District 4 candidates disagree over unit system

Published 12:07 am Saturday, March 10, 2012

Carl Turman is seeking a third commission term.

Allen Lucas is retired from the county.

Q: Should the county remain on the unit system or return to the district system?

Carl Turman: It should remain on the unit system. The unit system has proven itself. I didn’t vote for it, and I had my reasons. Those reasons have been done away with, and I have been proven wrong. The unit system has saved Covi-ngton County taxpayers a lot of money. There needs to be some fine-tuning done to it, and we are in process of doing that. It’s the first time we have been on the unit system, so we are learning a lot. We have things that we want to implement to make it even back. If we go back to district system we would be going backwards. It would be like going back into the Stone Age and it would cost a lot more.

Lucas: There is good and bad to that thing. Out in the rural area, it doesn’t seem that they are getting the work that should be done. In the 1990s, the unit system was brought up for vote with the people and the people voted it down. I think it should have been brought up to the people again instead of just forced on them.

Q: For many years, county commissioners had direct responsibility for the county-maintained roads in their districts. Now that the system for managing roads has changed, what do you see as the job of a commissioner?

Turman: That job hasn’t changed. Some people say it has, but the commissioner still has the same responsibility, as when he got elected, when it was a district system. The unit system is just a managing situation for equipment and pooling. As far as roads he still has the same job. He still manages and sees that things are done as they should be. The engineer has been given the responsibility to make sure that it is done. The commissioner has the same input as he did before. People can still call their commissioner. As a matter of fact, I had a few calls last night and one this morning. It’s a state law for counties to have commissioners. We have to make sure that the budgets are right. They can still call their commissioner. You can do a good job if you do it within the law.

Lucas: The commissioners have got to see what the people need. To me, they still have the same job that they ever had. It seems like they have pushed it off on someone else. It’s still a responsibility. I know the commissioner’s job is not just roads and it concerns other departments. We have to look after the other offices and make sure we stay up-to-date.

Q: Current commissioners have been criticized in this election for the mileage levels at which they have been compensated. Why are so many miles required, and how do you justify these? For non-incumbents, how do you plan to handle mileage if elected?

Turman: I can only speak for Carl Turman in District 4. They said there was a $12,000 amount given to the commissioners, that’s not so. That was a line item, this past year. We give each commissioner $8,000. If he gets to the end of that $8,000, he either has to eat crow or ask the commission in a forum for money and give a good reason why. For me $8,000 is plenty. Commissioners should be compensated for mileage. May have to go to Montgomery to sit down with legislators and sit down face-to-face with them and talk about our county.

Lucas: Like it is now, they are not required. They have foremen out there to do that. That’s going to be one of my first orders; I’m going to make a motion to cut out all commissioner mileage. That money right there would be – that’s $60,000. That will keep the CATS system going and sheriff’s cars and other things that need help.

Q: One of the major tasks of the commission is to manage the county’s finances. What experience do you have in financial management? Can you read a financial statement?

Turman: I can read a financial statement. I have been experienced in churches, involved in ministry. Financial statements had to be made every month to me, to my church and to my headquarters. Your books have to match up. You have your own personal financial deal that you try to stay above. I think with my personal finances only a couple notches from being off the top. I handle the county’s money the same way. I’m going to make sure that the money that comes in takes care of the citizens of Covington County. We’re trying to build a nest egg, where when a natural disaster happens, we can get our men out there and get it cleaned up, and get our roads passable, and get everyone back on the feet the best we can. I think the people of Covington County deserve to know where their tax dollars are going. Some of them are talking about transparency in the county government. You can go over to the county administration building and get anything you want to know — it’s public knowledge.

Lucas: I worked with the county when Johnny Castleberry was the commissioner. I was shop foreman. He came in from abudget meeting, he told me I had so much to work with that year. Ever what it was, I stayed within the budge t and most of the time, I would go below it. Yes, I can read a financial statement.

Q: What’s the biggest issue facing the county in the next four years?

Turman: The economy. We have to look at what services we are going to have to limit and what services we are going to have to go ahead. I don’t want the county to go backwards. I want it to go forward. My main concern is that children can live here, get educated here and get a job here and raise their children here, and not have to leave. God has blessed us, and I thank God for it. Look ahead, plan and be ready for anything that comes at you. Build your base if something happens you have what you.

Lucas: If you look at the census, Covington County is losing people. It’s because they are going to find jobs elsewhere. We have got to get industry in here. You aren’t going to do that sitting on your hands. You have to get out and attract these businesses and sell Covington County. Tell them what we have to offer. When we get businesses in here, we will keep our young people here. That will build our budget here, just with people spending the tax money here.