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Hopefuls debate development, electric issues in Batavia

Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2013 7:26 a.m. CST

BATAVIA – Batavia aldermanic candidates talked about topics ranging from downtown development to utility rates in a candidate forum Wednesday sponsored by the Batavia Chamber of Commerce.

The first part of the forum featured questions posed by the Chamber of Commerce. Candidates were asked if the city’s development approval process needed to be streamlined.

Nick Cerone, who is running for 6th Ward alderman against incumbent Robert Liva and newcomer Ron Rechenmacher, thinks so.

“The perception out there is that Batavia is not a business friendly community,” Cerone said. “We need to make things easier.”

Candidates also were asked how they would use the city’s remaining tax increment financing funds to encourage economic development. Steve Vasilion, who is running for the 5th Ward against incumbent Eldon Frydendall, said he wants to see improvements to Water Street for better parking and lighting and to strengthen its stature as an arts district.

Liva said he supported the continuation of the city’s streetscape program to make “downtown a destination.”

Candidates also were asked about how they would keep electric rates in line with other communities in light of the city purchasing more power than it needs from the Prarie State power plant. The city has looked at selling off some of its power because it doesn’t need as much as expected because of the economic slowdown.

Fourth Ward Alderman Jim Volk, who is running against Jaimie Saam, noted that the city’s investment in Prairie State is for 30 years.

“It’s a long-term investment,” he said. “Rates will go up. We are just going to hold things as best we can.”

“We need to understand we are committed to this for 30 years,” Saam said. “We need to try to keep Batavia’s rates reasonable.”

Rechenmacher said the issue needs to be looked at.

“The rate payers will likely pay too much for years” he said.

Frydendall said the city’s electric utility is probably the best incentive the city has in attracting new development, such as industrial customers.

“We aggressively go out and try to bring in new customers,” he said.

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