Construction will soon begin on a second interchange over Interstate 49 in Peculiar, creating the opportunity to bring more business and jobs to the community. What does the city need to do to position itself for future economic growth in and around this interchange?
Gallagher: We need to have infrastructure in place. All streets and utilities in place. We need to advertise our city, contact Cass County Economic Development.
Mallinson: Peculiar needs to make the process for getting a business started more streamlined, and make the information that a potential business needs more easily accessible. If we want to bring new business here then we need be on the same level as the surrounding cities who are managing to attract businesses. I believe the Economic Development Incentive Policy that is being discussed will benefit the Community Improvement District, the Neighborhood Improvement District, and the Transportation District.
Pearson: Peculiar has the good fortune of being part of this amazing 1,700-mile highway economic development opportunity. Interstate 49 has been a project that has been carefully planned out and it will connect New Orleans, La. to Winnipeg, Canada. This interstate will be able to put Peculiar on the map as far as a destination city, as well as place for new business to take advantage of its location on this massive International highway. It will create economic growth, a strong workforce and improve the infrastructure of the City. Peculiar can set itself up by: Performing feasibility studies for the best use and purpose of the properties surrounding the new interstate; attracting Fortune 500 companies due to its central location and easy accessibility to Canada and Louisiana; and Peculiar can work to minimize the business start-up process by creating an “It’s easy to do business in Peculiar” campaign to attract and retain business for not only this generation, but for generations to come. Peculiar is on a steady path of expansion that will significantly improve the quality of life for the residents, as well as increase the tax revenue for the city.
Stark: The city needs to ensure we have all the economic tools available to draw business to this intersection. Peculiar needs to have a strong and professional voice that will advocated for more state and federal dollars for roads and other infrastructure. Our approach to this opportunity should be to bring businesses that have a regional draw, take advantage of the population of the entire adjoining metro area. We should not compete with our surrounding cities to go after similar types of business. We need to look for destination retail to complement what is already available to our north and south. This spirit of regionalism will help Peculiar develop long-term sustainable growth.
Peculiar’s Park Board has recently been under scrutiny by members of the city’s Board of Aldermen for moving too slowly when making decisions and a lack of participation/attendance at meetings. Do you feel the Park Board should continue to exist? How do you feel the Park Board could be improved?
Gallagher: Yes, the Park Board is a part of the city. They need to expand the number of members so they have enough people at their meetings for a quorum, and have more involvement with the public. We want the Park Board members to be more responsible.
Mallinson: Yes, the Park Board does need to exist. While the Park Board has been slow to make decisions and may have made some mistakes, I do not believe that it is solely their fault. The Park Board needs to be given more direction from the Board of Alderman and needs to have all the information provided to them beforehand so the Board can make informed decisions.
Pearson: The Peculiar Park Board is very important as evidenced by Title I, Chapter 125 of the Municipal Code. It would be in haste to immediately dismiss the Board without first a thorough examination of its Mission and Purpose. The concerns of the Board of Aldermen are valid and need to be addressed in a positive, project management-style manner in order to address the concerns. The Code needs to be re-examined to place goal oriented performances and evaluations, as well as removal of members who do not perform according to the Code. The Board of Alderman needs to set specific expectations and direct Communication Initiatives so that the Park Board can perform its services and continue to improve the quality of life for our Residents.
Stark: It is a mistake to dissolve a voluntary board that is set up by statute. What does that say about the transparency in government, to just dissolve a board that the aldermen disagree with? The aldermen should embrace any citizen that wants to volunteer their time to support the city. The city has already taken actions to stabilize the Park Board by hiring a Parks and Recreation director. He should be given the opportunity to work with this board and get them on track. The director is currently working with the Park Board and their newly-elected president to revise their bylaws and set new standards.
The city will be asking voters to impose a 1-cent fuel tax for the purpose of street maintenance on the April 8 ballot. This measure has failed in the past in Peculiar. Do you support the tax, why or why not?
Gallagher: Yes. We really need the fuel tax. The tax should only be used for street and bridge improvement. What a lot of people do not understand is that the new subdivisions will need resurfacing very soon. We do not have the funds to do this.
Mallinson: The fuel tax will provide the necessary revenue for Peculiar’s street maintenance and it cannot be reallocated to other areas if it is then it will be caught during the audit. However, this has been put forth to the voters twice before and has yet to pass. I don’t think it should have been put on the ballot until there was more voter support and the city should look into why it hasn’t passed yet and what can be done to alleviate those concerns.
Pearson: Raising taxes is always a subject of disapproval; however, it may be needed in some instances, specifically if public safety is at issue. Before I would vote for raising the fuel tax by 1 cent, I would first look at the current budget to see if in fact we could make some adjustments in the current budget for street maintenance. Next, I would look into government grants and aid from Cass County for infrastructure incentives. Lastly, I would examine the upcoming increased revenue that Interstate 49 will bring and hold off on increasing taxes as long as the roadways are safe for all those who travel on our roadways. This is the best way to evaluate whether a tax should be imposed, thereby greatly benefiting the residents of Peculiar.
Stark: This is a tax that I support. I do not support all taxes, however, this is a user tax that is clearly segregated money to only be used for the roads. The majority will be paid by travelers passing through. This revenue will help us improve roads, such as the School Road project. I did vote against putting it on the ballot again, but not because I disagree with the tax. I believe my vote should represent the citizens that elect me, not my just my personal opinion or agenda, and the citizens said “no” twice. I would not have put it on the ballot again.