Rock Hall Candidate Forum Organized by League of Women Voters

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Candidates Beth Andrews, Timothy L. Edwards, David L. Mayne, Allen Riley, and Charles Price.

ROCK HALL ––More than 100 Rock Hall residents filled the Civic Center auditorium Wednesday night to hear five candidates for two vacant seats on the town council. The election is Saturday, May 6.

Taking part in the forum were candidates Beth Andrews, Timothy L. Edwards, David L. Mayne, Charles Price and Allen Riley. Two other announced candidates had withdrawn from the election before the forum.

The candidates’ forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Kent County and the Rock Hall Business Association, featured two questions that the candidates were given in advance, followed by questions from the audience. Margie Elsberg of the League of Women Voters, who served as moderator, read the audience questions, which were submitted in writing.

While the discussion was wide-ranging, especially in response to the audience questions, several key issues emerged from the forum. The future of the police department and the health of the town budget were among the most important.

The issue of the police department came up in the third audience question, which asked what candidates would do to keep the town’s police force, currently made up of a chief and three officers, at full strength.

Andrews said she would do everything in her power to make sure the town maintains its police force. She said a number of problems, such as the drug epidemic, require a full police force – and “if we need to, grow it.”

The town can only cut the budget so much, said Edwards. He said it wouldn’t benefit anybody to reduce the force.

Mayne said that he wasn’t sure there was a significant risk of the force being reduced. He said he believed the force needs to be sustained the way it is, but if there are budgetary constraints, the town needs to consider alternatives such as outsourcing part of the town’s law enforcement to the county sheriff or to the state police.

The drug problem is worse than it ever was, said Price. “I’m all for adding to the police force,” he said.

Price said he didn’t know why there was talk of reducing the force. “We definitely need a police force,” he said, pointing to the number of senior citizens living alone in town.

Another audience question cited a recommendation by the Government Finance Officers of America that municipalities need to keep 10 percent of their budgets for reserves equal to two months of expenses. The question said that Rock Hall had $7,200 in reserves as of July 2015, and $11,200 as of July 2016. The candidates were asked whether they felt the reserves were sufficient and how they would increase them.

Price said the town definitely needs funds for infrastructure, with the water system “not up to all the way up to par yet – a lot of streets need new lines up in.”  As far as raising the money, he said he would have to talk to other council members to see what the best way is to do it.

“I’ve been thinking about this a lot,” said Andrews. She said in her job as a bank officer, she is responsible for reviewing and adjusting reserves on funds she manages on a quarterly basis. “That’s what the town should be doing, as well,” she said. “It absolutely needs to be done. You don’t just have a blank checkbook.”

Edwards said he’d want to know why the town was in such shape. “You’ve got to figure out what the problem is before you can do anything.”

“It’s a difficult question and it requires difficult answers,” Mayne said. He said the town effectively had no reserve, given the size of its budget. He said some of the town’s fee schedules need to be adjusted, and a tax increase may be necessary for the town to stay solvent. He said annexing properties to increase the town’s tax base might also work, but it would need to be analyzed to see whether doing so would be beneficial.

Riley said the town might see if it could get more grants or expand the town limits to increase the tax base.

Asked what the most important qualifications for a council member are, Mayne cited sound business experience and leadership skills. The business experience would allow them to make the budget decisions and the leadership skills are needed “to drive the initiatives the way we need them to go.”

Riley said the criteria could be experience with town government, such as his own work on the planning commission, and some length of time as a resident.

“Going out and interacting with the people, talking to everybody,” said Price. He said council members should be in touch with what “the people that live here” want.

“Whoever is elected should always keep in mind that they are representing the people and what the people want, and not someone else’s agenda,” said Andrews. She also agreed with Mayne that a good financial background would be an asset.

Edwards said the first thing should be accountability. “There’s a lot of people who want to hold you responsible for whatever you do, and that’s just part of being a public servant,” he said.

Asked what they would do to being a small industry or new business to town, Price said he thought people would like to see a new industry there, if it was put in the right place and didn’t interfere with the way of life.

“The first thing I would do would be to make sure it was the right industry and the right business for the town,” Andrews said. She said working with the state and with industry groups would be the way to start.

Edwards said he would check whether the infrastructure could handle the business, and whether the business would pay for necessary upgrades.

Mayne said he had heard of a town in another state that annexed property and put in infrastructure to attract businesses. He said the town would need to be sure it had personnel in place to support it.

Riley agreed that the town needs new business for youth employment.

The candidates generally agreed on certain issues. Asked about the best part of living in Rock Hall, they pointed to the closeness of the community and the way it works together. “When someone is down in this town, they all pull together as one,” said Riley. The others gave variations on the same theme. Edwards said, “You can fight with your neighbor one minute, and as soon as that person needs you, you’re right there.”

The forum ended with the candidates’ closing statements. Price said he was glad to run for the council seat. “I hope I can do my best and what’s best for the town,” he said.

“I may not have the education of some of the others, but I do care about this town and the future of this town,” said Riley. If elected, he said he would listen to all and do his best to move the town in the right direction.

Mayne told how he and his wife ended up in Rock Hall after visiting on a date a few years back. He said he had many memories of the town and its people, “and now I want to give something back to the home I’ve come to love.”

Edwards said he had worked for the town for 29 years. “I know this town inside and out,” he said. “I may not know all the ins and outs of the mayor and council, but I am willing to learn. I think I have what it takes. I will be accountable for what I do and what I say.”

Andrews said she was concerned about the financial condition of the town, and believed the residents deserve greater transparency about the use of their tax dollars, which she said should be used for the safety and security of the citizens and a sound infrastructure.

She said the town should take advantage of state grants to increase its appeal to tourists.

Elsberg concluded the session by thanking attendees. She encouraged them to vote and to get their friends and neighbors to vote in the election.

More information on the candidates, and their written answers to several additional questions, can be found online on The Rock Hall Masthead at rockhallmasthead.com. More general information is at the Rock Hall Wave on FaceBook.

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Letters to Editor

  1. Gren Whitman says:

    Thank you for covering this excellent candidates’ forum!

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