Debate 1MADISONVILLE, Ky. (5/16/18) — About 250 guests attended the Hopkins County Young Professionals Primary Debate Monday night at Ballard Convention Center in Madisonville.

Republican and Democratic candidates vying for seats as magistrates, circuit clerk, jailer, constable and Madisonville mayor introduced themselves and answered specific questions submitted by the public.

Voters will head out to the polls next week to cast their votes. Hopkins County Clerk Keenan Cloern announced absentee voting is taking place through Saturday at her office in Madisonville. Absentee ballots are available 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. through Friday and 9 a.m.-12 Saturday.

Republican Madisonville Mayor David Jackson and challenger Kevin Cotton took the stage last to answer questions asked by Glasgow Young Professionals President Elect Mica Pence, who served as the debate moderator. She is also running for family court judge in Barren County.

Organizers said they were grateful Pence made the long drive to serve as moderator to ensure the questions were presented fairly to all candidates.

Cotton said if elected, he would concentrate on the city’s infrastructure and roads, noting Main Street has potholes every few feet, and he would like to oversee that the connector road is in place to spawn retail and economic growth in the city.

Cotton also mentioned although he initially was against the restaurant tax, he would like to see more activities in city parks that would draw more people from around the region and keep locals interested.

Jackson noted that Main Street is maintained by the state, adding he worked with previous governor Steve Beshear on road maintenance and completing the connector road at Midtown Commons. The current administration has cut off funds for road projects, he said.

Governor Matt Bevin has “killed the road project,” Jackson said, and he has made several calls to the governor’s office, which assured him that funds would be made available.

Jackson said restaurant tax has been used effectively to construct projects and hold events for children including the the Mad City Fair three-day youth festival and youth activities during Friday Night Live events. He also mentioned the city has scaled down its debt from $24.5 million to less than $9 million over his last two terms in office.

Cotton questioned the city’s 10 percent jail tax, saying he would delve into the matter as to whether that should be continued by possibly reducing the city’s budget to do away with it. He also questioned the city’s hiring practices, adding he would like to see the right people placed in positions that best fit their skill sets.

Jackson noted the city faces extra costs due the the state’s pension crisis, and he has a plan over the next four years to keep the city from going into debt.

Democrat incumbent Jailer Mike Lewis and Democrat challenger Lydon Logan answered questions related to inmate and worker safety in addition to rehabilitation programs and the jail budget.

Lewis said day-to-day operations at the jail is “all about the budget.” He noted the proposed budget for the next fiscal year is actually less than the current budget, while it still provided cost of living raises for jail workers.

Debate 2

He indicated staff and inmate safety is in place through constant training programs and the use of a body scanner recently purchased with commissary funds to prevent contraband and weapons from entering into the jail population.

Logan said he believes a K-9 would be more useful than a body scanner, and self-defense training would offer more effective safety measures. He would also like to see more rehabilitation programs for inmates.

Logan said working with the local judge to allow low-level offenders to serve time outside the jail through community-based services, and partnering with local nonprofits to help deal with drug addiction would be his plan, if elected jailer.

Lewis pointed out that inmate programs utilized at the facility include parenting classes and a 12-step program. He also said the jail community work release program gives $1.2 million worth of services to the community, compared to the $1.4 million of taxpayer funds brought in.

Hopkins Circuit Court Clerk Karen McKnight, the incumbent Democrat, along with opponent Tonya Bowman, took the stage to answer questions during the event.

Bowman, a Mortons Gap native, said she would like to reduce the wait time in the driver’s license department by reorganizing staff to offer faster service, if elected. She would also like to generate more public knowledge concerning the Trust for Life organ donor program.

McKnight said her only goal continues to be the daily operations that include handling the schedule, and staffing the five courtrooms, while answering to customers pertaining to passports and licensing services. She also said she is very active in promoting the Trust for Life program.

“My job is taking care of people and the office,” she said, adding sometimes the state computers do go down, and she addresses customer complaints personally, and works with a staff of 19 to improve operations daily.

The largest group of candidates were magistrates from the 4th District that included Republicans John T. Starchurski, Scott K. Stevenson, Ronnie Noel in addition to Democrats Donald “Pat” Rhodes, Steve “Coach” Fowler, Carroll Coffman, Steven Cox and Jeff “JB” Browning. They spoke about issues related to county finances, sports, roads, jobs, trash on the side of the road and infrastructure.

Charlie Beshears, 6th District Magistrate, faces Democratic opposition from Brien Terry.

Beshears explained the county has faced many financial challenges since the reduction in coal severance funds and decline of the coal industry, saying the county has added to its infrastructure in providing the Archery Complex that brings in thousands of people each month and the addition of the West Kentucky ATV Park in Barnsley along with the new Hopkins County Humane Society structure.

Terry said he would like to see county funding go toward infrastructure and development to attract more industry to ensure a brighter future for Hopkins countians.

The HCYP debate also included other magistrates and constables running for office.

The May Primary election is Tuesday.

Doreen Dennis
SurfKY News Director
Region 2

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