HUDSON -- The future of the city, and the comprehensive plan that will guide it, were a main topic as mayoral candidates met Tuesday morning.
Current Mayor Rich O’Connor and Council President Joyce Hall participated in a candidate forum hosted by the Hudson Chamber of Commerce ahead of the April 7 election.
As mayor, Hall said she would like to focus on physical and mental health issues, especially for city employees. She proposed a survey for staff, and a look at the city’s health insurance coverage.
Hall also said the city needs to look at income appropriate housing.
“We’ve got a lot of people who work in this city who can’t afford to live here,” she said.
Public transportation and environmental issues would also be priorities for her.
If re-elected O’Connor said he’d like to see the city continue down the path it’s on.
Transportation is something he’s been working on with the county, trying to provide transportation for seniors and those with disabilities. O’Connor said that should be accomplished in the next few months.
The city will soon be facing infrastructure problems, with systems that are more than a hundred years old, O’Connor said. The city needs to keep track of those, and create a plan for them. It’ll be expensive, but necessary, O’Connor said.
The city’s comprehensive plan, which is being updated, will be the road map for the future, O’Connor said. He encouraged citizens to participate in the ongoing survey about how they want Hudson to develop.
O’Connor said the city needs to ensure continued development is measured and thought out.
“This is the crown jewel of the St. Croix Mississippi Valley and we want to keep it that way,” he said.
Hall seconded that participation is key in the comprehensive plan.
She said she wants to see the comprehensive plan lay out what businesses the city wants to attract and where they should be. She would also like an inclusion statement.
Hall said the plan should look at the city’s buildings, consolidating the public works garages and moving the library and police station. Those properties could be sold and put back on the tax rolls.
Asked about workforce housing, Hall said the city needs to encourage developers to construct more apartment buildings. She also said grants are available to provide income=appropriate housing for people who do have a good income but not enough to purchase a home in the area. The city needs to be looking for those opportunities, Hall said.
O’Connor said workforce housing is a complicated issue. The fact that Hudson is a desirable community drives cost of housing up, he said, but they want workers to be able to live in the community. The city is at its geographic borders, so the topic needs to be a centerpiece as the city discusses annexations, he said.
The new parking system was brought up in questions from the audience.
O’Connor said the recommendations in place now have come from two-years worth of work. The discussions have been rightly driven by the chamber, he said, and the city now needs to get out of the way and let the chamber take over management of the parking. The parking revenue functions as a utility, with revenue paying for maintenance and operation.
Otherwise O’Connor said he’d like to see the system function as a true utility.
Hall said studies have shown that free parking is not an option downtown.
When she first ran for council five years ago, a parking expert told the council that smart meters would be needed, and that implementation would be difficult. Issues will level off once people get used to the new system, Hall said. The system allows people to know when they come downtown, there will be a parking spot available.