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Jefferson County race focuses on growth

May 06, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The debate over residential growth in Jefferson County that has dominated public policy discussions for three months, is taking center stage in the County Commission election campaign.

Five Democrats and one Republican are vying for the Middleway seat on the commission held by Edgar Ridgeway. Ridgeway, who his serving his second six-year term, is not seeking re-election.

Republican Jane Tabb, who is unopposed in Tuesday's primary, will advance to the general election.

Here are the candidates:

Delores Milstead

  • Party: Democrat
  • Age: 57
  • Occupation: Independent contractor for commercial building company.
  • Residence: Middleway
  • Political experience: None


Milstead said she is running because the county needs "controlled growth."

"We need controlled growth because we need to control taxes. Residential growth does not pay for itself," Milstead said.

With the announcement of three large housing developments this year, including the proposed 3,300-home Hunt Field, there has been concern over how the county will be able to provide services for the people who will live in the developments.

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Milstead said the county needs to concentrate on attracting new industry and preserving farmland rather than promoting residential growth because of the burden it places on schools.

Milstead would not quantify the rate of residential growth she would like to see. She said the county simply needs time to bring its infrastructure and schools up to speed, adding that impact fees are needed to pay for the improvements.

Impact fees are fees charged to developers to help offset the cost of new schools and police and fire protection needed because of growth.

"We need to grow in ways we can afford," she said.

Robert W. Dodson

  • Party: Democrat
  • Age: 47
  • Occupation: Owner of Dodson's Plumbing and Heating
  • Residence: Middleway
  • Political experience: None


Dodson said he has 1,300 regular customers, many of whom tell him they are worried about a population boom in the county. People are worried how the growth could change the character of the county and, most importantly, increase their taxes, Dodson said.

"I hear it every day. We've got to get involved. The way things are going in this county you have to get involved," Dodson said.

Dodson said he wants to help impose impact fees.

The commissioners are already working on a capital improvements plan and how to impose building codes, which a county must have to pass impact fees. Dodson said as a commissioner, he would work to make both efforts successful.

"I'm not anti-growth; I'm for balanced growth," Dodson said. "I want to put the cost where it belongs."

Bill Hoak

  • Party: Democrat
  • Age: 57
  • Occupation: Vice-president of Jefferson Asphalt Products Co.
  • Residence: Leetown
  • Political experience: None


Hoak said there are a lot of misconceptions about the cost of residential growth in the county. For example, he said, there is a fear that taxes will have to be raised to pay for new roads. In fact, new roads are primarily paid for by fuel taxes, he said.

"A lot of these things are conjured up by people. There are fears that are created by lack of knowledge," Hoak said.

In recent years, the county's residential growth rate has been about 1.8 percent, which is about right for the county, Hoak said. Studies have shown that an ideal growth rate for a county is 2 percent, while 4 percent is considered a warning of heavy growth, he said.

While Hoak believes there are misconceptions about the cost of growth, he supports expansion of public services to ensure they are not overburdened by population growth.

Hoak said he has worked with the Jefferson County Board of Education on capital improvement projects such as parking lots. The work involved dealing with the school system's tight budget, which Hoak said gave him insight into how to manage government.

"I feel I have a better gauge on what's going on," he said.

Robert E. "Bobby" Ott

  • Party: Democrat
  • Age: 66
  • Occupation: Real estate and insurance agent
  • Residence: Kearneysville
  • Political experience: None


Ott supports saving green space in the county and saving farmland.

At the same time, the county needs to find ways to help tax-generating businesses thrive, he said.

Ott said he thinks the county can be successful at attracting "cottage industries" such as bed and breakfast inns and small restaurants. Water and sewer service needs to be expanded to attract larger businesses, he said.

"It doesn't have to be a General Motors plant down here. But if we can get someone who can employ a couple hundred people, it's certainly worthwhile," Ott said.

Ott said he also supports increased dialogue between the commissioners and the board of education, the health department and other agencies. He also supports expanding W.Va. 9 to four lanes and expanding U.S. 340 to the Virginia line to four lanes.

David Morgan Smith

  • Party: Democrat
  • Age: 46
  • Occupation: Technical marketing manager
  • Residence: Middleway
  • Political experience: None


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