LIMA — When former Allen County Commissioner Jay Begg confirmed that he would not run for re-election in 2020, seven candidates emerged to take his place.
Three candidates remain: Beth Seibert, who has worked for years with the Allen Soil and Water Conservation District who was appointed commissioner in June; Dan Beck, former Allen County Sheriff and independent candidate; and Norman Capps, a long-time Perry Township trustee, farmer and construction manager.
Get to know the candidates, based on their responses during the October debate hosted by the Lima-Allen County Neighborhoods in Partnership.
• Budget priorities: Seibert said Allen County is financially strong despite the coronavirus pandemic, as sales tax revenues in July 2020 exceeded what was collected in July of the previous two years. County agencies still cut roughly $890,000 from the 2020 general fund, and more cuts are expected in 2021. But Seibert said the commissioners are still cautiously optimistic as they head into 2021 budget negotiations. She offered travel expenses as one example of where additional budget cuts could be made, but acknowledged that there is little wiggle room.
• Memorial Hall: Seibert estimated the cost to bring Memorial Hall up to code at $4 million to $5 million, an expensive undertaking. Instead, Seibert said she’d like to divest the property to an investor who is willing to restore it.
• Sales tax increase: Seibert said voters have already rejected a county sales tax increase, so she’s focused on balancing the budget and making capital improvements when possible without raising the sales tax.
• Attracting industry: Since launching her campaign, Seibert said she often hears about the barriers to economic development. She organized a multi-agency work group to address those concerns after she was appointed commissioner in June, with the goal of making Allen County ready for investors.
• Budget priorities: Capps offered health and public safety as his top two budget priorities, with maintenance of county properties and infrastructure in close second. He said the commissioners should consider tapping into the county’s rainy day fund, given the economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, and suggested a growth-centric approach to fixing the county budget through increased economic development.
• Memorial Hall: Capps said Allen County should consider contributing the cost of demolition, which he estimated at $1 million, toward renovating the property if an investor comes forward. He criticized past commissioners for failing to maintain Memorial Hall and other county properties and questioned the recent purchase of a new public defender’s office when other properties are in disrepair.
• Sales tax increase: Capps said he would not raise the county sales tax but would look toward economic development, particularly industrial, retail and food service development, to bring in additional revenue without a sales tax increase.
• Attracting industry: Capps said the county should focus its economic development efforts on luring manufacturers, which offer better wages and benefits and generate more tax revenue, as well as retail and food service.
• Budget priorities: Beck cited safety and security as his top budget priorities, and he questioned how much can be cut from the budget, which has not fully recovered from the last Great Recession despite increasing costs. He pointed to economic development as the only sustainable solution, but said he anticipates significant tax revenue shortages by the first quarter of 2021.
• Memorial Hall: Beck advocated for an incremental approach to restoring Memorial Hall as funds become available.
• Sales tax increase: Beck said if Allen County is short on tax revenue, it’s because the people are struggling financially and that taxes should not be raised. He also suggested a growth-centric approach of generating more tax revenue through more economic development.
• Attracting industry: Beck said the county should focus on attracting investors and industries that pay a living wage. He also expressed concern that some developments, like the Bath Township overlay project, are pursued without regard for the interests of residents.