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Published Fri, Oct 25, 2013 10:52 PM
Modified Fri, Oct 25, 2013 10:53 PM

Council hopefuls tackle questions

Bob Satterfield
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- ajames@newsobserver.com

In advance of the Nov. 5 election, the Clayton News-Star asked Clayton Town Council candidates five questions. Here are their answers to the first two. The other responses will appear in Wednesday’s edition.

Question: Clayton is one of the most expensive towns in Johnston County in which to live. How, specifically, would you reduce those costs? If you defend those costs, please justify them.

Bobby Bunn: According to City-Data.com, Smithfield was the most expensive town in Johnston County with a 2012 Cost of Living Index of 95.4. Clayton was the second most expensive at 95.1. The overall Cost of Living Index for Johnston County in 2012 was 82.6. For comparison, the town of Garner in Wake County was 96.3.

Using smart-growth practices can benefit a town’s budget by reducing costs of infrastructure like roadways and water systems. If elected, I would like to review the town’s infrastructure costs for possible savings. I would also like to look at reducing the utility costs for the town of Clayton by benchmarking with surrounding communities. These measures could potentially reduce the cost of living in the town of Clayton.

Michael Grannis: If you were to compare Clayton with other municipalities in the same population category in the Triangle, you would find that Clayton compares quite favorably with respect to being a very economically reasonable town in which to live.

The town provides many amenities not found in other municipalities, such as public art projects, greenway systems and park and recreation amenities, free concerts, a farmers’ market, The Clayton Center for the performing arts and a dog park, to name a few.

The town has replaced old infrastructure with new; repaired and improved numerous sidewalks and streets in the community, both of which will continue to be ongoing projects.

Clayton is a safe town to live in. Our police department is accredited by a national law enforcement agency. Our police department is one of a modest few in the state to receive this accreditation. Our crime rate is one of the lowest in the state. Our fire department continues to add required personnel, reducing response time to emergency situations throughout our community.

Eboni Harrell: Instead of reducing those costs, I would encourage the council to explore tax credits for affordable housing. There are currently some apartments in Clayton that cost over $1,000 a month. Builders of apartments would receive a tax credit, and they could pass the savings on to renters. The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers such tax credits in rural areas to encourage economic development. Tax credits allow all levels of income to buy homes of their choice within town limi

Art Holder: Within Johnston County, Smithfield is ranked as having a “higher burden” for taxes and local revenues. Clayton has a more favorable ranking than Wendell, Fuquay-Varina, Knightdale, Holly Springs, Southern Pines and Morrisville.

In addition, Clayton provides premium services to residents: an active lifestyle featuring free concerts on the square; a farmers’ market; an expanding parks and greenway system; The Clayton Center; seasonal curbside leave vacuuming; community policing with a notably low crime rate; a community center; an off-leash dog park; free use of computers in the library; thriving downtown nightlife; and cultural arts opportunities like free monthly art exhibits, two rotating outdoor public art projects and innumerable pottery and other craft classes.

In the past three years, Clayton has resurfaced 21,000 linear feet of streets; installed or replaced 7,700 linear feet of sidewalks; installed 23 handicap ramps at intersections; replaced 3,900 linear feet of sewer line; replaced 2,300 feet of water line; and erected a 1-million-gallon elevated water tank for reliable water supply and fire suppression.

John McFadden: Smithfield at 57 cents per $100 valuation has a higher property-tax rate than Clayton at 52.5 cents, but Clayton’s tax is much higher than other local municipalities.

I would definitely not raise taxes in my tenure, and I would seek out other cost-saving measures. I would also try to initiate a program to help the underprivileged who are having trouble paying their utility bills.

Bob Satterfield: I believe most people choose where to live. Their decisions are made by looking at the quality of life, schools, availability of parks and recreation and town services, which include fire and rescue, police, library and town government. Clayton’s services, I believe, are superior to any other town in this county.

Question: What are Clayton’s greatest transportation needs and what role should the town council play in meeting those needs?

