City commission candidates address animal control, economic development

With two candidates for each of the four seats on the Winchester Board of Commissioners, there are plenty of ideas to improve the community and keep things moving forward.

The field includes three incumbents, Shannon Cox, Kenny Book and Kitty Strode, one former city and county commissioner in JoEllen Reed and four challengers, Ramsey Flynn, Tom Korb, Seneca Anderson and Paula Branham Thomas.

Current commissioner Rick Beach chose not to run for re-election this year, which means at least one new person will join the commission in January.

During Monday’s opening session of the candidates forum, seven of the candidates shared their ideas and thoughts about the job they want to do. Anderson was present Monday night but did not participate in the forum.

Those in the audience submitted questions touching on animal control, economic development and the city’s police department.

Korb said he would like to see the city’s police officers trained to carry and use epi-pens and automated external defibrillators, in addition to the Narcan anti-overdose medication they already carry, to help more people. Reed said she would like to see the department hire a female officer specifically to work on sexual offenses and be a better listener for female victims.

Praise for the department was universal.

Cox said the department is currently four positions short of being fully staffed.

“It’s a problem getting them in the academy and trained,” he said. “It’s 28 weeks now. I’ll put our first responders up against anyone any where and we’ll come out on top.”

“I wish we could help them more and give them better benefits,” Thomas said. “I wish we could do more for them.”

Book said the city is already working on several things to make the community more attractive to industry, including creating a tax-increment financing district in downtown.

“Whatever (Industrial Development Authority Director Todd Denham) needs, the city is willing to help him,” Book said.

“We can promote our community,” Flynn said. “We can promote our community college. Also, we need people to work. Our population needs to go up because we need the workforce.”

“We have to sell and market what we have,” Strode said. “Our downtown, now we can really sell (it). We have new private investment.”

Several said they would like to see additional staff hired to patrol and look for problem animals, including the colonies of feral cats.

“The biggest problem we have is those feral cats,” Cox said. “Even if they are captured, they’re too wild to be adopted out.”

“They’re really underfunded at the (county animal) shelter,” Korb said. “We need to raise some money for them.”

Cox said the city contributes to the county animal shelter, based on requests from the shelter staff.

“I believe we have a lack of personnel,” Reed said. “I think we need tougher laws. I do believe we need someone … patrolling the streets. People don’t always report things.”