Here are the responses to the Flashpoint Candidate Questionnaire from Madison County Commission, District 5 candidate Bobby Abernathy:
1. What is your position on the proposed Sales Tax increase?
I am against the Sales Tax increase. We need to look to some alternative ways to raise funds for our schools besides a sales tax increase. I am a very strong supporter of our schools, and if elected, I will do everything in my power to help make our schools the best in the country.
2. What is your position on raising Property Taxes for schools outside the City limits of Huntsville or Madison?
Our Property Taxes in Madison County need to stay in Madison County. I am against raising the Madison County property owners’ taxes to fund schools outside of Madison County.
3. Describe your approach to Economic Development? Does the County need more Industrial Parks / Sites; would you support development of a TVA Megasite in the County?
We must assure we have safe communities and great schools. I feel this is the first thing we need to do to bring other industries into this area. We must also work together with the cities in Madison County, and other agencies such as the Chamber of Commerce that help bring monies into our county. We all need to be on the same page because growth benefits us all. I would support a TVA mega site. My Grandfather worked for TVA for 30 years.
4. What is your position on ‘Metro Government’?
I favor Metro Government with the growth of Madison County. We need to look more into this idea. County and City leaders must work together and forget about their titles (Councilman, Commissioner, etc.), and look at making Huntsville and Madison County the best it can be.
5. Which roads and bridges in the County are most in need of improvement; which roads in your District need improvement?
I feel Winchester Road is in need of improvement with all of the traffic and new building in that area. We must make it safer. The roads in District 5 are city maintained.
6. Describe your approach to public safety. Does the Sheriff’s Department have adequate resources? Does the Fire Marshall have adequate resources? Do the Volunteer Fire Departments have adequate resources; should the County establish a ‘regular’ Fire Department? Does the EMA have adequate resources?
As a 25-year veteran of the Police Department, Public Safety is an area of which I have first-hand knowledge. The County Commission must give the Sheriff whatever he needs to keep us safe. We must give our Sheriff’s Department more resources. These brave men and women work 24 hours a day for very little pay. They are understaffed and use old equipment. I feel they do a great job, but unless we raise their pay and get better equipment and hire more staff we will continue to lose them to Huntsville PD (where the starting pay is almost $14,000 more a year), Madison PD, and other larger departments. I feel the Fire Marshall is also in need of more resources. We also must continue to help our Volunteer Fire Departments. They all do a great job, but have limited resources at their disposal. Too many times many people never think of our Public Safety heroes unless their house is on fire, someone is breaking in, or their home has been damaged by a storm.
7. How would you improve County Mental Health services?
One of the first things would be to reopen the “City Program” school at the Mental Health Center. The school was closed because of funding issues. The children who were in this program have serious mental health issues. These children are now at several city and county schools. These kids need more help than a regular school can give them. I feel this poses a danger to the students and staff because the regular teachers are not trained to deal with many of the issues that these children have. I have been personally involved with many of these children. I taught classes at Mental Health and I had several of these kids at my schools this last school year. I also had to arrest some of these children because of violent outbursts. Most of these kids do not need to be in jail. They need to be in an environment that has the resources that can help them.
8. Does the County need more Parks / Greenways and if so, where?
We are blessed with many parks in our county. We need to continue to fund and keep up our parks and also look at adding additional parks as the population grows with BRAC over the next few years.
9. What do you propose for protecting the Flint River?
I’m not familiar with any problems associated with the Flint River, but would be willing to investigate any issues brought to my attention.
10. What is the biggest problem facing your district?
I feel that the biggest problem facing District 5 is the overcrowded schools. We are in desperate need of a new high school, as well as repairs to most of the other existing facilities.
Plus a softball: Are there any questions you wish we had asked? Go ahead and answer it.
I want to be your full time Commissioner in District 5. When elected I will retire from the Huntsville Police Department to devote all of my attention to District 5. I will be in the office five days a week to answer the citizens’ questions and concerns. I will listen to your needs. Madison County pays each of the Commissioners over $60,000 a year. Most of the people in my district don’t make $60,000 a year at their full time job. Some commissioners work full time and others work part time. This is not fair to the commissioners or citizens. I feel for $60,000 a year; the citizens deserve and should insist they have a full time representative. I don’t understand how with another full time job, anyone could devote enough time to the voters of District 5. I was taught at a young age the importance of working hard at a job. My mother told me as a child “if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” I have never held public office and I don’t know everything, but what I do know is we need honest and hard working men and women– not politicians– representing us.