Commission candidates differ on many issues
The vice chairman of the Grady County Commission and the man seeking to unseat him in this fall’s general election faced each other during a radio forum Thursday where each explained why he was the man for the job. The candidates discussed a range of topics, from zoning to solid waste to the proposed lake at Tired Creek.
Charles Renaud has served as District 2’s representative on the commission for one term, and is currently the panel’s vice chairman. His challenger is Republican Billy Poitevint, a semiretired sheet metal worker. The two participated in a live radio forum sponsored by WGRA-790-AM.
In his opening statement, Poitevint explained that he considers the county’s roadways to be in poor shape and he believes caring for roads and bridges should be the commission’s primary function. Renaud said the county’s road department is understaffed due to the commission’s efforts to hold the line on spending. “We are at bare bones,” Renaud said, “but we have done a good job in the last four years keeping spending in check.”
Other county expenses addressed during the forum included Roddenbery Memorial Library and a proposed aquatic center approved by voters during the most recent SPLOST election. Renaud called the library a community asset that is an evolving resource of information for the public, but he said reevaluations of the library’s function are needed. Poitevint said, “I would love to see the library grow and the county to assist it if the money is there, but if the money is not there, you can’t do it.”
Poitevint contends the aquatic center should not have been included on the SPLOST vote, saying, “It was just for a few people.” Admitting the commission is bound to fund it by virtue of the vote, he said the board will have to set money aside to build and maintain it. Renaud, who was not a member of the commission when the aquatic center was included in the SPLOST vote, said, “the thing to do now is plan going forward so it’s not a burden, not a bust.”
Renaud suggested the swimming pool project could be built near the proposed lake at Tired Creek. He said the 960-acre lake project brings with it many positive development possibilities, such as an RV center or marina. The county commission recently issued bonds of $15 million to build a dam for the lake. Renaud was upbeat about the potential impact the lake will have on Grady County, saying, “It could be that our grandchildren will look back and say, ‘good job.’ It is time for us to step up and make it the best we can.”
Poitevint said while he supported the commission in getting a permit for the lake, he is worried about the money needed to build and maintain it. He maintains the county will have to raise taxes to pay back the bonds in 15 years. Still, he said, “It can be an asset if it’s managed right.”
Renaud disputed his challenger’s claim that future taxes must be raised to pay for the lake, “You can’t say the commission will raise taxes, because you don’t know.” He said getting the permit when the economy is climbing out of a recession has actually been a positive, contending more lake specialists are available and eager to do the work, with some seeking out the opportunity, possibly at lower expense to the county than if the economy was strong.
When asked about making current Grady County Manager Rusty Moye manager of the lake project and hiring an assistant county manager, as Moye suggested to commissioners recently, Poitevint said if Moye was qualified it could be a savings. Renaud suggested more planning is needed before a decision is made to hire Moye or any lake project manager.
On the subject of solid waste, Renaud said the county needs to improve its current dumpster site system, saying the sites are eyesores where illegal dumping often takes place. He said recruiting prospective residents or businesses is difficult when they have to drive by a trashy dumpster site in order to see the county’s recreation facilities at Barber Park. Renaud supports reducing the number of dumpster sites and staffing them with employees. “People could drive a nominal distance to the manned sites where they’d feel safe and can take anything,” Renaud said.
Poitevint questioned the manned site option, asking, “Where are you going to put them? How far will I have to drive? If it’s too far, I’m going to dump my trash on the side of the road in the ditch. When is it going to be open? If it’s only open when I am at work, what am I going to do with my trash.” The candidate admitted any solid waste plan would fail to please everyone, but he said people will do whatever is easiest when they need to get rid of their trash.
On zoning, Poitevint said he opposes it, but would vote however his constituents wanted. He said the county already has too many land use regulations. He said enforcing the current noise ordinance would eliminate the complaints about motocross tracks operating in the county. Poitevint said the tracks are what spurred the unnecessary push for zoning.
Renaud said educating the public about zoning is needed, and suggested taking that information to the people in a series of meetings held at volunteer fire department buildings throughout the county. He said zoning would allow the county to plan for infrastructure and be prepared for future growth.
In his closing statement, Renaud said Grady County real estate is being marketed at the national level for its lack of zoning. Reading from an ad he said came from www.zillo.com, Renaud stated, “This property can be divided . . . Grady County does not have zoning.” Again, he pointed to a need for education on zoning and said, “doing things differently isn’t always comfortable, but it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”
When asked about a recent Georgia Department of Community Affairs survey that indicates Grady County’s employees are paid less than those in similar sized counties, Renaud said he voted for a three percent raise for the employees due to that disparity, and said, “We can’t continue to put the saddle on people with departments running short of people. We’re called to pay fair wages, and over time, that’s where we need to be.”
Poitevint said people on Social Security haven’t received raises in two years, and school teachers have had their supplements cut, but he said if money is there, he sees “nothing wrong with giving people raises.”
In closing, Poitevint said, “I want to see Grady County grow in the right direction . . . I’m concerned with zoning and trash dumpster sites. I’m for the future of Grady County and want farmers to have the right to do what they want with their land. I don’t want regulations.” He also reiterated his concern for preserving roads.
Renaud said, “I hope my leadership has shown over the last four years, and I will continue to do what I’ve done over the last three-and-a-half years to appease both city and county people.”
The next radio forum is scheduled for Thursday at noon between candidates for the District 5 seat on the Grady County Commission, T.D. David and Cecil Rash. They are running for the seat being vacated by retiring Commissioner Bobby Burns. The public is invited to attend the forum at the Grady Room of Roddenbery Memorial Library, or listen to it on WGRA 790-AM.