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Local gov’t candidates face off

October 26, 2012
Kylie Saari , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - The seven candidates for Fairmont City Council remained civil Thursday night during a forum held at City Hall, despite questions that clearly raised some emotions.

Three contenders for Ward 4 - Terry Anderson, James Hardt and write-in Wayne Hasek - two candidates from Ward 2 - Chad Askeland and incumbent Harlan Gorath - and two at-large candidates - Craig Nelson and incumbent Wes Clerc - fielded questions ranging from if they believe lakeshore ordinances are enforced, to their opinion on raising taxes, to their response to the accusation that the council public hearings are a facade.

Water seemed to take a front seat in the questioning, with the council's responsibility for water quality, lakeshore ordinances, and how the water plant got approved coming under fire.

"I live on the lake and I see what happens when it rains," Anderson said. "I like clean water. I like for my grandkids to swim in that water. I don't know if we are doing everything we can do."

Anderson said he would like to see the city implement natural water clarification methods - such as certain plants that filter the water.

"Every drain should be diverted into a sediment pond," he said. "We need to start working naturally to clean the water."

Clerc agreed with the necessity of keeping the lakes clean.

"Our lakes are our greatest natural asset," he said. "We need to protect them."

The approval of the new water plant served as an example of criticism that the current council doesn't really listen to the constituents at public hearings, but makes its decisions without discussions. The incumbent councilmen disagreed.

Gorath emphasized the number of hearings the public has during the course of decision making, noting councilors and city administration are always available to hear comments and concerns.

"Many (projects) have been in the works for 4-6 years," he said.

Clerc said educating the citizens on how decisions are made over the long term will help ease public complaint.

Economic development ideas were also presented, with some very specific - like Nelson's desire to see CAD classes introduced to the high school - to others more general, like Hardt's suggestion to diversify the industries represented here.

"We need to bring a variety of jobs," he said. "That is how we will keep our youth."

Gorath, Clerc and Hasek emphasised working to keep current businesses in Fairmont.

The prospect of raising taxes or cutting services brought a variety of answers as well, from Anderson's even approach of cutting all departments equally if necessary, to Nelson's declaration that the city removes too much snow.

He would like to see no snow removal until two inches are on the ground.

Gorath and Askeland both felt a tax levy would be acceptable in times of crisis.

"People need to know that what services they ask for, they will have to pay for," Gorath said, adding he would be careful to avoid being penny wise and pound foolish.



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