Crabtree cites experience; Wall seeks efficiency
Mayor Jackie Crabtree and Mechel Wall are seeking the mayor’s seat in Pea Ridge. Both spoke at a forum in Pea Ridge recently.
Question: Do you believe a tax increase would be necessary in the future to meet the demands for city services in a growing community? Why or why not?
Wall: “There are certain things we will certainly need a tax increase for … some of it will roll off and we need to determine whether to add something in its place. When this community is involved in the vision itself, then everyone is willing to make a little sacrifice to get what they need.”
Crabtree: “We currently don’t have any taxes that will roll off. We are looking at a 1-cent capitol improvement tax and possibly a ½-cent sales tax … of our current 1-cent city sales tax, each department gets a certain percentage.”
Question: According to Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning, Pea Ridge is the only city of the first class in Arkansas with only two wards and four council members. The city could expand the number of wards and council seats if it chooses. What’s your opinion?
Crabtree: “I think when we get to a point when our wards are unequal, then we should. The reason we didn’t this year was the election. It could be done for the next election.”
Wall: “It doesn’t matter how you draw the lines, you can always draw two equal lines. Are there enough representatives on the board to voice their ideas, to have a quorum or a simple majority? It’s easier to figure out two-thirds majority if you have six people. It’s already been recommended, but we didn’t do that. We already have the maps … it’s not a long process. If initiated at the beginning of the summer, then it would have been in process.”
Question: What are your plans to support and attract businesses to Pea Ridge?
Wall: “I’ve always had that in the back of my mind. Pea Ridge is going to grow so what do we need? … I’ve been reading the municipal handbook and there are resources for economic development, for redevelopment projects, vehicles for cities to get aid for new industries.”
Crabtree: “We need to look at what businesses are in residence … Yes, there are opportunities, but those bonds have to be paid back. You have to know how you’re going to pay for those. It’s very easy to say come to Pea Ridge, but when they look at it, it’s going to be the one that we fit their business plan.”
Question: As mayor, what do you think the priorities should be in providing services and road access to the new high school?
Crabtree: “It should be a number one priority right now. We’ve been working with the school district. We still are going to pave Hazelton Road. We have to make sure access of Highway 94 is correct.”
Wall: “Alderman Easley said the city is saving money to pave Hazelton as promised in 2017… There are a number of times when citizens of Pea Ride and the school have been promised Hazelton would be paved.”
Question: List and explain what your top two priorities will be if elected.
Wall: “Number one is creating a master plan for the city… maximizing the efficient and highest and best use for city, industrial, residential, commercial … number two, revising the budget and looking at salaries and identifying why Pea Ridge has the highest salaries paid to employees.”
Crabtree: “Streets, roads, infrastructure and water and sewer — we’ve put a ton of money in water. Those things are the foundation we have to build on.”
Question: What do you think emergency services in Pea Ridge should look like over the next your years?
Crabtree: “Working towards a full-time Fire Department. There are a lot of steps involved, but I think we could get quite a ways down the road, but in order to do that, it will take capital improvement taxes.”
Wall: “Maintain our own ambulance service and see the Fire Department have a consistent reliable source of funding adequate for the work they do. Our firemen have salaries barely above what people make at fast food yet there are others who make $20 an hour.”
Question: What about the Police Department?
Wall: “When I look at the Police Department and the number, it’s extremely high compared to cities of the same size. It’s generally figured by how many per 10,000 in population. We spend an extraordinary amount of money for time, vehicles — I would like to see that leveled out where our Fire Department is taken care of as lavishly as our Police Department.”
Crabtree: “It’s not overstaffed. You have to take into consideration days off, sick leave, comp time … we’ve come a long ways from where we were. There were three officers when I first took office. More and more in today’s society, you have to have those officers.”
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on the candidates for the mayor of Pea Ridge.