Candidates for Warrenton city positions answered voter questions in a Warrenton Business Association Candidates Forum last (Wednesday) night at Warrenton City Hall. Two candidates are running for Mayor: incumbent Mark Kujala and current position 4 commissioner Mark Baldwin. The candidates for the now open city commission position 4 are Pamela Ackley, David Goldthorpe, Richard Newton and Richard Frisbee.
Last year, Warrenton voters overwhelmingly approved a measure to make the Mayor elected at large by the voters directly instead of by appointment to the office by the city commission.
An audience of about 50 packed the City Commission chamber. Their questions focused on livability and economic vitality of the city.
Both mayoral candidates stated Public Safety as the first priority of the city commission. Incumbent Mayor Mark Kujala summarized the current status of police officer staffing.
“We were looking at the true possibility that we might only have eight police officers in 2014. We had a levy that was on the ballot in November in order to extend one position, we also made a decision during the budget that year to take away from the police vehicle replacement policy and take money from patrol cars and put it into personnel, take money from the WBA (Warrenton Business Association) which was so generous, to give money toward funding a new position in the police department, and then we just received money from the federal government from the Department of Justice to fund three quarters of another position in the police department. So we’re actually looking at eleven officers in 2015. That is three officers more than we were looking at about sixteen months ago, so that’s a tremendous improvement.”
Kujala added the next focus should be on the fire department, and the addition of a ladder truck.
Candidate Mark Baldwin also said public safety is the number one goal, and illustrated the needs of the fire department:
Baldwin.wav: “With working class families, which the vast majority of us are, comes children, and schools, and in a small community lots of kids walking to and from school, and at the parks and so on and so forth, and I think it’s probably our largest goal is to protect those children. The fire: I’ll touch a little on that. I was down on Warrenton Mills property, Hampton Mills property, when that fire started, and that could have been so much worse without a ladder truck. If it hadn’t have been for the ladder truck coming and the efforts of Hampton Mill employees turning on their pumps at their water pond and hooking up almost all of the hoses if not all of them – I believe was five hoses coming off of that pond and that pump, who knows what could have happened. That mill could be gone today. So with the additions we’ve made in the police department I believe we’re moving in the right direction, but we do need to work a little harder on the fire department. I think we’re going to lose our rating if we don’t make some infrastructure improvements and some position improvements.”