An Osceola City Council candidate forum was held Thursday, Oct. 24, in the chorus room at Clarke Community High School. City council and mayor candidates running in the Nov. 5 election were invited to answer questions and discuss local issues. Rep. Joel Fry, R-Osceola, was the moderator for the event.
For a list of a few questions asked during the forum, see the sidebar on page 4.
Schaff is the incumbent candidate for the city council at-large seat. If he serves four more years, he will have served 17 years on the council. His main concerns were infrastructure and street improvements throughout town. "What we've done, you can see it," Schaff said. "I don't believe your money's been blown. It's a pleasure to serve you and I'll do the best I can." Accomplish in term Schaff said he wants to see more streets and infrastructure improvements accomplished. He said he always returns phone calls from his constituents to address their concerns. LOST payment Schaff said he was in support of the sales tax that will help fund Clarke Country Reservoir Commission's reservoir project. "If it came up again, I would still vote for it," he said Trash and single-stream recycling Schaff said he did not like how Waste Management tried to renegotiate its contract with the city. "No one, as long as I sit on this bench, is going to hold a gun to my head and tell me how to vote. And, that's exactly what they wanted us to do. And, I'm just not going to do that," he said. "I vote my own way. I'll sit and I'll listen to you folks all day long, but when it comes down to the decision, I make my own." Facade grant Schaff said the city has got a lot of buildings around the square that are in bad shape, including the old hotel building. "I think the grant will be used for a good reason," he said. Other issues Schaff said the council still has a lot of improvements still need to be made, including fixing streets and having an adequate water supply. "We can't keep our young people here if we don't have those high-tech jobs," he said. "And, the only way you're going to have high-tech jobs is if you have water that they can rely on. We've got several people that have been interested in settling here, but they can't. We can't furnish them the water."
Sarah Truitt Truitt is the incumbent candidate running for the city council, Ward 2, seat. She has lived in Osceola for eight years. "The reason that I'm running for council is because I think it's really important for our generation to take some responsibility," she said, "and I think that I feel a sense of duty to the community because we live here, we plan on living here and raising our kids here. I care about the quality of life for my family." Accomplish in term Truitt said she wants to see more people involved in the community. She said she also wants the city to have an adequate water source, sewer plant, activities for young families to get involved in and enough accommodations for the elderly. "We need to stay relevant," she said. "We need to stay on the map. We need to continue to grow and we need jobs." LOST payment Truitt said the council has tried hard to have better communication with the county and other entities, an example being the city's bill from the May special election about the local option sales tax that will fund Clarke County Reservoir Commission's reservoir project. "I think the council decided that it wasn't the hill we were going to die on," she said. "The $8,000 that we agreed to pay, even though we did not feel it was our responsibility, it was the most responsible choice to go ahead and pay it and let it die. And, we would have spent far more money than that fighting it. Legal fees are incredible." Truitt added she didn't want the city to have to pay the bill since it didn't ask for the election, but paying the election fee was the best decision to make for the city. Trash and single-stream recycling Truitt said she has been in favor of single-stream recycling since she first started on the council. "Again, we're staying relevant," she said. "We're keeping up with our responsibility as a community and what other communities are doing to preserve, basically, our globe." As for Jim's Sanitation, Truitt said she supports local southern Iowa businesses, as well as making sanitation and recycling easy for people. If people need help moving their totes, Jim's Sanitation will come to the residence for the tote, dispose of the trash, and bring the tote back to the residence. All people need to do is call Osceola City Hall and make a request. Facade grant Truitt said an exterior renovation will help the downtown area, and businesses are looking for more incentives to come to Osceola. She said the city has to have buildings the community, as well as outsiders, are "proud" to look at. Other issues Truitt said the city has a good grasp on planning "farther ahead" with organizing and funding. She discussed having a good city administrator, recently creating a comprehensive plan for the city and improving infrastructure. "I think we're also playing catch-up," Truitt said. "And, at some point, we'll get to start doing bigger and broader things, but I think it all starts with the right plan and the right thinking. We're doing that."
Dan Hooper Hooper is running for the city council, Ward 2, seat. He has lived in Osceola for 45 years. Hooper said he has attended many city council meetings and asked many questions to discuss issues with the city. "I don't want other people in the community to have the same kind of issues that I had with the city," he said. "It's not right for things to happen the way they do sometimes, and that's one of the reasons why I'm running for city council is to observe the situations among the residents of my district." Accomplish in term Hooper said the most important thing he wants to accomplish was to encourage the community to attend council meetings. He said one of the problems is people can't hear the council members. "I think the council has a big job in communicating with the people in their districts," he said. "And, as a councilman, my number will be available." LOST payment "I don't think it was necessary that we had a special election for that sales-option tax. That was a waste of money for the community," Hooper said. Trash and single-stream recycling With the change in waste-collection providers, Hooper said he's still "back and forth about the truck issue as far as the size." Hooper said he does like how Jim's Sanitation makes one trip and collects on both sides of the street. Hooper is also in favor of single-stream recycling, but he doesn't like how people don't have a choice in their size of totes. "I'm very strong on that issue because I hear it every day," he said. Facade grant "Our businesses in this community are strapped with taxes. They're strapped with low income. Some of them don't have the resources to match the funds that are required from this grant to upgrade their buildings," Hooper said. "Therefore, I feel the store owners ought to be able to say, 'I want to take your money and I want to do this with my friend.' I don't think that's going to be the case in the matter." Hooper said he didn't' think the grant was going to be a big asset to community growth. Other issues Hooper said he is concerned with the amount of trash along the railroad. "It makes Osceola look bad because it's a terrible eyesore," he said. Hooper added, he wants to make people have a better impression of Osceola.
