Archived Story

Saluda candidates for council answer Bulletin questions

Published 10:57pm Thursday, October 24, 2013

Saluda candidate’s for this year’s municipal election will participate in a forum on Sunday, Oct. 27 at 3 p.m. at the Saluda Center.

The Saluda Center is sponsoring the event for the seven candidates running for two open council seats. Mayor Fred Baisden is running unopposed this year.

Incumbents Johnnie Kinard and George Sweet are being challenged by Carolyn Ashburn, Karen Bultman, Ellen Rogers, Mark Oxtoby and Hobart (Sunny) Pace.

Early voting can be done through next Saturday at the Polk County Board of Elections in Columbus. Early voting ends at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2.

The general election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 5 from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Saluda residents will vote at the Saluda Fire Department.

Carolyn Ashburn:

1. Do you feel there are ways the city could be run more efficiently, if so, what would you do differently if elected commissioner?

Commissioners presently oversee one of four areas of city responsibility, e.g. water, streets, etc. I propose there be two commissioners for each area, rotating over terms so that all commissioners are informed. Email should make communication and decisions by commissioners happen without delay. I would encourage citizen input and assistance in all areas of city government. The results of the audit show several areas that need more supervision: a careful watch of time cards of city workers, credit card purchases by city administrators and a review of taking home vehicles by police and the city administrator.

2. What are your plans to fund and improve infrastructure, specifically water and sewer lines?

Saluda’s largest budgeted item is the water department and it’s critical that the water system be upgraded. We currently are experiencing an average water loss of 41 percent each month.

There are many grant resources available to help small towns address these issues: Community Development Block Grants, HUD, Appalachian Regional Commission and NC Department of Commerce. Most are matching grants, though many are 80/20 matching grants that the city would only have to pay for 20 percent.

I attended the town joint meeting on Oct. 1. Saluda, Columbus and Tryon began discussion about a joint water authority. The consensus of this meeting was to determine the cost to establish such an entity and what the benefits for all would be. This is the same approach I would favor.

3. What do you believe is appropriate growth for Saluda? How do you propose to increase the city’s tax base without raising taxes?

Saluda’s historic downtown is essentially built to capacity. There are other entry ways into Saluda that could support businesses that would contribute to the tax base. We have seen a successful business (Gorge Zipline) started this year with a $250,000 block grant. These types of grants are available. The Small Town Main Street program, which I have been involved with from the start, offers many avenues to enhance the entry ways along the commercial corridors, thereby attracting more businesses to this area.

4. What is your vision for Saluda and what do you think you offer that other candidates may not?

Slow, managed growth that would protect our unique historical community. Our downtown has 23 sites on the National Historic Register and there is much potential for homes and whole neighborhoods to be added to this registry, which would give protection to preserve historical areas.

I am a good listener and communicator who would welcome input from the community. I am retired and am involved with many volunteer/civic organizations in Polk County that help connect people and services. I am honest, hard working, and reliable and have no conflict of interests with businesses or property that I own.

Karen Bultman:

1. Do you feel there are ways the city could be run more efficiently, if so, what would you do differently if elected commissioner?

Yes. If elected I would work to restore good management and financial accountability to the operation of Saluda. Currently, it’s not there. Our lack of management is evidenced by the 2012 audit report, no accountability on the usage of city owned vehicles, city regulations and procedures not applied equally to all citizens and elected officials, writing off uncollected water bills of which 20 accounts exceeded the maximum amount as stated by city hall. We need strong leaders who will speak up for the citizens of Saluda and conduct all city business in an open and transparent manner. I’m not a politician, but I was a successful business owner. We need to quit wasting money and start doing things right.

2. What are your plans to fund and improve infrastructure, specifically water and sewer lines?

I have already been instrumental in getting the city to acknowledge and take action on past due water bills, restoring some financial accountability. Additionally, there is grant money out there for towns like Saluda.

We need to consult with a qualified engineer to devise a master plan where we first identify the problems with our water and sewer system and then an action plan to address them. We need to get away from being a “complaint driven town” to a pro-active one.

3. What do you believe is appropriate growth for Saluda? How do you propose to increase the city’s tax base without raising taxes?

