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Putnam Commission candidates cite work experience

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The two men running for a seat on the Putnam County Commission both think their work experiences will strengthen the county.

Republican Andy Skidmore, of Poca, thinks his financial expertise would assist the budget process, which he said is bound to change in the coming years. Democrat Lee Casto, of Bancroft, said his time working for the county and knowing its history would allow him to boost tourism.

The men are vying for the seat being vacated by Commissioner Gary Tillis, the only Democrat on the three-member commission. Tillis decided not to run for re-election.

Skidmore, 32, vice president of Passero Financial Group in Hurricane, said the county's budget would soon change because Putnam County's growth has slowed.

"If we don't have the growth, then we really have to get involved with the budget," Skidmore said.

Casto, 55, is head of the county's maintenance department. He also serves on the county's historic landmarks committee and the Hoge House committee.

"The one area we've not looked at is tourism," Casto said.

Both candidates agreed with the commissioners' decision to raise the county's fire fee by 50 percent, instead of the 100 percent raise firefighters had originally asked for. The fire fee hadn't been raised in more than 20 years.

"They did their research and worked with all parties ... they did the best they could," said Casto, who previously served as chief of the Bancroft Volunteer Fire Department. "I don't know if they need another raise or not, but I think this raise was needed."

Skidmore said the raise commissioners approved was sufficient.

"I don't think they need more, but I felt the increase was justified," he said. "My concern now is that those extra funds go to the right places."

Candidates weren't sure about the high cost of the new animal shelter being built near the Winfield bridge. The construction of the facility, costing more than $2 million, was approved by a 2-1 vote with Commissioner Steve Andes dissenting, saying it was too expensive.

"I wasn't sitting there, I don't know all the data ... but it's being built, and we have to accept what the sitting County Commission did," Casto said.

Skidmore said he's an animal lover and knows the current facility is in poor shape, "but it's too much [money] to put on the county residents."

Both candidates think continuing water extension projects for more rural areas of the county are important and said they'd work to help secure funding for them.

At a recent commission meeting, Tillis blocked a closed session from taking place for discussion of a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement. Those deals are usually made to lure a business to the county or given if a business commits to an expansion.

Tillis said Putnam County has a desirable business climate and doesn't need to offer the tax break.

Skidmore and Casto agreed but said such agreements should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

"I think Putnam has a lot to offer business ... I wouldn't say I'd never approve one -- there's a lot of variables that go in it, but we don't have to give a lot of tax breaks because there's a lot of incentives to relocate here already," Skidmore said.

"I'm for bringing industry to the county," Casto said. "I'm willing to look at all angles of it and try to work out a solution to bring good-paying jobs."

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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