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Opp mayoral candidates discuss issues

With municipal elections right around the corner, the Opp Chamber of Commerce and WOPP held a political forum where several candidates were able to speak.

The mayoral race for Opp includes three candidates, John Bartholomew, Arthur Norris and incumbent Becky Bracke, that all spoke at the forum.

Bartholomew spoke first stating that he will be making the weakest link in Opp and making it the strongest link.

“In Opp, I believe our weakest link is our streets. There are some areas that are overgrown, potholes that cause damage to cars, and this is the responsibility of the mayor. When I am elected, I will correct this problem, as I did before and I will do it again.”

Another important thing for Bartholomew is grants.

“We are working on grants with a team for housing,” Bartholomew said. “You can’t afford to fix your home up, put a new roof on it, put windows in it, and air conditioning, then we’ll even help you insulate your attic to help you with those high electric bills. What breaks my heart is that there is a high water and sewer bill, which 7 million dollars was just OK for our city will cause our water and sewer to go higher, but with some grants we are hoping to offset that cost.”

Education is an important grant, Bartholomew said.

“I’ll give you an example, you take a 10th grader that’s in school, take him to LBW and let him get a trade like air conditioning and plumbing, when he gets out, he can get a job and create his own business,” Bartholomew said. “He becomes a productive member of society and he doesn’t move away from Opp. He helps Opp grow. Plus, mom and dad love that.”

He said Opp’s parks are a very important part of the community.

“When I raised money for the Veterans Pool, it didn’t cost the city a dime and I see the faces out there laughing and having a good time and that blesses me,” Bartholomew said. “Now we need a park to get the kids off of the street. Somewhere they can go so they can have WiFi, where adults can go to have a large activity.”

Mizell Memorial Hospital was a hot topic during the forum, which Bartholomew said was another important part of the community.

“We need to maintain our hospital because we have an aging group that needs this hospital,” Bartholomew said. “Thank God they are here during Coronavirus.”

When Bartholomew looks at the north, he said he sees manufacturers up there that are being pushed out.

“We have a team that wants to go get them and bring them to Opp,” Bartholomew said. “When they come here, they are going to bring assets with them. They are going to bring money with them, but you know what’s important, they are going to bring jobs. Jobs for the people of Opp. Just as important as that is, we need to take care of our existing businesses in Opp. Uplifting those businesses. Giving them the same opportunity as you would bring in another company and lifting them up. My promise to you tonight is a mayor with leadership, accountability and transparency. With my leadership, we will bring this city back to prosperity.”

Norris was the next to speak, saying being helpful isn’t enough.

“Everything that has been done here has been helpful,” Norris said. “But we need more than help. Utilities are too high. Low-income people cannot stand it. The reason it is so high is because the city keeps borrowing money to do other things. Borrowing money to unify the town is not all right. The last four years, this administration has raised the power bill once and it is not going to get any cheaper. They already sold Opp Cable.”

Norris said there are still things going on that are costing the taxpayers money.

“There’s land that is being practically given away on the bypass,” Norris said. “If I’m elected, we are going to stop taking money out of the utilities. Then let it build up so we can lower the rates even more. The streets are a disgrace. They do need paving. There are some things that I can’t do and there are some things that I can’t do. I’m not going to make any promises, but we are going to do whatever we can do whenever I’m elected. I will be for the people to look out for the people and I want to be your mayor. I will be a full time mayor for you. I will not take any salary, until we get the city operating in a good way.”

Incumbent Bracke said there have been several things done in the past four years of her term.

“We have paved roads in every district and we have done infrastructure work,” Bracke said. “Right now, we are doing an infrastructure project in Opp that hasn’t been done for 40 years and it ensures the paving of Covington Avenue. No this is not going to increase your utility bills by 100 dollars a month. We have done a lot of other improvements to Opp including the Opp Public Library, the stadium, the fire station, The Community Center on Harden Street, the pool on Harden Street, the playground on Harden Street. We have done all these things and there is more. I want to make sure that your electric rates have not gone up since 2013.”

Financially, Bracke said Opp is up 400 percent in its general fund.

“Our retail sales are up 13 percent even through COVID-19. The biggest thing is our hospital. This administration saved this hospital. If anybody knows anything about rural hospitals, it’s that they are in jeopardy, but we made this decision and we are so proud of that.”

Bracke said bringing together the people of Opp and the council is a main thing that has helped move Opp in the right direction.

“Four years ago when I spoke, I said you need a leader that works with the council, citizens Opp to bring everybody together as a team to make Opp better,” Bracke said. “T.E.A.M. ‘Together Everyone Achieves More,’ and together we have done exactly that. We have gotten donations not costing the city one cent, for downtown lighting, a mural, Covington Jewelers building was donated to Vision In Action, lights at the state park pavilion and Opp Elementary School outside seating. We have done so many things in Opp that didn’t cost Opp a cent, all because people came together that wanted to make a difference in Opp. There are several happenings that are going on in Opp. You haven’t seen this many people get together in Opp in so many years. The Downtown Get Down, didn’t happen this summer because of COVID-19, the Fall Festival, the Faith Program that Vaughn started, so that the kids will have a place to go during the summer. We have a swim team coming to Opp now that are bringing people from out of town. We had to do some renovations to the pool to make that happen and we did that. There are over 25 new businesses that have relocated to Opp. The realtors are having a heyday. They have sold over 37 homes from people moving into Opp from out of the state and out of the community. There is a momentum going on here that we have not seen in so long. People have confidence in Opp. They want to be here and be a part of it. Of the three candidates, which one has the most invested in Opp? Which one has two businesses? I think you have a mayor right now that can bring people together and has shown that she has good business sense. Vote for Opp.”