Mayor, alderman candidates answer questions

Posted 5/20/20

The Maries County Advocate asked candidates for Belle mayor and aldermen to answer questions about their stances situations in the city and what projects they would like to focus on if they win the …

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Mayor, alderman candidates answer questions

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The Maries County Advocate asked candidates for Belle mayor and aldermen to answer questions about their stances situations in the city and what projects they would like to focus on if they win the election.

Incumbent Mayor Josh Seaver is being challenged for his position by former mayor Steve Vogt and Terry Connors, owner of Connors Country Lodge, and Kayla Bray, mother of two.

For alderman, incumbent Aldermen Ken Stanfield is being challenged for his seat by Belle native Sundi Jo Graham, a re-entry success coach.

Each incumbent was asked questions about their actions in office and what they would like to address in the future. Each candidate was asked their opinion on current decisions that have impacted the city and what they would like to address in the future.

Kayla Bray - Mayor

I am 29 years old. I have 2 beautiful daughters, ages 15 and 2. I have been married to my husband for almost 10 years.

1. Where do you stand on the police department being outsourced to Maries County?

I would like to find a way to bring back our Belle city police dept. I would also want to work with the marshal to ensure he has the staff and resources to do his job appropriately once the dept has been reestablished again.

2. What would you like to accomplish as a city official?

Things I would like to accomplish as a city official is lighting in the park, the restocking and stock maintenance of the fish at the lake, the water issues in town, etc.

3. In the last two years, the city has closed out three grants that were in the works: the sewer project, the sidewalk project and the demolition project. What other grants would you like to see the city apply for in the coming two years?

I would like to see the city work on a grant to improve our water infrastructure. The current infrastructure is very old and water pressure has a lot of issues causing the fire department to have to pull water out of the lake during fires. Another grant that I would like to see the city work on is incorporating solar panels on all buildings owned by the city. I feel that this could help to lower electrical expenses and even help to bring in some revenue for the city.

4. What new policies or projects would you like to focus on over the next two years as a city official?

A smaller project would be restacking and maintaining the lake. A bigger project is the incorporation of solar panels on all city buildings.

5. What existing policies would you like to see changed?

Instead of having the city meetings in the small building we are in now I would like to move them out to the Community Center for more room so the public can comfortably come and be engaged in the meetings etc.

Terry Connors - Mayor

BA, Electronic Engineering, MBA, Doctorate of Philosophy. Business owner, operations internationally. Military service, 24 years in U. S. M. C.  and U. S. A. Commissioned Officer in U. S. A.

1. Where do you stand on the police department being outsourced to Maries County?

I will work to return the Belle Police Department to Belle. That is what the majority of the Citizens of Belle desire.

2. What would you like to accomplish as a city official?

Bring a comprehensive emergency all involved disaster response to any situation that could happen in Belle through grant funding and joint training With all first responders.

Restore faith in the city of Belle Government to the Citizens of Belle.

3. In the last two years, the city has closed out three grants that were in the works: the sewer project, the sidewalk project and the demolition project. What other grants would you like to see the city apply for in the coming two years?

A complete rebuilding of the water and sewer systems throughout the city of Belle with an eye to future expansion of the Belle City Limits.  Enlarge the city of Belle in land size, Revenue and Tourism.

4. What new policies or projects would you like to focus on over the next two years as a city official?

Grow the city of Belle to a more prosperous area and attract Tourism in and around the city.

5. What existing policies would you like to see changed?

Become an open, more responsive City Government where the citizens of Belle know what is actually happening rather than governance through Executive Sessions, frequent location and time changes of hearings and meetings, in what appears to dissuade our citizens from attending. Doing what our citizens want our council to do rather than what the council wants to do, as is what is done in fascist governments. Which seems to be what has been going on a long time in Belle.

Establish participation in Belle specific City Elections by business and property owner’s who are paying property taxes in Belle and have no say in how the money is spent.  Belle appears as it is not being governed properly in an ethical, citizen responsive form of government as our Republic is supposed to being governed by.

