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Mayor hopefuls offer views on leadership, plans for city

Editor’s note: Today, The DAILY LEADER concludes itspublication of candidates’ responses to questions on several issuesfacing the city. Today’s focus is on the race for Brookhaven mayor.In the Democratic primary on May 5, Sudie Palomarez faces the Rev.Jerry L. Wilson. The primary winner will face Independent LesBumgarner in the June 2 general election. The job of mayor pays anannual salary of $61,880.

Candidates’ responses have been checked for spelling but areotherwise printed as submitted.

1. Brookhaven’s annexation took effect in July 2007, andcities typically have five years to provide municipal levelservices to newly incorporated areas. From your standpoint, what isyour opinion of city progress toward that goal so far and whatspecific things will you do as mayor to furtherprogress?

Bumgarner:When the annexation was approved inJuly 2007, the city immediately provided fire protection, policeprotection, and rubbish pickup to the newly annexed areas. I mustsay, these departments are to be commended for theirprofessionalism and determination in making a smooth transitionoccur with these services.

Because of the expected annexation ruling, many of the roads inthe newly incorporated area had been neglected for several years.Some of these roads have already been paved, and I, as mayor, willset aside money in the yearly budget to pave as many miles aspossible. I will allocate this money to each ward to make sure theentire city is being served.

Since water district associations have sole authority andresponsibility to the customers of that district, there are onlycertain things that the city can legally do. The city has alreadyprovided water and sewer services to many households in the annexedareas. If I am elected mayor, I will pursue grants and other meansof funding in order to provide water and sewer to the additionalareas.

I am presently working with the city on a 85/15 matching grantfor water and sewer projects for existing and new areas ofBrookhaven. We are also working on a 50/50 grant for a water loopto provide fire hydrant protection in the newly annexed area. Theseneeded services can also be obtained by the use of municipal bonds,which are fully funded by the taxpayers. This method would be themost costly; therefore it would be my last choice.

If elected, I, in conjunction with the Board of Aldermen, willdevelop and execute a plan to provide municipal level services tothe newly incorporated areas. We have made some progress, but thereis still much more to be done.

Palomarez:At the present time I am not aware ofall the details concerning the 2007 annexation of Brookhaven. I doknow the police and fire protection were provided immediately forthose areas. I am sure Mayor Massengill and the city board alreadyhave an effective plan to provide the annexed areas with themunicipal level services they are entitled to have. As Mayor I willwork toward carrying out the final stages of this project with theplan already set forth.

Wilson:The next day annexation took effectpolice, fire department, solid waste started. Most hit groundrunning to get services in the newly incorporate areas. We did aninter local agreement county, mayor, board of aldermen thruSouthwest Planning thru a grant working together made it happen andthe engineers to do a sewer project of Ole Brook Road in that area.Engineers are now doing a study on city water city sewer expansionto the newly annex area. The engineers will help with any availablefunding. Within 5 years these services need to be in place soworking with Woody Sample Southwest Planning, CDBG and going toWashington D.C. to get appropriation whatever entities that is outto help out so that it will not be a burden on the people to fundthis. Every little help. Need fire hydrants in these newly annexarea. I was told when city annex the newly area a fire broke out.One of the area annex house burn down because wasn’t enough waterno hydrant to hook up to so we need the services in place as soonas possible. Must hire more people to accomplish task.

2. The Dr. A.L. Lott Baseball League Program has haddifficulty attracting participants, with the program being canceledfor the 2007 year due to a lack of participation. What is youranswer for increasing participation, and what would you do insituations where parents have trouble paying leaguefees?

Bumgarner:Having served on the Recreation Boardfor 16 years, I have a good understanding of the problems thatboard members face and the concerns parents have.

The City (Board) gives money to the School (Board), Library(Board), Hospital (Board), Chamber of commerce (Board), Recreation(Board) and many others with the understanding that we will workwith them; but, it is not our place to get involved in theirday-to-day operations. They each have their own boards, and theirown chain of command. Problems and solutions should be addressed attheir board level. To bring the city elected officials into theequation leads to dismantling the whole system. Of course, that iswhat some want.

The Recreation Board is made up of our citizens who care aboutour children’s recreation and participation. The more people thatparticipate in the programs provided, the happier they are.

If any board member who was appointed by Brookhaven’s City Boardhad a disregard for his duties, I would be the first to recommendhe be removed from that board; but to abolish an entire board isout of the question. All boards are created so problems can besolved and operations can be conducted. If you abolish one board,where does it stop?

