ROCK FALLS – The two mayoral candidates, incumbent David Blanton and City Clerk Bill Wescott, were asked Monday night what the single biggest challenge the city now faces is and how each is best equipped to handle it.
The two attended a Rock Falls Chamber of Commerce candidate forum at City Hall.
Blanton said the city doesn't have enough property available for prospective developers.
"Everybody keeps telling me, 'Well, we need to bring this in, we need to bring that in, we need to bring industry in,'" Blanton said. "I would challenge anyone, tell me, where we are going to put a Target or something of that nature in Rock Falls right now?"
Many people would answer the question by saying south of town, but there are challenges to doing so, such as finding affordable space, Blanton said,a dding that the city already has many factories.
"I would rather have 10 small factories than one large factory," said Blanton, adding that he works with economic development officials every day to try to bring business to the area.
Wescott noted that there are vacant spaces available for development in the city's industrial park on its east side.
The city should be more aggressive with property owners on the south end, Wescott added, suggesting sit-down meetings with the owners to convey opportunities for development.
"We have had people in here looking to build, and it is an advantage to have those properties," he said. "So if it is an advantage, what more can we do aggressively to work with those property owners to secure that property, or get them on our page, so that when we get to that point we have the opportunity to do that?"
Lee Bardo, 72, lives east of Rock Falls, and owns property and a business in Rock Falls. He attended the forum to learn more about the candidates, he said.
Bardo liked Wescott's idea of creating a citizen's advisory committee that would work with city officials and give input on key issues.
Julie Sutton, 66, has lived in Rock Falls since 1964. She said she wants the next mayor of Rock Falls to focus on getting community members more involved in what's going on in their city.
"I think that, in spite of has been said and read and written, I don't feel there's an open-door policy here unless you are from a select group of people," she said. "That interests me a lot."
Sutton said she left knowing whom she would choose as mayor, although she declined to say who.