COLUMBIA — While children and their parents milled around the Columbia Public Library looking for some summer reading, candidates for the office of Boone County Southern District Commissioner talked politics.
Around 40 people gathered Tuesday at an election forum in the Friends Room at the library to listen to the five Democratic candidates and the three Republican candidates. The forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Columbia Public Library, gave candidates a chance to address some of the biggest issues facing the county before the Aug. 2 primary.
Boone Hospital Center
Renee Hulshof, a KFRU host and Tuesday's moderator, first asked about the Boone Hospital Center. Many candidates praised the hospital as a major community asset.
"The hospital is a source of revenue and pride," said Sid Sullivan, a Democratic candidate.
Republican candidate Matt Cavanaugh, however, said the hospital is "horribly run."
"We have a crisis at Boone Hospital," Cavanaugh said.
Several candidates also said it was important to keep the hospital separate from MU in order to increase competition in the area.
Boone County Fairgrounds
Another major issue facing the candidates was the prospect of re-opening the Boone County Fairgrounds. The fairgrounds will not host this year's Boone County Fair.
Many of the Democratic candidates called for the community to be involved in future planning for the area.
"We need to solve this as a community," Democratic candidate Trevor Fowler said.
Fred Parry, a Republican candidate, said one of the biggest obstacles the fairgrounds face before re-opening is the approximately $1.5 million dollars in required maintenance work. He added that the property should be renovated into a multi-faceted recreation center.
Mary Kaye Doyle, who attended the forum, thought the future of the fairgrounds was the most important issue discussed.
"FFA and 4H students need to have the opportunity to show their cattle," Doyle said, "and show what a good person they are."
Gulf War monument
One polarizing issue was the removal of the Gulf War monument from outside the Boone County Courthouse in August.
Most of the Democrats stood by the County Commission's decision to remove the monument. Brianna Lennon said it was a good financial decision because litigation over the Christian symbol on the monument could have wasted time and funds for the county.
Fowler, and all of the Republican candidates, disagreed with the removal.
"These two men fought for our country," Republican candidate James Pounds said, referring to the names of two soldiers on the monument. "We should have fought for them."
Pounds also was the most vocal candidate from either party about prioritizing road maintenance around the county. All of the candidates stressed the need for a sales tax to be renewed when it goes to the voters in 2018. The tax helps fund road and bridge projects.
Pounds, who said he lives on a gravel road, said the tax revenue should focus on unpaved roads. Otherwise, it should be eliminated.
Democratic candidate Ann Peters disagreed and said road maintenance was a reasonable way to spend tax dollars. Peters said she knocked on 1,200 doors during her campaign, and no one brought up road conditions in Boone County.
"It's cheaper to maintain them than rebuild them," Peters said.
The county's relationship with the city
All of the candidates agreed the county needs to work better with the city of Columbia, citing the recent TIF lawsuit as an example of poor communication between the two.
"The differences between them are sometimes overstated," said Ted Farnen, a Democratic candidate.
The entire panel lasted about an hour and half. Doyle said she was pleased with the panel.
"I thought I needed to hear what the candidates had to say," she said. "Each one talked about the issues from a different perspective."
Supervising editor is Blake Nelson.