Editor’s note: Two council seats are open this year in Districts 2 and 4. Scott Buzzard, Pam Hadley and Hughie Sexton are in District 2, while Ken Evans, Barbara Harrison and Jerry McKee are in District 4.
Do you support the town’s move to create a municipal fire department? If not, how would you address the problems affecting the Providence volunteer fire department?
Barbara Harrison: I do support the resolution that has been given to the county commissioners. However, a detail plan must be developed carefully analyzing the impact of a municipal fire department to the town of Weddington and all the costs associated with it and how to minimize the additional fire fees to Weddington’s citizens but maintain the same or better coverage.
Hughie Sexton: I do support the town of Weddington creating a “municipal fire district” that will allow Weddington to control it’s own fire district, set the parameters, and designate Providence Fire Department as the primary service provider for that particular fire district. Wesley Chapel VFD would have a negligible effect, while Stallings VFD would not be affected at all.
Jerry McKee: I am in favor of looking into a municipal fire district. It is very important that all residents of Weddington be involved and informed about this issue.
Ken Evans: Weddington has taken a historic step forward in providing a realistic fire and medical service for its citizens. It is my understanding, a municipal fire district, has never been created in the state of North Carolina. By this action, Weddington will become the model for all other townships that desire to provide the same emergency services within their communities.
We will now enjoy local control of our emergency services and the tax rate. Some of Weddington’s citizens pay a fire tax and some a fire fee. The new fire tax will be equitable for all of our residents. We will no longer pay a fire tax/fee and then have some of our property tax dollars used to augment emergency services. Or in other words, no double taxation.
Weddington will be in a position to redraw the emergency service lines. This will enhance response times, where as, the closes fire station will now respond. This is not the case today. The Providence Volunteer Fire Department, at the present time, is under utilized. By the council’s action, this very valuable asset will now be fully utilized.
When, I am elected to the Weddington Town Council, I will work very hard to insure that we have the best trained emergency personnel with the best equipment. I will also do this at lowest possible cost to the tax payers of Weddington.
Pam Hadley: Yes! Government’s first priority is the public safety of its citizens. I support Providence Volunteer Fire Department. The current system dictates that a fire station almost 5 miles away is called for a medical emergency and not my local department that is a quarter mile away. All citizens of Weddington deserve equal vital services at the same cost. The current resolution of our town council for Weddington to become a municipal fire service area will accomplish just that. Providence would be the primary department for the town. Wesley Chapel Fire Department and Stallings Fire Department could be contracted to cover areas based on distance and response time. All citizens will then have the closest station respond plus have access to 24/7 staffed fire and EMT services. All citizens will pay the same tax rate.
Scott Buzzard: Public safety is the number one priority of local government. The deputies and fire fighters that we have in Weddington do a tremendous job. Through no fault of Weddington, there is under-funding of fire safety in parts of the town. This problem was not created overnight, and unfortunately, will not be solved overnight. While there is an on-going effort for Weddington to become its own municipal fire district, I would not support Weddington creating it’s own fire department. If Weddington were to try to create its own fire department, it would force an increase in taxes and place an added burden on our residents while the economy is still very volatile. What I do support is Weddington working to create a solution that best benefits our residents, the town, our neighbors and all the local fire departments. As a member of the steering committee for the Local Area Regional Transportation Plan, we worked with the county, state and our neighbors to create a long-range plan that would benefit everyone. A similar effort will be necessary to work through the fire funding issues.
Residents have questioned why a water tower that would not help their neighborhood should be placed near their homes. Would you support a Weddington water tower or water tank? If so, should the town pay a portion of the cost?
Harrison: Everyone should know that I don?t believe that a water tower belongs in Weddington since it does not meet the criteria of the land use plan and even though the council rescinded their vote, the county commissioners can still build a tower where it has been proposed. A water tower will forever change the landscape of not only Weddington but the surrounding areas, lowering property values and giving the perception that Weddington does not care about individual property rights but more about future commercial development.
Since the vote has been cast and directly affects me and my neighborhood, Providence Acres, the Loves and Mel Graham’s property, I would support a water tank that should not be funded by Weddington.
Sexton: I do not support a water tower inside Weddington for any reason. Over 80 percent of the town of Weddington is currently on well and septic, and the water tower or tanks are not needed. The county should place the water tower in that part of the county where water pressure is needed, and stop playing political paddle ball with this issue.
