Dist. 4 candidates both service-minded
The candidates for Hubbard County's Dist. 4 board seat split a large cookie and sat down to talk about the issues in Laporte Tuesday night.
Longtime incumbent Lyle Robinson and challenger Dan Stacey both stressed the importance of public service as a calling. Both pledged to work hard for the voters in the northeast portion of Hubbard County. Both have children and grandchildren in Hubbard County and said they have vested interests is seeing the county continue on a successful trajectory.
Robinson is a self-employed plumbing contractor who traced his roots back to 1898 in the county.
Stacey is a former deputy and jailer who is currently a property manager and is the transportation supervisor for Nevis School.
Here is how they stand on the issues, based on audience questions at the League of Women Voters forum:
n The Aquatic Invasive Species threat:
Stacey said, "Tourism carries a price. It has a great impact on the county." He praised Hubbard County's efforts in patrolling and policing area lakes this past summer. He suggested a permit system for boats with an accelerated fee if boats are launched on more than one lake. He said the funding could be used for research and screening public access points.
Robinson said the county formed an AIS task force a couple years ago. "We have 312 lakes," he said. "This is a state issue. The state needs to take the lead."
Robinson said, "If we fund it the state will back out while they build a stadium instead."
n Enforcing shoreland ordinances:
Robinson advised the audience to "let us know if there's some ordinance that's not being enforced." He said the county attorney's office has added a third attorney and has ample personnel to deal with extra enforcement.
But he warned that the DNR's attempts at simplifying the state's shoreland management ordinances "is like the IRS simplifying the tax code."
He suggested the DNR pour its money into more enforcement activities, rather than buying up more property.
Stacey reminded the audience that "ordinances are from the people, by the people" and the public needs to let county officials know what they want enforced.
He said in his role as a county board member, he want to "be a messenger, an envoy" between his constituents and the county.
n Dog complaints:
Stacey spoke from firsthand experience. His son, Jeff, is a county deputy who goes on those calls.
Stacey said the sheriff's department is burdened with many more important calls and suggested deputies walk a fine line trying to prioritize all those calls.
He said in Wadena County, where he worked previously, deputies were deluged with finding homes, kennels and quarantines for nuisance dogs and suggested that pet owners take responsibility for their animals.
"If my kid is out in the car playing loud music he's disturbing the peace," Robinson said, likening it to a constantly barking dog.
"Having an ordinance isn't going to give deputies more time to deal with it."
He said a previous board study estimated the cost of dealing with nuisance dog calls would be $460,000.
He suggested a one-warning policy, then harsh penalties for repeated offenders. He said he was glad his dog barked to alert him of a bear in his yard.
"With all the issues we have, the budget, dogs are down there a ways," Robinson said.
n County timber policies:
Stacey suggested the county may be holding too many "over-the-counter sales" without competitive bidding and questioned whether "we are getting the best dollar return." He said the bidding process for timber sales needs to be more open to the public and better advertised to entice competitive bidding.
Robinson said by law, the Land Department can only sell over the counter if the appraised wood is valued less than $3,000. Because loggers don't generally want the smaller jobs, he said it's hard to get them interested in "narrow strip" sales. He said over-the-counter deals are "not going on."
Both men said their experiences as businessmen active in the county have given them the skills needed to deal with the county's issues.
Robinson said the county board is a good mix of different views and life experiences. He also encouraged the audience to volunteer to serve on one of the county's 50-some boards, to get involved.
Stacey characterized himself as a forward thinker who has served on other boards. He questioned the 2004 jail project as overbuilt and underutilized.
"We lost that vision to make money" on the jail bookings, he said. The county is currently relocating the Social Services department above the jail in a space that was initially reserved for more cells. He called it "Plan B" and suggested getting a comprehensive dialogue going for future projects.
Robinson said the renovation was pursued "because we could do it for $600,000" and the jail "still has 160 cells we can fill."
He said because the county has to foot the bill on construction projects "we can't pull money out of the sky."