Tryon questions mayoral candidatesPublished 10:10pm Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Moderator Andy Millard asked the candidates how they would deal with the fact that Tryon owns the bed of Lake Lanier, and the lake’s water, but that the lake is outside the city, causing enforcement and other issues.
Wright suggested that “consumers of water . . the suppliers of water, the town manager . . . ought to get together and establish facts. A fact-based solution is necessary.”
What about enforcing rules about the lake when the lake’s residents don’t live in Tryon, asked Millard.
Wright said he does not favor litigation, which he said is expensive.
Peoples said that Tryon has gone though litigation twice over such issues since he’s been mayor.
On whether consolidation of services between Tryon and Polk County or other jurisdictions is a way to save money and improve services, or a bad idea, Wright answered, “I think there are real opportunities in shared services.”
Peoples responded that in 2003, the city moved to transfer dispatch responsibilities to the county, and that plan upset a lot of individuals.
When the county increased the dispatch and taxes, continued Peoples, “we all paid for them. Do I want to see consolidated services? My goodness, yes.” But, he said Tryon’s fire department has a faster response time than the county.
“If you want to lose your fire department, raise you hand,” challenged Peoples.
What would each candidate do to support and grow downtown business?
“A thriving downtown is what drives what you are,” answered Peoples, saying it can provide fire and police coverage. He noted that the city government can only do so much to bring in new businesses, though he later discussed some success in that area.
Wright said he would consider actively talking to certain businesses (like Mast General Store), and invite them to Tryon. He added to do everything possible as a town government to facilitate businesses.
On how to raise revenues, and whether it’s even possible, Wright’s answer was to look at sources for raising revenue.
“Sure it’s important,” he said, adding that increasing revenue could eliminate or postpone the need to raise taxes.
Regarding possible annexation, neither candidate feels that such a move is imminent.
“Annexation, for now, (maybe longer) is a dead issue,” Peoples suggested.
According to Wright, “I think it’s not dead, but it’s a while away. It’s the right thing to do at some point in time.”
Each candidate had the chance to ask a question of the other. Wright asked Peoples if he (Peoples) has been talking about something for 11 years, why should the voters send him back into office?
“Send me back,” responded Peoples, “and send me some people who believe in the town of Tryon.”
He added that he has spoken to people about bringing businesses to the town, resulting in three new businesses, and another one possible.
Wright asked Peoples to explain what the latter has accomplished, saying that he (Wright) brings, “an opportunity to reach a consensus.” He said he has met with council members and feels he can help council make decisions.
“I think it’s time for a new face,” Wright added.
Peoples asked Wright, “If you have been here since 2004,” where have you been?”
Wright responded that he’s been a guardian ad litem in the county court, was manager of Gillette Woods, and is a volunteer on the Tryon Parks Committee. “I’ve been here, as you know,” he told Peoples.
An audience question about providing places for youth to gather prompted Wright to remark that he and his wife discussed the possibility of using the old Presbyterian church for youth activities. He added that tremendous activities exist for youth, but without enough concentration of things. More can be done, he said.
Peoples responded that in 1987, he started a Junior Olympics program in the county, and added that Little League and other activities exist for area youths. He said that on Saturday mornings, Harmon Field is full of young people.
Community development means jobs for young residents, said Peoples. “We need jobs for young people.”
To the suggestion that a food service tax of 1 or 2 percent could be readily accepted and a good source of income, Peoples argued, “We got that idea a couple of years ago,” but said that state officials said no, the town could not institute that.
Wright responded, “I can’t beat that. No means no.”
A question from an Eastside resident about sewer and water issues prompted Wright to ask Peoples why it took so long for three votes (a majority of council members) to fix a problem they all knew about for years. Peoples answered that the problem began some four or five years before he became mayor, and that an approximately $700,000 price tag kept council from approving the work.
Wright said it took eight years to put a man on the moon, but why should it take 12 years to fix a sewer issue?
Wright said he does not pretend to understand all of Tryon’s issues, but wants to spend time with the community to understand.
“I hope I’m a good listener,” Wright said.
Peoples said Eastside was put off for years, but CDBG (Community Development Block Grants) have been obtained to fix some of the sewer problems. He also said seven dilapidated homes in that area have been torn down. He said other problems were ignored but, “yes, we are working to improve it.”
In closing, Wright noted again that the issue is about leadership. “At least our community has a greater choice than you’ve had in a long time.” He added, “We haven’t begun to tap the potential of our town’s people.”
Wright asked voters to ask themselves how Tryon compared to Saluda and Columbus twelve years ago, and how it compares to those two towns now. Are you, and Tryon better off than you were then? If your answer is ‘no,’ please vote for me.”
Peoples noted that 12 years ago, Saluda and Columbus were not wading in $1.6 or 1.7 million in red ink.
“I’ve given you all I’ve had for 12 years,” Peoples said.
He then admitted that he will still make mistakes, but urged, “We are too far along in the recovery of this town to have a rookie mayor.”