Featured image: The Times Journal hosted a lively public forum this week for the candidates running for Rainsville City government
By Tyler Pruett
RAINSVILLE, Ala. — On Tuesday night, Rainville's mayoral and city council candidates took part in a public political forum to answer questions submitted by the public at the Tom Bevill Enrichment Center. The event was hosted by Fort Payne newspaper, the Times Journal and was moderated by their publisher, Tricia Dunn.
The night was broken into two segments; one for mayoral candidates, followed up by a second segment that included discussions with candidates for Rainsville City Council. Each candidate was asked a series of questions by the moderator and given two minutes to respond to each question.
All candidates were present with the exception of Derek Rosson and Ricky Byrum, city council candidates who were both out of town on family vacations. Dunn read a statement from Rosson regarding his absence before starting the forum.
One topic of debate during the mayoral forum was the DeKalb County Agri-business Center.
“I think the ag center is a great tool for the city. It’s booked 42 weeks out of 50, and that may be a little off,” Lingerfelt said, “I’d like to see more of those weeks booked, and more events than just equine, cattle, and rodeos. The ag center has been in operation for almost 10 years, and we’ve seen 32 to 34 percent growth. It brings in close to $600,000 a year to add to our budget on gross receipts. I think the agricenter has produced income for the city and helps pay for itself.”
Jones differed from Lingerfelt on the true economic impact of the center.
“The ag center’s operation is a significant cost to the city and it represents a significant portion of the city’s annual budget. It costs (the city and taxpayers) about $1,000 a day or $30,000 a month to operate,” Jones said, “There are some big questions about how we’re going to continue to fund it.”
Another question addressed the string of public controversies that has occurred during the current city council’s most recent four-year term.
“There has been a lot of controversy and I hate that; I regret that,” Jones said, “In another term, I will seek to build a better relationship with the council and ask them to at least meet me halfway, and if we have problems at least we handle them in a gentleman’s fashion and that we agree to disagree.”
“I have a lot of experience working with the citizens of DeKalb and Jackson county and some of the surrounding counties from my time at Farmer’s,” Lingerfelt said, “I have worked hand in hand with thousands of customers from those two counties and I think I have a good feel for working with people.
“My goal for the next four years is for there to be harmony with the city council,” Lingerfelt added.
After the conclusion of the mayoral portion and a five minute break, the candidates for city council took the stage. Each candidate was given one minute to respond.
In the race for Place 1, incumbent Councilman Joey Graham answered questions with challengers Tina Pike and Marshall Steifel. In response to questions on topics ranging from the city’s debt to the most important issues to them, the candidates focused largely on infrastructure and the city’s debt.
“One issue is roads,” said councilman Joey Graham, “We have roads that are falling apart. We need to put forth a plan to pave X amount of roads each year.”
“It’s not the city’s responsibility to create jobs,” Marshall Stiefel said, “we have to grow infrastructure to entice businesses to bring in jobs. Strengthening public safety such as the fire department and police department will also entice businesses to come to Rainsville.”
On the issue of the city’s debt Stiefel said, “If you keep making poor financial decisions, eventually the chickens come home to roost.”
Candidate Tina Pike said, “I have a big issue with our parks. Our bathrooms are disgusting. Our city pool is dangerous. There is metal in the pool and on the tables and chairs surrounding the pool.”
In the race for city council place 2, opponents Bejan Teheri and D.L. Stiefel discussed their most important issues and how they would deal with existing controversies.
Candidate Bejan Teheri discussed infrastructure as his most important issue to the city and his past experiences as a city councilman.
“I worked for ALDOT for many years, if you ask me what my three most important issues are, I say, number one is roads, number two is roads, and number three is roads,” Teheri said.
“When I served on the city council, we received $300,000 from Montgomery for Marshall Road. I’m an engineer, and when I served on the council we were able to save money on engineering cost and use it for three or four more roads,” Teheri added.
D.L. Stiefel discussed the budget, bringing in jobs, and cohesion among the local government.
“I’m a member of the industrial development board, and I know for a fact we’ve lost an opportunity for two businesses because of the D.C. Gas Tax,” Stiefel said.
“I want to bring unity and cohesion to the body. I think all of us are tired of the discourse we see in the local news. One promise I can make is to never embarrass the City of Rainsville,” said Stiefel.
In the race for place 3, Gary Hartline took the stage. Hartline is facing opponent Ricky Byrum for the open seat. Byrum was absent to attend a planned family vacation. Hartline focused on transparency, working for the people, and infrastructure in his responses.
“I feel we’ve not included the people in a lot of important decisions. I want to be the voice of the people and I think the people have been left out of a lot of important decisions,” Hartline said.
“We have to work together as brothers and sisters. If we fuss and fight, at our next meeting we have to put that aside for the good of the people,” Hartline said.
In place 4, sitting councilman Brandon Freeman is running unopposed. He was still on hand, however to answer questions from the public. Freeman pointed out that most of the candidate’s issues were already being addressed.
“Now as far as my biggest concern, public safety such as the police department should be our top priority, but that’s my opinion,” added Freeman.
Candidate Jeff Young took the stage and responded to questions. Young is facing Derek Rosson for the place 5 open seat.
“I want the fire department and police department should be taken care of first,” Young said, “I think their should be unity with mayor’s office and the council.”
“I’d like to see large economic growth. I’d also like to see small business grow,” said Young, “I’d like the city members to get behind small businesses because small businesses make the city grow.”
For full video of both segments of Tuesday night’s forum, visit the Southern Torch YouTube page.