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Small crowd shows for Ferriday mayoral forum

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Citizens of Ferriday listen as candidates for mayor, including Johnnie Brown, Justin Connor and Gene Allen participate in a debate Saturday morning at the Florida Avenue gym. The fourth candidate for mayor, Joe Sontoyo, was not in attendance.

FERRIDAY — A little more than a handful of Ferriday residents came out to a public forum Saturday morning to see three of the four Ferriday mayoral candidates field questions and voice their platforms with less than a week left until the primary election.

Candidates Gene Allen, Johnnie Brown and Justin Conner answered questions from moderator Teddy Schiele and residents at the forum, which was hosted by The Harvest Project in the Florida Avenue gym. Joe Sontoyo did not attend the forum.

Water concerns, education, recreation and economic growth were among the leading topics at the forum.

Conner said health and financial concerns about the local water supply is one of the main issues of Ferriday.

Allen, a former Ferriday mayor, and Brown, a current Ferriday alderman, both said they believed Ferriday’s water woes had been addressed through the approximately $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture the town received a couple of years ago for a water plant.

The water system will be managed by CP Management of Harrisonburg.

Brown said the town’s water problems did not originate from money but from maintenance and workers who were not trained properly to manage the system.

Conner said he believed the third-party management was a result of bad leadership and said, if elected, he would call for a federal investigation to find out what happened to the Ferriday residents’ money.

“We will settle this water issue, if someone has to go to jail over it,” he said.

All of the candidates said they want to aggressively to work with local school officials and educators to decrease the dropout rate and keep children in school.

Conner said he believed a truancy officer should be placed in the local schools.

Brown said the parish already has a truancy officer, but Conner said he did not believe one officer was enough to control truancy at all the schools.

Allen said he believed one of the main problems in Ferriday schools was the fact that there is not enough parental participation.