Council veterans square off [UPDATED]Published 9:59am Monday, October 22, 2012 Updated 12:04pm Monday, October 22, 2012
The Ward One candidate forum featured two experienced council members, Eric Shelstad and Ben Schierer.
Incumbent Shelstad faced off against 2004 to 2008 Ward Four council member Schierer in Friday’s debate at City Hall.
Shelstad is married with two children. He owns and operates an insurance business and he has been on the city council for four years.
Schierer is married with five children and is the vice president of government relations for Communicating for Agriculture.
When asked about top priorities that need to be addressed in the city, Schierer said public safety is most important with maintaining current infrastructure close behind.
It’s easy to defer maintenance on streets, but eventually that turns into replacing streets, which the city doesn’t have the budget to afford, Schierer said.
Schierer emphasized the importance of the public library a few times throughout the forum.
“I think you can tell a lot about a community by the strength of its public library,” he said.
Shelstad said streets and infrastructure need to be the number one priority.
“I’ll go further by saying streets, streets, streets,” he said.
In addition to a long term program that outlines street work, Shelstad said an infrastructure plan needs to be incorporated so recently repaired streets don’t get torn up for sewer improvements.
Shelstad also emphasized a need for economic development.
Candidates were asked to chose one of three options for the Regional Treatment Center: Save the Kirkbride tower, save the entire complex or total demolition.
Schierer said he sees the RTC as an economic development opportunity. The similar building in Wilmar was redeveloped and utilized to facilitate 35 businesses and 365 jobs, and he thinks something similar could be done in Fergus Falls.
“We need to want to do it,” he said. “We can’t expect it to be done on its own.”
Shelstad said while he would like to see the whole structure preserved and used for economic development, some parts may need to be demolished.
“I can’t support inaction or mothballing,” he said.
Ward One represents the southeast quadrant of Fergus Falls, and residents in this ward will have the opportunity to vote at the fire hall Nov. 6.