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Former opponents face off again

Thu., Sept. 27, 2007

Three Hauser City Council incumbents and a fourth council hopeful are all running unopposed in the Nov. election.

Ed Peone, who’s been mayor for the last 15 years, is seeking re-election. Two current City Council members, Carmen Miller and Olita Johnson, want to retain their seats.

And Bill Madigan is unchallenged for a two-year council seat.

Meanwhile, in Athol, business owner Dan Holmes is again hoping to unseat incumbent Mayor Lanny Spurlock, who after 12 years in his position is seeking to retain his seat.

The two faced off in the last election, too.

Spurlock said initially he’d thought he might step down after his four-year term ends in December.

But he had a change of heart after several residents asked him to run for re-election, he said.

His supporters, he said, share his desire to maintain the rural lifestyle of Athol. “Growth is OK,” he said, “as long as the (local) people don’t have to pay for it.”

Spurlock said as mayor he’s been very frugal so as not to have to raise residents’ taxes. “Every year we could have upped it 3 percent, but we didn’t.”

Yet even on the city’s self-imposed fixed income, it’s managed to pay off two loans totaling $160,000 during Spurlock’s tenure.

“When I first took over,” he said, “the city was only paying interest. Those are paid off. We are debt free, which is unusual for a small town.”

Nevertheless, Spurlock said the city’s been able to repaint City Hall and its shop, build a second shop, replace some snow removal equipment, purchase property and double the size of the park, adding a sprinkler system and grass.

“And we’re not borrowing $1 million to do it all at once. We’re doing it as we can afford to,” he said.

He’s against building a multimillion dollar sewer system, he said, because septic tanks are sufficient in the town of 676, shown in 2000 census figures.

“The Department of Environmental Quality says we don’t need (a sewer system) until we have 1,100 residents. And there’s no way in the world we can get to 1,100,” Spurlock said.

Spurlock’s running on his achievements and fiscally responsible spending.

“We’ve made a lot of accomplishments and I’d hate to see it all torn apart now by growth for the sake of growth,” he said. “My main concern is: ‘What happens to the people of Athol?’ “Opponent Dan Holmes owns two businesses in town, KKJ’s Pizza and Movies and More. He believes city government is stuck in the past and would make it more progressive.

“I think the city needs people with a new vision. Not a vision of all-out growth and everything. But the growth is coming our way and we’re doing nothing to prepare for it,” Holmes said.

“We need to let the new growth be the driving force behind what will help us,” he said. “We need to manage the growth so the growth doesn’t manage us.”

In addition, he wants Rathdrum to protect the aquifer.

“We’re on the headwaters of the aquifer here and we’re the only city that isn’t treating its water except for Dalton Gardens,” he said, referring to the need for installing a city sewer system.

“Panhandle (Health Department) has wanted us to put in a sewage treatment plan for years and the city doesn’t want to pay for it,” Holmes said.

And while he doesn’t advocate building a sewer system overnight, he thinks the city should aggressively be socking money away for its future construction, which he believes governing agencies will eventually require.”I think we need to start preparing for the inevitable,” Holmes said of the process.

Holmes is also concerned about the possibility U.S. Highway could be rerouted.

“It’s the lifeline of our city,” he said.

Without the construction of two offramps near town, he said, drivers won’t want get off and shop in Rathdrum. That could kill several businesses, he said.

“If they’re going to give us an offramp at (exit) 54, we need an additional offramp somewhere around Parks Road and Remington,” he said.

“Tourist traffic coming through here is more apt to get off and spend a dollar in our city if they know they can get off (U.S. 95) and not have to double back” to get on the highway.

Holmes also wishes to see new baseball fields in town.

“It would be nice to have baseball fields that are updated, fields of dirt, not rock,” he said.

Additionally, a park with a building where kids could gather for all sorts of activities would be a wonderful addition to the community, he said.

“The kids in our area don’t have anything to do. A lot of kids tend to find things they shouldn’t do,” Holmes said. “Ideally, a nice city park where there’s a nice place for kids to do crafts and things” would be welcome.

“The reality is the money is not there. But it would be something to strive for.” Holmes said.

Holmes said his pro-active stance and desire to protect taxpayers from costly, potential city expenses makes him the best choice for mayor.

He’ll work to make sure funds are on hand to cover any future city expenses, he said.

“That way, if a situation does arise, the city’s planned for it and we’re not going to have to dig into our pockets to take care of it,” Holmes said.


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