• Blue Springs City Council candidates field questions

  • The candidates for Blue Springs City Council agree on one thing, they want what is best for Blue Springs residents.

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  • The candidates for Blue Springs City Council agree on one thing, they want what is best for Blue Springs residents.
    All five candidates participated in a candidate forum Thursday during the March Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Adams Pointe Conference Center. Incumbent Dale Carter and Preston Smith are running in District 1 and Susan Culpepper and Michael Freeman are running in District 3. Chris Lievsay is unopposed in District 2.
    Below are the four questions asked of each candidate, followed by their responses.
    1. Do you support the change of fire protection coverage in certain areas of District 3 from Prairie Township to Central Jackson County for Blue Springs residents?
    Culpepper: I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for District 3 to have CJC take care of the fire and EMS needs. We have been working with fire officials diligently to get things in place, but it’s a challenge. Prairie Township (Fire Protection District) does not want to let that area go. It is a battle, but it can be won.
    Freeman: I also want to see something done, even if it is a joint venture (between Prairie Township and CJC). I would like to see Prairie Township and CJC come together to do what the residents want.
    Lievsay: This is nothing personal against Prairie Township. It is a matter of inadequate resources to provide service to our residents. I believe (the City Council) is taking steps to make this a reality.
    Smith: I would look at the response times for both departments. If there are lapses in coverage, you could use that data to determine what modifications can be made.
    Carter: We need to have CJC be the fire department for the entire city of Blue Springs. There have been too many houses burn to the ground because of the response times. We need to have a fire department that can provide adequate coverage to everyone.
    2. Do you support plans for a community center?
    Culpepper: I think it would be an attraction like a nice place to have meetings or somewhere to bring people into. It would be very beneficial to the city. The only issue is the funding. The citizens want a community center. They have said so in surveys. It is up to us to figure out how to make that happen.
    Freeman: I could get behind a community center, but I am still on the fence because of the financial aspect. I can’t support a property tax increase. I also think it is a waste of property (near the Missouri Innovation Park). I would like to see it go into White Oak Plaza. That area desperately needs assistance, and it is the best place for it.
    Page 2 of 3 - Lievsay: There is interest in a community center, so we have started the process of looking at how to provide that. As we go through the process, we will see what is a reality for us. A community center would be great and would be a big amenity to bring to the city.
    Smith: The city has spent $75,000 for a study, but I am still questioning the site selection. It is so close to the YMCA, which I don’t think is a very smart thing to do. I would not support a sales tax increase and would certainly not support a property tax increase. I think you could take $20 million (of the anticipated cost) and partner with the YMCA.
    Carter: We did look at White Oak, but discounted that because of all the prep work. What we need to do is make this a part of a comprehensive plan on parks. We need to be able to keep what we have and upgrade what we have to. We will probably (put it) to a vote of the people for a sales tax next year. But it will really be the people’s decision.
    3. Do you support the idea of a commuter rail service in Kansas City?
    Culpepper: I definitely support commuter rail. I know it would bring a lot of good economic development to the community. When the railroad comes, the town grows. We need this amenity, which would also save people money. Families with two cars could go to one. It would be a great amenity to this city.
    Freeman: No, no, no. We are overtaxed as it is. I don’t think it would bring economic development. The only thing it would bring is crime. People would be coming in from downtown. I don’t see anyone riding it. I see it as a waste of time and a waste of breath.
    Lievsay: Yes, I support commuter rail because it would be a convenience to our residents. But the funding is the issue. They are proposing a 1-cent sales tax for the entire county, which would raise $86 million a year. But I have seen it would take $400 million to build and $10 million a year to operate. This would be a great amenity for this area.
    Smith: I feel like a city of our size needs transit. I see all these plans coming up, but every time Kansas City gets involved, it doesn’t come together right. We need the right kind of leadership to lead the way effectively. This could really help Eastern Jackson County and be great for downtown (Blue Springs).
    Carter: We have run into snags with Kansas City Southern, but ultimately, I think this is going to happen. If you go to any city of this size or larger, you get off the plane and step onto a train. We are so behind the curve. There are two stations planned for Blue Springs, one in downtown and the other at the MIP (Missouri Innovation Park). I am very supportive of commuter rail.
    Page 3 of 3 - 4. The U.S. 40 and Adams Dairy parkway intersection has been identified by the Mid-America Regional Council as a place to watch in terms of economic growth. What would you like to see happen in that area in five years?
    Culpepper: There is so much potential out there. We have this beautiful parkway, and need to utilize it. It would also bring in tax dollars to the city.
    Freeman: I think it is kind of hard to put a benchmark on that. I do think it’s time to kickstart the MIP. Once that happens, we can attract more professional jobs. We will begin to see a growth in the property tax base from that.
    Lievsay: I don’t think it is a secret that the growth in Blue Springs is in the east and the south. I think we will see progress as there is more emphasis on the MIP. Progress at all is better than no progress.
    Smith: We could use the sales tax as the basis for progress, but I think we give too much away with TIF (tax increment financing). I am also not convinced that the location is a good one when you talk about growth. I think the growth will occur to the south, not the east.
    Carter: We are in a competitive market with Independence, Lee’s Summit, Oak Grove and Grain Valley, so we need to use all the tools in our tool box where appropriate. We can turn White Oak Plaza into an entertainment district, which would bring in sit-down restaurants. It would help us to have a district like that. I would also like to see the MIP open in five years.

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