The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 22, 2013

St. Peter mayoral, council candidates debate

Taxes, utility rates a focus

ST. PETER — Taxes and high utility rates were the center of attention at a St. Peter forum featuring candidates for mayor and City Council.

"The cost of things are just getting out of hand," said Joel Brinker, who is challenging 8-year mayor Tim Strand.

"We've made a mistake by becoming everything for everybody," said Brinker, a trucker and small business owner.

But Strand said the council has been a good steward of tax money in a city that is dominated by state agencies, non profits and a college that do not pay property taxes.

"We need to continue the (business) development of the city," Strand said, saying that new business adds to the tax base and lessens dependence on homeowner taxes.

Brinker, who noted his work on the presidential campaign of Ron Paul, repeatedly spoke of reducing the size of government and a need "to get out of the way of businesses."

Brinker said something needs to be done with the city-owned hospital that is losing money and said the local economic development office has not done enough to spur business growth.

Strand, an evaluation specialist for Scholarship America, said the city has made tough choices and has tried to delay spending rather than cutting people's jobs or services residents expect. He said the city delayed purchasing squad cars and maintaining streets. But he noted those moves don't solve things permanently. "It just puts off the problems."

Three men are running for one open seat in the City Council south ward: Stephen Grams, David McGuire and Russell Nachreiner.

Grams, a retired chief financial officer at the state hospital, was generally supportive of the current council's work. "There is not much fat in the city budget."

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