Butler County Times Gazette
  • Issues dominate candidate forum

  • The common theme of the night included service to the community and teamwork
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  • Augusta voters had a chance to learn more about the people who hope to represent them on the city council and school board Tuesday night.
    The candidates had a chance to make an opening statement, answered a few specific questions and then made a closing statement.
    The common theme of the night included service to the community and teamwork among the governing bodies.
    The candidates had a lot to say about how they would make decisions if they are elected.
    City Council, Ward 1
    Jason Lowery won the primary in Ward One and was the first candidate to make an opening statement. Lowery said he views the council as a team and he wants to be part of that team.
    "In my experience, I have always worked with teams," Lowery said.
    Incumbent Mike Martin, who was appointed to fill the term of Holly Harper, said he has lived in Augusta his entire life and he wanted to continue on the governing body so he could give back to the city.
    "We have a neat little city here," Martin said. "It's always been next to Wichita and we have a lot to live up to."
    When asked about how involved the city should be in economic development, Lowery said the city should continue tax incentives and other programs that have helped companies like Global Parts locate in Augusta.
    "The city should work to help make connections and bring people together," Lowery said.
    Martin said he thinks the city needs to make it easier for people to get into their business.
    "Sometimes there are firewalls between the city and businesses," Martin said.
    When asked about what the biggest priority is for the city beyond water, Martin said he thought continuing the process of rebuilding the roads was important.
    He said there were a lot of other issues facing the city as well, with businesses like Walmart and a new medical facility coming in on 7th Street.
    "We are also working on the waterlines," Martin said. "I wish we could replace the trees but it is hard to do that when we don't have any water."
    Lowery said since he moved to Augusta, he has appreciated the way the government and its employees have taken care of the city.
    "That's why employee retention is important as well," Lowery said. "We have to really look at how we are treating our employees as we go into the future."
    City Council, Ward 2
    In the Ward 2 race, Mark Knowles - who made it on to the April 2 ballot by winning a coin toss against incumbent Mike Huddleston - said he is proud to live in Augusta and sees the city as having awesome potential. He served as a safety officer for several years and said that experience as well as his business experience make him a good candidate.
    Page 2 of 2 - "I have put my life on the line and now I want to be your voice on the council," Knowles said.
    Jamie Hubbard who won the February primary said she has tremendous community pride. She said she is a quick learner and wants to represent Ward Two on the council.
    When asked whether some programs were underfunded and if he would support a mill levee increase to support programs in the city, Knowles said he believed some areas are underfunded. He pointed out that the water situation should have been handled as much as a decade ago, but the city is just now taking action on it. But Knowles wasn't ready to say he would support a tax increase. He said he believed there were areas that could be cut or money that could be moved to remedy the issue.
    "We haven't yet tapped into all of our resources," Knowles said.
    Hubbard said she believed some city employees are underpaid and because of that, the city has lost good employees to other cities and businesses.
    "We need to balance the needs and prioritize so we can get them accomplished," she said.
    When asked about how to move the city forward despite the lack of industrial space, Hubbard pointed to one tract of land that is actively being developed now.
    "I would focus on the airport," Hubbard said. She pointed to the pending agreement the city has with Andover and Butler County and the improved financial condition of the airport as well as the potential for industrial growth in the area.
    Knowles agreed with Hubbard about the airport's potential. But he also wants to maximize the positives that make people and businesses want to relocate here.
    The other races will be reported on in Saturday's Gazette.
    To view the entire candidate forum, go to http://vimeo.com/62755056.
     
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