James City supervisors candidates participate in forum

tjefferson@vagazette.com

The four Board of Supervisor candidates discussed a wide range of topics during a forum Thursday night hosted by the League of Women Voters.

The board is comprised of five members. This year, two seats will be on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Elections are nonpartisan, although several candidates have aligned themselves with political parties.

Michael J. Fox , College of William and Mary assistant to the president and chief of staff, served as the moderator at the event, which close to 40 residents attended.

Jamestown District

Running as a Republican is Lane Construction senior project manager Tom Phillips, who is being opposed by Democrat Jim Icenhour. Icenhour served as a supervisor from 2006-13.

Current Jamestown district representative and Board of Supervisors Chairman Kevin Onizuk is not seeking reelection after his term ends Dec. 31.

Icenhour said he is mainly running to help the county combat the challenges of the area’s projected population growth. The University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service projects the county's population will grow from 73,147 in 2017 to 86,142 by 2020 and 136,736 by 2030.

Icenhour said he would like to make use of the buildable lots in the Stonehouse district for housing.

Phillips said he would be against raising taxes unless it was needed to fund public safety.

Icenhour also said he would be opposed to raising taxes unless it was needed to fund public safety or schools.

The two candidates had differing views when it came to the county’s search for a long-term water supply.

Phillips said he would not support contracting with Newport News Waterworks as a long-term water supply solution.

County supervisors will have to decide by July 2018 if they want to continue contracting with waterworks. If the county decides to continue, it will cost $33 million in 2019. The county would also have to spend $15 million to connect to waterworks lines.

“I think we ought to negotiate with them,” Icenhour said.

When it comes to affordable housing, Icenhour said he wants to make developers include affordable housing in requests.

“The nice thing about New Town is you can walk around and not know what’s affordable housing,” Icenhour said.

Phillips said James City and York counties, as well as Williamsburg, need to work together to attract new businesses.

Powhatan District

Current supervisor and former chairman Michael Hipple — who is running as an independent — is seeking reelection against Republican contractor Joe Swanenburg.

“My opponent turned his back on the (Republican) party and people who supported him,” Swanenburg said.

Hipple said he wants to remain on the board and continue the positive momentum the group has started.

“We have made great strides in the county, including our AAA bond rating,” Hipple said.

The county received the distinction in July 2015 from Moody’s Investor Service, meaning the county is in stable financial position.

Hipple assured citizens that there is no immediate need to raise taxes.

Swanenburg said he would be against raising taxes unless it was needed to fund public safety and schools.

“Our public safety has been seriously underfunded, and that’s the first place I plan on fixing,” Swanenburg said.

“Public safety is fully staffed and fully funded,” Hipple responded.

For fiscal year 2018, the county allocated $225,000 more to public safety — including animal control, Fire EMS, emergency communications, emergency management, police and sheriff — compared to the 2017 fiscal year, according to the county budget. The fiscal year 2018 budget also funds two new full-time police officer positions, and the department is budgeted to receive $235,000 more than it did in the previous fiscal year.

Swanenburg said he would not support contracting with Newport News Waterworks for long-term water.

Hipple said the county is still weighing its water options, but said there are solid choices on the table.

Other options that have been discussed by the current board include a possible desalination plant by Chickahominy Riverfront Park, or serving as a test site for the Hampton Roads Sanitation District’s Sustainable Water Initiative for Tomorrow program.

When it comes to affordable housing, Hipple said it’s too expensive to build affordable single-family houses in James City County.

“We’re working hard to solve that situation,” Hipple said.

Swanenburg said the current board has ignored finding a solution to affordable housing.

Hipple and Swanenburg said the schools are adequately funded. However, Swanenburg said Williamsburg should shoulder more of the financial burden.

“We need to go deeper and have the city pay their fair share,” Swanenburg said.

Jefferson can be reached by phone at 757-790-9313.

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