Breakfast and Ballot Issues well attended
Nearly 50 community members attended the Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce's Breakfast and Ballot Issues on March 21. The event introduced local candidates and offered information on the county-wide sales tax issue.
Dusty Reid, chamber president, welcomed those attending the special event.
"I want to remind you that this is not a debate," said Reid. "This is an opportunity for community leaders to interact, have breakfast together and talk about some of the issues."
Gary Youngblood, county clerk, gave a brief introduction of the candidates and issues that will appear on ballots received by Cassville voters. He also offered sample copies of the ballot for the April 2 general election.
"You can vote absentee in the office right now," said Youngblood. "We will also be open 9 a.m. to noon on the Saturday before the election. Stop by the office. It doesn't take more than two or three minutes to get it done."
Candidates attending the event included: Bill Shiveley and Tracy Lannum, Cassville mayor; Wade Hermansen and Greg Allen, Cassville School Board; and Paul Bingham, Stormy Holtzman, Jan Thomas and John Starchman, Barry County Health Department Board of Trustees.
Cherry Warren, Barry County presiding commissioner, also attended the meeting to offer information on the county-wide sales tax issue.
Stan Kelley served as moderator for the event. Kelley opened the forum by giving each candidate or issue representative an opportunity to introduce themselves.
"Thank you for coming out, and I want to thank the chamber for giving me the opportunity to make this presentation," said Warren. "When we looked at the budget in January, we realized that in 2012 we did better than expected due to the circumstances with two jury trials, but looking forward to 2014, we felt that we needed to go to the people and tell them about our situation."
Warren said that the one-eighth of a cent sales tax increase is needed to restore law enforcement cuts made three years ago. Funding will also benefit the Barry County Extension Office and the prosecuting attorney's office.
When asked "if the sales tax passes, what percentage of the tax will be utilized in which departments," Warren offered specifics regarding how the increase in funding would be used by the county.
"We would like to add back three deputies, which would be around $150,000 per year with their benefits," said Warren. "The prosecutor's office would receive $100,000 for a full-time assistant prosecutor, a full-time investigator and a full-time clerk."
The county would also earmark $10,000 in revenue for the local Extension office and around $75,000 for patrol vehicles.
"We also need to build our reserve back," said Warren. "With the fire at McDonald's, we began to think, what would happen if 50 percent of our tax base in Cassville was eliminated? What would we do to maintain county resources? We need to build our reserve back to a manageable level."
When asked "what services will improve if the tax issue passes," Warren said the increase in funding would improve deputy response times and put more deputies in rural areas of the county where theft and cattle rustling crimes have been increasing.
"You will see more presence of law enforcement," said Warren. "The prosecuting attorney's office is also being required to facilitate more cases. Their caseload is up 21 percent. I think a full-time assistant and a full-time investigator would be a big help."
The proposed county-wide sales tax would cost 13 cents on each $100 spent in Barry County.
Barry County Health Board
Candidates for the Barry County Health Board were asked to answer the following question: "What do you see as the purpose of the Barry County Health Department Board of Trustees?"
Bingham said that the purpose of the board is to represent the people of Barry County and address concerns with informed decisions.
"It takes a great deal of self education, and you need to study a lot of issues," said Bingham. "You have to familiarize yourself with the many issues that come up each week, including enforcement issues and the relationships with DNR (Department of Natural Resources) and the state and the roles they play.
"I think the task of a trustee, as well, is to be accessible to people and hear their problems and work with other trustees to solve those problems," added Bingham.
Thomas said the board's main objective is to promote public safety.
"In our food service program, we have tried very hard to educate people on food safety," said Thomas. "We really try to address public safety, and our wonderful staff takes care of much of that for us.
"We also educate people on all of the services the health department has for them," continued Thomas. "So many people don't realize that the health department is there for them at a very reasonable cost. They open early in the morning and stay open later in the afternoon. It is not just a four or six hour window when people can get help."
Thomas said the board also focuses on environmental issues.
"The world around us is changing every day, and we all have to step up and make changes with it," said Thomas. "The board does a fine job of taking that seriously."
Holtzman agreed that the board's purpose is to educate county residents, promote health and oversee financing to ensure services are available and implemented.
"The environmental concerns are a big issue," said Holtzman. "The state regulates many of those issues and funnels those regulations down to the local health departments, but the board should make sure that it is doing the best for Barry County and not just pushing things that are not good for our citizens.
"That is one of the things I will be watching for if elected," added Holtzman.
The Barry County Health Board is responsible for administering a budget that is nearly $1 million each year, said Starchman.
"It is a big job to make sure that funding is well used for the citizens of the county," said Starchman. "The hardest thing you do as a board member is divorce yourselves from your personal likes and dislikes and political agenda and make sure that everything you do is for the best of everyone in the county."
Cassville School Board
Candidates for the Cassville R-4 School Board were asked "if elected, what will be your primary focus as a board member over the next three years?"
"School systems are very complex organizations," said Hermansen. "As you decide how you will allocate resources, you always have to keep in mind how effective the funds will be for the students and teachers in the classroom."
Allen indicated that the board maintains a primary goal of student safety and education.
"Our superintendent is elected by the board," said Allen. "The superintendent has the job of overseeing the day to day operations of the district. Our job is to supervise the superintendent and make sure his decisions are good.
"We also watch the financial side of the district," continued Allen. "We have a $17 million budget to oversee."
City of Cassville mayor
Shiveley and Lannum, Cassville's two candidates for city mayor, were asked a pair of questions. The first question was "will there be a need for an increase in utility rates in the near future?"
"There is always a need," said Shiveley. "Expenses are always going up and cost of services is always going up. The council is mandated to look at the water and sewer revenues each year and determine if the revenues actually meet the requirements of gaining reserves and covering operation and maintenance expenses."
Shiveley also pointed out that the city's debt service payments would be increasing in the next few years, which will require an increase in revenue.
"I certainly hope not," said Lannum. "I think they have been raised enough. I haven't looked at the numbers, but I am educated and I do think I could figure it out if I had access to that information. I think the city should deal with what they have right now and manage better."
The two mayoral candidates were also asked the following question: "Over the last few years there has been discussion regarding the installation of a stoplight at the intersection of First and Main Streets. Do you feel a stoplight is necessary at that intersection? If so, do you have any ideas for funding?"
"MoDOT (Missouri Department of Transportation) will fund it," said Lannum. "There have already been studies done. We need to quit being self-centered on the water and sewer problems. We need to take care of things like potholes and maintaining the parks and Greenway better."
Shiveley agreed that a stoplight is needed at the intersection.
"I know that MoDOT has done a study, but it is my understanding that the traffic count does not meet the numbers for them to fully fund a stoplight there," said Shiveley.
"The city does not just have a pot of money that can be used for everything," continued Shiveley. "We have funds designated for certain areas. Right now, funding the construction of a stoplight would come out of the general funds, and like funding for our street department, that is dependent on sales tax revenues."
Kelley concluded the event by thanking all of the candidates for participating in the forum.
"Thank you for your willingness to serve the community," said Kelley. "We also want to remind all of you to encourage your friends and neighbors to come out and vote on April 2. Voting is the way for us to make sure our voices are heard."
Questions asked during the event were submitted to the chamber office in advance and selected by members of the local media.