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Chamber of Commerce hosts mayoral candidates

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Candidates sit and listen as they take turns answering questions during the first Mayoral Debate at the Hilton, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017.

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By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Solid infrastructure and more amenities are necessary to move Greenville forward, candidates running for mayor of Greenville agreed during a forum on Tuesday afternoon.

The mayoral candidates gathered at the Hilton Greenville to answer questions from the Greenville-Pitt Chamber of Commerce and to introduce themselves in along familiar platform lines. 

About 115 people showed up for the event, including all four of the mayoral candidates. At-Large City Councilman Calvin Mercer and District 4 Councilman P.J. Connelly were joined by candidates Ernest Reeves and Curtis Pulley. The event marked the first time all four have gathered for a forum. 

Each candidate was given two minutes at the beginning and end for opening and closing remarks. For questions, the candidates took one-minute turns answering questions. The five questions posed to candidates centered economic development, the theme of their campaigns and how to work across perceived partisan lines. 

All the candidates agreed that as Greenville develops, improved infrastructure and amenities are vital. Mercer discussed the importance of turning the former Imperial Warehouse site into a place of commerce and culture. 

“It’s going to be a very very valuable part of our central city,” Mercer said. “This is something that will add to our tax base. We might be getting above $300,000 a year taxes for this. This is not something that everyone on the council voted on, my opponent voted no, but I think this is an example of a big project that is in process that we need to complete that is going to be an excellent example of appropriate, strategic government involvement in our city for a good way.” 

Connelly said he the city needs to take a serious look at creating a business park that has access to the U.S. 264 Bypass, currently under construction. He said that by building the park, the city could leverage the valuable amenity of the bypass as well as other Greenville offerings, providing incentive for larger companies to move to Greenville. 

“I think this a good opportunity to bring good, dignified jobs,” he said. “But again this is going to take a collaborative effort with the county and with the state. I think that is an interesting opportunity for the city. I don’t think it’s talked about enough, but if we’re going to make an effort to make more jobs here we need to create a business park.”

Reeves said that he wanted to see a performing arts center brought into the city. 

“If we were to invest up to $10 million in a Greenville performing arts center that could host major events, it could pay for itself in a 10-year period,” he said. 

Reeves said that having a center of that magnitude would help Greenville pull in bigger acts from around the state and country and would improve both the city’s economic growth and quality of life. 

Pulley, who declined to comment on multiple questions during the event citing a distaste for repeating himself, said the biggest improvement to Greenville he would like to see would be to the mass transport system.

Pulley said that as the city grows into a larger metropolis, having bus routes running every 15 minutes throughout the city would be crucial. 

“Last night I was out in the rain waiting for a city bus for two hours, only to find out the bus that had been coming to Pitt Community College at the bus stop there had changed to go by Burger King,” said Pulley. “We need more transportation from the city buses. Public transportation needs to be free in Greenville. You shouldn’t make no money off public transportation; we need buses running all over the city every 15 minutes.”

Both Mercer and Connelly agreed the city needs to make an effort to create a “one-stop-shop” for business owners looking to locate in Greenville. They said Greenville already has well-educated staff who are versed in the requirements, and the city needs to appoint someone to guide businesses through the process instead of asking them to go through countless steps. 

Early voting begins on Oct. 19. Election Day is on Nov. 7.

Contact Seth Gulledge at sgulledge@reflector.com and 252-329-9579

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