Alvin councilman Terry Droege and his challenger for the Alvin City Council’s At Large 2 seat, Chris Sanger, spoke often about police pay and the comparisons to those of surroundings cities, as well as the importance of punctuality at council meetings during the Alvin Manvel Area Chamber of Commerce’s Candidate Forum at the Nolan Ryan Community Center on April 14.
Droege, an Alvin resident for 30 years, said he has always had an open door policy as councilman during his six years, one of those years as mayor pro-tem.
Despite his credentials, Sanger felt Droege has missed too many planned council meetings and been absent to vote on issues as a result of his family-owned electrical business. Droege said he has operated his business since 1994.
Sanger told an audience of about 50 people and many others via the Internet that he would attend every meeting to hear and vote on council items and make it a priority unless family issues dictated otherwise.
Later during the forum’s third line of questioning directed at them, Droege was the first to admit he had missed 25 council meetings due to his business and/or family but added that he had attended more than 200 meetings and workshops.
“Family and business is going to be my top priority, and then the city, because that’s the way I think it should be,” Droege said.
It appeared that attendance of City Council meetings was a sticking point for those in the audience, too, because the issue came up again during the forum when the men were asked what they thought a councilman’s role is.
Sanger said, “I respect you, Mr. Droege, I just think you’re too busy. I’m not too busy to do this position and step up and do what it takes.”
Droege responded: “A role of a councilman is to listen to the taxpayers. I am one of seven (councilmen) to complete something. It takes four others to get something done in this city so one person cannot stand up here and say they’re going to get something done for you, as I am not making no promises.”
Another question posed was how one’s business could help to fulfill the various roles of a councilman.
Droege said his role as an owner of an electrical company and overseeing 25 employees has helped him to budget and transfer that thinking over to the role of councilman. Late in the forum, he said the only thing could promise it he would continue to use “strong business and work ethics” as a councilman.
Sanger said being in the real estate business, he knows that in a 2010 study Alvin had a housing occupancy of 56 percent as compared to higher percentages in Friendswood (81 percent), Brazoria County (75 percent) and the U.S. (65 percent). He said he would find ways through his real estate knowledge to bring that percentage up.
Sanger’s first words of the evening were “we need your vote” and spoke about the needs the current City Council has not met. His first issue mentioned was better pay for the city’s police officers as compared to surroundings cities.
He said he would work to have the city’s police force be more competitive in terms of pay.
Every candidate was required to answer questions from the audience and had one minute to do so. Two questions from audience members centered on the pay for police officers.
The first question of the evening was what each thought was the city’s most pressing issue, why they thought it was the most pressing issue and their plans to fix that issue.
Droege mentioned pay for local law enforcement and that the city was “six officers down.” He said there are plans within the budget to meet that problem. Droege said there are plans to do this without raising taxes.
Among other pressing issues to Droege were upgrades to the city’s sewer and water but to see this come to fruition, it would cost $92 million for sewer and water lines that he said are more than 30 years old.
Sanger said Alvin police officers are paid around $10,000 less than Pearland and Friendswood officers. He said with higher-ranking officers, the disparity is nearly $20,000 compared to other cities. Sanger felt people’s perception that those cities have a higher tax base is the result in better pay, but said that is a “fallacy.”
Droege later suggested a charter change could be implemented to look at paying officers better. He also said monies from sales tax, drainage and other departments would be another way to study at moving funds around. He said he has personally spoken to police officials about those monetary possibilities.
Sanger said seeking out grants, business donations would be one way to tackle lower police pay. His role in daily business dealings would be ideal in this matter, he said.
“Put somebody like me on the phone with some of these companies to bring in more money into the city,” Sanger said.
When the two made their opening statements of two minutes each, Droege was first to speak. He mentioned how the City Council has updated the city’s infrastructure, its drainage, street improvements and the creation of a new animal control center. He also talked about the city’s parks improvements being met “within the restrains of the budget.”
Later in the forum, Droege said the downtown revitalization committee was formed to “bring business into the downtown where we could have more restaurants and people to congregate.”
“Hopefully that group can get some ideas bring them back to council and we can try to get some businesses in there and revitalize the downtown,” Droege said.
Sanger responded this way: “I would like to see people come out and let us know what they want for the downtown; part of our theme is revitalize Alvin, preserve history and those two are fine lines we have to walk.”
He said it’s a “sticky wicket” when a city like Alvin and its residents are trying to bring downtown improvements but not be “ultra-developed” like surrounding cities.
The two were also asked about bringing more business to Alvin.
The candidates differed on how monies totaling more than $300,000 from a Hotel Occupancy Tax fund could help bring business to the city. Sanger spoke first and said, “the ($314,000) fund is used to market Alvin as a destination.” But he said there could be ways to utilize Facebook to promote Alvin and zero in on demographics and people’s tendencies on that social website.
“I would like to use that $340,000 but you cannot use it to bring business into this town,” he said. “That’s tax dollars that is only meant to bring in ‘heads in beds’ tourism into town,” Droege said.
Droege said the council has continued to work with the city’s economic development and its director Larry Buehler and suggested making some kind of turnaround – perhaps giving tax incentives to potential businesses.
Sanger said the city water is poor in quality and that residents have told him “it’s disgusting to bathe in, let alone drink.”
This election cycle saw two more Alvin council seats up for grabs. But only two candidates signed up to run, one for each seat. Glenn Starkey will replace Stuksa, who was term limited out of office for the city of Alvin’s District D seat. Scott Reed will retain his District A.