Voters in Bloomfield’s Ward 3 will head to the polls again on Tuesday, Dec. 3, to determine whether incumbent Earl Howard or Jerry “Pork” Hawkins will represent them on the city council.
State law requires the runoff election after neither received more than 50% of the vote in the City/School Election earlier in November. Howard received 40.87% of the votes on Nov. 5; Hawkins received 30.43%, and Jeff Clark received 28.7%.
Howard and Hawkins both shared opinions on city issues last week prior to next week’s runoff election.
Following the loss of three top city employees recently, Howard said, “I firmly believe we need a DPW and we needed him last week. There are always gas, water, and electrical issues to work on, and it’s been close to a month since we let Danny (Simonson) go.
“There are lots of people who don’t understand the city is a $14 million a year business, and you have to have appropriate people in key positions. That’s why I believe in having a city administrator. Having six volunteers — a mayor and five councilmen — trying to run a $14 million a year business doesn’t work. You have to have a fulltime CEO there day in and day out. A $14 million business also needs a CFO.”
Howard strongly believe the city needs a Development Director as well to keep the city moving forward with such projects as energy efficiency, the solar field, housing development, and more.
Referring back to the immediate need to fill the DPW position, Howard said, “We are currently without a DPW overseeing the outside workers of the city. It has been over a month since the big power outage and the whole electrical system needs to be looked at by an electrical engineer. The equipment is so old we can’t get parts. We need to look at new transformers and switching and totally update the substation.”
Howard estimates it will take $2 million to update the city’s electrical system, but says the city will have to maintain what it has and budget for the necessary updates.
Howard doesn’t foresee any major difficulties in formulating next year’s budget. “We can look at past budgets, make plans for the future, and adjust the budget for the coming year,” he said.
Howard did say budgeting has been difficult the past couple years as city leaders tried to figure out better systems for developing budgets. “Brenda (Johnson) developed an easier format for us to work with and understand,” he said. “That was huge.”
Howard said the major issues for the city right now are developing next year’s budget, the wastewater project, and refining street improvement plans. “The street plan is being improved, in my mind, to get more with the dollars we have to spend. That’s good,” he said.
Howard said energy efficiency for city homes and businesses still needs to be a key project. “This saves us all money,” he said. “The on-bill financing project is huge. This is why we need someone in the development position.”
Howard also said the development director and police chief are needed for code enforcement.
Howard said a city administrator, chief financial officer, development director and DPW are all needed to make the city function properly.
When asked about his vision for Bloomfield, Howard said he wants the town to be “a vibrant, upbeat community. We need new sidewalks and new streets to create vibrancy.
Howard takes a “Why not?” attitude toward development.
“I have a vision of a downtown that is bustling, not just in the daytime, but in the evening as well. That means people strolling around the square, looking in store windows, walking in and buying something.
“The courtyard should be a place where families can do things like sit on a park bench and read to their kids. I would like to see movies on the square, a band playing, or other activities in the courtyard. I see Bloomfield with good streets and good housing. I hope we can budget for housing incentives again next year.
“I have a vision of Main Street and DCDC working together to promote economic development. I see additions to the industrial park and other sites such as the foundry site.
“With what’s been accomplished on the square in the last two decades — facades, upper-story housing — there will be great things in the future as well. I believe it, and that’s why I’m running for office again.”
Hawkins said he decided to run for council last summer when he got his last tax bill.
“I didn’t like the tax bill or what I saw on my utility bill,” he said. “I also don’t care for kids running up and down the street on four-wheelers and motorcycles when they aren’t old enough (to be driving them). The only times these should be on the streets is when pushing snow.”
Expressing his opinion on derelict properties, Hawkins said he doesn’t understand why the city buys houses and tears them down. “Have the property owner do that,” he said.
Hawkins is not a fan of the automated utility meters installed on most Bloomfield properties. “They were a loss of money,” he said. “We had employees reading meters and that was what they liked to do.”
Asked about his vision for Bloomfield, Hawkins said he would like to see Bloomfield with factories and be a booming place.
“It’s difficult to make businesses go in Bloomfield when you have so many businesses in the rural areas that are prospering. It’s difficult to compete. I don’t know what you do. It’s hard to say what’s going to happen to Bloomfield.”
Hawkins said he needs to wait and see what can be done to implement improvements in Bloomfield. “I don’t have any idea yet what can be done, but I will learn. I plan to try to help the people that elect me.
“The first thing I’m going to study is where the money is going. For years, they’ve taken money from the electrical department and supplemented other departments. Why don’t the water and gas departments make money?”
Hawkins says getting streets and potholes fixed is a major issue. “They’ve got to have someone that knows how to do it. They never fix potholes right. They use a cold mix and that pushes right back out. They need to bring someone in here that knows how to fix potholes.”
When it comes to sidewalk repair, Hawkins thinks business owners should have to fix their own sidewalks, but the city could help with filling the coal chutes under the sidewalks around the square.
“To pour sidewalks like are around the square now would cost an arm and a leg,” he said. “I would guess they are eight or 10 inches thick. I would suggest six-inch sidewalks. I would like to see this done in the next few years — perhaps doing one side per year making all sides uniform.
Hawkins also said he would work on getting junk cars out of yards and off streets.