Crab­tree cites ex­pe­ri­ence; Wall seeks ef­fi­ciency

The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - NEWS - AN­NETTE BEARD abeard@nwadg.com

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.

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