For the first time in many years, Democratic voters have a primary election choice for a seat on the Henderson County Board of Commissioners.
Michelle Antalec and Patricia “Pat” Sheley, both residents of Flat Rock, are running for the nomination for the District 1 seat currently held by county commission Chairman Michael Edney, who has no opponent in the Republican primary.
Antalec, a risk manager for a corporation, has a degree in political science from Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., and a masters in finance from Louisiana State University. She has lived in Flat Rock since November 2015.
Sheley is a retired psychiatric mental health nurse with 40 years of nursing at outpatient and inpatient psychiatric facilities in North Carolina. She was employed at Dorothea Dix, Duke and UNC in charge of units that treated mental illness and addiction. She also served as a mental health nurse for four counties’ outpatient clinics. She owned and operated a small business with her husband of 51 years.
Here are the candidates’ answers to the Lightning’s questions on issues currently before the Board of Commissioners.
Why are you running for election to the Henderson County Board of Commissioners?
Antalec: My reasoning was to bring a new perspective to the commission and to ensure all of the whole county benefits from the taxes paid.
Sheley: I am an advocate for more transparency and community input to the board. The citizens of Henderson County should be kept abreast of major projects in the county prior to implementation. The board needs to listen to the peoples’ concerns and act in the best interest of the county. The board needs to be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers. Budget spending priorities must be set by the board. I often hear “We’ll need to raise taxes” at commission meetings.
Are you in favor or opposed to the proposed Balfour Parkway? Why?
Sheley: I am not in favor of bulldozing 200-400 homes. The residents affected by the Balfour project are doing everything in their power to save their homes and quiet communities. They are asking to be heard by the NCDOT and their local government. Some residents located in the path of the proposed routes have actually worked as professional engineers and know what they are talking about. I am listening to their voices.
Antalec: I am in favor of the Parkway. This is an amazing area to live in and to keep it that way we need the infrastructure to keep it that way. We are already seeing traffic congestion that given our growth will only be worse. This can be relieved with the north bypass.
On the subject of the N.C. 191 widening, do you favor a four-lane divided highway, a three-lane highway with center turn lane or no widening at all?
Antalec: I would prefer to see a four-lane divided highway for safety reasons.
Sheley: I attended the N.C. 191 public meeting. As I have said before, it looks like a done deal. There does seem to be some continued local public input. The Mills River Town Council has made proposals to NCDOT for three-lane highway from Schoolhouse Road to Banner Farm Road and a four-lane highway from Banner Farm Road to N.C. 280 with a multi-use path.
Are you in favor of or opposed to a law enforcement training center? Why?
Sheley: I am not in favor of duplicating services already available to Henderson County law enforcement. The Justice Academy in Edneyville offers a firing range and training center to Henderson County law enforcement. The sheriff is not utilizing all available training hours available to his officers. There are also outdoor ranges available for training in the area. Henderson County has more pressing issues. School safety budget must be our top priority.
Antalec: I am opposed to law enforcement training center because it would be providing a redundant service our law enforcement personnel can access nearby for significantly less expense.
The sheriff has pulled out of providing animal control service in cities (except Mills River, which has an $800,000-a-year contract for policing). Would you be in favor of revisiting this issue and funding the officers the sheriff says he needs to provide animal control services in Hendersonville, Laurel Park, Fletcher and Flat Rock?
Sheley: The Sheriff chooses to not offer services to incorporated areas that pay Henderson County taxes. Previously all Henderson County had full services from the Henderson County Sheriff’s Department. Maybe we all need to read the North Carolina statute which the sheriff keeps saying allows him to deny services to Henderson County taxpayers.
Henderson County has a budget fund balance of $50 million. From some points of view, that’s larger than it needs to be.
Would you be in favor of keeping it where it is, a property tax rollback or spending that money on a service or capital projects?
Sheley: I would vote to look at capital projects that would benefit the County. For example, the board actually refused to apply for a grant of $500,000 to do upgrades to Jackson Park. They refused to set aside $500,000 from the budget, just in case they did not receive the grant from the state. The Board voted unanimously “Not” to apply for the grant despite the number of citizens who use and enjoy the park. After the opioid forum they say they believe in community, yet when the opportunity arose to improve a valuable resource, they let us down.
Antalec: The fund balance is in excess of what is reasonable for a county of 8-12 percent. The money could be used to cut taxes.