The Lake Ozark Board of Aldermen and Mayoral candidates answered questions and discussed topics of importance to the community on Thursday, March 21, at Heritage Elementary School.
The Candidates answered questions compiled by local media outlets and submitted by the community.
Professors Marvin Schulteis and Jim Pasley, frequent guests on KRMS Radio, moderated the forum. The event was hosted by the Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, in an effort by the chamber to create constructive dialogue in affairs that affect the Lake community. The event was co-hosted by KRMS Radio, The Lake Sun/LakeNewsOnline and LakeExpo.com.
The participants were the two candidates for Lake Ozark Mayor—Incumbent Mayor Johnnie Franzeskos and Lake Ozark Alderman Gerry Murawski— and Aldermen Candidates for Ward 1—Incumbent Alderman Judith Neels and Keith Vance—and Aldermen Candidates for Ward 2—Incumbent Alderman Dale Hicks and Larry Giampa.
Each candidate was given one minute to respond to each question. For brevity, this is a brief and condensed summary of the answers. To view the full event, visit the saved live-stream at www.krmsradio.com/lake-ozark-candidate-forum/
Question No. 1 - What was the motivation for you to run for office and what sets you apart as a candidate from your opposition?
Giampa: I have been an alderman for 12 years. I know how to bring money into the village and taxes are not the only way. I also want to improve property values.
Alderman Hicks: I have lived in Lake Ozark since 2006, and I have 25 years of experience as a federal administrative judge where I dealt with the USDA Rural Development housing programs. I will take a common-sense approach to making improvements.
Mayor Franzeskos: I have served as mayor for 12 years and the city has moved forward, and I believe we have the capability to make it go farther.
Murawski: I believe I can add value by taking the city to another level in economic development and affordable housing.
Alderwoman Neels: I have been an alderman for 11 years. I can work with anyone, I am transparent and available. Before I make a decision, I put a lot of research behind it.
Vance: I have lived in Lake Ozark since 2007. I’d like to see good progress that will enrich both business and residents.
Question No. 2 - What do you feel are the three most challenging issues in Lake Ozark and how do you plan to address them?
Alderman Hicks: 1. My main goal will be getting the police department up to full capacity with both employees and equipment. 2. Using the road analysis to make road improvements. 3. We need to ensure city employees are paid well and retained.
Alderwoman Neels: 1. Infrastructure. Our transportation fund is the lowest, we need to work on city road conditions. 2. Improve employee salaries. 3. Work with developers and investors to bring business into the city.
Murawski: 1. Roads, we will eventually do a bond issue and we need to figure out how to pay for the bonds. 2. Economic development, we need to get away from just tourism and broaden our spectrum to advanced manufacturing. 3. Affordable housing; the average income is lower than the cost of housing.
Mayor Franzeskos: 1. Roads. Have a work session to discuss how to fix our roads, bonds are the only way. 2. We need another section of workforce and senior citizen housing. 3. More family activities on the Strip.
Keith Vance: 1. Infrastructure. 2. Take care of our city staff from police to public works, everyone who serves. 3. Affordable housing should be discussed and family-oriented activities on the Strip.
Larry Giampa: 1. Work with the survey to improve roads. 2. Well-paying jobs for our kids when they become adults, we need to go after companies and bring them in to the city. 3. Better pay for police so they don’t leave.
Question No. 3 - The city recently released a report detailing the condition of streets along with projected costs to improve the roadway system within Lake Ozark. What are your recommendations to fix the city’s street system, taking into account the Lake Ozark budget?
Alderwoman Neels: Citizen involvement with a committee to come up with an answer to financing road improvements.
Vance: Examine the road study. Look at the budget and see where we can trim expenses.
Mayor Franzeskos: The only way is to get money for roads is to pass the bonds.
Giampa: More money from Missouri tax and a bond, after trying to get money from other people.
Murawski: It will be a bond, but we need to spread the project over three years.
Alderman Hicks: Hold sessions to get ideas and a bond issue.
Question No. 4: The Bagnell Dam Strip is a major tourist attraction not only for the city but the lake area in general. What do you see as the future of the Strip and what would be your priorities to increase the visibility and appeal of the Strip to visitors?
Vance: Improve what exists and have more family activities.
Giampa: Parking and more family activities.
Murawski: Parking, a transportation development district proposed to the voters to build a parking garage, a couple of trolleys and more inexpensive family activities.
