West Bountiful candidates offer solutions to city's budget woes

Oct 31 2011 - 11:11pm

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Ahlstrom
Bruhn
Charchenko
Malan
McKean
Strong
Ingles
Tovey
Ahlstrom
Bruhn
Charchenko
Malan
McKean
Strong
Ingles
Tovey

WEST BOUNTIFUL -- The candidates seeking to fill the three four-year seats and one two-year seat on the city council are eager to crack down on the city's budget and find ways to increase business development to bring in needed revenue.

James Ahlstrom, 41, knows budget issues likely will be West Bountiful's biggest challenge in coming years, especially with substantial road replacement, repair and maintenance that is needed.

With the city already operating on a lean budget because of numerous cuts, Ahlstrom said he would like to increase revenue from other arenas, such as development.

"One of the major areas of potential development is along 500 South and near Legacy. As a member of the city council, I would do all that I can to encourage developers and businesses to locate in these areas," said Ahlstrom, who has experience as a litigation shareholder in a Salt Lake law firm.

Incumbent James Bruhn, 53, would like to continue his work of the past four years by helping the city pay off its debts -- and then stay out of debt.

He would also like to improve West Bountiful's infrastructure and make sure city departments run more efficiently.

"I enjoy serving and hope to stay in and continue that momentum," said the professional handyman.

Bruhn said working as a councilman is more than just a couple of hours in the evening.

"I've spent a lot of hours working for the city. I'm willing to put in the time to get the job done properly."

Laura Charchenko, 33, also thinks finances are the biggest issue facing the city. She believes it won't take a one-time fix, but rather a change in the way the city thinks.

"In the past, the city has always bonded," Charchenko said. "... Our bonds come due in a couple of years, (so) we need to start saving that money, so we can plan for the future and pay cash instead of mortgaging our kids' future."

A stay-at-home mother of four, Charchenko said she knows what is at stake for the city's future. She would like to entice more businesses into the city, so residents don't have to carry the financial burden any more than necessary, as property taxes recently increased.

"Hopefully with this approach, it will bring our budget back into the black," Charchenko said.

Alan Malan, 55, an operating systems engineer for Wells Fargo, also wants to help the city's financial state.

"I would ensure that the tax increase that just passed gets spent where it was intended to be spent and not put in other projects, to keep the spending contained," he said.

Debbie McKean, 54, who works as a medical assistant in a pediatric office, said she thinks the city's biggest challenge is maintaining the services its residents are used to without affecting them too much financially.

"I think the past city council has already made the move addressing some of those hard-core issues, so now we can start taking care of things," she said.

"I would continue to make sure there wasn't unnecessary spending and keep a tight rein on the budget."

Scott Strong, 38, takes a different approach to the city's budget concerns.

"I'm not saying we should just cut (expenses), but do an analysis to see what will save us money in the long term," said Strong, who believes his previous experience as an internal auditor with the state of Utah and now as finance director for Utah State Parks & Recreation could benefit the city.

He suggests the city look at bringing in stores, such as Walmart, that would bring in revenue for the city as well as serve the housing explosion out west, so those people wouldn't have to travel miles to go shopping.

Additionally, he feels the city ought to take a different approach to its golf course.

"The golf course has been draining the budget, so let's contract out with a concessionaire, with stipulations that we take 10 percent of gross sales," Strong said. "Automatically, overnight, that loss center becomes a profit center, and now we don't have the operating expenses."

Because Councilman George Biada died in April 2010, the city has a seat that needs to be filled for two years, the remainder of Biada's term. Bud Ingles and Dave Tovey are running for that seat.

Ingles, who declined to give his age but is retired after spending many years as a state utility consumer advocate, said the biggest issue for the city is becoming as efficient as possible.

"I would look at particular departments and move in the direction of trying to be more efficient, because revenues are down," he said.

"I have the experience of looking at costs and services and would like to have the opportunity to bring that experience into the city and see if there is any way I can help the city look at those perspectives."

Tovey, 36, works as a sales account representative for Utah Paper Box. He said West Bountiful struggles with the same thing most other cities are facing -- economic shortfalls.

"Everybody's budgets are going to be tight, so we need to plan for that and keep up with things that are needed in the future," he said.

Having served on the planning commission for several years before being appointed to the city council to temporarily fill Biada's open seat, Tovey said he is aware of the issues facing the city and would like to keep helping.

The general election is Nov. 8.

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