Candidates lay out platforms, talk issues

Published 5:58 am Saturday, October 13, 2007

By Staff
Belhaven candidates talk about repairing municipality’s image
By PATTI TRUJILLO, Special to the Daily News
BELHAVEN — This town’s image, high utility bills and the need to move forward with pending municipal projects were the dominant recurring themes of Belhaven’s portion of the candidates forum at Northside High School on Thursday.
Lowering the cost of utilities was at the top of incumbent Mayor Adam O’Neal’s platform. O’Neal suggests hiring and budget freezes to bring down those rates.
Mayoral candidate Charles Boyette said the town could eventually “go nuclear, add more users, get new money pockets, eliminate our debts,” conserve electricity and consider becoming partners in a cooperative to alleviate the high utility bills.
Belhaven’s image suffers, in the eyes of some of its residents, because of conflicts between O’Neal and Town Manager Tim Johnson and, to a lesser extent, between O’Neal and Boyette. These conflicts usually surface during televised Town Council meetings and are characterized by occasional name-calling, posturing and gavel banging.
Mayoral candidate Rosemarie Ballance said she supports open and responsive government. Ballance said she would work with people to solve problems.
Boyette said, “The mayor is a position of leadership,” and one must listen to others “rather than leading by the gavel.”
He said, “I would like to see a manager who respects the mayor. It’s time for a change.”
Karen Fisher, one of five candidates for the two East End seats available on the council and a retired teacher, said, “I’ve been trained in conflict resolution — and together we can do anything.”
Asked about her vision for Belhaven’s future in five years, Fisher said she would “promote the businesses we already have, attract new business, build neighborhood parks … add fishing piers and streetscapes, plant flowers and trees … and make it a better place.”
Robert Stanley, one of two candidates for the West End seat available on the council, said, “I would love to work with the people and see if we can get things done. … We have to give them answers. It really needs to change.”
Albert Baker, also seeking the West End seat on the council, said Belhaven can be made a better place to live by constructing the Emergency Services Center and a breakwater that will mitigate flooding, developing the Ebron Industrial Park and improving roads and walkways, especially in the area near the post office. He said the town needs “positive leadership and proven results.” Baker has served as a Belhaven alderman for almost 12 years.
Mac Pigott, candidate for an East End seat, said the floodgate project should be completed and ditch maintenance performed to help prevent flooding. Belhaven is subject to downtown flooding during persistent rain storms.
East End candidate Nelson Guy said the town should provide recreational opportunities for its youth and develop the Ebron Industrial Park. He said members of the Town Council should “think for themselves.”
Walt Allen, another East End candidate, said he would “look after our whole community, not just Belhaven.” He said, “It’s going to take working together and maybe a little eating crow.”