Jail Divides Candidates
A planned expansion of the county jail, growth and water were among the issues addressed by candidates for mayor and town commissioner in Carthage Thursday night during a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Moore County.
The forum took place in the Carthage Community Building -- the old stone building and former town hall that Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated.
Two candidates are running to fill an unexpired term as mayor: Bert Patrick and M. T. "Tommy" Stewart, and both were on hand. Stewart serves as a commissioner on the present board. Patrick, lives next door to Stewart on Sunset Drive.
Current Mayor Ronnie Fields announced earlier this his new duties with the Sheriff's Department would preclude his running for re-election.
Candidates on the November ballot running for three seats with four-year terms on the Carthage Board of Commissioners are Arthur R. "Artie" Barber Jr., Milton T. Dowdy, Ronnie Gray, Lee T. McGraw, Robert Sullivan and Carl E. Williams. Three candidates are running for an unexpired two-year term on the Town Board: Victoria Botson, Lisa B. Caddell and Michael C. Campbell.
While the league invited every person whose name appears on the ballot, not all accepted. Campbell, Gray, McGraw and Williams did not attend.
Carolyn Mealing, a League member, moderated. Glenda Clendenin, Director of the Moore County Board of Elections told those attending that this fall's elections are "right around the corner."
Each candidate began with a brief statement introducing themselves and the issues they view as most important, starting with the two mayoral contenders.
"My family came to Carthage in 1803," Patrick said. "I myself have lived here since 1980."
She said her principal concern is to "stop the 668-bed prison approved by the county commission." Other concerns were increased support for business and the historic character of Carthage.
Stewart, a native of Carthage, told of starting in politics early on when he was a page in the U.S. House of Representatives at the age of 12. After high school and a college career interrupted by four years military service during the Korean War, Stewart worked 30 years as an audit manager of nuclear facilities for the U.S. Accounting Office.
He served as a town commissioner for a decade, then returned to fill a vacancy. Rather than running again to keep his seat on the board, Stewart said he decided he would run for mayor.
Bypass Routes Debated
All the candidates were uniform in their love for the town of Carthage, and there were few disagreements among them.
All see the town's growth as its biggest opportunity and its old infrastructure -- water pipes so old they are still the clay tubes once used, dead end lines that make keeping water fresh hard to do -- as challenges. All said the town needs to work on making certain it has sufficient water resources.
None favor any of the southern routes being considered by the N.C. Department of Transpor-tation (NCDOT) for an N.C. 24-27 bypass.
Most said all three routes are unacceptable. Barber and Botson said they favored a northern route, primarily on grounds that any southern choice would disrupt too many homes and churches, while the northern proposal would mean relocating only four.
"The town of Carthage has sent a letter to the Department of Transportation saying that we do not support any one of the three routes," Stewart said. "That's my short answer."
Like many of the candidates, Dowdy said he wants NCDOT to go back to the drawing board, update its data, and listen to the town.
"It has the potential of ripping the town apart," Dowdy said. "That is the one of the biggest concerns that I have: pitting one community against another community. DOT should come back to the table and reset." All favored rezoning upon landowners' request any property affected by an eventual bypass.
Differences Arise on Jail
The clearest divisions came in response to two questions from members of the audience having to do with the county jail expansion. One asked if they favored the detention center as presently planned.
"If they have a need for something this size to house detainees, that's their business," Patrick said. "Just look at another location."
Sullivan said the location was a matter that might still come before the Planning Board, and that, as it might involve some threatened legal action, he would defer comment at this time. Stewart was unequivocal in his support.
"We have had a detention center, or jail, whatever you want to call it there since 1922," Stewart said. "We haven't had any problems. I don't anticipate any problems in the future."
Caddell said she supports the jail being built in that location, calling it a state-of-the-art facility. She said she does not see it as a problem. She has lived in Carthage for many years and said that "prior to becoming a 'domestic CEO' at home" (laughter) she had worked in business for many years.
"I am opinionated, dedicated, determined and accessible," Caddell said. "I truly, truly have a heart for the town of Carthage. I favor the location as an extension of the existing jail, which has been there since before 1922. I don't see it as a problem."
A newcomer to Carthage, Caddell's opponent Victoria Botson is on the other side. She said that when she and her Special Forces husband (currently deployed) moved to the county seat, they found it "like a place in the movies" -- a place where she didn't have to worry if she left the car unlocked and where she felt safe downtown even with her husband far, far away. She said she does not like the idea of a jail so close to the elementary school, the town park and the county library.
"I am completely against it," Botson said. "I feel that due to the location adjacent to where the ballpark is, the library, and our children that the more detainees you have, the more problems you will run across.
"Once they are detained, if they get out on a glitch, I do not need a sex offender around my children, my school, or my house. Move it out in a cornfield somewhere. It doesn't need to be in the middle of our downtown."
Another question -- which some later said sounded "loaded" -- asked candidates to state how much money Carthage should spend to stop the detention center construction in the middle of town.
Patrick said the town would not need to spend any money, that "detention center" is not on the approved uses list for the downtown area so the town clerk could simply say, "No."
A more typical response came from Barber, who said he grew up in Carthage during the years his father, Arthur Barber, was both fire chief and town maintenance supervisor.
"I know every place in this town to hide from the cops," he said with a grin. "And I know every place not to hide."
Barber earned his college degree in criminal justice and worked in the prison system. He has no worries about the site for the jail expansion. Barber is running to retain his present seat on the Town Board and said he likes the current jail plan.
His answer to how much money should be spent by the town to stop it was brief and succinct.
"Zero," Barber said.
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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