Infrastructure, permitting and incentives on minds of commissioners
Four candidates are heading into the county commissioners’ race Tuesday but only two will emerge representing Orange County.
Challenger Bonnie Hauser and incumbent Barry Jacobs want to be Orange County commissioner at-large while incumbent Earl McKee and challenger Mark Marcoplos are vying for the District 2 seat.
Hauser said she believes that the county needs new leadership and that she has fresh ideas that will benefit the county now and in the future.
“If voters believe that business as usual is not working and that we can do better to create an open and transparent government that we can afford, they should vote for Bonnie Hauser,” she said.
Hauser said she sees economic development opportunities in Efland and the Eno Economic Development Districts considering recent investments in infrastructure in the area.
“We need to fix our zoning and replace an 800-page ordinance with some simple by-right zoning,” Hauser said. “If we can get the community to agree on a future vision for the area, it should become a lot easier to attract positive commercial development. I believe Elfand is particularly ready for the conversation, and since the community is at the junction of two major interstates, the opportunity is enormous.”
Incumbent Jacobs, in examining concerns facing the town, said he sees a simplified permitting process, coordinated development efforts throughout the county and a strengthened infrastructure as keys to the county’s continued success.
“We must ascertain the interests of existing businesses, large and small, and try to make it more cost-effective and inviting to operate in Orange County than to seek other frontiers,” he said.
“Orange County has among the best bond ratings of any county in North Carolina. We haven’t raised the general property tax in five years. We have the state’s lowest unemployment rate,” Jacobs said. “Those factors, as well as the will to support public education, environmental protection, and the social safety net, enable us to continue adding funding where it’s most needed despite cuts by the state.”
McKee took office in 2010 after serving on the planning board and has said that he will continue to champion services like safety and education without excessive tax increases and being frugal with available funding.
“There is no magic bullet to solve the problem of state cuts,” McKee said. “Now we are going to have to try to find savings on a much smaller scale. Increased recycling will reduce the cost of hauling trash to Durham. If we can find ways to work with the towns to address duplicate services we may be able to achieve savings to both entities.”
He also believes that the county must tread carefully as it plans for the future.
“I mentioned incentives and they are a major part of attracting large businesses but we are going to need to find a way to incentivize our existing companies to stay and expand their operations,” McKee said.
Marcoplos was appointed by the county commissioners to serve on the planning board in 2009 and said he has spent time working with Orange County residents to defend rural communities, been active in Moral Monday protests advocating for unemployment benefits and Medicaid for citizens in need and women’s access to reproductive health services.
“Many of our neighbors need employment and business opportunities, public transportation, a living wage and affordable housing,” Marcoplos said in a previous statement. “The true backbone of our economy is the hundreds of independent local businesses that employ so many of our neighbors. These enterprises are vested in the success of our communities and represent a strong part of our social fabric.”
Marcoplos has developed a comprehensive solid waste solution to the proposed solid waste service tax district. In his plan, Marcoplos suggests that the county reinstate the $38 3-R fee and resume services as provided before it was eliminated.