Stillwater News Press

Local News

February 27, 2014

City Council candidates state their cases

STILLWATER, Okla. — Each of the three Stillwater City Council Seat 4 candidates brought something different to their first public forum Thursday night at the Stillwater Municipal Building.

Jim Gardner focused on his desire to serve the community. Miguel Najera honed in on honesty and integrity. Experience was incumbent Cody Scott’s message.

Each candidate made opening and closing statements at the Stillwater League of Women Voters-sponsored forum. In between, they answered questions submitted by the organization and residents at the forum.

The questions ranged from “B” — budgets to “W” — water projects.

Here are the candidates’ answers to a few of the questions.

Does Stillwater need a new fire station? If so, where should it be located?

Najera: “I haven’t heard a lot of concerns about a new fire station. I know it was on the bond issue — building a new fire station — but I haven’t heard a lot of people saying ‘My house burned down because the Fire Department wasn’t able to get there in time.’ I haven’t heard people saying the response time was super slow or the (Fire Department) buildings are falling apart. ... My short answer is no because I haven’t seen the need, the desire or issues with it.”

Gardner: “Frankly, I just don’t know. I’d probably be hard pressed to show you, to tell you all the locations of fire stations in the city. I know where a couple are. To be quite honest with you, I don’t know what the need is. It’s one of the things I will have to educate myself on. ...”

Scott: “If we were to pick a place for a new fire station, it would have to be out on West 19th Avenue. ... I believe we need one. I believe it will decrease our response times to our rural customers to the west and southwest of Stillwater. ... How do we pay for it? If we are smart with what we have, I believe we could pay for it. ... The question is can we afford one. I don’t think we are in any danger, but it’s something we really need to look at.”

In October, the Stillwater Utility Authority staff proposed removing the requirement of a public vote for the authority to exceed its 10-percent of revenue cap on indebtedness. If this amendment comes up again, would you vote to remove the 10-percent limit?

Scott: “The way the SUA indenture is written a super majority vote of the SUA Trustees can decide whether or not to amend the SUA agreement. ... I had a serious issue with it. I don’t think the Council should have been making that kind of decision. ... We are at that crossroads. Our debt-service ratio is high enough to pay for it four times over. ... Does the Council need to make the decision to issue that kind of debt? Do we change that trust indenture? It’s a terrible, terrible decision to have to make. ... I don’t see another option at this point. I don’t know that I have another option but to support it.”

Najera: “Yes, I support it. I sat down with various people involved in the water issue. Something has to be done. As a councilor, you have to make tough decisions and you have to hope that those decisions are ones the citizens can support. You’re not always going to make everyone happy. Everybody has a different mindset and different ways of thought. Your goal as a councilor is to make a majority of the people you represent happy.”

Gardner: “I do not. All of us in our finances at home are trying to live within our means. ... This isn’t saying there can’t be debt over 10 percent. It’s just saying it needs to be voted on by the people. Anytime we are heading into furthering our debt, it should be something that is a concern of the citizens and should be taken to the citizens.”

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