Josh Seaver - Mayor

My name is Josh Seaver, I am running for a second term as the Mayor of Belle.

I have called Belle home for the past twenty-two years. I am married to my wife of twenty years and we have two children.

I have learned a lot over the past two years of service as Mayor, and look forward to continuing that service for another term.

1. Where do you stand on the police department being outsourced to Maries County?

This question is kind of a double edge sword for me.

On the one hand, I feel it’s a shame that the board of alderman and myself were placed in the position of having to make that decision.

The other side of that coin, for me anyway, is that we now have a proactive police presence in our community, something we haven’t had in several years. And that makes me feel that my family, friends and property are safer than I have felt in a long time.

So for as unpopular as the decision may have appeared to be, I feel in the long run it will prove to be the best decision possible given the situation.

2. What would you like to accomplish as a city official?

My first priority when taking office was to attempt to help heal the relationship between the board of alderman and the Marshal’s office. Step number 1 was to reinstate the Marshal’s health insurance benefits, much to the chagrin of the board.(Those benefits were taken away by the previous administration)

Although fixing that rift has proven to be difficult (but not a lost cause) we now have full-time police protection, proactive police work being done, cases being resolved and criminals being taken off the streets (keep in mind the police have no control over the court system)

I had several ideas for the future of our Community when I took office in 2018. During the first six months of this term I traveled the state talking to business owners, production facilities and various other businessmen and women attempting to “sell’ our community as a possibility for expansion. While none of those interactions have bared fruit (yet), I have a good idea of what we as a community need to do to attract such.

I feel like the Community is beginning to take pride in itself once again.

Granted there is still plenty to be done, the visual appearance of our Community is getting better.

3. In the last two years, the city has closed out three grants that were in the works: the sewer project, the sidewalk project and the demolition project. What other grants would you like to see the city apply for in the coming two years?

Overseeing the three grant programs that have closed out during my time as Mayor proved to be rewarding in the sense that I got to see our community better itself.

It also proved to be a challenge as well,  oftentimes overwhelming city staff with paperwork, emails, phone calls and meetings.

I intentionally pulled the reins on any grant application during 2019 for two reasons. Number one to allow the three existing grants to close out. Secondly to allow the city to focus funding in other areas. Grants typically require matching funds, and I felt we needed to focus in-house before looking at bigger projects again.

I would like to explore grant funding for the addition of another water tower facility to help improve water supply to our Community.

I will also be looking into grants for some upgrades to the playground facilities at the park, as well as the possible addition of a “doggie park” (location yet to be determined) somewhere within our community.

I would also like to apply for another CDBG grant for building demolition to continue the work of cleaning up neglected, blighted properties.

4. What new policies or projects would you like to focus on over the next two years as a city official?

I have been looking over the city code book very closely, and there seem to be several ordinances that are either not relevant to our community any longer, or simply cannot be enforced due to changes in state laws over the years.

One of my focal points will be to clean that up, either through repealing or amending those ordinances to bring them in line with the times.

There are some other projects I would like to see completed such as revamping the tennis/basketball courts at the park. I have also developed a plan to put some basic camp sights at the city park.

I would also like to look into unifying the youth leagues (baseball/softball, basketball, volleyball, soccer ect.) into one organization and develop a Parks and Recreation department such as what larger communities utilize. This would give an added level of organization to these very important clubs. It would also allow for some grant opportunities to help with equipment, and facilities upgrades.

5. What existing policies would you like to see changed?

As far as existing policy changes, I feel there will always be room for improvement.

There have definitely been some challenges during my first term as Mayor. Some things I was prepared for, others that I never anticipated having to deal with. However, I feel this has been a rewarding experience, and look forward to serving a second term.

  Steve Vogt - Mayor

I originally came to Belle in 1974 to teach and I taught middle school science for 29 years. I am original Meadowbrook, Ill.

