Carroll mayoral forum

Blackfoot Mayor Marc Carroll answered questions for an hour during a mayoral candidate forum Monday night at the Bingham County Senior Center. His opponent, Craig Stuart, said he was unable to attend.

BLACKFOOT — Blackfoot Mayor Marc Carroll had the audience to himself Monday night at the Bingham County Senior Center during a mayoral forum sponsored by the Greater Blackfoot Area Chamber of Commerce in advance of the Nov. 30 runoff election, spending an hour answering questions from the audience with no time limit on his answers.

His opponent, Craig Stuart, declined to appear. The moderator, former Blackfoot mayor Paul Loomis, read an email he received from Stuart prior to the forum, prefacing it by saying “it’s his decision and that’s appropriate.”

“I appreciate the offer but my schedule here from on out is booked. By the end of this week we will have had six forums and we believe that is pretty much it. ... I’ve talked it over with my committee and we are hitting the streets every day and evening. I hope you understand. Thank you.”

Carroll was asked about projects started during his administration he’d like to see through. Infrastructure was at the top of his list.

“The biggest infrastructure needs now are sewer and water,” he said. “We are just now completing a $15 million upgrade at the sewer treatment plant, we’re that close to finishing. As we speak, we have a crew of engineers working on phase three and four which will increase capacity at the plant, estimated at $20-$25 million. Those phases probably won’t start until fiscal year 2023 or 2024, a lot of engineering has to go into that.”

Carroll said the cemetery is needing expansion in about two years, about 10 acres to start working in the next year to year and a half. The city is looking at improving the cemetery’s watering system and adding a columbarium, he added.

”We kind of want to get out of the 19th century in the cemetery and get into the 21st.”

The city is working on water lines, and there are other sewer repairs that are standing in line, Carroll noted, including one that’s been brought up by Stuart during the campaign on Ash St.

”We’re needing to replace 800 feet of line costing anywhere from $150,000 to upwards of $220,000,” he said. “We’re having trouble getting bids on it because construction companies are busy.”

Upgrading city rec ball fields are also on his radar, Carroll said.

”The city had a limited amount of money to put into the Little League fields at Airport Park” when they were first constructed, he added. “Basically they went in and just bladed the ground and planted sod, put in a sprinkler system that doesn’t work.” Players will slide into second or third base and pull up a chunk of asphalt at what used to be a dump many years ago. “We’re trying to find a grant to rework the fields. It would take about 900 dump truck loads of topsoil just to fill the outfields, but it’s the infields they really have the trouble with.

”There’s always things that fail we have to go in and fix. We’d much rather get on a preventive maintenance schedule or a predictive maintenance schedule and fix things before they actually break but we’re not there yet.”

Carroll was asked about recreation with activities for children.

”I believe very much in keeping kids busy. Not every child, boy or girl, cares for sports,” he answered. “To that extent a rec center would be an outstanding boon to the community.”

”When I came into office in 2018 there were two big issues at the time: establishing the taxing district for the College of Eastern Idaho and what in the heck do we do with the pool? There were a lot of issues with the pool, it’s nobody’s fault it’s something that’s happened over 40-plus years. It does not appear there was ever a preventive maintenance program for the pool. We funded the pool for fiscal 2018 because it was already in the budget. We did not enter it into the budget for fiscal 2019 which meant we were closing down.”

Carroll noted that he had a town hall in 2019 to discuss what to do with the pool facility with ideas ranging from a walking path, pickleball courts, basketball court, indoor tennis, soccer, and to try and expand and hire a rec coordinator.

”Like anything else, it costs money,” he said. “At that time I thought turning it into a rec center was a very doable thing other than the money. An engineering firm came in and found the dome was not in good shape with a lot of pinhole leaks.”

Carroll said there were strings attached to the original agreement with the city and the Blackfoot School District that have thrown a wrench into plans for the pool facility.

”I would still like to find a way to establish a rec center but the cost always comes in as a major concern,” he said, noting that recreation opportunities came out as a major need in a community review around two years ago.

On property taxes and annexation, Carroll was asked to explain the path forward with annexation combined with broadening the city’s tax base.

”They say if a city doesn’t grow, the city dies,” he said. “We don’t want that to happen with Blackfoot. I know Mr. Stuart says he’s okay with annexation but does not like the idea of a land grab. I interpret that to mean we’re not annexing people who do not want to be annexed. The unfortunate thing about that is a lot of people do not want to be annexed. Cities are built so people can live together and can share the costs of the infrastructure and services to the community. People are locating just outside city limits so they can enjoy country living, but also so they can take advantage of city services. It’s only fair that they share in the cost of the services.

”We’re being challenged that we do things underhanded, but we don’t. The city council held a special public meeting where it was decided that growth should go out toward the west with some toward the east and north. Anyone can go in and look at maps at city hall. You reach a tipping point where you have to add more police officers, more firefighters, more EMTs, buy another garbage truck. Those are things we are required to do as a part of our annexation plan. as you annex you spread out that cost with more and more residents. We need to update our (area of impact) agreement with the county, we’re continuing to take a baby step at a time on that. Spreading out the tax base makes good sense. Every city around us annexes, but not Blackfoot. We’re getting a lot of pushback.”

Ron Reese expressed vocal concern over the city’s Planning and Zoning commission and city hall over a zoning issue.

”On Sept. 1, 2020, an appeal was made to the city council to overturn a zoning request that had been denied by P&Z,” Reese said. “That’s the day the city, the mayor and two councilmen broke the law. How many other other times during your term as mayor have you broken the law?”

”I do not feel we broke the law,” Carroll responded. “I did break the tie vote, we voted in favor of a development going in on property next to Scott Reese’s property. The Reese family filed a lawsuit and the decision went against you. That ruling is on appeal now but the judge did rule in favor of the city.”

One questioner expressed frustration that Stuart was not at the forum Monday so both men could respond to Stuart’s slogan “do the right thing for the right reason.”

”Exactly what is the right decision and the reasons behind it?” the man asked.

”The most important thing to me is my family,” Carroll said. “The second most important thing to me is my sense of integrity. Mr. Stuart feels it is his life’s direction, do the right thing for the right reason. I believe in that. But I believe at the base of it has to be a feeling of integrity. I have strived very hard to continue to keep this campaign and all the forums on the high road. I’m not sure what Mr. Stuart plans to do if he is elected. I take it at face value that he plans to govern with the idea of ‘do the right thing.’ I can’t really answer for him, but in my mind if I was standing up here saying that, it would mean treat people with dignity and respect, answer questions as best you can with the information you have available at that time. Don’t tell people they’re liars, don’t tell people they speak untruths, especially don’t do it in a public setting. I don’t think that does any good for anybody. but you should be available to meet with anybody any time.”

Carroll said that by state code, city elections are required to be non-partisan.

”I am concerned that there is a partisan aspect that’s entering into this election.”

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