Roads and economic development are issues the new Izard County Judge will have to deal with after the Nov. 2 general election.
The News asked the two contenders for the judge's seat, Democrat Rayburn Finley and Independent Jackie Copeland, how they would address these issues.
Copeland's answers appear below. Finley did not respond.
What steps will you take to improve county roads?
Copeland: The County Road Department has one of the largest budgets in Izard County. Yet it is underfinanced, underequipped and understaffed. Unchecked increases in fuel and steel costs are creating nightmares for counties. There is not a magic or instant answer to solving the many road problems we have in Izard County. First we need to address several safety issues that currently exist on our county roads. These issues need to be addressed before bad weather sets in. Next, we need a solid Road & Bridge Plan to build on.
We need to develop a road and bridge classification system based on traffic, county critical access, primary/secondary bus routes, tourism and industry.
This information will be used to prioritize the roads and bridges in Izard County for grading, repairs, widening, brush cutting, pavement, snow removal, bridge replacement and repair.
We need to do a better job maintaining our right-of-way. Keeping our culverts and ditches cleaned out will eliminate a lot of the washout problems. Instead of spending all of our time maintaining our roads we can begin to build up our road beds for paving in the future. I will ask the municipal judges to set up a community service program to supply additional help on county road projects.
I pledge to work diligently, building a case for Representative-elect Cooper and Senator Miller to take to the Arkansas Highway Commission and the Arkansas General Assembly to secure additional funds and assistance in re-building bridges and paving more of our county roads.
I do promise to do my very best to make the county road system in Izard County one of the best and safest in Arkansas and Southern Missouri.
In what ways will you promote economic growth in the county?
Copeland: I believe the county judge is responsible for leading a countywide economic development effort. The chambers and industrial development groups in Horseshoe Bend, Melbourne and Calico put forth some good efforts, yet there is no coordinated countywide effort to recruit new business.
Tourism should be one of the top industries in Izard County. Tourism generates a lot of revenue quickly. We have more lakes and golf courses, and as much White River frontage as Stone County, yet Stone County takes in five times the tourism-generated payroll dollars that Izard County takes in. People traveling to surrounding tourist areas need to know that Izard County exists. They need to know about the golf courses in Melbourne and Horseshoe Bend. They need to know about our lakes and rivers. They need to know about historic Calico Rock and the many crafts people throughout Izard County. We need to bring back the county's Web site and start promoting all of Izard County.
Our next step should be to visit the businesses in Izard County and see what we can do to help them grow. What type of accessory businesses should we try to locate here that would be good for the growth of our existing businesses?
Izard County needs to join and actively support the North Central Arkansas Regional Economic Development. I've attended four of their meetings and economic development seminars over the past six months as well as an economic development seminar hosted by North Arkansas Electric Cooperative.
It's a cliche, but it is time to start thinking outside the box, to look at some new ideas for solving our problems and growing our economy! For more information visit www.jcopeland.net.