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Senate candidates say roads a priority

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GREENFIELD — Finding funds to repair aging roads is a problem not only plaguing Hancock County but the entire state, candidates running for state Senate District 28 say.

Mike Crider and Michael Adkins agree that something needs to be done to help local units of government better maintain roads, which could not only improve quality of life for residents but could also bring in more economic growth. But they differ on their plans to make it happen.

Democrat Adkins, 61, suggests the state set up a fund to provide low-interest loans to local units of government.

After all, Adkins says, the more the state invests in infrastructure, the more economic development deals could land here.

“That’s one of the first things companies look at when they want to locate somewhere: location and how good infrastructure is,” Adkins said. “We need to be emphasizing those things that give the taxpayer a return on their dollar.”

Republican Crider, 53, says that while he’s not opposed to loaning money to counties and cities, he also wants to look for a more long-term solution.

“Low-interest loans is not a new idea; they have been around for a long time,” Crider said, pointing out that just this session the state Legislature made loans available to cash-strapped schools like Mt. Vernon. “The danger is, if you get people that aren’t necessarily efficient with local issues and they’re constantly relying on the state for bailouts, that’s not a good situation, either.”

Crider said one idea he’s heard is making sure vehicles are licensed correctly. He said with problems at the state level lately with funds not being accurately collected and allocated to local units of government, he wants to make sure counties are getting all they deserve.

The Greenfield-area residents are both political newcomers, vying for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Beverly Gard. Gard has openly endorsed Crider, who won a three-way race in the spring for the GOP nomination.

Adkins, chairman of the Hancock County Republican Party, was unopposed in the spring. Both will face off in a debate at 6 p.m. Monday at Hancock County Public Library.

Road maintenance has been a sticking point among local elected officials, especially in the last year as more county roads have been maintained with only a chip and seal surface. As state funding decreased, county officials looked to alternate surfacing methods like chip and seal to rehabilitate roads.

While a $2 million bond issue failed that would have helped the highway department’s road funding, the county council this week decided to take $600,000 out of income tax cash reserves for road maintenance in 2013.

Both Adkins and Crider say that road funding is not only a local issue but one that should be addressed across the state. But one specific local issue – the proposed multi-lane roundabout on Mt. Comfort Road that has been escalating in costs for land acquisition alone – has been at the heart of local debate on just how much should be spent on major capital improvements.

“At this point, it’s a local issue,” said Adkins of the roundabout. “Nobody wants it except a handful of people. Nobody.”

While Adkins opposes the project, he also said as a state lawmaker he wouldn’t have much say to change the project.

“I’m not too crazy about the idea of the state Legislature telling local government they can’t spend money they’ve already allocated and approved,” Adkins said.

Crider agreed. While he doesn’t have a firm opinion about the controversial roundabout, he said it is a major point of concern among the people he has met while campaigning door-to-door.

“Local officials should make those decisions and be held accountable,” Crider said. “It’s not a legislative decision.”

Both also said that economic development is an issue related to the District 28, which covers all of Hancock County and the eastern portion of Warren Township in Marion County. They also both hope to focus on education, Crider making sure recent reform to education is working in Indiana while Adkins wants to bring about change.

Both said strong education and roadwork can link directly to more economic development.

“It’s all interconnected,” Crider said. “The more I get into this, the more I realize it’s difficult to say, ‘This is my top priority.’’’

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