Candidates for Kent County Levy Court Thursday night both said they opposed state plans that would place additional financial burden on county taxpayers. Their remarks came during their last opportunity for public debate prior to a March 21 special election to fill the Second District seat on the county council.
Republican James E. Hosfelt Jr. and Democrat Andrea Kreiner said they would fight plans to stop state financial support for county paramedic programs; the idea is one of several cost-cutting moves being considered by the General Assembly to eliminate a $350 million state budget deficit.
Hosfelt and Kreiner were part of a candidate’s night forum that also included hopefuls to fill three Dover city council seats. The debate was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Kent County.
Overall, the debate was polite and generally non-confrontational as the candidates laid out their positions before a crowd of about 150 at Dover’s Modern Maturity Center.
Referring to his many years in law enforcement, including a term as Dover’s chief of police, Hosfelt said his main concern is public safety, which include supporting the county’s 911 center, and its paramedics and volunteer firefighters. He supported simplifying regulations dealing with agriculture, updating county infrastructure and increasing jobs.
“We need new and proactive ways of economic development, not just sitting back and waiting for it to come to us,” he said.
Kreiner noted her government experience and background as an environmental consultant has given her the know-how and contacts that would help the county meet its goals.
She feels the county should find ways of creating sustainable jobs for its residents entering the workforce.
“The problem is many young people are moving away,” she said. “This depletes our workforce and potential tax base. We need to make it possible for them to build their lives here in Kent County.”
Supporting the county paramedic program is vital, Hosfelt noted, adding he considers state efforts to shift responsibility to the county as unwarranted.
The General Assembly required each county to have a paramedic system and in the beginning ensured it was fully funded. Over the years however, financial responsibility has slowly shifted toward the counties.
“We have to continue to support the paramedic program,” he said. “It’s an unfunded mandate if they force it back on us.”
Kreiner concurred, saying state mismanagement of its finances has caused the problem.
The funding formula should remain the same, she said.
“We need to keep supporting the paramedics.”
Regarding homelessness, Kreiner said the county should partner with other groups to help solve the problem.
“The role of the county at this point is partnering with the city, the faith-based community and other service providers to get the resources people need in their situation,” she said.
Hosfelt does not support the Victory Church’s efforts to build houses for the homeless on its county property.
“I’m not in favor of the tiny home village,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the right place, I don’t think it should be allowed.”
As a way of fostering economic development, Kreiner has learned prospective investors in the county would benefit from having one person who could answer all their questions.
Economic development director Jim Waddington, she said, “needs to be able to be a single point of contact for that company and help them work through these other permitting processes so that they can get there quickly.”
Hosfelt said Waddington’s office isn’t being given the money it needs.
“They have a budget basically to cover the salaries of those working in that position,” he said. “There’s no money there for economic development to be proactive.”
In his closing statement, Hosfelt said he supported efforts to improve county infrastructure; doing so might have prevented a recent accident that dumped untreated wastewater into the St. Jones River.
“It’s problems like these that we can prevent, that we have to prevent going forward, and support those types of initiatives at the county level,” he said.
Kreiner felt the major issue facing the county is jobs and opportunities for young people.
“We need to create opportunities for creation of start-ups and new small businesses and we need to increase the awareness and participation in our successful training programs such as the energy program at Del Tech,” she said. “We have an incredible success rate for those kids finding jobs and there’s no reason why those jobs shouldn’t be here in Dover.”
The election for Second District Kent County Levy Court will be held from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 21.
There are nine polling locations throughout the Second District. To see the list, go to tinyurl.com/district2pollinglocations.
For a map of the Second District, go to tinyurl.com/levycourtdistrict2.