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Incumbents, Challengers Debate Hot Topics

During Monday night's county commission debate the incumbents and opponents debated on hot topics, including the financial health of the county, millage rate and water contract.

More than 250 people gathered inside the commissioner's meeting room at the Forsyth County Administration Building Monday night to listen to two of the three incumbents and their challengers running for Forsyth's three county commission seats.

The seats up for election this year include, District 5, which covers much of east Forsyth, between and challenger .

In District 4, which covers a good area of north Forsyth, the candidates vying for that seat are , opponents , , Tim Hubbard and Charles Meagher, both who announced their bids recently.

And in District 2, which covers a portion of south Forsyth, the race is between , who was the only candidate that did not attend, and challenger

Tam told Cumming Patch Tuesday that he was absent due to a conflict, but that he would participate in any upcoming debates.

"I have participated in debates during my last two election cycles and I welcome the opportunity to debate," he said. "I'll make every effort to be there, but I can't break commitments that I have with my constituents, they come first."

The evening's hot topics included the , the millage rate and the financial health of the county.

Bell, who is serving in his fourth year on the finance committee, said Forsyth County is in great financial health and it is not all "gloom and doom."

He said when he took office the budget was short $5 million in one fund and $13 million in another, but that it has been restored.

"We have earned a AAA bond rating, we have reduced expenses by some $20 million," Bell said. "Currently the county has about $270 million in bonds."

Boff agreed with the figures and added that last week the commissioners refloated a bond that saved the county a gross of $5 million, but in net present values it was about $3.5 million to $3.7 million.

While Brown agreed with the financial stability of the county he was bothered about the debt load and whether it was increasing, the trend of "more tax and spend."

"I think the $270 million in bond debt has tripled over the past few years, mostly spent for good causes, but anytime you spend money that you don't have, it's still debt," he said.

Derucki said the debt service of the county is out of control and has been for the last couple of years.

"I think it's time that government take a little more of a business approach and start reinventing [itself]," he said. "Just because we tax it doesn't mean that we need to spend it. Why are we not building up a reserve to pay for some of these things that we are going to need – infrastructure improvements, transportation?"

Hubbard said the budget has to be reduced across the board not increased.

"We've been in a rainy day but the fund is depleting," he said. "I believe we lack a lot of common sense."

Meagher said while the current financial health of the county "is sound" and the "AAA rating is an excellent deal for all citizens," planning for the future is needed using the resources the county does have.

"We don't really have a taxing problem in the county, or in the state, or the nation, we've got a spending problem and that's what we need to control," he said.

Mills said tough decisions would have to be made where the budget is concern.

"We've got to raise revenue, we've got to take in more money and we've got to cut back on the operation of things," she said. "And if we can't do that then we all are going to be in trouble. Because I for one will never support raising taxes and the only way you can keep things the same and not raise taxes is by cutting your budget."

Mulrooney's stand was simple, "debt is bad, if you have cash you pay for it, if you don't have cash you can't afford it."

"We need to let revenues come in before we pay for things," he said.

The millage rate [the amount per $1000 that is used to calculate taxes on property] was another hot topic that all if not most agreed should not increase and at best remain where it is.

Boff and Mulrooney agreed if the millage could not be lowered then it should remain steady, while Hubbard and Mills said it needed to be lower, but operation costs would have to be cut to make this happen.

Brown and Derucki would do what they could to keep the rate at its lowest.

Meagher said while it could possibly be lower, what was needed was government transparency on spending, and that people need to know where the money is going, where the mills are actually attached.

Bell said no matter how low it is people are going to want it lower, and since he has been in office, he has made a point of cutting the rate.

The brewing issue was another hot topic Monday night and all candidates weighed in their opinion on current negotiations.

Mulrooney said the demographics of the county have changed, the people in charge of the city have remained the same.

"The city has gotten very use to the revenues generated," he said. "They buy everything in cash and they carry no debt. They need to be weaned off of the Forsyth taxpayers, they need to be weaned off of the county."

Bell said the bottom line was that the county needs a safe, secure and reliable source of water. "That's the job I'm trying to do."

