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Posted: July 16, 2010 2:15 p.m.

BOC candidates face off at Voter’s League forum

Candidates for Newton County Board of Commissioner, Districts 2 and 4, and District 95 State Representative seat squared off at Tuesday night’s Newton County Voter’s League political forum.

Candidates were asked a series of questions by a group of panelists and the audience. The questions and responses of the BOC candidates are listed. To read about the state representative candidates visit covnews.com.

Question: How is your district changing, and name specific initiatives you’d like to propose to improve your district?

District 2

Democratic challenger Lanier Sims said he wanted to see the county utilize the new library to hold educational seminars and life skills classes hosted by professionals in District 2. He also wanted to increase safety through additional patrols.

Democratic incumbent Earnest Simmons said he had already done a lot during his first term in office, including installing four traffic systems at some of his district’s busiest intersections and building Denny Dobbs Park. He said Sims could hold seminars as a private citizen.

Republican candidate Rickie Corley did not attend the forum.

District 4

Democratic challenger Kenneth Hardeman said he wanted to see more community involvement and make citizens more aware of the services offered by the county. If elected, he wanted to be as accessible as possible.

Democratic incumbent J.C. Henderson said the district was growing and he expected more services to be demanded, which will have to be paid for. He said he would continue to watch the budget to fund the necessary services.

Question: With reduced revenues, how will you balance the budget next year?

 

District 2

Simmons said the county found a way to balance the latest budget, while maintaining its AAA bond rating. He said he would use a similar process next year.

Sims said because he was not a commissioner, he didn’t get a chance to look at the budget line by line; however, society as a whole expected too many luxuries. He said he would go line by line to cut any fat.

District 4

Henderson said the housing market has gone in the bucket and reduced tax revenues. He said the county can’t keep laying off employees and the county will have to keep a close eye on expenses.

Hardeman said the budget crisis did not arrive overnight and would not be solved overnight. He said his former management experience would allow him to study the budget and cut out any incidentals, overhead, that have historically been budgeted. He said he would also push for consolidation and give a "Bright Idea" award to the employee with the best idea.

Question: With an increasing number of vacant homes, how will you prevent a rise in crime?

 

District 2

Simmons said when he was first elected, he wanted to get a satellite sheriff’s office substation in his district, but former Sheriff Joe Nichols was not sold on the idea. Simmons lobbied each commissioner but fell one vote short. He said with the current budget the idea has been put on the back burner. However, he said the anonymous tip signs in the county were his creation.

Sims agreed a substation would be a great idea and should be located at the border of District 2 and District 3, because crime was high in both those areas. He said community watch programs did not seem to be working, or were not being used, and he would like more emphasis placed on these.

District 4

Hardeman said public safety was important because a safe county helped attract business. He said residents need to feel safe walking down their streets.

Henderson said when elected, there was a club where residents would regularly get killed, so he worked to get the building demolished. He said he worked with Rob Fowler to buy the property and eventually turned it into a park.

Question: How will you evaluate contracts and will you focus on buying local?

 

District 2

Sims said he wanted to see more variety of bidders, instead of the same companies receiving requests for bids over and over again. He wanted the process to be more open and accountable, and he wanted to see more minority involvement.

Simmons said the county already uses a scoring system when choosing bids, which looks at the viability of companies, including their experience and expertise. He said those companies can then sub-contract, and the commissioners take a hands-off approach to avoid any impropriety. He said commissioners could investigate the current process more closely.

District 4

Hardeman said the BOC should always look locally and hold companies accountable. He said the final portion of a contract should not be awarded until the project is completed to the county’s satisfaction.

Henderson said it would be nice if the decision of contractors was made by the board, but he said most of the time they simply hear recommendations from employees.

Questions: Why are you best person for the job?

 

District 2

Sims said his 14 years of experience as a business owner was a plus, but that’s not the reason constituents should vote for him. He said he will work to bridge the gaps between citizens, churches and the whole community. He will stay after meetings so people can talk to him anytime.

Simmons said you should judge him based on what he’s done. He said he’s accomplished all of his goals except for the sheriff’s office substation. He said the projects he’s brought to District have totaled more than $12 million. He said those are tangible successes that you can look up in the county’s records.

District 4

Hardeman said he was a product of the community he’s running to represent. He said he has managed funds, studied budgets and cut costs while he was in the hospitality industry. He said he has the passion necessary to be a public servant.

Henderson said he has dealt with budgets for 14 years and this past year was the first time he had to look at a tax increase. While people accused him of flip flopping over his decision to support the rollback rate, he said he changed his mind because he spoke to his constituents and that’s what they wanted.

Questions: Do you support the 2050 Build Out Plan and what are your future goals?

 

District 2

Simmons said he wanted to finish Denny Dobbs Park and continue to work with the state to find a solution to raising the $56 million needed to widen Salem Road.

Sims said he wanted to increase businesses and jobs in his district. He said the new Wal-Mart would bring 400 jobs, but that could not be the end of growth. He said the county has to fund something to make it unique. Cheap housing used to be a draw, but now inexpensive housing exists everywhere. The county needs to bring jobs and reduce traffic in order to be successful.

District 4

Henderson said the kids are the community’s future and he wants to continue to provide recreational activities, which has been his biggest goal while in office. He said the more kids walking the streets with nothing to do, the more kids that end up in jail and the more the community has to pay. He said he wants to continue to work to bridge the needs of the poorer community in Covington with the community in Oxford.

Hardeman said the 2050 plan is great, because the county needs visionary focus. The plan says that the county will have 400,000 people by around 2050; he wants to see the county invest in infrastructure in the short term, because the costs "will be out of this world later."

Question: How will you attract new businesses?

District 2

Simmons said Stanton Springs, the 1,600 acre four-county industrial park, was still in place and the county is ready to put incentives in place to draw businesses there. He said he wants to work with DeKalb Technical College to tailor programs to fit the needs of any potential industry to help facilitate a deal.

Sims said Newton County has been unfriendly to businesses in the past, and he would work with new chamber president Hunter Hall to attract business. He said he would also work with Sheriff Ezell Brown, because if the crime rate is high, businesses will not come.

District 4

Hardeman said the county needs to show businesses that all of the entities in Newton County are working together. He said he would focus on the school system, because without good schools businesses will not come. In addition, he wanted to see the county invest more in quality of life issues.

Henderson said the county first needs to increase the number of "regular jobs." He said people initially did not want a second Wal-Mart, but he said he saw the economy declining and supported the superstore. Also, whenever a new industry comes to the county, it should hire local workers, not bring workers with it.

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