The dilemma of how to address dilapidated housing dominated questions from audience members at Tuesday night's Porterdale Candidate Forum.
Several concerned residents attending the event at the Porterdale Mill Lofts said they were concerned by the state of disrepair of many homes in the city and asked Council Post 3 candidates Jack Loyd, Arline Chapman, Wayne Maddox and James Himes what could be done about it.
James Himes, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Porterdale in November, said the city needed to work on bringing more homeowners into the city. Himes said he believed 80 percent of the residents in Porterdale are renters.
"I think some of the landlords are not taking pride in their property," said Chapman, a retired state official and guild artist at The Southern Heartland Art Gallery.
Maddox, a former mayor of Porterdale and the owner of 40 homes in the city, rushed to add that he maintains all of his houses and was not a slum lord.
"I keep my houses up," Maddox said. "Don't be confused."
Maddox added that he wasn't running to make the lives of tenants difficult.
"I'm not up here running against these tenants," Maddox said. "I couldn't control all that. I think if the city does its part, the homeowners will be happy to do theirs."
Comments made by Loyd about the need to address drug use in the city sparked a debate among the candidates about whether Porterdale had a serious drug problem or not.
"This isn't a drug-infested town," Maddox said. "You're going to find a little drugs everywhere."
Chapman suggested that the city should look into hiring more police officers. According to Chapman, the city's police force has never expanded beyond six officers for the last 40 years.
"We can't expect six policemen to handle this whole thing themselves," Chapman said.
Loyd said the city needed to primarily address three things: drugs, dilapidated housing, and a lack of activities for young people.
"Until you do those three things, Porterdale's still going to have a bad name," Loyd said."
Citing her years of experience working in the state capitol Chapman said she would work to make sure Porterdale received its fair share of state funding.
"I know how to speak their language," said Chapman of the officials in Atlanta. "I will work to end the days when Porterdale just received the crumbs from Newton County's table. It is time for us to get a piece of the pie."
Chapman pledged to do five things if elected: to strengthen city fiscal policy and make sure every penny spent was accounted for, to work on an economic development strategy to attract developments similar to Clark's Grove in Covington, to provide support to the Friends of Porterdale in their effort to rebuild the Porter Memorial Gym, to move the signalization of the Ga. Highway 81 and Crowell Road intersection forward and to secure funding from the state for a documentary on the history of Bibb mill workers.
Chapman announced that she and Porterdale Mayor Bobby Hamby would cover the costs of the first interview of the documentary with B.C. Crowell, a person central to the history of the city, until state financing was secured.
Himes said if he were elected he would focus on addressing parking concerns on Main Street, seek commercial development all over the city and not just in the downtown and work to bring an impact fee ordinance to the city.
Highlighting his nearly 60 years of residency in the city, Maddox said he would listen to the concerns of all citizens and would always come back with an answer to their questions. He also said he would work to stop the bickering on the council.
"The last couple of years I was in office, there was a lot of hatred and personal vendettas," Maddox said.
After 12 years as mayor, Maddox resigned at the end of 2002 when the city council passed a resolution calling for a hearing into allegations of malfeasance (wrongful conduct), misfeasance (the improper performance of a lawful duty) and neglect of duty.
Despite an outstanding court order that he reimburse the city $5,275 for unpaid insurance premiums, Maddox has been deemed eligible to run for city office as he does not owe the city any back taxes.
Voting to fill the vacant council seat will take place on Feb. 5 at the Volunteer Fire Department. Voters will also consider a referendum to allow the sale of hard alcohol for on-premises consumption in the city.