Editor’s note: Since the COVID-19 crisis prevented the Polk County Chamber of Commerce from hosting a candidate forum in person ahead of the June 9 primary, the organization reached out to candidates with questions to answer in a written form. Below are the responses provided by County Commission District 1 challenger James Vines.
Question 1: What suggestions do you have for the complaints about the landfill as to odor, rain runoff, how it looks in general?
To the best of my understanding the contract regarding the landfill at Grady Road is currently under litigation. To address the problems of odor complaints, rain runoff and the general appearance of the landfill, I would first have to see what are the issues currently being litigated in court. Providing there are no prohibitions, the county can look at the drainage and determine if it is in compliance with current state and federal environment regulations. If not in compliance, then measures can be taken to enforce the correction of a drainage problem. As for appearance, and air quality, you can use the same process of environmental compliance, if there are no prohibitions from the pending litigation.
Question 2: What is your educational background that qualifies you for the position?
I am a high school graduate. I was a NCO in both the U.S. Navy and Naval reserves. I have been an instructor in the military. I have an honorable discharge from both the USN and USNR. I possess a degree in Applied Police Science from Floyd College. I have a Bachelors of Art in Criminal Justice from Saint Leo University with a concentration in administration and a Masters of Science from Saint Leo University in Criminal Justice with a concentration in critical incident management. I served 2 years with the Floyd County Sheriff’s office and 20 years with the U.S. Department of Justice. I have good understanding of the law, both civil and criminal.
Question 3: Please identify at least 3 goals you plan to focus on, and how you would measure if these goals are achieved.
If elected to the position of Polk County Commissioner, I would like to focus on the needs of our first responders. I would like to address the county’s spending habits and examine our current tax policies. I would measure if the goals of addressing these issues have been met, when our first responders have the equipment, training and compensation they need to do their jobs effectively. When we as Commissioners are better stewards of our county’s finances and more effective in our spending and allocation of funds and when taxation is fair and is in line with the ability of our citizens to pay based on personal income and business revenues.
Question 4: What are the 3 most pressing issues facing Polk County and how would you propose a solution or corrective action to be undertaken?
Polk County has many issues facing it both near term and long term. Three of the most pressing would be future growth in the county, infrastructure and staffing. These three issues are interconnected. Future growth means potential revenue increase. Increased revenue means more money for infrastructure and hiring quality people. Working with the local chamber and city commissions to come up with ways to bring more business into the county will help give the county government the much-needed resources to address the other pressing issues.
Question 5: Do you feel that starting salaries for county employees are sufficient to continue to recruit people to fill vacant positions?
A compensation survey was recently done to determine if the salaries of the county employees are in line with other areas. Looking at this data will give me a better picture as a Commissioner so that the issue of compensation can be addressed.
Question 6: What is your assessment of the financial health of the county?
I feel that the county’s finances could be in better shape. I feel that more attention to fiscal responsibility is called for. Making long term projections of financial needs based on past expenditures, and data on the current state of the county’s operational cost and anticipated material needs will go a long way to preparing an adequate assessment of how best to improve the counties financial situation.
Question 7: Is the establishment of a paid fire department for unincorporated Polk County a priority for you and will you work to make that happen during your term as commissioner?
If the county is to grow, our governmental services must keep up with the needs of the county’s population. A well trained, and well-equipped fire brigade is an imperative for the County. If elected to the position of County Commissioner, I will take a look at the current status of our volunteer fire department. If the growth of the county requires better solutions, it is possible that cooperative agreements can be reached between city and county concerning fire services. Other avenues are also on the table.
Question 8: What do you think are the positive efforts made and the areas for improvement in our efforts to promote economic development in our county?
Some of the positive efforts that have been made to promote growth in Polk have been in relation to attracting the movie industry to come to the county. More can be done to attract business to our down town areas through cooperation between the local merchants and the Chamber of Commerce. Looking for ways to incentivize business to open in the down town area, plus working to develop a broader media platform to advertise that we are open for business will go a long way to improving business in Polk County.