Sedalia Business Women hosted a local candidate forum on Thursday night, March 14 at the Sedalia Municipal Building, 2nd and Osage.

The forum attracted a few candidates and a handful of observers.

The local candidate forum was previously hosted by the League of Women Voters, who have now passed the honor on to the Sedalia Business Women, one of the longest-running civic organizations in the history of Sedalia. No reason was given for the change.

City Council members running for reelection, including Jack Robinson, Tina Boggess, Bob Hiller and Rhiannon Foster were invited to attend.

Mayor Pro Tem Foster announced prior to Thursday that she would not be able to attend the forum, and Councilwoman Boggess had a family illness to deal with that evening.

In addition, two new candidates who are running for one seat in District 3 for the Pettis County Ambulance District, Jim Sneed and Heath May, joined the forum.

There were also two current Council members with differing views concerning the voter approval in a change in term length for Council members, allowing them to be in office for four years rather than the current term of two years.

SBW member Dianne Simon served as host and moderator for the 58-minute event.

In his introductory statement, Councilman Jack Robinson said he brings a broad spectrum of experience to the Council, having served on several committees. He noted that it is frustrating that many opinions voiced by constituents “aren't founded on anything.”

In his introductory statement, Councilman Bob Hiller said that he too is frustrated. “Naysayers always want to put down the Council, but none have stepped up to run.” Hiller was appointed by Mayor Dawson to finish out Lucas Richardson's term. Hiller then ran unopposed in the next election and won.

Hiller stated that “I think we're going in the right direction,” adding that he moved to Sedalia in 1980 and adopted two boys. “I came to Sedalia and I'm glad I did.”

First Ward Councilman Robinson said that, in his first term, he has learned a little bit so far. “I don't have to re-learn stuff,” he said, when asked why he was running for reelection.

Third Ward Councilman Hiller, when asked why he was going for another two-year term, said “I thought it was wrong to walk away from that,” adding that the City spends money training and educating Council members through the Missouri Municipal League and other methods.

Third Ward Councilman Bob Cross said that he tries to use common sense with every decision he makes on the Council, and promises that he answers every phone call he gets.

What's the most important issue facing Sedalia right now?

Councilman Robinson said it is the planning for the new Sedalia fire station, the location of which is yet to be determined.

Robinson said he is not terribly worried about how to fund a new fire station, giving props to City Administrator Kelvin Shaw. “Kelvin's good at finding revenue sources, I'm not worried about that,” Robinson said.

The sewer system is another high-priority issue for Sedalia, Robinson noted. The North Wastewater Plant needs replacing and the Central Wastewater Plant needs upgrading.

The State of Missouri is requiring the City of Sedalia to replace the North Wastewater Treatment Plant. The plant’s technology is severely outdated, with most of the equipment dating back to the 1940s. That technology no longer meets the requirements of the state’s DNR nor the requirements of the federal EPA.

The City of Sedalia's $60 Million Sewer Bond issue passed by a nearly 80 percent margin, garnering 760 yes votes, and 201 no votes. But turnout for the special election was a mere 7.71 percent, with 961 voters coming out on election day, out of a possible 12,465 registered voters in Pettis County.

Councilman Hiller said that growth and communication are high on his list. He noted that the sewer bond issue passed by nearly 80 percent.

He added that, as a Council member, there are things being done he is not allowed to talk about, especially on the east side.

Hiller said he was excited to see expansion plans at the new aquatic site on East Broadway. Only 12 inches of contaminated soil need to be removed before construction can begin.

When asked about the housing shortage in Sedalia, Robinson pointed out that the problem is not unique to Sedalia. “Some city properties are sold to those willing to build. But I haven't seen a solution yet, it's not satisfying the market.”

Hiller responded by saying that “you can't force someone to build houses. We gotta catch up. We could all do better. You need construction people wanting to do it.”

Simon asked how the City can improve their relationship with Pettis County.

Robinson feels there is no communication from the County, other than the “no landfill” issue. He suggested responding promptly when constituents have a problem.

Hiller claimed that “they feel they're above the City in following codes,” he said of Pettis County. “A building inside the city limits is under the jurisdiction of the City of Sedalia.”

As for the proposition of changing from a two-year Council term to a four-year term, Robinson said that serving twice as long makes sense.

Hiller said he was in favor of Council members serving four years at a time, noting that it would save the City $5,000 every two years in election costs. “The mayor can appoint replacements,” he said.

It should be noted that Council terms are staggered, with only half the Council up for reelection every two years currently.

“I think it will get more people to run,” Hiller said. “My goal is it makes people want to run for office.”

Councilman Cross is in favor of a four-year Council term. “It would entice more people to run for the office,” he told Simon, noting that the Mayor of Sedalia currently serves four years.

Councilman Bloess prefers a two-year term. “It's important for Democracy,” he said, adding that if citizens are not happy with their Councilman, they will vote him or her out.

And saving $5,000 by not running an election is a small amount of money in the framework of a $60 million budget, Bloess indicated. Bloess will be on the ballot next year. He noted that belonging to the MML is expensive, but totally worth it and very informative.

As for others running for spots on the Council, Bloess said, “If I can do it, you can do it.”

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PCAD Board candidates Eric West, Heath May and Jim Sneed all touted their qualifications for serving on the board.

West, who is running unopposed, is a former PCAD employee and he said he wants to give back to the community. “We need someone who understands what we go through,” he said. West noted that he has not attended any PCAD Board meetings in person, but does look at the summary of the meeting afterwards.

West said the most important issue for PCAD is gaining and retaining the best employees, as well as long-term planning.

May said he has watched PCAD Board meetings on ZOOM while on shift. May left PCAD in January after five years of service as an EMT. He said he “wants to get things moving in the right direction,” adding that he would like to see more crews and more PCAD bases. Response times would be reduced as a result, he noted, adding that response times now are around 4 to 6 minutes inside the City, and 15 to 20 in the county.

May said “we need one in northeast Pettis County. Also, La Monte or Dresden would be good.” PCAD receives around 10,000 calls a year, he said, and the calls are increasing annually.

Sneed said he would like to see PCAD stations placed in each corner of Pettis County. But budget restraints may prohibit that, he admitted.

In the top photo are SBW members who conducted a local candidate forum at the Sedalia Municipal Building on March 14. From left: Lori Wightman, Legislation Committee; Chair Robin Balke, Legislation Committee member; Dianne Simon, Legislation Committee member; Janice Cones, SBW President Elect; Michelle O'Donnell, Legislation Committee member; and Rachel Monaghan, SBW First Vice President.

SBW Candidate Forum

Gallery Credit: Randy Kirby

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