The two candidates vying for the Ward 4 Washington City Council seat agree that the city should not get more involved in the dispute over improving the Augusta Bottom Road in Warren County.
For years, Washington city officials have been pushing to get the road, which connects Highway 47 in Warren County to Augusta in St. Charles County, improved and had stepped up efforts after a 16-year-old Washington girl died after her car slid off the gravel road and went into a large pond along a section known as the Augusta Parkway.
The city council recently agreed to put up about $2,000 toward a $10,000 safety study also funded by MoDOT, but no action has been taken on improvement recommendations by either Warren County or the town of Augusta.
“I was very supportive of funding the study,” said incumbent Carolyn Witt, who is seeking re-election to the Ward 4 seat. “But I feel these are problems that Warren County and St. Charles County need to deal with.”
Witt said she does not support the idea of annexing that southern portion of Warren County where the bottom road is located. “I don’t think that’s a good use of city resources,” she remarked. She also said she does not support filing a lawsuit against the other government entities.
“It (making the road safer) needs to be done but the city can’t be the answer for other jurisdictions,” she remarked.
Her opponent in the April 3 municipal election, Josh Brinker, acknowledged that there have been some “terrible” accidents on the road, which sits atop a levee.
“The council has shown concern for the problem,” Brinker said, “but Warren County and Augusta are responsible for that road. We should leave it up to them to fix the problem.”
Brinker, 31, 428 High St., said he supports efforts to annex areas adjacent to the city limits.
“Annexation means the town is growing,” he remarked. “We should take in areas where annexation will benefit both residents of the areas and the city as a whole.”
Brinker said the city must be certain that an annexation plan does not overtax the city’s ability to provide services or the city’s infrastructure.
“It’s a good thing,” Witt said of developing an annexation plan. “The city needs to continue to grow. I realize there is a lot of dissension (by property owners in areas being considered for annexation) and I respect that. But it’s hard for me to understand because I chose to live in the city.
“We need to put together a plan and move forward,” Witt said.
Witt, 62, 616 Windy Ridge Drive, said she believes the city is headed in the “right” direction.
“We have accomplished more than expected in the last few years,” Witt remarked during a recent interview. She mentioned the start of work on developing a “team track” rail siding off West Main Street for industrial and commercial rail traffic and the acquisition of the Valent Aerostructures manufacturing plant, both of which will result in a great increase in jobs.
She also mentioned the start of the Rhine River townhouse project on Front Street as well as the library expansion and rehab project and the Immanuel Lutheran Church expansion.
“We have not died,” Witt remarked. “All these construction projects mean jobs. She said she continues to support the city’s 353 Redevelopment Corporation and the Washington Civic Industrial Corporation in their efforts to find new industries and jobs for the area.
“We also continue to encourage Downtown Washington to keep moving forward,” she said.
Brinker said he supports the city continuing to grow in a “responsible manner.
“We need to listen to the citizens and make sure we are growing in the way they want,” he said.
“I want to do my part for the community,” Brinker said of his reason for seeking the Ward 4 council seat. “I was born and raised here.
“I want to be a voice for the citizens and help them get answers and get their problems resolved,” he remarked.
Witt, the former head librarian for the city, said there still are things to do.
“I think I can still contribute to the city. I have enjoyed it (serving on the council) so much. “We accomplished a lot and there is a lot more to do.”
Witt said the economy is a constant challenge at this time, but noted that the city has not had to lay off any employees during the downturn.
She said she supports efforts to develop more affordable housing, “no subsidized housing,” so that people who work in Washington can afford to live here.
The city is in the process of developing a new comprehensive plan to identify and address many of the challenges the city will face in the future, she said.
Key among those is to maintain and continue to upgrade infrastructure in the community, she said.
“We are so fortunate to have so many dedicated employees,” Witt said. “They are our face in the community. They make us look good.”
Brinker said maintaining and improving city infrastructure is a priority.
“We need to make sure our streets and sidewalks are maintained,” he said. “Improving stormwater facilities is a big issue in Ward 4,” said Brinker who remarked that he also supports encouraging the development of affordable work force, but not subsidized, housing in the city.
Brinker said he also supports increasing the city’s recycling program to keep more waste out of the city’s landfill.
“Every household should have a big, green tub sitting outside,” he commented.
Brinker said he supports the council’s decision to partner with the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce to develop a new entertainment stage and event center north of Lions Lake.
“It will bring more tourism and events to the city which will mean an increase in sales tax revenue,” Brinker said.
Witt is single and retired. Brinker is single and employed by the Bank of Washington.