Two candidates for Philip City Council

Two people, Greg Arthur and Trisha Larson, are running for one open seat on the Philip City Council. The Tuesday, April 14, election will determine who will fill the two-year term for Ward III. Five questions have been given to be answered by each candidate.

Why are you running for the city council at this

particular time?

Larson: "When my husband, Ron, and I moved back to Philip to be close to our families, we knew it would take commitment to the community to help make it the best it can be, with an even brighter future, for our children. Though I think Philip is a great community and good place to raise a family, I've observed some shortcomings that I feel should not just be accepted as "small-town living." I'm interested in learning how our city government is operated and our tax dollars appropriated, to understand where changes need to begin."

Arthur: "As a previous council member, of which I had to resign when I moved into another ward, I have a grasp of what city government does. The challenges of working for the citizens of Philip are of great satisfaction and the growth and well-being of the community is essential."

What is the most important issue before the council

at this time?

Larson: "Growth. To keep small town living affordable, Philip needs to increase its tax base by attracting new residents. I was astounded to learn that Philip property owners pay nearly five times more in city property taxes than Rapid City property owners. With property assessments rapidly increasing, Philip homeowners are struggling with rising taxes. The city has three sources of income: grants, property taxes and sales tax. In order to resolve the property tax issue, we need to cut city spending or increase our tax base with growth and increased local sales. To attract new residents, the city needs to offer incentives and fulfill the needs of the people, including recreational and day care facilities, along with affordable living. We need to start focusing on growth and scrutinizing where our tax dollars are being spent."

Arthur: "Lake Waggoner is very important, along with current construction projects, streets and economic development. Citizens must realize that the city is limited in the amount of income it receives. The council is responsible for doing the best it can with the money it brings in. New land for the restricted rubble site is very important, as the current location has only one pit left."

What are your strengths

for being on the council?

Larson: "I'm not a "yes man." I don't accept things just because "that's just how it is." I ask questions and do my own research if I'm not satisfied with an answer. I am also open-minded and interested in hearing other people's ideas and opinions. As an engineer designing software for military aircraft and ground vehicles, I have lots of experience working with teams. I feel I can bring fresh ideas from my experiences of living in Cedar Rapids, which has a strong focus on family recreation and education. Sometimes it just takes a new perspective to make change happen."

Arthur: "My experience as a past council member gives an edge during this election. It is very hard to enforce ordinances that affect your friends and neighbors, but it still needs to be done to have a progressive community. I have received phone calls from citizens who have complaints, and I always try to be fair and get them an answer."

What do you suggest for

more public involvement

in city concerns?

Larson: "The people need to feel empowered and feel like they have a voice in our government. To encourage more public involvement, the council needs to provide a comfortable forum for people to be heard. I've heard many times in the last few months, "You can't fight City Hall." The public clearly feels that it's the public against city government. This is a small community and those barriers need to be removed so we can work together. Our community is strengthened by volunteers. Most of our recreational facilities exist because of the many people and volunteers that make it happen. It's important that more people do get involved in volunteer programs and organizations; because this is your town and the city can't support and organize everything."

Arthur: "It is a shame that more people do not come to city council meetings and get involved. So many people in Philip do so much volunteer work and they are the same ones. They get burned out and then who takes over?"

What are your views on how much money is needed for the city and how it is being spent?

Larson: "I was surprised by the city's mill levy and the cost, per capita, to operate a small town. So, I'm going to answer this question with several more questions ... Are the fees the city is paying, for any given service, too high? Are we spending in areas that will promote growth or benefit the tax payers? I specifically question why we've been employing the same engineering consulting firm for many years with no competition? Are their rates still competitive? I've read many varying values placed on the cost to repair the Lake Waggoner dam, ranging from $250,000 to half a million dollars, so it's difficult to determine what the real estimate is. However, is it possible we're now looking at higher costs because it never got completed the first time, when money was allocated for proper repair? Why are we reserving tax dollars for and having architectural plans drawn for a municipal building, when the city has immediate needs? Nobody can question the need for additional day care facilities when Small Pine Day Care has had a two-plus year waiting list for over two years. How can we bring in new families when we can't offer them child care? These are questions that, if elected, I will be presenting to the council. Not to attack, but to understand where these numbers are coming from and what the city's real operating costs are. I understand that being a mayor or council member is a thankless job, and I commend everyone for all their invested time and hard work."

Arthur: "The improvements in the city are tied directly to how much money it brings in. If less money is brought in, then the fewer services can be offered. Take notice of how many projects and improvements have been done since I left the council in 2007. Projects take several years to plan and implement. Philip is not the same community as it was in 2002 when I began my term, all improvements have been done with tax money."