Ballots go out Friday

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Commission candidates, left to right, Mike Throop, Mae Huston, Tom Brown, Mike Ahern and Floyd Paye participate in a forum Monday night at the Jefferson County Senior Center.Five candidates for two positions on the Jefferson County Commission squared off on Monday evening during a forum at the Jefferson County Senior Center.

Vying for position 1 were Mae Huston, of Culver, and Tom Brown and Mike Throop, both of Madras, while Mike Ahern and Floyd Paye, also of Madras, are seeking election to position 2, currently held by Ahern. The five will be on the May 20 ballot, which will be mailed out to voters on Friday.

After describing their backgrounds (see "Meet the Candidates" on page 7), the candidates answered questions from the audience on topics ranging from the location of the Jefferson County Historical Society Museum, to new courthouse plans and bringing in new business.

"The Historical Society is looking at having the museum at Westside; that is the way to go," said Brown, a Madras city councilor and businessman, who noted that the county fire marshal told him that it wouldn't require a new sprinkler system, which had been a stumbling block.

Ahern, a commissioner and realtor, indicated that he believes the county should commit to supporting the museum at Westside if the ownership of the building can be passed to the city or county.

Throop, the human resources technician for the county, said he would like to see it at the fairgrounds — "someplace easily accessible to people."

Candidates were asked how they would handle the news that the county is expected to receive $4 million in bonding from the state for a new courthouse — $1.53 less than the county requested. The courthouse, to be located next to the new city hall, is expected to cost nearly $13 million.

"We will not build an inadequate courthouse," said Ahern, who believes the county can find a way to fund the proposed 34,000-square-foot facility, which is supposed to accommodate the county's needs for the next 50 years.

Paye, who works as the lead weed eradicator for the county, said the county should build when the money's available.

Brown hopes that the county will build an adequate facility and plan ahead to be able to add on in the future.

Huston, who works for H&R Block and has attended work sessions with the county's architects, said that the facility should be "the best it can possibly be."

Throop said that while he wasn't in favor of the new city hall, over the past few years he has seen the need for a new courthouse.

"I can tell you exactly why we need to build a new courthouse," said Throop. "When the wind blows a certain direction, I can't close my door." He also has to position his office chair properly to keep it from rolling because of sloping floors.

Shoud the county hire a full-time planner? Paye and Brown favored hiring a full-time planner, while Ahern, Huston and Throop said "not yet."

"I do think we need better access to a planner right now," said Brown, who sees the economy improving. "When people are working on a project, they need to have access to a planner in a reasonable time."

Asked about their three most important objectives, the candidates had overlapping answers.

Throop would like to see mental health and other health providers in the county, more support for manufacturing and business, and increased citizen involvement.

Huston wants the county to be friendly to business, and to improve the condition of county roads and the county fairgrounds.

Planning for the future, bringing in business, and communicating with all the communities in the county are Brown's top three objectives.

Ahern cited public safety, education and improved roads as his priorities, and said he is proud that "Our crime rate is quite low."

Paye would emphasize road improvement, bringing in industry, and public safety.

"When I started, there were 25 employees (in the county road department); now there are 14," Paye said, pointing out that it's hard to keep up with road maintenance. "We're like little boys with our fingers in the dike."

All agreed that the county needs to find ways to repair roads with its limited funds.

Ahern said that there are 600 miles of county roads, with about one-third of those paved. Paving costs about $100,000 a mile.

"I think we do a pretty darn good job," he said, adding that over the past 10 years, roads have improved.

Paye would like to see the county doing more. "We need to look to the future and try to do something," he said.

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