McKee: It is true that a water tower or tank will not affect Weddington at the present time…There will be a water problem in the future because 80 percent of Weddington homes are serviced by a well…I favor a storage tank and will not support a water tower or the town of Weddington sharing in the cost.
Evans: I support water tanks in Weddington; however, the water tower/tanks should be placed at N.C. 16 and Rea Road on the back of the property. This location is the number one location per the county engineers and would be the least visible. That being said, I also am concerned about how the water tank will be built (size 20 feet high or more, landscaping). Will they look like the fuel storage tanks at a Houston oil refinery?
I do not feel the tax payers of Weddington should pay for any of the additional costs. Eighty percent of the Weddington tax payers do not have access to water or sewer thus they should not pay for a service they do not receive. The additional water services (water tanks) should be paid from the users fees that are charged by the Union County Unities commission. These fees are for the water and sewer system to be improved and maintained.
Hadley: My opinion is that water towers should be located only in commercial or industrial areas and not residential. Research shows that counties are increasingly using tanks vs towers and I support that trend. This is a county project to benefit all of western Union County and Weddington should not be obligated to spend our taxpayer dollars on a county project. Union County Public Works is funded by their users and as such should use those funds for upgrades, expansions, etc.
Buzzard: The water tower highlights why this town council election is important, and who is most prepared to continue to be engaged for all of Weddington’s residents. Both water and sewer are handled by Union County. Nearly two years ago, our local volunteer fire station presented information to the planning board on a potential fire safety issue for Weddington residents where there is not adequate water pressure at the fire hydrants. So there is a problem. According to town ordinances, water and the mechanisms for its distribution are essential services, so legally there are not too many options we can exercise if we are pressed by Union County. We do, however, have a unique opportunity because the county is currently working through its master plan. I believe that town leaders should be proactively engaged with them to find the best location for a water tower that has minimal impact on existing residential property. Working together, I believe there is a solution that would eliminate the need for Weddington to fund the more expensive water tank/pump station options.
Does the town of Weddington need a park? If so, how would you fund it?
Harrison: Many citizens would like to see Weddington have a park and the first question that comes to mind for me is what functions would the park perform? Is it a park that would be used for a gathering place? i.e. similar to Matthews where there would be concerts, movies etc? Or is it a park that would serve as a gathering place and also have a playground, walking and biking trails and picnic areas similar to the parks in the surrounding towns. Regardless of the type of park, grant money, individual landowner donations and business donations should comprise the funding not money from the town.
Sexton: I do not support a park at this time in Weddington. Currently, there are several parks close to Weddington like Francis Beatty Park that are very close and accessible to our residents. Additionally, many subdivisions already have their own park for their own homeowners’ association members.
McKee: Recent surveys have indicated that the majority of residents are in favor of a park..There are a lot of ways to help fund a park, among them are (1) apply for matching funds from N. C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and (2) solicit funds from the private sector.
Evans: A park would be nice. I will support a park if the costs are acceptable.
My main concern is how a park would be paid for with the high cost of land and construction in Weddington. I believe the park would become cost prohibitive. I will not approve a tax increase to build a park.
Hadley: Presently there is a pavilion/park being discussed by town council. While I agree with the venue I do not support the location in the ‘back yard’ of town hall. This location does not provide for future growth potential or adequate parking needs when hosting community events. It is also an expense that should be postponed until after our fire service needs have been resolved.
I do not support a hodgepodge, piecemeal growth for Weddington. I would like to see a master plan that supports the amenities that serve the citizens of Weddington. then work the plan.
The pavilion/park as a ‘gathering place’ for events could easily be incorporated into this master plan and the cost could be deflected to the developer, business sponsorship and possible grants.
Buzzard: Personally, I love parks. I have spent thousands of hours either playing or coaching in public parks. I have been an active coach at Wesley Chapel-Weddington Athletic Association for the past seven years. I also currently serve as the vice chairman of our Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. But even with that, I believe that you have to listen to what the residents of Weddington want. The recent surveys revealed that the taxpayers don’t want to pay for a town park, and I believe they should be the ones to decide.
Should Weddington work to develop a “downtown” area? If so, does that need to include more commercial property?
