Five Tomah City Council seats are up for election in the April 2 general election.
All eight candidates seeking those seats attended a city council forum Wednesday, hosted by the Tomah Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitor’s Bureau.
Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7 are up for election.
Districts 3 and 5 are uncontested, with incumbents Jeff Cram (District 3) and Travis Scholze (District 5) running unopposed.
Districts 1 and 7 are contested. District 1 incumbent Mary Ann Komiskey is being challenged by Adam Gigous and District 7 incumbent Wayne Kling is being challenged by Donna Evans.
District 8 is also up for election and is contested. In September 2018, former council member Larry Siekert resigned, and in November Remy Gomez was appointed to fill the position until the April election. Gomez is being challenged by Susan Holme for the remainder of the term, which will expire in 2020.
During the forum, candidates answered questions about their thoughts on various topics.
One of the questions: What kind of relationship should exist between the city of Tomah and the Chamber of Commerce?
Scholze said it’s an important relationship.
“I have had the opportunity over the last year to be a member of the CVB, so I’ve worked closely with Tina and the Chamber from that aspect,” he said. “To have somebody ... that is going to be an advocate for the city of Tomah. I think it’s absolutely a relationship that has to be fostered and work for both sides.”
Wayne Kling agreed but believes the Chamber could do more to help out other local organizations.
“I support the Chamber, and I also believe that the Chamber is doing their best as far as getting the word out about revitalizing downtown Tomah,” he said. “But I believe the Chamber could do more as far as supporting the Area Community Theatre with tourism dollars, also supporting the (Tomah Area) Historical Society & Museum with some tourism dollars − maybe not a lot.”
Donna Evans believes the Chamber is an important tool for the city for tourism and to draw businesses and future residents.
“The Chamber and the city ... need to be cohesive, they need to work as one unit,” Evans said. “They go out and help our businesses ... and they go out and market Tomah for tourism. Everything that we have to offer is not just for our residents; they go all over the state of Wisconsin advertising Tomah is open for business. We have to really work together with our city administrator and the Chamber one-on-one, selling our brand, selling Tomah, and we have to allow them to work together.”
Another question: What is your position of the city of Tomah providing incentives to private industry?
Remy Gomez said offering incentives is nothing new.
“Everybody knows you have to spend a little bit to make a little bit. Not everybody comes in with the exact amount of money to build or the need or amount to build,” he said. “A lot of things can be solved by working with business owners.”
Susan Holme said there are benefits and drawbacks to giving incentives.
“It extends the debt that the city has, but it also can work for the benefit; there’s a trickle down,” she said. “If you have business come in and there are jobs created, you have more people using your businesses locally as well. You have them potentially buying a house, which can create more taxes on their property. If it’s done responsibly and with conscious spending, I think it’s a great thing, but we just have to be careful and cautious in how we handle it.”
Mary Ann Komiskey said she’s not in favor of long-term incentives.
“I’m not in favor of long-term tax breaks, because when you bring a business in ... we get higher tax income from the property taxes, and if we forgive the taxes then we’re not getting anything, particularly if it goes on for a long time,” she said. “Otherwise, yes, I am in favor of giving businesses incentives like a break on the land purchase and things like that.”
Candidates were also asked: What should the city of Tomah’s priorities be regarding growth and development?
Adam Gigous said modernization is important.
“We need new facility for the hospital, we need to build a new fire department, we need to have better and more reliable ambulance facilities,” he said. “These are all things that we need because we have an aging infrastructure. There’s infrastructure in places like roads that need to be repaired, fixed, updated.”
Cram said the TID districts need to be monitored closely because so much emphasis has been put on them to do well.
“We have put a lot of stake in TIDs 8, 9 and 10 and ... that has to be priority number one simply because of the investment that we’ve made,” he said. “Also, we need to be seeking new partners and ideas to further the success of those districts.”