Sebastian candidates tackle lagoon, rail, business issues in forum

SEBASTIAN — During the last public candidate forum for those vying for two seats on the Sebastian City Council, five candidates discussed issues pertaining to the Indian River Lagoon, All Aboard Florida and various matters affecting the business community.

The Sebastian River Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the forum, its eighth, and crafted 30 questions – six for each of the five candidates.

Those seeking the two seats on the Council dais are incumbents Jim Hill and Jerome Adams, businessman Damien Gilliams, City volunteer Ed Herlihy, and Sheriff’s Sgt. Albert Iovino.

The candidates appeared to agree on a few key matters – property taxes, fighting All Aboard Florida and protecting the Indian River Lagoon. Where they differed, though, were matters pertaining to businesses in the City.

Gilliams, 54, told the audience that he has four businesses in the river district. He said that though the City offers tax abatements to entice businesses to expand or move in, none have taken the City up on that offer. He said the City should focus on bringing in companies that offer high wages – doing so would require keeping highly educated residents in the area.

Adams, 46, said the City should continue giving businesses breaks by deferring fees to help them stay afloat while the economy continues to improve. He added that the Council should be available to discuss options with the business community.

“In that way, everybody wins,” Adams said.

Hill was asked what the City’s role should be in creating jobs, to which he responded that the City should do as it has been. He explained that the Council and staff have gone through the Airport Master Plan and created an industrial park there, as well as continue to work with business leaders to come up with solutions.

Though Herlihy, 77, wasn’t directly asked about issues pertaining to businesses, he told the audience that one of the reasons he decided to seek election to the Council was to improve upon communication with the business community. He said he believes communication between the City and businesses is lacking on both sides and he wants to address that problem. He did not go into detail as to how he would accomplish that goal.

Iovino, 43, was asked about financial incentives for businesses. He said the City and Council need to work with the little businesses to make opening a new store easier. It should also take under consideration the various fees businesses are charged.

Iovino also called out the City’s landscaping codes, which, he said, are the biggest in Indian River County. “I understand setting a high bar,” he said, but “that’s not working with people.”

Voters will go to the polls on Nov. 4 to choose two Council members from the field of five. Early voting begins Oct. 21 and continues through Nov. 1 and will be held at Sebastian City Hall in the Council Chambers for Sebastian voters.

Check back later today for a video produced by from the Sebastian River Area Chamber of Commerce’s Candidate Forum.

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