If elected mayor, I will work with the Recreation DepartmentDirector and his board to encourage participation at the beautifulA.L. Lott Complex. A system is in place to scholarship needychildren, but it was not utilized this spring. As with anything,there are rules and guidelines that must be followed. I think thereare plenty of people and businesses in this community that wouldhappily help a needy child play summer baseball.

The success of the 2008 baseball program at A.L. Lott Complexshows what a community working together can accomplish. This issomething that we needed to build on, but somehow we got away fromit in 2009. Getting people to work together for a common cause ismore difficult if some are pointing fingers and playing the blamegame. The will to have a good program is important, butthe will to prepare for that good program is vital.

Palomarez:When you have a special programseparated from other programs of the same nature you should have aspecial committee specifically for promoting this program. After,the recreation department does their annual advertising thiscommittee should step up and begin their support. The committeecould have a “Registration Day” at the field. Under privilegedchildren could be recognized and proper forms could be filled outright there. The committee could have fund-raisers and seek outsponsors for these children, but cannot wait until ball seasonstarts to begin this process. Keeping special programs alive takesyear round work. As Mayor I would love to help form and assistcommunity in keeping this special program alive and be selfsufficient.

Wilson:Get the word out to the people sometimesyou have to go door to door. That very good. Fundraising. Get theparents involve. The community involve people know your purpose whyyou raising money. People will help. Get the word out to thechurches. Talk to the pastors to get the congregation involve, andpray and watch the results.

3. The subject of liquor sales came up during a recentcity planning discussion. Proponents of legalized liquor sales citethe benefits of increased sales tax collections while opponentsworry about negative social consequences. What is your position onthe issue? If opposed, what suggestions do you have to find newsales tax revenue for the city?

Bumgarner:The discussion at a recent cityplanning meeting was about why Natchez and McComb had ahigher percentage of their sales tax revenue from restaurants thanBrookhaven does. Answers to that question were: (a) They might havemore restaurants than Brookhaven, and (b) They can sell liquor attheir restaurants. There never was a debate but an understanding ofthe differences of percentage of sales tax. We are not losing salestax revenue from liquor sales; we never had it to start with. Thequestion is “Do the citizens of Brookhaven want to raise sales taxrevenue by legalizing the sale of liquor?” Previously the people ofBrookhaven have said “No” to that.

The Mayor and Board of Aldermen are currently working on a Shopat Home program in order to maintain and/or grow our sales taxrevenue. We have been blessed with good numbers in the past and,hopefully, that will continue to be the case in the future.

The sales tax revenue question will be decided by employment,wages, shopping locally, supply and demand, goods and services,competitiveness and accessibility.

I will promote and try to help people understand that shoppinglocally provides a major source of revenue, and this revenue willhelp provide for better city services. On average, about 60 percentof the city’s budget comes from sales tax revenue.

Palomarez:I will start by saying, I do notdrink any type of alcoholic beverage nor do I encourage or promotethe use of alcohol by anyone else. I will, however, drive to McCombto Ruby Tuesdays or The Santa Fe Steakhouse to eat. There are manynice restaurants that cannot establish themselves in Brookhaven dueto the liquor sales issues. Being a dry county has not stoppedpeople from drinking, it has stopped Brookhaven from growing.People who would buy or drink this alcohol is already drinking itright here in the city. They are just going somewhere else to buyit. The negative consequences will be no more than they are now. Weas a city could limit the sale of alcohol without hinderingcommercial growth or tarnishing the face of our beautiful city.

Wilson:I don’t think it good for the community.Negative social consequences is underage teens will pay othersolder than them to go in and buy for them. That not good.

Get mall in here that attract people to go out and buy. LikeDillard, Belk, J.C. Penney, Sears clothing store. That will boostsales.

4. Brookhaven has an acute shortage of assisted livingfacilities. What is your vision for creating and furtheringdevelopment of assisted living facilities in Brookhaven? How do youplan to accomplish this goal?

Bumgarner:The City of Brookhaven is ready tomove forward with the plans already proposed by a developer. Whilethe decision whether to continue with this project is his, it stillhas a chance of becoming a reality. With an aging population andlonger life span, it is of utmost importance to be able to keep ourcitizens here in Brookhaven. The opportunity is here and,hopefully, this much needed service will be met. I will welcome anydiscussion with anyone or any group about providing us with a firstclass assisted living facility in Brookhaven.

Palomarez:Brookhaven has always had thereputation for taking care of our elderly and those with specialneeds. My question would be what type of “assisted living” facilityare you referring to. Any facility that houses people where local,state or federal money is used could be construed as “assistedliving.” My answer to this question would depend on what type of”assisted living” facilities do you have in mind?

