Tuesday’s vote picks four council membersLast week’s Journal introduced the seven people running for a seat on the River Falls City Council and included their perspectives on their qualifications, why they’re running, what issues are important to the city and how River Falls should attract new business.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
Last week’s Journal introduced the seven people running for a seat on the River Falls City Council and included their perspectives on their qualifications, why they’re running, what issues are important to the city and how River Falls should attract new business.
Learn more about the candidates this week through an abbreviated summary of the 75-minute program produced and aired by local cable station RFC-TV16, the “Candidates Forum 2009.”
The city owns property adjacent to the new City Hall site that it would like to put on the market for development. Leftover from the railroad days is a freight-storage warehouse (white building next to the cable station). Several ideas have been discussed for its future including demolition and relocation. What do you think should be done with this building and how should the riverfront land be developed?
Tom Caflisch, District 1: Thinks the building has some function, but it should be left up to whoever develops this area. It could be fixed or moved but probably shouldn’t involve the city. Renovation of the Troy school (in DeSanctis Park) has cost River Falls about $100,000. He sees the nice housing or apartments in that spot with maybe small shops underneath.
Thomas Heimerl, District 1: Says the city should move the freight house; it’s done a good job with the old Troy schoolhouse in DeSanctis Park. Frisbie Architects is analyzing how to develop the river in a uniform way… He’s for continuity of architecture.
David Reese, District 3: Suggests moving the building or possibly salvaging parts, perhaps using it as part of the Farmer’s Market; it seems in horrible shape but is a historical issue. Parking in that spot will have to be considered; doesn’t think it’s ideal for residential.
Bob Hughes, District 3: Expresses openness to suggestions on both. He’d follow the city’s comprehensive plan and poll the public about the freight house, with thoughts of converting it into a museum; good to preserve parts of our past for future generations.
Wayne Beebe, At Large: Hears of interest by private developers in the riverfront property, and it will generate revenue as part of a tax-increment finance district. He knows there are questions about the freight house’s historic value but doesn’t know what will happen to it.
Randy Kusilek, At Large: Thinks it would take a lot of money to do something with the freight house and worries about its soundness, even with improvements. The land could be used for the Farmer’s Market until it’s sold; it has plenty of open and parking space. He says the space could accommodate an office building, and its residents would spend money downtown.
The unsightly residue of alcohol consumption (vomit) downtown continues to be a problem. What ideas do you have for addressing this problem and what part should UW-River Falls play in finding and implementing a solution?
Tom Caflisch, District 1: Isn’t sure the university should be involved in a remedy; city needs more police officers walking the beat at closing time.
Thomas Heimerl, District 1: The problem isn’t just at closing time but all through the evening. River Falls should work with the university, hiring extra patrol or issuing demerits.
Bob Hughes, District 3: Many people drink who don’t go to the university. He lived on Main Street and knows the problem well. City should weigh options of cleaning or fining; he doesn’t think it’s unreasonable to expect business owners to grab a bucket and wash it away.
David Reese, District 3: Hasn’t experienced the problem but says it’s a matter of personal responsibility. All downtown people have a role to play, including bartender training. Agrees the U isn’t solely responsible, “We’re joined at the hip with the university.”
Randy Kusilek, At Large: Thinks it would be effective to lower the fine for underage drinking and other alcohol-related offenses then require community service of cleaning the streets and sidewalks. “I think they’re gonna get more out of that than…paying the fine.”
Wayne Beebe, At Large: It’s a complex problem involving more than one area and difficult for taverns to monitor. Everyone is interested in addressing the problem; he agrees with Kusilek’s approach and said increased patrol would help, too.
Where would you rank environmental concerns and what do you see as the advantage or disadvantage of working toward making River Falls a more sustainable, green community?
Thomas Heimerl, District 1: Ranks it very high and is one of the reasons he moved here. Look at parks, make community more walk-able, consider the environment first.
Tom Caflisch, District 1: Thinks it’s important but also can be done by individuals instead of government. Easy measure would be get rid of clothes dryers and hang up clothes.
David Reese, District 3: Considers environment a high concern but also considers costs. City getting good publicity and needs to, at a minimum, maintain current standards.
Bob Hughes, District 3: Ranks it same as city does. New things coming through stimulus for people to make upgrades and improve energy efficiency. Thinks using new technology is an economic choice because the city invests through it.
Wayne Beebe, At Large: Thinks it’s high priority, especially with the Kinnickinnic River. City has been diligent in managing storm water and wastewater, which should continue.
Randy Kusilek, At Large: Says the Kinni is probably city’s most vital resource and there’s “no doubt” RF must keep it in clean, A1 trout stream condition. City should also consider costs and not “waste the dollar chasing a dime.” Stick to what works and is proven.
In our current economic situation, how does the city prioritize its spending and how will you work with city staff and others to achieve these goals?
Tom Caflisch, District 1: City already prioritized spending by building the new City Hall he’s opposed from the start. River Falls not only needs to control spending but also find more ways to save money. It will evaluate more positions when the city administrator arrives.
Thomas Heimerl, District 1: Agrees with examining jobs but not cutting them; maybe put old City Hall remodel on hold for now. Ask residents to take over maintenance of the many small “pocket parks” in their neighborhoods. Thinks City Hall money is well spent.
Bob Hughes, District 3: Thinks city does a “pretty good job” at spending — went over all details of new City Hall and had low change order percentage (building margin of error). RF should maintain spending vs. return, only spending for big opportunity or necessity.
David Reese, District 3: City must think about essential services: Health/safety/snow removal/utilities. Thinks the city staff and managers are the best equipped to make recommendations; he’d work with them by listening, asking questions and helping decide.
Randy Kusilek, At Large: Thinks RF hasn’t prioritized well and did things out of order for City Hall, spending (with financing) about $8 million that could have been used elsewhere.
Wayne Beebe, At Large: City must analyze budget and work closely with managers to determine what are the essential and “real” expenditures, not a wish list. RF will have to look at expenses fiscally and see what it gets it grants and state money.
Should the Whitetail Ridge Corporate Park be expanded? If so, should it be expanded to the top of hill in Whitetail Ridge or should the city be looking for other land? Also, what do you see as a good strategy for keeping our local economy viable?
Thomas Heimerl, District 1: City must look for other property; it needs larger tracts of land to attract business. “I don’t see the top of the hill as the most viable spot for industry right now.” Should encourage business and home ownership plus advertise on the Internet.
Tom Caflisch, District 1: RF bought the land intending to use it as a business park; other land will cost $20k per acre and add up quickly. “We need to be looking at some industrial park land that we could get an option to purchase on.”
David Reese, District 3: Council made an excellent decision to postpone developing the hilltop — might be able to trade it for flat land. “I just don’t think that phase III at the top of the hill would be the same kind of environmental characteristics as one and two.” Need to think of the city as “our economy,” encourage people to move and start businesses here to grow it.
Bob Hughes, District 3: Thinks the hilltop land is beautiful and interesting and could become a revenue-generating tourist attraction (bike races, etc.) like other natural features. RF should look for other land. He’ll research stimulus and other bills that may help.
Wayne Beebe, At Large: Both ideas — developing and looking elsewhere — have merit. Phase III expands the business park economically but must have land elsewhere soon anyway. RF needs to be aware that the city needs residential and commercial growth for its tax base.
Randy Kusilek, At Large: Expressed shock at number of challenges hillside holds for development. “For 24 acres, I cannot see spending that kind of money.” RF should definitely look for other land and try to bring industry that will create jobs.
A composite of people formed the questions. Check the programming schedule at www.rfcity.org/rfctv/ to see when the Candidates Forum airs next.