City council candidates answer questions at forum
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce hosted a Political Candidate Forum Wednesday evening in the council chambers in the Technology Building.
Nine of the 10 candidates for Copperas Cove city council were present, and after a two-minute introduction, each had the opportunity to answer a total of nine questions - four that submitted to the Chamber and five from the audience.
The first question from the Chamber of Commerce asked, “Do you think revitalization and historic preservation should be a priority of city council?”
Most candidates said that revitalization and historic preservation were important but only a few said they believed it should be considered a top priority of the city council.
Dario Eubank, running for City Council Place 3, said the council would need to prioritize what historical markers they would want to upkeep, which ones to put on the back burner versus some of the projects dealing with roads and infrastructure.
“I mean, this is a problem set that we’ll have to address as far as identifying these historical markers, but I don’t think it’s something that we should put off because Copperas Cove has a lot of history and has a lot of genuine ‘Texas-ness’…but if we want to move forward as a city, one, we need to identify these areas,” Eubank said.
Place 7 candidate Jack Smith said he believed the city council should help the Copperas Cove Historical Society. He said he wasn’t sure about making the city council and the city the lead but added that they definitely need to support the groups in town that wish to take on the project.
Place 5 candidate Dianne Yoho Campbell said as a longtime Covite, she wanted to see history preserved. She said she would like to see a facelift for the downtown area.
“People want to come into a community that seems quaint and charming, and I think doing on a facelift on those buildings would be very helpful,” Campbell said. She also mentioned Ogletree Gap and the heritage festivals that used to be held in the park.
She added that she would like to see a private-public effort on bringing revitalization to town.
The next question asked the candidates what their top three priorities would be for small businesses if they got elected.
Smith said he would make rules and regulations a little easier for businesses to open up. He would also try to get the word out to shop Copperas Cove and keep sales tax local, and finally, just give support to local businesses.
Place 3 incumbent Dan Yancey said that the city council has been working hard to make Copperas Cove “builder-friendly, small-business friendly, by taking care of unnecessary rules and regulations that have become antiquated and outdated.”
Place 4 incumbent Jay Manning mentioned different ordinances that have run businesses out of town, such as the sign ordinance, subdivision ordinance and noise ordinance.
“I think the number one priority that falls to the council is writing good rules,” Manning said. “When we have good rules in place, the regulations need to do what they need to do. They need to regulate what’s there, but they don’t need to go beyond that and run people off.”
Place 4 candidate Matthew Russell agreed with Manning and said the city has to standardize how it does its building ordinances. He added that the EDC should play a part in revitalization and that the city needs to look at the vacant businesses and figure out a way to reutilize those spaces to help small businesses move in.
Place 7 candidate Theresa Deans also agreed with looking at ordinances, regulations and policies and making sure they are rewritten and then enforced across the board.
“I’m a very big supporter of small businesses and nothing hurts me more than seeing a small business close up for whatever reason, whether it be financial, restrictions, health or anything,” Deans said. “If we support our small businesses, they will stay here. They will flourish, and they can encourage other small business to come in here.”
The third question from the Chamber of Commerce asked, “Is there one thing you can change about the city and its current direction, what would it be?”
Yancey said that he thought the city had a lot of things going in the right direction now, with a “strong council, hardworking city manager, great city staff and a Chamber of Commerce and EDC that are doing well.”
“All of those things together combine to create something much greater than the sum of its parts, and I think that’s where we are finally at a point where that is going to make a big difference for Copperas Cove going forward,” Yancey said.
Russell said that the city needs a “clear push and movement towards quality of life projects.”
Place 5 candidate Gary Kent said he thought the city needed to change the way it goes about bringing business into the city.
“We need to go from good to great. In order to bring those kinds of businesses into our town, we’ve got to work harder,” Kent said. “In order to work harder, we must solicit the help from the citizens.”
Place 3 candidate Jayme Sigler said she wants the citizens of Copperas Cove to be in unity with each other and their local government.
“People aren’t happy and that’s a problem,” Sigler said. “We need more participation from the residents and more listening from the people of government.”
The fourth question from the Chamber asked, “What will you do to support a vibrant economy in our area?”
Manning said that businesses take care of themselves, in a free market.
“The reasons that we don’t have businesses are regulations and regulations and regulations,” Manning said. “Regulations tie all of our hands and getting rid of those on a city level is a very important thing to me and I’ve worked at that for the last several years.”
Russell agreed with streamlining regulations and added that the city needs the EDC and possibly other organizations to go after the companies that work on Fort Hood. There are dozens of contractors who order tens of thousands of parts that are shipped here from the East Coast and West Coast, he said. The city needs to work on bringing those industries and corporations to Copperas Cove.
Questions from the audience varied from about how to pay for quality of life projects, each candidates’ feelings on the city’s contract with Fathom, whether candidates had Planning and Zoning experience and more.
Candidates were mostly in agreement regarding Fathom, that the only thing left to do is move forward and try to renegotiate the contract and continue having the city manager making sure Fathom keeps to their promises.
Candidates agreed that there was no single pathway to pay for quality of life projects. Russell expressed the need for the city to have a great grant writer for the city to “be able to tap into other people’s money.” He also suggested that the EDC could put projects up for voter approval. If the EDC had done one project a year, over 20 years, the city would have seen 20 projects, he said.
Eubank said that the city’s budget and Capital Improvement Plans on the city website show the breakdown of the projects and amounts budgeted for the projects and the revenue available. It is up to city council to prioritize those projects and make a five-year plan. He agreed that grants were a good option as well.
Smith said the only way was to either grow revenue or have citizens pay more taxes.
“One of the best things we’ve got going is the new subdivision on the north side of town. Lots of people moving there. They’re all paying taxes.,” Smith said.
Copperas Cove needs to continue growing and bringing people and more businesses.
“The more chicken eaters we have here, the more chicken places we’ll have,” he added.
The next political candidate forum will be October 26, 2019 at 1 p.m., hosted by the VFW Post #8577 on Veterans Avenue.
Early voting will be from October 21 through November 1, 2019, with Election Day on November 5, 2019.