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Q&A with Atwater City Council candidates

Joan Faul (Incumbent)





Running for mayor





Age: 69





Hometown grew up in: Patterson, Calif.









What is your platform/goals for the city?



There are three things the city needs to focus on – economic development, public safety and the wastewater plant under construction.



“We need to continue to work on our financial strengths so we continue to keep our city financially sound,” Faul said. We want to continue our economic development to bring more revenue into our city. We want to continue our public safety – that’s the number one goal for our city. We also want to get the wastewater treatment plant completed.”



Where can the city improve?



Staff needs to review and update ordinances, Faul said. There needs to be more attention to ordinances that involve homes and graffiti.



“We need to review them for the betterment of the city,” she said. “We can make this a positive place to live.”



What experience can you use to your advantage?



Faul said she served on the Parks and Recreation Committee for more than 25 years, served on the Planning Commission and the City Council for four years. She’s finishing up her first term as mayor. Faul mentioned that she was also a teacher and the associate principal of Atwater High School. She said she’s still active with Merced Union High School District.



Council members in Atwater are some of the best compensated in the area, do you think the council has lived up to that high compensation?



“I would say so, yes. I’d say we all work very, very hard. I think we do. It’s something that we have to relook at after the new council is set in,” Faul said.



The wastewater treatment plant under construction has been described as one of the biggest projects the city will ever take on. Has the city handled it well? Should anything be done differently?



“I feel it has been,” Faul said. “The goal is to have the best engineered and most efficient wastewater plant.”



Faul mentioned that because residents are paying for the new wastewater plant with increases on their utility bills, the city wants to ensure it provides the best facility possible.



“We’re doing the best we can so the taxpayers get their monies worth,” Faul said.
















Nelson Crabb (Incumbent)





Running for council





Age: 63





Hometown grew up in: Merced





What is your platform/goals for the city?



If elected to another term, Crabb wants to focus on public safety, promoting business and jobs.



“What I ran on to begin with was jobs, public safety and smart growth,” he said.



Where can the city improve?



The city has to keep encouraging business to come to Atwater and retain the commerce the city has now, Crabb said.



“A few years ago, we were dealing with about an 80 percent leakage of people leaving Atwater to go shop,” he said. “We want to keep business fluid here and continue to bring new business into Atwater.”



Crabb mentioned that he and Assistant City Manager Stan Feathers had a conference call with Gilroy city officials to learn about the success of their city’s outlet mall that’s drawn in a lot of revenue.



What experience can you use to your advantage?



Besides serving on the City Council, Crabb has spent 17 years as a police officer, was a past president of the Merced County Chamber of Commerce and was a president of an organization that promoted Castle when it closed.



Crabb has also been involved in school board and financial organizations, he said.



Council members in Atwater are some of the best compensated in the area, do you think the council has lived up to that high compensation?



“That’s up to the people who are voting for us,” Crabb said. “They have to take a look and look at the community today as compared to four years ago.”



Crabb mentioned that the City Council members do a lot of staff work, and have managed to keep a balanced budget while maintaining a good reserve.



“We’re not going backwards,” Crabb said. “All of us have worked many long hours.”



The wastewater treatment plant under construction has been described as one of the biggest projects the city will ever take on. Has the city handled it well? Should anything be done differently?



“At this point, I think everything has been done pretty good,” Crabb said.



However, he did question the more than $300,000 that was spent on the computerized equipment that will run the plant.



“We got it free last time, now we’re paying $300,000 for it,” he said. “Things like that – red flags do go up.”



Crabb mentioned that the council members and staff have done a good job of monitoring the development of the project.



“We’re not going to get a second bite of the apple at the price we are already paying,” he said. “If we default on these bonds, we’re in deep trouble.”
















Curtis Boyenga:





Running for council





Age: 42





Hometown grew up in: Merced





What is your platform/goals for the city?



Boyenga is mostly focused on commercial development, jobs, public safety and parks and recreation activities for residents.



Where can the city improve?



Boyenga thinks the city could benefit from a traffic master plan, instead of playing catch-up with occasional speed studies.



“The traffic on 99 has already increased, and we need to be ahead of that for those people potentially coming into our city,” he said.



What experience can you use to your advantage?



Boyenga has been on the Parks and Recreation Commission for three years. He’s also worked in sales and customer service in the private sector for 10 years. He’s coached youth sports, allowing him to become familiar with the community. Boyenga works as a teacher at Elmer Wood Elementary School in Atwater.



Council members in Atwater are some of the best compensated in the area, do you think the council has lived up to that high compensation?



“I can’t point my finger and say that it’s been a tremendously bad job,” Boyenga said. “Do I think the compensation is too much? Yes, but what is the right number, or is there a right number?”



Boyenga mentioned that he doesn’t have enough knowledge on how much compensation the council receives to make a firm decision.



The wastewater treatment plant under construction has been described as one of the biggest projects the city will ever take on. Has the city handled it well? Should anything be done differently?



“I would have liked to have seen a broader or a more detailed scope presented on the project, because it seems that we’re potentially getting nickled and dimed,” Boyenga said.



