AMITE — Five candidates running for mayor of Amite in the Nov. 6 election generally agreed during a debate on solutions to challenges facing the town in the coming years.
The winner of the election will succeed Reggie Goldsby, who has been Amite’s mayor for almost 30 years. Goldsby chose not to run for re-election.
Participating in the session Tuesday night were candidates Charles “Boo” Christmas, Buddy Bel, Patrick Murphy, Nicholas “Nick” Cefalu and Johnny Duncan.
A sixth candidate, Walter Daniels, a town councilman, did not participate in the debate because of a conflict with the monthly meeting of the Town Council.
Candidates disagreed somewhat on the issue of annexing additional territory into Amite’s town limits.
Cefalu said that Amite simply does not have the money at this time to annex additional areas into the city, noting that extending town infrastructure to new areas would be too costly.
Christmas said that he would favor annexing land to create an industrial and business park. Bel said that he would leave the matter up to residents of a given area and annex those areas if all residents made the request.
Murphy contended he would welcome some annexation, especially in areas where successful businesses now exist outside the town’s limits.
He said that Amite needs to “reach out to these solid businesses and bring them into our town limits. They could be an asset.”
Duncan said that he would be willing to bring new areas into the town because those residents would enjoy lower water rates.
Candidates also differed in responding to a question about Amite’s growing traffic problems, especially along La. 16, the town’s main thoroughfare.
Christmas and Bel both said they favored a plan that has been proposed in the past that would make La. 16 one-way in one direction and Mulberry Street one-way in the opposite direction.
Christmas said that, in effect, two main streets would be created, thereby giving businesses more access to customers.
Cefalu said that new routes should be explored to lessen the traffic on La. 16. Truckers don’t want to haul heavy loads through the heart of the town, he said, but they have no other choice.
Cefalu said that the mayor and councils until now have “not been really serious about helping the downtown area.”
Murphy said that traffic on La. 16 should not be curtailed because many businesses along that route depend on the movement of vehicles through the area.
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