Whitman County Commissioner candidates debate Hawkins Development

COLFAX, WA - Voters gathered in the Whitman County Library Tuesday night to hear from all four county commissioner candidates on November's ballot.

The issue that received the most attention was the Hawkins Development that would invest county money into a shopping center. All three Republican candidates were against it.

"I thought it was a little like the build it and they will come theory, in that 'Let's build a big retail spot and we're sure somebody will show up," said Whitman County Commissioner District 1 Candidate Art Swannack.

County Commissioner District Two Candidate Dean Kinzer said that the commissioners should have listened to the taxpayers, and to the paid advisers that the county has on staff.

"Some of the advisers as a matter of fact said, 'This is a Las Vegas gamble' and that's exactly what it is," said Kinzer.

The only supporter of the Hawkins Development was District Two Incumbent Pat O'Neill. He defended the commissioners and said that the county doesn't have many other options.

"Bottom line is we had to have more revenue to keep this county operating," said O'Neill.

O'Neill said that the shopping will bring more businesses into the county, which he believes means that more people will want to shop and live in Whitman County. However opponents of the development say that the county isn't attracting business because of its financial state.

"Any business moving into this county is going to look at: Is it stable? or are they getting ready to jack taxes up because they're in the hole again," said Swannack.

Swannack believes that business will come if the budget is solid, and the threat of higher taxes will scare them away. But no matter who's elected, they will face some serious challenges when tackling Whitman County's budget.

"We're broke, we're broke, we're broke," said O'Neill.