Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Nov. 30, 2022

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Battle Ground City Council candidates share visions for future

Position 3 hopefuls see possibilities, urgency to make improvements

By , Columbian Staff Writer
Published:

Battle Ground city officials spent a lot of time in 2018 discussing the future visioning plan for the city, asking residents what they want to see from Battle Ground. The three candidates vying for open Position 3 on the council in the Aug. 6 primary also have their ideal visions for the city.

Candy Bonneville said being on the city’s planning commission gave her a close seat to watch the process play out, and she wants what many residents want for the future.

“We want Battle Ground to continue to have a town-and-country feel,” she wrote in an email. “Right now, we have the best of both worlds. We have access to most (conveniences) right here in town, while maintaining a small-town atmosphere where neighbors talk to neighbors, and we are minutes away from parks and open undeveloped areas.”

Neil Butler said his vision also aligns with the findings from the planning process, which he also called the most important undertaking by the council.

“Battle Ground is more than a suburb of somewhere else,” he wrote in an email. “It is a strong and vibrant community that needs to shake off the dust and get back and show its citizens why they love living here.”

Candidates

Candy Bonneville

Age: 59.

Public offices held: currently serving on Battle Ground Planning Commission.

Occupation: CoreLogic Credco, combined 35 years in supervisory management, project management, disaster relief and business continuity planning.

Neil Butler

Age: 36.

Public offices held: none.

Occupation: Retail management.

Shauna Walters

Age: 44.

Public offices held: none.

Occupation: Student at Washington State University Vancouver studying management information systems, 12 years’ service as a military combat medic.

Shauna Walters said she appreciates the work done already in the vision process, and she thinks the city needs to be known for something that will bring people in. She specifically mentioned the city’s interconnected trail network initiative. Walters also wants to see the city focus on infrastructure improvements.

“We currently have more traffic moving through residential areas in order to avoid the traffic on Main Street,” she wrote in an email. “This creates a safety hazard for children playing in neighborhoods and causes more wear-and-tear on streets that were not designed for heavy traffic; 20th Avenue, particularly the section south of Main Street, is in desperate need of repair.”

Walters also founded the North County Sons and Daughters of Liberty, and led a group of supporters to push for Yacolt to pass a resolution speaking out against Initiative 1639, a gun control measure approved by state voters last year. She is one of the Liberty candidates running for office partly due to concerns about what 1639 means for Washington residents and gun owners.

Fire district annexation

There has been talk recently of the city being annexed into Fire District 3, which has provided services to Battle Ground since 2016. To do that would require a public vote that includes residents in Battle Ground and all of Fire District 3’s coverage area of rural Battle Ground, Hockinson, Brush Prairie and Venersborg. City officials have said they’d like to run the vote in February, giving the city council until December to work out the details and vote to put an ordinance on the ballot next year.

The biggest change for residents would be a new fire levy to pay for those services. Currently, the city uses 21 percent of its general fund to pay for the contract with Fire District 3, which amounted to roughly $3 million this year.

Walters wrote that the city currently doesn’t have a sustainable model for providing fire protection and emergency medical services, and if the city continues with the current contract, it will result in a deficit. She said that ultimately the decision will have to be made by voters, but annexation would allow for more future planning and expansion, if needed, as the current fire station is in poor condition and is too small to accommodate growth.

“Safety is not an issue that we can compromise on,” she wrote. “If the levy does not pass, discussions will have to be had about cutting the public safety budget, which could mean less police officers on our streets. Previous surveys of Battle Ground residents indicate that public safety is the number one concern.”

Butler said he thinks annexation is the best option for the future of fire service in the city.

“We don’t need to re-create the wheel and have multiple redundancies in structure and organization,” he wrote. “As a council member, I will represent the will of the people. However the vote turns out, I support and encourage the best possible outcome and will stand behind it.”

City officials have said that money currently spent on the fire contract would be directed to other city services, or lowering city taxes to help offset the cost of the new fire levy. Bonneville said she’s never in favor of taxes going up, but that was an enticing option to her.

“If that’s the case, then it feels like most of that will even out,” she wrote. “If I had to present this item to the voters, it would be to highlight the expansion of services with a possible second fire station and more staff working to keep our city safe, and to frame out exactly how the tax structure changes so people know what they are paying and where the money is being spent.”

Other issues

When asked about others issues important to them, infrastructure came up repeatedly. Butler said he would focus on roads and public safety.

“Getting these projects done correctly will make great inroads to building and strengthening the livability of the community,” he wrote. “Public safety needs to be fully addressed. Our law enforcement in Battle Ground is an incredible asset to the safety of our citizens. That being said, they need the resources and staffing to help them be successful. I am committed to working within the budget to allocate those needs appropriately.”

Walters said homelessness increasing around the region has brought more homelessness to the city, and she attended the most recent meeting of Just One Thing, an initiative started in the city recently to work on providing services to those in need.

“The ‘hand-up’ approach or the ‘teaching a man to fish’ approach seems to be the longest-lasting and most impactful ways to help,” she wrote. “The program is intended to connect our homeless and at-risk of homeless population with existing resources such as counseling, food banks, health clinics, clothing closets and job placement services to empower them to pull themselves out of their own situations.”

Bonneville also said infrastructure is important for the city, as well as bringing in another community space.

“The city could benefit from some sort of community activity center like a YMCA, Boys & Girls Club,” she wrote. “It would be nice to have a safe and affordable place that offers activities and wellness programs for children, families and seniors.”

Columbian Staff Writer

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