Candidates for the newly created north Fulton commission seat, District 2, Eric Broadwell and Bob Ellis were both present to answer questions from moderators Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, Milton Mayor Joe Lockwood and District 21 State Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta.
When asked how to fix the county’s problem of overcrowded prisons, both candidates said that purchasing an Atlanta detention center that is only 20 percent full would be a good option.
On the topic of MARTA trains and their potential ascension into north Fulton, Ellis said he doesn’t see the concept as plausible because of the high cost.
“I think there are a lot of other things from a transportation standpoint that need to be a priority,” he said. “We’ve got a lot more critical things we could do with that spend.”
Broadwell said the public transportation in the Atlanta area is a “nightmare.”
“We need to do something on a regional level,” he said. “When I use the North Springs MARTA station, it is slam packed. [North Fulton residents] really want to use the MARTA station.”
However, he said, the solution has to “fiscally make sense” for him to support the extension.
Both candidates were also asked about their views on re-creating Milton County.
Broadwell said he supported Milton County, but for the north portion of the county to secede, Fulton County has to be made “fiscally healthy.”
“It has to be able to financially stand on its own two feet,” he said.
Mentioning the complaints of south Fulton residents that their taxes would go “sky high” if north Fulton broke away, Broadwell said, “Maybe we need to look at the type of services and everything that they’re spending money on and maybe correct that.”
Ellis said he is for the concept of Milton County.
“But the reality is, it doesn’t look like that’s particularly practical at this point in time,” he said. “What I’m committed to doing is to work to make Fulton County as good as it can be.”
Ellis said ways to improve Fulton County include restoring fiscal responsibility and balancing the budget.
In his closing statement, Broadwell said with the new north Fulton seat, there needs to be a “team effort” to end the gridlock between the cities and county and to find ways to reduce the budget “so we can get back to a reasonable taxation.” Broadwell also said the commission needs to establish term limits.
Ellis closed by saying his mission is to fix the “dysfunction” in Fulton County.
He said to balance the county’s budget, “We’re going to have to take cost out of the system. Taking cost out of the system is hard. Those are tough decisions.”
Ellis also said the county needs to let local governments lead more.
The Fulton County commission election is May 20, with early voting starting Monday.
The forum was sponsored by the Alpharetta Business Association.