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The supervisor hopefuls drew distinctions among themselves by their ideas for county finances.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
The three candidates vying for the Hollins district seat on the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors met for the second time in as many days Wednesday, to answer questions before a packed house at Hollins University.
In a political forum hosted by the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce, candidates maneuvered their way through nine prepared questions that explored topics including greenway construction, school funding and stormwater management.
With each answer, the candidates carved out their own distinctive qualities, casting their lots in a three-way race without an incumbent or obvious heir to retiring Supervisor Richard Flora.
As he has throughout his campaign, Republican Al Bedrosian preached lowering the county tax rate as a means of spurring economic development. He did not address how such a move might affect services.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Democrat Brian Lang again promoted his ambitious plan to spur development through the creation of a Hollins hub that would include the construction of a new library and farmers market venue — a multi million-dollar proposal with still-murky funding sources.
Independent Gary Jarrell staked his claim to the center, a vote of confidence for the county’s current mode of operation and formerly established comprehensive plan.
“We just need to watch our tax base,” Jarrell said, referring specifically to Lang’s proposals. “And I also want to see our tax rate reduced, but I don’t want to lose any of the services that Roanoke County already has.”
In talking about their designs for the future, Bedrosian criticized past county decisions to fund the construction of the Glenvar and Vinton libraries, as well as Green Ridge Recreation Center.
“A lot of times we’ll talk about all these great initiatives we have … but I think a lot of these projects aren’t paying back what they should,” he said.
Instead of those investments, he proposed fixing current infrastructure problems he’s learned about while walking the campaign trail, including flooding issues across the Hollins district.
Jarrell touted sticking with the county’s current comprehensive plan, saying that new business and prosperity would follow. He also spoke about the importance of repairing and preparing infrastructure, specifically for new businesses that might relocate to the region in the future.
Lang spoke of redeveloping the Hollins corridor between the university and Interstate 81, establishing dog parks as a small way to lure tourists off the interstate and into local restaurants, shops and hotels.
All three candidates agreed that an estimated $5 million onslaught of stormwater management projects could be funded out of the county’s general government budget, though they did not use specific dollar figures to illustrate what they would reallocate. Bedrosian said the county could cut several inefficiencies, but did not present any ideas that came close to the multi million-dollar price tag.
On the topic of schools, Lang said he would support adding more dollars to the current school system budget, adding that the money could be earmarked for the future as the economy slowly improves. Bedrosian and Jarrell said they believe the schools operate at a sufficient level of funding.
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