Bunn: Clayton’s transportation needs include public transportation options and reducing traffic on highways 70 and 42. As a council member I would recommend exploring the possibility of partnering with the Triangle Transit Authority on the following: vanpools, buses and T-linx, a curb-to-curb transportation service for the handicapped.

Grannis: Some of the projects the town has moved forward with to ease the traffic burden and create a safe environment are:

• The Front Street Extension, which is currently under construction. This new artery will relieve some of the traffic congestion on NC 42 East.

• The town worked with the Johnston County school board to reduce the traffic congestion at West Clayton Elementary School during drop-off and pickup times.

• The town has created a comprehensive transportation plan allowing for right-of-way protection in new developments as they occur. This plan also calls for future connectors, most notably from Glen Laurel Road to Covered Bridge Road, allowing for reduced traffic flow into the downtown area and U.S. 70 Business and allowing for quicker emergency responses when required.

• The town has acquired more that $3 million in funding from the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization for greenway design and construction, sidewalk construction and street construction.

Harrell: The greatest transportation need in Clayton is for public shuttle service for residents who live within the town. I have talked with several residents who mentioned that it would be beneficial if there were a shuttle service to take them to various appointments and grocery shopping.

The public transportation service available serves many areas within Johnston County. The need is greater than the amount of vehicles available; therefore, my proposal would be to research ways to attain a shuttle service specific to Clayton that would allow residents to have access to public transportation on a 30- to 45-minute rotation and is easily accessible to the major businesses and medical facilities.

Holder: Clayton’s greatest transportation needs are cross-town freeways and connectors and rapid rail to Research Triangle Park. All the council can do is ask the Department of Transportation for these additions.

Any form of public transportation within the Town of Clayton would necessitate a substantial funding effort and probably a tax increase that I would not support. Nothing is free, and we must realize that everything has a cost to it. We must get away from the thought that something is free. If it is not costing you, it is costing someone. The town council is the steward of the taxpayers’ money. We have the responsibility of making sure we use the town revenue in the most cost effective and thrifty manner.

Also, the extension of Front Street has been a priority in Clayton for over 20 years. Front Street will be connected from the post office to N.C. 42 East by the end of this year with $1.2 million in grant funding secured by the town. This connection will help with convenience and emergency response and represents a major transportation improvement for the Town.

The town has a comprehensive transportation plan that is used to protect right-of-way corridors as development occurs. The town should follow this plan in its decision-making and development-review processes.

The transportation plan includes a south connector from U.S. 70 at N.C. 42 along the south side of town all the way to Guy Road. Important corridors through Cobblestone have already been protected. The plan includes a connection from N.C. 42 East at Glen Laurel Road to O’Neil Street/Covered Bridge Road. The first segment has been built through a partnership of the town and the DOT.

McFadden: The most glaring transportation needs are for the underprivileged residents of the north and northwest sides of town. Many need transportation to their jobs and doctors appointments and even to purchase groceries. I would work through Johnston County and try to reestablish a JCATS route through the north side.

Another serious problem is the lack of parking in downtown Clayton. Horne Square is a beautiful park, but it only has about 31 parking spaces. I believe that a parking garage should be built at Horne Square that would accommodate over 100 vehicles.

Satterfield: Transportation comes in different forms, from buses, taxis to sidewalks. JCATS is our current bus company that operates in Clayton and all around the county. It provides rides to every resident in town. All you have to do is call 919-934-6066 and set up a time for pick up. There is a nominal fee of $2.

The town has approved two taxi services to operate in the town, but they are more expensive.

We have also have a policy that all developers install sidewalks in the new neighborhoods that they build. If they choose not to, they pay a fee instead. That money goes into a sidewalk fund that provides new sidewalks in and around the town.

We are currently working on a project that will run from the Clayton recreation center all the way through the town to the north side of town.

The town of Clayton has a small bus that provides transportation for senior adult day trips, the Clayton youth council, summer day camps and special-needs camp, just to name a few.

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