Value is important to Boff.

"I have no reason to believe there's anything whatsoever wrong with the quality of the water we get, but that's not the issue" said Boff. "The question is why should we pay more than we have to and again I haven't heard a good explanation of why we should pay more than we have to."

Brown believes Forsyth County needs water independence and the way to achieve the challenge is by "sitting down in good faith negotiations with the mayor, and our state elected officials, go to the EPD (Environmental Protection Agency), go to the Corps of Engineers" and work on it collectively.

"We don't need to keep this a political football at odds with special interests working against the citizens efforts," Brown said. "We need to deal with it and we need to deal with it before this election."

Derucki said time is running out and a short-term plan is needed "quick." The deal with the city will be done whether people like it or not.

"I personally, I don't like it," he said. "Part of my plan would include not paying the $11.4 million invoice that the mayor sent over to the county, I think that is a negotiating ploy."

Hubbard's take on the water issue? He said the county has to look northward for another water solution.

"I don't know how to go about that, but I know it's not coming out of Lake Lanier or the Chattahoochee because of the stuff that's up with the tri-state water wars," he said.

Meagher agreed with Derucki that a short-term solution is needed as well as a long-term solution. He said, "As I understand it there are several plans on the table right now being reviewed."

"I hope that we can find something that gets us through during the short-term," he said. "But we need to work on the water intake, we need to have our own straw and I think that will come as soon as some of these lawsuits go away."

Mills pointed out that the county invested about $20 million on a finishing plant so the county can process its own water. She questions why would the county continue buying finished water from the city when it has its own facility. She also mentioned the raw water contract and varying prices that are being offered from different commissioners.

"We want water independence and I know that that's something we've all been wishful for a long time," she said. "Why would we want to get into another long term contract if we have hopes of being independent? I don't understand that."

The county commission debate was the second of the political season, moderated by Steve Voshall, chair of the Forsyth County Tea Party.

The next sponsored tea party debate is set for May 21 and will be on the state level when voters hear from the candidates running for House Representative.

Voters head to the polls to cast their ballots for the candidates in the primary July 31.

