Residents approve road widening, sidewalk bonds
Indian Trail residents had two messages for their elected leaders when casting their ballots Tuesday, Nov. 8. They want roads improved and they want fighting between the council and mayor to stop.
“The last few months have been embarrassing for us as residents,” Indian Trail resident Cindy Turner said, while her boyfriend cast a ballot at the Indian Trail library. Newly arrived in Indian Trail, Cindy didn’t switch her voting registration in time to take part this year.
“If our town is on TV, either the mayor’s accusing council members of something or vice versa,” Turner said. “At this point, I just don’t care which one’s to blame. I want it to stop.”
While voters split on who those new leaders should be, they made it clear whoever got the job needs to focus on road improvements. With 54.58 percent of the vote, residents approved the Monroe Road widening bond. Currently, widening Monroe Road to four lanes is estimated to cost $55 to $60 million. There’s $22.5 million in state funds, allocated by Indian Trail and neighboring Stallings to pay for the portion stretching from Interstate 485 to Indian Trail Road. The state doesn’t have the money to cover the last part, from Indian Trail Road to Wesley Chapel Stouts Road, on their own, so the current town council left it up to the voters and residents approved the $10 million bond. All total, 1,037 voters supported the measure. That’s more votes than any candidate for either the open mayor or council seats received.
Voters also approved a bond to improve streets and sidewalks in the town, this time by a slightly smaller margin. All total, 52.28 percent of ballots or 987 votes supported the measure. What residents don’t want however is to go into debt for a park. Of those who voted, 52.57 percent opposed a bond to speed up development of the town’s 51 acre park.
Newly elected mayor Michael Alvarez said voters made their wishes clear in the bond referendum.
“They want the roads fixed, they showed they want sidewalks,” Alvarez said. He plans to ask the council to explore other options however, before pushing forward to spend the bond money.
“I would encourage the council to cover all their bases,” Alvarez said. “Let’s exhaust all possibilities before putting the town into debt.”
New council members, mayor
In a town of more than 18,000 registered voters, less than 2 percent showed up at the polls, casting 1,809 ballots.
Those who did show up voted for a new mayor and a new council. Current mayor John Quinn declined to seek re-election, endorsing Alvarez, who won with 54.56 percent or 987 votes. Current Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Goodall came in second with 792 votes and there were 30 write-in votes for various candidates.
“I wish the turnout was a lot higher, but I’m humbled by the support,” Alvarez said. “I’m still in shock. Each vote means a lot to me.”
Alvarez said his first priority is to open the doors to anyone who wants to help out in the town, from serving on committees to helping with events. He hopes to get people involved and by doing so, build a sense of community. He also wants people to understand that the issues of the past are just that.
“It’s in the past, time to move forward,” Alvarez said. Continuing a call he made during the campaign, Alvarez said he hopes to bring every council member, both current and those elected this year, together for a meeting, to sit down and hopefully set a new tone.
After that, Alvarez said he hopes to get the council to look at several safety concerns.
“As a growing town, I would encourage the council to approach the safety issues,”Alvarez said. “We need to come up with a game plan to handle the traffic. Also, people are worried about kids crossing the street from Sun Valley High to the shopping center and we need to get with the sheriff and make sure we have enough security for the new movie theater.”
In the council race, three seats were open. Current council member Gary D’Onofrio declined to run again, council member John Hullinger resigned when he moved to Phoenix, Arizona and Mayor Pro Tem Goodall’s seat was open as he chose to run for mayor instead.
David Cohn collected the most votes, with 19.51 percent or 1,026 ballots. He collected the most votes in eight of the town’s 14 precincts. David Waddell came in second, with 17.24 percent of the vote or 907 votes. Chris King took the final seat, collecting 15.15 percent or 797 votes.
“I’m elated that the people put their faith in me,” Cohn said. “It was like a street party at Bonterra yesterday. That puts a lot of pressure on us, to live up to their trust.”
Cohn, a regional sales manager with Travis Meats, said he hoped to work with everyone on the council.
“I don’t expect it to be perfect, we’re not always going to agree,” Cohn said. “But I hope we can work together to turn this into the best place to be.”
Waddell said he was encouraged by the voter response.
“Looking at the results, it’s a pretty good indication folks want to move forward, but in a fiscally responsible way,” Waddell said.