He mentioned that some things were left out of the proposal, which caused the project to become more expensive as time went on.



“Obviously, there were mandates that needed to be complied with,” Boyenga said. “Maybe the whole plan has been laid out, but as a citizen I never saw that.”


















Jeff Rivero (Incumbent)





Running for council





Age: 48





Hometown grew up in: Atwater





What is your platform/goals for the city?



Many of Rivero’s goals revolve around safety improvements.



“My goal is to continue moving forward with the momentum that we have,” he said. “Safety-wise, we’ve taken huge strides to make our roads safer for the citizens. We’ve put in lighted crosswalks, we’ve put in speed signs by our schools.”



Rivero also mentioned the new officers the police department hired on.



“When most towns are laying police officers off, the city of Atwater is adding,” he said.



The Wal-Mart supercenter being built near the SuperTarget is a prime display of another big goal – improving the local economy.



“Basically, for the first time in Atwater’s history, we’re going to be bringing in other people’s tax money,” Rivero said. “Having a synergy like that is going to bring in smaller businesses also. The goal is to try and add a nice restaurant and a sports place where people can go and kick-back with their friends after a sporting event.”



Where can the city improve?





The city’s infrastructure could be improved, Rivero said.



“We have streets that need to be fixed,” he said. “Our sidewalks – out campaigning, there have been times where I’ve almost tripped over some of it, and as soon as I find an issue I’m calling down to City Hall. We don’t really have enough Public Works people in our department right now, so over the next four years, I’ve pushed to reorganize and have our Public Works caught back up to where it should be.”



Rivero also mentioned that the city’s trees have been neglected and need more attention.



What experience do you have that you can use to your advantage?



By visiting with residents, Rivero said he has a good idea of what the city needs.



“Over the last 18 months, I’ve proven that I’m willing to try and work on all the problems that we have,” Rivero said. “I’ve learned a lot over the last 18 months to help me out more over the next four years.”





Experience with city government:



In addition to 18 months on Atwater’s City Council, Rivero has worked on campaign committees since high school.



Council members in Atwater are some of the best compensated in the area, do you think the council has lived up to that pay?



“I can’t speak for any other council member, but I can tell you I work my tail off for this town,” Rivero said. “I spend between 25 and 30 hours a week trying to push forward to get the things done that need to be done. I haven’t been a rubber-stamper.”



The wastewater plant is one of the biggest projects the city will ever take on. Has it been handled well? Is there anything that should be done differently?



“I’ve pushed hard for the solar plant to be out there,” Rivero said. “What we can do is either sell PG&E the electricity that we produce, or we can use it for our plant.”



Rivero said he’s trying to create positive out of something that’s perceived as negative by residents.



“The water treatment plant has caused their utility bill to go up from $22 to $44 and then it’s going to be close to $66 next year for the sewage along,” Rivero said. “It’s a huge burden.”



The solar plant is one way to offset those increases, he said.


















Craig Mooneyham:





Running for council





Age: 38





Hometown grew up in: Atwater





What is your platform/goals for the city?



Mooneyham’s primary goals include increasing economic development and increasing public safety, especially when it comes to gang suppression. He also wants to take a closer look at senior management compensation and council benefits.



Though Atwater does face challenges, Mooneyham doesn’t think it’s a difficult city to run.



Where can the city improve?



“I think we need to do economic development outreach,” Mooneyham said. “A lot of the sitting City Council like to take credit for the fact that they’ve brought retail to Atwater.”



Mooneyham said that’s far from the truth.



“They didn’t bring anything to the city,” he said.



By having a continued presence at International Council of Shopping Centers conferences, Mooneyham thinks the city can be more effective in bringing in commerce.



“It’s important that we go to them,” he said. “They’re not going to come to us anymore.”





What experience can you use to your advantage?



Mooneyham has been on the Planning Commission for five years. He said he’s worked with developers and works in real estate. Mooneyham said he’s also interned with a city manager of Rolling Hills and also worked for a city manager in Modesto.



“I’ve had some pretty good exposure to all aspects of city government,” Mooneyham said.





Council members in Atwater are some of the best compensated in the area, do you think the council has lived up to that high compensation?



“I can’t say that they’ve done anything to really deserve such, what I call, egregious benefits,” Mooneyham said. “From my perspective, it’s somewhat embarrassing to have to explain to people from neighboring communities why our council receives these benefits.”



The wastewater treatment plant under construction has been described as one of the biggest projects the city will ever take on. Has the city handled it well? Should anything be done differently?



One of Mooneyham’s biggest concerns about how the wastewater plant has been handled is how quickly agenda items on it “slide through the approval process,” when something simple, like painting a fire truck, is discussed at length during meetings.



“It seems as though the council trips over pennies a lot, but doesn’t pay attention to big-ticket items,” he said.



After doing some of his own research, Mooneyham said he doesn’t think the wastewater plant had to be relocated in the first place.



The real reason why the plant is being relocated is to move it away from retail, he said.

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