Two seek District 3 position on Board of Supervisors

Published 11:46 am Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Two candidates are seeking the District 3 seat on the Warren County Board of Supervisors. They are Democrat Charles Selmon, 52, the incumbent; and independent James Stirgus Jr., 52.

1. What is the best course of action Warren County can take in the next four years to build a modernized jail and justice system facility?

Selmon: Our current jail, built in 1904, is worn out and obsolete. We’ve needed a new jail for the past 20 years. We must move forward with building a new facility. It’s important to keep the cost to the taxpayers as low as possible. I support buying land at a location that has the potential for further commercial development around the site. The facility needs to be large enough for our demand, and as a revenue stream, we can provide contract services to other communities. Bond financing programs is another important way to spread the cost of a new facility.

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Stirgus: Statistics indicate by the time a child is in the fourth grade you can determine how many jail cells will be needed. Therefore, we must encourage and motivate children to get an education, teachers to provide a quality education and industry to invest in our education system. We need to show our constituents how much money is being spent to house, transport and care for prisoners, how much a new jail would cost and how we will pay for it. We should find communities with similar demographics and modern facilities and document their successes, failures, benefits and costs.

2. If you had to write a comprehensive plan for residential and commercial development in Warren County, what would it say?

Selmon: I strongly advocate working as a team with all the entities that are involved, gathering input to create 10- and 20-year plans. We need to work together. It’s up to us as a team to plan and provide amenities that raise the quality of life for our residents, create a great experience for our visitors, and attract people to move to Vicksburg. It’s important that we make our city more pedestrian-friendly; providing walkways, small neighborhood parks, and more green spaces throughout the city and county. Lighting, signage, landscaping, security and attention to details are important at all levels of development.

Stirgus: My comprehensive plan would identify the county’s citizens’ needs, goals and visions. It would enhance and preserve the quality of life and ensure we have access to the best schools, parks, residential and commercial areas. My plan would include our citizens’ input to determine their vision for the community’s future and utilize census data to enhance it. My plan would be titled PACE (we need to PACE ourselves to shape the county for our children’s future):

• Population projections

• Attraction/Action (attracting employers to diversify our work force/acting to keep them here)

• Capital improvement

• Economic information and improvement

3. What criteria do you/would you use in voting for tax breaks or other inducements for new or expanding employers?

Selmon: I support the 7- to-10-year tax waivers in place. To attract more business to Vicksburg, we must provide training programs and provide a qualified work force. We need to pursue our opportunity to be part of the development of the river as an alternative energy source, ultimately offering benefits and cost savings to our residents and businesses.

To accommodate the public, our tourists and our targeted retirement community, we need to put our best foot forward and be sure our work force is well-trained in courtesy and hospitality skills. Making Vicksburg an excellent place to live is important for employee retention.

Stirgus: The criteria I would use would be how many new jobs they would provide for Warren County citizens, their long-term projections for their future in our community and what investments in our education and recreation systems they would make. I would offer tax breaks and inducements in exchange for an incentive package that would include local hiring of Warren County residents first and subsidizing our recreational facilities. The most important aspect is to spend the public tax dollars as wisely as possible, be responsible and accountable for our actions and make a positive difference in our community.

4. What is the best use of the old U.S. 80 bridge to remain a viable county-owned asset?

Selmon: I favor developing the bridge as an attraction for Vicksburg. The potential to offer a unique experience for pedestrians to view the river from the bridge is enormous, and brings strong economic opportunities in cultural heritage, retail and tourism. It would be another important reason to visit Vicksburg. Businesses could participate. The current agreement does not financially benefit our taxpayers.

None of the income from the transportation and utility contracts goes into our general fund. Our citizens should benefit from owning this great asset. Opening it up as an attraction would broaden the potential of the bridge.

Stirgus: As a layman, without a whole lot of technical or engineering knowledge, I would say that I think the old bridge may have run its course for car and truck traffic. In my opinion, the bridge’s historic value may lend itself to viable options in terms of a tourist park, walking and biking trail as well as use in recreational events. The bridge may be used as an emergency conduit for first responders, if its infrastructure is structurally sound. I would leave that determination to the experts though.

5. Why do you seek the office of county supervisor?

Selmon: As our country faces enormous challenges, it’s vital that we have well-qualified, prepared leaders. It is important for me to continue to serve my community and offer my experience and knowledge. We need positive, driven leaders.

I am committed to working with people who believe in Vicksburg. We have a ways to go, but I am dedicated to working with others who care about making Vicksburg the best place it can be.

Stirgus: I want to be a part of shaping Warren County’s future. We need supervisors who create dialogue, empower their constituents and put their efforts into doing what is best for our community. We need someone willing to listen effectively, with an open door/open communications policy and a willingness to act for our citizens’ advantage. I can translate my experience on the school board into the long-range improvement and enhancement of our community. I am ready, willing and able to meet the challenges ahead. I want to make a difference in the trenches and not be a “Monday morning quarterback”.