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DAYTON — Thursday’s candidate forum in Dayton allowed four council and three mayoral candidates to reveal their reasons for running and their plans for office, but the question and answer session also revealed the concerns of residents who want to keep Dayton’s small town charm while fighting off the sleepy stupor that can settle on a bedroom community.
Questions hit on a variety of topics but centered on a few key areas: taxes, natural gas, healthy growth, good businesses for Dayton, promotion of Dayton for tourism and general town upkeep and management.
Approximately 50 residents attended the nearly two-hour forum held at the Tongue River Valley Community Center, which was sponsored by the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs Committee.
“This is the process that makes the world go around, this political process,” committee member Richard Garber said at the outset of the forum.
Each candidate was allowed three minutes for an introduction and then two minutes to answer questions submitted on paper and out loud by audience members.
Candidates for mayor included Councilmen Bob Alley, Norm Anderson and Dennis Wagner. Candidates for Dayton Town Council included Chris Smith and Jeremy Smith, no relation, Eric Lofgren and Clifford Reed. Council candidate Craig Reichert was unable to attend the forum due to a previous engagement.
Following are a few questions and select candidate answers.
• What is your vision for Dayton other than natural gas, and how would you make Dayton more enticing?
Mayoral candidate Alley said he wants to make Dayton a safe, fun town. He also said he’d like to see the construction of a small hotel unit on Main Street and walking paths around town and possibly between Dayton and Ranchester.
Alley, Anderson and Wagner all said they want to encourage new businesses and steady growth, as well as continue the proactive upkeep of infrastructure carried on by Mayor Bob Wood, who has decided not to seek another term.
Council candidate Reed said he’d make the town more enticing by seeing if there was a way to make the tax situation more favorable to new businesses. He also said he’d like to improve the raw water system because he has trouble with it at his house.
Chris Smith said the town needs to be comfortable with being a bedroom community and become the best bedroom community possible by improving infrastructure like sidewalks and roads.
Jeremy Smith said the town needs to maintain what already is enticing such as the pool, Scott Park and good infrastructure while trying to find its niche, such as its close location to the Bighorn Mountains, and capitalizing on it.
Lofgren said he would maintain the services in Dayton that are better than services in bigger cities and that he supported ideas like a hotel and walking paths.
Several candidates said they would promote tourism with a better online presence on the state tourism website, on the town’s own website and on various social media platforms.
• Would you support a countywide lodging tax?
Lofgren and Wagner said they would want to research the tax, its ramifications and how it would be distributed before deciding.
Anderson, Alley and Jeremy Smith said they would support a countywide lodging tax because it goes hand-in-hand with trying to promote tourism, it has generated significant income for Sheridan and it is mostly paid by non-locals. Jeremy Smith said he’d like to see funds from a lodging tax applied to promoting tourism in Dayton.
Chris Smith and Reed said they were against such a tax. Reed said it’s just another tax, and he’d like to draw the line on taxes. He and Chris Smith said not having a lodging tax could be a promotional tool that could draw tourists away from Sheridan and into Dayton.
• What will you do about barking dogs?
Mayoral candidate Anderson responded to this question by saying he understands the concern. He reminded residents that the council must receive a formal signed complaint in order to issue a citation or request the help of law enforcement.
Council candidate Reed said this question indicated a deeper problem of all ordinances not being enforced equally. He said some ordinances are enforced while some are “winked at.” He said he would work on changing that and on enforcing all ordinances equally if elected.
• What store or business do you think would help Dayton without destroying the atmosphere of the town?
Jeremy Smith suggested stores that residents would utilize for everyday needs like a hardware store, a car wash and a medical clinic.
Alley suggested a sporting goods store, along with his previous suggestion of a hotel, to meet the needs of local recreationists and tourists coming through for camping, fishing and snowmobiling.
• If the town gets its golf course back, how much money are you willing to spend to keep it operational?
Wagner, Lofgren and Reed all said they would want to research how much the town could support it and that they would ask residents for their input on how they think the course should be managed. Wagner noted that he’d like the golf course to be self-sustaining so it wouldn’t become a drain on town resources.
Chris Smith said a golf course is a want and not a need. He said it wasn’t appropriate to spend tax dollars to support a non-essential entity.
Alley and Anderson said they were in favor of re-establishing a golf course in the area and that they would look to state statute to determine how much the town could be involved in support of the course. Anderson said he knew out-of-towners dropped money into the town when they came to golf at the course.
Jeremy Smith said a golf course would fit nicely with the idea of making the Tongue River Valley a jump-off point for recreation in the Bighorn Mountains. With his finance background, he said he’d look at revenue projections and cost estimates and also look for opportunities to partner with the Tongue River Valley Community Center and the Chamber of Commerce to support it.
Who’s in the running?
Three mayoral and five council candidates participated in a forum for upcoming elections. There are two council spots open, with five candidates running, and one position for mayor, with three candidates vying for the spot.
• Bob Alley: Lifelong resident who has been on town council for 14 years. He wants to keep the town going in the good direction implemented by Mayor Bob Wood and bring in business like a small hotel.
• Norm Anderson: Resident who chose the small town atmosphere of Dayton and has served on the council for 14 years and the planning committee for 20. He is running to maintain the positive growth in Dayton and to be part of bringing natural gas to the valley.
• Dennis Wagner: An electrician who donated work for the Tongue River Valley Community Center, Wagner has been on town council for four years. He is running to preserve the town in its good state and to maintain fiscal responsibility.
• Eric Lofgren: Lifelong resident who has served on Dayton Fire and Rescue for 28 years and on council for four years in a previous term. He hopes to recruit more volunteer fire and rescue members to prevent burnout.
• Clifford Reed: Has lived in Dayton for 35 years and works as a bee keeper in the area. He is running because he’d like to see a change in direction on the council to make it, in his opinion, more responsive to resident concerns.
• Craig Reichert: A lifelong resident who has served on Dayton Fire and Rescue for 18 years and wants to extend his community service further by pursuing a position on council.
• Chris Smith: Has lived in Dayton five years and chose it as his place to retire. He said he is running because he wants to contribute to his community and because there are a few issues he’d like to address on council.
• Jeremy Smith: Smith serves as the business manager for Sheridan County School District 1 and has lived in Dayton 12 years. He serves on Dayton Fire and Rescue and wants to continue to serve to improve his community for his family and all residents.
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