Ron Eshelman Eshelman is running for mayor of Osceola. "I'd like to see if I can make a change," he said. "I'd like to bring some jobs here, just try to get the bottom of some the issues I hear people talk about." Accomplish in term Eshelman said he wants to bring more jobs in and has concerns about the community shrinking in size. He said he has three children in the school district. LOST payment Eshelman said he disagreed with spending the money for the special election. He said he can't give an answer on how he would have voted for the city to pay for the election. He would've had to get all the facts and circumstances. Trash and single-stream recycling "As far as the change in providers, they still do the same job," he said. "They come on the same days they always have. The benefit is we actually get to recycle." Eshelman said it was an improvement to have single-stream recycling compared to the curbside recycling tote. "I know I didn't recycle that much," he said. "The green tote didn't fill anything up." Facade grant Eshelman said it was a great idea to be able to update the exteriors of the downtown businesses. Eshelman said he would also like to see new trees, walkways and arches in the downtown area. Other issues Eshelman said knows many people in the rural areas of the county that have an Osceola address. "They feel like they're left out because they live in a rural area," he said. "They don't have the right to vote on anything here. And, I think we need to come together. If they feel like they're part of the community, maybe they'll help keep the area clean, too." Eshelman added, "United we stand, divided we fall. If we're together, we'll succeed."
Steve Squier Squier is running for mayor of Osceola and has lived in the community his entire life. He worked for Osceola Water Department for 35 years and was water superintendent for 28 of those years. "I just want to give back to the community that gave to me," he said. Squier said he has heard of some people in the community who are afraid to go to council meetings, and he wants to make it a more friendly place. Accomplish in term Squier said he is focused on micromanagement and making sure people get on the agenda if they want to speak. LOST payment "If the council voted to agree with it and pay for it, we've got to uphold our council's decision," Squier said. Squier added, since he was on the water department, he knew the county needed a reservoir. Trash and single-stream recycling Squier said he was a fan of single-stream recycling and that it's been a good deal with the change in providers. Facade grant Squier said he was concerned with areas on the edge of the city limits that need improvements, too. He said he had concerns about getting infrastructure improved in the city before beautification improvements. Other issues Squier said infrastructure, litter, water and sewer issues can't be ignored. He had the idea of scheduling a public meeting for the citizens of Osceola. "I still think we need to be user-friendly, and have the right attitude, then people will help us," he said.
Fred Diehl Diehl is the incumbent candidate running for mayor of Osceola. He has been mayor for 16 years. He discussed improvements made to streets, infrastructure and sewer. "If you don't have a good council, nothing gets done," Diehl said. "So, anything that I can brag about, I have to give my council credit, and that's very important." Accomplish in term Diehl said he wanted to remind people the improvements to the city's streets have been at no cost to the taxpayer. The projects have been bonded and paid with funding from Lakeside Casino. Diehl wants to see the reservoir and train projects get finished. "Those two things are primary on our agenda for the next two years," he said. LOST payment Diehl said he disagreed with the city having to pay for the election, but the city council didn't really have a choice in the matter. "The county decided whether to have the election, and the county decided how to have the election. And, then, they turned it over to us and said, 'Well, it's your baby.' So, what do you do? Fight with the county? I don't think so," he said. Trash and single-stream recycling Diehl said he was in favor of single-stream recycling. Also, the primary reason the council changed waste-collection providers is Waste Management used one huge truck, and it was tearing the city streets up. "They wouldn't negotiate on it. They wouldn't even talk to us about it. So, we put it up for bids," he said. "Jim came in with the low bid, and he had smaller trucks. So, we went with him. The council wrestled with it for quite a while, and I think they made a wise decision." Facade grant Diehl said the million-dollar grant is specifically for the downtown area. However, he said he is also concerned about making infrastructure and street improvements to the city. Other issues Diehl said the big job for city is to enforce rules, provide infrastructure, aid businesses and citizens and make the town feel livable. "I think the attitude has to be changed for all of us. We have to think, and we have to believe, that this town is a great town," he said. "When we think that, and we exhibit it, I think everything else will fall into place." Diehl added, it's important for people who work here to also live here, and that means having good places to live and shop.