Two Republican candidates for the Third District seat on the Labette County Commission discussed their views on the job in a virtual candidate forum Tuesday night. 

KLKC Radio organized the forum, which was recorded in its studio at 1812 Main.

Two candidates, Cole Proehl and Bill Hogelin, are seeking the seat to be vacated by Doug Allen of Parsons, who is not seeking reelection after one term in office. The vote in Tuesday’s primary will most likely determine who takes the seat as no Democrat filed for the office. The winner of the Nov. 3 election will take the seat in January 2021. Republican Brian Kinzie is running unopposed for the Second District seat to be vacated by Commissioner Fred Vail, who is not seeking a third term.

Proehl owns Pine Ridge Properties in Parsons. 

Hogelin is a former nine-year member of the Parsons City Commission. He is a retired insurance adjuster for Allstate. 

Each candidate had a minute to respond to questions and had time at the beginning for introductions and the end to wrap up the segment. The entire forum is available on KLKC’s social media pages, including Facebook and its website.

Among the questions and the candidate responses:

— Labette County commissioners last week agreed to spend a portion of the $3.9 million in COVID-19 relief funds it received from the state on the hospital, schools, cities and for revamping the courthouse in Oswego so trials can begin again in a pandemic environment. Previously, commissioners wanted to provide more money to schools and cities, but decided to reduce the amount to those entities in favor of the courthouse project.

Proehl said he understands that defendants have a constitutional right to a speedy trial. The county should follow the law. “There’s a lot of factors involved,” he said.

Hogelin said he attended the meeting where commissioners made that decision. Judge Fred W. Johnson spoke for the court system and no one was available to speak for the schools initially. “I think that weighed heavily on the decision that was made. It was difficult for them. They felt like they had to accommodate the court system.” He said the distribution can always change before Sept. 15 if there is money left over. “The school districts may in the end get more money than what was allotted the first time,” he said.

— Candidates were asked about how they would sort out priorities and still take care of business as a commissioner in and after the pandemic. 

Hogelin said all lives changed in the past several months. The first priority is the health of citizens and then the economic health of the county. “The impact will be significant when it’s all said and done, and that’s why you need the level heads at the top distributing the money.”

Proehl said people need to move forward with their lives and take proper precautions. “Let’s all do our part to get back to … the new way of doing things. We have to support local businesses when we can. We have to do our jobs. We have to go out and continue to live our lives. We cannot do this in fear, but we can take the proper precautions.”

— The county commission is asking department heads to turn in 2021 budgets reflecting 1% less in spending from the current year. Candidates were asked if they supported this approach.

Proehl said he supports the decision. All need to tighten their belts. Citizens may see a cutback in services, slower road repairs, fewer deputies or longer waits to get tags. He said we are all in this together, and together we can make it work.

Hogelin said he, too, supports the reduction in spending. He said as a city commissioner he’s familiar with the budgeting process and knows that fewer tax dollars may be available in the aftermath of the pandemic. “I see no other choice but to look at budget cuts in each department.”

— The county commission formed a committee to investigate wind energy and its impact on Labette County once a wind energy company, RWE, expressed interest in building a wind farm in the county. The process has been delayed by the pandemic but candidates were asked their thoughts on wind energy and the commission’s actions so far.

Hogelin said when he’s asked his opinion on wind energy, he says he’s neutral. “… We have to let the committee do its job and research it as far as possible. But, ultimately, it will be the county commissioners’ decision what is going to happen with the windmills. They will have to follow up and it will be a tough decision, and you’re not going to make everyone happy.” He referenced the wind farm development in Neosho County and the rancor the process created from the public and public officials. He thought the commission’s decision to appoint a committee to study wind energy was the appropriate one.

Proehl said wind energy is something to be considered. The commission needs to listen to the committee and weigh the pros and cons. He, too, was pleased the commission formed a committee of intelligent and dedicated people to study the matter. 

Candidates also answered questions on future support of Great Plains Industrial Park, the county’s rock crushing operation, how to adapt to support infrastructure and services and commented on a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest held in Parsons organized by three women who attended school here. 

Hogelin and Proehl support Great Plains and think the county should continue to support its needs into the future.

“We have to continue to do everything we can to take advantage of the facility out there and the great people that we have working for it,” Proehl said.

Hogelin thinks Great Plains is one of the most underdeveloped, underused industrial parks in the state and that the commission needs to do its part for the park to find future success. “It can’t be done without the help of the county.” 

In closing, Hogelin said his years of experience on the city commission and his career and volunteerism make him a good fit for the Third District seat, which represents a large portion of Parsons. He reminded voters to vote on Tuesday.

Proehl said he wants to serve the Third District and the county and that citizens’ thoughts and concerns matter to him.

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