Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart touted the passage of the $191 million SPLOST referendum a year ago as one his biggest accomplishments. His challenger, Tom Wagoner, characterized it as a shortcoming.
Theres a big difference in the word work and the word job, Wagoner said Tuesday at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Macon at the Brickyard at Riverside Golf Club. Theres not a single job in here.
Hart answered that $6 million from the sales tax proceeds earmarked to address encroachment issues with Robins Air Force Base in south Bibb saved hundreds of jobs. And, he noted, the $6 million in SPLOST funds for economic development helped land the $50 million Tractor Supply Co. distribution center under construction in the I-75 Business Park -- and its 200 new jobs.
Hart also touted consolidation and a service delivery strategy reached with the city as other top accomplishments under his leadership.
Weve got some things out there that sat around and didnt get done because of bickering and a lot of other things, he said. Weve done some things that can make a real difference.
Sales tax revenue, Wagoner said, would have been better spent on lengthening the runway at Middle Georgia Regional Airport to allow larger planes such as 747s to land, then going after maintenance contracts.
Wagoner described himself as a conservative independent and touted his business experience as a qualification for the job of commission chairman.
I run a business. I know what its like to create jobs. Ive spent my life creating jobs, he said. I submit to you, you need change.
Wagoner took a dig at the Tractor Supply Co. project, saying weve got a work force thats a little better than to continue to create warehouse jobs.
If elected, he pledged to review all the countys vending and consulting contracts.
The league also heard from candidates for the county commissions District 4 seat -- incumbent Joe Allen and Republican challenger Robert Abbott.
Allen, who runs the Kids Yule Love charity, encouraged Bibb residents to make a difference by taking a more active role in serving the community.
I put energy into a lot of things I dont get paid for, he said.
He stressed that his job on the commission extends beyond District 4.
When Im called upon, I go to every district where Im called. Ive always believed in taking care of the people.
He noted his role as chairman of several commission committees, including human resources, recreation and Lake Tobesofkee. His service on a national commissioners association committee on finance has taught him that Bibbs problems are not unique, he said.
Weve got the same problems everybody else has got. Weve got to pull together to make things work.
As a political newcomer, Abbott described himself as the new baby in the room, which he called a good thing.
Mr. Allen said we need some fresh ideas from out there, he said. Well, Im from out there.
Tightening the countys budget would be his main focus, Abbott said.
Weve got some items in the budget that should not be there. ... People who are on fixed incomes or who dont have a lot of money are hurting. We dont have a taxing problem. We have a spending problem.
U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop also spoke, but his opponent in the 2nd Congressional District race, Republican John House, did not attend the forum.
Bishop, who has been in Congress for 20 years, said his service on military, agriculture and appropriations committees have him well-positioned and well-equipped to serve and protect the districts needs. He reminded the group of the budget sequestration -- the automatic spending cuts that were part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling -- looming at the end of the year.
These are very, very challenging times now, Bishop said. Weve got to have some adult conversations.
Bettye Middlebrooks, who served as moderator, said the candidates gave out a lot of information.
And everyone was civil, she said.
To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.