Republican Nash County commissioner candidate Dan Cone
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Republican Nash County commissioner candidate Dan Cone

Commissioner hopefuls face off in debate


Staff Writer

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SPRING HOPE – Nash County commissioner candidates revealed a couple of surprises to a packed house Monday night during a debate forum at the Spring Hope Community Center.

GOP hopefuls JP Barnes and Dan Cone agreed on mostly everything except whether they would ever support a property tax increase while Democrat Ed Bissette took a different stance on a possible split of the Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools. The winner of the March 15 GOP primary will go on to face Bissette in the November General Election with that winner taking the District 3 seat on the county board.

Bissette said he is running to fill Democrat Billy Morgan’s spot on the board and since Morgan never voted to raise taxes in 30 years, he won’t either.

Cone said he would look for solutions that don’t involve a tax increase.

“I’ll never vote for a tax increase,” Cone said. “I don’t think there’s a person in this room who wants to pay more in taxes.”

Barnes, a state trooper, said he couldn’t promise he’d never vote to raise taxes. He said if life-saving emergency services like rescue squads hung in the balance, he’d be forced to vote for an increase.

Barnes said economic growth is the only solution to the property devaluation problem. As far as a possible split of the Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools along Nash and Edgecombe county lines, the Republicans said it is necessary while Bissette said he isn’t so sure.

Barnes called the 1993 merger of the two school districts an injustice.

“It’s not about race, it would free up funding if we didn’t have to pay for education in Edgecombe County,” Barnes said. “Middlesex spills over into Johnston County and we don’t pay to educate children there. It’s the same thing in Wake County. We don’t educate those children.”

Barnes said the unpopular decision to split the school system needs to be made for the good of Nash County residents.

Cone said Nash County should be educating its children while Edgecombe County educates its kids.

“County line is where we need to be,” Cone said.

In a departure from Morgan’s support of the split, Bissette said he would like to see the complex issue resolved in another way. He said he is concerned for teachers and staff at schools that would be closed in the wake of a split. He said the answer is for Edgecombe County to pay its fair share.

“We need to look at it better,” Bissette said.

The candidates all agreed a countywide water system is needed to attract industry to the area. Cone said the county should concentrate on attracting people and businesses will follow.

Barnes said it’s all about networking. He said he would put together a team of successful local business owners to look at the problem.

“Business people know how to make things happen,” Barnes said.

Bissette said Nash County has highway infrastructure and higher education elements in place to see economic expansion, but a higher tax rate could jeopardize growth. Barnes said Wilson is booming around U.S. 264 and Interstate 95, but the growth stops at the Nash County line.

“It breaks my heart to see the trajectory of my hometown,” said Barnes, a Bailey native who lives in Middlesex. “We can solve a water-sewer problem in southern Nash County.”

All three candidates agreed southern Nash teachers are doing a good job, but parents need to be more involved in their children’s education.

All three candidates said they would fight to make sure southern Nash County doesn’t come up short as it has often in the past. The candidates wished each other well in the election.

“Dan is my second cousin and Mr. Barnes is my trooper,” Bissette said in closing.


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