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Perryville mayoral candidates compare positions at forum

The highly anticipated Perryville mayoral forum was held Tuesday night at Perryville Jamboree. The candidates include two current council members, and although city council has had its share of drama lately, candidates kept to the questions at hand and took no punches.

The event was organized by the Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce. Candidates Brian Caldwell and Paul Webb participated; Tim Simpson was absent.

Simpson was at the forum beforehand, but left before the mayoral segment got underway. He posted an update on social media pertaining to medical issues causing him to leave.

Caldwell said he grew up in Boyle and loves the community. “Most of you all probably know me and know I love to volunteer … and I feel like I have a lot of good ideas I can bring to the city of Perryville.”

Webb began by thanking current Mayor Anne Sleet for her service, and read a prepared statement detailing his nine years being active in city business, legal knowledge and “extensive discussions with citizens about developing a comprehensive plan.” He spoke of his ideas to increase tourism, grants that are available and protecting the history of the town.

Moderator John Funkhouser asked them why they thought they were the best candidate to serve as mayor.

Webb reiterated his opening points and said he would have an open-door policy on hearing citizens’ concerns. He said good leadership results in employees being able to do their job more effectively, and the mayor must have the ability to handle city funding appropriately.

“And I’m very tight on money,” Webb said.

Caldwell said he’s been on council for 10 years, has been a proven leader and that his “whole strategy, since day one, has been to do the right thing for Perryville … And anyone who knows me knows I always tried to do what was best.” He said the real power, and what most don’t understand about a mayor-council form of government, is in the hands of the council members — not the mayor. “The council is the power. The mayor is in charge of day-to-day activities as far as public works, the police department, it’s pretty much simple.”

Funkhouser asked, “Considering population fluctuates about 100 either way, Perryville has not seen any growth since the ‘50s. What would you do to grow the desirability to live in Perryville?”

“Perryville does need more small businesses,” Caldwell said. He’d like to bring the town back to where it was in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, he said, when it functioned as a viable community. “We have to go out and recruit small businesses … it hinges on community involvement, as well as with Danville and the county … we have to reach out and work together within the community.”

Webb said the city has to be competitive. “Danville is our competitor … we have to find ways that we can attract families to live here, and have businesses to come set up shop and have growth… we have to be creative and find incentives … What are we offering as a family-friendly community? Are we open-door? Do we have any activities that families can enjoy, as far as a park in our town? Businesses — what are we offering them, any tax breaks? Incentives?”

Funkhouser asked about supporting the Walden Funeral Home’s right to set up a crematorium. Webb said based on research, he doesn’t find any health hazards associated with it, and that he doesn’t see the city “as preventing one business that would (benefit) the city in more ways than one.”

Caldwell said during his door-to-door campaigning, he’s heard many citizens who are opposed to or concerned about it, and he attended the seminar David Walden presented on the facts about crematoriums and how they operate.

“Like Paul, in the research I’ve done, I don’t understand the uproar about it. You’re always going to have some people that will be opposed to certain things, but until we find out for sure … I would lean more in favor of it.”

Funkhouser then moved on to a topic that had surrounded previously contentious debates during council meetings — the addition of another officer.

“Most communities pride themselves on having low crime rate,” Funkhouser said. “Given the ongoing support from the Boyle County Sheriff’s Department, do you think it was economically wise to add a second police officer?”

“I do,” Caldwell said. “I’ve been in favor of it since day one. In a nutshell, that is the community … we have to protect citizens. I know there’s some people opposed to a second officer, but public safety is number one.”

Webb said he supported a second police officer, but asked if it was a good call for the budget. “We could have done some further review … it increased property and liability insurance, fuel … there was no line item on the budget for it. I support having one, but we should’ve worked on it more” pertaining to the budget, he said.

They each were then asked to develop a question they’d like to hear their opponent answer; Webb asked Caldwell, “Where do you see Perryville in 20 years?”

“In 20 years, as you know, we’ve worked on the planning and zoning restructuring map,” Caldwell said. “ … We’re opening up more area for businesses in downtown … I will do everything I can to get more businesses to come to Perryville … I’m all about Perryville, and most of you who know me know I am.”

