Citizens had the opportunity Tuesday to meet the eight candidates currently running for Kirksville City Council as they answered questions about city issues in a forum hosted by the Kirksville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Three council seats are currently open for the April 2 election. The two candidates receiving the most votes will earn three-year terms, while the candidate earning the third highest amount of votes will earn a one-year term.
The eight candidates include Mayor Chuck Long, council member Zac Burden, veteran Steve Reiser, and citizens Jessica Parks, Jordan Weichelt, Kevin Alm, Daniel Joyner and Donald Smith.
The candidates were asked about their views on city road conditions and repairs, overhauling the city municipal code, zoning for and attracting medical marijuana facilities, and what they believe is the most important economic development issue in Kirksville.
Every candidate agreed that the city’s streets are an issue. Parks said the city has spent too many years laying down low quality roads, and that should be the focus instead of patching up the roads, which Alm agreed with. Weichelt suggested money be reallocated in the budget for the roads, and if additional funding is needed, let the voters decide on a sales tax. Joyner said he thinks there should be a sales tax to fund roads that gradually goes down and is removed after road repairs have been completed. Burden said he hopes the combined effort of city workers and outside contractors will lead to improved roads. Long agreed and said more developments will be made as the new asphalt plant is utilized more fully. Reiser also highlighted the current joint effort between the city and outside contractors, and said ultimately taxpayers will probably have to contribute to the effort to fix roads. Smith said the city should focus on all types of streets.
When talking about overhauling the municipal code, Parks said she doesn’t feel strongly about any one area of the code, but that areas such as backyard chickens, sidewalks and bike paths are important. Weichelt said the city should focus on areas of the code relating to roads and infrastructure. Burden said the process of reorganizing and updating the code has been long, and the city should focus on zoning and fair application of zoning rules. Reiser said it is important that the code reflects modern times, and said the city should periodically update them. Smith said he did not know much about the code, but voiced concerns that the Council could change it to benefit themselves. Alm, Long and Joyner all said the city municipal code needs improvement.
All the candidates supported allowing medical marijuana facilities in Kirksville with some regulations. Parks said it is good that the Council focused on all the different aspects of medical marijuana businesses, and she said she is supportive of a 300-foot buffer to keep these businesses from being close to schools, churches and daycares. Weichelt said he thinks regulation is important to avoid potential abuse, while Alm said he is opposed to the use of marijuana but supports the use of hemp for medical and industrial purposes. Burden said he wants Kirksville to be a welcoming place for businesses, but there is a balance that must be met between providing for citizens’ medical needs and safeguarding the community. Long said the tax revenue from the new businesses can be used to help solve other issues, such as the roads. Reiser agreed with Burden and Long about the potential revenue source and the need to keep the community safe while serving those in need. Smith said he supports medical marijuana for those who need it, but he is concerned about potential abuse. Joyner said keeping the facilities secure is important, and dispensaries should be as close to law enforcement as possible. He said it will be a good source of revenue, and the city should focus on limiting medical marijuana to small businesses and offering incentives to those businesses.
On the topic of economic development, Parks said it is good that large chain stores offer jobs, but the city should be investing in the people who already live here. Weichelt said the roads and infrastructure are the most important development issues because they need to be improved to continue city growth. Alm said he would like to see more focus on finding jobs for the homeless and providing shelters and other services. Burden said the city should focus on improving road systems, parks and recreation, and partnering with other agencies and school systems to improve the city as a whole. Long said he does not see any issues with the current economic development in the city. Reiser said the economy and local jobs are important issues to him, and the city should help small businesses compete against large stores. Smith spoke about the importance of the Council having respect for its citizens. Joyner said he supports the steady influx of businesses opening in Kirksville to offer employment and benefits for Kirksville residents.