JANESVILLE — Economic development was on the minds of city council candidates during a forum Monday night, with some saying the city needs to turn its attention to the south side.

Five candidates are running for four open seats. They include incumbents Dave Marshick, Heather Miller and Michael Jackson. The challengers, both of whom have previously run for city council, are Richard Neeno and Spencer Zimmerman.

Economic development and spending came up throughout Wednesday night’s forum at the Italian House hosted by the Rock County Civics Academy.

And several candidates said that after downtown revitalization efforts and the proposed ice arena and convention center on Milton Avenue, the city needs to look at its south side.

Neeno said he would like to see the same effort that went into downtown be given to other parts of the city.

“I think some sort of project on the south side would be brilliant and long overdue,” Neeno said.

Miller also said south side development is long overdue, including a long sought-after grocery store.

“We need to start focusing on where we need to put the next big effort,” Miller said. “I think the south side is long overdue for a grocery store.”

Jackson noted the booming industrial development on the city’s south side and said it will bring in new businesses and housing.

“I really want to see the south side addressed,” he said. “I’m almost to the point where I could say I’m passionate about it.”

The key, Jackson said, is the revitalization of Center Avenue with a new, quality grocery store.

Both Jackson and Marshick said the Woodman’s Sports and Convention Center project is one of the reasons they decided to run again.

“The Woodmans Sports and Convention center, that’s a big deal to me, I want to see that through one way or another,” Marshick said.

After the forum, the two challengers were asked where they stand on the ice arena.

Neeno said he was definitely a supporter, but Zimmerman said he has yet to make up his mind.

Zimmerman describes himself as a fiscal conservative, and said he wants to see how much the project will eventually cost.

Earlier in the forum, he was critical of spending on previous high profile projects in the city.

Those include the removal of the parking deck over the Rock River downtown, the removal of the Monterey Dam and some of the improvements downtown connected to the ARISE project.

“You need to look at every dollar spent and make sure you’re spending it efficiently, because you’re spending the taxpayer’s money,” Zimmerman said. “You can’t keep raising taxes and spending, spending, spending.”

The general election is April 4.

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