Both candidates for District 5 Springhill Council – Derek Melancon and Brandy White – responded to questions emailed by Webster Parish Journal.
Below are their answers in alphabetical order.
1. What are three steps you would take to improve the city’s financial stability?
Melancon: Currently, the City of Springhill’s 2022-2023 budget is balanced; however, there is always more that can be done to create a more stable financial situation. Some of these include: Brainstorm with others, searching and identifying new ways to generate revenue to the city. Increase the tax base by annexing nearby areas into the city and attracting new businesses. Take advantage of grants that can be used for new and existing projects. Review all contracted services to make sure the city is getting the best prices for the services. It is important to look for ways to eliminate any waste in the budget and to not be afraid to identify negatives and make the best decisions for the city and its citizens.
White: As a first-time alderman, I would first assess all records, and then make recommendations following my detailed assessment. Thirdly, work collaboratively with fellow aldermen and city officials to enact plans, while having the best interest of the city and its citizens in mind.
2. What do you propose to bring more businesses to the city?
Melancon: The City of Springhill has much to offer a business considering locating in the community. Our city has a strong hospital, several large retailers, mom and pop stores, community buildings, boutique and gift shops, and the single largest single screen theater in Louisiana. These draw people from several miles away to shop and do business. However, unfortunately, a business owner thinking of locating a new business to Springhill, would first notice the condition of the city. There are properties that are overgrown and unkempt, in need of repair, or that simply need to be completely taken down. Such areas mar the appearance of the community. Main Street is quaint, and several businesses are making some big strides in making things better, but the city needs all property owners to follow the example of those making a difference. Basically, the number one thing that needs to be done to not only attract new businesses to the city, but also visitors, is to do a general cleanup of the city. City leaders need to take the lead and meet with and encourage property owners to become stakeholders in making positive change in the city. We often hear “It’s always been done that way”, or “It won’t work in Springhill”. We must work together to change the mindset to “How can we make it better?”
If the City of Springhill is to attract visitors to the community, it must provide reasons for them to come to the city. As said earlier, a city-wide cleanup must take place. We must strive to complete several projects that are currently in the works, including a splash pad, new pavilion, improved recreation areas, and an amphitheater, all centered around the heart of the community. In addition, it is imperative that a marketing campaign should begin, utilizing resources such as the Webster Parish Tourism and Visitors Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Main Street Program, promoting new business and events. We must show others the really wonderful things available in our city.
White: There has been work done on adjudicated and blighted properties. These efforts need to be heightened to include business and the city’s common areas. Beautification would aid in attracting and retaining businesses. Those overall beautification efforts will cause traction within the city and will offer opportunities for events to grow and even blossom. When there are attractions and events visitors follow.
3. What are the pressing needs in your district and how do you propose to address them?
Melancon: Drainage – Over the years, ditches fill with debris and drainpipes begin to break down, causing a lack of drainage. This greatly affects District 5, as well as other areas. The poor drainage leads to flooding. Unfortunately, the city has not been able to keep up with these issues. Some of the drainage issues can easily be solved using the current resources the city already possesses. For example, overgrown and non-functional ditches can be dredged and cleaned. Other issues will require finding funding, including grants, to help pay for the repair and replacement of damaged pipes and such.
Road Repair –Several years ago, a company replaced roads in several areas of Springhill. These repairs have not held up, and like many parts of Springhill, District 5 has several areas in need of repair. The city is currently in litigation over the substandard work performed by the contractor. This litigation has been going on for several years and needs to be addressed in order resolve this problem. In the meantime, the damaged areas of our roads continue to become worse. To address this issue the city will need to meet and discuss with the attorneys handling this issue on how this can be resolved as quickly as possible so those roads can be replaced. My experience in dealing with litigation in my job gives me some insight on how to work to handle this issue.
Water Lines – The City of Springhill is working to upgrade the city’s water system. Phase 3 of the water line system includes District 5. Unfortunately, this work has been put on hold due to cost restraints. There are currently some things happening at the state level which should help get this project back on track, and we must be vigilant to ensure that the work on the water system continues and is completed.
White: District 5 is a district where neighbors are naturally connected to each other, and I would like to foster further connectedness to keep our district beautiful and fruitful for families.
4. Would you be in favor of broadcasting city council meetings to the public via social media like Facebook or YouTube? Why or why not?
Melancon: The stakeholders of the city need to know what is happening in the city. Council meetings are currently open to the public to attend, but not all people are able to attend at the time of the meeting. Broadcasting live or recorded versions of the meetings would allow more citizens to view meetings at times convenient for them, thus enabling them to become involved and informed.
White: Absolutely. Citizens of Springhill should be able to see the inner workings of their government, and this will encourage more civic duty amongst citizens.
5. What do you see as the top priority for your city and why?
Melancon: Economic Development – Currently, the City of Springhill has no long-term Economic Development Plan. Without a viable plan, the city will not be able to move forward and will continue to simply manage the day-to-day activities of the city. Three-, five-, and ten-year plans should be developed by committees including area business leaders, the City Council, and local citizens. These plans should focus on not only current businesses as well as future businesses. Also, residents must be encouraged to become ambassadors for Springhill and promote the community. The City of Springhill needs to know the direction it needs to go in order to achieve business growth, attract new families, and move forward to a prosperous future.
White: I truly believe that public service is a responsibility we all share, and I am ready and willing to share my contributions, best efforts and time towards the well-being of our community. I hope this example I set will be a positive influence encouraging citizens to get involved throughout all districts of Springhill.
The election is Tuesday, November 8.
Early voting is Oct. 25 through Nov. 1 (excluding Sunday, Oct. 30) from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. at the registrar’s office in the courthouse.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Nov. 4 by 4:30 p.m (other than military and overseas voters). You can request an absentee ballot online through the Voter Portal or in writing through your Registrar of Voters Office.
The deadline for a registrar of voters to receive a voted absentee ballot is Nov. 7 by 4:30 p.m. (other than military and overseas voters).
On election day, the polls are open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. If you are unsure of your voting precinct, please call 377-9272.