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Primary election Tuesday

Voters in Fort Dodge will choose at-large council candidates

The field of three candidates hoping to win an at-large seat on the Fort Dodge City Council will be trimmed to two people during Tuesday’s primary election.

The candidates are Councilman Neven Conrad, who’s seeking a second term; Eugene Newsome; and Jim Underwood.

Only the top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 5 general election.

At-large members of the City Council serve four-year terms.

Conrad, Newsome and Underwood were recently interviewed by The Messenger. Those interviews are presented in today’s edition of the paper.

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

There are two changes in polling places this year. People who used to vote at Feelhaver Elementary School, 1300 14th Ave. N., will now vote at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1611 Williams Drive.

Also, people who used to vote at Trinity United Methodist Church, 838 N. 25th St., will now vote at Duncombe Elementary School, 1620 Sixth Ave. N.

Neven Conrad

Incumbent

Name: Neven Conrad

Address: 1505 Timber Lane

Occupation: Attorney

Education: Law degree from Drake University, Des Moines; bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls; associate degree from Iowa Central Community College; graduate of St. Edmond High School.

What is your vision for the future of Fort Dodge?

“Continue investing in the town to make it a place where people want to be and can be.

“Obviously in the past decade plus, we’ve seen a lot of positive strides that have taken place. There’s always more that can be done. One of my big focuses has been getting our riverfront developed and making that a destination. If we can continue to improve those quality of life measures and then still work in collaboration with the county, with the Growth Alliance, to bring in new businesses but at the same time not forget the existing businesses that we have in town and do what we can to help out existing businesses so that they can continue to expand and grow as well. Relating back to the vision, I think we just keep, kind of, the pedal to the metal.

”Outside of the big projects and talking economic development and those things, the not so much seen portion of the vision is just infrastructure. It’s going to be an incredibly long run of improvements, well beyond the time that I’m ever going to be on the council. But we have to invest in it. Those problems are not going away. Now is the time. It can’t wait years. It needs to be now that we invest in infrastructure.”

What is the No. 1 issue facing the city and what would you seek to do about it?

”To narrow it down to one, I still think it boils back to infrastructure – improving the systems that we have and making them better.

”The big issue at the moment, and oddly enough, this was the issue four years ago when I ran, too, is violent crime. There was a string of violent crime right before my last election and it just so happened that the past month or two months we’ve seen that turn up again.

”In terms of potential solutions to the crime issue, the issue is people aren’t talking. When you see people getting shot and hurt and innocent lives being put at risk, there’s a duty to community and we really need to try to incentivize that. But again, that’s not something that a City Council can legislate. As a council option I think we need to look at the available opportunities. That camera partnership, I think, is a good step. Anytime you can get eyes out there is a good option. Our community resource officers do a great job in the schools. The possibilities in terms of the council are fairly limited when we’re talking about an issue of people not reporting, people not cooperating with law enforcement.

”At some point, no matter what we say, something has to click in the individual’s mind that says lives are at stake and something needs to be done.”

How do you think the city should proceed with the Warden Plaza project?

”At this point in time, the best way to describe me is kind of mixed emotions. When I ran four years ago, the idea that the Warden would even potentially be redeveloped was still a long shot. That only came into play within that first year that I was on council.

”I’m certainly nervous. I have my doubts. There’s a lot to do before some of these upcoming deadlines. I want to be optimistic, and I sincerely hope that everything gets done from the developer’s side and they hit those deadlines and we see this project take off.

”But honestly, the citizens of Fort Dodge are frustrated with lack of progress.

”Some of these issues have been outside of the developer’s control in terms of snags that have been hit that caused delays, but it’s very clear what the timeline is, it’s very clear what needs to be done in these next six months or so and a failure to meet those deadlines and basically be ready for that go in April – I don’t want to speak for the council but my position is at that point we need to seriously look at this and determine if we need to re-evaluate the relationship and look for potential new developers. I do preface that by saying I still remain optimistic that this developer can and will get it done, but the ball’s absolutely in their court at this moment.”

What do you think the next step should be in improving the riverfront?

Conrad said the creations of structures called J-hooks will be the next step. Those structures will be attached to the riverbank and will extend out into the water. Each will be shaped like the letter J. They are intended to create fishing areas. Rachel Contracting, of St. Michael, Minnesota, will build them. That company removed the two dams.

