Candidates for the two slots on the Oconee County Board of Commissioners will have a pretty good idea in a little more than a week about what issues the politically active citizens in the community are most concerned about.
And those citizens will have an idea about which of those issues, if any, separate the candidates.
The Oconee County Republican Party is holding the first of three scheduled forums on Thursday, at the Watkinsville Community Center, 191 VFW Drive. That meeting starts at 6 p.m. and runs until 8 p.m.
|Caudill At Land Use|
The Oconee County Chamber of Commerce will holds its candidate forum Tuesday of next week, April 22, at the Civic Center, 2661 Hog Mountain Road. That forum also begins at 6 p.m. and ends at 8 p.m.
The third forum will be held next Wednesday, April 23, at the Oconee County Library, 1080 Experiment Station Road in Watkinsville. That forum, organized by citizens, will be from 7 to 9 p.m.
All forums are open to the public.
Courthouse and SPLOST
It seems likely at least someone will ask the five candidates at one of the forums where they stand on renovation of the courthouse and the relocation of county offices now located inside it.
It also is likely that the candidates will be asked a related question–about their priorities for the 2015 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum likely to be on the ballot in November.
Commissioners John Daniell and Margaret Hale might be asked about their decision to delay that vote to November from the May 20 ballot, made with the support of Commissioner Jim Luke but with the opposition of BOC Chairman Melvin Davis and Commissioner Mark Saxon.
|Hale At BOC Meeting|
It would be surprising if no one asked about liquor-by-the-drink, which Frank Bishop, developer of the Epps Bridge Centre, has asked the commissioners to put on the ballot so he can attract better restaurants to his shopping center on Epps Bridge Parkway and the Oconee Connector.
The candidates might well be asked about development, and specifically about Epps Bridge Centre, about the student housing complex on Old Macon Highway, and even about the county’s actions in luring Caterpillar to the area.
Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir, a joint project with Walton County, might come up.
|Wilkes At BOC Meeting|
So could farmland protection and the BOC’s decision to take control of that initiative from a citizen group and turn it over to a committee it appointed.
Citizens also might ask about the role of the four commissioners in running county government and about the relationship between the four voting commissioners and Chairman Davis.
Five Candidates And Two Posts
All five candidates are running in the Republican primary. No Democratic primary for the BOC will be held, since no one filed to run from that party.
Daniell is being challenged in the Post 2 contest by John Larkin.
Hale is being challenged in the Post 3 race by Maria Caudill and William E. “Bubber” Wilkes.
If none of the three candidates for Post 3 Commissioner gets a majority of the votes, a run-off will be held on July 22.
The Republican Party forum on Thursday will begin with a “meet and greet” session from 6 to 6:30 p.m.
Daniell and Larkin will take questions from 6:45 to 7:15 p.m. Caudill, Hale and Wilkes will take questions from 7:15 to 8 p.m.
The Chamber of Commerce forum next Tuesday will include both the BOC candidates and Board of Educaton candidates Kim Argo and Mark Thomas. Argo and Thomas are running in the Republic primary, but neither has opposition.
Candidates for the 10th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives also have been invited to the session.
Those candidates are Democrat I. K. "Ken" Dious and Republicans Brian Richard Slowinski, Donna H. Sheldon, Gary Gerrard, Jody B. Hice, M. A. "Mike" Collins, S. Mitchell Swan and Stephen K. Simpson.
Russ Page and I have organized the forum on next Wednesday at the library. Only the five BOC candidates have been invited. All have indicated they will attend.
Candidates And Backgrounds
Larkin, a former Council member in Bogart, is relatively unknown in the rest of the county.
Caudill is serving on the Citizen Advisory Committee on Land Use and Transportation Planning and on the Planning Commission, though she has not been participating in discussions at meetings of the two bodies since she filed for the BOC post early last month.
Wilkes is well known in the county, having served on the Commission for 20 years until he was defeated in 2004 by Chuck Horton.
Horton gave up his Commission seat two years ago to run against Davis for the BOC chairmanship.
Though the commissioners run by post, the county does not have districts, and all commissioners serve county-wide.
Garrett Special Use Request
On two issues before the county, Caudill and Hale have similar records.
As a member of the Planning Commission, Caudill in April of last year voted against a special use permit request by Bernard and Simon Garrett for construction of a materials recovery facility on agricultural land at 1441 Dials Mill Road.
Caudill was in the minority, as the Planning Commission voted 9-2 to recommend approval of the request to the Board of Commissioners.
Hale and the other three voting commissioners turned down the request when it came before them a month later.
Caudill sided with the majority in September when the Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee voted 6-5 against recommending to the BOC that it move forward on a Transfer of Development Rights program for the county.
The action countered the unanimous report by a citizen committee that had been set up to study TDR programs, which are designed to protect designated parts of a jurisdiction by allowing other areas to development more densely or in some other advantageous way.
Hale, despite repeated requests by Page, a farmland protection advocate, has never expressed any interest in initiating a TDR program.
She has not been alone on the Commission in that regard, however, as her other colleagues, including Daniell, have turned a deaf ear to Page and the citizen committee that recommended the county give further consideration to the issue.