The Daily Leader sent a series of questions to the three candidates running for two seats on the Madison City Commission, dealing with issues currently faced by city commissioners and issues that they may face in the future.
Jeremiah Corbin, Robert Thill and Kelly Dybdahl are the candidates appearing on the ballot in the April 13 city commission election.
Their responses are published this week in the order the candidates appear on the ballot.
According to Thill, who is a lifelong Madison resident, the city is a great place to live, work and raise a family. He and his wife Mary have raised three children -- Kristin, Nathan and Amy -- and also have five grandchildren. Thill is retired and was previously employed for 40 years with the Madison Public Works Department. He retired as a department foreman.
Thill has witnessed "many positive changes over the years" and emphasizes the community's positives, including Madison's "top notch" school system and nearby lake and rural farming communities.
1. Are there any skills or experience that you possess that would serve as an asset to the Madison City Commission? And what makes you stand out among the field of city commission candidates?
I am currently the Public Works Commissioner which oversees the streets and parks and served as Finance Commissioner for five years. With working 40 years for the City of Madison on the Public Works Department, I have experience to provide good leadership and provide direction with new infrastructure and upkeep on our roads.
Being I am retired, I can devote as much time as necessary to the Madison City Commission to assist in everyday issues and taxpayers' concerns.
2. What are three important issues that you believe the city commissioners will face during the next three years?
In my opinion, the three important issues that the City Commissioners will face during the next three years are: 1. Generating economic growth, including not only our industries and the jobs they provide, but also a vibrant and appealing main street. 2. Infrastructure and costs associated with maintaining the upkeep on our roads. 3. Continuing to maintain our utility rates to be competitive and in line with other cities our size.
As a Commissioner, I fully understand I am not spending just my own money, but also YOURS.
3. What's your opinion about the steps that city commissioners and other Madison officials have taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic? Has the city taken appropriate steps to help slow down the transmission of the coronavirus disease during the past year?
The City Commissioners listened to Governor Noem's executive order(s) for the State of South Dakota and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines to determine the appropriate steps to slow down the transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic in our community.
Based upon much discussion among the City Commission, a Resolution was placed to limit the number of patrons inside and outside, excluding employees, on restaurants, bars and casinos. It was also strongly recommended to wear face masks and maintain social distancing.
4. Madison's public schools were closed for two days in February due to a broken water main near the high school that shut down water service to the middle and high school buildings. Construction contractors and city officials are currently working on a water project that will install new underground utility mains in northeast and northwest neighborhoods. In total, the project is expected to cost more than $22 million. What's your opinion of the project that's intended to modernize water, sanitary-sewer and storm-sewer infrastructure in the city?
The City's infrastructure is 80 to 90 years old and consists of 8 inch, 6 inch and even some 4 inch utility lines which today's standards are 8 inch utility lines. With the growing of housing throughout Madison, currently in the northeast and northwest, we need to make sure we can supply adequate utilities for new housing as well as the same to the other parts of the City. It is important that we look at all areas within the City to evaluate where the infrastructure is most needed and to prioritize spending.
In regard to the water main break which shut down the middle and high school buildings, it was determined that water leak was in the school's service line. The school had to hire a private contractor to repair the water break in which City employees assisted with the repair for the schools to open.
5. Many Madison residents were aware for years of the city's need for more residential housing. City officials revised in recent years zoning rules that added townhomes into the mix for residential housing. In addition, they and the Lake Area Improvement Corporation have encouraged private developers to construct more housing in Madison. However, earlier this year, city commissioners did not act on a homeowner's request to change the zoning for land used for a residential home from manufacturing to residential to allow a home addition. Does the city provide equal treatment for homeowners and for private developers?
I feel the City requires private developers to jump through many more hoops when they are developing land. For example, the last two developers were required to put in underground sump pump systems.
The issue on the rezoning you are referring to deserves an explanation as to how someone rezones their property. I will not get too deep on this explanation, but the homeowner completes the forms necessary to get onto the Planning Board agenda. The Board listens to the homeowner's reasons as to why the zoning should be changed and the Board then either recommends or not recommends and submits their decision to the City Commissioners.
In this particular instance, the Planning Board voted 3 to 2 not to recommend the rezoning request. I am not pushing the blame onto the Planning Board (I know the buck stops with the Commissioners), but the City Commission takes many recommendations from the Planning Board in making their decision.