UNION COUNTY — A commitment to the development of long-range plans for county government that address issues such as building maintenance needs and demographic growth are what Frank Hart says he will bring to the office of Union County Supervisor.
The Democratic and Republican parties will hold their primaries on Tuesday, June 10. Voters must choose which primary they vote in before casting their ballots.
In the Democratic primary the only local race is for the Democratic nomination for Union County Supervisor.
District 2 Union County Councilman Frank Hart and incumbent Union County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair are running for the Democratic nomination. The winner of the primary will be the next supervisor because no Republican is running for the office in the November general election.
Hart, who is serving his first term on council, pointed to the achievements of his first 18 months in office, many of them involving improving transparency and accountability in county government.
“One would be getting council to amend the budget last year so we have better oversight and more checks and balances,” Hart said. “There’s an amendment I got them to include after much debate that capital expenditures as well as contingency fund expenditures must be approved by council. In past years those accounts were funded with no oversight as to how they were spent. I also introduced an amendment that if an employee leaves county employment for any reason a replacement employee cannot be hired until the department head or elected official presents council the justification for why the position should be filled.”
Union Hospital District
Hart also pointed to his efforts to work with the Union Hospital District Board of Trustees to help deal with the hospital district’s financial problems.
“About the middle of last year I started working closely with the hospital board to determine the real issues facing the hospital district,” Hart said. “I called a joint meeting between the hospital board and the committee (the Union County Council Committee on Health and Social Services) I chair and working together we created a joint committee to move the affiliation process forward.”
Hart said that as supervisor he would continue working with the hospital district to address its problems and assist it in its efforts to affiliate with a larger health care system.
“If elected supervisor I will continue to work closely with the hospital board to complete the affiliation process,” Hart said. “I will also work closely with the board and council to address the hospital’s debt problem. We need to get the debt eliminated and all options are on the table so the hospital district can move forward.”
Union County levies tax millage to support the operations of a number of outside agencies and institutions. It does not, however, levy tax millage to support the hospital district. While he would be willing to explore the possibility of doing so, Hart said he does not believe it to be a realistic option.
“With public support I would be willing to explore it, but the reality is the county is a $13 million a year operation and the hospital district is a $50 million a year-plus operation,” Hart said. “The county cannot underwrite the hospital district.”
Union County Jail
The structural problems of the Union County Jail is another issue the county has had to deal with for the past several years and will likely continue to be an issue for some years to come. Hart, however, said that while the jail’s problems must be addressed, they are only part of the problem facing the county with regard to its buildings.
“The jail is an example of many of our county buildings and facilities,” Hart said. “We do not have a maintenance or capital improvement plan to support those facilities. There are issues at the jail and our other county offices that are going to have to be addressed. Many of our buildings regularly leak water into the buildings when we have a storm. As supervisor I will develop preventive maintenance and capital improvements plans to maintain our buildings.”
Hart praised the Union County Economic Development Board for its efforts to recruit industry to Union County and said that as supervisor he will not only work closely with the board but will also use it as a model for the rest of county government.
“As a council member I’ve supported the economic development board,” Hart said. “As most folks are aware we will soon begin constructing a spec building at Commerce Park. This project is key to economic development in Union as three out of four industrial prospects will not look at you as a viable candidate if you do not have a building or product to show.
“The economic development board has done a good job and is a model to follow,” he said. “They developed an industrial recruitment plan several years ago and they have done a great job working their plan. My goal as supervisor is to bring that same level of planning to aspects of county government.”
Hart said that while the development board’s efforts have borne fruit in the recruitment of new industry, the county still faces the problem of little or no population growth that must be addressed.
“It is important that we recognize as a county that despite the good job the development board is doing we are not growing,” Hart said. “The most recent estimates indicate that over the next 36 years we will increase by only 1,500 people, which means that we will still have less people than in the 1950s.”
Hart said that the county does not currently have a plan to address this, but if elected he will work to develop one.
“As a member of council I have not seen any work done to even develop a plan,” Hart said. “As supervisor and chairman of council, I will work with council, with the school board, the hospital board, the municipalities, the business sector, the development board, and the public to develop a plan to change this trend. This plan must address quality of education for our children, quality of life for our citizens, and job creation.”
Hart said that the plan will have successfully addressed these issues when people start moving into Union County because of what it has to offer.
“My vision of success is when we reach the point where the county is growing because people want to live here for the opportunities we can provide,” Hart said.