Candidates cite issues of growth, spending, development

By Bill Short

Three of the 11 candidates for alderman in the Nov. 6 Oakland city elections recently cited issues regarding growth, spending and development.

They were among participants in a Candidate Forum presented by the West Fayette Republican Club at its Sept. 27 regular monthly meeting.

Shawn Morgan said he and his wife moved to Oakland in 2008. And since then, they have watched as both the town and their family have grown. He said he wants to make Oakland a good place where families can grow and businesses can thrive.

Noting that he has a master’s degree in education, Morgan said he teaches mathematics at Christian Brothers High School, is chairman of the Math Department and one of the Junior Varsity baseball coaches.

“So, I keep my time pretty filled with serving kids, serving young people and also talking to parents who are in our school community,” he told the club members. “I think those aspects of my professional qualifications lend themselves well to being one of your next aldermen.”

Noting that Oakland’s residents call it “The Crossroads of North America,” Morgan said he wants to help the town live up to that name by attracting “quality” businesses and families, while growing “smartly” and “healthily.”

He said he will support “smart spending projects” that help the residents “grow the community together.”

“I’ve got a 15-month-old son,” he noted. “And I’d like Oakland to be a great place where he can grow up and not have to drive to Bartlett to visit his grandparents and go to the park.”

Acknowledging that he has been knocking on as many doors as he could during the past month, Morgan said he will continue to do so until Nov. 6. He said he recently told his wife that, along with marrying her and giving his life to Christ, running for alderman is one of the best decisions he has ever made.

“If honesty, youthful determination and a willingness to work hard are qualities that you want in your next board of aldermen,” he concluded, “I would appreciate your consideration for the job.”

Billy Ray Morris said he grew up in the “lower end” of Moscow and attended Fayette County public schools. He and his wife have three children and five grandchildren.

“All my folks are from Somerville,” he noted. “If you had a house built in the 1940s or ‘50s, the Morrises pretty well built it.”

Morris recalled that, when he was in high school, even the residents of Oakland did not like the town, because it was a community that was “just different.” Today, he said, it is one of the “prime spots” in Fayette County.

Noting that he is chairman of the Oakland Planning Commission, Morris said the town wants to have a “careful, conformed growth idea.” And that is what he wants to do with Highway 64.

“I do not want to turn it into a place like out there at Cordova,” he said. “You can run up and down Germantown Parkway, and you just get lost.”

Morris said the planning commission has discussed “doing it in clusters,” such as with restaurants or other retailers grouped together.

“That’s the way Oakland should be planned out,” he contended. “It shouldn’t be a place where signs are to the sky.”

Morris also said he would like to see the old downtown area of Oakland developed in “stages,” so that a “water park” could be constructed on the greenbelt, and residents could bring their grandchildren.

“So, when you drive through, instead of shaking your head and griping,” he said, “you want to stop there, get out, take your kids and walk around. There would be something there that you would be proud of.”

Morris said he would like to see Oakland “invest in a bus” that would bring approximately 30 Fayette County Jail inmates to the town under the supervision of a deputy sheriff, and use them to cut the grass.

“Let’s put them out here with some weed-eaters,” he said. “I imagine every one of them already knows how to drive a tractor. So, let’s use them to save tax dollars here within the city.”

Bart Regan recalled that, after he ran for alderman in 2008 and was defeated by 21 votes, he “re-evaluated” what he did right and wrong in that campaign. He said he has spent the past four years “establishing contacts” in the community and getting involved in town government.

“I know that I’m perceived by many of you as the opposition to our present administration,” he acknowledged. “That’s true, and there’s nothing the matter with that.”

But Regan said that does mean he would be unable to work with Oakland Mayor Scott Ferguson if he is re-elected. While each of the other two mayoral candidates, John Evans and Robert Redditt, has a “different approach” than Ferguson, Regan said they all want what is “good for Oakland.”

Noting that he has served as chairman of the Fayette County Board of Equalization for the past three years, he said he has watched residential property values “sink like a rock,” while farm property values have increased. Citing the upcoming reappraisal year, he said the appraised value of Oakland’s houses could be decreased by as much as 25 percent.

“That’s going to have a drastic consequence on the tax rate,” he said. “So, we’re going to have to be real careful how we spend our money and where we spend our resources.”

Regan also agreed that Oakland needs a senior citizens center, a library and facilities where the children can play. While declaring that the town has taken a “good step forward” by appointing a new Parks and Recreation director, he said the youth activities should be coordinated.

“Now, we’re going to have to spend some money,” he noted. “And as far as I can see, the only way we’re going to be able to do that is to reallocate our resources.”

Regan said Oakland is beginning to see an increase in construction, which he called “encouraging.” He said that means more money will be coming into the town coffers.

“We’re beginning to see the economy coming back,” he concluded. “It’s going to be a while, and we’re going to have to watch our pennies until it does.”