Mayor candidates share at forum

Pelham mayoral candidates, from left, Don Murphy, Steve Powell and Gary Waters speak before a July 19 forum at the Pelham Civic Complex. (Reporter Photo/Jessica Crihfield)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Pelham residents and visitors packed the Pelham Civic Complex banquet hall July 19 as the city’s mayoral candidates shared their views on the city’s issues.

The forum, which was sponsored by the Pelham Civic and Ice Advisory Council, featured incumbent Mayor Don Murphy and candidates Steve Powell and Gary Waters.

All three candidates said they would not be in favor of selling the Complex to an outside company, and Waters said it would require a referendum vote to do so.

Murphy, who previously said the complex has been losing about $1 million a year for more than a decade, said Pelham “needs to get control” of the facility’s expenses to keep reserve funds from supporting the complex. He said he would like to see the city hire separate managers for the complex’s ice and banquet sides.

Waters said the complex “has never been marketed correctly,” and claimed the facility has not been losing as much money per year as Murphy stated. Waters said “it’s worth investing what we need to invest (in the Civic Complex) to make it all it can be,” and said Pelham should tout the complex’s offerings to separate it from other area civic centers.

Powell said the city should hire a “professional manager” for the Civic Complex, and said the city should work with Pelham elected officials, employees and those who use the complex to develop “short, intermediate and long-term goals that are measurable.” He said Pelham should prioritize spending at the complex into “have to, need too and want to” categories.

Murphy also said Pelham needs to take steps to expand east along Shelby County 11, and said the city needs to enact “a strong blight ordinance with some teeth” and needs to “go after big grants.”

Waters said Pelham is “bleeding business,” and said city officials need to be “responsive to (business owners’) needs,” need to make the city’s zoning and sign ordinances less “rigid” and need to lower water and sewer rates.

Powell said he would like to enact five-year plans and “strategic reviews” of city department budgets, and should “look at the city’s organizations and prioritize work across the board.”