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Candidates for County Commission, City Council address questions from public

With the Nov. 8 general election quickly approaching, 10 candidates vying to represent Laramie and Albany County gathered at the Albany County Public Library on Thursday to tell voters how they plan to lead if elected.

The League of Women Voters hosted the forum where the eight candidates for Laramie City Council and two candidates for Albany County Commission who prevailed in the primaries were given the opportunity to answer questions submitted by the more than 50 people in the audience.

Former gubernatorial candidate and current Downtown Clinic Director Pete Gosar moderated the forum. Questions were posed to the council and commission candidates respectively, along with questions posed to both.

Some questions were directed at all candidates while others were tailored specifically for council or commission candidates.

Though they both attended the July primary forum, Ward 1 candidates Willy Swett and Charles McKinney were absent.

Questions for all candidates

Question: “Can the city and county work together on a plan to increase parks and paths to the National Forest?”

County Commission:

Mary Byrnes: “I do believe the city and county do need to collaborate and work together. … As commissioners, we must look to serve all people and work on collaborating to find unified efforts on comprehensive plans that make sense that bring together the county and city to make it livable.”

Terri Jones: “The concerns I have about having parks and trails going to the national forest are the private property rights of all the people these trails are going to go across. No one should be forced to have trails go across land they do not want. Neither the city or county are in a position to be purchasing these properties.”

City Council:

Ward 1:

Vicki Henry: “I agree the city and county could work together to develop parks and trails toward the national forest. I don’t think we need to be stepping on any private property toes. It would only be the people who were willing to give an easement or whatever it takes.”

Erik Molvar: “There is one single landowner that goes all the way from the city limits to the national forest. By purchasing that land in one fell swoop, you could not only provide the opportunity to create recreationally, but more importantly you could prevent development that possibly threatens our aquifer.”

Ward 2:

Tim Hale: “As far as I’m concerned, the city has its hands full worrying about infrastructure without worrying about trails going over private property and the rights they’re stepping on. There’s always been a lack of cohesiveness in meetings between the City Council and County Commissioners.”

Tanna Nagy: “I see it as recreation being a huge, integral, important part of our development and growth. It’s not necessarily that can we work together, but if we’re working for the people in our county and city, it’s what we should do.”

Jayne Pearce: “Let’s hope we can all work together. Obviously, this is a great issue and it’d be great if we could. And I would be fully supportive and put forth every effort it would take to do this.”

Joe Shumway: “There seems to a myth that the City Council and County Commissioners don’t work well together, but we do. … To take these trails, there’s going to have to have an agreement where we work together to identify the place that’s most logical, making sure it doesn’t hurt anyone’s private property.”

Ward 3:

Pat Gabriel: “When I was on County Commission and Joe (Shumway) was mayor, we all worked together. I just received my political signs that say ‘Let’s work together.’ We have to work together — there might have to be a little give-and-take there.”

Brent Roth: “Getting landowner permission and an easement through their property would be difficult. But as far as city and county working together, I don’t see any problem with that. I’ve been in contact with all the county commissioners and as far as they’re concerned, there’s no animosity.”

Question: “Please address your position on the Casper Aquifer: Does it need protection?”

County Commission:

Mary Byrnes: “I believe the process we should look at is to still investigate. This divisiveness between the city and the county has been looked at without fully vetting perhaps the nature of the concerns and to really drill into this and find out what’s going on.”

Terri Jones: “Right now, the water in the aquifer is very good, and what has been done to keep the water clean is working. So, until there’s science that indicates otherwise, I believe the aquifer is in very good shape and will continue to be as long as it’s monitored.”

City Council:

Ward 1:

Vicki Henry: “Maybe it’s time to enlist the help of someone who doesn’t live here, who does not live in Albany County or the city of Laramie to help us with our problems. … I do believe we should not be building as many houses or setting up septic tanks over our aquifer.”

Erik Molvar: “If you don’t want to spend $50 million to build a water treatment plant for our city well … then what we need to do is think very hard about how you’re going to plan for growth so you’re not putting the kind of development over the aquifer that will further pollute it.”

Ward 2:

Tim Hale: “I’m not quite certain where this big concern is. Not to say we shouldn’t protect things, but there was, last year, a 700-gallon oil spill at the dump and nobody did anything about it.”

Tanna Nagy: “It’s our drinking water, and I would hate to approve a project and in 20, 40, 60 years later and say, ‘Why did we do that?’ It seems like everything is working now and we need to continue to monitoring that.”

Jayne Pearce: “Without hesitation, without any pause, we absolutely have to protect the Casper Aquifer.”

Joe Shumway: “I introduced what is now known as the Casper Aquifer protection ordinance. We were able to pass that so we had a plan for us to do what we could to protect our water supply.”

Ward 3:

Pat Gabriel: “Maybe we need to have some kind of summit, or whatever you want to call it, between city, county, all of the geology experts here at University of Wyoming and around the region to make sure we’re doing the proper things.”

