Staff photo by Allison Potter
Candidates for New Hanover County Commission participated in two forums on Tuesday, Oct. 9, first at the Senior Resource Center and later at the Northeast Regional Library. Above, Rob Zapple, right to left, Dr. Derrick Hickey, Robert Murray, Woody White and Beth Dawson wrap up the evening forum at the library.
During one of a series of New Hanover County commissioners candidate forums, the topics of the proposed $37 million baseball stadium and the Titan Cement plant arose again on Tuesday, Oct. 9, during the first of two forums held the same day.
Five of the six candidates running for three open seats on Nov. 6 were present at the morning forum, held at the Senior Resource Center. Republican Woody White, a local attorney, had prior obligations with cases scheduled in the county courthouse.
WWAY political editor, Kevin Wuzzardo, moderated the forum, which was also sponsored by the Volunteer Older Citizens Action League.
Wuzzardo reframed a question from a person in the audience about the proposed baseball stadium, asking candidates what they would use a $37 million bond for if given voter approval.
Dr. Derrick Hickey, a Republican and member of the county board of education, said he would first use the money for overcrowding in schools.
“We need to renovate Wrightsville Beach Elementary,” Hickey said, adding that renovations would eat up about $6 million.
He said he would start with the school system, and then use remaining money for jobs.
“Don’t y’all want a reduction in your taxes?” Republican Beth Dawson asked the audience, beginning her response. After reducing taxes, Dawson said she would use any leftover money for sewer infrastructure and funds in the classroom.
Democrat Rob Zapple and Democrat Robert Murray agreed spending the money on county services, specifically fire and law enforcement, would be their first priorities.
“Once those items are taken care of, I don’t believe there would be a whole lot left,” Murray said.
Commissioners chairman Jonathan Barfield, also a Democrat, said he would first use the money to give the citizens of Castle Hayne the water and sewer infrastructure promised years ago.
Then, Barfield said he would use the money for education and a small business incubator in the downtown area.
“I guarantee you it would go pretty darn quick,” he said.
Before their closing statements, candidates gave their perspectives on Titan Cement and the incentives given for that type of industry.
Murray and Dawson both said they would need to take a look at all of the information presented as the permitting process moves along before making a decision.
“My concerns with Titan are with pollution,” Zapple said, adding that his daughter has asthma. Once Titan’s federal Environmental Impact Statement is completed, Zapple said he would take a look at it.
Barfield said he would not promote the use of smoke stacks in the community.
“They’re no closer to building that plant now than they were back in 2008,” he said.
Hickey said as a doctor he has significant environmental concerns with Titan, but those concerns are also present in the Covanta Energy contract proposal.
“There is no safe mercury exposure in the environment,” Hickey said.