The candidates running for Butler County Commission had differing opinions on the biggest challenges facing the county in the future.
Butler County Commissioner Cindy Carpenter, the incumbent Republican seeking re-election, and challenger Dora Bronston, a former Middletown vice mayor and Democrat, debated Thursday evening in downtown Hamilton. They are competing for the lone county commission seat up for election on Nov. 6.
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Carpenter said a challenge the county will need to address is the now homeless, citing the tent camp where some had been told they needed to vacate by the end of September. She said the county will need to work with agencies about identifying services for the homeless and others living in poverty.
“We’re going to deal with some problems that were identified when we worked with the homeless camp, with how regard services are provided to those individuals, to make sure they can get their foot in the door to lift themselves up to go to a better place,” she said. “That’s going to be a very big challenge because it requires us to negotiate with multiple agencies, multiple funding streams.”
She also said that there’s a need to develop a countywide transportation plan “so when this board leaves in the future, you have different people here, they’ll be able to see what we’ve envisioned from what we know and have experienced in the growth we’ve seen.”
Bronston said it comes down to jobs.
“Jobs tie into businesses. Jobs tie into family issues. Jobs tie into Butler County transportation. Jobs tie into infrastructure,” she said. “With that being said, with the jobs, for us to draw other businesses here, to provide jobs for the residents we have to think about our incentives we used to draw companies here.”
Bronston said tax incentives would entice companies to look at Butler County. And if more jobs are created, then the families will follow.
“For us to increase our (collection of) taxes and revenues, then we have to have more families here and that means we need jobs,” she said. “And I see that as our major concern for the county.”
Carpenter said job-creation is an area where the county is “doing extraordinarily well,” adding it has the fastest job-growth rate in the state and has seen “a high increase in weekly wages.”
It’s a skills gap issue, not a jobs issue in Butler County, she said.
“When we’re bringing in jobs, we’re bringing in high-paying jobs,” she said. “Our problem right now is we have too many employers and not enough trained employees.
Carpenter said the county’s development team currently meets and collaborate with jurisdictions about potential jobs coming to the county.
“When we know about a connection or hear about a local entity that they’re trying to bring in jobs, we go with them and we work with them to recruit the industry to come here,” she said. “Our responsibility is to support and work with local entities — cities and townships.”
Bronston said she would push for partnerships and collaboration with community partners and establish joint economic development districts.
“We can assist businesses to give easier access of bringing their businesses here,” she said. “We’re there to help lead and guide them.”
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