It all goes back to a well managed city that promotes the desirability for people to choose Saluda as home. In the 10 years I have lived here full-time, most “newcomers” either build a new home or renovate/enlarge an existing one, either way, they have increased property values, thus increasing tax revenues. Also, encouraging and supporting our business community increases sales tax revenues and provides jobs.

4. What is your vision for Saluda and what do you think you offer that other candidates may not?

My vision for Saluda is a viable community for the next generation. Quality of life is an important factor in any town and one of the main aspects that draws people to smaller communities. I chose Saluda as my home and quality of life is one of my greatest motivators to volunteer for city service.

Again, I’m not a politician, but have been a successful business owner. In the insurance industry, I was first and foremost in the “people business” as well as Saluda should be.

Johnny Kinard:

1. Do you feel there are ways the city could be run more efficiently, if so, what would you do differently if elected commissioner?

In my 14 years as a commissioner I have seen the efficiency of the city Gov. improve each year. We have one of the most efficient cities in the area

Tax collection rate is above 98 percent and utility collections exceed 99 percent – One of the highest in the state. The police department for which I am responsible is consistently under budget. We can always improve ; one way would be to reestablish our capital improvement fund, also we are updating our computer search program. Our employees do more with less than any I have seen.

2. What are your plans to fund and improve infrastructure, specifically water and sewer lines?

There are several things we can do to improve our infrastructure. One: Share jointly with Tryon and Columbus the use of major equipment and future equipment purchases. Two: Reestablish our capital improvement fund by putting any department savings into this fund so funds will be available for major purchases. Work with Tryon, Columbus, and the County on a joint water authority, this will share expense and keep costs down on water and sewer.

3. What do you believe is appropriate growth for Saluda? How do you propose to increase the city’s tax base without raising taxes?

Saluda by its very nature is limited as to growth. Our area is fixed, and recent laws passed by the legislature make any kind of annexation impossible, even voluntary.

First we need to attract business that will be compatible with the character of Saluda. Second we need to address the problem of affordable housing. The things I don’t want to see is development like Hendersonville or Gatlinburg or have Saluda turn into an elitist community like Hilton Head.

One of the advantages of Saluda is its diversity where everyone is made to feel welcome.

4. What is your vision for Saluda and what do you think you offer that other candidates may not?

My vision for Saluda is to preserve the historic heritage of the town and to encourage controlled growth compatible with our values. We have a unique town with excellent employees and I hope to keep it that way. What I offer is 14 years of experience, training in law, accounting and criminal justice.

I understand the difference between profit oriented business and service oriented governmental entities. This is not a “we verses them” employee employer relationship but a cooperative effort between the commission and the city employees.

Mark Oxtoby:

1. Do you feel there are ways the city could be run more efficiently, if so, what would you do differently if elected commissioner?

I would like to see a performance based review system implemented for more efficiency in our city government. This system would help ensure that we have, employ and retain the best employees, with increased accountability and transparency, which would include an annual inventory of all equipment during the yearly audits.

2. What are your plans to fund and improve infrastructure, specifically water and sewer lines?

I have been a resident of Saluda for 23 years, and in each city election cycle the water and sewer system has been the main issue. The State of North Carolina has over $30,000,000 in municipal grants available to improve infrastructure. Saluda still does not have a long term plan and estimated costs to properly apply for these grants. This would be my main priority if elected.

3. What do you believe is appropriate growth for Saluda? How do you propose to increase the city’s tax base without raising taxes?

Growth cannot be stopped, but it can be properly guided to maintain the small town “feel” of Saluda. Ozone Drive is the main entrance to our city and will be a growth corridor. We need to attract “small town minded” businesses to increase our tax base. The Planning Board should continue to review, update ordinances and present to the commissioners needed requirements for guiding our growth.

4. What is your vision for Saluda and what do you think you offer that other candidates may not?

I was born in England, moved to the USA in 1989 to marry a “Pace” girl. I am proud to be an American citizen and love our small town of Saluda where we are raising our son.

I bring a wide range of life experiences to the commissioners’ table along with my professional management skills as operation/branch manager for a facility with over $10,000,000 in sales.

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