Candidates for Canton City Council and Canton residents discussed the need to stimulate the city's economy during a candidate forum Monday night.

Candidates for Canton City Council and Canton residents discussed the need to stimulate the city's economy during a candidate forum Monday night.

“The biggest thing we need to do is draw more people to the city,” Earl Maltbie, 69, Canton City Council candidate, said. “We need more employment, housing and to improve utilities. We can't go on the status quo. We have to grow. We have somehow lost the ability to draw people to functions. We have to do something to get people involved.”

Maltbie is an engineer and a consultant for the area plastics industry.

City council candidate Terry Gribble, 57, a truck driver, was raised in Canton and recently bought home in Canton and moved back to town.

“One of the main reasons I am running is because I was raised here and I remember the days when Main Street was full,” he said. “We need to get people looking here (for houses). We have houses from $25,000 to $250,000 range. We need to get that out to the news and the radio. We need people to look at Canton and its fantastic school system. We need to go from there.”

Cathy Morgan, 66, a retired registered nurse, said the city needs to reorganize its chamber of commerce. The chamber was disbanded because volunteers could not be found to lead the organization.

“We need to let people know they are very welcome in our town,” she said. “We want people to participate.”

Maltbie said he agrees a development committee or chamber needed to be organized to seek new businesses.

“We need to develop different plans for locations, utilities and an employment poll,” he said. “The people we have to draw from are slim in town. ... We are a bedroom community. People live here and sleep here. During the day or night, they are gone to work elsewhere. That is hard to overcome.”

Owen Meier of Maxwell Wildlife Refuge attended the forum Monday and encouraged the future members of local government to take advantage of the community's proximity to the refuge.

“I have people out there from out of state and overseas. They ask me where they can go to lunch, and I have to send them to McPherson or Lindsborg,” he said.

Owen's wife, Della, also noted Canton was the only community on the local scenic byway that did not have a member on the scenic by-way committee, which meets four times per year.

Both Meiers said they were sad to see the decline of Canton's downtown.

“If you go and set a cannon off downtown, no one would know,” Della Meier said. “It makes me sad that it is going down the tubes like that.”

Another audience member asked what the prospective council members would do if other residents tried to block progress.

“We can't afford to shut the door,” Maltbie said. “We need to keep the door open and do whatever we can to promote the city for development.”

Morgan said some years ago a business was alienated by members of the community asking endless questions about the business' impact on the community.

“We have to be careful,” she said. “We don't want to push anyone away.”

Gribble said he would fight for business growth in the community.

“We don't want to turn anyone down,” he said.

In addition, to the economic growth, Morgan championed increasing communication between government and the city resident. She suggested more timely publishing of the council minutes on the city website and brining back the city newsletter.

Morgan also suggested starting an arts and crafts fair the same weekend as the Hillsboro Arts and Craft Fair to bring people into the city.

City council candidate Jean Anderson was unable to attend the meeting, but offered a written statement to be read on her behalf.

City council candidate Jeff Eckert did not attend.