SOUTHPORT — Alderman James “Jim” Powell, III is running for re-election in Southport’s second ward.
Author’s note: Port City Daily’s candidate interviews are largely unedited. Edits have only been made to correct spelling or grammatical errors. Candidates were not given word or character limits to answer each question.
What is your campaign platform?
Keep taxes low, keep services high, keep Southport a wonderful and pleasant place to live.
What makes you qualified to serve on Town Council?
Sixteen years’ serving Southport as an alderman and planning board member. Fifty-five years managing and executing multimillion-dollar heavy transportation and municipal infrastructure design and construction projects. Leading and managing the development of the Bald Head ferry service.
What are the top three issues Southport is facing right now and what’s your position on these issues?
Growth, old infrastructure, and timely planning to keep taxes as low as possible. We must acknowledge and deal with these issues and not keep our head in the sand.
Do you feel Southport Board of Alderman followed the proper process in approving the sale of the former waste treatment property? Why or why not?
Yes. The property had been for sale for years with no takers. The city needs income to help keep taxes down and does not need a liability albatross around its neck. The offer was a good one. Once the offer was approved, it lay on the table for ten days, in accordance with North Carolina law, awaiting the possibility of upset bids. The city will be well served by the plan. The only thing that could have been done differently was to change the UDO earlier so the forty-foot height limit in the rest of the business district was maintained. This would have prevented the false narrative by self-serving individuals generating citizen fears and angst that Southport was going to grow like Myrtle Beach.
Is it appropriate for a City to retroactively amend its Unified Development Ordinance to correct improper Board actions? Why or why not?
The premise of this question is false. There was no improper action. The fix of the UDO was not retroactive. A future potential problem in the business district generated by the requested use by the buyer was identified and remedied. There were no other planned or approved projects affected and no other potential buyers. Too much tax money would be spent to remediate the sewer plant and create a park. The marina is going to remediate the problems of the property and create access to and parking for people to use the creek. This is a win/win for the citizens and the marina.
The City recently opted to take its own path in pursuing sewer treatment, canceling plans to join a planned county expansion. Do you support this move?
Yes. The board of aldermen had approved the city acquiring its own plant. The county came with an offer to increase the city’s wastewater service to one million gallons per day and the city would be a partner in the plant and it would cost the city $26 million for the capital expenditure. The actual deal the county brought when it was time to sign up was only seven hundred fifty thousand gallons per day and the city was no longer a partner so it would have no control over rates the citizens would pay and even though the increase was 25 percent smaller, the capital $26 million, required was the same. The board voted (not unanimously) to accept what the county was pitching. This was a bad deal. It appears
the county was using the citizens of Southport to subsidize their expansion for other projects in the county. By lessening the increase, the need for another expansion would surely come sooner and the city would be hostage to whatever the county wanted to charge. The recent seventy percent increase was because of our deal with the county. Since going our own way and we became just another customer until our plant is online, the wastewater rates charged by the county have gone down to be in line with the other customers, but the debt service is the same. The capital outlay remains the same either if we stayed with the county or go our own way.
The police audit revealed evidence mishandling, two top police chiefs taking advantage of the job, and a department at odds with itself. It’s clear Chief Coring has taken big steps to increase transparency and community policing. Do you think enough has been done to address the systematic issues that may have contributed to a messy and unprofessional department? Do you think trust has been healed in the community?
I think we are on the best path. Chief Coring knows the community and is a well-experienced officer, leader, chief, and manager in our local law enforcement agencies and community emergency services. It will take time to heal completely. Some naysayers will never be satisfied.
What is one action/vote Southport got wrong in 2017-2019?
The board of aldermen trusted the county to do right by the city when they voted to cancel the already board-approved plan to have our own wastewater plant and go with the county. It was not justified. Had we stuck to our original plan, the current issues would have surfaced and been solved/rectified, and our own plant would be close to up and running. We would be close to controlling our own rates.
What is one action/vote Southport got right in 2017-2019?
We hired Mr. Bruce Oakley as city manager.
Anything else you’d like to share with voters?
Voting for or against someone based on hyperbolic rhetoric, incomplete or incorrect facts and accusations, flowery generalized statements of intent or lack thereof will not produce benefit for the citizens.
Find more information about Alderman Jim Powell on his campaign Facebook page.