Thirteen candidates vying for a seat on Marietta City Council met Wednesday night during the second candidate's forum this week at Marietta College's WCMO television studios.
Members of local news media outlets questioned candidates during the more than two-hour forum.
Also during the debates, at least two candidates charged that two current council members and the mayor met recently with the Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau in violation of Ohio's Sunshine Law.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Marietta at-large council hopefuls (from left) Denver Abicht, Michael Boersma, Michael Mullen, Glen McCabe, Jr., and Harley Noland debated during Wednesday’s candidate’s forum at Marietta College. Not shown is candidate Dianne Crandall.
Republican council at-large candidate Dianne Crandall and Republican 2nd Ward candidate Randy Wilson both accused Councilmen Harley Noland, D-at large, and Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, of meeting with Mayor Michael Mullen and the CVB without a public notice about the meeting.
Because Noland and McCauley both serve on council's public lands, buildings and parks committee, the meeting qualified as a quorum, according to the candidates.
McCauley said he, Noland and the mayor met with the CVB to ask about a redesign of the Armory Square business plan. Noland later said the CVB had asked all three to attend the session and he did not believe the meeting violated the Sunshine Law in any way.
If you watch
(All debates aired on WCMO-TV, channel 15):
After the Marietta City Council meeting concludes Thursday, Marietta City Council President, Marietta Mayor, Marietta Auditor and Marietta City Council debates will air.
8:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, all debates.
7 p.m., Oct. 27, all debates.
8:30 a.m., Oct. 29 and 30, all debates.
After the Marietta City Council meeting concludes Nov. 3, all debates will air.
8:30 a.m. Nov. 5 and 6, all debates.
8 a.m. and 1 p.m.. Nov. 7, all debates.
8 a.m. and 1 p.m., Nov. 8, all debates.
Mullen said he had consulted city law director Roland Riggs III and was told he was not in violation of the Sunshine Law.
The six candidates running for council-at-large include Republicans Crandall and Glen McCabe, Jr.; Democrats Noland and Denver Abicht; and Independents Michael Mullen and Michael Boersma.
The candidates were asked to comment on the projected Marcellus and Utica shale oil and gas boom's potential impact on Marietta.
"This could potentially become a $5 trillion shale extraction," Mullen said, noting that both Pennsylvania and West Virginia are ahead of Ohio in welcoming the oil and gas shale industry.
"We need to also position ourselves as a center for gas and oil," he said. "It could be a godsend for Marietta and Washington County."
"This can be good for the city. But we have to look at our business regulations so that people and companies will want to come here and rent or buy office space for this industry," he said.
Noland said it could greatly benefit the community, "But we also need to think about the wear and tear on the city's infrastructure (from increased truck traffic)," he said. "We want to benefit from this industry, but also want to protect our infrastructure. If that can be done we should welcome the industry."
Crandall said the city should make sure it's ready for the coming boon.
"I would highly encourage Marietta to reach out and show what this city has to offer to this industry," she said, noting that easing up on regulations that tend to repel businesses from Marietta would be a good start.
Abicht noted the areas of New Martinsville and Moundsville, W.Va., are already benefiting from oil and gas shale drilling.
"But there is one problem," he said. "These companies are coming from Texas and Oklahoma and bringing their own workers with them. And my main concern is how these companies will work with the city of Marietta when the oil and gas industry comes here."
Boersma reflected on some of Marietta's past.
"The majority of large homes in Marietta were built 100 to 120 years ago during an oil and gas boom," he said. "That shows how tapping into these natural resources can benefit our community."
Democrat Roger Kalter is facing off with incumbent Republican Councilman David White in the 1st Ward race.
The candidates were asked to name the ward's biggest need.
"Getting services delivered," Kalter said. "Just cleaning out the catch basins and sweeping the streets." He added that he's working on a plan to get sidewalks repaired in the ward.
White said streets like Warner, Grandview and Upper Orchard need to be rebuilt.
"And the Cytec property is always a top priority to me," he said of the former Cytec Industries site along Greene Street that is under remediation for hazardous waste.
"It's so rare to have a large piece of land within the city for manufacturing," White said, adding that he wants the site cleaned up so that it can be used for economic development again.
Republican Randy Wilson is challenging Democrat Incumbent Councilman Mike McCauley for the 2nd Ward council seat.
The candidates were asked to address ongoing concerns about Marietta College staff and students taking up parking spaces near campus in front of residences on Fifth, Sixth and Cutler streets, as well as on Whites Road.
McCauley noted that, as a Whites Road resident and owner of other properties in that area, he has been part of a group formed a year ago to consider ways to solve the parking issue.
"That neighborhood has a close relationship with Marietta College," he said. "We also have two sororities...there. I attended several meetings with neighborhood residents and we have not been able to come up with a real solution. But it's not a dead issue. We're still looking for a solution."
Wilson, who lives on Cutler Street, said he's also aware of the issue, but advised against "privatizing" parking by requiring permits to park on the city streets, which was one recommendation from the neighborhood group formed last year.
"If we privatize parking the problem will just move down into another block," he said. "But I think if we work with the college we can come up with a good solution."
Democrat Steve Thomas is facing off with Republican Debbie Scott for the 3rd Ward's council representative.
Both were asked their priorities for 3rd Ward.
"We need to keep services like police, fire, leaf cleanup and other services available in the 3rd Ward," Thomas said. "Those main services have to continue to keep the city running."
Scott said her priority is to make herself available to her constituents.
"I want to make sure I'm available to listen to the concerns of the residents of the 3rd Ward," she said. "And I want to help guide them to those in city government who can help when they have a need."
Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, is unchallenged on the Nov. 8 general election ballot, but also spoke during Wednesday's forum.