Warner Robins mayoral candidates differ on public transit issue

chwright@macon.comOctober 28, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- The six candidates for Warner Robins mayor talked recreation, city employee raises, public safety and public transit at a political forum Monday evening.

About 75 residents attended the forum, sponsored by The Telegraph, at Middle Georgia State College in Warner Robins. For most topics, the candidates’ answers mirrored each others’ and mixed in messages from their opponents from throughout the campaign season. The election is Nov. 5.

Public transportation drew the widest range of answers. All said the biggest challenge is financing the system.

Eva Folse, a retired educator, said it’s “simply not feasible.” She said city studies have shown it will only cost the city money.

“I don’t think you should in-debt (the taxpayers) for a small amount of people,” Folse said.

Joe Musselwhite, recently retired Public Works director, said he also doesn’t see a way to make public transit financially feasible. He’ll review it more as mayor but isn’t sure it’s a necessity in order to pass a future Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

“I don’t think they’re going to close Robins Air Force Base because we don’t have public transit in Warner Robins,” Musselwhite said.

Retired firefighter Randy Toms, former Councilman Mike Brashear and Robins employee Chuck Chalk said otherwise. They said BRAC will review the city’s transit.

Brashear said carpools could reduce some traffic and emissions in the city, but the city has spent money and time studying how to roll out a complete system.

Toms said he would work with some existing paratransit organizations to provide service for base employees and senior citizens.

“No one really thinks it’s important unless you really need it,” Toms said. “And I think there are some in our community that need it.”

Chalk also said he would work on paratransit before setting up bus routes.

“We need it, but we need to wade our way into it,” Chalk said.

City Councilman Daron Lee said the city needs to find a way to get those without cars to doctor’s appointments across town. He said a senior citizen cannot afford to spend $50 on a cab ride to the doctor’s office because that money likely needs to pay for prescriptions.

Asked what the No. 1 city issue is besides BRAC and Robins, most of the candidates said public safety and hiring police officers.

Lee said his opponents were examining the crime problem in a reactive manner. He would take a proactive strategy and make the number one priority recreation.

“We have to be honest with ourselves,” Lee said. “We don’t have the youth programs” to keep teenagers busy.

On the subject of recreation facilities, the candidates all referenced the sports complex project that has languished for years and the need to diversify the offered activities past youth baseball and soccer.

Brashear said he would encourage planning and zoning codes that would require new developments to have green space, something that is missing from the newer developed areas of town.

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.


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