Published Sep 28, 2011
This week The Wake Forest Gazette asked the eight candidates for three town board seats about future town investments. All the answers are in their own words without editing.
We asked: “What capital projects would you propose for the town? A new southside park? Faster construction of the greenway system? A civic center for meetings and perhaps space for the farmers’ market? The railroad bridge and connection from North White to North Main for the northside loop? Completion of the Joyner Park plan? New streets?
“And would you support a bond issue for capital projects?”
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Greg Harrington: Two capital projects I would like to see undertaken at this time are (1) A new Civic Center and (2) A new Police Station. I would also like to look into a third project, the North Side Loop Connection. I would support a bond issue for these capital projects if it did not raise taxes.
A number of years ago, a civic center was proposed for the Town. I believe the former Mayor Dick Monteith was the one who proposed it. Wake Forest is still a growing town and there are many reasons why a civic center would be greatly used. For example, since the Wake Forest Purple Heart Foundation was formed three years ago, we have had to hold our annual dinner in a different location each year because the interest has grown and there is currently no place big enough to hold the larger gatherings. The Center, if built, would need to hold a minimum of 500 people and have a number of side meeting rooms. I can see the Chamber of Commerce using it for their annual banquets and the Wake Forest annual Christmas dinners being held there. As I said, the town is going to continue to grow, and a Civic Center would be a big benefit, not only for the use of Wake Forest, but for surrounding cities as well.
The Wake Forest Police Station was built around 1990-1991, and about the time the officers moved into it, it was already too small. The Station was built with a little growth in mind, not the explosive growth the Town, and thus the Police Department, have experienced. When I came here as Police Chief in October 1993, the department had 14 officers and a civilian staff of five. Now the Department has over 55 officers and total staff of over 65. There simply is not enough room for the Department to meet its needs. When the new Town Hall was planned, it was believed the Police Station was going to be built at the same time. Due to financial issues, the Police Station was put off for one year, then three, and now we just are not sure when it will be built. There are renovations going on at the Station, and the Detective Division and another unit are working out of separate buildings. As the Department has grown in the number of officers, so have the responsibilities and duties of the officers. They have a number of special units that need space and they certainly need more space for evidence.
In addition to these two capital projects, I believe we need to look strongly at the North Side Loop Connection. One of the issues I have talked about is sound infrastructure, and I am concerned that the only road connecting North Main and North White Streets is Brick Street. There has to be a better way for our citizens to cross over to either one of these streets without having to go around their elbows to get to their nose. email@example.com, 554-0646.
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Anne Hines: Wake Forest is the ideal family location. We have so many parks, with easy access. However, we do need to consider finding a suitable location on the south side of town to locate a park, with soccer and baseball fields, or tennis courts. The greenway system is growing throughout the town, locating a park near one would be ideal. I know it will be more difficult on the south side because the neighborhoods don't always connect directly to the Town proper.
As for the greenways, we are certainly way ahead of a lot of communities. Thanks to our outstanding Greenways Advisory Board. Recently, Chairperson Jan Ammons, presented a comprehensive report to the Town Board. The GAB has worked very hard to get donations from professionals, for their time, plans, and consultations. As soon as the economy finds a good footing, I believe the Town will be able to implement more plans, looking for grants that will help off-set some of the costs. Remember it costs approximately $1,000,000 per mile of paved greenway. That is why more soft trails are being looked at for a quicker completion.
Through the years different people in the Town have tried to bring a civic center into our area. I think the location should be close to downtown. It should have, not only indoor space that could accommodate 500-700 people, but outdoor space for concerts, farmers market, and special events. For example, I'm on the Wake Forest Purple Heart Foundation Board, as our event grows, at some point we may have to move our annual dinner out of Town. So, it would be wonderful to have a larger facility.
The Town continues to work on the north side loop. Again, this project is economy driven. It entails more than just the connection with N. Main & N. White, with an expected cost of $15,000,000.This project is still on the radar, we are working on the necessary steps to move it forward.
Joyner Park - what a wonderful place! Peace and tranquility! You know it is special when the Mayor of Cary stated that his city has nothing like Joyner. So, I must admit I have mixed emotions about the other phases of the park. The Community House is certainly needed. The soccer and baseball fields are certainly needed. But both of those elements will change the tranquility of the park. On the other hand these phases will also offer great amenities for the Town. The kinds of amentias companies look for when they locate their businesses into a town.
Bonds can be a form of taxation, even though they don't always result in a tax increase. When bonds are issued, they have to be guarenteed with the possibility of a tax increase. That possible tax increase is determined when bonds are approved. I realize they are necessary to complete Capital Projects. Generally only 9%-11% vote on bond referendums, which is a small portion of the population determining our future. Also, we need to have a mechanism in place so that whatever the bonds are for, is what the bonds are spent on - there should not be a situation where one project gets "bumped" to enhance another project.
I ask for your vote on November 8, so that I can continue to move Wake Forest forward. My proven leadership will ensure that we have continuity in our governing process. Anne Hines for Wake Forest Town Commissioner, firstname.lastname@example.org, 556-6304.
