Pace Drywall on East Main Street in Canton conducted a candidates' forum on Wednesday night. About 20 people attended the forum to learn more about the candidates running in Tuesday's nonpartisan election.
Advance voting continues today from 8:30 to 5 p.m. at the Cherokee County Elections Office in Canton and the Woodstock Public Library. The polls will be open on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Canton City Hall.
Ward 1 candidate Dr. Austin Flint, Ward 2 candidate Bill Staab and Ward 3 candidates Amy Turcotte and John Beresford attended the forum. Ward 2 incumbent Councilman Bill Bryan and Ward 1 candidate Bob Rush did not attend; Bryan was at a council committee meeting at the same time.
Revitalization of the downtown area was among the issues raised during the forum, during which audience members could ask questions. Pace Drywall's owners support further commercial development downtown.
In the summer of 2007, the Canton City Council approved an amendment to its Central Business District zoning ordinance to allow office and professional zoning along East Main Street from the downtown core to 750 E. Main St. Single-family residential is allowed east from that point with the exception of 870 and 890 E. Main St. Pace Drywall is at 890 E. Main St. and was one of the locations at the center of an intense debate over the direction of the district.
Flint said the owners of rundown houses in the downtown area would not spend the money to fix them up unless they could turn a profit.
"I would rather have a business like Pace Drywall next to me than a dilapidated, unrented house," he said, adding he could see office uses extending to Pace's location, "as long as it is something tasteful."
Rush said his feeling about East Main Street is to keep it "as residential as we can."
Staab said drawing a line at 750 E. Main St. was reasonable, but he would like to see the city government be more encouraging to people who want to renovate buildings.
"A lot of people would rather put a gun in their mouth" than deal with the city, Staab said.
Bryan said his stand is that the issue was settled with the amendment.
"The city has made a ruling and would hope that everyone would respect it," he said.
Mrs. Turcotte said she would be willing to consider proposals on a case-by-case basis throughout the East Main Street area.
"We have to consider all options," she said about the district. Mrs. Turcotte said allegations she is being supported by developers and former Mayor Cecil Pruett are not true.
Beresford said any houses not up to code should be required to meet it, but as far as residential vs. commercial, said the market would decide "what we need to do and where we need to go."
Both Flint and Staab also talked about the need for more downtown parking, and Staab and Beresford spoke about holding more events at the Canton Theatre to increase activity downtown.
Cherokee Sheriff Roger Garrison, who has made a $500 campaign donation to Mrs. Turcotte, attended the forum and asked the candidates about the proposed council and mayoral pay increase.
The measure, proposed by Councilwoman Pat Tanner, would increase annual council pay from $2,100 to $15,000, a 614-percent increase, and the mayor's yearly salary from $3,000 to $21,600, a 620-percent increase. The raises would go into effect on Jan. 1.
The council is scheduled to vote on the proposal on Monday, despite questions raised about whether such a vote is legal during election season.
During the forum, Flint reiterated his opposition to the proposal and his plans, if elected, to not take a salary. Staab stated his intentions to waive a salary if elected, and repeated his opposition to the raises.
Mrs. Turcotte voiced her opposition to the raise as well.
Bryan has previously come out against the raises as proposed.
Beresford, who spoke at the last council meeting in support of the proposal, at the forum said while he supports a pay raise, he does not favor as much of an increase as on the table.
Rush said he supports a smaller pay increase, such as Councilman Lester Cantrell's counter proposal of $6,000 annually for council members and $8,400 for the mayor.