I have served as mayor and alderman for 30 plus years, an alderman for one-and-a-half terms and mayor for 14 terms. I also serve on various boards and am currently vice chairman for Meramec Regional Planning Commission I serve on the fire department, Maries County Extension Council, and the Regional and Local boards of the Community Foundation. A member of the Belle Community Betterment Association.

1. Where do you stand on the police department being outsourced to Maries County?

Put yourself in the position of an employer and you have an employee that you can’t fire, but financially they are costing you money and putting that department in the red. If you can’t fire them but you need to do something, what do you do? That $40,000 a year that they are in the hole could buy a new police car every year, but instead, you are paying for overtime. What do you do? You have to do something.

2. What would you like to accomplish as a city official?

I would like to see us again pursue grants to stretch the amount of money the city has to go further. The grants are out there, it is a matter of where we can get them. If we don’t get them, somebody else will.

3. In the last two years, the city has closed out three grants that were in the works: the sewer project, the sidewalk project and the demolition project. What other grants would you like to see the city apply for in the coming two years?

All three of these grants were started when I was mayor and it takes two or three years from start to fruition. You start them and then end up being completed when you are no longer mayor. The sidewalk project on Johnson Avenue was a $100,000 project that cost the city $20,000 after an 80/20 grant.

The sewer project, the community redid a lift station built in the 1930s. We were able to get a one-half of one percent loan to pay for the project without raising rates. The project was paid for with existing funds. The new sewer system is modern and keeps the trash out of the motors which will make the new system pay for itself over time by not having to replace the motors.

On the demolition project, we did several houses and there is more that need to be done, but we have to meet multiple criteria to qualify.

4. What new policies or projects would you like to focus on over the next two years as a city official?

New projects, a 100-year-old water tower needs to be replaced and the money you are putting in now to maintain it — it needs to be replaced and relocated to a new position to increase water pressure. You will need grants from various sources — I doubt you would get enough money from one source to do that.

I would like to continue the sidewalk project to do more sidewalks downtown as money allows.

In the future, I would like to do something with the old MFA building. The main hold up here was the fact that they had feed and fertilizer there, which is a hazmat issue. Making this a  meeting place for senior citizens, a trailhead if the Rock Island Trail goes through or putting in a museum about the railroad. Maybe even tie it into the flag park they want to put in at city hall.

5. What existing policies would you like to see changed?

My last year as mayor, we completely redid the city personnel policy manual with help from Barb Schaller. That hadn’t been done for 20 years. A lot of the policy and procedures were updated my last year as mayor. We even updated the police department policy manual. A lot of things were out of date and needed to be changed or revised.

As far as changing policy, I would like to see that any new policy is in place and being followed. Such as the house that burned down out there by the park that needs to be torn down, and blowing yard waste into the streets.

Ken Stanfield - - Alderman Ward 2

I moved to Belle in 1977. Married, have three kids. Served in the Army for two years and served five years in the Army Reserves.

I have been an alderman for Ward 2 for two terms.

1. Where do you stand on the police department being outsourced to Maries County?

It was an economic decision for me. Maries County has given Belle better police coverage for the same money.

2. What would you like to accomplish as a city official?

In the last two years, we have gotten a fire protection district established and a more efficient police department. We have demolished several run-down houses with help from a grant (MRPC).

3. In the last two years, the city has closed out three grants that were in the works: the sewer project, the sidewalk project and the demolition project. What other grants would you like to see the city apply for in the coming two years?

I would like to see Belle get a grant for a water tower, plus a grant to fix up the Community Center.

4. What new policies or projects would you like to focus on over the next two years as a city official?

I would like to see more handicap accessible sidewalks. A building code that would be enforced. One that would hold property owners responsible.

Sundi Jo Graham - Alderman Ward 2

I’m a caring, compassionate, thought-provoking leader who loves to share truth with a dose of laughter. I’m a ReEntry Success coach, equipping and empowering justice-involved individuals to become successful pillars in their families and communities. I grew up in Belle and graduated in 2001. I moved away shortly after graduation and returned in 2015. I am proud to call Belle my home once again.

