Changes ahead for Chelsea politics

Published 10:57 am Friday, August 5, 2016

Chelsea City Council candidates addressed residents of the community on Thursday, night at a political forum hosted by the CBA. At least four places on the city council will see a new face. (Reporter photo)

Chelsea City Council candidates addressed residents of the community on Thursday, night at a political forum hosted by the CBA. At least four places on the city council will see a new face. (Reporter photo)

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Staff Reporter

CHELSEA – There is big change coming to the landscape of Chelsea politics. The city will be replacing at least four city council members and possibly all five, as well as Mayor Earl Niven when the Aug. 23 election rolls around.

The Chelsea Business Alliance (CBA) hosted a City Council Political Forum last night at Chelsea High School Auditorium to give the public a chance to hear each candidate’s answer to questions about road safety, taxes, bringing in new business and continuing the growth of Chelsea.

Each candidate answered three questions drawn at random from 11 different questions submitted by the public and then at the end of the forum they had five minutes to give a pitch as to why people should cast their vote for that candidate.

Before you cast your vote here is a little bit of information on each candidate’s beliefs.

Robert Barnes: Place No. 1 

  • Conservative at heart that wants to make sure they can afford everything in the long run.
  • He would like to continue the growth of parks in Chelsea because they make Chelsea family friendly.
  • Traffic issue isn’t an easy one to fix and says railroad tracks are the main problem he would start with. Have to work together to figure out the best plan of action.
  • He is in favor of additional funding to the library and growing its size because it helps kids have fun while learning.
  • Wants to work with other surrounding cities and see what they do, which can help make Chelsea an even better place to live.

Cody Sumners: Place No. 1

  • Would like to see a city center in Old Chelsea at some point. Said in the future the intersection of 47 and 39 will have to be re-worked and that would be the perfect place.
  • As the only candidate with law enforcement experience the main focus of his campaign is public safety, which includes more officers, better traffic safety and being able to enforce ordinances with a municipal court.
  • Need to partner with city, county and state to fix roads and traffic issues.
  • Continue to increase and grow the already successful fire department.
  • Says Chelsea could contract with Sheriff’s Office and doesn’t necessarily need its own police force.

Chris Thomas: Place No. 2 

  • Focused on traffic issue. Doesn’t know if a service road for 280 is the answer because it will cost a lot of money and taxes, and other cities have to be on board.
  • Said Chelsea doesn’t need to go into further debt so businesses are important to bring to the city because that will generate more tax revenue.
  • Talks with families and kids every day as a school bus driver and working at a local restaurant. Knows what they want done.
  • Need to hire someone to recruit business so Chelsea can grow.
  • Wants a storm shelter that is centrally located for residents.

Scott Weygand: Place No. 2

  • There are a lot of wants, but with $13 million in debt Chelsea has to figure out a plan and work together to figure out what they need vs. what they want.
  • Parks are very important because they keep the city family oriented.
  • Would love to see a broker come in to help with commercial growth and help recruit businesses.
  • As a business owner in the city he knows a lot about the sewer problem and wants that taken care of so Chelsea is more inviting for businesses.
  • Bringing in business is the main focus because of the amount of money it takes to keep Chelsea as one of the nicest cities in the state.

David Ingram: Place No. 3

  • Only candidate running for re-election after being on the council the past four years.
  • Would be in favor of increasing funding for the library if the money was available. Said it needs to be bigger so they can provide more for the children.
  • Youth is his favorite thing about Chelsea and a big focus of his campaign, both in school and recreation.
  • First and foremost Chelsea needs to focus on public safety: Schools, fire department, police and traffic.
  • Need a municipal court.
  • Businesses need to be brought in to create more sales tax revenue because that is extremely important.

Gary Isbell: Place No. 3

  • Chelsea has a huge traffic problem that needs improving. Sidewalks would be a good investment, but isn’t sure if they will be cost effective.
  • Definitely for adding equipment on playgrounds for disabled children.
  • School and church are the backbone to the community and said Chelsea doesn’t need much more than that.
  • Has loved seeing all the business come to Chelsea and would love to see more come.

Tiffany Bittner: Place No. 4

  • The most pressing issue is figuring out the sewage issue. She said it costs way too much money for new businesses to come and tap into the sewage system, so they stay away.
  • Said Chelsea shouldn’t discriminate against low-income housing. “Shouldn’t shut our doors simply because someone can’t afford to live here.”
  • Tax is around 9 percent right now, which she said is about right and they wouldn’t need to increase taxes right now.
  • Businesses will help get more revenue to not only pay off debt, but also help the community and pay off taxes.
  • Wants to work with senior citizens and help support them.
  • Better communication with the city such as Facebook, email and live streaming of city council meetings.
  • Need an economic developer to help us understand what we need to do to help recruit new businesses.
  • Would love to see an amphitheater at some point, but need to prioritize wants and needs.
  • Highway 47 and 39 need to be re-worked.

David Calhoun: Place No. 4

  • Said Chelsea should never establish property taxes (which received the biggest cheer of the night).
  • Growth is going to happen, but wants to manage growth and make sure Chelsea maintains and preserves the city’s personality.
  • Said they need to reach out to someone that could help create better communication with the city and upgrade things like their website.
  • Need to stay financially sound and budget properly.
  • Need to grow the amount of businesses in Chelsea as well as police protection and financial support for schools and parks and recreation.

Elizabeth Cooley: Place No. 5

  • Mentioned Chelsea having its own police department and increasing the amount of fire departments.
  • Road safety is a top concern. Said they need a railroad guard at the crossing by city hall and the city needs a plan that is financially smart and will help keep everyone safe.
  • She is retired so wouldn’t have to miss anything or adjust a schedule.
  • Need to establish a municipal court.
  • Have to walk hand-in-hand with the Shelby County Board of Education to ensure growth of schools.
  • Sewage cost has to be addressed.

Tom Holcombe: Place No. 5

  • Traffic flow on 280 is a main concern. Takes too long for people to get to work and school. A big reason is the lack of turn lanes, so he would love to work on adding turn lanes, especially at the intersection of 47 and 39.
  • Need to make sure all roads and bridges are safe and would like to create an overpass over some of the railroad crossings.
  • Understands taxation issues and knows the daily struggle of running a business.
  • He would like to face and solve school and taxation issues.

Casey Morris: Place No. 5

  • Said the most pressing issue is economic development.
  • Sewage being one of the issues because it prevents new business from coming.
  • Possible sales tax increase may help.
  • Need a strategic plan on how to recruit businesses to Chelsea.
  • Wants a municipal court to enforce ordinances, but doesn’t know if they need a police department or not.
  • Wants to use his experience of managing a budget to help the city do a better job of handling its finances.

With less than three weeks until the election, it was a big night for all 11 candidates to make one of their final pitches to the public. The mayoral candidates will get their chance to address Chelsea residents Thursday, Aug. 12 at the Chelsea High School Auditorium starting at 7 p.m.