Most candidates don’t attend Junction City forum

Published 6:45 am Friday, October 12, 2018

The Boyle County Chamber of Commerce-organized forums continued Tuesday night, this time featuring Junction City candidates. The forum was held at Stith Funeral Home. However, it didn’t boast the best showing — only incumbent mayoral candidate Jim Douglas and three out of eight city council candidates participated; some absences were due to scheduling issues because of fall break; reasons for others’ absences were unknown. A few also attended to hear the candidates speak.

Junction mayor

Mayor Douglas took the stage solo, as opponent Dewayne Taylor wasn’t present. Chamber Executive Director Jeff Jewell said Taylor made it known he would be on vacation when the event was planned.

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Douglas said Junction City is “a good place to raise your family, but we can make it better.” He said he’s been mayor for 10 years. “I agree that’s too long, but somebody’s gotta do it.”

When asked by moderator John Funkhouser why he was the best candidate for mayor, Douglas listed his experience as mayor and as a businessman. He said the city needs to be run like a business “because it is a business.”

Funkhouser asked Douglas how he would allocate the balance of Junction City’s funds, which total around $1 million.

Douglas said the city is in dire need of a facility to operate out of, and the “old community center — it’s falling down too. All of our infrastructure, it’s shot and not fit to use. We’re in the process of getting a new building. Let’s just say — it’s quite expensive.” He said he’s “worked at this for the past 10 years to get us to the point where we can get a new building. And that’s where we’ll be spending most of this money.”

The next question was based on the current mayoral salary being $350 a month. “It could be legally increased to $72,000 a year. If elected, will you increase it?”

“The answer to that would be ‘no.’ … the salary of the mayor and city council is set by city council. I agree it’s not near enough, and in the next administration after this one, it may should be raised. Maybe we’d get some more people out there to get involved, because needless to say that’s not a big salary, for what you have to do down here …”

When asked about the minimum sewer bill being raised last year from $5.92 to $9.40 — a 59 percent increase — and what he could do to control increases like this, Douglas said there’s nothing that Junction City can do.

“The water is owned by the City of Danville, and the Danville City Commission sets the tax rates for sewer and water.”

As far as how to bring new visitors to the city, Douglas said more functions should be held — but that means getting more people in the community involved.

“The fiscal court currently allocates $40,000 a year to Perryville to fund their Main Street program — should the fiscal court offer the same support to Junction City?” Funkhouser asked.

“Yes, but with stipulations. There again, we’ve got to have people to get out and start its own program … the county judge and fiscal court would probably be glad to help us out, but we have to have something out there to work with.”

On recruiting new business, Douglas said the city needed to get more involved with the Economic Development Partnership, Planning and Zoning and the chamber. “There are several organizations out there that can help us with this. If we reach out to them, we can get that help.” He said having a seat on the EDP board gives Junction “a little more input into the properties that the city has available. We have a lot of properties available for businesses, and we need those businesses.”

As far as the most critical policy change needed to affect the future of Junction, Douglas said, “… We need input from the people. There’s a lot of policies we could have down here in place if we had the help. People need to come out and volunteer two hours …”

In closing, Douglas said, “I will keep doing the same job I’ve done all along. I don’t know of many things I’d change. I’ve had good council members to work with, and if we can just keep that going, we’ll make Junction City last.”

Council candidates

Incumbent council member Kenny Baldwin and new candidates Vicki Bowling and Connie Vernon were on-hand for council questions. Incumbent candidates Steve Martin, Sonya Kitchen and Bill McCowan; and new candidate Scott Terry were not present.

Baldwin said he has learned a lot about the structure of small-city government due to serving under two mayors on city council. “And what it takes to have the city go from surviving to thriving. We’ve still got some opportunities we’re working towards every day.” He said city government is not just the mayor and the council, it means the whole community working together. He noted how few people — if any — show up for council meetings.

Bowling said she currently serves on the Boyle County Ethics Board, and would like to see “the whole council work together, not just part of us,” to get the city hall they need.

