Chelsea candidates share views at forum

Chelsea Mayoral Candidates Dale Neuendorf, Alison Nichols and Tony Picklesimer addressed residents of Chelsea at a public forum on Thursday, Aug. 11, at Chelsea High School. (Reporter photo/Alec Etheredge)

Chelsea Mayoral Candidates Dale Neuendorf, Alison Nichols and Tony Picklesimer addressed residents of Chelsea at a public forum on Thursday, Aug. 11, at Chelsea High School. (Reporter photo/Alec Etheredge)

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Staff Writer

CHELSEA – The Chelsea Business Alliance hosted the Chelsea Mayoral Forum Thursday night, Aug. 11, at Chelsea High School.

All three candidates were in attendance to present their thoughts to Chelsea residents on what the next mayor of Chelsea should accomplish.

Dale Neuendorf, Alison Nichols and Tony Picklesimer each had two minutes to answer different questions submitted by the public, and then at the conclusion of the event each was given six minutes to propose why Chelsea residents should vote for them come Aug. 23.

Each candidate up for election has served at least one term on the City Council and has seen Chelsea grow from a small town to the number three city to live and raise a family in.

With current Mayor Earl Niven stepping down as the city’s only mayor over the past 20 years, all of these candidates said they feel their experience helps make that change not as drastic.

Here is a synopsis of what each candidate hopes to accomplish if they are elected:

On a Municipal Court in Chelsea:

  • Dale Neuendorf: Said he is not in favor of one at this point in time saying that he knows at some point Chelsea will have to cross that path, but right now the city can’t afford it and it’s not the appropriate time.
  • Alison Nichols: Said one way to bring in more revenue to the city is to establish a municipal court and have a code enforcer.
  • Tony Picklesimer said one of the top priorities in his first 100 days of being mayor is to create a municipal court. He believes a 20-year-old-city should be governing its roadways.

Business experience:

  • Dale Neuendorf: Said he has put together financial plans for his businesses that are much like bonds and grants Chelsea has used. Also mentioned seeing how great of a job Mayor Niven did first-hand and how that experience has helped him.
  • Alison Nichols: Owned a successful local business with her brother and sister. Said the biggest thing about running a business is meeting the needs of the people and as well as the budget.
  • Tony Picklesimer: Youngest manager ever promoted in the business he grew up in. This prepared him to open his own business at the age of 33. Operated that business for 13 years, which he said had about the same budget and amount of employees as the city of Chelsea.

Hiring a city manager:

  • Dale Neuendorf: Takes a conservative approach and said now isn’t the time, but if there ever comes a time the mayor can’t handle it then he will hire one.
  • Alison Nichols: Said Chelsea needs to hire a project manager project manager whose sole responsibility is to manage resident’s money and spend it on the right things for Chelsea.
  • Tony Picklesimer: Said he wants to hire recruiter that can go to conventions and shows to help recruit new business.

Establishing a City Center in Old Town Chelsea:

  • Dale Neuendorf: Said the area out in front of City Hall at the intersection of U.S. Highway’s 47 and 39 is the perfect place for it. Said he doesn’t see how the city can keep the Weldon Store, but would love to take the face off and put it on a new building in the city center.
  • Alison Nichols: Said people moved to Chelsea not to live next to Walmart or Applebee’s, but for the heritage and hometown values. Thinks there is an opportunity to share Chelsea’s heritage by creating a city center to show what made and makes Chelsea the best place to live. Relocating and finding out where to place it is up to the citizens. She said it’s their town and money.
  • Tony Picklesimer: Wants to follow the city master plan to establish a city center that would benefit the people of the community.

Roads and traffic safety:

  • Dale Neuendorf: Said there is a serious problem with traffic turning left to get to Forrest Oaks Elementary coming from 39. Need a light for the Chelsea Park subdivision. Said he will work hard with ALDOT and the county highway commission to get that done. Also wants a traffic light crossing over to Publix and wants the one at the Winn Dixie and McDonald’s intersection fixed.
  • Alison Nichols: She drives a school bus, so she said road safety is a big concern of hers. Maintenance wise, she said she would like to see the roads in subdivisions where contractors have abandoned and not finished projects repaired. Wants to prioritize a list of roads that are in the worst shape and get them fixed.
  • Tony Picklesimer: Wants a schedule of maintenance put together for streets and roads. Also said the intersection in front of City Hall needs to be re-engineered, including turn lanes.

Expanding the economy:

  • Dale Neuendorf: Wont raise taxes above 9 percent so he said the way to generate more money for the city is drawing in business and hiring a recruiting firm. Would encourage a business firm to go out to business conferences. Also said another key would be attracting a hotel. “There are people that come for weddings, funerals, the soccer complex and other things and right now they all go over the hill to stay and use other businesses and restaurants,” he said.
  • Alison Nichols: She said to expand Chelsea’s economy the city needs to bring in more revenue. Said the city needs to pay attention to what it needs, not jut bring in businesses to create revenue, but bring in businesses that will succeed and benefit the community.
  • Tony Picklesimer: Said that growing the business platform in Chelsea and continuing to support existing businesses is the key.

Sewage problem:

  • Dale Neuendorf: Have to get high tap fees down to a reasonable level in order to get that taken care of and draw in new business. Can’t increase taxes or go in more debt to handle it.
  • Alison Nichols: Sees it as a big problem that needs to be taken care of, might need to hire somebody who can help figure out how to control it and handle the issue.
  • Tony Picklesimer: Said the ewer system is an issue that many of the residents have asked about and it represents one of the greatest challenges in Chelsea, affecting commercial businesses and housing. Said he will propose a tap fund to help assist with the high cost of connecting to sewer.

Schools:

  • Dale Neuendorf: Need to expand Chelsea High School as well as partner with the Shelby County Board of Education to enhance sports parks and school expansions. Would also like to improve some of the programs offered at each school
  • Alison Nichols: Said Chelsea schools need representation at the school board meetings and that they must remind elected officials that the schools need work. Also mentioned that schools are becoming extremely crowded and if growth estimates are accurate, Chelsea would become a 7A school in the next several years, but everything is set up for a 4A school.
  • Tony Picklesimer: Said there are issues with school capacity and Chelsea needs to be ready to partner with the school board to make needed additions to schools.

Communicating with public:

  • Dale Neuendorf: Wants to live stream City Council meetings as well has have town hall meeting for the public. Also wants an improved website and Facebook page to better communicate what is happening in the city. Believes a calendar with all of the city’s events would be helpful as well.
  • Alison Nichols: Said the city’s website is very hard to maneuver and people are frustrated with it. The city wants people to be able to ask questions and get information, not just see what is happening. Most of our citizens are young and use social media and websites, so the city is going to have to become web friendly.
  • Tony Picklesimer: Wants to make the city website more user friendly. Live streaming of City Council meetings and an email system to update emergency situations.

You can see each candidate’s views online at daleformayor.com, facebook.com/AlisonMooreNicholsChelseaCityCouncil/ and tonypicklesimer.com.

Chelsea’s elections will take place Tuesday, Aug. 23, from 7 a.m-7 p.m. at City Hall.