Harrison: The Weddington town council has defined the “downtown” area as the Weddington Corners shopping area and the buildings including Town Hall on 84. We need to support and promote the current businesses that already exist and until the town has a clear vision of what Weddington should look like in 25 years it is hard to answer what the needs of a ?downtown? area should include
Sexton: The residents of Weddington have expressed their desire repeatedly for no more commercial development in the downtown area. However, some members of the current town council and mayor have tried to circumvent the wishes of the citizens of Weddington by continuing to pursue this effort. Most citizens of Weddington want our town to stay unique, family oriented, and safe, plus there’s an abundance of places to dine and shop within a short drive in every direction.
McKee: We currently have a downtown area which includes the Weddington shopping center and medical buildings…There are a lot of vacancies that need to be filled..I believe the town can work with the owners to make it more attractive so that businesses such as a restaurant and other small shops will be willing to open a business in Weddington
Evans: I believe the town should explore some mixed use development. That may include small shops, office space and a restaurant. But, not big box stores, such as Wal-Mart, Kmart, etc. I would be in favor of a retirement type complex in Weddington.
Hadley: Feedback that I have heard while campaigning has been in support of more ‘sit down’ restaurants. I would agree to small shops, to pull in the traffic for those restaurants with for instance, a Fresh Market, Lavender Spa and Nail, coffee/bakery shop, ice cream shop, etc., all built with the facade that fits the ambiance of our unique community. I would not support any big box stores. We have plenty of Targets, Kohl’s, PetSmarts in close proximity.
Buzzard: Weddington has a downtown business district. As the Chairman of Weddington’s Downtown Core Committee, I have worked hard to ensure our downtown is safe and vibrant, so it can be a destination for our residents. I would hate to see our doctor offices and local boutiques continue to leave, creating the potential for a bunch of empty shops that would increase crime and decrease property values. But I do not believe that this should come at the cost of the rural character that we have all come to love. Weddington will need leaders that can proactively balance the two.
Looking at the town’s budget, which this year included purchases for iPads for council members to use, is there anything you would do differently? Is there something you believe is a priority the town didn’t spend money on?
Harrison: I believe that every year, the budget should be created by doing a zero based budget and that there should be more discussion on the dollar amounts, how they were derived at and how you can obtain services etc while spending the least amount of money.
Public safety is a priority and with the growing incidents involving the use and selling of illegal drugs in our area, I would like to see money budgeted for 24/7 police coverage for Friday through Monday.
Sexton: Yes, the town needs to discontinue the Weddstock Dog & Pony Show that has cost the taxpayers of Weddington over $40,000 the last two years. The wrongful and self serving use of our tax dollars needs to stop. If the majority of the town council decided IPads would be beneficial, then I see no harm with that purchase.
McKee: After doing a lot of research and contacting other towns who had started or were thinking of going paperless, the town decided to go paperless with regards to its agenda packet… The estimated savings from printing cost and staff time is approximately $250 to $300 per month. With this savings the town will recoup its cost in less than three years … Just think of all the trees the town will be saving. The town started its budget process in March 2011 at our annual retreat. From then until the budget was approved in June 2011, the council looked at every detail that was presented to insure that they were not wasting tax payer money.
Evans: Improve fiscal spending, by keeping inconsequential projects from being approved. Thus, we will be able to maintain Weddington’s low tax rate. Spending on iPads, placing funds in the budget for a library needs to be eliminated until it is determine where and when the library will be built. I will not approve any project that dose not benefit the vast majority of Weddington citizens.
Hadley: As I have stated time and time again, Weddington has three huge issues on the front burners….public safety, the water tower and the WCWAA issue. Just like we do in our own homes, if a big bill is on the horizon we need to be fugal with spending. stop the spending until these issues are resolved! Then, and only then should the town be spending its reserves on non-essential services.
Buzzard: As I mentioned before, public safety is the number one priority of local government. This past year, Weddington spent close to 80 percent of the $550,000 collected from property taxes on public safety. So, I think that our priorities are definitely in order. The iPads were purchased to not only reduce office supply expenses, but also to provide a more efficient, reliable opportunity for Weddington staff and residents to contact council members. I was lucky enough to receive my iPad for Father’s Day in 2010. I definitely see the value that it could bring to the town.