Most candidates oppose moving county offices
LINCOLNTON – Moving the Lincoln County government offices from the James W. Warren Citizens Center to the old hospital building on Gamble Drive simply isn’t an option for Martin Oakes.
Oakes, a candidate for a county commission seat, shared at a political forum Tuesday, April 17, what he thought about the potential $25 million project.
“We shouldn’t be spending that kind of money,” Oakes said, of Denver.
The move would open up space in the citizens center for the courthouse to expand, but Oakes doesn’t think it’s necessary at this time.
“The court system has not made a case for what their space needs are, I haven’t seen that in writing or even verbally for that matter,” Oakes said. “There’s no reason you can’t hold traffic court in the auditorium or hold civil court in the commissioners meeting room. We need to make better use of our county space.”
Incumbent current board Chair Alex Patton defended the move.
“You only get one choice, you’re either proactive or reactive,” Patton, of Lincolnton, said. “I choose to be proactive. We’ve been studying this for six years on the need for additional space. If we move all the facilities into this hospital, that sets Lincoln County until 2030 at least. If the economy stays slow, longer than that.”
Oakes wasn’t the only commission candidate opposed to the move. Despite hours of research, studies and discussions on a potential move, this isn’t the right time for a project of that size, incumbent Carrol Mitchem said.
“Now is not the time to put additional tax burden and going into debt on the taxpayers of Lincoln County,” Mitchem said. “We’re starting to see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. With the way the economy is and the way things are, not knowing what’s going to happen in the future, we need to hold off.”
Candidates Cecelia Martin, of Crouse, Mike Davis, of Crouse, and Larry Turbyfill, of Denver, also agreed with Oakes and Mitchem.
Davis said he doesn’t think the hospital would be an appropriate place to house government offices.
“It’s not going to ever be the right building for the county offices,” he said. “Maybe that’s what they’re wanting to do – give each employee a room with a bathroom.”
House candidates talk education
N.C. House candidates Jim Klein, Charles Newman and incumbent Jason Saine answered questions on education and how to make state universities more affordable.
“I realize that tuition is going up at an inordinate rate, but I wonder if some of that isn’t due to charging more for less,” Newman said. “We have to take a hard look at the way our universities are spending their money and see if it’s really justified.”
Saine agreed with Newman on reigning in the schools’ spending but also said he thinks the focus should be on providing affordable tuition to North Carolina residents.
“The people that grow up here, the people that pay taxes here, those are the ones we really need to look out for,” Saine, of Denver, said. “We need to make sure it’s affordable for them and certainly the low- to middle-income families.”
Klein said he’d rather spend see that money spent locally.
“I’d rather spend our money on (kindergarten through 12th-grade),” Klein said. “Give kids a very sound, fundamental education so that they can – as young adults – prepare themselves for the rest of their lives.”
N.C. Senate talk money
Candidates for the N.C. Senate were asked about tax burdens and how they might increase revenue and jobs.
“We have to look at reducing the corporate tax rate, we have to look at reducing or eliminating the personal tax rate,” Mooresville’s Karen Ray said. “The way we tax our citizens encourages people to leave. We need to change that.”
David Curtis (R-Denver) agreed with Ray, saying that at the current tax rate, economic growth wasn’t possible.
“We have the ninth-highest state income tax in the country and have the fourth-highest gas tax in the country,” Curtis said. “No wonder we can’t attract jobs to this state. The key to attracting jobs is to lower the taxes.”
The key to increasing jobs, Ross Bulla (D-Denver) said, is to invest in new companies, retool and retrain the workforce and to focus on consolidating redundant government organizations.
Chris Carney cited his experience on the Mooresville Town Board as an example of how to grow revenue and bring more jobs to North Carolina. The key to economic growth, Carney said, was attracting the right type of companies.
“In the last 15 years, we created $4.6 billion in economic development,” Carney said. “You keep hearing people talk about broadening the base – well we broadened the base. The Lake Norman region has a great opportunity ahead of us, but we must continue to broaden the base through attracting the right type of companies.”