In turn, Caldwell asked Webb, “What makes you more qualified than me?”

“That’s a tough one … No offense to anyone, you’re a good guy … sometimes you just need different eyes looking at things. You’ve been on council for 10 years now, and I feel like, in a way, that the city has settled and has been missing out on some very good opportunities as far as grants, pursuing projects that should be done … repairs on sidewalks that need to be done, buildings the city owns that are in disarray … I’m not better, but equal; I’m a hard worker and would do what the citizens want me to do.”

$1 million question

They were asked about how they’d use a $1-million grant; Caldwell said he’s a big supporter of the Main Street program, and improving the streetscape on Merchant’s Row, creating an expanded river walk over Baril Park, and “we do need a lot of sidewalk updates … as tight as our budget is, just general maintenance city-wide.”

Webb started off, “If I had a $1 million, I think I’d give it all back to the citizens for the higher sewer rates,” which received some chuckles. “In all seriousness, I’d build upon the infrastructure… a lot of buildings we can utilize for future businesses, work on the riverwalk expansion … a fire truck, we have a fire truck that we have to have in the next five years … where are we going to find the money … then focus on the infrastructure.”

When asked how they would improve the financial impact for the city from the nearby Perryville Battlefield’s reenactment weekend, Webb said he would focus more on the tourism aspect.

“A recent release said … somewhere in the ballpark of about $300,000 was getting back to the City of Perryville through tourism … if we can focus on the tourism part, I truly believe that will be … an impact for businesses and residents,” Webb said.

“It’s great, but quite honestly, we just don’t have anywhere to stay,” Caldwell said, in reference to courting a hotel to come to town. “We can work together, through Danville, and work better with the county to capitalize on all the tourism.”

Funkhouser told them as mayor, they’ll have a seat on the Economic Development Partnership Board, and asked what impact they feel they’d have.

Caldwell said, “I have worked well with the EDP board in the past; I think they are doing a lot of good things … I would like to see them work more with us down here in Perryville … We could capitalize more with a little help with EDP on getting businesses.”

“Going back to the comprehensive plan, once our city — our citizens, the council and the mayor, has sat down and come up with a plan … I will strive to make sure they’ll help us and give us support and resources and that we have a voice on EDP and make sure they are helping us achieve this comprehensive plan,” Webb said. “The comprehensive plan encompases so many things … The KLC (Kentucky League of Cities) is a great resource to help us … We need to go to the EDP and say we need businesses, send them our way. We need residents — I know that’s not really their charge, but they can help us.”

As far as what one thing the candidates would like to accomplish in Perryville, Webb again said, “Developing a comprehensive plan … and actually, based on Kentucky state statutes, every city supposed to file a comprehensive plan every five years. Unfortunately, from what I’ve researched … we haven’t had one in 15 years or more. That’s one thing I’d like to accomplish, because that way we have a vision and a goal … it takes everybody out there tonight in this audience to help us determine what we want to see the future of Perryville to be. … As of today, the citizens from 15 years ago are affected by the water company, the water bill. We’ve got to be proactive so that 15 or 20 years from now, our citizens aren’t going to be affected by our decisions today.”

Caldwell said he echoed what Webb said. “We have to have a better relationship with the county and we have to have community growth. I wish that every city council meeting we had, had this many people there. Without that input — we’ll average five or six, until a hot topic came up recently, but we have to have community involvement. It’s the most important part of a city-ran council. Unfortunately, the way it’s been the last few years, you’ll hear the scuttlebutt at local stores, but you have to have citizens come out and give their input.”

In closing statements, Webb said the city doesn’t have many more businesses to lose, and they have to work on alternative ways of finding more money through creative grants.

Caldwell said he’d like to have a better relationship with Boyle and other surrounding communities, and to get new businesses in and to “make a buzz in Perryville. It’s like pulling teeth to get a budget because we know we don’t have that much to work with. … We need to get the community involved and move forward.”