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Weik, Remakel stake out positions at Woodbury forum

Washington County Board District 5 candidates Nancy Remakel and Lisa Weik talk after a Sept. 25 forum at Woodbury City Hall.

A message of economic development ran up against the promise of leadership last week as candidates vying to represent Woodbury on the Washington County Board staked out their positions during a public forum.

Challenger Nancy Remakel, a Woodbury planning commissioner, focused on boosting economic development in the county during a Tuesday, Sept. 25, League of Women Voters forum.

"Economic development is a very big challenge for this side of town," the former Woodbury City Council member said. "We need to have a strategic plan."

Meanwhile incumbent Commissioner Lisa Weik urged voters to re-elect her, noting that she stands in line to chair the board in 2013.

"I'm very dedicated to the city, the east metro," said Weik, who also chairs the Gateway Corridor Commission. "I have the momentum as the incumbent."

The District 5 candidates were the only in attendance. The two Washington County District 2 candidates, incumbent Commissioner Bill Pulkrabek and challenger Ted Bearth, were invited to the forum but did not attend. District 2 comprises much of eastern Woodbury in addition to Oakdale and Lake Elmo.

Transportation and transit issues took center stage at the forum - especially the future of the Interstate 94 corridor, a span running through Woodbury that is projected to see a major rise in traffic levels.

Weik said the Gateway Corridor Commission has been making strides in tackling the problem through a study tasked with finding transportation alternatives in the corridor.

"This needs public input," she said, adding that Woodbury's stake in the process is critical, with businesses like The Hartford, 3M and EcoLab employing local residents. "I want to take input from our public and business community."

Remakel said she sees benefits in expanding transit options in the corridor.

"We need to prepare transit models and we need to keep moving," she said.

When asked, neither candidate stated which of the proposed transit alternatives they preferred, though Weik said "we have good options."

Both candidates acknowledged the need for more busing out of Woodbury after concluding that busing options tend to dry up here most days by 8 a.m. Weik said she supports more evening and weekend bus traffic here, while Remakel said she would be an advocate for additional busing.

Later, an audience member's question probed the candidates' support for raising taxes to support the county's library system.

Weik said County Board didn't have to raise taxes in order to restore some funding to the library system and noted that commissioners just that day found budget dollars to bring back hours on Mondays.

"There really is no appetite right now for increasing property taxes," she said.

Remakel said she would be in favor of raising taxes to increase library hours. The county has invested millions into its libraries, she said, so "it's not practical to have the doors closed."

Candidates were also asked how they planned to boost economic development in Washington County.

The board has acted like economic development is not its job, Remakel said, adding that commissioners need to re-engage efforts. If transportation and transit projects are fostered by the county, businesses will be attracted to that new infrastructure, she said.

Weik said low, affordable Washington County property taxes will attract east-metro economic development.

She also pointed to the county's participation in the Greater MSP organization, which meets with businesses looking to locate or expand in the 13-county metro area. The organization, represented by Washington County by Commissioner Dennis Hegberg , has flown under the radar, Weik admitted.

"We've just kind of been unknown," she said of the organization.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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