Brian Poole, Woodstock Funeral Home director, and Chris Hampton, Cherokee County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board chairman, are both vying for the seat held by Karen Bosch, who is not seeking re-election.
The debate is the fourth in a series of candidate forums leading up to the July 31 primary elections and sponsored by the Cherokee Republican Party. Candidates fielded questions from the media, the audience and each other during the evening.
About 75 people turned out for the debate. Republican leader Pete Castello was the moderator.
CHEROKEE COUNTY AQUATIC CENTER
Hampton, a 20-year resident of the county, said a research study was done that found the county was 20 years behind in parks and recreation facilities.
“I think that the first round of the $90 million bond was spent wisely with land prices being low for future park spaces, and I think that the current projects on tap are of benefit to Cherokee County — especially when you consider bringing new business into Cherokee County,” Hampton said.
Hampton said public safety is one of the cornerstones for bringing new business and the other is quality of life, which is what parks and recreation facilities offer.
“I am in support of the aquatic center,” Hampton said. “It received an overwhelming response from the public to put that aquatic center in.”
Poole said the aquatic center is a great idea, but it’s the wrong time.
“Right now, we’re looking at $100,000 a month expense to run the aquatic center,” Poole said.
Poole said he thought the projection by the county commission that 63,000 people will visit the facility each month “(seems) kind of skewed.”
“Right now, in this economy, I don’t see it happening,” Poole said. “I don’t think we can fund it. So we’re going to have to look at ways to cut some other places to fund all these activities.”
Hampton disagreed that the project cannot be funded. He said if elected he would introduce the option to have a private company subsidize the cost by paying to have its name on the facility for a period of a couple years.
Hampton said he would support consolidating the county fire services with those of the cities.
“I think it’s a great idea, and I would support it,” Hampton said. “It’s a huge waste both in unincorporated and incorporated parts of the county to have duplication of services. Anytime these services can be combined will save money and make the entire organization more efficient.”
Poole said he doesn’t think the move has “a chance of happening” at this point in time, but would support it in the future.
“I think it’d be a great idea if they would combine the services, put everybody under one roof and put more money in the kitty for everybody to be able to fund all our firefighters and EMT personnel,” Poole said.
Both Poole and Hampton said they aren’t in favor of the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
“It’s not about traffic relief. It’s about economic development,” Poole said. “I’m just not for the T-SPLOST and adding anymore taxes to our taxpaying citizens.”
Hampton said he couldn’t support the measure because of the project list including MARTA and projects inside the perimeter of Interstate 285.
“Traffic is a problem. It is a regional problem and it needs to be corrected. But I don’t think it needs to be done with T-SPLOST because of the project list,” Hampton said.
An audience question from Amy Turcotte asked: “If a new operator were to take over the recycling plant and somehow cancelled out his debt, but wanted Jimmy Bobo to remain on staff, would you support that?”
Both Hampton and Poole had questions about the hypothetical situation, but inevitably recognized the rights of private companies.
“If the taxpayers don’t have to pay any money, who am I to tell the company coming in who they can hire and not hire?” Hampton said.
Poole said he also did not have a problem with the situation, if that were the case.
“They can do what they want to,” Poole said. “They can hire Bobo the clown.”
When asked who they thought would be the best representatives for the Resource Recovery Development Authority, both candidates argued for citizen representation.
Poole said he thought five county citizens from each district should serve on the board, and they would need to “post everything they’re talking about in great detail.”
Hampton said he could not provide an answer for how the commission should get out of the debt.
“I simply would be remiss in giving you an answer on that right now with the current state of the bankruptcy court,” Hampton said. “Nobody is going to know what can or can not be done with the Bobo deal until the federal judge rules on the bankruptcy case. At that point, I think the commissioners… will have the framework that the federal bankruptcy court has laid out.”
Hampton said in doing research for the debate, he discovered Poole has only resided in the county for 19 months.
“You don’t own a home in Cherokee County, you don’t have a vehicle registered in Cherokee County, and the management company you work for could ask you to transfer tomorrow,” Hampton said. “How can you assure the voters of Cherokee County that you’ll serve a four-year term and how can you relate to the property tax issues when you’re not a Cherokee County taxpayer yourself?”
“First of all, your information is incorrect,” Poole said. “I’ve only lived in Cherokee County 13 months.”
Poole said though he doesn’t own a home here, he went to kindergarten at the former location of Woodstock Elementary School that now serves as a campus for Chattahoochee Technical College.
He said he and his wife don’t yet own a home due to the unsteady economy and housing market.
“We’re going to wait probably about a year or so until our lease is up and we’ll buy a home,” Poole said. “We shop in Cherokee County, we buy our clothes, our groceries (here), so we are paying some tax.”
Poole said his boss wants him to stay in the county and his 5-year-old daughter will enroll in school in the county in August.
Poole also admitted he initially wanted to run for county coroner but did not qualify as he has not lived in the county for two years.
“I decided I want to serve the community I live in,” he said of deciding to run for commissioner.