HILLSBOROUGH - Two candidates are competing for one District 2 county commissioner seat in Orange Countys Democratic primary.
Incumbent Steve Yuhasz is running for a second term on the Board of County Commissioners against Renee Price, a former member of the Orange County Planning Board.
The winners will face Republican Chris Weaver this fall.
We asked the candidates questions on this years biggest county issues. Read extended excerpts of the candidates answers on the OrangeChat blog. Q:
What is your position on Triangle Transits regional transit plan; should light rail be included? Are you concerned that a new tax, if approved, may not fully fund the plan? Renee Price:
I have reservations about light rail as far as taxing the entire county to support it because very few people that live in District 2 outside of Chapel Hill and Carrboro would be taking advantage of light rail. I think its a good thing for Chapel Hill because of UNC, which probably is supporting the light rail for its employees as well as perhaps Duke and Durham County, but I do have reservations about taxing the entire county, people from Cedar Grove and Caldwell and even around Hillsborough so heavily for transportation they will probably never use. To that end though, I do support buses and bus rapid transit and bus hours and ensuring that that service is provided throughout the county because we would appreciate having bus routes getting to various points and even from Alamance over into Durham. Steve Yuhasz:
Im concerned about the light rail component because its expensive. Its very fixed, and when you look at that locally preferred alternative analysis, their justification for preferring light rail over bus rapid transit has nothing to do with the transportation aspects of that. It was entirely based on the differences in economic development potential for properties along light rail as opposed to properties along bus rapid transit. And since almost all of the re-developable property lies in Durham County rather than Orange County, the only justification for going to light rail as opposed to bus rapid traits would be the benefit that accrues to Durham County in regard to economic development. I just dont feel that Orange County residents, and in particular District 2 residents, who will actually have very little benefit from whatever system is ultimately put in place, should bear the burden of the half-cent sales tax to benefit Durham County. Q.
How should the county deal with its trash and how will it pay for it when the landfill closes and they loose the tipping fee fund? Price:
Orange County should be responsible for its own trash rather than trucking it to Durham. We generate it, we should be responsible for not putting it in someone elses backyard. Chapel Hill, because it is the greatest generator of the waste, it would make more sense to have the solid waste be handled close Chapel Hill so that its not pushed across county lines across, state lines and even to northern Orange; thats very far. I would like to see more Orange County look at waste to energy. Im still waiting to see a model appropriate for Orange County, but I do think its worth investigating. Yuhasz:
I dont know that we can seriously consider what were going to do until we find out what Chapel Hill is going to do. The solid waste problem of unincorporated Orange County is easier to solve if Chapel Hill is not a partner.That doesnt mean its better, and I dont want to suggest that. I wouldnt want to see Chapel Hill do something different because I want to come up with a stronger solution, a more unified solution. I certainly dont see using the Durham transfer station as our long-term solution. It was always intended it would be a temporary solution when we search for other, better solutions.What people need to realize though, is that any consolidated solution requires a place to consolidate our waste for further processing, whether its as a transfer station to some other landfill or to some solid waste reprocessing center thats outside of the county or if we were to develop some wast reprocessing center within the county. Q.
How can Orange County more effectively compete with the economic development going on in neighboring counties, like north Chatham? Price:
We need to streamline some of our review and approval processes and also to determine what is it that we want in Orange County. We do seem to allow retail to develop at our borders rather than within. We have one mall in Orange County and its basically for local business. We have this resistance to a lot of the big-box stores and the type of sprawl that they can attract. As far as economic development, I think we also can look beyond retail and look at a more diverse economic base. I would like to see high-tech, high-quality jobs, spinoffs from the university, and more incubators. We have farms, a lot of farms in Orange County, and Id like to see more farm, rural economic development in that respect. We also have some areas that could be redeveloped in Hillsborough and in Efland. Yuhasz:
Were putting infrastructure in place, were rezoning, were looking at ways we can revise our regulations to make developments in those areas more attractive. I-85 and I-40 come together in the Buckhorn economic development district, and it has that transportation value that no other place in the county has. I think were going to be looking at businesses that can take advantage of being close to Greensboro, close to Raleigh, close to the airport and almost two major transportation corridors. Hopefully well get some retail in that area to serve the northern part of the county. Were probably looking more at manufacturing, namely warehouse, and those kinds of business and those are not businesses youd put in Chapel Hill any place. I think [changes] are coming as quickly as we can possibly make them happen right now. Q.
Does the relationship between the county and towns need to be improved? Price:
Theres a great need for improvement. Were all in one county; we need to be working with one another. [From the rural residents] more and more I hear [that] were not hearing them, we dont feel that our views are being represented. We dont feel were being represented in the county. Two of the things Id like to see happen is providing [more] resources to northern Orange County. The community center, there are plans to deconstruct that building, theres no library there any more, theyre taking the daycare center out, so whats left? And how much communication has happened between residents and county government? Its been minimal. Yuhasz:
Everything the municipalities do ... affects all the residents of Orange County. We kind of pool all our money into one big pot and figure out whats the best way to spend it. Certainly there have been some controversies, some rough patches between the county and the municipalities and part of that is because the county has in some ways over the last several years taken a stronger position with regard to some of the plotting of sewer work with the municipalities. Were not quite as willing to just go along with what the municipalities are asking for. We have spent more time looking at how that affects the county as a whole and not just how it affects the residents of the county who happen to live in a municipality, and thats going create some friction. But were working through that. Q.
What needs to be done about the countys Emergency Medical Services response times? How high of a priority should that be? Price:
EMS is important. That possibly means someones life. I think that the people that are involved in EMS have the knowledge of what needs to be done. I think that they should have more say in that than the county government. If the county has some reason for concern then they should express that and let the people decide.Thats important to me because it could be a matter of life and death. I just know that the county has been trying to put its hand into it more so than allowing the people that are out there in the field to do it. Yuhasz:
I think we need to plan on spending significant money on EMS infrastructure.The report that weve had suggested that the county should have made investments in our communications system that we failed to make and so were going to have to make up lost ground and thats going to be expensive. Putting up new towers and increasing numbers on existing channels is going to be expensive. It will mean that some things that might be priorities in the past are not going to be able to be as a high a priority. Some of the things weve done with regard to a developing parks, conservation of farmland, while still important, their importance is not as high as adequate emergency service.