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Hammond forum draws two dozen residents

The Hammond Hotel hosted the Hammond forum on Feb. 15. Nick Carstens, Erin McComb, Vince Trudell, Eric Arthur and Doug Doll attended the event. Candidate Tony Bibeau was out of town but did provide answers for the three questions given to candidates in advance.

It's important for residents to know where village board candidates stand on important issues, before they head to the polls on April 5.

Around two dozen residents attended the first candidate forum in Hammond on Feb. 15.

The forum was a way for residents to ask questions and get answers from board candidates on important issues related to the village.

Residents had the opportunity to mail in questions during the week or submit them at the door the night of the forum. Resident questions were picked at random and in addition to residents' questions, all six candidates were given three questions in advance that would be asked at the forum.

All candidates (Nick Carstens, Erin McComb, Vince Trudell, Eric Arthur and Doug Doll) except for Village Trustee Tony Bibeau, who was out of town, were in attendance at the event. St. Croix Central Community Education Director Paulette Anderson read Bibeau's prepared statements, during the opening and closing statements, as well as the three questions given in advance.

St. Croix Central Community Education sponsors the forums to give residents a chance to learn more about the individuals who could be representing them on the board.

Two of the questions asked at the forum were:

What issues from our village do you feel have gone unaddressed and how will you address these issues?

• McComb said she knows there are a lot of people concerned with the cost of utility services. She suggested the board look for ways to provide services more efficiently, by reducing operating costs. She referenced the village reducing health benefit costs this year, "That directly effects your water bill." She also suggested bringing in more houses and businesses to utilize the services to "spread the wealth" of the water costs. She also mentioned the need to improve communication with village staff by working together to set goals.

• Trudell said downtown Hammond has been neglected. He said growing up in Hammond, all the storefronts used to be full.

"Over time it's disappeared and we haven't been good at filling it back in." He said the board is planning a revitalization of Davis Street, "We're always looking for new businesses, trying to make it easy for them to move in. We've tried to streamline stuff and cut some of the red tape to make it easier for people to move in and for businesses to be successful."

• Arthur said the sidewalk project has gone unaddressed for awhile.

"Based on the Safe Routes to Schools and how we were going to upkeep and be able to get public works involved in being able to fix existing sidewalks, put in potentially new ones whether it be trails or what not, that's one of the things I think has not been addressed completely yet, but we are working on it."

• Doll said the issue of downtown needs to be re-addressed. He said the issue has been going on for a long time. "I expected it six years ago and it never happened. I prepared for it when I built my business 10 years ago and it never happened."

He said that he knows the downtown project is large and expensive, but said the Main Street project needs to "get taken care of."

• Carstens said as a "relative newbie" to the area he doesn't know all of the ongoing issues, but from board meetings he's attended, he's concerned with the proposition to move the Running of the Llamas to the park instead of Main Street.

"I think it is a festival that is driven by the businesses, for the businesses."

He said if the village decided to move the event he would be very disappointed as he is a "big advocate for small businesses" and feels that the businesses on Main Street would feel a loss as a result of the move.

What do the candidates think the job of Village Trustee is and what is the most important part of the job?

• Doll said, it's what everyone at the forum had been talking about.

"You've gotta do the best you can to control costs, control spending, try to get the infrastructure tuned up some more (while also controlling taxes)," he said.

Doll suggested there are some costs that cannot be avoided and he commended the maintenance workers for keeping the village clean.

• Carstens said, "To basically eat, breathe and sleep Hammond. There are seven people on that village board that control everything that goes on in this village, and I don't know if you guys are aware of the power that they have. They make the decisions that effect each and every one of you in this room."

He said it's important for a trustee to have a passion for Hammond. He said he wants to listen to the taxpayers and acknowledge residents' concerns.

• McComb said, " To advocate for you, to be available to hear your opinions ... but also to lead. I may not always agree with your opinions but I'm willing to hear it and I'm willing to incorporate that into my thinking."

She concluded saying she wants to manage how much the village spends while still providing best in class service, and to apply funds and energy to innovate and move forward.

• Trudell said,"We represent the people. We're the voice."

He said it's important for residents to vote and to choose who they think the best voices of the village are. It is the job of the board to "come to a common ground and make decisions. That's our job," he said.

• Arthur said, "It's listening to the taxpayers, it's acknowledging them."

He said the most important part of the job is: 1. Listening to what the community has to say. 2. Learning what is important to the community. 3. Communicating with people in the community.

Forum on March 19

Do you have a question or want to find out more about the candidates running for village board?

A second forum is planned at the St. Croix Central High School on March 19, at 11 a.m., in the community education room.

Residents can submit questions for the candidates in advance. Mail questions to Hammond Forum, P.O. Box 120, Hammond, WI 54015 or e-mail questions to

Remember to vote on Tuesday, April 5. Polls open at 7 a.m. The Village Hall is located at 455 Davis St.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

(715) 426-1048