Dix, Dillard tackle issues at forum

CONYERS — Democratic candidate for Rockdale County Board of Commissioners Caycie Dix said she would support expanding the board beyond its current three members during a candidate forum Saturday.

Dix and Courtney Dillard, her opponent in the July 20 primary election, spoke at the forum sponsored by the Rockdale County Democratic Party at the J.P. Carr Center in Conyers.

Dix responded to a question on expanding the role of the two part-time commissioners. She said she was "definitely in favor of increasing the commission board greater than three" and took the opportunity to take a swat at Dillard.

"I've been the only person who's been attending the county commissioner meetings and getting caught up on the different issues going on in the county," she said.

Dix added that the part-time commissioner post was more full time but promised to seek out public comment and do research on issues before voting.

Expanding the Board of Commissioners would require the county's General Assembly delegation to introduce legislation. If approved by state legislators, the proposal would go before voters in a ballot referendum.

The issue has attracted support. All of the four candidates running for the 94th House seat said they would support legislation. Andrew Bostic of Lithonia said he would "support it and introduce it," if elected.

Dillard did not answer the question on expanding the Board of Commissioners but did expound that no one had thought of Rockdale County as a regional shopping center and the county was not doing enough to take advantage of that and spur economic development.

"We're not identifying to the fact that 60 percent of our tax base is coming from outside the county. We have to begin to talk to these people now. I can not wait until November," he said. "My job as a leader is to call those people to the table today."

Dillard fired back on Dix and said he had not attended any of the BOC meetings because he had been doing his research. "I don't go to the board meetings because there is really nothing to say," he said. "When I go to the board meetings there will be something to say."

He added that when elected, "My job will be to support our CEO and chairman, Richard Oden like it or not," he said. "We can't afford the divisions we've had before."

On business development Dix said the county should do all it can do to help existing businesses succeed that could include reviewing ordinances that may work against business.

"There are some ordinances on the books right now that are not favorable to businesses, for example, the weekend alcohol sales we have," she said. "Currently, we allow those facilities to sell alcohol Monday through Friday up to 2 a.m. However, on Saturday, which is their busiest day and when they make the most money, we require them to stop serving alcohol at midnight."

Dillard told of his experience as a developer and that knowledge would be used to make Rockdale County attractive to new business. Holding up a copy of the county's Comprehensive Land Use Plan, Dillard said the document was prepared in 2003 and that the county could not expect to be successful working off of an "8-year-old document."

Both said improving the county's infrastructure was an important component to attracting new business. Fielding a question from Garvin Haynes, an officer of the county's Democratic Party and a member of the county Water and Sewerage Authority, Dix said she would support making the Water and Sewerage Authority independent as a way to keep politics out of running the public-owned utility.

Haynes noted that the county is under a moratorium on new sewer connections due to capacity issues and is saddled with debt he said had been caused by mismanagement of previous county administrations.

Dillard stopped short of agreeing with Dix. He said he would have to base such a decision on "the best interest of the county and citizens."

"When infrastructure is not coming to business, then business is not coming here," he said.