Staff photo by Angela De Welles
ELLIE Bauer (far left) tells the audience her qualifications at Thursday's candidate forum. All six candidates attended the forum.
Ellie Bauer, the town's current vice-mayor, and Doug Von Gausig are running for mayor. Pat Williams, Frank Sa, both write-in candidates, and incumbent Tom Groom are competing for the two four-year council positions that are open. Jerry Wiley is running unopposed for an open 2-year council term.
A crowd of about 75 attended the forum and was allowed to submit questions for the candidates. The League of Women Voters also posed a question that related to the town's proposal for a fire district.
Here's a rundown of the candidates' opinions:
She said she believes the need is critical and that ultimately the choice will be up to the residents of Clarkdale.
"Taking the fire department and making a district out of it isn't going to cost as much as you think it will," Bauer said.
The candidate said he was definitely in favor of forming a fire district, calling the current town fire department, "one of Clarkdale's leaky roofs."
He said if no district is formed, there will continue to be a degradation of the town's emergency services.
Current council member Groom said he supports the fire district formation. He was on the original committee that was formed to research the idea. Currently the town only has one person on duty per shift, Groom said.
"That's not good," he said.
The candidate said he is in favor of a fire district for the town. Current service is not adequate, according to Sa.
"The fire district is something I really think this town needs," Sa said.
Also in favor of the fire district formation, Williams said her concern is the level of service that will be provided in the future.
Wiley, a former mayor and council member for the town, said he's not completely sold on the idea of a fire district citing higher taxes as one of the reasons.
"Once we buy into it, it's there and we can't stop it," he said.
When asked by the audience what the most critical issue facing Clarkdale is, each candidate talked about water, except for Sa.
"I look at it from a little different point of view … what this community needs is harmony," Sa said.
Groom mentioned the need for better conservation efforts. Von Gausig told audience members anything to do with water is a balancing act between the need for water and development.
The proposed housing subdivision named Mountain Gate was also up for discussion. An audience member asked each candidate to talk about the development.
She said the council's recent decision to change the lot's zoning was only the first step of many to come. Bauer also reminded the audience that water wasn't a factor in the decision.
"We can not use water as a reason, by Arizona law, to deny development," Bauer said.
He said he's been working on researching the development. He and other Clarkdale residents drafted a letter to the town council regarding Mountain Gate. Von Gausig said many of their stipulations were met, but there's still more that needs to be done.
"I do not feel that Mountain Gate, in it's current form, is appropriate for Clarkdale," Von Gausig said.
The candidate said the zoning change makes the most sense. If the lot remained zoned residential use, Groom says fewer homes would have gone in, but the town would have had no input.
"This is going to be a little bit better," Groom said.
He said the project will take cooperation to work well.
"It might benefit us in the long run," he said.
The candidate told the audience of her apprehension regarding the project.
"Why are we building another 600 homes if we have to conserve water already," Williams said.
He agreed with Williams on the point that water is the key to this development.
The proposed Yavapai Ranch land exchange was also up for debate. Von Gausig, Williams and Wiley stated they were opposed to the trade. Sa said he hasn't been convinced that the trade would be good.
Bauer and Groom said they support the Forest Service's position on the matter.
"The Forest Service feels that this exchange is good for the entire area it covers," Bauer said.
Groom agreed and said it's the Forest Service that needs the exchange to better manage the land.
"I'd be hypocritical if I said I wasn't for it," he said.
Clarkdale will utilize mail-in ballots for this race. The Yavapai County Election Department mailed ballots to registered voters Feb. 5. Voters are asked to return those ballots by March 9. If necessary, a runoff election will be set for May 18.