Addressing the issues in the Wayne
Story by Chris Graham
The final candidate forum of the 2003 local election season – featuring the three candidates for the Wayne District seat on the Augusta County Board of Supervisors – drew 105 people to the Wilson Memorial High School auditorium Thursday night.
Republican incumbent Tom Sikes and independent challengers Wendell Coleman and Larry Weeks answered questions on issues ranging from education to transportation to tax policy in the 90-minute forum – which was cosponsored by the Emerald Hills Home Owners Association and The Augusta Free Press.
AFP co-publisher Chris Graham served as the moderator for the forum.
Weeks, a vocal supporter of the construction of fourth middle school in the county, discussed the need of the board of supervisors to take a step back when it comes to schools.
Instead, he said, he wants to work to improve the relationship between the two boards – having joint meetings at a neutral site with a neutral moderator.
Coleman talked about the need for the fourth middle school – and also talked about the importance of technology in the classroom.
“I think that every student deserves the opportunity to learn in a classroom that is modern and well-equipped with the latest educational technology.”
Coleman also discussed the importance of finding a way to pay teachers at a competitive level.
All three candidates said that it is important that the county control growth – and all offered their own definitions for what that means to them.
Weeks said that residential development is expensive – and is a drain on county revenue.
Coleman said the county must remain sensitive to the rights of property owners.
He suggested the county take a closer look at its comprehensive plan.
“The current position of the board of supervisors is that it is only a plan, which means they may or may not follow it,” he said. “The existing plan desperately needs to be updated.”
Sikes said that he is working to plan for the future, working with the Virginia Department of Transportation.
“I am working with the developers to become a part of the solution,” he said.
Sikes also said that he wishes to preserve the rural character of the county.
Many people in the Wayne District think too much is being done in the way of road improvements. In some cases, stoplights are put in where some people feel they are not needed.
Not to mention that Interstate 81 improvements are on the minds of folks throughout the district and state as a whole.
Coleman suggested at the forum that the board of supervisors work jointly with VDOT on a meaningful six-year improvement plan – something that works, he said.
“We need to develop a vision for what we anticipate the area should look like within the county’s revised comprehensive plan,” he said. “And we need to make decisions with that plan.”
Sikes, who has served for the past 12 years on the board, said that in his term, more transportation dollars have been allocated to the Wayne District than any other in the county.
Weeks suggested that the county could lean on the state a bit more in the future.
“The board needs to use its influence to get more state funding,” he said.
Weeks said that he already has good working relationships with state officials and said there would be no need for introductions.
Weeks also said that he feels that I-81 should not be a Virginia issue. In fact, he said it is a national issue.
“Virginia businesses and taxpayers should not be paying the price to upgrade 81.”