Three of the four candidates for position 2 on the La Center City Council took part in the forum
There are four candidates vying for position 2 on the La Center City Council in the upcoming Aug. 3 primary election. Two of the candidates will advance from the primary to the general election in November.
Dennis Hill, David Nelson and KC Kasper each participated in a virtual candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters on July 16. Candidate Kimberlee Elbon did not participate. Bio information on all four candidates is available in the voters’ pamphlet offered by the Clark County Elections Department.
Below are responses from the three candidates who participated in the recent forum. To view the entire forum, go to cvtv.org.
Background and skills
Hill: “My experience here in La Center has been with the Planning Commission. When I moved here in 2011 I, after a couple of years, I was selected to be on the Planning Commission, which I did for almost nine years. Then I decided that I did want to get further involved in the city, and as such, I was able to be selected to be on the City Council, which I took a position on in December of last year. I’ve also served on the Parks and Recreation board, as well as other activities in the city. I’ve always felt that it’s important as a citizen of the city that I lived in, to be involved at whatever level I possibly could make myself available to do. And I found it a real benefit for me to be involved as I have. And I’m just glad to be a citizen here and glad to be a part of La Center community.’’
Nelson: “I bring to the table engineering experience. I’ve worked in agriculture, fertilizer, pulp and paper, and automotive programming software. I have the technical chops and the understanding of numbers. And I’m always looking to continuously improve. That’s the main thing that I bring to the table. What I also bring is a concern for the direction of this city. I want to see our police restored, I want to see our business base widened. And I think that I have the know how of technology for outreach, and also the understanding of what the city needs to bring a prosperous future to me and my family.”
Kasperg: “I’ve lived in Clark County my whole life. I grew up in the Salmon Creek area. We moved to La Center here just in 2013. I’ve been an employee of the Sheriff’s Office and have held a number of positions within the Sheriff’s Office for over 24 years in August. I got a lot of experience dealing with county-level elected officials dealing with budgets, budget cuts. We’ve gone through a lot of those trying to make things work with a much smaller funding base than what we’ve had in the past. And, I have a small child. He played baseball this last couple of seasons, and we don’t plan on going anywhere. I think we have a good perspective on what the city of La Center needs moving forward. I think the people we work with have done the best they could. So now it’s time to bring some other people in.’’
What ideas do you have for reconceptualizing public safety in La Center?
Nelson: “I think that we need to look into bringing in some non-enforcement aspects to our police force. Currently, we are spending about four times as much for our police officers, and we’re only getting about half as much use out of them. They’re giving a valuable service and it needs to be utilized properly. There is most likely room within the budget. We can move around money and we could get some more officers and hire them on with the amount of money that we’re paying out as salaries for two officers and one interim sergeant. We have enough to if we were paying the average for Washington state new officers.”
Kasperg: “We’re in a very difficult position right now. It’s just not possible for the Sheriff’s Office to contract the level of service that some people are used to having in La Center when we had our own police department. We’re stuck right now with, as Mr. Nelson said, a very small number of people. So I do agree that there should be some non-enforcement related I guess you would call it, things like code enforcement, or animal control, and things like that are definitely a good option. But I think we were funded a little too well for a number of years. And that has now circled around.”
Hill: “Regarding the public safety, I’m just very pleased with what our interim chief is doing. Bob Richardson, in regards to working with the sheriff’s department, and coming up with a plan to bring together either a police force run by the sheriff or a hybrid, where we would continue to retain our existing officers and utilize them as well as other services. For example, we might get some fine financing from the school district with regards to patrols through the schools. So, I think there’s opportunities for us to take a look at other aspects of resources financially. But I think the key thing is we need to maintain a strong, viable, visible police force within the city limits and outside the city limits to our neighbors there as well.’’
How would you assess the financial position of the city of La Center? What, if anything, would you do to make improvements?
Kasperg: “I think in the past we;ve been way too reliant upon the cardrooms. And I think that’s one of the reasons our police department is in the position that they’re in. I think there is some very good infrastructure that’s going to be going in near the freeway junction that Mr. (Jeff) Swanson has been working on with the current council. But, I think the city itself needs to change directions a little bit. I think we are populated enough now that we should have a grocery store. We should have a hardware store so citizens don’t have to drive clear to Woodland or Salmon Creek, or even what’s available in Ridgefield. I think those resources need to be invited into the city of La Center just to make it so much simpler for our residents to get those necessities that they need. And, I think that will bring in some income as well, maybe expanding the sewer facility even further with cooperation with the tribe.’’
