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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Potential taxes big issue at political forum

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Candidates running in the primary election for Clay County Council At-Large who attended Monday's political forum were (from left) Pat Heffner, John Nicoson, Roger La Plante, Mike McCullough and Dolores Johnson. The forum was sponsored by the Clay County Chamber of Commerce and Clay County Farm Bureau and was hosted by the YMCA of Clay County. [Order this photo]
Clay County Council At-Large candidates running for the upcoming primary election gave their opinions on the potential surtax and wheel tax during the political forum Monday evening, which was sponsored by the Clay County Chamber of Commerce and the Clay County Farm Bureau.

Three of the five candidates present for the forum were in favor of the potential taxes.

"Unfortunately, I believe we only have two choices as far as the roads are concerned -- we can do nothing and watch our roads get worse and worse or we can pass a wheel tax," current Council President Mike McCullough said. "I can assure you none of the current council members are jumping up and down with joy that we have to pass a wheel tax."

McCullough said he thinks the vast majority of the problem is a lack of funding, which is brought on by two things. First, McCullough explained where the money for roads comes from, stating it does not come from property tax dollars.

"The money the commissioners get for the roads comes from excise tax and gasoline tax, and the gasoline tax has leveled off in the last 25 years," he said. "The reason for that is as the price of gas goes up, the gasoline tax is a flat-fee. As gas goes up, people tend to drive less or drive more fuel-efficient vehicles. The funding has leveled off, but the cost of doing road repairs has gone up. The money is just not there, so I feel we have no choice."

Candidate Dolores Johnson, who is a current council member, agreed with McCullough. She explained the revenue from the taxes would be used for the roads only.

"I think it would be a good thing if it passes that we report back to the people," Johnson said. "I think that helps a lot if you know where your tax dollars are being used and how they are being used."

She stated she is seriously thinking about the decision, but she doesn't see any other way to go.

"I think that you'll find out that it will be worth the while," she said.

Candidate Roger La Plante said he was against the potential taxes.

"We are taxed enough," he said. "We don't need this tax. We need to reconfigure what we can do to fix these roads here."

La Plante spoke of the $777,000 the county will be receiving from the state. He thought the money would be used for the roads; therefore, the county didn't need to pass new taxes.

However, McCullough explained the $777,000 would be distributed among the county, city of Brazil and all the incorporated towns within the county.

"Part of that money is our jail CAGIT fund that pays the bonds on the jail," he said. "That money can not be used for anything else."

He said $86,536 of the total the county is receiving must be used for the jail bonds. The county share that is actually going into the county general fund will be $310,000, according to McCullough.

La Plante gave a rebuttal.

"There is money for these roads," he said. "There is money for the funding that's not being utilized properly."

He mentioned $30,000 used to demolish the old jail, a building he said was a "perfectly good, not too old building they could have used."

"There are so many things in the county government people hide that they don't want the public to know about," La Plante said. "I'm a new resident here, and I pay attention. I'm telling you right now there is money there to be used without taxes."

Candidate John Nicoson stated he had never seen enough information on the taxes to make a decision on the issue.

"You don't have to pass a tax and have it for the rest of your life," Nicoson said. "Are you going to put a three-year limit on it? A five-year limit? There are a lot of vague areas here that will have to be looked at before I'd ever vote for a wheel tax, and it's got to be fair for everyone in this county. That's just the way it's got to be."

Candidate Pat Heffner said she "sort of" agreed with McCullough because she felt citizens are most concerned about the road conditions. She told of her personal expenses to fix damaged vehicles due to road conditions.

"I think our roads are a top priority," she said. "I'm thinking I would support that at this time."

Meanwhile, Clay County Coroner candidates each explained why he or she was the best candidate for the job.

Joel Reinoehl, the current Clay County coroner, said he is certified as a medical legal death investigator, which is required by the state.

"Being the coroner has educated me more than the certification classes," he said. "You learn everyday. We're trying to help the families find out what happened, and they are always in our prayers and memories."

Reinoehl said he is the best candidate because of his experience, training and contacts with a variety of local agencies.

Candidate Amy Shelton is a deputy coroner under Reinoehl, as well as a paramedic and ER nurse. She said she also does bereavement services and has a good working relationship with the local funeral homes.

"It's not just the deceased we deal with, it's the living family members that we deal with ... I am bereavement certified, which helps a lot as far as knowing what kind of emotions (the family is) going to have."

Candidates running for Clay County Coroner include (from left) Amy Shelton, Joel Reinoehl and John Fagg. [Order this photo]
She said she is the best candidate because she is medically certified, has experience, takes the job seriously and is very observant.

John Fagg explained he has been a paramedic for eight years with Transcare of Clay County. He said he was the best candidate because he has worked with many deaths on scene, he's always lived and worked in Clay County, and his work will not interfere with being on the scene.

"I'm always in Clay County, and I'm always available to do the job," Fagg said. "I know the job. I've seen some things that need changed, and I'm here to change it."

When asked by an audience member, Fagg explained what changes he was referring to.

"Within this last month, I've been on a scene death with the ambulance service and we couldn't get the coroner on the scene," he said. "I don't like seeing that. If fire, law enforcement or EMS request a coroner, I think they should be there. It's their job."

Reinoehl explained that coroners are not always required to be on a scene. He explained doctors can sign the death certificate or other situations give reason for the coroner not to get involved.

Shelton said she has learned through training that the coroner is not required to go to every scene; however, she personally tries to go to every scene she is called to.

"If I was elected coroner, I would have people working different shifts in different areas of the county to have the whole county covered at all times."

The primary election is Tuesday, May 8.

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I was present there. While it was informative, I would have liked to have seen the question/answer periods longer than 30 minutes. That just was not enough time.

-- Posted by My Dime on Tue, Apr 17, 2012, at 8:28 PM

OK I guess everyone is fine with this new unfair tax on the poor! WOW Clay County is that all you got for me? NO NEW TAXES! COME ON LETS DEBATE!

-- Posted by Combat VET on Thu, Apr 19, 2012, at 8:51 AM

If the forum had been run correctly there would have been lots of time for more questions. Candidates just can't butt in for a retort when somebody else is talking.......RL. They had their time to answer. The Northview student group ran their forum correctly and it went very smoothly, lots of time to hear from the candidates.

Roger, why don't you get with the Chamber and set a debate up. I think that would be a great idea.

-- Posted by Proud of My Country on Thu, Apr 19, 2012, at 4:20 PM

Who are you proud of my country? We should talk IN PERSON. We are not that different


-- Posted by Combat VET on Fri, Apr 20, 2012, at 8:34 AM

Just another veteran Roger. If you think long and hard about it you already know of me. Next time I run into you I will re-introduce myself.

Have a great day.

-- Posted by Proud of My Country on Mon, Apr 23, 2012, at 9:42 AM

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