PARKERSBURG, W.Va.-(WTAP) The three candidates for a Wood County Commission seat offer a combination of experience and new ideas.
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Republican Rick Modesitt was a commissioner in the first decade of the 2000's, and before that, a West Virginia delegate and Parkersburg Police Chief.
He says the latter job gives him insight on one of the most talked-about problems of the past year: the growing drug epidemic.
"In Wood County alone, and primarily in Parkersburg, there had been 106 deaths in a five year period," Modesitt said, citing figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request he made to the state of West Virginia. "That's a staggering number, and that does not count people who had overdosed in Ohio and transported to a West Virginia hospital, where they passed away. So I think the law enforcement experience is going to be a big help at a very crucial time."
Modesitt believes the commission should work with existing law enforcement on finding solutions.
Two-time Parkersburg Mayor Jimmy Colombo also talks about working together with area cities to find ways of increasing economic development and the county's tax base.
"And we can't be jealous of each other, we have to be forward and honest," Columbo says, "and hope we can convince more people to come into the area. That will help our tax base, that will help our schools. We just have to work together."
Libertarian candidate Stephen Smith is a past business owner and a professor at WVU-Parkersburg. He says a new approach is needed to address the county's tighter and tighter budgets.
"Here in (Parkersburg), we have more of those direct kind of fees, and we have to be looking at that. Is property tax the best way, or could we look at other things?," Smith said. "We have to work with the state to get authority to make those changes. And we have to ask citizens what they think, they need to be involved in that type of planning."
Colombo says the recently-discussed issue of Home Rule for counties would have to be approved by the West Virginia Legislature.
Modesitt says any budget solution should not include higher taxes.
The candidates also addressed the county's increasing bill for housing prisoners in the regional jail system.
Smith says the county should look more closely at alternatives for putting offenders in jail.