Candidates tackle housing, economic system, out of doors recreation at Lead Metropolis Fee discussion board | Native Information


LEAD – Affordable housing development, the growing local economy, outdoor recreation and financial responsibility were the topics of the night when three candidates from the city commission discussed how they wanted to help shape the future of Lead.

Lead Resident Gordon Phillips hosted the Candidate Forum, held at the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor’s Center, where Roger Thomas, Kayla Klein and Dustin Heupel answered written questions from a whole house of lead residents. The three candidates are running for two seats, which will be vacated by Commissioners Joel Edgar and Don Mack.

Each candidate repeatedly expressed a desire to be part of the changes that come with the development of the Sanford Lab, the increase in sales taxes, and increased interest in the area as a recreational destination. Each of them outlined very different levels of experience to guide the city into its new growth.

Roger Thomas has lived in Lead for 36 years, raised a family here and worked for the city for 24 years. Thomas, who attends practically every meeting of the commission due to the pandemic, pointed out two city department heads ready to retire this year. He said his wealth of knowledge and experience running city departments is very valuable in overseeing responsible growth in the city.

“The reason I run is because the city gave me a lot when I worked for them and I want the opportunity to give something back,” said Thomas. “A lot will change for Lead in the next two years. There will be changes in the town hall and in some of the departments that run the city. I want to be a voice that, in my experience, will help lead the city into the future. Lead becomes a target city along with recreation and the laboratory. There are many issues that Lead faces in terms of housing, infrastructure, and roads and I want to be part of that change. “

Klein agreed that big changes are imminent at Lead, and said she has the experience, passion, and love for this community to make a positive difference in that growth. Klein, who helped open and operate the First Step Childcare Center in Deadwood, said she raised $ 800,000 for that facility and paid off $ 500,000 in debt there. She also served as president of the Handley Center board of directors as she and her husband Matt Klein worked to bring Lead-Deadwood’s Boys & Girls Club to the community and set the struggling Handley Center on a path of significant growth and development bring.

“It was a great time watching the community grow and attending events to help each other,” said Klein, as she shared her commitment to the community for promoting and celebrating lead. “Lead is lucky and there are many opportunities for change and advancement in the church. There are so many amazing things that can be done here. “

Born and raised in Lead, Heupel left for a few years but then returned to raise his family in the community he loves and said he was running to give citizens a voice on the commission. Heupel, general contractor and president of the Northern Hills Recreation Association, who was also a board member of the Handley Center when the Boys and Girls Club was founded, said he wanted to use all of that experience to lead. He attends almost every meeting of the city commission and said he wanted to bring the commission back to account to the citizens.

“No disrespect to our current or past commissioners, but I really felt that the voice of the community is often not heard or enforced,” said Heupel. “I think we have had a lack of accountability when it comes to meeting the demands of the people in the city.”

All candidates agreed that the city needs to work with area developers to incentivize and provide more affordable housing for the emerging workforce and the influx of residents expected over the next few years. Given the record high cost of housing and infrastructure development, Heupel and Thomas suggested that the city consider revising its current ordinances.

“Many of our regulations came into force many years ago,” said Heupel. “Modular houses are not allowed. But these houses were different from a modular house today. If we look at our regulations and maybe tweak or change some of them, we can get more affordable housing. “

In the treatment of the property tax mill tax and the increasing assessments, all candidates pointed out that the city has been steadily reducing the mill tax for several years. Heupel suggested that the city try to add more houses to the tax list in order to increase tax revenue without raising taxes.

“I would love to see it stay where it is and keep trying to add more houses to our tax list, be it in the south or other areas that are not currently paying (city) property tax,” he said .

Sales taxes have been at record levels in recent years, and all candidates agreed that the city has tax responsibility in its quest to hold onto these funds for a “rainy day”. However, Klein said the city should also use this money to make “outward-looking” improvements that make lead attractive to families who want to move here.

“We need to use this time in history to bring lead back to its full size,” she said. “It’s great, we just have to keep rolling. The splash pad in the park was a home run. That was a big change on the outside. I would like to see something like this happen too. I want to encourage families who want to come here and move. “

Klein was also the only candidate who looked at the need for childcare to allow for more economic development.

“I just had a business development call today and Brookings had a great opportunity to bring a big company to the community. They lost it because the company realized there wasn’t enough sustainable childcare, ”she said. “I raised $ 80,000 a year to run a quality childcare center. These children need to be looked after with all the staff who come in. Since we have a high quality early childhood care center and a pre-school and post-school program here, we show that we care for the children in this community. It’s a big deal for companies. If you don’t have reliable childcare, you don’t have reliable staff. We know the population is growing, so we need to build a space for these children. “

While other candidates agreed on the importance of quality childcare, Heupel said infrastructure, housing and recreational development are paramount in attracting more residents. “We have to be able to hold and appeal to these people and these companies,” he said. “I know a lot of lab workers who came in and we didn’t have the accommodation and the convenient ways to walk. We didn’t have what it takes as a city to get these people to commit to living in lead. So you live in Whitewood or Spearfish. We must continue to make our city attractive in order to live here permanently, and not just come, work and live elsewhere. “

Recreation was also a hot topic among the candidates, who have all worked to nurture Lead’s outdoors in a variety of roles. Heupel said while the lab will be the city’s economic engine in the short term, Lead’s access to outdoor recreation is the “gem” of its economy as interest has grown exponentially. Heupel, who has been an active contributor to responsible ATV / UTV track development on the Northern Hills Recreation Association’s Trails Development Committee, said, “I only see good things that come with increased recovery,” he said.

Thomas agreed, saying, “Lead is becoming a recreational destination with ATV / UTV usage. The numbers rose by more than 300 more than before in the past year. They are coming. We have to develop a system of paths. We have a good inner city. We have a good grocery store. We have a good economy in this city and area, all of which are visited by the tourists and people who come. That will drive lead into the future. “

The election for the Lead City Commission will take place on April 18th. The surveys will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center.

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