OVILLA – Five of six candidates for Ovilla City Council discussed roads, taxes and water during a forum Thursday night.
Three seats are contested in the upcoming May 10 election, with each incumbent in Places 1, 3 and 5 facing a challenger.
In Place 1, incumbent Floyd Elkins is being challenged by Tom Leverentz. In Place 3, incumbent Morgan Crow faces Bill Van Syckle. In Place 5, James Wade is challenging incumbent Larry Stephenson, who was unable to attend the forum.
Across the board, the challengers said enough isn’t being done in the areas discussed, with the incumbents saying problems are being addressed. The city’s limited tax base was noted due to a lack of industrial, commercial and retail development – opinions differed, however, on the progress being made and how matters should move forward.
Elkins cited his 30 years of working with businesses and other organizations, saying he enjoys working with people and getting projects accomplished.
“I feel that my experience is just what I need to be effective on the Ovilla City Council,” he said.
Elkins said the water issue was addressed first so as to allow development to resume in the city. New development means an increased tax base, he said, noting roads are now the priority. Regarding taxes, Elkins said the council has worked to keep the tax rate low and pointed out it’s the appraisal district setting higher values that plays a larger role in tax charges to residents increasing. The city needs more businesses to come in, he said, noting the new economic development board will work on doing that.
“I’m someone who’s worked with people and worked toward goals – and is pretty good at it,” Elkins said. “I have great experience doing that and I enjoy doing that. … Come to me and talk to me and we’ll work something out if something is bothering you.”
Leverentz, a former firefighter, said he wants to bring a “new look” and “new ideas” to the city.
“We have to address issues … and we have to move forward with the city,” he said, saying the city needs money and economic development so as to cut the taxpayers’ bills.
Leverentz said he considered a council position as one of being an employee to the resident – and that a resident is a customer. He questioned the cost of a road study as well a cost overrun on the water work that had been done.
“The only way we’re going to grow is through economic development,” he said, saying he wants to give residents “bang for a buck” with their tax dollars.
“Do you want 10 more years of what you’ve had, if so, vote for the same people. If you don’t, send a message,” he said.
Crow cited his 10 years of experience on the council and said the city’s water problems had been addressed – with the city now able to focus on roads.
“It’s been a real pleasure to work with the council,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of achievements and accomplishments in the last 10 years.”
With the water problems addressed with the new tower and pipeline, Crow said the city could turn its attention to roads. Citing 22 projects on a list, he said the first two – Cockrell Hill and Johnson Lane – are in the works through interlocal agreements with Dallas and Ellis counties.
An opposition flyer put out is inaccurate in its information, he said, naysaying a reported 240 percent increase in taxes since 2000.
“I think we’ve done a good job,” Crow said. “You’ve seen a lot of progress in the last 10 years.”
Van Syckle said he’d been a resident of Ovilla for 10 years and the “same problems from 10 years ago are still here.” Water and road issues still exist, he said, saying he would be “proactive” and “available” to residents while working to get some of the tax burden off of residents.
Describing a new game in Ovilla as “dodging potholes,” Van Syckle said he would increase communication between the council and residents and would focus on improving the city’s infrastructure.
Doing that would attract new industrial, commercial and retail businesses, which he said would help alleviate the tax burden on the homeowner.
“This city council does not communicate,” he said. “That’s part of the overall problem. I’m here to be proactive and get things done. … We’re not being told what’s being done here.”
Van Syckle said he would support addressing needs within the police and fire departments and also look into recycling and moving Ovilla toward a “green” or environmentally-friendly status.
“I’m asking for your vote so we can make a change,” he said. “I think new blood will be pro-active … and we can address the needs that could have been met 10 years ago.”
Wade, who has resided in Ovilla since 1986 and now has a business there, also pointed to issues with roads, water and taxes. Saying the city has “nothing to show for it,” Wade said he would work to “reverse that.”
Needed roadwork and a lack of infrastructure were cited as problems for the community, with Wade saying he would focus on infrastructure.
“I’d like to get infrastructure in so we can get downtown to grow,” he said. “It won’t grow until we get sewer in.”
Growth would also allow the council to enact something other communities have: a tax freeze for senior residents age 65 and older.
“There’s no reason for infighting and secrecy,” he said. “We can’t afford to do that anymore.”
Wade encouraged people to vote in the election, citing a typical turnout as about 10 percent. He said he would be an involved council member and go out and meet people, saying he would be available anytime.
“In order to have an effective government, it should come from the people,” he said. “I’d like to help change some of the problems.”
Early voting starts Monday in local city and school board elections. Election day has been set for Saturday, May 10.
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