The three candidates for Post II on the Oconee County Board of Commissioners want the Board to play a strong role in representing citizen concerns to the Georgia Department of Transportation as it plans for the widening of U.S. 441 in the south of the county and a bypass of Bishop.
In separate interviews, each candidate called for the Commission to play a stronger role than it is playing a present.
Ben Bridges said the commissioners need to “stand up” to GDOT and even questioned the need for a bypass of Bishop.
Chuck Horton said the commissioners should not “take a back seat” and say that the project simply belongs to GDOT.
Marcus Wiedower said the commissioners have to be “advocates" for the people adversely affected by the roadway project.
GDOT is holding an Open House from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Community Center in Veterans Park on Hog Mountain Road to discuss the project.
The Oconee County Utility Department will hold a Town Hall Meeting on water and wastewater resources at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, also at Oconee Veterans Park Community Center.
A total of 742 voters cast ballots in early voting on Friday, bringing the total for the week to 3,038, according to Pat Hayes, director, Oconee County Board of Elections.
The 3,038 represents 10.9 percent of the 27,845 registered voters in the county.
Early voting continues until Nov. 4. Saturday voting will be on Oct. 29.
In the November 2012 election, 80.0 percent of the county’s registered voters cast a ballot, and 52.5 percent of them participated in early voting.
Bridges, Horton and Wiedower gave their views on the role the Board of Commissioners should play regarding the proposed widening of U.S. 441 in the south of the county in response to a question I asked in individual one-on-one interviews.
I conducted those interviews Sept. 25, 25 and 27, with Bridges, Horton and Wiedower respectively.
Complete videos of those interviews are available on an Election Channel I created on the Oconee County Observations Vimeo site. The Election Channel also contains complete videos of the two forums held for the Nov. 8 election.
All three of the candidates are seeking to fill the unexpired term of Post II on the Board of Commissioners. All will be listed on the ballot as Republicans.
Bridges said the first thing he would do is “Meet with the Georgia DOT officials” and “study the laws” to “find out what we can do to protect out citizens.”
Bridges said he isn’t convinced the proposed bypass of Bishop is even needed.
Horton said the Commission should play a “critical role.”
“The county government can certainly stand up with the people and express the concern that these folks have,” Horton said.
Wiedower’s answer to the question was short and to the point.
“We have to be advocates for those people,” he said of those whose property will be affected by the road project. “That’s our role.”
The current schedule calls for construction of the project to begin following bid letting in spring of 2021.
GDOT officials have said no final route for the roadway or for the Bishop bypass has been selected.
The video of the answers of the candidates to the question on the role of the Commission in the U.S. 441 widening is below, starting with the answer of Bridges. Horton’s comments come second and are followed by the comments of Wiedower.