Though I’ve never served in city leadership, I have served in various levels of leadership throughout my career, including operations management, recovery programs, owning my own business, and working with the justice-involved. I am passionate about serving the community of Belle, and I currently do that through various avenues, including serving on the Belle Fair Board and Belle Community Betterment Association, as well as volunteering for other agencies.

1. Where do you stand on the police department being outsourced to Maries County?

Unfortunately, our community was not being provided with the proper protection. I can personally speak for myself regarding my own neighborhood. The Maries County Sheriff’s Department has done an exceptional job since the outsourcing contract began. I believe there are a lot of citizens who are sleeping safer at night. We’re not where we need to be, but we’re better than where we were.

However, with that said, I do believe that a city’s police department should be run by its city, not its county. Though I believe this outsourcing is a great temporary solution, I do not believe it should be a permanent solution. I would like to see us create a plan for implementing a healthier, stronger, police department for our community.

I don’t believe that’s impossible, especially if we keep the citizens of Belle informed along the way of what our plans are for making these changes.

2. What would you like to accomplish as a city official?

Establishing a healthy police department.

Learning new ways to bring industry back into our community and trying to turn those ideas into actions.

Doing what I can to help increase property values.

Making Belle a place where people want to raise their children. Creating an environment that welcomes families, businesses, and more.

3. In the last two years, the city has closed out three grants that were in the works: the sewer project, the sidewalk project and the demolition project. What other grants would you like to see the city apply for in the coming two years?

I would like to first commend all those that worked hard to turn those grants into reality. I know I’ll miss a few people, but it takes an army to clean up a town. Our current Mayor, Josh Seaver; former Mayor, Steve Vogt; and Barb Schaller are a few people who certainly deserve some recognition for their efforts. Trying to get a grant is no easy task.

Driving around town and seeing those old eyesores gone makes me smile. Seeing the work that’s been done to the park makes me proud. The sidewalks look great! I hope we can get that all over town, eventually.

I’d love to see us get some more demolition grants to remove more old houses, if that’s possible. I’d love to get some grants to assist with revamping the Community Center. Maybe we can find something to offer our kiddos. I don’t know what all is available, but I’m definitely willing to work with those who do to see what we can make possible.

4. What new policies or projects would you like to focus on over the next two years as a city official?

As part of the Belle Community Betterment Association, we’re working on getting new signs at each entrance of town. This has definitely not been a small task. It seems to literally take an act of congress to get a sign put up, and it takes a lot of money. I’d love to see us get three signs up within the next year and a half. I don’t think it’s impossible.

I’d love to see us come up with a plan to revamp some of the old downtown buildings. Slowly Main Street is starting to look better, and I think we can make it look even better. In order to do that, we all need to work together. Let’s get together as a community and brainstorm. What businesses do we need to come into town? Can we get the owners of those buildings to work with us on decent prices to renovate? How can we make it affordable for someone to start a new business here?

I’m excited about the new Drug Court option in Maries County and how that could possibly offer better opportunities for people to get clean and sober in Belle. I don’t know enough about it yet, but I’m excited to learn more. We have to treat the root issue for those who keep coming back to drugs, not just lock them up. I would love to know how the community wants to play a role in helping us make Belle a cleaner, safer place. My goal is to do this with the community, it’s not a one-woman-job.

5. What existing policies would you like to see changed?

I would like to see us hold the landlords more accountable for their rental properties looking the way they do. Our police officers can write tickets all day long for nuisance violations (trash in the yard, cars everywhere, etc.), but that’s obviously not working. I’d like to see us brainstorm other ways to combat this problem. If we don’t create different consequences, things won’t change.

I still have a lot to learn, so I can’t fully answer this question. Though I don’t have all the answers for how to make Belle operate at its best, I’m willing to work for my community to find those answers. It is my goal to not only live in a community where we can be unified with the same goals and dreams, but to leave a great community for the generation after me.

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