District 4 candidates square off in forum

FAIRMONT — Incumbent Dan Schmidtke and challenger Richard Koons answered questions Thursday about their campaigns for the District 4 seat on the Martin County Commission.

Topics at a forum at City Hall in Fairmont included a proposed $40 million county justice center, the proposed Fairmont community center and the Martin County Library in Fairmont.

Concerning the justice center, Schmidtke said he is hopeful for a $20 million state grant.

“This same question came up 12 years ago and we voted it down at that time because there was no help from the state,” he said. I would say it’s probably about three to five years out before we can get this done, and without state help it’s almost impossible. If we don’t build it, costs are going to go up for travel time for our deputies.”

Koons echoed those sentiments.

“My thoughts on this jail are [that] eventually we’re going to have to do something,” he said. “We probably should have done it years ago, but I think that we’re going to have to see if we can get the grants because when you start looking at a $40 million facility, in the last 40 years that’s $2,740 a day in principal if we don’t get help with it.”

Asked about the county’s role in a proposed community center in Fairmont, both Schmidtke and Koons said that while they like the idea, they do not know where the money is going to come from to build and operate it.

“I just don’t see it happening,” Schmidtke said.

I don’t think the county should invest in a Fairmont building,” Koons said.

Touching on recent changes at the Martin County Library, both men said they do not agree with every action taken by the library board to discourage behavioral issues in front of the facility. Both candidates were upset that the issue did not come before county commissioners before decisions were made to remove the benches. They said the benches were there for people to utilize and other solutions might have been found.

When asked about taxpayer costs connected to incarceration, substance abuse and out-of-home placement for juvenile offenders, both candidates had recommendations.

“There’s a lot of programs that I think maybe we should be just a little bit more involved in as far as drugs and alcohol,” Koons said. “Things such as law enforcement being more out in the public so that we have a little friendlier interaction between the police and the children. That’s where it starts; you’ve got to get the kids to stay off the drugs and the alcohol.”

“I think the problem really starts at home,” Schmidtke said. “This is where parents have to be more involved with their children at home, their school activities, getting involved in sports and different activities at school.”