LETTER: Pay attention to local races on election day

To the editor:

For the first time in many years, the late scheduled Indiana Primary will make a difference in determining the presidential race. But state and local races are also important. Who we select in the congressional races could well determine which party controls the Senate or the House.

The two biggest local issues, in my opinion, are the county fairgrounds and bonding and incurring debt or spending down budget surpluses.

Almost everyone agrees a new fairgrounds is needed, but the process our current leaders have chosen is not a good one for taxpayers. The fair is sponsored by 4-H and the HCECC is also a private board set up to oversee this project.

The HCECC has already spent the $50,000 allocated to present a comprehensive plan with projected cost but have failed to do so to date. They have also spent another $40,000 on this project that was not authorized and now is asking the county (taxpayers) to pay this also — all with nothing to show for it.

If taxpayers are going to pay for a fairgrounds, then it should be owned and operated by the county — by people who are accountable to elected officials. Using $40 million in taxpayers funds in this manner is the same as giving it to the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the Boys and Girls Club, a local church or any other well-intended but private cause.

If the HCECC has overspent its $50,000 planning budget by 80 percent, imagine what could happen with $40 million.

Brad Armstrong (and Marc Huber, who is not up for re-election) is the only thing standing between this financial albatross with no controls and the taxpayers. This is why I am endorsing Brad Armstrong for Commissioner. His opponent Matt Holland has indicated he would sign the $1 a year 50-year lease with the HCECC.

The other three candidates for commissioner have all expressed the need for a new or refurbished fairgrounds but have reservations about how much should be spent, how it is to be paid for and who should own and operate it. Review their positions closely before voting for one of them. The same goes for the candidates for county council. Know where they stand on this issue.

The current council will note that overall debt has been reduced even though country reserves have risen to a projected $17 million by the end of this year. They have repeatedly issued bonds and incurred debt for amounts just below $2 million. This is the threshold that would require a public referendum, so the voice of much of the public has fallen on deaf ears. It’s like borrowing money and paying interest to repair your car for $500 when you have $10,000 in the bank. Some council candidates support this strategy, while others do not. Again, know where they stand before voting.

Lastly, I want to mention the coroner’s race. Rudy Nylund has served the county well in the past. He has selflessly stepped up and performed the duties of the office when two previous office holders ran afoul of the law. He deserves our support.

Make an informed decision when you vote on May 3, 2016.

Shelton Oakes