Although they did not agree on all the details, the candidates for Ashley County judge agreed on the most pressing issues facing the county - roads, the landfill and an ambulance service.
Judge candidates Dennis F. Holland Sr. and Jim Hudson met with potential voters at the Ashley County Library’s coffee with the candidates events last week.
Each candidate discussed his qualifications and vision for Ashley County, and both said that roads are one of the immediate actions that need to be taken.
Hudson said that the county has 1,830 miles of roads, 730 miles of which the county maintains. He said that with over 260 miles of paved roads, there’s no way to fix them all in one term.
Holland said the money budgeted for roads, including state funds given to the county, isn’t enough to do much with the paved roads.
“I’ll tend to the roads the best I can,” he said. “I’ll pave what I can and gravel what I can.”
Hudson said that oil and pea gravel is the most cost-effective solution to repairing the county’s roads, which comes at a cost of $25,000 per mile, he said.
Holland said that most people don’t like pea gravel, even though most of the county’s roads are made with it.
“In the long run, it won’t hold up, for sure,” he said. “It won’t take 90,000 to 100,000 pounds for long.”
Hudson said he would consider putting a one-cent sales tax meant strictly for road repair on a ballot for vote, similar to a tax currently established in Drew County.
Both candidates discussed the state of emergency response in the county.
Holland talked about his past work with the 911 system in the county and his intention to improve training of the fire departments to handle emergency situations.
“[New fireman] have five or six courses that they need to have to keep from getting hurt,” he said.
He said his experience as a firefighter in Portland gives him an understanding of what training young firefighters need.
On the current ambulance situation, Holland said he worked on the issue for two years and the ordinances were killed before they went to vote. He said all the financial research that was done this year and last year had already been done when he was judge.
“The justices of the peace need to progress it to a point where the people of Ashley County vote on it,” he said. “I told them that the whole time, but they were arguing over the (details) of it.”
He said the county could raise money for a service and distribute the money as needed, whether to Crossett fire department or FAST Ambulance Service, as long as the proper paperwork can be shown.
Hudson said that he is in negotiation with Crossett and Hamburg to come to a long-term solution, but he doesn’t support continuing to subsidize FAST.
“If I owned a business, I would be livid that they were getting my tax money and I wasn’t,” he said. “I’m not for helping private industry with county money.”
Hudson said Crossett Fire Department is the best fit for the county and a proposal is “in the works.”
“An ambulance is necessary,” he said. “If I’m county judge, before the school opens next year, there will be an ambulance in Hamburg.”
He continued by saying funding is “the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.”
Hudson said he wouldn’t consider selling the county landfill, despite the knowledge that it would make a large sum of immediate money. He said the county will never see revenue from the landfill.
“If we were to sell it, it would probably last 15 to 20 years,” he said. “I don’t consider it because what will my grandkids do?”
He said the current plan will last 10 to 15 years but the permit is due for renewal soon.
He said his plan is to grow the landfill vertically, rather than cover more land, and with a grant, provide recycling service for Hamburg and Portland.
“We have plenty of land to last us another 50 years,” he said. “Instead of adding land, we’re going to get the permit to go up so we don’t have to buy more liner.”
Holland said he wants to ask the justices for money to purchase a new landfill truck with a larger tank to transport water.
“(The county has) one that runs 2,000 gallons and another that runs 2,000 or 3,000 gallons,” he said. “That’s not enough to take the volume out of it.”
He said if the county gets the water out quickly, before it gets soiled by trash, it can be disposed of easily. The leachate water, or water that has been contaminated with environmentally damaging material, can harm water sources such as rivers or ponds.