Coupeville candidates take the stage

Town Council races are forum focus

“Water, sewers and growth were on the minds of candidates and audience members during the Coupeville Town Council Candidates Forum on Thursday.Sponsored by the League of Women Voters and The Coupeville Examiner/Whidbey Reporter, the forum attracted about 40 residents to the town’s Recreation Hall to listen to incumbents and challengers vying for three spots on the Town Council.Civility and consensus marked the two-hour forum, with incumbents and challengers frequently agreeing with each other. Still, if common goals prevailed — reliable sewer and water systems, managed growth and enhancing Coupeville’s “destination status” — some priorities differed.Council Position 3Sandra Sherwin “Water has always been the driving issue in Coupeville,” said incumbent Sandra Sherwin, who is seeking reelection to Position 3 on the Council. “But I believe there is no need to panic. I am determined to minimize waste and assure equitable distribution to both present and future residents.”Sherwin also said even though many in town would like to see, “no more further growth on Coupeville,” the town could turn growth into an asset. “By requiring developers to provide infrastructure such as drainage, open spaces and landscaping, we can gain a lot of the benefits of impact fees without the divisiveness and the need to conform to very strict state requirements for imposing impact fees.”Sherwin also pointed to her nine years of experience in Coupeville’s town government — Historic Advisory Committee, Civil Service Commission, Planning Commission and Town Council — as testament to her experience and suitability for the council job.“Government in Coupeville is in caring and competent hands,” Sherwin said. “During the past few years, the way we do business is changing.”Donna KeelerDonna Keeler, who is also running for Position 3 on the council, said managing growth while balancing quality of life is an important issue for Coupeville.Keeler said having served on the Coupeville Planning Commission for three years and having worked as a professional planner with Island County for 15 years imbued her with the necessary qualities to be a strong and contributing council member.Keeler also said she wanted to see a parks and recreation district established for Central Whidbey without taxing authority so that it could apply for grant money to improve the town’s parks and open spaces.“My dream is to establish a recreation center for young and old people alike,” Keeler said. “I am also the only one (in the race) with a young child,” Keeler said. “And I feel the council needs someone representing young parents and children.”Council Position 2Kermit ChamberlinKermit Chamberlin, incumbent for Position 2 on the council, said the current council had been dealing with a legacy of neglect and that during his tenure, the council had been able to make a number of major improvements — “both visible and beneath the pavement,” Chamberlin said, such as the reconstruction of South Main Street, the water treatment plant at Fort Casey, completing a water line along Parker Road and better fire protection.“Not one issue here divides any of us from the other,” Chamberlin said.He also said it was important to remember that Council members would have to make decisions that would impact future decisions. “And choices,” he added, “that will impact Coupeville 20 years from now.”Bob ClayBob Clay, a current member of Coupeville’s Planning Commission and the vice-president of the Coupeville Lions, is the challenger for Position 2. Clay said his retired status would allow him the time to devote to maintaining Coupeville’s unique lifestyle.Clay offered a pledge: “Council people are elected as representatives of the voters. I pledge that I will listen to the city’s concerns, oversee a responsible budget and will be impartial and without influence.”Clay said that in his opinion, each member of the Town Council should be a specialist in some area and that he would focus on water and sewers if elected.He said so far, the town had done an acceptable job handling water issues but didn’t like the current method of allocating water rights. Currently, the town’s allocation method is to sell each $4,500 hookup only to property owners who submit building permits, on a first-come-first-served basis.“I want to take a look at it,” Clay said.Council Position 1Marshal BronsonWater, sewers and maintaining tourism, are issues of great importance to Coupeville, said Marshall Bronson, Position 1 incumbent on the Council.Asked if he would hold the line on taxes — Coupeville’s taxes have increased the maximum 6 percent in each of the last four years — Bronson said, “Nobody wants to raise taxes, because when your taxes get raised, so do mine. But if it is necessary, there will be a tax increase.”Bronson was also concerned about the current method of allocating water was a concern.“The more I think about it, the more I think we need to revisit the issue,” he said.The greatest challenge to the council, Bronson said, is to insure that there is sufficient water to support any further development and to retain the historical character of the town.Buell NeidlingerBuell Neidlinger’s duties as a professional studio musician called to him to Nashville, Tenn., so a statement he’d prepared was read by Diane Piazzon. Neidlinger is also a member of Coupeville’s Planning Commission.It read, in part:“Our government usually spreads the cost of new infrastructure evenly among all the taxpayers, rather than charging it to those who create the cost. This raises taxes for the long-time residents, most of whom experience little or no benefit from the growth. I want to put a lid on yearly tax raises for my neighbors because I don’t believe that they should have to pay for growth that they don’t need — the same growth that never seems to increase our tax revenues enough to pay for itself.”Neidlinger proposed creating additional revenue for more parks and to support open space preservation by increasing Coupeville’s current 2 percent tax on overnight lodging. Neidlinger also wrote that one of Coupeville’s primary tasks was, “… to determine the true availability of quality water for our town.”“Dealing with the issues of change will be a major factor in bringing Coupeville into the 21st Century without losing our town’s 19th Century heritage,” Neidlinger said in the statement. “I will constantly be vigilant.” “