By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
(Editor’s note: We reached out to the leadership of both parties, and passed our cards out to various primary candidates for judge executive. Bobby Hall was the only candidate to schedule time specifically to speak to us on the record, though we did speak with other candidates – including independent candidates not participating in the primary – at other events around the county.)
If you’re a voter in the Democratic primary election, Bobby Hall wants your support. The former Olive Hill Police Chief and small business owner says he has a clear plan for Carter County that focuses on increasing county revenue, improving the condition of the county’s road network and other infrastructure, encouraging job growth, and improving public safety.
The main issue, of course, is the first on Hall’s list – revenue. The county is poor, Hall said. That isn’t news to anyone, and the county’s financial situation needs to improve, no matter who ends up in office, for the county to grow. Hall said he’s spent time looking at the county budget, which is already pretty tight.
“Most of it is fixed costs we can’t do away with,” Hall said.
While there is some wiggle room with the rest of the budget, it isn’t enough money to solve the county’s money woes. To do that, Hall said, the county needs to increase revenue, and there are only a few ways to do that. One is to increase taxes on local property owners and businesses. But another way, and the one Hall prefers, is passing the cost to those who are already taking value out of the county.
One of the areas where the county really needs extra funds is for roads, Hall noted. Good roads don’t only make it easier for residents to get around without damaging their vehicles. They are also necessary for economic development, he said. So, one of his revenue plans would focus on the damage being done to our roads by those extracting our natural resources – like limestone, gravel, clay, and timber – and tax the outside industries who extract those resources to repair the roads their trucks damage while hauling heavy raw materials, tractors, and other equipment.
“No matter who wins, this county needs more revenue,” Hall said. “But you can’t tax your people into prosperity. We do have a lot of natural resources that leave this county, though… but we don’t have a natural resources export tax.”
“Limestone is probably the biggest one,” Hall continued. “But there’s also a lot of timber that leaves this county. A whole lot of minerals, clay being one. It’s just an idea to increase the revenue without burdening the citizens of this county.”
Hall also agreed with current plans from the fiscal court to enforce the weight limits on rural roads, where these large trucks often cause damage.
“I’ve seen roads, out in the county, that have been absolutely destroyed when an area was being logged or minerals were being mined,” he said. “That blacktop is just torn all to pieces because the county roads, those roads are not built to handle the loads that are being hauled.”
And the condition of those roads, he said, “dominates” most of the conversations he has with rural voters.
“That seems to be the dominating issue with every discussion, especially with rural voters, is the condition of the roads,” he said.
It’s also important for first responders, like fire and rescue, who have to use those rural roads to provide service in the county. While he wants to improve the roads for those vehicles too, he said he’s also looking at other ways for the county’s emergency ambulance to possibly partner with rural fire departments to stagger the geographic locations of ambulances when they aren’t on a run. For instance, he noted, if you moved one of the ambulances from Grayson to a fire department in the Hitchins area, you could cut response time in the more rural areas out toward Willard and Denton by half or more. On the other end of the county, he noted, Carter City has the same issues.
“In Montgomery County, for example, the fire and EMS is all together,” he explained. “If we had that, we could possibly have an ambulance in Hitchins, quite a bit if not all the time. Maybe at Carter City. Then when you have an emergency in the far ends of the county, you still have your trucks in Grayson and Olive Hill, but you could dramatically cut down on response time.”
It could also save the county money.
“If you partner with the fire departments, a lot of your capital expenses are already in place,” he said.
The other two areas where Hall said he would focus attention are jobs and infrastructure, which go hand-in-hand. To attract new jobs, he noted, especially industry, the county needs improved infrastructure. Hall said it was “imperative” that the county increase their capacity for power, water, and sanitary sewers services to accommodate new business growth, and the associated residential growth any new industry could bring with it. This also helps as Carter County positions itself as a commuter community for those working in Boyd and Rowan counties.
Hall said his experience as a small business owner and in construction also gives him insight in the area of jobs.
“People need to be able to shop local, to put their money back into our communities,” he said. “They need disposable income to spend in local restaurants.” But to do that, you need to keep as many jobs as possible local. That, he said, is why he has always supported, and will continue to support, local labor unions and other groups that create and promote the creation of local jobs, as well as better wages for working men and women.
“This county needs revenue,” he continued. “You need jobs for revenue. You need infrastructure here to attract jobs. So, it’s all one big, interrelated continuum if you will that we need to work on. There’s not one issue that’s going to fix all of it. It’s all related and it’s all important.”
You can read more of Hall’s policy points, and learn more about the candidate, at his website, electbobbyhall.com.
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org