Mayor candidates tackle neighborhood improvements, local gas tax, during Thursday debate

Mayor candidates tackle neighborhood improvements, local gas tax, during Thursday debate

DECATUR–  Neighborhood improvement has been a focus of the Decatur City Council and Mayor for the past several years, and the four men running for Mayor say they want to continue that process.

With the number of blighted properties and home scheduled for demolition slowly growing, incumbent Mayor Mike McElroy, Bishop Livingston, Pat McDaniel, and Dustin Chapman all have their own ideas of how to put a dent in that list.

“I would like to sit down with groups such as Habitat for Humanity and work out some new and creative ideas to solve this housing issue,” Livingston said. “Instead of spending our Community Block Grant money and neighborhood improvement funds on tearing down homes, why don’t we look for organizations that we can work with to improve the homes and get people back living in them?”

Livingston did add that some homes were too far gone for reasonable repairs, “Some of these homes do need to be demolished because they are negatively affecting the neighborhoods, but I don’t see why we can’t try and spend $8,000 or $10,000 or $12,000 to fix up some of these homes and improve the neighborhood instead of spending the money to tear them down to create a vacant lot that nobody wants to mow.”

McElroy, with the demolition list hovering around 120 or so homes, said the Council has made progress since putting a focus on cleaning up neighborhoods a couple of years ago, “For years we just didn’t do anything for a number of reasons, that was the wrong move, but we corrected that and we are making progress as quickly as we can. This will take time, it won’t happen overnight. We didn’t get this way overnight and we won’t get out of it overnight, but we have made progress.”

Pat McDaniel said he would like the city to invest in a TIF district for blighted areas of the community, “I’ve proposed a TIF district for the inner city because that area has businesses and residential. I would like to see a TIF district created to see what that would do. TIF’s were developed to help in blighted areas such as this.”

Dustin Chapman said he liked the idea of redeveloping some homes, but with the amount of money it would take, it could be cost prohibitive, “As a salesman for a construction company I can tell you that even $17,000 won’t go a long way to redeveloping a depleted house. The idea is good in theory but in some instances I think demolition unfortunately is our best route.”

The candidates also weighed in with their opinions on creating a local option motor fuel tax, with all four saying they would prefer a 3 cent tax on motor fuels if such a tax would be created.

McDaniel said if a local motor fuel tax was created he would like to see some stipulations attached to it, “I know we need a revenue stream to fix our roads, but I would like to see a sunset put on this tax and I would like a dedicated road improvement fund created where all the monies went into it. If we are going to make a new tax we should stick to funding what we say we are going to fund.”

The candidates also discussed admin court, a topic that’s been talked about plenty since December.

“We wanted to clean up our neighborhoods and this admin court has been a big help in doing that,” McElroy said. “But I do think there are some things we can take a look at in regards to improving the performance of it.” McElroy and McDaniel both said they would implore the City Council to hold a study session on the topic in the near future.

“I want to make sure that landlords and our residents understand the ordinances and have a chance to voice their opinion on what would make the admin court more effective,” McDaniel said. McDaniel recommended to the City Council back in January that they should hold a study session regarding admin court, but as of now no study session has been officially scheduled.

Election Day for the consolidated election is April 7th.