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Jefferson City Council Fifth Ward candidates: Virginia Shetler


ABC 17 News is interviewing candidates for key races in the April election.

The interviews will air on ABC 17 News leading up to the April 2 election and will be posted online as they air.

ABC 17 News: Why are you running and what are your qualifications?

Virginia Shetler: I'm always interested in people having a choice. I love Jefferson City. We enjoy where we live. And I've always been of the opinion that Jefferson City is the biggest small town you'll ever be a part of. And I just want it to be cleaner, safer, and really for all of us to be more prosperous.

ABC 17 News: Does the city's parks commission need more city council oversight?

Shetler: What I think is that the city council is responsible for allocating funds to a lot of different departments. And then they're responsible for looking over the budget and approving or disapproving the budget of the Parks Commission, but the Parks Commission sets their own priorities.

I would like to see the Parks Commission using the funds in the Parks and Rec sales tax, which last year was over $6 million, this year is forecasted to be over $7 million, as their first funds for their projects, and not necessarily having to dip into the capital improvement tax funds that the city council allocates, for their needs, because they have a set aside set of dollars for their projects.

The parks in Jefferson City are beautiful. And, and I'm grateful to be sitting in one right now. It's a really beautiful space, people enjoy the parks. At the same time, I feel like those funds can be best allocated in the places of most need. And I think that's part of what our job is, as the City Council, is to be stewards of tax dollars. So when the when the Parks and Recs Commission has their own dollars from that Parks and Rec sales tax, I'd like to see them use those dollars first and see City Council more focused on making sure that that allocation of all city funds are going to the places of most need first. And that might place parks lower on the list because again, Parks has their own funding mechanism with that Parks and Rec sales tax.

ABC 17 News: How can Jefferson City best address its affordable housing shortage?

Shetler: Being as the city itself doesn't produce any housing, I think the best thing that the city can do is to work on the permitting process. So that developers when looking at sites, maybe have a faster track towards producing those affordable houses. And of course, remembering that there's a difference between affordable housing and low-income housing. Affordable housing is available to anyone who might need it.

And so we want to make sure that the permitting process when looking at a piece of land, if we're talking about a developer, particularly a developer, who already has a good relationship in the area, who hasn't been shown to be producing subpar homes, when they come into the area, we want to make sure that they get going and get those houses built as quickly as possible. Because we want to make sure that anyone who wants to live in Jefferson City can find a place that not only can they afford but that they want to live in.

ABC 17 News: Should the city bring back yard waste dropoff?

Shetler: Yeah, I was, it was kind of one of my favorite things about -- it happened in the midst of the campaign is that yard waste was discontinued. At least that's that's the wording that you know, we're hearing. I think there was a lot of frustration. There was a bidding process for, you know, for companies that wanted to do and take care of the yard waste, full stop. Right. And, and one of those bids was taken, I think, again, the city council did the right thing and taking a lower bid, $300,000, in the bidding process. That's a lot of funds that can be used in a lot of different ways. And that was the difference between the low bid for the yard waste and the next bid.

Ultimately, the citizens had concerns about going across the river to that low bidder. And so we came back, tried to look at or, excuse me, the council came back and tried to look at the next bids up. That seemed to have ruffled some feathers, and then it became the city needed to come up with a drop-off site and then handle the waste, the yard waste, themselves.

So a site was proposed and became open over over the winter. And that site was on a roundabout. Folks who were upset about the roundabout, they didn't like the idea of trying to maneuver trailers and things like that on the roundabout. And then the next proposal was people go back to, you know, maintaining yard waste, and they're on their own. So that might mean burning of yard waste, which of course, is, you know, all organic matter. And, and folks are upset about that, because that was gonna mean, you know, some neighbors burning in their backyard. And, you know, unfortunately, there's probably not a perfect solution for every single person.

But now we have the temporary site back open. It's been changed from maneuvering on and off the roundabout now, to on and off Ellis Boulevard. And I think that that's going to make the whole process a whole lot easier for folks who are bringing in their yard waste, but we're going to be bidding for how that yard waste is ultimately disposed of. And that's going to be another bidding process. So I hope cooler heads can prevail. And by the time we're through the spring, we've got maybe a new solution that better fits everyone.

But I think it's good to go through the bidding process for any service like that, I don't think any one company should necessarily have a monopoly. Just because they've always been doing it doesn't mean they should always keep doing it. If what we're comparing is apples to apples, and we're looking at bids that are truly apples to apples, if all services are going to be provided in the same way. Then when we're looking at bids, I think the city has to look at what's going to be the most cost-effective, because we're allocating tax dollars to do some of that service, maybe a partnership with some of these providers, where there's a small fee, to those who use the yard waste site.

Obviously, people who live in apartments, right, don't have yard waste, because they don't have a yard. And so maybe, maybe if there's a small fee, along with an allocation from the city, that would better serve the citizens and make sure that the yard waste is taken care of quickly and efficiently.

ABC 17 News: Does the council have a transparency problem?

Shetler: So I don't see that. But I think part of that's because when I wasn't understanding completely how things went down, at city council, I started attending meetings, or watching the meetings online. And I know that part of their process does have to happen behind closed doors. Anytime we're talking about financial things, especially when looking at bids, to maintain privacy, as well as to not let somebody come in and say, "Oh, Company X bid $1,000, I'm gonna bid $990 so that I can be the low bid." They do that privately so that they're really looking at what the true bid is, before making decisions.

And then, and then things are actually brought out to the floor. And those happen during city council meetings, ultimate decisions happen during city council meetings, which I think also circles back a bit to the whole yard waste situation where bids for one thing are looked at and then ultimately another decision has to be made. So that a solution, even if temporary, can be found.

So as far as transparency goes, there are records of votes. I think that's important. I think people need to understand who's voting for what. I wish there was more of an opportunity for people to know why people vote the way that they do members of Council vote the way that they do, and I hope that that's something that can take place in the future. To a certain extent, some of the councilmen have taken the opportunity to go to social media and explain their positions. But that's not the same as everyone necessarily having access to it like they do to the city council meeting where people can either attend in person or online.

Article Topic Follows: Your Voice Your Vote

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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.


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