The following is Watershed Voice’s candidate questionnaire for November’s Three Rivers mayoral race. We will run all completed questionnaires in the order they’re received prior to Election Day. Mayor Tom Lowry filled out our questionnaire, these are his answers.
Editor’s note: The formatting and content of this questionnaire are presented as they were submitted. Incumbent Tom Lowry is running against challenger Vernis Mims Jr.
Name: Tom Lowry
Party affiliation: N/A
Are you an incumbent? Yes
Many residents have expressed concern over the water in the city. How will you address Three Rivers’ water quality and cost issues if elected?
This is a very serious issue and I and others are addressing this. But first a few facts. The City of Three Rivers is having the same problems with our water as thousands of other cities and villages across our state and nation. Our water as it comes out of our wells is fine and meets all state and federal requirements.
The problem comes when some houses are old enough, approximately one hundred years old, that the line that joins the house to the water main was made from lead. These were legal a century ago but now we know they leach lead into the water. So some houses are getting water out of their taps that exceed Federal limits for lead. The State of Michigan, and the federal government, has mandated that we, and all water systems, must remedy this within 20 years. We are in year two. This is a totally unfunded mandate. There is no money from the State nor the federal government to fix this.
There is a trickle of money to start the sampling to get a sense of how many houses might have an issue. The first sampling here in Three Rivers suggests that maybe 40% of all houses are at risk. That would be up to 1400 houses! That would take about 6-10 million dollars to fix!
I am hopeful that someday our elected state and federal representatives will get a backbone and start funding this huge problem. In the meantime, the City Commission voted to add 10% on the last water increase to start building a special fund so that we can start on our own. We will start soon.
In the meantime, in cooperation with the State, citizens can get filters free of charge for their houses at City Hall or the Health Department. The real message that I want to get out there is our City Commission has been aware of this for several years and will start addressing it as we get more money to tackle it.
Affordable housing has been identified as a concern in Three Rivers. How will you plan to address the lack of affordable housing in the community if elected?
Affordable housing is an issue as it is in many communities in the nation. We have very little money to find those builders of affordable housing, so we welcome any companies that will address this issue and we work closely with them. We have worked withe larger apartment complexes as they have needed help and will continue to do so.
Personally I hope to address this issue by building new housing on land that I own. I hope to transfer this property into the City, and am in discussion with Lockport Township to make this happen. I need the property to be inside the City because of the need for water, sewer, and storm sewer services. The township cannot offer this now, nor in the foreseeable future. This issue cannot wait 5-10 years for a “maybe solution” from the Township. And for the record, the profit I make from this project will go to the Three Rivers Promise to benefit all of our children, now and in the future.
Recent conversation has highlighted the needs of the unhoused population in the community. How will you plan to address those needs if elected?
Homelessness has become more prevalent and noticeable in our City and area recently. I hope that we can create a collaboration of the current services and any others that can help. The current services are doing much, but cannot do it all.
We need more help from the State and Federal representatives. I am not holding my breath that that is forthcoming any time soon. So we need to do the best we can now with limited resources. I agree that any new facility does not belong downtown, for the same reason that it shouldn’t be in front of Meijers, Walmart, Home Depot, or any of the other businesses here. We will find an appropriate location. And there are so many kind souls here already that are doing their part to assist people who have a need. I will assist them.
Other than the above, what other issues do you believe are important to address? What measures will you pursue to address those issues?
Other issues that are important include continuing to provide all the services that people expect and are used to having with a challenged budget. We have removed the old Hospital and are looking to redevelop that site. We continue to support our Police, Fire, and Ambulance Depts. but are looking at some tremendous increases in replacement costs. For instance the last fire truck was $400,000 or so but a replacement will be 3-5 times as much! We continue to believe that our Parks, Trails, and waterfront make this a desirable place to raise a family. And there are other issues also.
How will you know that you are accurately representing your community?
I continue to listen and talk to as many people as possible. I help anyone who asks for assistance. I have many years of experience solving little and big problems to bring to the table. All these combine to allow me to have a good sense of the pulse of Three Rivers. But keep talking to me or any City Commissioner.
Is there anything else your prospective constituents should know about you, your platform, your views, or your background?
You should know also that I am proud to say that I live here. I live downtown just as I invest in the downtown. I provide spaces free of charge to the Food Bank and Three Rivers Area Mentoring because I believe in doing my part to help people. I also assist many other causes. I have served, and continue to do so, on many other boards and commissions. I especially want to do more to help our children grow up in a great community with even more benefits and the education to succeed in their futures.