Scotland County Candidates Forum
On Tuesday, April 13, candidates for the upcoming Scotland Co. election gave their opinions at an Open Forum sponsored by the Scotland/Laurinburg Chamber of Commerce.
Scotland County candidates hear concerns
By Jennifer Calhoun
LAURINBURG - Residents poured their concerns about joblessness, landfills and crime on local election candidates Tuesday night during a public forum at the Scotland County Courthouse.
Hundreds of people gathered in the main court room for the forum, with some standing along walls, sitting in jury boxes and spilling out of exit ways.
The event, sponsored by the Laurinburg/Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce, offered a chance for residents to learn more about the candidates for every race on the ballot, from Congress to school board.
Residents brought a laundry list of concerns: - Will you vote in favor of a landfill or against it? Where are the jobs? How are we going to stop crime from rising? What is your vision for youth? Where's the county swimming pool that was discussed so many years ago?
The concerned questions came in the context of the county's unenviable superlatives - Scotland has one of the highest property taxes in the state, coupled with one of its highest unemployment rates.
Some of the tougher questions were lobbed at the six candidates running for three spots on the Board of Commissioners: Betty Blue Gholston; John Cooley; J.D. Willis; Carol McCall; Guy McCook and Daniel Jermaine Dockery.
When asked whether they would vote in favor of a controversial landfill that could bring revenue to the county, Dockery, Cooley and McCall said "No."
McCook and Willis, both incumbents, also gave tentative "no's," but qualified their answers, saying there was too much research that still needed to be done to determine what was right for the county.
Ghoulston, also an incumbent, said that she had opposed the landfill in 2008, but asked voters to trust that she would do what was best for the county when the time came to vote for or against it.
The issue has been controversial since 2007, when Waste Management Inc. proposed a regional landfill that would bring in 3,000 to 5,000 tons of trash a day from different states and hopes of bringing in up to $4 million in income and savings.
The board voted in favor of the landfill, 5-1, with Gholston dissenting. Willis voted in favor of the landfill, which was dropped when the state called a moratorium on building new landfills.
Another hot-button issue centered on how the board distributed funds to nonprofits.
Currently, board members receive $10,000 to distribute to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations or organizations of their choosing. The board chairman - currently Willis - receives $15,000 for distribution.
McCook, McCall, Dockery and Cooley argued that the practice should be eliminated, and decisions on where county money goes should be voted on as a board.
Willis said the policy was put in place for a reason. It used to be, he said, that board members would overpower other members with a majority of votes, allowing them to put all the money into certain non-profits and leaving others out.
Gholston agreed with Willis, saying the practice was fair and regulated.
At times during the forum, the questions sounded more like accusations, and often became personal or sounded angry.
McCook said this and the large turnout was the result of people dealing with a tough time and an uncertain future.
"I think it's a lot of things," he said. "I think when a community is struggling as much as we do, they're struggling for answers."
But the large turnout and the interest in government of all levels was a positive step, he said.
"That's a good thing," he said. "It's what democracy's all about."
Content received from: Scotland County Of Tomorrow, http://nomegadump.org