Only three participate in forum

Published 11:35 am Tuesday, October 27, 2015

By Noel Oliver

The Farmville Herald

Only three candidates for county supervisor seats in Cumberland participated in a forum held by the county’s Republican Party on Thursday.

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Republican David Meinhard, who’s seeking the District Four seat, independent Tim Kennell, who’s seeking the District Two seat, and Catherine Baber Fleishman, who’s running as a write-in candidate in District One, participated. Seven candidates are seeking supervisor seats in Cumberland.

Independent Bill Bruce, who’s seeking the

District Four seat, was present but didn’t participate.

Farmville Herald Managing Editor Jordan Miles moderated the event, posing questions to the candidates that he composed and received from the audience.

Most of the questions posed were related to taxes, spending, the county budget and business growth and expansion.

The first question related to the board’s 2014 tax increase vote raising the real estate tax from 68 cents to 74 cents per $100 assessed value.

Meinhard said the tax increase “came as a result of a real estate reassessment which showed that real estate revenues in the county were dropping by a rate of $700,000.”

Meinhard, who said he voted for the increase, said that it “raised the rate approximately one half of what the board would have had to have done to have kept our county at a revenue neutral level, resulting in actually $300,000 less revenue for the county.”

Kennell agreed with Meinhard, stating, “I would have voted for the increase as well. Tough decisions have to be made, I would have voted yes, I would not have abstained.”

Kennell referenced abstaining from voting in his opening statement, citing it as one of the reasons of  his candidacy. He said that his current representative had “…abstained from voting on issues 38 times during his time at the courthouse.”  

Employee raises were brought up twice during the forum. One question posed by the moderator concerned when and how raises should be instituted for county staff.

Meinhard answered first, stating, “The board financed a 3 percent raise, or a $1,200 increase, whichever was greater for the employee, to help the lowest-paid employees in the county.” He said that there were no bonuses given out. Meinhard explained the action by saying that the money to finance the raises came from salaries of two employees who had left the county.

Kennell said that a merit system was needed for employee raises, while Fleishman said that fixing revenue issues should come before raises.

A central theme among the candidates was the need to bring new businesses into the county. All three candidates mentioned the use of tax incentives to draw in new businesses.

Fleishman said that “the natural resources of Cumberland County [offer] the opportunity for smaller-scale agricultural businesses [and] local food production, to look to Cumberland County as a home for business.”

Kennell highlighted Cumberland’s potential for greater tourism. He also said that he would like to see Cumberland, “…limit some of the zoning laws to make the county more attractive to new businesses.”

Meinhard spoke of five to seven year tax incentive programs to make it easier for smaller businesses to succeed in the county.

All three candidates agreed that increased county revenue was needed for growth.

The three showed reluctance to make cuts to education, law enforcement, emergency services or other county services.

Kennell, Meinhard and Fleishman agreed that Cumberland’s population was too small for a chain grocery store. Kennell suggested that seeking a smaller-sized food chain may be a more plausible approach.