The forum, sponsored by the Rome Tea Party, drew about 70 people of all political persuasions to the Charles C. Parker Center at Etowah Park.
County Commission posts are decided by countywide votes. Only Republicans are in contested races in the July 31 elections, and only the Republican candidates attended the forum.
All agreed they’d be open to consolidating more city and county departments if the moves would save money. They also said they’d like to replace the dilapidated animal control shelter — but not while the economy remains shaky.
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“We must prioritize our funding,” Commission Chairman Irwin Bagwell said.
Some differences emerged, however, when they were asked about property taxes and the TSPLOST, a proposed regional transportation sales tax also on the July 31 ballot.
Rhonda Wallace said she doesn’t want to raise taxes, although she didn’t make the pledge. Instead, she promised a focus on economic development to bring new business and improve the tax base.
She said roadwork funded by the TSPLOST is key to attracting industry and improving the county’s quality of life.
“The positives outweigh the negatives,” she said. “I do feel we need the jobs.”
Nathan Roberts pledged not to raise property taxes and said he’s also opposed to the TSPLOST, but he plans to study it more before he votes.
He said he would be resourceful about increasing the tax digest other ways, such as focusing on education in the county as an asset to attract jobs.
Another idea: instituting alcohol pouring licenses in the unincorporated area to raise money for public safety needs.
Incumbent Garry Fricks did not promise not to raise taxes but pointed to his record of fiscal conservatism. The tax rate was 10.99 mills when he first took office and it stands at 8.77 mills now.
He didn’t take a personal stand on the TSPLOST but noted that it contains both “some of the most important road projects we’ve ever seen” and financial penalties if it fails.
Roger Wade is fighting his own property tax in-
crease and said he wants to lower the rate. But he didn’t make an outright pledge, saying that revenue must equal the cost of essential services.
“We must be reasonable in our taxation, … but we must fund our government,” he said. He said he supports the TSPLOST because connections to Interstate 75 are vital to the local economy.
Bagwell, the incumbent, is unopposed in the July primary. His anti-tax pledge was short and to the point.
“I will not vote for a millage rate increase the next four years,” he said.
He said he has “some grave concerns” about the TSPLOST but will vote for it because the legislature left no other options to fund needed transportation projects.
Jerry Lee said he is opposed to tax increases and would avoid them, but he would not let Floyd become bankrupt and deteriorating like Jefferson County, Ala.
“I stand for reducing costs, for fiscal conservatism and for reducing regulations,” he said.
He said he supports the TSPLOST because the projects were chosen locally to improve the local economy and safety.
Larry Maxey pledged no new tax increase or new government services.
“We should never let our county government get into something our local businesses can do, if they can do it cheaper,” he said.
He said he originally supported the TSPLOST but is now opposed because delays with the 411 Connector make him question the state’s ability to administer the program.
How the vote will work
Because it’s a special election, all the candidates — regardless of political party — will appear on all the ballots.
Only voters who choose the Republican ballot in the primary will pick between Maxey and Lee for the Post 2 nomination.
The winner will go up against Democrat Gary D. Harrell in the Nov. 6 general election. Harrell, unopposed in the Democratic primary, was out of town and could not attend the forum.
Bagwell and Democrat Rick Garrett are unopposed in their parties’ primaries. They’ll face off on the November ballot. Garrett was working and could not attend the forum.