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Leading the county may involve cutbacks

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@Salisburypost
How will the faltering economy affect Rowan County?
How will it impact how the county serves it residents?
Three candidates for the Rowan County Board of Commissioners focused on economic issues, taxes, jobs and services during Thursday night’s forum.
Republicans Carl Ford and incumbent Jim Sides joined Democratic candidate Raymond Coltrain in sounding similar concerns and views on what the county must do if economic conditions worsen.
They all said the county must cut back on spending, hiring and travel.
“Grab your seats ó I agree with Jim Sides,” Coltrain said at one point, agreeing with Sides’ view that county department heads are in the best position to find ways to cut their budgets.
Ford, who serves on the county Social Services Board, noted with Sides that the county faces increased demand for services as more people lose jobs. Both agreed the county can’t cut Health Department and Social Services programs just as more families are needing help.
Ford cited substantial increases in the number of people seeking help during the past two weeks.
All agreed the county needs to be business-friendly and work to attract industry, including retail business. Sides suggested the county create a one-stop shop where those wanting to start a business can deal with planning and inspections.
An opponent of incentives, he suggested the county policy should be altered to direct incentives to companies that create jobs for local people.
Coltrain repeatedly emphasized the need to create a positive environment, appearing to indirectly criticize the way commissioners do business. “Be respectful in disagreements,” Coltrain said, emphasizing that image is important.
Responding to questions submitted from readers of the Salisbury Post, the candidates touched on education, global warming and land use.
Ford and Coltrain agreed the county needs some type of plan. Ford endorsed the modified plan offered by Arnold Chamberlain, chairman of the board of commissioners. He termed it fantastic.
“The county can’t afford to do nothing,” Coltrain said, adding the county needs a plan and tweaking of zoning.
Sides said a land-use plan would lead to more control over private property. He noted the county has already spent more than $200,000 on land-use planning.
All three candidates sounded supportive of the schools but called for improvements.
Coltrain said commissioners must hold the school board accountable, but “not in a dictatorial role.”
“It’s not my job to tell them how to teach,” Sides said, adding that when it comes to county dollars for buildings, he will be involved. He noted the 400 vacant seats at North Rowan High School. Sides said commissioners may need to take over the building program for the schools and let the school system deal with teaching and graduating students.
Ford praised the Early College at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College as one of the greatest things to happen.
Laura Lyerly, a Democratic candidate, did not attend. Since winning in the May primary, Lyerly has been a no-show at virtually all political events.
Notes- Mac Butner, an avid watcher of politics and sometime participant offered his assessment of the candidates.
Butner joked that Lyerly clearly had the best answers.
– Sides and Ford offered parting slogans.
Sides noted that life is full of decisions, and since people have to make decisions and take sides, “On Nov. 4, take this Sides.”
Not to be outdone, Ford advised, “Put this Ford on the board.”
– The forum at the Hedrick Theatre at Catawba College was jointly sponsored by the Salisbury Post, Catawba College and the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce.

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