Around 50 city residents gathered Thursday at the Richmond Hill City Center for a candidate forum to hear what plans City Council candidates Jan Bass and John Fesperman have for the city if elected.
The forum, hosted by the Richmond Hill-Bryan County Chamber of Commerce, was co-moderated by Chamber Chair Robbie King and Chair-Elect John Reynolds, who presented questions created by chamber members and others submitted from the audience.
While incumbents Jimmy Hires and Marilyn Hodges were invited and offered the opportunity have a representative speak on their behalf, neither were able to attend the forum due to scheduling conflicts, King said. Reynolds added that the chamber went “above and beyond” to schedule a date when all candidates could attend.
The questions presented ranged from topics including special purpose local option sales tax election to the Belfast interchange to county-city partnerships. When asked about the current SPLOST and their feelings toward the penny tax, both candidates said they were in favor and realize the benefits it brings to the city.
“I think the city needs that 1-cent sales tax to get some projects done that need to be done for the citizens,” Fesperman said.
Richmond Hill is set to receive around $33 million in SPLOST dollars that would help fund new sidewalks, a big emphasis Fesperman made during the forum.
“I want to connect the city with a greenway trail, bike paths, sidewalks – all that’s got to be done,” he said. “There are not any sidewalks for these kids to walk to the schools, and that’s a big issue of mine.”
Fesperman said adding more ways to get around the city on foot would make Richmond Hill even more family friendly and more inviting for people to move here, which would lead to new businesses coming to the area.
And generating new businesses was also a hot topic at the forum. Both Bass and Fesperman said they were in favor of attracting new businesses into the area, and both were in favor of the future expansion of Belfast Commerce Center.
A question posed for Bass asked how she planned to fill empty storefronts within the city with the future expansion of Belfast Commerce Center.
“People have property rights, and people will build where they want,” she said. “But we can foster a culture and bring to the image of Richmond Hill that we are business-friendly and that will build and bring businesses to the empty storefronts.”
Read more in the Oct. 29 edition of the News.