Vernon said she previously served on city council years ago “when we were … working to get all of the sewer systems going,” and would like to work on the council again now that she has the time.

“Word on the street is some council members are not very responsive. Why are you the best candidate, and if elected, when will you be available to accept and return phone calls?” Funkhouser asked.

None of the candidates responded to why they are the best candidate.

Bowling said she would be available 24/7, “… and if somebody calls me and I don’t have the answer, I will go out at that time and find the answer. Won’t make them wait a week or two to three days … and while I’m looking for the answer, I will keep in contact with the person who called me.”

Vernon said, “I’m always available. Most people know I wear an earpiece in my ear, I have my cell phone in a fanny bag … I have elderly in my family and I try to be available at all times for them, and I would be for the city.”

Baldwin said he lives and works in Junction full-time, is available day and night, and will address questions and concerns as soon as possible.

When asked what they’d personally do in order to attract business or tourism, Vernon said, “No one person can actually attract business. It has to be done as a unit, the mayor and the council working with other agencies.”

Baldwin said currently, the council is working with the EDP and other entities in the county to try to “do a future map of what we could potentially have in the city, and also P&Z,” on working with them to have something to take to potential businesses “and we can say, ‘Look, this is what we have to offer and these are the people we’re working with.” He said as far as tourism, “people can be brought in with car shows, trunk-or-treats … and things of that nature.”

Bowling said she’s on the same page with Baldwin on getting with other entities to make sure they’re aware the city “has property available, instead of being left out in the cold, and thinking that we don’t have no land.”

“Now that Junction City has a seat on the EDP Board, what input will you have and what are your expectations?” Funkhouser asked.

Baldwin said according to studies, in Boyle County, “it’s really hard to find property — rental property or buy property.” Junction does have areas inside the city limits that can be developed, he said.

“As far as businesses, we don’t have a lot of area for large areas, but mid-sized and small businesses will help the economy and help the people with new jobs and improve commerce.”

Bowling said she’d like restaurants come in and be able to offer jobs to local people “who’ve been left out in the cold.” She said the EDP is not aware of what Junction has to offer.

Vernon said she’d “love to see a Red Lobster … Danville’s got restaurants, why can’t we have a big, nice one?”

Funkhouser asked candidates if they favor Junction City rejoining the Danville-Boyle County Planning and Zoning Commission.

Bowling said she wasn’t sure, because she’s “not as informed as I need to be. I knew about it, but don’t know enough about … But I’d be open to whatever it takes to get Junction seen as part of Boyle County, because I don’t think it has been.”

Vernon said, “I’m not up on that … I’ve not been on the council, I’d have to go over it.”

“Currently we’re talking to EDP and P&Z, and I think the changes that have happened with P&Z over the last year” have been good, Baldwin said. He said before, he didn’t think P&Z was fair, “but I really do believe they’re on a different path” and it would benefit the city to rejoin.

When asked what one thing they’d like to see happen with the city and how they’d fund it, Vernon said she’d love to see “the municipal building renovated or a new one put up, because when you go in there you can smell the black mold.” She said she would also like to see some mature trees put back into the cemetery.

Baldwin discussed the current plan for funding a municipal building, which now includes a storm shelter. “We’re working towards grants to put the building together” through Homeland Security and other governmental agencies, he said.

Bowling said she agreed with the others.

In closing statements, Bowling talked about candy bags she volunteers to put together for the elderly at Christmas time. “I was on the first bunch that started the Christmas parade … I feel like if we can get a new municipal building, we can offer more to the town for different functions.”

Bowling read a closing statement, saying she has volunteered for every event sponsored by the city.

Baldwin thanked everyone who’s ever participated in helping the city grow. “I’m very proud of where I’m from … if re-elected, I’m going to keep working in that direction.” He wished the other candidates luck, and said he hopes they all continue working together, “because we’re all a part of the same community.”