Hill: “We have gone from $303 million revenue from our cardrooms down to last year (inaudible), a pretty significant drop in finances. As a result of that. City Council and the mayor particularly have had to be sure that we’re staying on track and reducing where we’re spending our funds. One of the key things we’re looking at is how do we expand the revenue streams into our city. One of them is the La Center junction. Minit Management, which is going to be redoing the facility up there with the Shell station, that’s going to provide some additional funding. But, I think that we’re going to have to continue to look long range and it’s not new homes. It’s not going to bring a bottle of financing. We need to look very carefully at these, get smarter on how we get new revenue coming into our city.’’
Nelson: “One thing that I’ve changed before I started running was the impact fees for development had been changed to being delivered after property has been sold and built. It used to be that we’d get our impact fees upfront. So if I’m elected, one thing I would want to do is change that and go back to getting our impact fees up front, protect our land. And also we have to expand our business base, we can become a destination for weddings, or we can invest in our kayaking and paddle board enthusiasts up at the junction. Our source system is working fine, and it gets a 12 percent return every year, on average. Where we are overspending, we are overspending compared to our other municipalities. We’re overspending on finance. We’re overspending in planning. We’re overspending in legislation, and I want to protect our public works in policing.’’
What, if anything, would you change about La Center’s current growth plan?
Nelson: “The current growth plan, we’ve been expanding quite a bit — 3.1 percent year-over-year expanding — and we need to look at how we can change zoning to make opening up businesses easier for our new inhabitants. We need to look at are we going to need to add roads and expand roads. We have roads like Aspen. We could expand that. That would be something that we might need, or possibly another road that goes around the city, in order to reduce congestion and also to reduce urban sprawl. The most important thing, I think, is that we have easy access to the information, our website’s not good. And we have a lot that we can do to fix that and make it easier.’’
Kasperg: “As far as the size of the city goes, it’s already been decided years ago, how big the city can get and where it can expand to. So staying within those boundaries, I think is important not trying to get too far ahead of ourselves. There’s a significant enough amount of land that is probably going to remain very low density. But, the junction can be expanded significantly, I think we need to re approach what it is that we have within the city, whether that be cardrooms or remodeling something into, like I said earlier, grocery store, hardware store, you know, and then making sure that we have enough infrastructure to bring in the people that we are that we’re bringing in, because we’re going to have an increase almost twofold, if not a little bit more in population. And they have to have a place to go to school and to the store and everything else.’’
Hill: “Right now, we’re approximately at 3,900 residents in the city of La Center, and probably within the next 12 months, we’ll be at 4,000 or thereabouts. The Planning Commission put into place here in the last several years zoning and code changes to ensure that we don’t reduce the size of our lots to the point where we’re stacking homes on top of each other. And I think that’s a good thing. Looking forward, we are going to have growth. North Clark County is the area where a lot of people are wanting to move. And we are providing an opportunity. One of the things is that we have a new middle school going into place in operation here later this year. That’s going to bring additional teachers, salaries and jobs into our community. And so I’m thankful that the school district is still keeping pace with our growth here.’’
Hill: “Again, I’m so privileged to be able to serve the citizens of La Center. I’ve been a councilman since last December. And then a privilege to be on the Planning Commission as well. I feel I bring a greater amount of experience to the job. I am deeply interested in making sure that La Center is safe as a community and in our state, as it has been and will be. I want to be sure that we get our finances under control. We want to get additional revenue. I want to be a part of making that happen. If that means additional work into the junction, I know that we’ve got a lot of opportunity up there. But we have to have a buyer of builders and developers willing to work with the owners of those properties to make that happen. But, I’m asking for your vote because I believe that I can continue to make La Center the best place to live for your family. And those who come to visit.’’
Nelson: “I’m a Clark County native, I’ve always wanted to be safe. And this is the safest community that I have ever been in. But going forward, we need to restore our police coverage so we completely cover our community that’s business friendly. We need to continue working towards ease of access to all of the facilities, consolidating the offices that we have in La Center, reducing the number of consultants, these are all things that I can do. I’ve got the smarts, I’ve got the ability, and Gosh darn it people like me. I’m pretty nice. I am a very communicable person. I can come off strong with my opinions at times. But if you vote for me, your voice will be heard. And I promise that I will be someone that you can rely on to show your vision on the City Council.’’
Kasperg: “Those are two tough people to follow. I’ll tell you there’s no shortage of people in La Center that really care and want to make a difference. So, I can’t take that away from anybody that’s running for any of these positions. I think where I come from is that I’m not afraid to ask the tough questions. I agree with Mr. Nelson. There are some contract employees that are being paid a lot of money and I want to find out whether we’re really getting what we pay for out of some of those things. I think that the voice of somebody that has school-aged children on the council is extremely important. Like I said, we don’t plan on leaving here. And my son is six years old. He loves playing baseball. I love coaching baseball at the little league. And I want to bring even a more friendly family atmosphere to the city of La Center. And so that’s why I’m asking for your vote.’’