More than 100 people crowded the foyer in Washington High School to pepper the town’s mayoral candidates with questions at a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters.
Republican candidates, incumbent Mayor Gary Manier and challenger, former Washington Police Chief Don Volk, debated a range of topics Thursday night.
Several audience members asked about a dangerous intersection within the city.
“The number one priority for the council currently is the Nofsinger (Road) intersection at Boyd Parkway,” Manier said.
Recent deadly accidents have left Washington residents concerned about the intersection. Volk said the spot was not as dangerous when he was police chief.
“Nofsinger and Boyd, there were no more accidents there than Cummings and Washington road,” Volk said.
Volk believes the area should be strictly policed, claiming more tickets were issued along Nofsinger Road while he oversaw the police department. Manier thinks infrastructure changes could help, citing a recent study conducted by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
The two also discussed the potential of 223 acres of vacant land.
“We need to find the right development that hopefully brings tax dollars to this great city,” Manier said.
Volk thinks the money could be better spent elsewhere, saying he wants to see infrastructure repairs on the city’s east side…a point agreed upon by Manier. Volk also wants the city to sell the 223 acres of land.
“There are so many more things that could be done with regards to the aging infrastructure here in town,” Volk said.
Potentially the most contentious moment of the night dealt with Manier’s communication skills, which were questioned by his opponent.
“We got to have a better open line of communications and a willingness to answer questions when people ask,” Volk said.
The City is on its second interim police chief since Volk retired nine months ago. It hasn’t had a full-time fire chief since 2014.
Manier countered by claiming he communicates well with city leaders and the public.
“I get stopped at gas stations and restaurants and regularly host ‘Coffee with the Mayor.’” he said.
Manier and Volk are both lifetime Washington residents. Manier was elected in 2001 following a five-candidate race and ran unopposed in 2005, 2009 and 2013. Volk served the Washington Police Department for 31 years.
Without a Democrat running for the seat, the Feb. 28 primary winner is essentially guaranteed a victory.