Full House: Eight Candidates Debate At Huntington Mayoral Forum

By John W. Davis

March 29, 2011 Updated Mar 29, 2011 at 11:17 PM EDT

HUNTINGTON, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - "After we get the budget in control, I would love to see some improvements to the city, specifically a bike trail and a walking trail," said Huntington Resident Jim Davis.

"Cut the budget or create a new revenue stream."

That was one of the ideas tossed out by a candidate at the mayoral debate Tuesday night in Huntington.

Hundreds of voters attended the forum, which was held in the auditorium at Huntington North High School.

The biggest issue facing mayoral candidates in the May primary election, the budget, which has been cut by 22% over the last three years.

"Until spending is under control, I don't think their should be any additional projects or taxes," emphasized Davis.

Davis and other voters were eager to hear from the eight candidates who participated in the forum.

The candidates were Terry Abbett (R), Larry D. Buzzard (R), Tom Carney (R), Ervin (Erv) R. Ebersole (R), Brooks Fetters (R), Tony L. Hiles (D), Jay Rinehart (I) and incumbent Mayor Steven D. Updike (R).

"I'm looking for somebody who knows what they're doing and they're willing to listen to other people. Cut corners when necessary but tell people why they are doing it," said Huntington Resident Suzanne Haneline.

All eight candidates poured out numerous budget fixing ideas.

Those ideas ranged from using volunteer firefighters (Ebersole), to combining city services (Abbett), to privatizing city services (Buzzard), to keeping the city's controversial trash free (All candidates except Abbett), which has raised about $650,000 dollars in revenue.

Another idea by Republican Erv Ebersole called for Huntington Police to be paid for a unique service they currently perform for free.

Right now, if you lock your keys in your vehicle in Huntington, police will unlock your car for free.

Ebersole said the city performed that service for free more than 800 times last year.

Ebersole said residents should pay about 30 dollars, which would have created about 24,000 dollars in revenue.

Independent Jay Rinehart said he would focus on downtown development in Huntington.

Rinehart proposed significantly cutting taxes for business that make significant monetary investments in their businesses.

Candidates also shared plans for attracting new businesses.

Huntington Mayor Republican Steve Updike said the city needs to make sure they have the proper water and sewer infrastructure before going after major corporations.

Others said business tax breaks would revive Huntington's economy.

The primary election is Tuesday, May 3.

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