The two candidates running for Seymour City Council District 4 have different ideas for ways to address issues the city faces, including growing debt, the potential need for a new railroad overpass, downtown revitalization and fixing local streets.
Republican James “Jim” Rebber wants to use his 21 years of experience on the council to come up with solutions that best serve the community, while political newcomer Democrat Tammy Riordan would like to give voters a new voice on the council.
Voters who haven’t already voted early will head to the polls Nov. 3 to cast their ballots.
Riordan said the council needs to focus most of its attention and efforts in the coming years on lowering its debt from past projects.
“We need to stop the spending and borrowing. We need a real plan to get the debt paid off, and we need to look through every budgeted line item to find extra dollars to pay against the debt,” she said.
Rebber said some debt is needed, however, because it allows the city to make much-needed infrastructure improvements that benefit residents and the city.
The city likely will need to issues bond to resurface roads, extend Burkart Boulevard south of U.S. 50 and build a railroad overpass in the future, he said.
A much-talked-about railroad overpass to help alleviate traffic congestion on U.S. 50 is not a project the city needs to worry about because most of the decisions aren’t in the city’s control, Riordan said.
“The railroad will take care of itself. The city has no say in what the railroad does,” she said. “We will probably find out a second overpass is not needed as bad as we think once the trains get up to speed.”
Without state and federal dollars to help fund the overpass, Rebber said the cost will be too great for the city.
But the increase in trains and their speed presents a safety issue to motorists and pedestrians, and that is something the city must address, he said.
“Seymour is responsible for crossing safety, and crossing gates are the safest way to assure motorist and pedestrians do not attempt to beat the trains,” he said. “Funding for those gates will need to be found, and solutions to this issue are costly.”
He said the city is working to obtain grants and find others to partner with to pay for the crossing gates.
When it comes to revitalizing the downtown, both candidates agree the city’s job is not to create new businesses or buy buildings.
“The city of Seymour can only create interest in downtown by keeping up the streets, sidewalks and lights,” Riordan said. “Appearance means a lot to a potential business owner, but the actual revitalization is up to whomever wants to set up a business downtown.”
Rebber said the city needs to “keep up the trees, light poles and street signs” and continue to support Seymour Main Street and the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce.
He said the city also is looking at a plan to add parking downtown.
One of the biggest complaints residents make to the city is the condition of local streets and how not enough is being done to fix them.
Riordan said there are many streets that need attention now or will in the future, but money should not be borrowed to do so, she said.
“We should not borrow any more money but pay as we go, one street at a time,” she said.
To have more money available for street repairs and maintenance, the city would have to raise property taxes, she said.
Rebber said there is not enough funding provided by the state to fix everything.
“We are working to address this issue,” he said.