On Tuesday, York voters in District 6 will decide who will represent them on city council for the next four years.
Mark Boley, a sales manager with Austin Inc., is challenging incumbent Johnny McCoy for the seat.
Although a debate will not be held, the public is invited to attend the York Rotary Club meeting at 1 p.m. today to hear from Boley. McCoy also was invited to the meeting, but told organizers he couldn't make it because of a work conflict. Boley is a member of Rotary and the club's former president.
Enquirer-Herald asked the candidates the following questions. Answers were returned via e-mail and have been edited only for brevity.
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Enquirer-Herald: Why do you think you are the best candidate to represent your district?
Boley: Because I genuinely care about the taxpayers of my district. I am one of them at the moment, and I want to give all of us a voice again, where we currently have none. I live in York, I work within the city limits, and my family and I worship here. I am extremely active in numerous civic groups. I'm chairman of the York YMCA Board of Directors. I serve on the city's Board of Zoning Appeals, and I am a deacon in my Church.
I am very much up to speed on the issues that face the city, having attended the majority of council meetings for years now. I understand what needs to be done.
McCoy: First, I represent the entire city, not just my district. I think that is an important fact.
Secondly, my experience gained over the last four years, because it takes a period of time to become familiar with the funding and budget process.
Third, my ability to communicate and work effectively with our excellent staff and department heads.
E-H: What will you do to encourage economic development in York?
Boley: Economic development starts with small business owners first. We need to streamline the process by which they are welcomed to York. I would do the following: A. Establish an "Economic Liaison" position with the Chamber of Commerce. Have this person work with new business owners from the very beginning, walk them through the process of dealing with different agencies, and make them feel welcome. B. Lower the business license fee for the city. It's outrageous! C. Offer tax breaks to business owners that come to York, or those that expand their business here. D. Advertise York in major trade journals, publications, etc... E. Finally, go after some big companies, emphasize our location and small town charm.
McCoy: We have already started preparing the city for the expected growth, for example new water lines, pumping station and waste water treatment plant.
E-H: With all the new businesses that are coming to York, is there any particular restaurant or chain that you would like to see move here?
Boley: We desperately need a nice sit down chain restaurant. Something family-oriented. We need a restaurant that isn't afraid to ask for our business on Sundays, even though they can't serve alcohol. Folks leaving church service would make sure of that. We also need activities for our young people. A good bowling alley would be great (my daughter would love that).
McCoy: I have heard on many occasions that we need/want a family-style restaurant or chain steak house, and I tend to agree with these people.
E-H: What approach have you/ will you take toward residential growth?
Boley: I can tell you without hesitation that developers are beating down our doors right now. We need to think long and hard about annexation, and its potential effects. If we annex a (300) unit development on the outskirts of town, but can't provide safe drinking water and adequate sewer to the residents within town, that's a serious problem, and a serious oversight. I'm not against growth per se, just cautious about how we should manage it.
McCoy: As everyone can see we are have already started to experience residential growth. We (the present council) has set of guidelines for developers to follow when seeking annexation or starting new developments. Also, we should make certain that annexed areas are contiguous.
E-H: How do you think the city should address the need for better water service?
Boley: This is the hot button issue of the campaign so far. Every voter I've talked to in my district is extremely upset about their drinking water. They don't like it, don't like to smell it, don't like the way it looks, and don't trust it. They also don't trust the city when they get (4) notices per year telling them its "not serious," after the city again fails the Federal Standards. They are fed up with spending $200-300 year at Bi-Lo for drinking water, essentially paying for it twice. We should start removing all remaining lead valves currently on the system, these date from the early 1920-30's, and are illegal now. The low water pressure and discoloration in the water is caused by corroded pipes, and the build up of minerals/chemicals and rust in the older lines. These need to be removed and or cleaned out. Finally, we need to look at the water treatment itself, is it 100 percent effective, this is debatable.
McCoy: This council has been working on this issue for several years now. We have and are extended and upgraded our water lines. Also, we are making plans for a new pumping station and a new waste water treatment plant.
E-H: What steps can the city take to provide more positive activities for youth?
Boley: As we have seen by the recent gang violence, York is no longer a small sleepy town. We desperately need activities for our youth. Places they can be off the streets, in a safe environment. The city needs to actively court businesses that serve young people. Bowling alleys, sports complexes (ping pong, pool tables, etc...). We also desperately need a large aquatics complex with a full-size swimming pool, both for the taxpayers to use, as well as the school system. No one activity is the cure all, but combined they can make an immediate impact.
McCoy: We are constantly making improvements in our recreation department. For example, we have extended the hours of our recreation center and have had several discussions with the school district about using their athletic fields instead of us having to purchase expensive land for additional ball fields.
E-H: Are there any problems with the current council?
Boley: Too many of the current council members desperately need some competition. Too many seats are running unopposed during election years. This breeds complacency. The lawsuits we've been involved with over the past several years are inexcusable. The Mercer Lawsuit alone cost the city almost $120,000... This, after Mercer wanted to settle it, and the current council voted to fight it out anyway. This was money we didn't have, money we could have used to attack real issues, like.... drinking water perhaps? There is absolutely no oversight of finances on a regular basis.
McCoy: Not any major ones that I am aware of. We work fairly well on most issues.
E-H: What do you think is the most important issue the council will be faced with during the next year?
Boley: The single biggest issues will be growth, annexation, infrastructure improvement (water & sewer), and finally gang violence and youth development.
McCoy: There are several issues that come to mind:
u we will at some point have to make a decision about a permanent city manger
u our present mayor is running for a seat on the county council
u completing the water lines, a pumping station and the waste water treatment plant
E-H: What are your political aspirations?
Boley: Don't look for me to run for county council like Mayor Lee. My focus is local. I will gladly serve if elected, but I don't see myself becoming a career politician.
McCoy: None, other than serving the citizens of York to best of my ability for the next four years.