Politics & Government

York County Council: No miracles, but council candidates seek change

YORK -- The two candidates vying for western York County's council seat both agreed only a miracle can improve all the district's roads, an issue that's been a sore spot with voters for decades.

"I'm not going to sit up here and lie," said Democrat Will Bigger, 23, a marketing consultant who is running for the District 3 county council seat. "Unless there's some kind of miracle, the funds just won't be there. That being said, I'll do my level best."

Republican Joe Cox agreed.

"The money's not there," Cox, 42, said. "I'm not going to make miracles."

The two candidates sparred at a Monday night forum at Cotton Belt Elementary School. About 30 people attended.

Both referred to the infighting that has plagued the current council, each saying they had the skills to build consensus.

"If anybody has ever been a mayor and has been yelled at as many times as I've been yelled at, they know I can get along with anybody," Cox said. He is serving his third term as Sharon's mayor.

Bigger pointed out that he had been elected student body president at Francis Marion University, a school with more students than the population of most of western York County's municipalities.

The candidates answered questions sent in from the audience about issues, including:

• The county's waste plan: Cox said he would oppose any landfills in the district. "When you start bringing in landfills, it kills the property on each side," he said. "Bringing in construction debris from Mecklenburg County is not what I think is good business for western York County."

Bigger said more investment in recycling could help manage the county's waste.

A developer's plan to build a construction and debris landfill near York has alarmed some nearby residents. But York County officials say these types of facilities are needed because of the county's housing boom.

• Recreation: Both candidates said the county should not provide recreation facilities and staff. York County, which dissolved its recreation department years ago, pays municipal recreation departments to serve residents outside city limits.

"I think the municipalities can work with the county to make this work," Cox said. The facilities and infrastructure are already in place within the cities, he said. "We don't need to drain the taxpayer to put in new ballfields, bleachers, septic tanks, water systems."

• The county's land-use plan: Both said the plan, which is designed to manage the county's skyrocketing growth until 2025, might need some reworking.

"The problem is, you've got to have all the stakeholders at the table, taxpayers, businesses, labor leaders, the farmers," Bigger said. "When everyone's at the table they can hash it out, and until then we won't have a comprehensive plan that is satisfying everyone."

The county's plan was developed over several years with input from residents around the county, including a citizens steering committee.

Cox said he received a copy of the plan last week and read it, and he didn't believe it was a good fit for western York County. "If you want to borrow it, I'm more than happy to lend it out," he said of the plan. "If you need to go to sleep, ten minutes of it, you're there."