Alderman Hicks: More family-oriented businesses and we need to encourage entrepreneurs to do business in the city.
Mayor Franzeskos: Parking and family events.
Alderwoman Neels: Encourage investors and build more of a family atmosphere.
Question No. 5 - What role can the city take in developing affordable workforce housing and a quality of life to attract and keep young people from leaving the area.
Giampa: Find a location, get a developer, get costs and then go after government financing.
Alderman Hicks: We need industry and business. We need to encourage developers to come and we need to work with federal agencies for financing.
Franzeskos: We need more employers in the city, so we need to develop more business.
Alderwoman Neels: Grow job opportunities, offer training and education for students by working with the schools.
Murawski: We need good jobs and training in technology for kids. We need to form a community development committee and we need to go after state and federal financing.
Vance: Court housing developers and investors. We need more community involvement.
Question No. 6 What is your position on using tools such as Tax Increment Financing Districts to promote economic development within the city?
Alderman Hicks: I am a pessimist. We spend a lot of money on them and we see very little back.
Alderwoman Neels: We should look at TIFs on an individual basis. If it doesn’t take so long to receive tax revenue, if someone develops a blighted area, or if it brings in jobs and improves the community, then yes.
Murawski: TIF is a tool. It should be something that would not have been done without a TIF. Make sure it is a win-win for both sides.
Vance: I am not opposed to TIFs, but it should be structured so we don’t have to wait so long for a return on our investment. Yes, if it improves a blighted area.
Mayor Franzeskos: We have enough TIFs. We have three now. We are not big enough for more.
Larry Giampa: We should find the right people for the TIFs and aggressively go after them.
Question No. 7 Would you support efforts to annex areas currently outside the geographic boundaries of Lake Ozark to grow the city?
All of the candidates agreed they would be open to annexation, except Larry Giampa, who said the city needed to take care of what it already has before taking on more.
Question No. 8 How do you plan to work together with your fellow aldermen to ensure a responsible and effective city government?
Vance: Having been a career cop I have found it is easy to work with people from all walks of life.
Giampa: We have the same goals and we are a team, we should be open to the opinions of others and get along.
Murawski: It takes communication and listening skills.
Alderman Hicks: You can work with people if you are willing to listen.
Mayor Franzeskos: It all boils down to doing the best we can to represent our citizens and wanting the city to move forward.
Alderwoman Neels: Most importantly, we should respect each other, even if we do not agree.
Question No. 9. How can you as an elected city official ensure transparency and improve communication with the public?
Giampa: We should represent the public. We should do a newsletter four times a year, give out our phone numbers and have our ears open to the public and address their concerns.
Alderman Hicks: Inform the public of our meetings and work sessions and meet with them to talk to gain input.
Mayor Franzeskos: Communicate with the people by getting out where they are and talking to them.
Alderwoman Neels: Be available, give out our phone numbers, always be ready to listen and hold community meetings.
Murawski: Doing quarterly forums like this and keep our people informed.
Vance: Continue to be transparent and put everything online, as we can afford it.
Closing Comments – 2 minutes per candidate
Alderman Dale Hicks: I ask you to consider what I have accomplished in the last two years. I’d like to finish the job I started and finish the policies and procedures manual to protect the city from lawsuits.
Alderwoman Judith Neels: The city has progressed, and I hope it will continue to progress with affordable housing, a healthy environment and a beautiful place to live and do business.
Keith Vance: As a homeowner, I have a vested interest in the city. I see the potential of the city. I respect the history and traditions here. I have volunteered with a victim’s advocate group to help rebuild lives. I have served on a board and I have held elective positions. I am not seeking personal gain and I do not have a personal agenda. I want to make a positive contribution.
Larry Giampa: I am not running because I think the mayor and board are doing a bad job, they are doing a great job. I am running to add a little different viewpoint. I want to bring back the family atmosphere. We need to take care of our youth and our retired population. I want people to make more money.
Gerry Murawski: I live for three things: economic development, to attend every meeting I can find to gain input and affordable housing. I think I can make a difference.
Mayor Johnnie Franzeskos: I ask that you look at the things we have done in the 12 years I have been in office; we have improved the stability of the finances of this city, we were in the red when I took it over. We added the 64-unit workforce housing and the 44-unit senior housing, storm sirens, the 242 construction, the TIF, we have an improved sewer and water system. We have new businesses. We had $12 million in new construction in 2018 and a new childhood center. I am proud of what has been accomplished and I would like it to continue.