In preparation for the upcoming local elections, the Young Professionals League hosted a Bourbon County Commission candidate forum Tuesday evening, inviting anyone from the community to attend and hear the current and campaigning candidates discuss issues and concerns in the county.
YPL members and others submitted questions to be discussed in advance and the candidates were then given about a minute each to answer each of the 10 questions. Many of the questions focused on finances and budgets in the county.
“We’ve got to do more with less money,” 3rd District candidate Nick Ruhl summed up the issue.
Candidates discussed how to save money in the county, how employees could be impacted, the budget for the new law enforcement center, the commissioners’ own salaries and benefits, property values and taxes and the possibility of adding a county manager to help deal with financial topics.
The candidates also discussed the status of economic development in the county.
“I do think we need a strategic plan,” 2nd District candidate Jeff Fischer said, while 1st District candidate Lynne Ohara added the county needs to have a business-friendly climate that focuses on important issues such as education, crime rate and taxes that can draw or drive away businesses and residents.
When asked what the biggest selling point and drawback is for Bourbon County, the candidates agreed the taxes are the most significant negative point, while positive aspects included the education system, public safety and the fact that Kansas City seems to be growing south.
The state of the county roads were also addressed, with Ohara pointing out the increase of gravel from local quarries and the county’s ability to haul it with more equipment. But Ohara and 3rd District candidate Harold Coleman both said it is nearly impossible for the county to constantly stay on top of road conditions with the employees, equipment and resources available to them.
The final question asked the candidates what they think the county will look like in 50 years and what they can do now to prepare for that future. While the candidates agreed the county would probably still be a chiefly agricultural area and not look like New York City, they also said it is important to invest in the equipment, roads, services and economic development now in order to encourage the younger generation to remain in Bourbon County.
“Regardless of who’s sitting in the commissioner’s seat, this is kind of like a roller coaster ride,” Coleman said of the role of the commissioner.