”One of my biggest visions and goals for the city is really redeveloping the riverfront. It’s an asset of every city that has a river. Over time, we’ve kind of lost our focus on the river and I think we can really redirect that focus to the river, make that a destination. It’s primed to be a really cool place.”

Eugene Newsome

Challenger

Name: Eugene Newsome

Address: 322 Ave. F

Occupation: Retired

Education: Associate degree from Iowa Central Community College

What is your vision for the future of Fort Dodge?

”To keep growing.

”In the back of my mind, I get this strange feeling that there’s some people trying to micromanage the growth. I don’t think that’s a good approach to the growth of Fort Dodge. That’s where I come in. I think outside the box. I don’t want to go call up some firm and pay them some money to come up with ideas. Come up with our own ideas. We got smart enough people in this town. We got ideas here.”

He said he wants more input from citizens in planning the growth of Fort Dodge.

”I would go out and ask them. Call them up. Tell them to call me. People be afraid to speak up. They have an idea – well, put it on the table. In a city, you can’t be stuck in one mode or way of thinking. That doesn’t make any sense because things change so fast.”

What is the No. 1 issue facing the city and what would you seek to do about it?

”I have to go back to my big entertainment complex again. I’m still stuck on that. I sincerely believe that if we invest, city or private industry, either one, I don’t care where the money comes from.

”I’d be riding around town. I’d be looking for spots — we could put it here. Maybe build a facility and put a parking garage by it.”

He said his proposed entertainment complex would have stadium seating for ”thousands of people, not no 200 or 300.” It would also have a stage, speaking platform and dressing rooms. At least some of the complex’s electricity would come from solar panels.

”It would have flashing neon lights on it so when the people are coming in from the small surrounding towns in Webster County they’ll see it and say ‘OK, we’ll go this way.’ They will come, and that’s been proven.”

He said if he’s elected, he will put the entertainment complex on a council meeting agenda right away to get discussion of it started.

How do you think the city should proceed with the Warden Plaza project?

”It’s getting to be a little unsettling. We engaged a man to build it. What else does he want? I think they should put up their money, make a show or give it up. Go on to someone else that’s interested.”

What do you think the next step should be in improving the riverfront?

”They need to do some facelifting down there. The people still want to go down there and cast their reel and rod in the river, so that’s going to be a little beautification thing.

”If you make it nice, they will come.

”I would start up there by where the old Bennett Viaduct was and work my way down. I would put some barriers up to keep the water from coming up so high, and build some fishing platforms for people. I would have to get with the Parks and Recreation Department and look at some pictures, look at what other towns have done.”

Jim Underwood

Challenger

Name: Jim Underwood

Address: 347 Fourth St. N.W.

Occupation: Assistant manager, Hy-Vee Wine and Spirits

Education: Graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High School

What is your vision for the future of Fort Dodge?

”To have businesses that help out the local community, rather than just suck the community dry. To have a good quality of life, something that will keep our children busy, less focused on the negative things in life and more towards the positive. Create a good family base, basically.”

What is the No. 1 issue facing the city and what would you seek to do about it?

He listed gun violence as the No. 1 issue.

”From what I understand, they don’t have a lot of officers to patrol on a shift. I heard it was like only five. So it’s not much that they can do about it because they’re not really staffed all too well.”

Asked if he would support expanding the 40-member Police Department, he replied ”I think it would be good if we had that. I’d have to look at the budget, but I’m sure there’s room in the budget.”

He added that mental health care must be addressed.

”With all the cutbacks in Iowa, the ability to get help for mental health has been cut back drastically. I believe talking to the governor may help fix that.”

How do you think the city should proceed with the Warden Plaza project?

”Currently, I think it’s on hold until April.

”I think my biggest concern was the fact that he (developer KDG LLC) thought, without even asking, that the city was going to chip in $5 million. He just assumed that we would pay for it. That was in his grand scheme that we were going to pay something like 14 percent of it. And he’s already getting breaks here and there.

”I think we should figure out what he’s going to do, if he can pull it off, but it kind of seems like a big if.”

What do you think the next step should be in improving the riverfront?

”I thought they had hopes to put a whitewater rapids in there. It would be cool to see that actually implemented. That would maybe bring people down from where ever to experience Fort Dodge. ”

He said an artificial whitewater rapids could be created by putting rocks in the water.