At a candidate’s forum last week, County Board District 2 candidates sounded off on various issues, including transparency, the tax levy, health insurance and the future of Ellis House and Equestrian Center.
Five Republicans, including incumbents Dan Koukol and Jeffrey Wehrli, Jeremy Swanson, Lynn Cullick and Scott Gryder are seeking the seats. Cullick and Gryder were unable to attend the forum. Democrats seeking the seats are Evelyn Maxine Givens, Herman Johnson, Kristine Heiman and incumbent Elizabeth Flowers.
During the event hosted by WSPY the candidates fielded questions from area reporters and audience members during the brief session. There are nine candidates seeking a District 2 seat. Voters can select five candidates on their Nov. 6 ballot.
Each of the candidates agreed there is more the county can do to increase board transparency.
Heiman said county officials should provide more information in published meeting minutes. She said often the minutes just include a single sentence per each agenda item.
Givens said meetings should be recorded and placed online for residents to watch. Koukol and Wehrli agreed.
More lines of communication between municipal and county leaders is necessary as well, said both Johnson and Wehrli
In addition to regular lines of communication between the board and communities, Swanson said the county should post its check register online so the citizens can track spending.
On providing horses at Ellis House, Koukol said he is not in favor of the county owning horses. He said he is in favor of expanding the riding trails at the farm, but believes the country “should not be in the horse business.” Swanson agreed, saying he would like to look at the budget of Ellis House more before making a decision.
Wehrli said selling the horses owned by the county could not raise enough funds to open new parks in the county.
Flowers said she supports Ellis House and wants to make sure more trails are created at the facility.
Heiman called Ellis House a great opportunity for the county and said she would like to look into creating a dog park as well.
Givens said she was in full support of Ellis House.
“It’s not just a horse farm,” she said.
Johnson said he cannot voice an opinion on Ellis House since he has not visited the facility. He said being a senior citizen it’s difficult to get out to places like Ellis House. He said he would need to study it more before making a decision.
Five of the seven District 2 candidates at the forum said they would not take the health insurance provided to elected officials. Incumbents Koukol and Wehrli said they take the insurance.
Candidates also discussed what kind of response the county should take if a non-binding referendum calling for a 20 percent reduction in tax levy is supported by the voters.
As current members of the county board Flowers, Koukol and Wehrli said they could not address the proposed levy in a political manner, but each said members of the board need to consider future county needs when looking at the proposed cuts. Flowers said board members would need to make sure than any budget cuts made as a result of the referendum would not hurt essential services.
Swanson said the proposal sounds good in principle, but he would need to look at the budget to see if it’s feasible.
Johnson said he would need more information about how such a reduction could impact the county before he made a decision.
Heiman said the proposed cuts shine a light onto the budget, which is something people need to pay attention to, however she said cutting such a large chunk from the budget is unlikely to happen.
Like Flowers, Givens said any cuts to the budget would need to be made with an eye on protecting vital services.
Click here for a roundup of the Coroner's portion of the forum.
Click here for a roundup of the Circuit Clerk's portion of the forum.
Click here for a roundup of District 1 candidates portion of the forum,