Candidates running for Porterdale city office fielded questions on road improvements, the upcoming alcohol referendum and recreation facilities at a candidate forum held at the Porterdale Mill Lofts Tuesday evening.
Incumbent Mayor Bobby Hamby and challenger James Himes, Council Post 2 candidates Linda Finger and Jack Kottl and Council Post 1 Incumbent Robert Foxworth all were present to answer questions. Council Post 1 Candidate Andy Grimes was not at the forum.
All candidates voiced support for two referendums on the serving of alcohol within city limits. The first referendum, scheduled for Nov. 6, will be on the serving of beer and wine on Sundays. The second referendum, scheduled for sometime in February 2008 will be on the serving of distilled spirits by the drink.
While candidates expressed varying degrees of support on the increased sale of alcohol within city limits, all were in agreement that the passage of both referendums was a necessity if the city wished to attract a large chain restaurant and the sales tax revenue it would bring with it.
"It's something we definitely have to consider," Himes said. "We have to vote for the betterment of Porterdale, not our religious beliefs."
Hamby said, "Whether you like it or not we all go to these restaurants. It's kind of an evil thing that we have to look at as a community. The main thing is come out and vote your convictions."
Kottl said, "I don't personally see what the problem is. There's no reason why we can't expect people to do the appropriate thing (and drink responsibly)."
Foxworth said, "I think it's very vital that we get alcohol sales. If you want the city to grow, you have to take the collar off."
Several audience members questioned candidates on what they would do if elected to bring a signal light to the congested intersection of Ga. Highway 81 and Crowell Road.
Himes accused Hamby and other members of the city council of not being proactive enough in their efforts to get a signal light installed at the intersection.
"The Department of Transportation has only visited once and then left," Himes said.
Hamby said it is the nature of GDOT projects to lag behind schedule and that the city council has done all it can to speed the project along. He said he believed construction on the intersection would begin in summer, 2009.
Foxworth said he understood construction on the intersection was slated to take place in summer 2008.
Hamby invited anyone concerned with the status of the intersection to attend a meeting with a GDOT project manager at 10 a.m., Nov. 13, at the Porterdale City Hall. Hamby encouraged as many people as possible to attend the meeting, saying it would impress upon GDOT officials the importance of the project to the area.
"We need the citizens' help," Hamby said.
Another member of the audience asked about the possibility of starting a Senior Services program for the city.
Foxworth responded that he didn't think it would be a problem for seniors in the city to use the Volunteer Fire Department for meetings once a month.
Finger also said she thought senior citizens needed a place of their own to gather and socialize.
Both Hamby and Foxworth spoke of actions taken by the city council to apply for grants to renovate the Porter Memorial Gym and the old Train Depot which when completed will be for the community's use.
Himes, once again going on the offensive, said the council has not done enough to provide recreation opportunities for the people of Porterdale. Himes said the only recreational outlet children have is the B.C. Crowell playground.
"There should be and there will be services," Grimes said. "Stop just talking about it."