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Halifax County supervisor candidates offer views / October 17, 2013

The three candidates for the Halifax County Board of Supervisors in Election District 3 gathered for a wide-ranging discussion of local issues at a candidates forum held Tuesday night at the Oak Level Volunteer Fire Department in Vernon Hill.

Ray Owen, Arthur Reynolds Sr. and Earl Womack each touched on familiar topics — jobs, education, taxes and public safety — in a polite exchange of views moderated by Nick Long of WHLF and aired by the radio station.

Also participating in the forum was Kim Farson, chair of the Halifax County School Board, who is running unopposed in ED-3 for another term.

The forum, the second in a series, was sponsored by the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce and Halifax County Farm Bureau. The next exchange will take place Tuesday, Oct. 22, featuring contenders for Board of Supervisors and School Board in Election District 6.

Some of the highlights from the Oak Level VFD forum:

On economic development, each candidate pledged to work hard to attract and retain jobs in Halifax County and provide young people with more reasons to stay here after finishing school. Each touched on the importance of education and job training in attracting employers to the community.

Womack stressed that he would talk to businesses and organizations to come up with ways to keep people from leaving Halifax to find the goods and services they’re looking for. “You should feel comfortable with your own home” when spending money, he said.

Reynolds lamented the sparse development in remote areas of the county and said he would push “to try and develop some of these areas that are outside of South Boston so that people will want to move out there, and rather than close our schools we’ll be in a position to build more schools.”

Owen said more focus should be put into vocational education, citing the demand for electricians, plumbers and other trades professionals: “These are all vocational training [jobs], training we can get right here in Halifax County, that these kids, when they come out of school … [they] don’t have to worry about where they’re going to work.”

Each candidate suggested changes he’d like to bring about if elected to the Board. Reynolds was the first to bring up a recent item in the news — the county’s need to replace its tax assessment and billing software, at a cost of $247,340, after the lone person capable of providing support and service for the software passed away. Reynolds said he would work “to prevent our leaders from spending thousands of dollars in taxpayer money for computer systems that have to be replaced just because the inventor died.”

Womack vowed to press for changes from VDOT. He singled out the problem of tall grass growing in highway median strips and by roadsides, relating the story of a motorist in his area who flipped her car avoiding a deer that bounded out into the road, sight unseen: “This grass is five, six feet tall,” he lamented.

Owen also chimed in on the subject of roads, calling it “probably the hottest issue for me in this whole electoral district.” He urged VDOT to review its maintenance and construction priorities, saying “we cannot continue to wait and base everything that we do on accident data. We don’t need people hurt, we need people safe.”

Other issues: Reynolds, alluding to Halifax County’s participation in a regional landfill authority, questioned whether “in the long run … the system we’re using to remove our waste [is] the best for the county.” Citing the cost of purchasing new trucks to ferry trash to the regional fill near Boydton, he asked: “What will happen when Mecklenburg County puts us in a situation similar to our [orphaned tax billing] computer system?”

Owen brought up the problem of uncollected property taxes in Halifax County, quoting a precise figure for the amount on the books that is currently unpaid: $1,822,843.48 — “a stink.” He continued: “I am not saying or accusing the county treasurer of not doing her job. But what I am saying is, I would hope that the Board of Supervisors could communicate and make suggestions to assist her in any way possible to collect these taxes, which would help fund some of the issues that we’ve brought up tonight.”

Womack said the county should consider ways to offer public transportation to people who have difficulty traveling into town: “We can start small before you expand,” he said, proposing the use of small buses. Womack also touched on his personal interest in improving conditions for foster children, and suggested adding work requirements to public assistance programs.

• On uranium mining, all three candidates agreed that the Board should do what it can to oppose the proposed Coles Hill project in Pittsylvania County. “This could affect our health, the value of land and make it harder to get people to come to our county,” said Reynolds. Womack noted that uranium mining could mean some jobs in Southside, but “I will not sacrifice the community” by endangering the health of its citizens. Owen applauded the Board of Supervisors’ recent decision to provide funding for anti-uranium lobbying efforts in Richmond: “That is the only assault we have. We need to make every effort to maintain our attack on it through contributions through the towns and the county.”

Each candidate touted his background and experience in local government: Owen as a member of the county planning commission, a fire chief and military veteran; Reynolds, as a former school board member with numerous civic and church affiliations, and the father of eight children who have gone through the county school system; and Womack, as a school transportation supervisor, community volunteer and youth mentor, and veteran of the Marine Corps.

The election is Tuesday, Nov. 5.

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I live in this district, I think I need to move after listening to these three fools!


Hello this is Earl Womack. If there is something that concerns you please contact me. I hate to loose another resident. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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