Brent Roth: “I think what we’re doing right now is probably working for right now. I don’t know, but I’m sure there’s a lot of people a heck of a lot smarter than me … Someone else mentioned we have this vast resource at the University of Wyoming — let’s utilize that.”

County Commission candidate questions

Question: “What is your position on the proposed state land swap that will leave several thousands of acres of county land landlocked and without public access?”

Terri Jones: “I am absolutely against the land swap. It would not benefit the citizens of Albany County, it doesn’t benefit any of our neighboring counties.”

Mary Byrnes: “It does not play well for Albany County. We lose about 8,000-10,000 acres of public access land for an extremely little amount of $6,000 in potential tax revenue.”

Question: “What is the greatest issue facing the county and how would you address it?”

Mary Byrnes: “I would think the greatest is the budget. I was listening today to Sen. (Phil) Nicholas and Sen. (Chris) Rothfuss discuss the budget and reductions that may be coming to our counties so it’s going to be tight. But I also think we’re in a great position for all the great things going on in this county. … One thing we do need to solve so we’re not so divisive is to work out a comprehensive plan with the city and county on the Casper Aquifer.”

Terri Jones: “The budget is the big deal. We’re just going to have to tighten our belts, hang in there and get through this. But I agree we have a lot of great things going on. I would really like to see the university work with the county and get more tourism and conventions in here. People that come to conventions spend a lot of money and would have opportunities all year round to do things.”

Laramie City Council candidate questions

Question: “What is the greatest issue the city is facing and how would you address it?”

Ward 1:

Vicki Henry: “What I hear from my constituents in Ward 1 is the lack of infrastructure. In West Laramie and in the northern downtown area, we still have streets that aren’t paved. The reason they’re not paved is because we don’t have good storm water drainage.”

Erik Molvar: “One of the things the city should continue to do — the city has been doing a good job of this with a lot of foresight — is to try and create the opportunity for synergy between research and development at the University of Wyoming and the private sector.”

Ward 2:

Tim Hale: “I feel, in my opinion, that the atmosphere in the city with respect to welcoming businesses has not been friendly. I think that should be lightened up a little bit, not be so stringent. But instead, we seem to be more concerned about recreation and downtown murals.”

Tanna Nagy: “We’re looking at a very tight budget ahead and that affects everything. One of the things I’m excited about if I become a city councilor is working with (the University of Wyoming). … The university is a huge, integral part of our community.”

Jayne Pearce: “Statute defines where and how we get our money. So we need to need to be thinking of different revenue streams or we need to change the statutes.”

Joe Shumway: “We can assure the citizens we have, we will provide for the citizens not only good infrastructure, but beautification, good recreation and a good community we can be proud of.”

Ward 3:

Pat Gabriel: “We’re going to have to work with department heads and other city councilors … We’re going to have to do more than less. There’s an economic downturn around the state, and I don’t think anyone really knows right now when thing are going to turn around.”

Brent Roth: “The city needs to continue to support Laramie Chamber Business Alliance and work with them to bring in more businesses and continue to go after state grants to fund these programs that bring people in, increase revenue, increase our budget.”

Question: “City Council has been divided recently on staff recommendations for development and land use regulations within the city. How do you balance the need for develop and the need to plan?”

Ward 1:

Vicki Henry: “We need to look at aesthetics when we plan our developments. I think it’s important for Laramie to step up its beautification efforts so we can attract more businesses and we can attract people to live and stay here with young families.”

Erik Molvar: “I don’t think there’s a dichotomy between planning and growth. If you have growth without planning, you end up with a mess and if you have good planning, you have vibrant business and communities.”

Ward 2:

Tim Hale: “I find it ironic that for the most part, the public is always very sensitive about government interference in our lives. They don’t want the government to tell us what color to paint our house or what trees to plant, and they we turn around and vote in people who are all for government involvement.”

Tanna Nagy: “I don’t think that these codes are so set in stone there can’t be any discussion if someone wants to change something or if someone is having issues with how they landscape.”

Jayne Pearce: “The good thing in Laramie is we do have a substantial amount of public input on these projects at different phases. … Of course we’re going to have different opinions about it, but that’s what this is about.”

Joe Shumway: “You want to make sure you’re very careful to listen to businesses and very careful to listen to staff — the professionals who bring us our ideas for landscaping and development and things like that. … We’re trying to strike that balance to say, ‘How can we encourage economic development and how can we guarantee this is a very attractive, safe place for us to live?’”

Ward 3:

Pat Gabriel: “There certainly has to be give-and-take on these codes. I think the City Council initially approves things, then developers come before council and say, ‘This is not working.’ So I’m certainly open to that and trying to do the best for all concerned.”

Brent Roth: “We basically adopted, not fully adopted, the (Unified Development Code) from Fort Collins (Colorado). There’s a lot of things that didn’t quite work with our community that does make it expensive for contractors to build.”

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