Spending for future expansion projects, the role of a county supervisor and ways to attract people to Webster County were among the topics of discussion for Webster County supervisor candidates at a forum hosted by the The Well-Informed Webster People Thursday evening.
District 2 candidates Mark Campbell and Aaron Newell, District 3 candidates John Owen and Bob Singer, District 4 candidates Marcy Lundberg and Merrill Leffler, and District 5 candidates Clark Fletcher and Breck Johnson were on hand for the question-and-answer forum held at the Light of the City Conference Center.
Concerns about spending taxpayer dollars on expansion projects at the North Central Ag Industrial Park west of Fort Dodge, including a project to add oversized water and sewer lines to prepare for any future development there, was the first topic of the evening. Each candidate agreed the decision to spend more than $1.2 million to add the oversized pipelines was a good investment.
-Messenger photos by Hans Madsen
Bob Singer, a Webster County supervisor, above, speaks Thursday night during a Well-Informed Webster People forum at the City of Light Conference Center. To his left, candidate John Owen listens as does candidate Merrill Leffler, right, Marcy Lundberg, Supervisor Clark Fletcher and candidate Breck Johnson. I
"I could see at least one more company locating there in the future," said Newell. "And there could be more companies coming that will all need the sewer and water. The county spent the money to provide that to any future company."
Singer, an incumbent, explained the current board's position.
"We felt as if we need to put some infrastructure into the Ag Park," he said. "If we add about one major facility per year, I believe it would be utilized and paid for by the companies that will go there in the future. The oversized pipe will be economically advantageous."
Leffler, who is running for a seat in the new District 4, said, "My general philosophy is that I do think of county government as a business, and there are times when you have to borrow money. One thing the county has spent money on is getting property at the Ag Park site ready. It's something the county spent money on that is very worthwhile. The pipeline is something that will pay for itself in the end."
Lundberg, who is also running for the District 4 seat, said, "The return on these multimillion dollar investments have been billion dollar plants out there. We need to spend grant money just as wisely as we do from the general fund. I agree that the water pipe is a good investment. There are no guarantees, but we are definitely in a position where the speculation for growth is appropriate."
Fletcher, another incumbent, said, "The main question is where will we get the money for the pipe, with the oversize lines we are borrowing $1.3 million for sewer and water."
Johnson, who is running against Fletcher in District 5, supported the project. "I think it is important for us to keep the area proactive and attractive for other places to come to Fort Dodge by having oversize lines and rail to show we are ready for those businesses to come," he said.
'The goal is to get the Ag Park to be a certified site," said Campbell. "The waterline expansion is over $3 million and we have a company that is ready to commit to this and one more company could pay it off."
The candidates were also asked to give three responsibilities they believed were part of serving on the board.
"Watching taxpayer dollars, that's one of the biggest priorities to look at," said Owen. "The Board of Supervisors also sit on other boards, they have to be available for those meetings and make sure you have the time needed to be a supervisor."
Said Singer, "You have to have some feel for revenue and work with department heads."
"A supervisor manages the budget and provides oversight for some social welfare programs - that's an important role," said Lundberg. "They need to make sure our bridges and roads are maintained."
Johnson offered his answer: "The Board of Supervisors are the general managers for the county. They oversee numerous departments and need to be accessible to people."
"They balance the budget and manage county funds frugally," said Campbell. "You need to be available to the people of the district because that's who we represent. We need to build relationships with the companies that are here and maintain and expand the employees and businesses we have."
Newell said, "Drainage is a big part of the job in District 2."
He also noted that he is officially registered to vote in Webster County after changing his driver's license and signing forms Oct. 17. It was revealed at an Oct. 16 forum that he thought he was registered in Webster County, but wasn't. He will vote in Moorland now.
Having time for the job and being able to attend meetings was also brought up.
"I am at a place in life where I have the time needed and would consider it my full-time job," Leffler said. "I have no conflict on time."
Lundberg, who is an attorney, is in a different position. "I have a full-time job now, but it would be a priority for me to get to the meetings," she said. "Juvenile Court is held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday and right now I can't get out of the juvenile roll to campaign, but if I were elected I would take myself off the Tuesday schedule. The rest of the week my schedule is very flexible and I would make myself available for all meetings."
Fletcher said, "I have been on the board two years and I will let the voters decide if I am applying enough of my time."
"I asked the CEO of my company if I could have the time and she said 'absolutely,'" said Johnson, who works for Trimark Physicians Group. "They said they would give me any time I needed to get to meetings."
"I wouldn't run if I didn't think I had the time," said Campbell. "I have great employees that allow me the time to do this."
Newell said, "I have plenty of time. I used to farm on top of having a full-time job and now that I farm full-time I have the time needed for the job. "
Said Owen, "Part of the reason I started my own business is so that I would have the time."