Bob Brantley faced no opposition the first time he ran for the Effingham County Board of Commissioners. This time, he has to withstand a challenge from local businessman Forrest Floyd.
Brantley, a Democrat, and Floyd, a Republican, are vying for the 1st District seat, and both men are optimistic about Tuesday’s outcome.
“I think it’s been going excellent, the best I can tell,” said Floyd. “I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from friends and family who are talking with other people. I’ve had a good response from people I’ve been talking with.
“People are dissatisfied, and they want something different,” Floyd continued. “That’s why I feel pretty strong about the outcome and turnout next Tuesday. A lot of people are not happy with the way things are going.”
Brantley said he has had plenty of requests from people wanting to put up his signs on their property.
“We’re doing everything we possibly can,” he said. “Last time, I ran unopposed, so this is all new to me. I haven’t had a lot of complaints. The people I’ve dealt with have called me for specific reasons.”
Floyd said the May 2011 fish kill in the Ogeechee River and its aftermath continue to be an issue for 1st District residents. He has castigated the county for what he sees as a lack of leadership on the issue.
“(People) are dissatisfied with the way that’s been handled,” he said.
Brantley said he brought up a possible resolution about the river during commissioners’ committee reports but didn’t generate any discussion.
“As a single commissioner, you can’t do anything except talk about it,” he said.
Brantley has talked with state Sen. Jack Hill, state Rep. Jon Burns and U.S. Rep. John Barrow about the Ogeechee and there was very little state and federal lawmakers could do, he said.
“That’s in the state’s hands. It’s kind of out of the county commissioners’ hands,” Brantley said. “It’s up to what the governor and the state want to do. All you can do at this point is keep the fire going.”
Floyd called on the commissioners to adopt a resolution or a letter concerning the river’s health.
“That’s a simple act, and there’s no money spent to do that,” he said. “That’s the only way we can keep pressure on the state.”
Floyd also challenged the commissioners’ spending, such as the Goshen Road Extension fire station and on the commissioners eventually not moving forward on a letter of commitment on the Ebenezer Crossing grant proposal.
“People are in agreement with the way the commission voted on that swamp property,” he said. “They could care less about historic property on Ebenezer Creek when we’ve got problems on our side of the county with the Ogeechee River. Even if we had bought the property, then we’d have to spend money to make improvements.”
Floyd also pointed to Commissioner Phil Kieffer’s vote against the Goshen Road Extension fire station — the building is in Kieffer’s district — and to Brantley’s support of the project.
“Why do we build a Cadillac when we could have done it much cheaper or put it in a different location where it could help people?” he said. “It doesn’t make sense the way the money is being spent.”
Brantley said he wants to continue to find ways to reduce the county’s budget, down to $26 million from more than $30 million a few years ago. He also said Floyd has promised to pay back all the county’s promises to developers. The county currently is facing lawsuits asking for more than $10 million in compensation.
“I’ve tried to spend four years doing things in a moderate and modest way by cutting the budget and not just giving into these lawsuits. We can’t do that; it will break the county,” Brantley said. “I’ve tried to be very conservative and do what we can for the county and focus on doing the right things in the county and stay away from the petty politics.
“I realize there are people who employ people in the county. But there are a lot more people paying taxes than there are building houses in the county. We’ve got some pretty hefty lawsuits against the county. And if they are going to pay that back, somebody’s taxes are going up big time. You can’t do that on a $26 million budget. There’s just not that much fat there to cut. And that’s what the people need to know.”
The race has not been acrimonious, Floyd said, and the two men even have relatives in common, though they are not directly related to each other. Floyd said he spoke with Brantley after the most recent forum and also at the Effingham County Fair, where each had a booth.
“We talked at length about some of the issues and about being in politics,” Floyd said.