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Mayoral candidates questioned at rally

By Staff, 05/2/18 1:32 PM

PRESCOTT – Mayoral candidates Terry Oliver and Rena Brown were questioned at Tuesday’s political rally at the Nevada County Courthouse.

The first question posed to the pair dealt with how they plan to combat poverty and raise the standard of living.

Oliver said there are a lot of programs people need to know about. He talked about the youth center and how it’s helped over the last four years, and said housing is the main issue and there have only been two permits issued for new home construction in the last eight years.

Brown talked about working with her church’s food pantry and food share when it opened. She said she and her husband have bought four houses, renovated one, which is available for rent and are renovating another. She suggested old houses be purchased and renovated to be used for rental property. When homes that can’t be saved are razed, she suggested the lots be bought and new homes constructed there.

On the topic of the biggest challenge facing Prescott and what to do about it, Brown said the problem is the utility rates and if something isn’t done about them there won’t be any growth. “People don’t want to come here, and are leaving,” she said, blaming the high cost of electricity for this. She suggested the city look into solar power, adding nothing can be done until the city’s contract with Southwest Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) either ends or the attorneys come up with a solution.

Oliver agreed electricity is the main problem with jobs being the second major issue. He said when Brown is mayor she’ll understand how hard it is. Prescott, he said, works closely with the Arkansas Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) and has finished in the top five on several projects, but hasn’t managed to win one yet. The city has I-30, he told the audience, and it can be utilized to help stimulate the economy, but investors need to be found. The third problem, he said, is housing.

Brown responded, saying the city owns several parcels of land and doesn’t need to be in the real estate business. She suggested the city sell these properties at a good price to attract business and provide electricity at cost the first three years.

The next question involved renewable resources.

Oliver said Prescott still has 19 years left on its contract with SWEPCO, reminding those present, the contract was done before he took office. He agreed solar is the way to go, but dropped a bombshell by stating the contract with SWEPCO states the city can’t discuss renewable resources as long as it’s in effect. The city is pancaked $700,000-$800,000 a year, and must collect this money from the citizens and businesses. The situation with the city’s suit with SWEPCO, he added could last another 12-15 months. “It won’t be overnight.”

Brown said she has an interest in renewable energy, but said the current rates are high with the city making $1.3-$1.4 million a year from electricity. Money, she added, has been allocated for a splash pad, but the city needs to focus on bringing in business first.

The pair was asked what property the city owns.

Brown talked about property on Ron Harrod Blvd., the garment factory and Potlatch, which, she said, would make a good location for a trade day’s event.

Oliver agreed, saying Brown hit most of the land the city owns, but added the youth center and industrial park.

The question was posited about what the city can do to make sure no one in city government steals.

Oliver said the city has to be accountable as it takes in $9.5 million a year. These funds pass through the office workers hands first, followed by City Hall’s office manager, then go to the city’s accounting firm, with all along the path making sure the figures agree. The city is audited annually as well, he said.

Brown said the city’s in the midst of this problem with the Prescott Police Department. If elected, she said, there would be a zero tolerance policy put in place and anyone caught stealing would be prosecuted. “If anyone steals, they have to pay the price,” she said.

The final question was why they were the best candidate for the job.

Brown said she wasn’t born in Prescott but chose to live and raise a family here. “We need to clean Prescott up, curb spending, bring in business and reduce the electric rates.”

Oliver said he inherited a mess when he was elected eight years ago, but the city has come a long way since then.