BURLEY — Burley mayoral and City Council candidates staked out stances on the city’s role in curbing the housing shortage, using eminent domain and their support of moving the city’s airport during a Times-News forum Monday.
Mayoral incumbent Merlin Smedley will defend his seat against challenger Steve Ormond. Casey Andersen, Jon. R. Anderson, Ralph Carlson and Bryce Morgan are vying for three four-year seats on the Burley City Council. Morgan did not attend the forum.
Incumbent mayor candidate Smedley said he considers serving as mayor as one of his greatest achievements.
“I grew up on the north side of town where there’s not much ability to move up,” he said.
Ormond said his strengths lie in his banking expertise and knowledge of budgets. He looks forward to being involved in the city’s economic development efforts and he wants to “influence business to see the brightness and hope” that he sees in Burley.
Carlson recently moved back to Burley after being away for 50 years.
“I like the town and I’m running because I want to make it better,” he said.
Anderson said he doesn’t consider being a councilman a personal accomplishment but rather a team one.
“I bring a lot of years and history and I know what has happened and sometimes why,” he said.
Said the other Andersen: “I diagnose and fix problems. I’m not a banker. But I bring strong common sense and a business perspective that others may not have.” Andersen wants to see city projects come to completion, like moving the airport.
All of the candidates agreed the city must move its airport because the Federal Aviation Administration will not continue to fund the airport at its current location.
Anderson and Andersen agreed the council’s only role in housing development is approving new subdivisions and housing permits, while they think it is instrumental in the continued growth of the city.
Andersen said for decades there were no new subdivisions being constructed and now the city is seeing substantial housing growth.
Carlson said when he moved here last year housing was in short supply.
“We will eventually meet the demand, but it could take some time,” Ormond said.
Smedley said as soon as houses are built, they are being sold.
“People are interested in coming to Burley,” he said.
The candidates all expressed continued economic development as part of their vision for the city.
If growth is paused, “we’ll start dying,” Smedley said.
Andersen said the city has recently attracted good businesses that have increased the standard of living for its residents.
Smedley, Anderson and Andersen both defended recent council actions to pursue eminent domain laws to build an exit road behind Franklin Building Supply, which opposes the road.
“Eminent domain is an ugly word and an ugly process,” Anderson said.
Ormond said it should be used judiciously and only for the safety of citizens.
“As an individual, I’m always against eminent domain,” Carlson said, but he said it should be used “in special cases,” and he does not see the exit road as “necessary.”
All the candidates said they agree the city should continue to fund all the city’s parks, including the golf course, even though it operates at a deficit.
Anderson said the city’s parks offer citizens something that is “hard to measure in dollars.”
Carlson said “as the new guy” he can’t speak to the budget but he attends city council meetings and knows the golf course is discussed often.
“I hate to see the golf course on the agenda because I know it’s going to be a long night,” Smedley said.