The Greencastle League of Women Voters and WGRE-FM will host a Candidate's Forum for the upcoming primary election from 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, April 26 in Watson Forum at DePauw University's Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media.
The purpose of the forum is to provide voters in the Putnam County area the opportunity to hear the candidates for elected office outline and discuss their ideas and issues in a spontaneous framework. It is hoped that the voters will be able to receive an accurate perception of the abilities of all candidates, and thus, make enlightened decisions in the upcoming elections.
The following questionnaire was submitted to the candidates for county commissioner. On Tuesday, responses from the candidates for county council will be printed.
1. What are the two most pressing issues facing our county? Please elaborate. (100 words)
2. With the Indiana General Assembly continuing to talk about the elimination of property tax, what alternative funding sources would you propose our legislators pass? (75 words)
3. Raw sewage, toxic dumping, farm run-off and erosion potentially threaten Big Walnut Creek. What do you think is your role in protecting our water supply? (75 words)
4. Putnam County is planning on updating the county comprehensive plan. Are the current zoning laws adequate? Please explain. (100 words)
Dennis O'Hair, Republican
1. Funding and Economic Growth:
FUNDING: Challenges facing Putnam County have an essential impact on meeting the needs and desires of all citizens. Our roads, bridges, streets, police and fire protection, schools and overall social organizations have various needs for improvement. To accomplish much needed improvements, we must continue focusing on lobbying for more funding and be creative in securing additional dollars.
ECONOMIC GROWTH: Putnam County must continue planning for future economic growth to attract new business and industry. We need to ensure that our families have opportunities in our county to build a better place to live and work.
2. Without property taxes we must find other alternatives. One idea would be to consider changing the tax structure for a state and national sales tax. This sales tax would be equitable and fair throughout each county as it would assess all citizens regardless of the amount of property owned and economic background. This is an area where our local, state and national officials need to think "outside the box" to look at alternative funding sources.
3. County Commission-ers must work closely with the Health Department and Indiana Department of Environmental Management to ensure all systems operate properly. We must continue enforcing regulations for sewage, toxic waste and farm run-off which would involve tougher violation penalties. Repeat offenders not adhering to regulations must be held accountable. Commissioners must support and encourage everyone to be responsible and report violators. Putnam County's soil and water conservation is a leader in Indiana for controlling erosion.
4. Our county zoning laws are currently considered adequate. The zoning regulations allow all individual situations to be considered and evaluated on a case by case basis. I am pleased that our zoning laws and our board have the ability to listen and consider all needs. Our board is comprised of individuals from all backgrounds who have the county's best interest in mind. A complete comprehensive plan certainly provides a futuristic assessment tool that creates a model for making our county a better place for our families. We must continually look toward advancements and progress for improving opportunities in Putnam County.
James Baird, Republican
1. Finances/Long Range Planning and Managed Growth. County government, like all government, will always be under pressure to balance the budget. Long range planning provides the opportunity to anticipate periods of reduced revenue and/or increased expenses and offer the ability to minimize these fluctuations. We must continually and judiciously evaluate expenditures while avoiding elimination of worthwhile programs and services. Managed growth and related infrastructure, including new internet technologies, could enhance the development of an environment that entices professional and trained people to return to this area. This would contribute to acceptable economic growth and development.
2. Property taxes support schools, libraries and welfare costs. Education is one of the most important aspects of a democracy. Everyone benefits, either directly or indirectly, from the education of its citizenry. Ultimately, education is the primary means for the United States to remain competitive in the world marketplace. This would suggest that the funding for such programs should be broad based such as sales taxes or combination of taxes to replace the funds lost.
3. Farmers are keenly aware of the importance of preserving topsoil and protecting our water supply. Agribusiness and pharmaceutical companies have dramatically improved techniques and products. The FSA and DNR have excellent programs for controlling erosion; ex. filter strips, grass waterways and no-till. County government has the same responsibilities as farmers, land owners and home owners in controlling run-off, sewage, toxic waste and erosion and protecting our water supply on properties owned by the county.
4. As a current member of the Board of Zoning Appeals, past member of the Plan Commission and former County Extension Agent, the plan is adequate but needs fine tuning and public and professional review. For example, the 10-acre requirement was designed to minimize the use of tillable farm land for residential development. However, in recent years, people buy 10 acres in Putnam County for less than they would pay for a lot in some metropolitan areas and the rule may not be serving its purpose. Other portions of the plan would also benefit from an effective review.
Russell Evans, Democrat
1. Road funding and fiscal responsibility. There are 243 miles of unpaved roads that still exist in Putnam County. When elected, I pledge to work with the two other commissioners to plan a solution for these roads and to lobby our state officials for better road funding to maintain and upgrade all our county roads. Fiscal Responsibility needs to come from the top down. The commissioners need
to maintain good communications with all department heads, and to be aware of how your tax dollars are being spent. I'll support the elimination of insurance benefits for part-time elected officials (commissioners and council).
2. Our legislators need to review HB1001. There were several options for local government that were not addressed. Local Government must have more and better options to meet their needs. The elimination of any tax will create the need for another tax to replace lost revenue.
3. The protection of our water supply is the responsibility of all citizens of Putnam County. As a commissioner, I will depend on our citizens to report any illegal activity to the proper authorities, and to stand firm in the enforcement of our local, state and federal laws.
4. The county comprehensive plan should be reviewed every five to seven years to keep up with our changing society. There are always opportunities for change and to make it more adequate to meet the needs of our citizens. The commissioners must be good listeners and make quality appointments to the boards that are responsible for overseeing our comprehensive plan.