City Council Hopefuls Hash Out Issues In Candidates' Forum

City Council Hopefuls Hash Out Issues In Candidates' Forum

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Watertown city council candidates fielded plenty of questions at a forum at Watertown's Italian-American Civic Association Wednesday night.

Tuesday is primary day and five candidates -- including two incumbents --are vying for two council seats. 

Only the four with the most votes will make it to November's general election. 

The forum was hosted by radio station WTNY.

In his opening statement, city council candidate Cliff Olney asked "What things do you want to see done is this city's council doing for you?"

The forum was a chance for the public to hear from all five council candidates before the September 12 primary. 

One of the biggest issues brought up is the city's on-going negotiations with the fire department over staffing issues and demoting eight captains.

Incumbent council member Teresa Macaluso says the department has not compromised with the city and she wants the department to help them out.

"We had 40 hours of fires last year, they work 134 days a year," she said. "I mean, at what point do they really give back to the community?"

Candidate Lisa Ruggerio thinks two more firefighters should be hired at a base rate.

"That would help reduce the overtime because right now you're bringing people in that have five years, 10 years, whatever, they're at a higher pay rate so that means that overtime rate is much higher."

Olney criticized how the city has been handling the negotiations and spending money on a lawyer.

"I can sit down with them and come to a conclusion with this without a half-million-dollar labor attorney involved."

Another issue that was brought up is rental inspections, something incumbent council member Steve Jennings has been pushing for. He says he'll continue with this initiative if re-elected.

"Watertown's behind the times on that front," he said. "Our policy is currently very reactive -- you can ask codes to come in and inspect, but tenants don't."

Candidate Ryan Henry-Wilkinson was asked about one thing he plans to do if elected: eliminating the city manager position, making the mayor a full-time position.

"Right now the city manager is only accountable to city council and if there's an elected strong mayor then that person has to go in front of all these people and actually justify all their decisions," Henry-Wilkinson said.

Other issues that came up were government spending and a needle exchange program that's coming to Watertown. 

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