Two candidates are running for a soon-to-be open seat on the Columbia County Commission in Tuesday's general election.
Voters also will be asked to vote on capital improvement projects that would be funded by a $43 million bond issue, to be paid back during a 13-year period with a 1-mill increase in the county's property tax.
In the District 1 commission race, Republican Ron Thigpen will face Democrat Scott Nichols to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Commissioner Steve Brown. Nichols, the chairman of the county's Democratic Party, has run on a campaign of "Nichols for Change,'' arguing for such ideas as implementing an impact fee, which is charged to developers to help offset costs from future development.
"I am opposed to any property tax increases until we have meaningful impact fees in place,'' Nichols said.
Nichols said he's hoping to be the homeowners' candidate.
"I think all the decisions that are made in the county ought to be made with homeowners in mind first,'' Nichols said.
Thigpen, who previously served on the county's planning commission as its chairman and is currently the chairman of the county's development authority, said he's running for the District 1 board seat because he wants to help the county maintain its good financial standing.
"With my banking and financial experience background, I felt like I could put that to work and hit the ground running as an effective commissioner immediately in January,'' Thigpen said.
He said he isn't opposed to impact fees, but "they're not going to fix everything."
"They just need to be a part of a comprehensive well-thought-out plan to address all of the issues that are connected to responsible growth," he said.
On the issue of the bond proposal, Nichols says he isn't in favor of the issue as long as impact fees aren't being implemented. Thigpen said he feels projects on the bond issue should be approved so they can be tackled now instead of at a later date when projects would only cost more.
Regarding the bond, voters will cast four separate votes for stormwater, transportation, recreation and public safety projects.
If voters approve all four categories, a 1-mill increase would be needed to pay off the bond during a 13-year period - about a $40 increase a year in property taxes on a house valued at $100,000.
County officials say the breakdown in yearly cost in property taxes on a $100,000 home for each category would be $11.40 for water projects; $15.44 for transportation; $8.52 for recreation; and $4.64 for public safety.
If the bond isn't approved, officials say it could take five to 10 years before the projects could be started. The county's next special purpose local option sales tax won't occur until 2011.
County Commission Ron Cross says he's optimistic for the full passage of all four parts of the bond.
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