Canton leaders to compare and contrast listsWritten by Bibeka Shrestha
As everyone else compiles wish lists for the holiday season, Canton’s four aldermen will put together a list of their own on behalf of the town.
Soon after they were sworn into office last Tuesday (Nov. 24), Mayor Pat Smathers asked the aldermen to come up with a list of goals for the town, involving them in a process he began before the election.
In mid-October, Smathers published his 17-item wish list for Canton in an op-ed piece in The Mountaineer. In the editorial, Smathers wrote that he hoped to begin implementing the plan along with the newly elected aldermen soon after the election.
Smathers was prepared for the reality that the new aldermen would produce their own lists for what the town needs to prioritize. After his list was published, those running for office made it clear they would come up with their own agenda rather than just following Smathers’.
It remains to be seen how the new board will work with each other. Three of the four aldermen are serving their first terms after winning election in November. Two of the former aldermen chose not to run, and a third was unseated.
This makes the second election in a row that voters in Canton have swept in a new slate of candidates, having voted in three new aldermen in 2007.
Canton’s town manager will collate the aldermen’s individual lists and present a master list to the board at an orientation meeting in mid-December.
Some of the items on Smathers’ long list of goals included installing lights on town sports fields, creating a craft and farmer’s market, hiring a town recreation coordinator, and extending the town’s greenway.
Furthermore, Smathers called for an upgrade of town water and sewer lines around Interstate 40, where the capacity has been maxed out preventing new businesses from hooking on. Smathers wrote he’d like to annex new territory into the town limits as well.
Alderman Eric Dills dubs Smathers’ 17-point vision an “ice cream list” with broad goals that everyone in town could agree on.
“Everybody likes ice cream,” said Dills. “It’s not a real controversial list. It’s just whether or not it can be done, and how and who’s going to pay for it.”
Alderman Ed Underwood, who was elected mayor pro-tem at the meeting, agreed. Underwood stated that many of the board members’ ideas would likely coincide with the items on Smathers’ list.
“The main issue is going to be in how you fund them,” said Underwood.
Dills said some of his own goals for the town may not be as “flashy” but are still worthy of implementation.
For example, Dills said he’d like to see the town repaint parking stripes downtown and start washing streets regularly.
“It’s not an expensive proposition,” said Dills. “It’s a very pleasing thing to see for what it costs, which is almost nothing.”
Dills said he views the list as important in building a consensus among the board members on the direction Canton needs to go.
For Dills, that means stepping away from a push toward tourism.
“We cannot bet our future on trying to draw visitors off I-40,” said Dills. “We can be a wonderful residential town, a place where people want to come and live and raise families and retire.”
Underwood said his main goal was to make Canton a vibrant place to live, shop and play, meaning his list will include a variety of directions.
“From economic development to recreation to fixing potholes,” said Underwood.
While Alderman Jimmy Flynn supports the goals on Smathers’ list, he said that it was “obvious” that the aldermen needed to write up lists of their own.
Flynn said he needed more time to compile his list but that he would work with a particular vision in mind.
“Slow, steady growth that does not overburden the taxpayer or the town employee,” said Flynn.
Though Dills will dream up a wish list for Canton along with the other aldermen, he expressed hesitation about signing up for a plethora of expensive projects, citing a strong concern about keeping taxes low.
“We need to be like every other business, and conserve and tighten our belts,” said Dills.