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October 30, 2008 3:02 am

Hillman, Sides want to promote Powell

Written by Tribune Staff

With Election Day just days away, candidates discuss Powell City Council issues. In Ward 3, Don Hillman and John Sides are vying for the council seat currently held by Tim Sapp. Hillman led the primary election with 70 percent of votes, while Sides received close to 30 percent. In this interview, candidates submitted written responses to the following questions.

Don Hillman

Hillman, 66, served on the council from 1986-93. Hillman grew up in Powell, graduating from both Powell High School and Northwest College. Aside from time spent in Billings and Sheridan, Hillman has spent his life here. His career with Montana Dakota Utilities spanned 40 years before he retired in 2004.

John Sides

Sides, 55, also has council experience, serving from 2004-06. He currently serves on the Planning and Zoning Board and Habitat for Humanity Selection Committee. Sides owned the Good Buy Store in Powell from 2002-06. He works at the Cody Enterprise as the production manager. He began working in newspapers in 1972 and has worked as a production manager since 1980.

What do you think are the greatest challenges currently facing Powell?


Hillman: “Economy, waste disposal and infrastructure are a few that come to mind. I am sure there are other challenges that we will have to face.”

Sides: “There are three major challenges that I see for the near future of Powell. The first is the impending closure of the Powell landfill and the subsequent need to haul our trash to Cody. The second challenge is to maintain the present level of services with stagnant income and the pressures placed on the budget by using $2 million of the city budget to build the aquatic center. The third challenge is to attract and retain businesses in Powell.”

How will you address those challenges?

Hillman: “Economy: Hold city costs down as much as possible, promote Powell and the surrounding area for what it is —a beautiful place to live and raise a family. Support and encourage affordable housing, strong economic programs that stimulate new growth and new businesses as well as promoting existing business.

“Waste disposal: Cooperate with surrounding communities to develop a centrally-located waste disposal site.

“Infrastructure: I think the main responsibility of any city or town is to provide good, reliable infrastructure, streets, water, sewer, sanitation, fire and police protection, parks and recreation, and in Powell's case, electric distribution and a soon-to-be fiber optic network. I think the city has done a good job of this in the past, and I would be a strong supporter of keeping these departments in good shape through strong planning and maintenance programs.”

Sides: “A panel needs to be established to draw up a plan to increase recycling in Powell. We may also need to look into a balefill station to cut down on transportation costs to get the trash to Cody. We need a person with the expertise to do grant writing to find more funding to supplement the city budget — especially to help with the operating costs of the new aquatic center.”

On a national scale, the economic crisis on Wall Street is affecting Main Street. How would you encourage businesses to come to or stay on Bent Street?

Hillman: “Again, I think we need to promote Powell and the surrounding area for what it is. I think we need to provide a good business climate by providing a sound infrastructure and room for business development. I think we need to promote and support a strong economic development program that supports our existing business and aggressively recruits new business.”

Sides: “We need an economic development officer to promote Powell to established businesses that might want to move here. That person also needs to be involved in helping startup businesses get the help they need. Having started a business, I know how hard it is to get help, especially with finances.

“We need to put the city's business loan fund to use. It has been several years since any of it has been loaned out. We must make sure it is not used to help finance a shortfall in the city budget.”

The city of Powell has a lot going on right now. What do you think has been the greatest accomplishment for the city
in the recent years?

Hillman: “Shoshone Municipal Water pipeline, downtown improvement project, upgrade of electrical distribution system, Powellink fiber project (and) the aquatic center.”

Sides: “The Powellink fiber will prove to be one of the best projects the city has undertaken. The second most important is the pool. The ground work has been laid for Centennial Park and some affordable housing, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done on these projects.”

Would you make any changes to the current city budget?
(Adding or taking items away)

Hillman: “I am not familiar with the current city budget.”

Sides: “There are not any changes I would like to make right now, but I think the pool operating costs are going to force some changes that will affect city services. I have heard some talk about cutting back on slurry sealing and other street maintenance to pay these costs. The streets are one area that if we cut back on them, it will come back to eat up the budget in future years.”

Would you vote for another capital facilities tax if the right project came along?

Hillman: “Yes —any project that would benefit the city of Powell and surrounding area and was supported by the public. I like the capital facilities tax because people have the opportunity to vote yes or no.”

Sides: “There is nothing being mentioned right now that is worthy of another cap tax. If the right project came along I would vote for it, but it must be a necessity — not a want. I would also insist on plans and cost estimates by a certified architect. We must never get into a situation again where a project has a 50-percent cost overrun.”

Are there other issues you'd like to comment on?

Hillman: No response.

Sides: “One of the questions that can (be) asked is how to increase communication between the citizens of Powell and city officials. I would propose ward meetings in the evening to give you an opportunity to talk one on one with city officials and your councilmen. I think it would be good to have an annual City Fair where the citizens of Powell could meet with each department head and their elected officials.”