BUCKHANNON - Candidates for city and county offices in the May 13 primary had a last chance to speak to the public at a candidate forum this week.
The forum was hosted by the Upshur County Landlord's Association at the Buckhannon Moose Lodge Thursday.
Four candidates vie for two seats on Buckhannon City Council. Councilman John Waltz will not be seeking re-election. After former councilman Scott Preston resigned his post last year, Tom O'Neill was appointed to finish the term, and that seat is now up for election. O'Neill, Mary Lou Albaugh, Robyn Riggs Simons and Robert Osburn all took the chance to address their candidacy at Thursday's forum.
Each candidate was asked about Buckhannon's proposed meth abatement ordinance.
"The first thing we need to get clear is this ordinance does not change anything as far as existing state law goes, except there is a city level fine for non-compliance," O'Neill said. "As a result of the meetings that we had I personally would support a modification of the language... make sure that landlords acting in good faith in situations like this are not swept up in enforcement unjustly. The City Council is listening and is making changes."
Osburn said he may have inadvertently been the cause of the ordinance. He said he had written a letter asking what can be done about the subject. Now the ordinance has been drafted and Council is considering it.
"I would like to have seen more cooperation between the city and the Landlord's Association," Osburn said. "I think (City Council) met to appease the Landlord's Association, but they weren't changing their mind. Once the ordinance is already there, I think then it's too late. I think there should have been more cooperation between the two groups from the get-go."
Albaugh also addressed the ordinance.
"I'm going to support what was done," Albaugh said. "It's not over with yet. I have a better understanding now from what Tom (O'Neill) said, so I'm going to stand behind the decision that's made by Council. I won't agree that everything was handled just hunky-dory there. There could be a little improvement in that area, but I'm okay with it (the ordinance)."
Simons said the ordinance should be set aside for the time being.
"I think that it would be good to table this and go in conjunction with the county and have it county wide at one time," Simons said. "The reason is, you're going to run the people that can't rent in the city out. I think there's no rush to jump into this right now because there's been so many gray areas that don't have answers. I think that we should know all the answers before we do something like this to the landlords'. It could cripple them. It could absolutely run them out of business."
Two candidates for Buckhannon city recorder spoke at the forum. Challenger Rick Edwards is running against incumbent Rich Clemens.
"I just love Buckhannon," Clemens said. "This is a great community, and what I want to do is to be able to pay it back. I enjoy the service. I enjoy the people and I would appreciate your vote."
Edwards said there are changes he wants to make if elected.
"I want to make sure that if each citizen has a question, you can go to our website, see our minutes and determine exactly where a certain ordinance was suggested or if changes were made within that ordinance," Edwards said. "Anything that happens with any of the meetings that are held by the city, that's what the recorder's job is