Wilson:Find a private investor who is willingto and build this facilities in Brookhaven. One who have run onebefore. Brookhaven is drawing a lot of retiree from all over. Backhere some one brought this assisted living facility to the boardabout building one here. But something happened to the gentleman. Ithink he get sick. I hope he bring it back up. I think it good forthe city. Its expensive but the senior citizen that can afford itwill be great. They will have liberty, and independent to come andgo not like a nursing home. Its expensive to run but you get enoughsenior citizen in it, it will do well. To accomplish this goal youhave to attract our senior citizen and draw them here. Showing themBrookhaven is the Place To Be. It a more settle place. Thatinvestor must really have a heart for this.

5. If elected mayor, you will be responsible for providing avision of leadership in the city for the next four years. Namethree specific goals you like to see accomplished during your firstterm if you are elected mayor. How will these projects befinanced?

Bumgarner:Our city has been blessed the pastfew years with a growing economy and an increase in sales taxrevenue. I am seeing a slowdown and a rising unemployment rate. Thenext mayor will have some difficult decisions to make in order toensure the taxpayers’ money is spent wisely.

Some things I will work on are:

(A) I would like to get some industries in our new LinbrookPark. I know the timing is not right just now, but I want to beprepared when the economy starts to recover. I believe having spaceready and available will work in our favor. With I-55 andfour-laned Highway 84, we are in a prime position to compete withother cities. I will work with state officials in hopes of landinga Supersite Industry for southwest Mississippi in Brookhaven’sLinbrook Industrial Park.

(B) I would like to enact laws that would do more to encourageaffordable housing construction in the city limits. Therequirements and regulations for builders are often costprohibitive. The county has little or no restrictions, and in thecity we have too many. I would like to find some middle ground sowhen housing construction begins to flourish again, we will get ourfair share.

(C) I would apply for as many water and sewer grants as possibleso we can replace the aging infrastructure and service the newlyannexed areas of our city. This fits in with the goal of makingBrookhaven a “Home-Seekers Paradise” for everyone. Because waterand sewer lines are underground and out of sight, they are takenfor granted by the public. When one stops flowing, it becomes amajor concern. A lot of our water and sewer infrastructure is 50 to60 years old and very brittle. We need to replace some every yearuntil it is all taken care of.

Palomarez:I want to Brookhaven grow. I wantthere to come a day when our citizens do not feel the need to goout of town to shop or eat. I want to see structured activities forall of our youth especially during the summer months. I want to seea place where families can go and spend the day together. I want tosee more activities downtown. I am not going to make prematurepromises just to get a vote. I have one goal as mayor and that isto work as hard as I can to make Brookhaven a place where we areall proud to be from.

Wilson: 1. Continue to have a city and countyrelationship. Unity in our city and county, where everybody cancome together and work together. A harmony in our community. Whenyou got people pulling together businesses, industries would loveto come here. The businesses see that that a good thing. There ascripture in the Bible says where there unity there is strength. Weneed the strength of unity. To survive. We can survive any economystorm come our way. So together we stand divided we fall. Comingtogether working together don’t cost nothing. You can’t put a priceon that.

2. Create jobs and maintain the jobs we already have. We have aLinBrook Business Park preparation is being done and now theprocess is in motion to bring jobs in good paying salary jobs sowhen our children go off graduate from college they could back andget some of these jobs and give back to the community. We got goodpeople who want to make that happen. The chamber, IDF, MDA,Southwest Electric Power Association, Entergy and other entities.It a must our governor, senators, house of representatives and itwill happen.

3. As being 2 time alderman and present county supervisor Ialways wanted to get job done quickly so if elected mayor it willbe more efficient with city services. (Job done quickly)

6. Open meetings and public records laws are designed toensure that the public’s business is conducted in public, but thereare some topics in which a board may go into executive session todiscuss. How frequently – if at all – should the city board closetheir meetings?

Bumgarner:The Mayor and Board of Aldermenshould go into executive session for only three reasons: personnelmatters, contract negotiations, and litigation. Open meetings areessential in gaining the trust and confidence of the voters. TheMayor, the Board of Aldermen, and the public are, I believe, allserved best when the city’s business is conducted in public.

Palomarez:I cannot think of a reason or a topicthat I as a citizen of Brookhaven should be left out of. So I wouldhave to say at this point never.

Wilson:When Executive Session is call somethings need to be behind close doors. Personal, medical situationof an employee. For example. And then there something you candiscuss outward. Just according to what it is. Some things need tobe discuss before making a decision out of Executive session. Youjust need to talk about it.