of that by increasing the trash collection rate twice," Halliday said. "The first time when Republic Industries came in, you didn't even ask any questions concerning it when it was in a period of decreasing fuel prices and decreasing CPI, which it was based upon."

Carter countered, saying he believed he had done his job effectively.

"I don't know how anybody can say I didn't ask questions," Carter said. "I ask questions about every decision because it's important to the tax payers of this community. If any constituent has a question about anything, my phone rings non-stop.

"Mr. Halliday has contacted me about whether or not I was running for re-election, about the fact he believed city commissioners are paid a salary of $20,000 a year, but never once has he contacted me questioning any spending decision that we have made as a city commission. I feel like the due diligence wasn't done by anyone who suggests that I didn't do my due diligence," he said. "This city gets donations from that company and perks that average about $50,000 a year. We still have the lowest trash rates in our area. And to vote another way would've damaged our relationship with that business."

Early Voting begins Monday and runs through May 2. Election day is May 6.

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