Belle board candidates respond to questions

By Roxie Murphy, Assistant Editor
Posted 3/27/24

Belle Board of Aldermen candidates running in the April 2 municipal election responded to the following questionnaire from the Maries County Advocate. Each candidate received the same five questions …

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Belle board candidates respond to questions


Belle Board of Aldermen candidates running in the April 2 municipal election responded to the following questionnaire from the Maries County Advocate. Each candidate received the same five questions and was asked to answer in 50 words or less per inquiry. The last question was a choice between sharing information about themselves or discussing their goals for the community.

Candidates for mayor are (listed by filing order) Tracey Creswell and Mayor Pro Tem James (Pudd) Mitchell. Candidates for Ward 1 Alderman are Alderman Emily Williams, who declined to participate, and former alderman Jeanette Struemph. Ward 2 candidates are Terry Connors and former mayor Steve Vogt.

1. Over the past two years, Belle has faced numerous documented issues, prompting citizens to raise inquiries regarding these incidents. What strategies do you intend to implement to enhance transparency in the future?

• Creswell for mayor: We will answer questions citizens bring to the council promptly without months, or years of passing. The council will revert meetings to Tuesdays so all the citizens may attend. We will turn off phones and give their full attention to the citizens.

• Mitchell for mayor: I will have an open-door policy, and anyone can come see me with questions at any time. I will do my best to answer promptly, and if I don’t know the answer, I will do my best to get them the answer. They can call me anytime because I am always around.

• Struemph for Ward 1: There are many resources to be used that could guide the council in the right direction. Also, a codebook has been established that should provide a working tool for the city.

• Connors for Ward 2: Answer all their questions truthfully.

• Vogt for Ward 2: I will use my 30-plus years on the council to promote understanding and transparency where possible. This wasn’t a problem in the past, but I understand some things are different. I think this was due to a lack of experience and the past mayor’s leadership.

2. To begin addressing infrastructure issues in Belle, where would you prioritize your efforts? In your opinion, what constitutes the city’s most pressing infrastructure challenge?

• Creswell: Water and sewer issues we are facing now. We need to add a water tower, fix the piping throughout Belle, and restore more fire hydrants because Belle only has six working now. The water liens are not put together right and need to be put together in one-size piping.

• Mitchell: For infrastructure, I will be searching for grants to upgrade our water and sewer lines that will allow us to build a water tower on the west end of town or to see about putting a new one where the old one stands now. It would save the city money.

• Struemph for Ward 1: The city has a very old infrastructure that has broken down over the years. Planning and commitment need to be established to start making upgrades to the water and sewer systems ASAP. This would be an ongoing method so that we can upgrade the systems and provide funding to have the ability to afford and maintain in the near future. So our city can function.

• Connors for Ward 2: The water and sewage lines.

• Vogt for Ward 2: The council has finally started a serious project on the water and sewer issues. The citizens need to understand this will not be cheap. The utilization of grants combined with rate increases will improve our chances. DNR is mandating we improve our systems. Streets and sidewalks are also a priority.

3. The city is currently embroiled in two ongoing lawsuits and indirectly linked to a third, with the possibility of two more pending. What is your stance on these cases, and what strategies do you propose to navigate and resolve these situations going forward?

• Creswell: My stance is for a fair and honest way to resolve the issues promptly. If the individuals involved are or are not being honest we as board members should deal with everyone involved in an appropriate manner. Going forward we will deal with any situation fairly toward everyone.

• Mitchell: I cannot comment on this question due to cases in an ongoing investigation. We are not allowed to comment on or discuss any litigation.

• Struemph for Ward 1: The city needs to move forward to get the case solved in a timely manner and clean up whatever needs to be put in place. I’m tired of all the mess and would like our commitment from all parties to work together as a community to gain our “good, clean, welcoming town back.” This type of action has been pulling citizens apart instead of recruiting us as citizens.

• Connors for Ward 2: These lawsuits are in the court’s hands and are to be determined by the courts. Do not violate the law in the future.

• Vogt for Ward 2: Experience would have dictated what you could and should do legally. The Sunshine Law violations and the issue with the city clerk should never have happened. Primarily the buck stops with the past mayor who seemed to ignore selective issues and do things the way they shouldn’t have been done.

4.What strategies do you intend to employ to contribute to the growth and development of Belle?

• Creswell: Try to draw in more businesses to Belle. There are several closed businesses that we could attract others. Try to draw in something for the kids and families to do all the time. A skateboard park and water park. A rollerskating rink. An escape room.

• Mitchell: My strategy to contribute to the growth of Belle is to continue working on the current projects and staying focused on moving forward in a progressive environment. I have worked diligently these last several months, and believe we are making great strides.

• Struemph for Ward 1: Much-needed improvements to water, sewer, sidewalks, and streets. I feel our water and sewer should be our main focus. Making our community a safe place and enticing businesses and citizens to want to enroll their children in the school district so the city can develop and grow.

• Connors for Ward 2: Make Belle a drug-free, liveable community.

• Vogt for Ward 2: Use the strategic plan in place. Greater use of the city’s website. Using our membership hours to take advantage of MRPC’s grant writing expertise. Promote the positive — fiscal responsibility, sports complex, schools, sports, businesses, increased housing, city park, and organizations. Also, tourism from the Rock Island Trail opportunities.

5. Candidates chose a question to answer from the two: What would you like to convey to the community about yourself? Are there any additional subjects related to city affairs that you’d like to address with the public?

• Creswell: I want the citizens to know the city council is here to listen to issues and show them they are heard. I would like the citizens to have five minutes to address the council. I will do my best to run the city properly all the time!

• Mitchell: I am a lifelong resident of Belle; my wife and I raised our children here and hope to see my grandkids live in this town. With the help of others, I have the city’s Lead Service Line Inventory grant started and it’s moving forward to be completed on time.

• Struemph for Ward 1: The city is paying a lawyer firm costing the city several thousand dollars. I feel this has had a direct effect on everyone inside the city limits taking funds out of the operating budget that is wasting useful money needed to maintain the city. Our town should have never gotten to this misfortune. Let’s bring it back for all of us.

• Connors for Ward 2: Only regularly scheduled monthly meetings on Tuesday and stop intentionally trying to confuse the public with a 24-hour notice to have constant meetings. Hire a city manager to handle the decisions between monthly meetings.

• Vogt for Ward 2: After being very involved for 50 years now, the community should know me and what I am passionate about. Hopefully, the citizens would give the new council the time and understanding to get the city back on track and going forward. Experience matters and is needed on the next council.