Infrastructure, debt reduction, utilities and the debate on a new downtown Sound Transit parking garage were on the table last week during a Puyallup City Council candidates forum at the Best Western Premiere Hotel.
Joyce McDonald, the chair of the Pierce County Council, moderated the forum on Thursday. The event was a luncheon of the Puyallup-Sumner Chamber of Commerce.
Candidates were asked if city utility rate increases should be automatic each year and tied to inflation.
Corry Glucoft, running for Position 2 in District 1, said she would be open to small utility rate increases. Incumbent John Hopkins said an analysis of the utilities and their efficiencies is needed.
“Our utilities are sadly lacking in District 1,” Hopkins said.
Steve Hastings and Heather Shadko, both running for Position 2 in District 2, agreed that the current method on utility rate increases is not warranted.
“We need to stay focused on getting rid of our debt,” Hastings said. “(The city) has spent more than $6 million in debt service.”
Julie Door, running for Position 2 in District 3, said an analysis needs to be made to “make sure our revenue and expenses meet our needs.”
“We should be looking into efficiencies if we’re not meeting expenses,” Door said. “Then we need to educate our public of why we need the increases.”
Chris McNutt, Door’s opponent, said the city has some of the highest utility rates in the state.
“In January, we need to get those automatic increases stopped,” McNutt said. “As far as the new method, I am not supportive of automatic increases.”
Candidates also were asked what role city government should play in an attempt to grow the economy and attract new business to Puyallup.
Candidates supported streamlining permitting services to small businesses that want to relocate to the city, and also the establishment of a stronger economic development presence within city staff members.
“I would like the creation of an economic development commission,” Hastings said. “The commission would look outside the city to attract business and lay down an economic development foundation that is as simple as possible.”
McNutt also supported the idea. He advocated for the creation of an economic development specialist position that would act as a liaison between the city, chamber and business leaders.
Door supported hiring an economic development director and advocated for thoughtful development.
“We need to make sure businesses have a positive impact on the community,” Door said.
Glucoft, a small business owner in the downtown core, said the rate for a business license in Puyallup is very economical, but the process to get a license or to redevelop a building is difficult. She believes the Main Street Association has done well for the business community, but more needs to be done from a city standpoint. She also advocated for the hiring of an economic development director.
The forum closed with a discussion on locating a Sound Transit parking garage downtown to alleviate parking constraints.
“I support a Sound Transit parking garage,” Glucoft said. “The money is there, and we need to use it and work with Sounder. A parking garage can be a beautifully done structure.”
Shadko and Door also supported the idea.
“I am in support of a parking garage, but I’m not sure where to put it,” Door said.
Hastings was opposed.
“I support satellite parking out on the hill,” Hastings said. “All a parking garage would do would bring in more traffic through downtown. Satellite lots would ease traffic on Meridian. I’m also in support of a shared regional transit area in the valley.”