Candidates speak at China Grove forum

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Shavonne Potts
CHINA GROVE ó One of the things the four candidates who are running for China Grove Town Board have in common is they all believe in progress.
Mike Upright, Charles Seaford, Brandon Linn and Butch Bivens are seeking a seat on the board. The four men participated in a forum Monday held at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church during the China Grove Board of Trade luncheon.
Dr. Michael Bitzer, Catawba College political science professor, moderated the 12:30 p.m. forum.
They all agreed that the biggest challenge that faces the town is attracting big business.
“We need to attract businesses,” Bivens said simply.
Bringing in industry is the key and offering affordable incentives as well, he said.
Upright said as anyone can see, China Grove residents eat well with about 14 restaurants in town.
“We don’t have many other businesses,” he said.
Upright said with the county’s unemployment rate around 13 percent and people losing jobs they are going to have to spend some money.
He’d rather not continue taxing citizens to bring in the money, he said.
Seaford would like to see a committee in place to explore opportunities for the town to bring in businesses.
“We don’t want any and every business. We want to be selective,” he said.
That committee would advertise and see what’s out there, Seaford said.
A possible incentive could be a five or 10-year tax relief.
Linn said he agrees there should be some type incentive, but he could only agree to a two to five-year tax relief.
“We are losing dollars if it’s beyond that,” Linn said.
Bitzer asked the candidates’ position on forced annexation.
Bivens said it is sometimes more out of necessity.
“I think you have to look at each case on its own,” he said.
Linn said he didn’t there should be forced annexation.
He would rather local governments give residents a chance to voice their concerns and opinions.
Linn admitted he’d never been in that situation.
Seaford said he is not in support of forced annexation. That said, he believes there may be a time where the town would have to deal with it.
“We need to be in the position to provide services to those people after annexation,” he said.
He added if there was an annexation they need to be ready with available services.
“Force is a harsh word and there is no such word as voluntary annexation,” Upright said.
He called forced annexation a necessary evil.
He would look at nearby towns, including Salisbury, Landis and Kannapolis, to determine what their future annexation plans were.
“It’s something you have to look at on an individual basis if you want to grow,” Upright said.
Bitzer asked the men if they supported the contract with Salisbury-Rowan Utilities.
Due to a nearly decade-old contract signed in severe drought, the town currently pays Salisbury-Rowan Utilities for water it doesn’t use. And the town’s water-sewer rates are among the highest in the region. The town is in talks with Salisbury about a possible merger that would help reduce rates.
Seaford said there is a need for some type of contract, but he doesn’t support a merger.
“We don’t need to be tied down with them,” he said of Salisbury.
He is not in favor of giving total control of their system. Seaford said there needs to be something in place in the event China Grove runs short and won’t have a supply to meets its demand.
Upright said he absolutely did not know. He said he’d need to look at the details of the contract in order to determine the short and long term needs and goals.
“We are going to have to have a constant permanent water supply,” Bivens said.
He added China Grove needs water from a source it can count on.
Linn was not in favor of a giving complete control to Salisbury.
“Salisbury will have the upper hand on us and we would give them full control,” he said.
As a resident he hates seeing his water bill and wishes he could flush it. He said that’s how mad he gets over the high prices as they are now.
The four candidates are running for three available board seats.