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STEM — Continuing to move the town of Stem forward was the common theme for all of the candidates at the Thursday, Oct. 3 public forum at the Stem Fire Department.
Incumbent Casey Dover is running unopposed for mayor. Kenneth McLamb and David Pavlus currently serve as commissioners and are running for the two four-year term seats. Incumbent Kevin Easter is one of three candidates running to fill two seats that are available for a two-year term. Frank Shelton III, a current member of the planning board and former commissioner Lonnie Cole Sr., who did not attend the forum, are also candidates for the two-year term seats.
NOTE: Some questions asked at the forum have been removed and some answers have been shortened for space purposes.
Moderator Rev. John Gooch opened the discussion by asking Dover if he thought Main Street/downtown is healthy and successful and if not, what could change?
Dover: The downtown area is not as healthy as it could be, but the town is moving in the right direction with the removal of the old buildings and clearing the lot could lead to the possibility of a true downtown area returning to Stem. He said he would like to see something that would draw the residents to the downtown area and return it to a gathering place to make Stem a thriving small community.
McLamb was presented with a question about affordable senior and retirement living homes or centers and attracting more seniors to the area.
McLamb: The original idea was to purchase the property that had the old school gymnasium and turn that into a community center, but that deal fell through and the building has been demolished due to structural damage. He added he thinks there is the opportunity and desire to bring senior living to the area, but with the current boundary restrictions he said he is not sure if it actually can happen.
“If Stem is ever able to expand, then I think it is a possibility. We are actually running out of area to build homes. There may be a possibility for a community center down the road,” McLamb said.
Shelton III was asked how to create more opportunities for youth in the community and neighborhood.
Shelton III: He said he believes the board has already begun to create opportunities with the Jack Day Community Park, Easter egg hunt and National Night Out. Shelton said he thinks the board will continue to find things like that for the youth to do.
Easter was asked about the possibility of growth and were there any plans to extend the town limits?
Easter: “There had been some discussion about expanding the town limits, but the town board can engage in that activity as a board. Other players will have to come to the table. The planning board will ultimately have to bring that discussion to the Granville County Commissioners.”
He went on to add that Stem needed to be bigger than a circle.
Pavlus was asked if he thought the upgrades to the Jack Day Community Park had a bearing on people spending money in the town.
Pavlus: Recreation opportunities, whether it is the park or the Tar River Land Conservancy trails on Brogden Road or the soon-to-be- opened trails on Old 75 are drawing people into town.
“Now we have to get something in town,” Pavlus said. “We are getting the town on the map and we are working behind the scenes with the planning board as it begins to develop a 20-year plan and how the town might look. The 20-year plan includes tomorrow, next year, five years down the road. We were hoping when we bought the property in downtown Stem that it would be a part of the 20-year plan and that will be developed and help bring people in. The park is changing to become ADA-compliant. We have installed a port-a-potty and water fountain, so the park is changing.”
“What would you do if you could do one thing for Stem?” was the final question posed to all candidates.
McLamb: “I want a place where people can come to,” McLamb said, citing the idea of a community center. “The same people that usually come to meetings are here tonight. I want to involve the whole community, not just the inner city of Stem, but right outside of Stem as well, just to get people together and meet. I would like to see the people get together more.”
Pavlus: Pavlus said he would like to see the 20-year plan on Jan. 1 because it would include the possible expansion of Stem and the ability to build out.
“When our 20-year plan is finished, it will move us in the right direction,” Pavlus said.
Dover: “The people have to be involved and the people that make the decisions have to listen, exercise common sense, be humble, have a little humility, be respectful. I hope that will keep carrying on, the ability to function and move forward.”
Shelton: Shelton said there may be some elderly individuals that may not be able to clean their yard and “as a town we may want to look at working together to assist them with the clean up as a possible community project.”
Shelton added he would like to see the 20-year plan completed. He said it changes the zoning laws on how Stem can be developed and slow down the development that has taken Stem by storm. Retain Stem’s rural integrity is important, he added.
Easter: Completing the sidewalks would be the first thing — eventually the sidewalks will lead to the Tar River Conservancy trails.
“The second thing would be to have the Alive After Five in the vacant lot so it will bring people to town and have them interact with citizens and see that is not all bad to interact and have a good time,” Easter added. “It would be good to draw some folks in to participate in discussions about what will eventually happen with the lot and what their vision is for downtown. The 20-year plan is no good without citizen input.”
Other scheduled candidate forums
• Town of Stovall, Thursday, Oct. 10 at 6 p.m., Stovall Library
• City of Creedmoor, Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m., Creedmoor City Hall
These forums are open to the public. Early voting begins Oct. 16, and election day is Nov. 5.