Three candidates are running to fill an open at-large seat on the Fort Mill Town Council. The winner of Tuesday’s special election will finish the two years remaining in former councilmember Tom Spratt’s term.
Voting is at-large, and the race is nonpartisan. All registered voters who live in the Fort Mill town limits are eligible to cast a ballot.
Here’s a look at each candidate and their answers to questions about four issues facing the town now and in the future.
Occupation: Stay-at-home dad
Education: Bachelor’s degree in history, with a minor in intelligence analysis from George Mason University
Elected offices held: None
Occupation: Consultant, U.S. Army Reserve officer
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration, George Washington University; MA coursework in public policy, Trinity College
Elected offices held: Legislative Council, Town of Newtown, Conn., 2009-10
Occupation: Marketing manager
Education: Fort Mill High School graduate; Appalachian State University graduate
Elected offices held: None
What are Fort Mill’s infrastructure needs and how and when should the town pay for them?
Kusick: Fort Mill is growing at a rapid pace, and the infrastructure and community services need to keep up with that growth. Not only does the town need to address the roads, but police, fire and library services need to improve to better serve the community. If the current roads and plans cannot support the influx of traffic, then there needs to be a study on where the problem areas are, and the town needs to create an action plan to address those areas. Of course, paying for this infrastructure is often the difficult part. The town can apply for grants from the state or federal governments to help pay for improvements not supported by the current budget.
LaRocque: Recent studies indicate that Fort Mill will continue to see large population growth in the near term. This growth has driven new developments, which causes greater needs that the town must plan for. The main infrastructure needs for Fort Mill will be road improvements, and improvements and expansion of current water and sewage lines. Along with the expenses of town services for new residents, these infrastructure areas will be costly as more people move here. We must be proactive instead of reactive to these needs. The majority of these costs should continue to be placed on new developers upon building approval, and therefore not negatively impacting the town’s financial situation.
McCarley: The primary infrastructure needs for the town are driven by the overall needs to provide the essential requirements for our citizens. I would advocate for additional research regarding the infrastructure of our roadways and ways to improve traffic in the area, especially areas where commuters are cutting through Fort Mill. Our county has a beautiful roadway on S.C. 5 in York, leading toward Interstate 85. I feel Fort Mill needs a structure that handles traffic in a similar efficiency. Payment for these will require involvement from county, state and federal funds to assist the demands that have been placed on our community.
The town’s contract with Leroy Springs & Co. to run the recreation complex will soon end, and LSC has signaled its intent to tear down the complex and redevelop the property for commercial use. Should the town try to buy the complex or build a new one?
Kusick: Leroy Springs has served this community well, and losing the LSC will be felt hard within the town. The current complex was built in the 1970s, is out of date, would cost a lot to upgrade, does not support the parking needs and does not provide for growth in the years to come. The town should build a new complex to incorporate everything the complex offers and more. The new complex should offer an array of activities and more fields to better support youth athletics. To pay for this new complex, the town could look within the community as well as outside the community, as many other neighboring communities would use this facility, for donors as well as sponsorships from local and state corporations. It is important to communicate to the public the impact that this complex will have on our community and drive financial support to help fund this project.
LaRocque: In hearing residents’ concerns at the recent recreation forum, it’s clear that many residents desire the types of activities, open space and recreational equipment at the LSC complex. As a member of the gym myself, I do not want to see it go away and can see the value in the facility. Based on population growth, I am in favor of purchasing the facility and potentially redeveloping it into a more modern complex. A new facility may be a long-term option, but the expense would have to be balanced with the ability to finance effectively. I strongly believe that this issue needs to be at the forefront of future planning efforts and a major part of the town’s master plan.
McCarley: Our community has been very fortunate to have Leroy Springs & Co. as a recreation partner for so many years. With the due diligence and research that has been conducted so far, I feel the town’s recreation committee and staff are on the right path to finding a solution. The input from the recent steering committees and the town input session is going to provide the Town Council and staff with a good understanding of the needs and expectations of the residents in the Fort Mill Township.
If you could make one immediate change to Fort Mill, including the way the town operates, what would it be?
Kusick: The biggest change needs to come from all that serve the public, and that is communication. Public figures need to be accessible to the people they serve, whether that be in person or by telephone or email. People need to feel that they are being heard, and that those issues are not falling on deaf ears. If someone emails the mayor or chief of police, they should expect an email or telephone call back to listen or address the issues. Town officials should be more proactive as well, reaching out to the community on various topics, as well as social media. Communicate more efficiently the plans for growth management, zoning, as well as plans for the future. It is important to understand that once elected to public office, that you serve the people and should not have any hidden agenda.
LaRocque: Fort Mill is a wonderful community, with a charming small-town feel. Much as the town in which I grew up, I desire to keep it that way while still accepting that others have caught on to this fact. It is a delicate balancing act to accept growth while keeping the charm that many love. This can be accomplished through effective planning. An update to the town’s master plan is needed to incorporate recent public information sessions and growth projections. The updated plan needs to be shared with the community, adopted and implemented as we continue to grow. Much as in our own lives and careers, it is important to have a clear path for our community, and then make decisions accordingly.
McCarley: We have gotten to be a great city by the participation and dedication of volunteers, city workers, city staff, elected officials and businesses large and small, working together toward one purpose: to ensure our city’s greatness for future generations to come. I would “wave my magic wand” and convince all of the residents of Fort Mill that we need their involvement to continue this process.
Managing growth is a frequent topic of discussion among residents. What are your thoughts on a residential building moratorium? Any other solutions to slow or otherwise manage growth?
Kusick: Residential growth should be tied to infrastructure growth. If there is a spike in residential growth, there should be a plan in place to address the impact it will have on the current roads, as well as plans to increase better traffic flow due to the building. A residential building moratorium could slow or hinder growth. A moratorium would not be necessary if there are plans to address the impact building would have on the current roads. As long as there is direct correlation between building and improving traffic flow, a moratorium is not necessary. Smart growth is crucial to ensure traffic congestion and over extending services provided to the community does not burden the town. Many people are moving here for the schools and that small town feel, and it is important to maintain those schools and that small town feel. Having adequate parks, recreation areas, infrastructure and shopping are key to this plan. I feel that the town needs to consider where and when the residential areas are being planned and developed and make sure there are plenty of areas mentioned above.
LaRocque: A frequent theme I have heard in speaking with fellow residents is that the Town Council has “rubber stamped” nearly every residential development proposal without much analysis. I couldn’t agree more. What I’m hearing are concerns about growth, its impact to property values, traffic and infrastructure. What that means to me is an increase in costs to the town, if left unchecked. Without an effective plan to balance growth with the town’s ability to handle that growth, the charm that is Fort Mill will be lost. I am not in favor of a complete moratorium on residential building. However, as a town councilman, I will ensure that if I vote in favor of a new development, the infrastructure needs are taken care of, residents have been heard, and it fits within Fort Mill’s master plan.
McCarley: Although we are experiencing record growth, I don’t feel that a residential building moratorium is a solution. This would only keep additional retail and business opportunities from seeing Fort Mill as a good investment. While we do need to know the impact of each additional house, apartment or business on our infrastructure, we need to rely on developers to support the infrastructure growth and encourage the commercial growth.