The following is a summary of comments between District 3 Walker County Commission candidates James "Jim" Borden and D. Michael Pate at a Daily Mountain Eagle forum for that race earlier this year:
Borden, 58, of Cordova is employed with the Birmingham Fire and Rescue but is retiring this spring after 29 years - adding he would be a "full-time" commissioner. He served eight years in the Air National Guard and has a background on excavations work with two companies. He is married with two children and attend Corinth Baptist Church in Cordova.
Pate, 59, is a lifelong resident of Parrish and owned Mike's Barbecue in Oakman, as well as another restaurant. "I've been working in the mines 39 years, and worked on heavy equipment most of my life," he said.
Borden said he was for getting water off the roads, adding ditches and the shoulders of the road will have to be a priority.
"Until you get the water off the road, you will never be able to repair a road, let alone resurface roads. It is a waste of taxpayers dollars to throw patch into a hole. The next rain that comes along, the same puddle is on the same spot and water starts running across the road," he said.
He wants a "comprehensive plan" that would organize crews in wet weather in winter, late fall and early spring to open and even dig up ditches if necessary - "not do a quarter of a mile of ditch here, move to another section," he said. "If we move to a road, we go down one side of the road to the end and we come back up the other side."
Milling up a road is cost effective, he said. "Laying down 4 inches of asphalt, that will be in the future. We will have to have a better tax base bringing in more money," he said.
Borden said the commissioner will have to go to Montgomery to meet with legislators to lobby for money "and stress our dire needs for more money" for paving.
"Basically we're in an emergency situation," he said. "Within another year, as they way things are running now, the roads are going to be worse than they are now. Something will have to be done for the coming years" to establish a fund for places in bad shape, noting bridges and culverts in disrepair.
Asked about getting more money for the roads, Pate said, "The chairman handles most of that. They put in for the grants and stuff. We have a couple of women who does that, too, goes for the grants, too. But a lot of it is going to be going out there and putting some grease to work to it." He said he had talked to his brother who retired from the county about the details in how the paving is done. "Gravel and tar will be the best way to go," he said.
Borden said on the campaign trail voters have told him the failed 1-cent sales tax increase failed because the proposed $7 million to be raised was split up for too many "add ons," leaving only hundreds of thousands of dollars extra for a district instead of $7 million split by four districts.
"Each district should have got as much as $1 million or $1.5 million out of that $7 million," he said, which would have resulted in needed matching money.
He noted the state gas tax is now at 6 cents but it will be raised twice more to 10 cents this year and next, bringing in between $750 million to $1 billion for the state. For legislators to say they have brought Walker County "$250,000 out of that amount of money is a failure on their part. We are going to have to put pressure on our politicians but the commissioner's job is to get out, pinch the taxpayers' dollars, and go and try to get those dollars himself. A commissioner can go to Montgomery and lobby for money."
Pate said said he agreed on much of that, but noted people were moving out of the district because roads are in bad condition. If the roads are upgraded, he said people would move in.
Borden said more aggressive law enforcement efforts are needed against illegal dumping and heard current commissioners are working to go into the schools for education, teaching young children not to litter, which in turn educates parents. "Illegal dumping is almost a systemic, almost a learned behavior," he said, adding society needs to work on the issue.
"The landfill needs to be addressed now. You've got to be proactive," he said, saying he has read newspaper stories back to the mid-1990s about it. Efforts need to start now and will have to be "non-stop" to get the commission, landowners, and Republic to an agreement, he said.
Pate agreed with investigating and prosecuting illegal dumpers. "Where most of the high spots are, they need to put cameras there," he said. He said officials need to "get on the ball" about the landfill. Pate earlier said that lakes, rivers and creeks need to be cleaned up. "Who wants to ride down the road and see garbage dumps everywhere?" he said, adding inmates need to be out working to clean out garbage.
On handling district crews, Borden said, "As a full-time commissioner, my job will be to be at the county barn in the morning. I want to unlock the gate for the men to come in. I want to utilize our hours in the day much better. We do not need to take longer lunch hours than necessary" or breaks they are not entitled to. He would look at the four 10-hour days he said other districts do and utilize men and equipment more efficiently.
Pate said, "I think we need to go in down there and just tell them, 'Forget everything you're doing and start over.'"
Both men said they were in support of the Sheriff's Office.
On jobs, Borden said the county needed to work on its image and keep up its roads. "You can only have industry come in as you can have with the infrastructure," saying long-term plans and money are needed for that. He also warned against "selling our soul to the devil just to get someone in. They need to contribute to the tax base."
Pate said the county needs to be cleaned up before someone comes in, warning people are moving away.
On closing comments, Pate said he would work "extra hard," even on Saturdays, on his own time. "If I know you need something done and I can get to it, I'm going to come and take care of the problem. If you are mad or something, I want to come and sit down to talk to you. Let's get everything back together right and everybody get along. We're going to do the best we can do. I know whoever is elected is going to work hard trying to do it. I'm just asking for your vote to give me a chance."
Borden said, "I will be a full-time commissioner for the taxpayers of District 3. I will work 24 hours a day. I will be on call as your commissioner. I have a background in public service. I have a background in excavating work. I humbly ask the voters of District 3 for your vote come March 3. If I am elected or get through the primary, I will go to work before I take office at the end of the year. I will have approximately six to seven months to work to learn and get my plan in place to be your commissioner in District 3."
For more Election 2020 coverage from the Daily Mountain Eagle, visit www.mountaineagle.com/election2020.