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Council candidates discuss infrastructure needs, smart growth in TV debate

The 11 candidates for Bardstown City Council wait for the debate to begin Thursday night at the Nelson County Civic Center.

 

 

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018 — All 11 candidates for Bardstown City Council took the stage at the Nelson County Civic Center Thursday evening for a televised candidate debate broadcast on Bardstown Cable TV by PLG TV 13.

From left, candidates Detra Haycraft, Frank Hibbs IV and Roland “Coach Roe” Williams prepare for the start of Thursday night’s debate televised by PLG TV.

Due to the number of candidates, there were no rebuttals allowed during the 90-minute debate. The candidates would answer questions from panel and then the candidates would answer. The 11 were seated in alphabetical order.

INCUMBENTS SEEK TO RETURN. In their opening statements, the five incumbents — Joe Buckman, Kecia Copeland, David Dones, Roland “Coach Roe” Williams and Bill Sheckles — expressed their desire to return to the council to continue their work guiding the city forward on infrastructure improvements on other projects that improve quality of life for city residents.

Several of the council said they were proud to have helped get the city in the “right direction” following several years of debate and friction between the council and former mayor John Royalty.

For the six first-time candidates, each took to review their qualifications and express an interest in serving on the council and helping the city to grow and progress.

Annette Beavers said she had faced oppression and emotional abuse from local government.

Betty Kelley Hart pointed to her extensive experience in tourism, both in her work at the Talbott Tavern, and later at the Stephen Foster Drama Association, as well as her experience operating a small business in downtown.

Detra Haycraft said she sees divides in the community, and she believes member of the younger generation need to be involved in city government. She said she wants to bridge those divides and help build on the council’s record of success fostering and encouraging the city’s growth.

Candidate Frank Hibbs IV said he grew up watching his family members serve in varying capacities in the community.

Candidates Angel Thompson, David Dones and Roland “Coach Roe” Williams talk after the end of Thursday’s city council candidate debate.

“I want to build on that foundation,” he said.

If elected, he promised to give 100 percent of his effort to work on behalf of the citizens of Bardstown.

Nicholas Shanks is a father of three, a combat veteran, and works as a quality engineer for Mitsuba. He said he will bring a fresh perspective and a unique skill set to the council. He said he wants to see Bardstown continue to thrive.

Angel Thompson told the audience that she may the youngest candidate, but she will bring experience from her work in adult education and director of the backpack program. She said she supports city programs that can help youth as well as adults. She wants to help the city support the growth and expansion of existing businesses, and she is passionate about moving the city forward.

Q. WHAT IS THE CITY’S BIGGEST CHALLENGE?

When asked what the candidates see as the biggest challenge facing the city, most of the candidates said the city’s continued growth while keeping up with its aging infrastructure will be important challenges moving forward. Most of the candidates also said the city needs to allow for growth while not losing its small-town charm.

Kecia Copeland said the city needs to focus on additional recreation items for residents, and partner with local schools and industry to insure workforce development efforts help create people with the skills industry needs to fill local jobs.

Traffic comes with growth, and David Dones and Frank Hibbs IV both pointed to handling increases in traffic — including development of a western bypass — were crucial to dealing with the additional traffic needs.

Incumbent councilman David Dones, center, answers a question during Thursday’s debate while Kecia Copeland (left) and Betty Kelley Hart (right) look on.

Betty Kelley Hart and other candidates also said the city should do what it can to help reduce the opioid and drug issues in the city. Annette Beavers said the city’s ongoing drug issues point back to a lack of leadership within city government.

Q. HOW DO YOU DEFINE SMART GROWTH?

When the candidates were asked to define their ideas on smart growth, their answers varied from being accountable to the public as individual council members in how their decisions that affect growth, to deliberate efforts to protect the city and rural landscapes when considering the influx of new business and industry.

Bill Sheckles said that smart growth means being selective in regard to the industries that are actively recruited to locate in Bardstown. “Not all companies who come here are good for Bardstown,” he said. “We’ve turned many away if they weren’t a good fit.”

He stressed the need to work with schools and industry to improve workforce development efforts, which he said are key to being able to recruit the type of businesses that will improve Bardstown with good-paying jobs.

David Dones said smart growth efforts must keep in mind the need to preserve our downtown district. While some say the city focuses too much on downtown, Dones said that it’s the vitality of our downtown that helps bring business and industry to town. “It’s our economic engine,” he added.

Betty Kelley Hart agreed that smart growth means bringing in business and industry that are a good fit with the community, and also keeping the infrastructure ready for those industries who wish to come here.

CLOSING STATEMENTS. During the candidates’ closing statements, most explained their desire to serve on the council, and reminded viewers of the talents and experience each brings to the job.

Annette Beavers told viewers that the definition of insanity is to expect change in your local government while voting to return the same people to the office of mayor and serve on the city council.

Incumbents should not be returned to their elected offices in the Nov. 6th election, she said. She told viewers to vote for the new candidates running for city council; to vote for Frank Thompson to be mayor of Bardstown; and vote for Don Thrasher for Nelson County judge executive.

Bill Sheckles gave kudos to the younger candidates who were running for city council.

“It takes a lot of courage to do that and to put yourself out there as a public official,” He added that experience is a valuable quality when serving on the council. “We got off track four years ago, but some of us who knew how to make the city run got back in the game.”

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