Longtime Councilman Henry Wilson and his challenger for the Place 6 seat, Joel Downs, disagree on issues including the benefits of red-light cameras and whether the city is mired in debt.
Wilson, who has served on the council for 30 years, is facing Downs, who ran last year and lost by 54 votes.
Wilson, 68, is a retired Bell Helicopter engineer.
“We have a long tenure on the council, and we think about the future for our city,” he said.
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Wilson said one of his most important projects was working to bring a grocery store to south Hurst. A Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market is scheduled to open next year.
“It was a struggle to convince [developers] that a grocery store was needed,” he said.
Wilson said that the city cannot grow in size because it is surrounded by other cities but that that hasn’t kept it from bringing in development. The senior citizens center led to the building of senior housing, for example, he said.
Downs, 67, said he is concerned about the city’s debt and believes that Hurst could have waited a couple of years on projects such as the Chisholm Aquatics Center, which is under construction.
“We are a large tax base, but we are a small community,” he said.
Downs said that he is concerned because Hurst has borrowed about $6.5 million a year and added that if elected, he would “tamp down” on borrowing.
Wilson said that Hurst is a “financially conservative” city with a strong credit rating.
Half of the debt is paid off with property taxes, while the rest is being paid down with a half-cent economic development sales tax, he said.
The portion of the debt supported by property taxes is $34 million, and $21 million from that amount is from voter-approved projects such as Fire Station No. 2, the Hurst Senior Citizens Activity Center and library improvements, Wilson said.
Downs said another concern is the use of eminent domain for the expansion of North East Mall several years ago.
“I am a conservative, and I believe strongly in individual freedom and property rights,” he said.
Downs said he is also concerned about red-light cameras and how they are not generating the promised revenue for Hurst.
“I would like for the cameras to die a natural death. I would like to convince the council that the cameras are not a good deal for Hurst,” he said.
Wilson said that the cameras save lives and that they are not about extra money for Hurst.
“If I get on the council, I won’t be upsetting things. I will be the person who asks the questions and persuading people that maybe this is not the right thing to do and that there should be a compromise,” Downs said.
Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696