Council hopefuls focus on finances, downtown projects

Published 5:59 am Saturday, October 13, 2007

By By DAN PARSONS, Staff Writer
Washington City Council hopefuls and incumbents are echoing one another in calling for downtown improvements as the city anticipates growth in the next several years.
Seven of the nine candidates running for five council seats took the stage at Northside High School on Thursday night to lay out their platforms for the public. The most popular issues voiced by nearly every candidate were renovating and/or filling downtown buildings and establishing a hotel somewhere downtown.
Dot Moate said having a hotel downtown is part of her plan to cater to tourists and revitalize the city’s downtown and historic districts.
Mickey Gahagan said if he is re-elected he would push to make the city “a more user-friendly tool for its citizens.”
Much of the discussion centered on expected growth and how to plan for it, especially in relation to downtown improvement projects once the new U.S. Highway 17 bridge is built, which Gahagan said will “change the face of our town.”
Archie Jennings agreed the city must plan in advance of future growth.
John Tate echoed the need to plan for growth but warned that the historic character of the town should be taken into account during the planning process.
Doug Mercer, chairman of the Beaufort County Planning Board, said he has coined the phrase “grow the downtown,” but he calls for protecting the historic district in that growth process.
Richard Brooks said he is a “true servant of the people.” He said the most pressing issue facing Washington is its financial stability.
Moate and Mercer also said they are running for seats on the council so they can help improve the city’s financial health.
Moate said the city is “about broke,” with 30 percent of its population living below the poverty line. She also said the city must to more to solve the problem of illegal drugs. Moate said she wants to serve on the council to help solve such problems.