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Q & A with North Platte Mayor candidate Lonnie Parsons

(KNOP)
Published: Apr. 13, 2020 at 2:09 PM CDT
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Below is our Q & A with North Platte Mayor candidate Lonnie Parsons. We did not edit the candidate's responses.
What's the first thing you would do to enhance North Platte's profile in attracting economic development?

This is one of the hardest questions on this page. It's not like at this moment we are one of the most desired places in Nebraska to come and build or to start your business or industry. I think there are many things that need to be done to attract economic development and unfortunately there is not one thing that can be done overnight to achieve this.

There are a few of my agenda items that I could activate in the first months of taking office. These would be transparency, housing and better customer service and this is how I plan on doing it.

1.Transparency - North Platte citizens have long endured the mystification of North Platte City government, a lack of transparency that has left them wondering how decisions are made, how resources are allocated and how their tax dollars are being spent

a. By January of 2021 we will have a monthly report available through our website or pickup at city hall. It will have income and expenditures of each department like electrical, sanitation, police, fire, rec center, library down to how many items checked out.

b. I will begin townhall meetings in April and will have them quarterly.

c. I will do monthly talk shows on the radio telling people what the city has been working on and possible upcoming things.

d. We will run meetings with time limits for discussion to keep order and to allow more people to speak in open forum.

2. Customer service

a. We will implement a city-wide customer service program so the residents of our community can rest assured that we have their best interest in mind.

b. We will stop if a motorist is in trouble and get what help is needed.

c. We will be very friendly in bill paying and service departments not to belittle customers.

d. Customer service will be job #1.

3. Housing

Housing in North Platte is one of my top priorities as Mayor and should be relatively easy with low cost to the city to enact some programs. We can do this mainly with the programs, committees and inspectors that the city currently has. We would move 2 of our city employees to health inspectors for the purpose of inspecting living conditions.

There are quite a few vacant buildings in North Platte which indicates these properties are neither for sale nor for rent. Unfortunately, many of these properties are likely abandoned and for tax roll purposes not generating their potential in property taxes

There are children living in our city that live in environments that no person or animal should live in. Our city has the ability with the ordinances we already have to make their lives better, but I believe it’s going to take more from all of us to make quality of living and quality of life better for our community. Some of my ideas will not be attractive to landlords that prey on low income families but 95% of the landlords will accept the policies to get them on a level playing field.

I would like to see us team up with programs to offer a mandatory budget and cost of living programs to teach renters how to become proud homeowners.

What kind of business/industry would you pursue? How?

What I would like to see, and the reality is far apart. I think we should start with businesses already located in North Platte and grow these. It’s not like they’re lining up to come here and a lot of it stems from how we are perceived through Facebook. Also quality of life for their families, what things there are to do here, city infrastructure and the ease of getting their plans adopted. I believe that after this virus gets over that there will be some new types of industry that will open up or companies will not put all their eggs in the China basket and will start making their products in the US. We need to be working on this now rather than later to attract them to our community. The rail park is a very intriguing idea and with the railroad being on board this could be a game changer for us moving forward and will aid in landing industry that would use the railway as a shipping method.

As far as How,

a. I will work with the chamber and DEVCO to bring in 20 to 50 employee-based businesses to North Platte. If we would bring in 10 of these Businesses, we would be farther ahead with possibly less cost to the city.

b. I will lead a task force of retailers and we will focus on adding employees and building on their business. These are already in town businesses and a huge asset to our community.

c. I will also lead a task force of commercial landlords to see what hurdles they have in bringing business in and what we can do to clear those hurdles.

d. We will have all department heads that need to be, in meetings with clients when the time comes to clear a streamline path for those businesses.

What kind of role should the Mayor have in finding new businesses for the city?

I believe the mayor should be behind DEVCO and chamber 100% with the role of selling North Platte to perspective clients. That being said, I believe the administration should hold DEVCO to high standards and request reports of contact and achievements to see why we were not picked or where our money is going and to make sure we have the right people in the right seats at DEVCO. We have given them quite a bit of money over the years and since Menards and Walmart distribution center we have not seen much growth.

What kind of priorities or funding would you give Downtown's new Canteen District?

This to me should be a business tax for downtown to be used as the downtown association votes to use it. This way they can build on their vision and make great things happen. I would like to see the downtown more of a night spot with possible downtown street concerts with vendors and local bands. I have seen a lot of good things happening downtown and I think if we could add 2nd floor apartments and continue with exterior improvements the growth will continue.

