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About 60 people attended a Granite Shoals City Council candidates forum April 21 to discern the differences between the two people running for each of the three places up for grabs. The election is May 7. Early voting is April 25-May 3. 

The ballot includes the council races as well as Marble Falls school board seats and state propositions.

In Granite Shoals, the three incumbents for places 2, 4, and 6 each drew an opponent. Taking the microphone two at a time by place, the candidates each answered five questions. 

Questions were submitted by DailyTrib.com readers and KBEY 103.9 FM Picayune Radio listeners. The two media outlets, both owned by Victory Media, hosted the event, which was broadcast live on KBEY. A full recording of the event can be found at KBEYFM.com. 

Each of the six candidates introduced themselves to the audience before questioning began. 

The forum led with Place 2 and the topic of the most-asked question: city streets. Several questions came in about how to determine which streets to pave first and how to pay for the work. 

“We have a lot of unpaved roads, and we need to pave the main thoroughfares first,” said Place 2 challenger Aaron Garcia. “The funding for that is the issue. I know there can be some development block grants to offset the burden on taxpayers, and we need to pursue those.” 

Garcia has lived in Granite Shoals for 15 years. He is an officer with the Marble Falls Police Department. 

Place 2 incumbent Bruce Jones explained that city staff worked with the council to develop a list of streets in the order of paving priority. The annual budget for paving roads in Granite Shoals is about $300,000. 

“We can’t keep going back to taxpayers for money to build streets,” he said. “We have to grow this community and grow this tax base.” 

He referred to commercial development along RR 1431, which won’t happen without a wastewater treatment plant, he said. 

“With a sewer system on the main road, we can get a hotel, an Academy (Sports + Outdoors store),” he said, adding that the sales tax brought in would help fund street paving.

Another big topic was about the site where the event was held. Questions addressed the state of the fire department’s aging equipment, and low firefighter salaries. The age of both the fire hall and police department building, which used to be city hall, were also issues.

“The police department’s building is 60 years old,” said Place 4 challenger Derrick Klotz. “It’s time for a new building that is more centrally located for a better response time to all parts of the city.” 

Klotz has lived in Granite Shoals for 41 years. He worked in the city as a firefighter and volunteer EMS as well as for the police department. 

Place 4 incumbent Steve Hougen lamented the condition of fire department equipment.

“I was alarmed a couple of meetings ago when Fire Chief Tim Campbell explained that one of his fire vehicles stalled out in response to a fire,” Hougen said. “It took a while to get it started. One of the water trucks actually caught fire. When a fire can cover several hundred acres in 15 minutes, when it spreads faster than you can outrun it, and your truck is stalled out, that’s a big problem. Certainly, we need to replace our fire emergency equipment.”

He also advocated raising fire department salaries. 

Hougen vacationed in Granite Shoals years before he moved here as a surgeon when the new hospital was built in Marble Falls. He previously worked in Victoria.

When asked what is the most important issue facing the city, Place 6 incumbent Phil Ort said: “Money — where to get it.” 

“How much of a tax burden will property owners have to bear?” he asked. “We need to trim the fat in this city. Fiscal management is the key issue.” 

Ort worked many years in demolition for his father’s company and then his own, traveling around the world. A back injury forced an early retirement, he said. He and his wife started a successful freeze-dried parrot food business after retiring to Granite Shoals.

Place 6 challenger Kevin Flack said wastewater treatment is a key issue along with money.

“We are going to have to have private-public partnerships to address that issue,” he said about the lack of wastewater treatment in Granite Shoals. “There are ways to do this that don’t involve raising taxes.” 

To hear the candidates’ answers to all of the questions, visit KBEYFM.com, where you will find a recording of the forum

Early voting is at the Granite Shoals Community Center, 1208 N. Phillips Ranch Road, from Monday, April 25, to Tuesday, May 3. Election Day is Saturday, May 7. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

CORRECTION: The original story indicated the fire hall was 50-years old. According to Police Chief Gary Boshears, it is 25 years old. The police department building is the older of the two. DailyTrib.com regrets the error.

suzanne@thepicayune.com