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York County Council member Bruce Henderson and petition candidate John Rinehart, both Republicans, are competing to represnt Clover, Lake Wylie and central York County in the Nov. 6 general election. The candidates answered questions about jobs and other issues.
York County Council member Bruce Henderson and petition candidate John Rinehart, both Republicans, are competing to represnt Clover, Lake Wylie and central York County in the Nov. 6 general election.
Here are the candidate’s answers about questions [first published in The Herald] about issues facing the county:
What have you done or what can you do to bring jobs to York County and lower the county’s 10.5 percent unemployment rate?
Henderson: Says he has succeeded at letting businesses know “you don't have to fear us.” Says he has made suggestions to economic development officials on how to reach out to businesses. “We've got to bend over backward without selling the farm.” Rejected changes to the county development rules, which had been in the works since 2009 as a way to streamline the development process and update outdated regulations. Says the plan moving forward is to reduce the code’s size “drastically.”
Rinehart: Hears council members say they have had meetings with state commerce officials, but asks, “What has happened since you had lunch together?” Calls for the county to follow a “master plan” for economic development and retention of businesses. Council members must promote the county’s assets effectively, such as its tourism industry, proximity to the airport, and local investment in highways. When businesses settle nearby but not in York County, Rinehart says, “I want to know why we were not able to close the deal.”
Is York County’s $32 million surplus fund too large? Do you think some of that reserve money should be used for something else, and if so, what?
Henderson: Says if the economy improves and becomes “steady,” he’d consider voting to return the county’s reserve dollars – whatever’s in excess of 25 percent of the county’s general fund – to taxpayers. Also would consider using it to “offset a tax increase,” if the county needed to draw from reserves to prevent an increase in taxes. Says he doesn’t advocate spending it just because it’s there.
Rinehart: Says he doesn’t know the details of the county budget’s income and expenses, but he says he wouldn’t think it unusual if the county’s reserve fund was about half its operating budget, because the county is like a business, which would have enough reserves to sustain through a downturn for six months to a year.
Do you agree with the direction the council is going in spending $3.1 million in bond revenue for a fire training center instead of building substations? What role should the county play in helping the county’s volunteer emergency medical services squads as new contracts are written for EMS service?
Henderson: “Volunteerism” in western York County “is on life support.” Rescue squads have “no profitability.” Advocates a frequent review of the county’s contract with EMS squads. Says western York County isn’t getting the “same level of service” in terms of EMS response times. Wants to make it so “low-income people” in emergency situations get “identical service as someone in Beverly Hills.” Agrees with the county’s push for a new fire training center but only if it doesn’t cost much more than estimated.
Rinehart: Agrees with the county’s push toward a new fire training station but says the county should assess the need for fire stations. Rural fire departments are showing a “local buy-in” with efforts to raise money and attempt on their own to build substations. If, after the effort, they need more help, Rinehart said he would consider it. Said the volunteer EMS squads are “absolutely important” to the community. “We need to do all we can to make sure that the spirit of volunteerism stays in our community.” If the rescue squads have “specific needs” that must be met so they can stay active – and they’re committed to doing what it takes – then the county should consider helping, he said.
Do you support the County Council’s recently approved countywide limitations on tethering and required sterilization of female animals kept in open areas? Should the council do more to address the problem of unwanted strays?
Henderson: Supports the tethering limitations because they still allow pet owners to tether inside a fence. Going further, such as ban on tethering, would lead to a “massive number of dogs coming into the shelter” and “unnecessary euthanized animals” from people giving up their dogs. Too many regulations on pet owners might lead to people not wanting to adopt stray dogs and cats.
Rinehart: Agrees with new tethering limitations and said the rule is sufficient for now to deal with issues facing animal control. Called animal control a “difficult” issue for council because it’s really about “responsible pet ownership.” He said the county could do more to educate the public on that issue. “When you start having to euthanize this many pets, that's a serious concern.”
What action, or decision, of the York County Council has had the most impact on the county and why?
Henderson: Following a small tax reduction some called “symbolic,” Henderson said he and other council members made “the plea” to other cities in York County and school districts to lower tax rates to help offset the impact of York County’s five-year, mandated reassessment of property values for tax purposes. “We led by example,” he said. Henderson said despite county management recommending no tax reduction in anticipation of having to raise taxes later, “there is a channel of command, and that’s the people electing us and on down the line.” Henderson said, “I’m not sold that there’s going to be a tax increase or a need for it, or else I wouldn’t have made the move.”
Rinehart: Council hasn’t been effective at making decisions, Rinehart said. He criticized council for postponing a decision on building a fairgrounds and equestrian center when “it appeared” they had already decided to move forward with the project. “The decision was made to postpone making a decision on that until after the election. The council should be able to make a decision,” he said. “We need strong leadership with business experience, and we need to be able to send the message that we do know how to do business and we do know how to make decisions.”