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Al Bedrosian, Brian Lang and Gary Jarrell took questions today from the Williamson Road Business Association.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
They took their seats at the head of the room: the Xerox salesman, the mechanical engineer and the small-business owner.
For months, these three have canvassed neighborhoods in the Hollins District to persuade potential voters to help them win a seat on the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors. On Tuesday, Republican Al Bedrosian, independent Gary Jarrell and Democrat Brian Lang appeared together for the first time to take questions from the Williamson Road Area Business Association.
The candidates walked through nine questions, tackling issues including the future funding of storm water management projects, economic development, and the creation of a new Special Service District, among others. Perhaps more than anything, though, the questions underscored stark differences in each candidate’s governing style.
As Bedrosian and Lang spoke passionately about their individual philosophies and ideas, Jarrell receded into the background, signaling his support of the status quo.
“I think we’re OK,” he said. “My goal is to continue how the county has been doing business. I think Roanoke County has done a terrific job.”
The effect left much of the spotlight on his opponents, whose comments were anchored to their own ideas of change.
Bedrosian reasserted his long-held belief that the county should find a way to reduce the tax rate — though he did not elaborate on how that might affect services such as trash pickup and public safety. And instead of building new libraries, Bedrosian said he hoped to use county dollars to fix basic infrastructure problems in neighborhoods. Flooding, he said, was an issue he had heard about on the campaign trail.
Lang continued to push his ambitious plan for the district, which seeks to create a stronger connection between the community and Hollins University. His outline includes a new library, a farmers market, and easier walking and bike paths between those locations and the school.
“We need to do more to recruit growth in the Roanoke Valley,” Lang said.
Wendy Jones, executive director of the association, said her group was interested in establishing a Special Service District along Williamson Road, which would require businesses within the district to pay an extra one-tenth of 1 percent in taxes. The money would go to a fund that would pay for events to draw people to the area and keep it clean, Jones said.
When asked about their positions on the matter, Lang and Jarrell voiced support. Bedrosian said he was open to considering it.
“We’re looking to make Hollins more business friendly — not that it already isn’t — but even more so,” Jones said.
All three candidates agreed they could probably find a solution to the storm water management problems without creating a new tax or fee. Bedrosian said he believed the county should push back against the required mandates handed down by the state and federal governments.
In addition to the three-way Hollins District race to replace retiring Supervisor Richard Flora, voters in Roanoke County’s Windsor Hills District will choose between incumbent Supervisor Ed Elswick, an independent, and Republican challenger Joe McNamara. In the Vinton District, Republican candidate Jason Peters is unopposed on the ballot in his bid to replace Mike Altizer, who is not seeking re-election.
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