Enquirer Herald

County Council District 3 battle 'critical'

York County Councilman Joe Cox says he helped bring a turbulent council together and got things done from his first day on the job.

But his opponent, Eddie Lee, paints a different portrait of Cox: a divisive bully whose decisions have hurt the county.

"District 3 is not united," said Lee, a 55-year-old Democrat who hopes to unseat the incumbent Republican in next week's election. "District 3 has been broken up into competing interests. ... The city of York vs. Sharon."

Lee places much of the blame for the division on Cox's plan to build more substations in the western half of the county.

Cox, 44, said the substations are needed to provide faster emergency response and lower insurance rates for those now living more than 5 miles from a fire station.

Cox also fought against a 2007 deal between the city of York and the county where the county agreed to pay York for city firefighters to handle calls outside city limits. He said the deal took money away from rural fire departments.

Lee claims Cox was "highly critical" of the York Fire Department during that debate. He calls the substation program "unnecessary."

"I would never have created the division between the fire departments, rural and city," Lee said. "I think that was a big mistake. It was almost done in a playful way. And I don't think government is a plaything."

Cox, however, questions Lee's judgment. The one-term incumbent vehemently disagrees with Lee's criticism of the council recently passing a $45 million bond.

The bond money will pay for projects such as building a prison and road construction. Some of those projects were included in a 2006 referendum that was rejected by voters.

"It wasn't dire," Lee said of the bond. "Seventy percent of the voters in York County said, 'We don't think we need this right now.' They still say we don't need this right now."

Cox contends the bond was necessary and he questions Lee's grasp of the county's space needs.

"I hope that his governing skills are better if he gets elected than his ideas of what's going on in the county," Cox said. "Not only do I have problems with the prison and the jail, I have problems when you have a public defender who has 12 attorneys and he's got three of them per office and no place to do an interview. ... I've got Beagles sitting in a dog house over there that probably have more room than a college-educated attorney."

Lee says he'll be a strong advocate for widening the S.C. 5 bypass in his district and pressing the county's economic development office to pay more attention to western York County.

Cox is running on his record as a go-getter. He said he was instrumental in moving the engineering troubled "Pennies" program into the hands of county engineers and led the charge to pass an ordinance that penalizes those who ride ATVs on others land without written permission

County Council members serve two-year terms and are paid $15,544 annually.