Carper seeks chance to complete unfinished business
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Over the years, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper has worn a lot of hats.
The incumbent Democrat who is running for re-election this year has served as deputy securities commissioner for the state of West Virginia, assistant prosecutor for Kanawha County and police chief and public safety director for the city of Charleston.
However, for the past 16 years, he has served on the commission, and he is hoping Kanawha County residents grant him another six-year term.
His opponent, Republican Stephen D. Snead, was invited but did not attend. He also did not return the candidate information form sent to him by the newspaper.
Carper said he was seeking another term because many things remain to be done in the county.
He hopes to continue addressing the effects of the economic recession in Kanawha County.
"It's easy to promise jobs, but it's hard to do it," Carper said. "The challenge of local and state government, and business, is to hold onto the jobs we have."
Carper briefly discussed efforts to develop the West Virginia Regional Technology Park in South Charleston. The property off Kanawha Turnpike is the former site of the Carbide Tech Center.
The state officially acquired the 258-acre park in December 2010. It allocated $3.5 million to its operation last budget year and $3 million for the budget year that began this past July 1.
"It was a risky venture," Carper said about the acquisition of the technology park.
However, officials had little choice but to take over the park, he said.
"How would we feel if that property had been razed?" Carper asked. "They were warming up the bulldozers.
"These folks were serious about razing that property," he said of the former owner, Dow Chemical.
Carper said the state acquisition was a chance to save an "incredible facility," despite the fact that it is now off the county's tax books.
This is because state-owned property cannot be taxed.
"If government hadn't moved in, the buildings would have been leveled and we would have lost the tax base anyway," he said.
Carper also addressed the idea of a fire service levy for Kanawha County.
Officials with various volunteer fire departments have proposed placing such a levy — an additional layer of property tax — before county voters. However, Carper said he would support that only if he could be convinced that it would not endanger the renewal of a current levy for bus and ambulance service.
However, he said residents could see that issue on a ballot during an upcoming election.
"What's wrong with letting the people decide that?" he said.
Carper also said he favors a proposed change in the state constitution that would repeal the two-term limit for county sheriffs. Voters will see that issue on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
"Isn't it doing a disservice to the public to not be able to decide who will represent them?" he asked.
He pointed out that few officials, especially those who serve in local elected positions, have term limits. In fact, the only two positions with term limits in this state are county sheriff and governor.
"We have had problems with previous sheriffs," Carper said. "But what do you do? You vote them out of office."
Carper also addressed the county recycling crisis.
Last spring, the Kanawha County Solid Waste Authority was forced to close the building it used to process materials at the Slack Street recycling center. The aged building has structural problems and combustible dust.
The authority owns the building and is an agency independent of the commission. The commissioners only appoint two members of the five-member board.
However, Commission Dave Hardy formed a task force to address the recycling crisis. Carper believes the county will see a smaller program rise from the ashes.
"I think it will be modest and scaled down," he said.
There is room for private companies to take on a bigger role in recycling, Carper said. However, none have shown interest in stepping up and taking over.
"They're not beating down our door," Carper said.
When asked whom he was supporting for president, Carper said he was behind his party's candidate.
"I'll be voting for President Barack Obama," he said. "But quite frankly, my vote is my business."