FYN will be running a series of interviews with local candidates from the county commissioners and school board races. Each interview will be published separately and run again before the primary elections May 20.
Jerry Barnes, Incumbent, Pickens County Board of Commissioners, District 1
Self-described “country boy” Jerry Barnes takes his role as county commissioner seriously. He recognizes the importance of representing the people of Pickens County and says not only has he welcomed input in the past, but if he’s re-elected he has no plans to change his approachability.
Citing an old newspaper and his reverence for those who built Pickens County, he hopes that he can set an example for the younger generations as those pioneers did for him.
With the growth of Pickens County in mind but still attempting to maintain its rural setting, Barnes sat down with FYN to outline his objectives for the next four years should he retain his current District 1 seat.
What are the three most important issues facing Pickens County?
“Getting the county in good financial condition, fixing the infrastructure and jobs. We’re going to have a ‘meeting of the minds’ with all the elected officials to see if we can get on one page with the finances.”
He mentioned one branch that saw a fifty percent decrease in workload that wanted to increase their budget. Another area they’re examining is changes to the employees’ retirement including employee contributions to create a better retirement.
“We will probably freeze the current one. Those who are vested will be frozen,”
he explained. Those who were hired after a certain date will likely have an entirely new plan with several options for newer employees. He said changing the plan could save the county a substantial amount.
Barnes says that jobs are a concern but even with the employment rate around six percent which is better than others, we do need more jobs locally as many of the residents commute to the metro area for work.
“The biggest thing holding that back is infrastructure.”
“We need to concentrate on businesses that have a smaller footprint. I’d like to see (them) on the 515 corridor where it won’t affect people ten miles out from the city,”
Do you support a one, three or five person board? Why?
Barnes said he supports the three person board although initially he voted against it.
“The three person board really gives us a lot of options, a lot of feedback from each commissioner. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
He said he’s not heard any complaints about the three-person board and that he thinks a five person board would be too large for the county.
What are your thoughts on the water park?
He said he fully supports project as long as it doesn’t cost the county a lot of money with their efforts to stay fiscally conservative.
“It’s where it needs to be if they’re going to put it where they’re looking at now (State Route 515 at Antioch Church Road). It’s like other businesses: it doesn’t need to be out in the rural areas. The western end of Pickens County is an agricultural area and, in my opinion, that’s the way it needs to stay.”
Do you support the SPLOST referendum? Why?
“It gives the opportunity for the county to catch up on road repair, water line additions, fire departments, stuff that really needs to be done in case we do get more businesses in the county.”
If elected, do you have any specific goals in mind for western Pickens County?
“Nothing as of now. We’ve got to stay focused on getting the roads and the infrastructure taken care of. Maybe somewhere down the road. What I’d like is once we get in a good financial situation is to get more recreation in the different areas of the county for all age groups.”
He said not only is it important that kids have facilities for sports but other opportunities for everyone should be addressed, such as walking paths for adults who have to drive to different areas of the county to use the current facilities.
How would you propose to combat the ISO rating problem in the county?
“The first thing we’re going to have to do is get a few more fire departments in the county. Salacoa Highlands, the Ball Creek area and the south side of Jerusalem are areas of concern. I’d like to find some people who’d like to start volunteer departments. For example, Hinton is a class six even being volunteer,”
he reported. With other areas, including Salacoa, rating a ten on the ISO scale even volunteer departments would bring some relief to insurance rates.
Barnes clarified the new ISO rating system entails using satellite imaging and measuring the distance from the department to the front door of the house in road miles whereas in the past it was a radius-based system.
“’As the crow flies’ don’t fly no more. But we don’t need anything extravagant,”