LOGAN COUNTY COMMISSIONER DEBATE: Job creation, wind comes to forefront

Video included below

Bruce Lile, who is challenging incumbent Logan County Commissioner Dustin Wickersham in the May Republican primary, said his opponent and other commissioners are not doing enough to create jobs in Logan County but did not cite specific criticism or offer his own plan.


Incumbent Logan County Commissioner Dustin Wickersham speaks during Wednesday's debate while challenger, Bruce Lile looks on. (EXAMINER PHOTO)

“As far as Dustin goes, he is young; he doesn’t know what to do but we can get industry in here to build up this county,” Mr. Lile said during the debate. “If you look around at the stores that have been closing one after another, what are we headed for; who’s going to do it and when? That’s why I’m here. Everybody wants to get this town going and I’m the guy you want to talk to.”

Mr. Wickersham relied on his record during his first three years as commissioner, citing the board’s balanced budget and willingness to provide a friendly environment for economic development.

“Over the past three years, we’ve faced difficult budget cuts, loss of state revenue we used to have and raising health care costs for county employees,” the incumbent said. “You’ve got to make ends meet and we’ve done a pretty good job balancing the budget. We don’t spend more than we take in.”

And on the economic issue, he said jobs are available and some businesses have expressed concerns over finding properly trained employees willing to work.

“A lot of positive things are happening,” Mr. Wickersham said. “MEI and NEX both did expansion projects. They have drastically grown and they continue to grow. Local job people are looking for people to work but we have a training problem. We’ve got to get our people educated to meet those jobs.”

He noted that the Ohio Hi-Point Career Center, which was host venue for the forum, and Clark State Community College have been local partners in the effort to train workers.

The two candidates were asked a question regarding wind development in Logan County and Mr. Lile said he would like to see the issue go to voters, while Mr. Wickersham said it is a decision to be made by Logan County Commissioners but not until after it had been thoroughly vetted.

Specifically, EverPower Wind Holdings has a permit to install wind turbines in Logan County and will likely request a payment in lieu of taxes from the Logan County Commissioners to improve the financial viability of the project.

“Naturally it would be good to get more tax money for the schools; everybody knows that because sooner or later they are going to ask for more money,” Mr. Lile said. “As far as the turbines go, I don’t know what they are going to do. I hear a lot of stories. ... I think it would be a good idea to put it on the ballot and I think we can do that and let you decide.”

Mr. Lile did not address the fact that there is no provision under Ohio law to allow people to vote on the project and any vote conducted locally would not supersede the Ohio Power Siting Board’s decision to allow the project to move forward. The only authority commissioners have is to approve or deny a tax incentive request.

“When you sit in this seat, you get a lot of requests,” Mr. Wickersham said. “It’s difficult for me to say how in the future you would decide any of those without all of the information. In this job, you don’t just represent the minority; you don’t just represent the majority; you don’t just represent the loudest guy in the room and you don’t just represent your closest friends. You have a duty and a job to represent everyone and the way to do that is by following a process.”

The three-part process involves getting information from the townships, school boards and a public hearing before reflecting on the information and making an “informed decision.”

“I hear the concerns. I understand how serious it is to many of you and I understand the impact which stresses even further the process we must follow so everyone is represented if and when a PILOT is requested.”

The winner of the primary race on May 6 is unopposed in the general election.