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Zachary Donahue: The Town of Wake Forest has a 5-year Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) that is scrutinized annually to determine its ongoing relevance and appropriateness. The CIP is a fairly comprehensive list of capital improvements - the important question to ask is how to prioritize the numerous requests in the plan.
The highest priority capital projects for the Town should be those that affect the health, safety, and welfare of the community and those that are either mandated by regulation, are a high priority of the Board, or those that lead to improved financial performance. The citizens of Wake Forest have had to buckle down their personal finances, and I believe as a local government, we have the obligation to do the same.
I believe we should finish what we've started before we go on to starting a significant number of other projects. High on the priority list should be completing sidewalks. We have some of the nicest parks and recreational facilities around, but what we do not have are sidewalks that allow our citizens to safely and conveniently visit these facilities without undue risk to their safety. The same applies to some of our schools in town - we have nice, new school facilities with no sidewalk connectivity, so students have to either walk in the street or on the side of the road to get to school. This is an immediate concern that I would make a very high priority.
There are also several street improvements that need to be made in order to provide for safe and easy travel around town, and to allow our citizens to connect to our businesses, churches, homes, and community facilities. As a member of the Town of Wake Forest Transportation Plan Citizen Advisory Group, I have already been involved in identifying the major transportation needs and opportunities, both now and into the future, so I am ready to build on this and be a Board member that leads us into the future.
I also favor putting signs welcoming people to Wake Forest at the major entrance points to town. I would like to see signs that are a reflection of our community, so that as people enter Wake Forest from any direction, they know that they are in Wake Forest and feel a sense of our community pride.
With respect to issuing new bonds, I believe strongly that now is not the time to issue new bonds and put additional debt onto the books of our town and the shoulders of our citizens. With the economic climate being what it is right now, and the unfavorable financing terms that would result, it would not be a wise decision to issue new debt. We have an award-winning Finance Department who works hard to ensure that our tax dollars are properly managed, and as a Certified Public Accountant who understands the inner-workings of organizational financial operations, I would provide oversight of this process to ensure maximum accountability of our hard-working taxpayers' dollars.
What we, as a local government, can and should do is to create policies and an environment that encourages responsible growth of our tax base. This means new jobs, new businesses, and new opportunities to provide the best possible place to call home right here in Wake Forest.
On November 8, please elect Zachary Donahue to build a better Wake Forest, email@example.com or 761-9043.
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Matt Reck: In responding to the question of “What Capital projects would you propose for Wake Forest”? I must say that right now I would not propose any new capital projects for Wake Forest because of the fact that the economy is not where it should be. I know too many people in Wake Forest (myself included) who are facing a great financial instability in their lives.
I will say that the plans for the Wake Forest Greenway system and the Phase 2 of Joyner Park are noble ideas that would be a benefit to the citizens of Wake Forest, but these items are wants and not needs.
The towns current debt of approximately $32 million is quite low, just .7% of the towns tax base (NC allows for 8% of tax base) would make this an opportune time for the town to borrow at very low interest rates, just like the 2.18% interest rate it is getting on the street paving this year; I feel however we must limit ourselves to needs, like street paving.
Should a capital project include repairing or replacing infrastructure and if the benefit far outweighed the cost I would review the matter with great care before voting on it.
In regards to a Capital Project Bond issue, I understand that the Town Finance Director and Manager have indicated that they were considering a Capital Bond Vote in 2012, but believe that it might be prudent to wait until 2013-2014 before making a proposal. I believe that is a wise idea. I also would certainly hope that a vote on any Capital Project would take place during a General Election in November wherein more voters will have an opportunity to have their voices heard. That is something I would push for whether or not I win a seat on the Board of Commissioners. I am not a proponent of calling for special elections for this purpose, as they cost thousands of dollars and there is a greatly reduced voter turnout. 4Matt4WF@nc.rr.com, 368-7339
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Sherry Ward: If funding were available, I would love to see several capital projects started within the town including a civic or cultural arts center for performances and meetings, having the current greenway development plan expedited, new placement for the farmer’s market to provide better access, completion of the “northside loop” connecting North Main and North White Street and also expanding several overcrowded roads. However, at this time of national financial crisis, we must be cautious in beginning projects that can often times exceed expected costs and may also be dependent upon usage revenues to keep them up and running.
In the meantime, I would propose making citizens aware of some of the existing resources like the DuBois High School Alumni who have secured a significant grant to revitalize the Dubois campus which includes the renovation of the gymnasium that will be a wonderful venue for civic activities including performances. Talks are already underway for the relocation of the farmer’s market to the parking lot next to the downtown CVS which makes perfect sense. This relocation could be done at minimal expense to the town and actually provide some expansion room for the market while making it more accessible for shoppers. The completion of the “northside loop” is going to require private developers to come back to the table with the proposed residential and business development that would make the town’s return on investment significant enough to justify the expenses. When that happens, I’m confident that the project will be completed. With the federal stimulus package “shovel ready” projects initiative, Wake Forest looked at some of the road improvement projects and was wise in not accepting them at that time due to the stipulations that accompanied the money and the additional revenues that would be needed for actual completion. Leadership should continue to look for both government and private resources to aid in our growth. However, remaining financially solvent is a must. While we want to provide additional services to citizens, strategic planning and fiscal responsibility must come first.
