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Forum introduces residents to city council candidates
Oct. 18, 2010
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Seven names to appear on ballot; five seeking seats

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

DELANO, MN – Five of the seven candidates whose names will be appearing on the ballot for Delano city Council this fall participated in a forum hosted by the Delano Area Chamber of Commerce Tuesday night at city hall.

The five candidates participating were Dan Gustafson, Marc Plese, Derek Schansberg, Jon Sutherland, and Dan Vick.

Two additional candidates, Jacqui Blasiak and Jason Thompson, have issued statements indicating they do not wish to be elected to the council at this time (see full candidate profiles elsewhere in this week’s newspaper). However, their names will remain on the fall ballot.

Moderator Josh Hecksel of the chamber’s government affairs committee asked the questions. Here are what the candidates had to say about several key issues.

Top priorities

Schansberg said his top priority would be looking at all assets, making sure assets are being used as efficiently as possible, and also taking a look at the utilities to see if they are being used in the best way.

Vick said his would involve prioritizing.

Plese said a lot of work has been done on a proposed industrial park, and said this is something that is important to the long-term viability of the community in terms of jobs and tax revenue.

Sutherland said his priorities would be to live by the city’s mission statement and values of the city’s comprehensive plan and to keep spending low and taxes as low as possible without cutting services.

Gustafson also cited keeping spending in check while maintaining a quality of life as a priority, along with increasing the tax base to keep taxes low.

Plan for funding street improvements

Vick said he does not like the proposed street assessment plan and said the city needs to look at cutting spending, and perhaps join with the power plant for finances. He added he wants to continue to study the matter before developing a plan of exactly what to do.

Plese said this has been a “hot issue” around town, and said he believes that when one looks at the numbers long-term, a street assessment plan is a more viable option for funding street improvements in town.

He said, if elected, he wants to continue studying the issue and perhaps find a middle ground that makes sense. He also wants to continue to involve the community in finding the solution.

Sutherland said he is against the assessment plan for one reason – that being he feels the community has paid for the streets over the long run, and feels that is the best way to continue paying for street improvements.

He suggested putting dollars into the capital improvement fund for projects, and also suggested the city could look at bonding as another way to pay for streets.

Gustafson said he does like the proposed street assessment plan, and said if taxes rise, the community loses its appeal to draw people to move here or do business here.

He said the city needs to have an assessment plan and can look at how the costs would be split.

Schansberg said some roads are in disrepair and do need replacement. He said it will probably be the best bet for the future of Delano to have a policy in place, but at a minimal amount.

Extending utilities across County Line Road to Independence

Plese said he received this question two years ago and said when he was on the council, he was “100 percent prepared to vote no” when the issue previously came before the council.

He doesn’t feel Delano should “aid and abet” another community’s development that will potentially hurt Delano’s, and said he does not favor assisting Independence development.

Sutherland said he would rather see the development in Delano, and said one can’t stop development, but one can guide it. He said he would not be opposed to having development in Independence if Delano provides utilities and can share in some benefits of the project.

Sutherland added that extending utilities could be a positive thing because Independence would have to “pay heavily.”

Gustafson said he would not be against the City of Delano extending utilities into Independence because the development will bring people who will live in Delano.

Schansberg said that, in a perfect world, Target would move to Delano, but said if that can’t happen, the city should extend service to Independence. He added if growth can be controlled, it would be worth it.

Industrial park

Sutherland said he feels the city is not in a position at this time to provide a lot of tax increment financing (TIF). He said budgets are tight and taxes are rising slowly.

He added he does support business growth and that the city needs another industrial park. He said he would look to the city planner and city staff to look for businesses to try to attract to Delano.

Gustafson said he welcomes new business, but said, as a taxpayer, he does not want to be subsidizing businesses. He added,” we want all the business we can get here.”

Schansberg said the city should try to get more business to Delano, and said Delano needs to have something to offer that other cities can’t. He said he is not in favor of tax increment financing, but said if it’s the last option to get a business to come to Delano, it would need to be done.

Vick said he would support the industrial park, but if it would hurt residents in any way, he would not.

Plese said he cited this issue as a top priority earlier in the forum, and said he hopes to continue to be aggressive in studying it in terms of the city, as well as taking advantage of local citizen groups like the Dream Team II to get it going. He added that public input is always the way to go.

Following the prepared questions from the chamber, residents in attendance were allowed to ask the candidates questions. A question relating to the city’s budget and also an expansion of the question regarding utility extension into Independence were posed.

School board candidates participated in a similar forum, also sponsored by the chamber of commerce, following the forum for city council candidates Tuesday night. Delano mayoral and state representative/senate candidates also participated in a similar forum Thursday night. Watch for more details next week.

Full city council candidate profiles can be found in this week’s newspaper. Profiles for Delano mayor candidates ran in last week’s newspaper, and profiles for school board candidates will be published next week.

All profiles can also be found online at www.delanoheraldjournal.com.

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