10/17/12 — Candidates visit Grantham for talk

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Candidates visit Grantham for talk

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 17, 2012 1:46 PM

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Candidates for local, state and national offices attended Tuesday night's meet-the-candidates forum sponsored by the Grantham Grange. From left are at-large Wayne County Commissioner Sandra McCullen, Ericka James, candidate for district court judge for the 8th Judicial District, her opponent, Judge Lonnie Carraway, state Sen. Louis Pate, and N.C. Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin.

Wayne County should not make any financial commitment to the city of Goldsboro's proposed Air Force museum, the two candidates for the at-large seat on the Wayne County Board of Commissioners said during a Tuesday night candidates forum.

And at-large board of education member Eddie Radford said he opposes any efforts to change the schools' current facilities plan. Radford also said he wants to see a return to strong vocational education programs, while exploring more ways to reduce the dropout rate. District 2 board member Len Henderson, who is challenging Radford for the at-large seat in the non-partisan race, did not attend.

Sponsored by the Grantham Grange, the forum attracted local, state and national candidates that Grantham area voters will be able to cast ballots for.

Moderator Dr. John Tart said Tuesday's News-Argus had reported that the Air Force museum would cost more than $6 million. He asked at-large Commissioner Sandra McCullen of Dudley, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Wayne Aycock of Pikeville, if they favored the county being financially involved with the project.

"I think the Air Force museum is an admirable project, but we have not been approached formally," Mrs. McCullen said. "At this point in time I am not in favor of that."

Aycock said he expects the city will ask the county for help.

"Not only this project, there are others the city has started and the county had to bail them out," he said. "I am all for preserving history. Right now where the economy is, I can't see where the city or county can fund it at the present time.

"I am not saying that in the future it couldn't happen, but right now I can't see it happening. But I can assure you that if the city goes forward with it, it will ask the county for money."

Mrs. McCullen said she would like to bring more consensus to the board. Local, state and national politics have "gotten way out on either end."

The board has made numerous accomplishments, she said. They include an improved bond rating and a solid financial footing that has allowed the county to renovate the county jail and Norwayne and Eastern Wayne middle schools, she said.

The county, she said, is in good financial shape because of the board's fiscal policies over recent years.

Aycock said he wanted to be a part of "fixing things" that he thinks "are broke." However he did not specify what he believes is broken.

"I am not running for any fame or gain for myself," he said.

Tart said that 40 percent of the county's citizens pay "very little" to support county government, and that property owners are the primary source for revenue for county government. He said the Grange had approved a resolution asking that property taxes be reduced, while increasing sales taxes. Tart asked Mrs. McCullen if she would be in favor of that.

"Any increase in tax, I think we need to ask our citizens about that," she said. "The thing I have heard is no tax increase. The citizens need to vote on that and tell us what they need. The people I'm talking to right now do not want a tax increase."

The county went through property revaluation and did reduce the tax rate, she said.

Tart asked Aycock if he would favor increased funding for programs and where the money would come from. He also asked what might be cut to free up money for other programs.

Wherever the money comes from, it is a tax from the local, state or federal level, Aycock said. However, without more information, Aycock said he could not answer the question.

"We can't spend money that we don't have," he said.

In his comments, Radford said he did not favor of doing away with the school system's existing facilities plan.

"The reason for that is the middle school that you have a sign for down the road is in that facilities plan," he said. "It is almost coming up in the next couple of years, we are hoping. If we change anything, I certainly wouldn't want to see Grantham lose out on a middle school."

Tart said that a high school in Grantham remains a major concern in the community and he asked Radford if he would support a new high school in the Grantham community.

Radford said that we would if the means could be found to do so.

"I know that the high school is a concern," Radford said. "When you talk about high schools, you are talking about $18-plus million. I know the last time I was here to talk about a high school, my thing on that is we can get a high school here. But you need to get one in other places also. There are other communities that need high schools."

On the state level, House Republican District 4 Rep. Jimmy Dixon of Warsaw said that local, state and national governments do not have revenue problems. They have spending problems, he said.

Democratic challenger Rebecca Judge of Beulaville said she was advocate for appropriate heath care, increased job opportunities and a strong educational system, including early childhood education.

District 5 Sen. Louis Pate Jr. is running unopposed for the new District 7 seat created by the statewide redistricting.

Pate, of Mount Olive, said he was encouraged to see the growing opposition in the county and eastern North Carolina to a proposed wind turbine farm that would be built in the low-level flight path Seymour Johnson Air Force Base jet take en route to the Dare County bombing range.

The wind farm would endanger the mission and future of the base that pumps more than $500 million annually into the local economy, he said.

House District 10 Democratic candidate Jim Hardison of Kinston said if elected that his focus would be on finances, jobs, helping ensure a skilled workforce, and supporting the state's military.

His Republican challenger, John Bell of Goldsboro, was unable to attend the forum, so friend and supporter Chris Anderson spoke on Bell's behalf.

Anderson said that Bell has been actively involved with politics on the local level for many years, and that no one in the county is more conservatively grounded and interested in the county than Bell.