Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Six vie for 3 seats on Bellevue City Council

Economic development tops list of candidates’ priorities


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Bellevue residents will go the polls Tuesday to choose three members for a City Council that will likely continue struggling through a difficult economic period.

Voters will choose councilors who will have to decide how and when to continue infrastructure projects during a recession that has caused cutbacks in city staff pay and reduced or limited expansion of city services.

"The pay is only $50 a month, so they are not in it for the money," quipped Mayor Chris Koch earlier this month.

Koch, who is running unopposed for mayor, said the council has recently worked on infrastructure projects like a new wastewater treatment plant and a new water delivery system, as well as police and fire department issues.

"There is still a long way to go," he said.

The six candidates running for three two-year council positions are: Maria Anta, Sara Burns, Nola Kacalek, Randy Leighton, Barb Patterson and Larry Plott. The three candidates who win the most votes will win the election.

The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 2, at Bellevue Elementary School from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Absentee ballots can be obtained at the Blaine County Election Office at the Old County Courthouse in Hailey.

All the candidates have mentioned tight funding as the primary problem facing the city, but they differ in their views on how to turn things around. The candidates range in age from 27-year-old Anta, a relative Bellevue newcomer, to 84-year-old retired postmaster Kacalek.

The candidates' government experience ranges from more than five years for council veteran Larry Plott to no government experience for the rest of the candidates, except for computer industry professional Sara Burns, who took a seat on the council vacated this summer by Koch.

Plott, who has extensive experience managing law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and overseas, said recently he would like to see a Home Depot in Bellevue. The rest of the candidates say smaller businesses would better suit the town.

"I wouldn't want to see a three-story bank," Leighton said.

Both Plott and Kacalek have said they favor establishing a chamber of commerce in Bellevue.

Burns said she would like to add a liquor license, a transit center and a farmers market. Anta expressed a faith in the federal government to eventually turn the economy around.

All candidates have expressed an interest in bringing more events to town, including winter festivals, concert series and parades, in order to increase revenues for the city.

Burns said she is working on a Hispanic festival, but Anta, a native of Mexico, also expressed interest in developing this community event. Plott said Bellevue could capitalize by "piggy-backing" on events in the north valley, such as antique shows.

Kacalek said she would like to see the city use its Urban Renewal Agency to attract new businesses, including a satellite medical facility.

In order to meet these goals, city officials will need a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Right now, the city is struggling to pay its bills as growth has dropped to zero during the recession.

"A big question is how can the city get grants, and how can it stretch dollars to the maximum that it already has," City Planning Director Craig Eckles said.

In other Bellevue news:

- Brett Gelskey was voted in as City Council president last week.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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