Likewise, they all favor local special purpose local option sales tax, but all are against the transportation SPLOST on the July 31 ballot.
The real differences that came out in the forum sponsored Carrollton-Carroll County League of Women Voters were how much power the commission chairman should have and which candidate is best qualified to do the job.
More than 200 people packed the Carroll County Courthouse jury selection room to hear the three candidates for commission chairman, three candidates for District 3 commissioner and two candidates for District 5 commissioner.
Incumbent commission Chairman Bill Chappell said the question of changing the charter and going to a county manager form of government has been put to the voters twice and was rejected both times.
“You can’t run any organization by committee,” Chappell said. “You have one person who has to be in charge. A county manager makes a lot more than a county chairman. I’m obviously in favor of the way it is now.”
Commission chairman candidate Walt Hollingsworth said he supports the charter, but thinks it needs tweaking.
“The chairman has the authority in the current form to sign anything anybody has to sign,” he said. “If elected, I’ll empower the district commissioners to represent you, listen to what everybody has to say. But I’m not in favor of a county manager at all.”
Commission candidate Marty Smith said he’s also in favor of the charter, but against the way it’s being interpreted.
“It was put in place in 1989 and the county has doubled in population since then,” Smith said. “Nobody has stood up to see if we have interpreted it right. If elected, I’ll see that the charter is looked at.”
The district commissioners participating also upheld the charter, but called for a look at how it’s being put into action.
“It does need some upgrading,” said incumbent District 5 Commissioner Kevin Jackson. “It’s a very old document, a gray document, ambiguous in some areas. Problems have popped up in the last three and a half years. We should do some tweaking and move on. As for the county manager, that’s up to the citizens.”
District 5 challenger Slade Jenkins wants to keep the charter, and is against a county manager.
“A county manager would take away the power of the voters,” Jenkins said. “He’d have to please three or four people, but not the people of the county. A manager would cost the people more and take away our small county government and turn it into a big county government. It takes away from the residents’ votes.”
Incumbent District 3 Commissioner Ashley Hendrix said she is also in favor of the charter, but feels it’s being abused.
“We have a chairman making six figures and the district commissioners make $8,600,” she said. “It’s unlike what he (Chappell) likes to say, that the rest of us want a raise. I just want accountability for everybody.”
District 3 challenger Tommy Lee said, “I’m for the charter we have. It seems to be working. You can’t rule by committee.”
Commenting on SPLOST and T-SPLOST, the candidates were in closer agreement.
“SPLOST has become vital to county projects,” Chappell said. “All have been funded that way. SPLOST is divided into categories. In September 2009, we had an incredible flood. We lost 56 roads and two bridges. We redid them with SPLOST funds. Without them, we’d probably had to use general funds and have a general fund tax increase. Some of it has been repaid by GEMA and FEMA, but here it’s three years later and they haven’t paid it all. You voters are the one who decide if you want SPLOST.”
As for the T-SPLOST, Chappell said the county would get only about 25 percent of the funds and the state would control the rest.
Hollingsworth agreed that SPLOST was good for the flood repairs. However, he charged that SPLOST funds are not being used for listed projects.
“My research is we’re paying employees with SPLOST funds,” Hollingsworth said.
He accused the present administration of using $150,000 in SPLOST funds to pay off employees who “have been run off.”
“It’s listed as contracted services,” he said.
Hollingsworth said he’s not in favor of T-SPLOST.
Smith said he would like an accounting of how SPLOST dollars are being spent.
“It does scare me the rate we’re spending SPLOST,” he said. “It needs to be looked at. I don’t think one person should be allowed to spend it.
“Let’s forget about T-SPLOST. The state is a poor steward of our tax dollars.”
Jackson agreed that SPLOST has done a lot for the county, including the new courthouse where the forum was being held, as well as parks, libraries and other recreation sites.
“I do think SPLOST needs to be budgeted through the board,” he said.
Jackson said he’s against T-SPLOST because of state waste.
Jenkins questions if T-SPLOST would help Carroll County, and said most of it would go to the Atlanta area. He favors the local SPLOST to repair roads and other projects.
Hendrix said the county has done great things with SPLOST and couldn’t operate without it. However, she said, it needs to be budgeted.
As for T-SPLOST, she said, “I don’t trust the state withou money. I think we’re going to get the short end. I’d rather than have it locally.”
Lee said he things SPLOST has done many good things for the county, but he’s not really sure about T-SPLOST.
District 3 challenger Jason Wilcox said he’d like to do more research of T-SPLOST.