I would support a capital projects bond issue, if it does not require new taxes, we have clear data to show significant impact on a wide segment of the Wake Forest population, and we have a consistent or reliable revenue stream for repaying the firstname.lastname@example.org, 761-9469.
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Peter Thibodeau: Identification and selection of capital projects each year is a challenge in any economy. Our Board uses a 5-year planning process, to make it easier to rank and categorize projects based on need, cost, and timing. By doing things in a logical, organized manner, we are able to prioritize capital projects over a long term period without sacrificing our town’s financial health. Currently, we have the highest bond rating possible, which allows us to secure loans at better rates than many other towns in the area. This means lower total project costs to you, the taxpayer. It also allows the Board to better control our Town’s finances and minimize the potential to seek tax increases.
We have a very successful capital project planning process in Wake Forest. I will continue to follow this approach, and make sure that we maintain our ability to fund necessary capital projects while still investing in projects that will add to the vibrant nature of our Town. During my four-year term as Town Commissioner, for example, we have continued to fund greenways programs at a substantial level ($384,000 this year alone), providing contributions toward trail building and bridge construction that will link the Wake Forest Greenway system to Raleigh’s trail system, and we will also be part of the Mountains-to-Sea trail system. Just this year, we have funded needed equipment and staff for the Police Department ($590,000), renovations for the Alston-Massenburg Center ($705,000), sidewalk connections, a Safe Routes to School project ($253,000) and many other worthy projects. We accomplished all of this without raising taxes for homeowners again this year. I am very aware that there are many other worthy candidates for funding at the capital project level. However, we need to be diligent in selecting appropriate ones that will provide long-term benefit to the Town without compromising our outstanding financial management practices. As a Board, we have discussed the appropriateness and timing for a bond request, and will continue to evaluate this possibility in the coming year.
I look forward to the opportunity to continue serving the Town of Wake Forest as a Commissioner. I will use my experience and leadership to help make sure that we make the best decisions not just on capital projects, but on all matters to help keep Wake Forest growing. You may reach me via email at email@example.com, and you can support me on Facebook at Peter Thibodeau for Wake Forest Commissioner. I hope to earn your continued support in the upcoming election. Thank you. 453-1051
Jim Thompson: Assuming we were able to get support from the community for a bond referendum, I would propose completing phase 2 and 3 at Joyner Park. We have such a great asset at that park and of all the projects I can think of, Joyner would be one of the few that would have the potential to increase revenue for the town in the form of activity fees. Another project that would make a lot of sense for the town to consider would be an aquatic center. While Holding Park Pool is a great facility, it is really beginning to show it age and unfortunately can only be used a few times out of the year. In addition to the pool concept, the idea of adding spraygrounds to some of our existing parks would also be a great option to consider. firstname.lastname@example.org, 417-4217
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Ben Clapsaddle: The question of “What Capital Improvements should we make?”, is very intriguing for me. I have been in situations like this before; and frankly under some very stressful situations. In ambiguous times, how do we approach things? In the Army, we have a saying that sometimes our leaders need to take an “appetite suppressant.” Leaders often want to move the ball forward, but without fully understanding what and how much resources are available.
These are tough economic times and I will do nothing that will increase the financial burdens on our tax payers. I will review the Capital Improvement Plan and ensure we base our priorities on the mission of our Town; “….provide for the health, safety and welfare of the residents, property owners, and visitor …” I will ensure our First Responders have the right equipment and training, and only then will I rank order any Capital Improvement Project based on the maximum amount of Citizens it will impact and assist.
One of my first orders of business is to have a frank and open dialogue with the leadership of the DuBois School Alumni Association and the citizens of Wake Forest. I believe it is time to rejuvenate the mission of this historic school and make it a center for the advancement of learning for the Northeast Neighborhood and all of Wake Forest. Let’s make it a place where we can have Recreation Leagues play, where we can have Adult education classes and workshops, a place where we teach and assist early childhood development. This will improve and enhance the opportunity for success for everyone in Wake Forest. We need to partner with the DuBois Alumni Association to research and apply for every grant available and help set the foundation of a Public-Private Partnership that is beneficial to the Town and the DuBois Center.
I can’t support nor commit to any bonds without reviewing all of the Town’s commitments, projections of revenue and projection of economic growth. Now is the time to take an appetite suppressant, and focus on our core mission: the health, safety and welfare of the residents, property owners, and visitors. Clapsaddle4commissioner@yahoo.com, 761-1257
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(Editor’s reminder: The Government Affairs Committee of the Wake Forest Area Chamber of Commerce will pose questions to all these candidates at a forum on Tuesday, Oct. 11, in the Wake Forest Town Hall. The hours are from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The forum will be televised live on Channel and at various times thereafter, though no schedule is available now.
(The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8, and if you are not registered to vote in North Carolina and wish to vote in this election, you must register on or before Oct. 14. For detailed information about where and how to register, go to www.wakegov.com/elections.)