On Feb. 20 a primary election will be held for the city of Tomah mayor.
The three candidates are incumbent Nellie Pater and Tomah City Council members Mary Ann Komiskey (District 1) and Mike Murray (District 3).
To help residents make their decision, a mayoral forum hosted by the Greater Tomah Area Chamber of Commerce and Tomah Rotary was held Tuesday at the Tomah High School auditorium, where the three candidates shared their views on a number of topics.
One topic was what qualified each candidate to be mayor and what makes them the best choice.
Pater said her experience qualified her for the position. She has been involved with city government for the past 10 years — eight on city council and the past two as mayor.
“I’ve been giving my time to make sure that there are things that the city can do for the people that live in this community, and I’m still doing that as mayor,” she said. “I continue to be involved in what the city does and how it gets back to the community, make sure services are available that we can offer, talk to people. This is my passion, this is why I do it. That’s why I love doing it, that’s why I’m up here again for a second term is because I want to give back to the city that I live in.”
Murray said both his parents taught him do whatever it takes to get the job done for as long as it takes.
“Why do I feel I’m the best candidate? I believe looking to the future, looking to the growth of the community,” he said. “I tend to look at the broader picture, not just what’s immediately in front of me. I’m one who likes to look at not only what’s here, but what is approaching me and how to deal with that.”
Komiskey said it was her drive that made her the best candidate.
“If you don’t have the desire and the will and the passion to help the people to make the city more transparent and get more people involved, then you might as well stay home,” she said. “I am very passionate about these areas. ... I think you really have to have a desire to help the people.”
The candidates also stated their opinions on the city’s Tax Incremental Finance Districts.
Pater and Murray both support the TIDs.
Murray said TIDs help the city grow with job creation from businesses moving to Tomah due to incentives to spur further growth.
Pater said the districts are investments in the city.
“There are certain areas in the city that need help getting started, so I think it’s a good thing that we do that,” she said. “I know there’s things that people don’t really understand about the TIDs and the benefits ... but for me I think it’s a really good idea to look at the places that need help.”
Komiskey does not generally favor TIDs unless they have been researched to determine if they are really necessary.
“There are times where TIDs can be beneficial to a city. I do believe we have to be very, very careful when we’re dealing with TIDs,” she said. “If you have an area that is growing, then you don’t need a TID, because as times goes you can get that revenue directly and not have to share it with the county and schools. The other thing is you have to be careful with TIDs because if you get in over your head, and particularly ... if the economy goes south then you can really be in trouble. I think we just really need to take a good, hard look before we get involved in creating a TID.”
On creating a financial arrangement between the city and the Chamber of Commerce for the occupancy of the remodeled Chamber building, Pater and Komiskey were in favor of the Chamber paying some kind of fee.
Someone has to pay the bills, Komiskey said.
“There’s a lot of chatter out there about rent, $1 a year, but there has never been anything that has come before the council that has been voted on for $1 a year,” she said. “Now the Chamber has occupied the new building, and we’ve come to the reality of somebody has to pay the insurance, somebody has to pay for snowplowing and mowing, somebody has to pay the bills ... we should be able to look at this and sit down and come to an agreement − who is going to pay for the insurance and these other issues?”
Pater wants the Chamber to pay some kind of fee and for the payment to be put into an account for business owners to use for refurbishment.
“If there is any lease agreement with the Chamber, I would like to see an account set up with the city and the Chamber to use it for all the business people for things they would like to use to renovate their storefronts ... the smaller projects they can use for all the businesses, not just the Chamber members, but for all the businesses in the city,” she said.
Murray wants the city to honor its $1 a year spoken agreement.
“We have to think about it from an integrity standpoint,” he said. “I think the city needs to stand by what they agreed and pursued the Chamber and CVB with and honor that commitment that they made to them.”
The candidates also shared their opinions on ATV routes within the city.
Pater and Komiskey are against the routes for safety reasons. The routes would be in residential areas, Pater said, which she does not believe is safe.
“It’s a safety factor within the city,” she said. “We have a lot of residents here. We’re going to have a new hospital that’s going to bring in more residents in our city day to day; we have people that work here. For me as mayor, my job is to keep the community safe, and that’s what I’m doing.”
The tires are the biggest issue for Komiskey.
“I called Polaris and a couple other manufacturers − the tires on ATVs, the treads on them, are not safe for riding on public roads,” she said. “Therefore, for safety reasons, I’m very much against ATVs.”
Murray favors the routes as the city administrator, public works director and chief of police supported the routes.
“The three people that would be impacted most by complaints and problems and issues all back the ATV trail,” he said. “We as a council instructed them to go and check the feasibility. They came back, they completely supported it − all three of those and everybody on the committee, and yet we turned around as a council and said, ‘no.’”