Spring 2014 Election
Two men with city council experience compete to be Elkhorn mayor
ELKHORN—Two men with experience as city council president are competing to be Elkhorn mayor.
Brian Olson, elected alderman in 2012 and president of the city council in 2013, is running against Gary L. Payson Sr., a veteran councilman and former city council president.
Howie Reynolds is not seeking re-election after serving two terms as mayor.
Olson's campaign platform includes a focus on parks, roads and business. He said he can extend his successes as council president to the mayoral position.
Payson said he believes his character and involvement with the city in various positions would make him a successful mayor.
WATER TREATMENT PLANT
The replacement of the aging Centralia Street Water Treatment Plant has been a discussion in the community for years.
The new plant would replace the south side facility and be a new water source for anticipated commercial and residential growth on the northeast side.
The design phase for the prospective facility began in 2010. In 2013, the city drilled two of the three new wells.
The city has submitted an application for a state loan to help pay for the new multimillion dollar facility. It will need to go to the city council for construction approval.
The project is essential and long overdue, Payson said. He considers the water facility a key issue in his campaign and in the city.
“If I am mayor, I will push my colleagues to fully fund and move forward to get this thing done,” Payson said.
Olson said he is not going to push the facility's funding unless a well thought-out plan is in place.
“I am not in favor of jumping the gun and immediately borrowing $8 million, which will increase utility rates by 30 percent, unless it's planned out properly,” he said.
Olson would like to address another utility issue that he said would decrease utility rates. Groundwater is leaking into wastewater sewer lines, meaning more water than necessary is being sent for treatment, increasing utility rates, Olson said.
“We need to clear that up,” Olson said.
Payson said the new water facility would increase utility rates by 5 percent or 10 percent.
“People's pockets aren't a bottomless pit of money, but what is the alternative?
Payson said. “Doing nothing is not an option.”
Both candidates say they want to attract jobs, businesses and new residents.
Elkhorn's zoning ordinances have not changed since Elkhorn was in the midst of an economic boom 12 years ago, Olson said. He would like to see ordinances adjusted to welcome new businesses. Olson said he has formed a group of area business owners to go through the ordinances to identify what is and isn't working.
He also plans to create a marketing program directed toward businesses that residents and officials would like to see in the community.
“We understand we have areas of light manufacturing and areas of retail, and I think we need to put in a marketing program that will help these companies come in,” Olson said.
Payson wants to keep a balance between growth in manufacturing, general business and residents. He said he thinks the city has done a good job while he has served several terms on various development committees.
“It has to be balanced,” Payson said. “You don't want to be a totally metro community, and you don't want to be totally industrial.”
Payson would look to maintain balanced growth by working with the planning commission.
TAXES AND SPENDING
Both candidates said the city has not spent money unnecessarily and would work to continue keeping taxes at a minimum.
In the past two years, the city has seen a reduction in taxes, Olson said.
“I think we have done a good job in spending and keeping taxes down,” Olson said.
He credits the merging of departments, but he thinks the city could do better.
“I think we need to plan better,” Olson said. “We have items that are going to come up in the future, and there is no plan in place.”
Olson called upgrades of the water treatment plant, the city's firehouse and City Hall “big ticket items” that need planning.
Payson called the city's spending conservative and stressed the difference between a want and a need. The Centralia Street water facility is a need, Payson said.
“Just because you have a credit limit on a credit card doesn't mean you max (out) the credit card,” Payson said.