Candidates meet public
County candidates for the upcoming election got the opportunity to answer questions at Tuesday's political forum at the YMCA, which was hosted by Farm Bureau Insurance and the Clay County Chamber of Commerce.
The first set of candidates to take to the microphones were Clay County Commissioner District 1 candidates Bryan Allender and Jack Withers, Clay County Commissioner District 2 candidates Charlie Brown and Tony Fenwick, as well as Clay County Council at Large candidates Pat Heffner, Chip Hoskins, Delores Johnson, Mike McCullough, John Nicoson and Lisa Rickert.
Two of the main topics had to do with the state of the roads in the county and bringing jobs to the area.
The candidates were asked why the roads in surrounding counties are in much better shape, even after the recent passing of the wheel tax.
"In all probability, the tax structure of surrounding counties (is different and) they have more income than we do," Withers said. "We don't have a lot of industry in Clay County. (Also), every pickup truck that is in this county, the money that is collected in excise tax for those, goes to Indianapolis."
Heffner, who noted she was not on the council when the wheel tax was passed, said she didn't want to speak on something she wasn't directly a part of, but added she believes the county could see improvements within three years.
McCullough elaborated on the topic saying, "The easiest answer is that all the surrounding counties already have a wheel tax, and many have had them for several years."
He added almost every county in the central and southwestern part of the state has a wheel tax, and that he wishes it could have been passed sooner, but he was hesitant because of the tough financial times.
The candidates were also asked how to improve the county's infrastructure.
"I think we need to do some planning and set goals for the county," Fenwick said. "We have to have good education so we can have people who can actually do the job. There's a lot to it, you just can't do it over night, it's going to be something that takes time."
Hoskins said one of the main goals of the County Council is to provide the opportunity for progress to be made.
"I think our objective would be to give the commissioners the tools they need to do their job -- as far as infrastructure goes," Hoskins said.
Rickert said she thinks the county has been moving in the right direction, but added there's more to be done.
"The county is headed in the right direction, with the water tower being up there at Interstate-70 and we can (now) grow up there," Rickert said. "We have some great businesses in town; Great Dane is a great place to work. But we need more and more industry here that pays more, so people don't have to worry about living paycheck-to-paycheck."
Rickert said she feels that once the roads improve it will help attract more business and industry to the county.
Allender echoed the need for more businesses.
"We're going to need a lot more manufacturing businesses to come to this town ... we need a bunch more businesses to come help (infrastructure)," Allender said.
Nicoson said a way to attract and keep businesses in the county is to work with surrounding counties.
"I think we really need to be looking ... for satellite industries (from surrounding counties)," Nicoson said.
Brown said he has been involved with promoting the county to new businesses.
"We are working diligently to promote new businesses ... we have a group of five counties that's called Accelerate Indiana, that meets periodically," Brown said.
He said the counties work together and place all the properties on the Internet, then representatives of the group travel to different cities to promote the areas.