What would be your plans for a new Rec Center and enhancing recreational facilities and trails?

This falls in my quality of life agenda. The biggest question from the focus groups on a new rec center is how much are they asking the city for? How much financial commitment from GPH, UPRR, Schools or other entities. I believe we could lease out space inside the rec center, whether it be the workout space, coffee shop, massage area, healthy food shop or other areas for training. The sky is the limit, with also adding more fun things for kids to do that would not take up much space and would draw to the center. I would like to see us to be able to pull the Lottery funds from Iron Eagle to subsidize families that cannot afford to use the facility. Trails need to be finished and parks need to have attractions added that would not cost much but would attract families.

How are you going to build team and implement your vision for a better North Platte with a new city administrator, city attorney and city engineer?

My vision is to make North Platte the best place to live. This I hope is the vision of the council and if we adopt this vision throughout the city it makes all decisions much easier. I will have “to make North Platte the best place to live“ placed on the wall behind the presenter in the council chambers to help council members make good and easy decisions. I have worked for years with Brent and have done infrastructure jobs with him. He is very intelligent and thinks his decisions through and is the right choice for city engineer. As far as the city attorney goes, it appears we did not save any money going with a firm as I had hoped we would. And now for administrator, I will look forward to working side by side with whomever the city chooses to hire and hopefully together will see great things happen for the city.

What is your position on the expiring Quality Growth Fund and if it should be renewed in terms of economic development?

This is one of the most important revenue streams to attract or build on business/industry. The quality growth fund extension comes up on the November ballot and I have to tell every voter in town that we need this to pass to grow North Platte in the future and the next administration needs to hold Quality growth fund committee to higher standards of expenditures and budgeting to build this instead of reducing it. They need to set that only a certain percent per year can go to studies, classes, meetings, or other expenditures and possibly look at ways we can generate revenue off of funds available.

What do you think the city's role should be in the operation or retention of the Iron Eagle Golf Course?

My plan for Iron Eagle is that we would have total transparency through expenses and income every month on our website through the 2021 season in which time we would put it on the 2021 November ballot for the citizens of North Platte to either keep it or not keep it. I believe since the citizens in North Platte voted it in the citizens in North Platte should vote it out. To be fair to the golf course we should try to run it as profitable as possible with income generating activities in the 2021 season. And I will help with that.

Do you support the actions taken by local government officials to combat the spread of COVID-19? What, if any, changes would you propose?

Hindsight is 20/20 and this was something that nobody could ever have seen coming. The first and most important is keeping citizens safe and making sure first responders were given adequate training and PPE and meeting with GPH to make sure they have adequate PPE and to see if there is anything they need from the city. The 2nd thing is making sure we keep as many businesses in business as we possibly can. I think meeting with 20 or 30 of the family owned businesses to get an idea of what it would take financially to get them 2 months down the road would have been my first concern. Communication and reassurance to the citizens and businesses would go a long way in a stressful time.

How will you support the economy now and after social distancing requirements end?

This should’ve been an eye-opening experience for all of us. We should see that the city needs a cash reserve to cover disasters, even the hidden ones. We cannot rely on property taxes alone to fund our city and we need to look out of the box to find new revenues to build our infrastructure, attract business, build on our quality of life, enhance our housing, build cash reserves and most important to cut the city property tax levy in half. We need to work on budget training of department heads to help them see the need of looking at developing other revenues streams within their departments and to separate expenses by needs, not wants to make their budgets as profitable as possible.

Why should North Platte voters choose you as Mayor?

I have worked for the city as a firefighter/paramedic, developer, home builder, coach and business owner. I have overseen large and small residential and commercial projects, handled large budgets, overseen infrastructure development and budgets and have worked with parks, engineering, inspections, development, accounting, electrical departments and city administration. I will be at the mayor’s office daily and will attend daily functions as needed as this is a fulltime job. I will lower your city property taxes substantially. I will have transparency and will tighten the belt on budgets. I will demand better living conditions and hold landlords to a higher standard. I will create more jobs and grow our community. This is my promise to the citizens of North Platte.

What separates you from the other candidates?

I can honestly tell the citizens that I will have North Platte as my #1 priority and will make it my full-time job that it is. I will be honest and transparent with open call in radio shows, town halls and a monthly report showing expenses and income in each department down to how many books were checked out at the library. I am not backed by the hospital or any other corporation in North Platte. I will butt heads when needed if North Platte’s welfare is in question and I will do what is right for North Platte.

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