SOGTP April 18, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Is that Hal and Jody sitting up front?
Steve Greenfield April 19, 2012 at 01:12 AM
From my viewpoint for the district 4 race, Bill Mulrooney was the clear winner. Everyone knows Bell is toast. Otherwise, why would 4 people be running to oust him. Charles Meagher put me to sleep with his answers. And while Tim Hubbard was certainly entertaining, both he and Cindy Mills roots go too deep in Forsyth county to make me feel comfortable even considering them. We already have enough special interest commissioners in Tam and Amos. That leaves Mulrooney who didn't talk in anecdotes, but had some real solutions in his answers. I believe he is thoughtful, intelligent and would truly be a champion of the homeowners. He's not one to be bullied by partisan politics and won't back down to a challenge from the Mayor and his puppets.
charles b purcell April 19, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Cindy Jones Mills clearly had the crowd on her side.Her positive message of restoring faith in our local government resonated with a district tired of the incumbents incesant bullying and petty squabbles.Even when criticizing Bell's recent grab for lifetime benefits,Ms. Mills refrained from mentioning anyone by name.Bill Mulrooney quickly pointed out Bell had in fact introduced the health care initiative.Ms. Mills amused the audience with a anecdote involving her ubiquitous signage,prompting the poorly received Bell to declare no candidate was going to buy the election. Which of course, if were possible, Bell and his downtown cronies would be first in line to purchase.Chairman Boff was his usual steady at the helm self.I often think of JFK's Profiles in Courage ,when I recall how often Boff stood alone in opposition to questionable acts perpetrated by our BOC. And I don't think anyone can argue that Col. Brown dominated District 2 and his opposition,an empty chair.Congratulations to you all !
charles b purcell April 19, 2012 at 01:45 AM
I forgot to mention, Great job Cumming Patch , your article is far superior to earlier efforts in a rival publication.
charles b purcell April 19, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Cindy Jones MIlls did an excellent of job staying positive and focusing on her Restoring Faith in Government theme.She clearly demonstrated the most crowd support and deftly avoided being dragged into the mud by the desperate Bell's innuendoes. Cindy will serve the citizens of this county very well.She knows how to be a lady, but she is not afraid to fight for what she believes.Do Forsyth County a big favor on July 31st and elect Cindy Jones MIlls our District 4 Commissioner.
Liz Kennedy (Editor) April 19, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Thanks Charles for the comment - good news is always good to receive.
Liz Kennedy (Editor) April 19, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Hi Patchers - your opinion is important to us - weigh in on your thoughts of the candidates - if you did not attend Monday's debate - check out the story for the highlights.
charles b purcell April 20, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Mr .Greenfield ,What is it about native Forsyth Countians that makes you feel uncomfortable ? Your connection to the Mulrooney campaign is well known.Do you think Bill really wants you out here insulting a very high percentage of 4th District voters ?
SOGTP April 20, 2012 at 05:42 PM
I do believe the largest percentage of natural born and raised Forsythians are in District 4. Of course except Patrick Bell.
Gary Cooper April 20, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Cindy did a great job at the debate and is the clear choice for District 4. Also, you don't have to worry about her being for special interests just because of her roots. In fact it is those with special interests that are attacking her and not wanting her to be the one to unseat Bell. They are squarely behind the 8 ball here because the overwhelming support in District 4 is clearly on Cindy's side. You don't have to worry about Cindy. She is not the one conversing with some of those "special interests" in town like other candidates are.
SOGTP April 20, 2012 at 06:34 PM
I agree with Gary Cooper. Special interests want nothing to do with Cindy Jones Mills and will do whatever necessary to get Patrick Bell elected. He has proven that he is a steward and representative of the Mayor and NOT Forsythians in District 4.
Deborah Chambers April 20, 2012 at 09:07 PM
I enjoyed the debate and would like to thank the Forsyth County Tea Party for allowing us to hear from all the candidates. It's time to make a change in Forsyth County and I hope that the registered votes will get out and vote on July 31, 2012. Cindy Jones Miles did an excellent job at the debate. She spoke out at the debate saying that she has watched the government for some time, and that she has lost faith in the system, that it was time to stop the squandering of the taxpayer's money, how they have betrayed our trust, served their own special interest, used their positions to improve their own personal lives and fortunes. That when the Commission meetings mimic the Jerry Springer Show, that it's time for change. I applauded Cindy as did those in attendance at the debate. She spoke out by saying exactly what so many of us have said in the comfort of our own homes. Her roots run deep in Forsyth County and that's why she is the best person for District 4. She has the love of the County in her heart and will do everything in her power to protect the legacy for her children and future grandchildren rather than any special interest. We have seen her in action over the years walking up to the podium at many BOC meetings, and speaking into the microphone voicing her concerns and her opinions because she couldn't sit back. She's been at work for Forsyth County for most of her adult life. It's time for her to represent us as Commissioner of District 4.
Deborah Chambers April 20, 2012 at 09:12 PM
I also support Dennis Brown (District 2) and Jim Boff (District 5). I may not be able to vote for them because of District voting, but they have my support. During the debate, they impressed me with their responses. Like Cindy, the citizens of Forsyth County will be their primary concern not special interest.
Bob Polinkowski April 21, 2012 at 02:25 AM
I like Cindy. She seems to be a very nice lady. But other than she has family buried here, she is a woman, and she is not Patrick Bell, what position does she take on anything? All she seems to do is try to invoke an emotional response with her tales of the old days. What are her positions? Can anyone say what her position on LOST is, or the water contract? How about future growth? Anything? It is all fuzzy feel good fluff. Cindy, I need more than fluff if you want my vote.
charles b purcell April 21, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Bob, I take it from your comments you missed Monday's debate,because Cindy answered each and every one of the questions you mention.Please visit her website or make plans to attend the debate next month.I think you will find she is a lady of keen intellect and substance.She has meet and greets scheduled for many subdivisions and will return any phone calls or e-mails.I can assure you she has much more to offer than warm fuzzies and fluff.

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