County Candidates Face Off at Forum

WINNSBORO – Candidates running in the Nov. 4 election for Fairfield County Council districts 3, 5, and 7 participated in a forum sponsored by the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce at the Winnsboro Women’s Club on Nov. 11. Mikel Trapp, incumbent for District 3, did not attend and current councilman for District 7, David Brown, did not participate since he is not running.

Participants included retired Col. Walter Larry Stewart and Tangee Brice Jacobs (District 3), David Ferguson, Eugene Holmes and Marion Robinson (District 5) and David Brandenburg, Clyde Sanders and Billy Smith (District 7). Due to health issues, Brandenburg had to leave, assisted by his wife, about half way through the forum. Candidates answered prepared questions as well as questions submitted by citizens in attendance.

The moderator, Ron Smith, first asked the candidates to share information about their background, education and training. All but Brandenburg and Holmes said they were raised in Fairfield County.

At one time or another during the forum all of the candidates, except Ferguson, called high taxes the County’s number one problem and the biggest impediment to growth and an improved quality of life in the County. In most of her answers, Jacobs reiterated her desire that Council listen to the community.

Asked if they thought Council did the right thing by issuing the $24 million bond and if they thought the bond should have been put to a vote by the citizens, all of the candidates, except Ferguson, agreed that the $24 million bond was a bad idea and that it should have been put before the public for a vote. Smith added that the issuance of general obligation bonds (to pay off the $24 million bond) could drive the ultimate cost of the $24 million bonds to $50 million. Sanders at first said he could see both sides of the issue, but concluded that the bond should have been voted on by the public. Ferguson defended the $24 million bond saying “it was borrowed for infrastructure. The folks who do economic development said Fairfield County lacked an industrial park and that type stuff.” But he said the industrial park had to have sewer and water to make it grow. Robinson criticized the $24 million bond, saying, “All these years we’ve been getting money from the nuclear plant and we should have been putting some money aside. The County has not been smart in spending.”

Asked how they thought the $3.5 million in recreational funds should have been spent and distributed in the County, again, all but Ferguson objected to how Council disbursed these funds.

Stewart said, “I went to the County Council meeting, and I heard only one (recreation) plan presented for a vote. There should have been more than one. There are many organizations out there, like the YMCA, that already have programs on the shelves that they could put in place here, probably at less cost.”

Robinson said he was “not in favor of (the newly approved) mini parks that have no water, no restrooms and not enough parking space. Many of the mini parks we have now have no maintenance.” Robinson, Stewart and Sanders said they favor three or four nice community centers distributed throughout the county. Both Robinson and Sanders also called for better utilization of the county’s transit system in transporting residents to those centers. Robinson also noted that J. R. Green, Superintendent of Fairfield County Schools, had opened up the school gyms for youth recreation and he called on the County to better staff those recreation opportunities.

Holmes criticized Council members for “not touching the rec center still in the box.” He also said the Council’s presentation for its new recreation plan was “a sole source presentation, not applicable to what we need in Fairfield County.”

Asked about their long-range goals for the County, Smith said, “Simply to move it forward, to get it to a place where good businesses and good people want to come here and where they can afford to come here. We need to improve the quality of life for our citizens and assure positive opportunities. We need good paying jobs.” He said to accomplish this, the citizens will have to make changes on County Council.

For his long-range goal, Ferguson said, “We must work together in a civil manner. Seeing everyone trust and work together is my prayer and vision for Fairfield County.”

Jacobs called for “a sustainable water supply to attract businesses and improve quality of life for our residents. Our leadership has to be held accountable.”

Robinson said his long-range goal is to lower property taxes. He also wants a detailed plan for how the V.C. Summer money will be used as well as a contingency plan for essential county services should the nuclear reactor revenue not materialize.

Holmes also wants to see property taxes lowered and wants to see a better recreation plan and more input from citizens.

Sanders said his long-term goal for Fairfield County is to establish an educated, skilled and trained workforce. “We’re working toward that but we can do better.”

Stewart said he would like to streamline government, improve the county’s infrastructure and quality of life and create a system that produces sustainable jobs for the community. “We can do that by effectively using the resources we have now,” he said. “We have to operate more like a business, and when we offer a company incentives, those incentives need to be commensurate with what we expect to get back in return.”

Other areas touched on: Smith said if he is elected he will call for a reduction in Council’s salaries. Both Jacobs and Stewart said it was time for members of County Council to stop playing the race card. “I went through the ‘50s and ‘60s and the civil unrest and being sprayed with a fire hose, etc.,” Stewart said. “I lived that. But it’s time to move on and start working together. It’s time to put away the race card.”

A report on the forum held for candidates for District 1 – Dwayne Perry, Dan Ruff and Michael Squirewell – will appear in the Oct. 10 issue of The Voice.

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