Columbia County, GA -
The race for the Columbia County Commission Chair is heating up. Signs are out across the county for challenger Jim Bartley who is hoping to unseat incumbent Ron Cross.
Cross is seeking his fourth term, saying he hopes to continue to lead the county in the next phase of growth and keep up with ongoing projects.
Jim Bartley said it's time for change while Ron Cross doesn't understand why anyone would want to change leadership in one of the most successful counties in the state.
Both candidates are looking toward the future of Columbia County and have different thoughts about the fast-growing county's future.
Jim Bartley believes a fourth term for Ron Cross would be two terms too many.
"This government has gotten more and more closed the last 10 years: commission meetings last 30 minutes, there is something wrong with that," said Bartley.
"The business is wide open, the public is invited, every committee is in the open, the votes are taken in the open," said Cross.
There are two items at the top of Bartley's list:
"Try to get us completely out of debt, or at least back to the levels of 2002, and work on the widening of the roads in Columbia County," said Bartley.
Cross said the county has bonded some projects to accelerate the progress, but has only borrowed a small amount of money.
"Our borrowing capacity to maintain our Triple-A bond rating has hardly been touched; we have only borrowed 15 percent of our borrowing power," said Cross.
To him, there is good debt if it's well-managed.
"I don't know how many people have bought a house and paid 100 percent for it, not many people buy a car and write a check at the time they buy it, so the debt thing is kind of a fallacy," said Cross.
Easing traffic congestion on one of the county's main roads is a priority for Bartley.
"Washington Road is a bottleneck every morning and every afternoon, and it should have been dealt with in 2000, and we still haven't dealt with it, and its 2014," said Barltey.
"We are making big improvements, the widening of Washington Road should go later on this month, there will be widening of Lewiston Road from Columbia Road all the way into Grovetown under the T-SPLOST," said Cross.
In the end, Bartley believes it's time for new faces, and Cross doesn't disagree.
"I think you need to turn over the people working, and if I had what I thought was a good person come forward for this position, I wouldn't be running,” said Cross.