Greenwood mayor candidates debate openness

rpulley@lsjournal.comJanuary 31, 2014 

Greenwood residents will decide if their “hands-on” mayor gets a third term, or is upset by a political newcomer in the April municipal elections.

Mayor Marvin Megee is opposed by Scott Hogsett.

Hogsett said he’s running to bring more openness to Greenwood’s government. He said there’s little public knowledge of city proposals, such as building a new City Hall, or settlements of lawsuits filed against Greenwood.

Hogsett said past controversies in Megee’s two terms continue to be a cloud over the city. He said many residents don’t know what’s happened regarding a fistful of lawsuits involving the city.

“It comes down to information coming out of City Hall, and there’s almost none,” Hogsett said. “Anything financial about the city is almost hush-hush.”

Megee says information is readily available at City Hall, should anyone ask.

He says his accomplishments working with the Board of Aldermen outweigh past problems and he has support of the Greenwood residents overall.

Other Greenwood races include Mike Harrell and David Owens running for a one-year term in Ward 1, Nicholas Cover running for a two-year term in Ward 1 and Sarah Hardin running for a two-year term in Ward 2.

Hogsett moved to Greenwood in 2009, after living in Kansas City most of his life. He said he has become interested in running for office because his wife is on the park board. He’s volunteered to help with some of those projects.

When one of the alderman resigned early, he applied for appointment to that office, but wasn’t selected. He then decided to run for mayor.

He is a graduate of Rockhurst High School and has a bachelor’s degree from Rockhurst University, where he majored in business administration. He’s employed at Santa Fe Auto Sound, where he runs its website, works in accounting and other tasks.

Hogsett said he has a good grasp of what’s going on in the city.

“It’s very interesting to me, I began to want to do my part,” he said.

He said the Board of Aldermen is doing a really good job, but Megee has served long enough.

“After a couple of terms, I think its time for a change,” Hogsett said.

To allow people to know what’s going on, Hogsett said, he would want the city to improve its website to include its budget, audit reports, future street projects, snow removal and other information online. He said it should include the city Code of Ordinances instead of making residents go to City Hall to look them up.

Hogsett said the city made a mistake of depending on a vendor for its recommendations for a $30,000 computer system, instead of using an independent consultant. The city is having recurring computer problems, he said.

He said he’s not against a new City Hall building, but would need to know more about the project.

Hogsett said that with the nation coming out of a recession its time for Greenwood to refocus on adding new businesses to diversify its tax base.

“We need to start welcoming business and making the city better,” he said.

On that point the candidates agree.

Megee said that Greenwood needs to “grow up” and get past political bickering, because its reputation discourages investments in the small town.

He said the city is currently working with some proposals he expects to bring new business to town in the next couple of years, but couldn’t provide more details.

Megee said he has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he double majored in political science and administration of justice. He said he’s semi-retired, now self-employed as a consultant for college instructors trying to achieve tenure.

He moved to Greenwood in 2008.

Megee said that the city was nearly broke when he and a new set of aldermen took office in 2010.

During his tenure, Megee said, the Board of Aldermen while not agreeing on all issues, the officials have at least been respectful and working together.

Hogsett said he agrees that the demeanor of the aldermen and mayor at meetings has been professional, unlike some previous years where the atmosphere was toxic.

Megee said Greenwood now has balanced annual budget of about $3 million, with a reserve averaging $2.5 million, he said.

A settlement from a lawsuit against a nearby rock quarry allowed the city to pay off debt and create the cash reserve, MeGee said.

Where the city used to pool all its money in one account, it has separate accounts for sewers, streets and other services to better track spending, he said.

Megee is visible around Greenwood with a beat-up, city truck with “Mayor” displayed on the sides around town on city business. He said it was old, didn’t run well, and the city couldn’t unload it when the truck was for sale.

Megee said that when first elected, he drove his personal vehicle slowly around town, inspecting curbs and sidewalks. Residents began reporting a suspicious vehicle. He got a call from police, saying they’d determined it was him, so he began using that truck.

It comes in handy for hauling brush he cleans up around town or materials as he volunteers as labor, helping the Public Works Department.

He’s proud of being a “hands-on” mayor. After snowstorms, he has used a city-owned Bobcat to help clear streets.

“I am an extra set of hands without hiring someone,” Megee said.

He said the city has saved a substantial amount of money by doing small curb, sidewalk and street repairs, where he helps with labor.

Megee and some volunteers replaced sheet rock and improved the police headquarters downstairs in City Hall, following a flood that made the basement uninhabitable.

The police for months worked out of a construction trailer, while the aldermen were trying to decide whether to reconstruct the entire City Hall.

He has posted pictures of those numerous projects on a Facebook blog called: Marvin Megee: A year in the life of a mayor.

Looking forward, Megee said he wants to continue running the city with a healthy fund balance, keeping the $2.5 million for real emergencies.

Megee said he asked the Board of Aldermen to delay a decision on bids for City Hall until after the election, since there could be a new cast of decision makers.

He supports rebuilding City Hall to improve security. He wants the city to find money in for the project in its budget without using the $2.5 million reserve or asking for a bond issue.

“I’m not open to going to the taxpayers and asking for more money,” Megee said.

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