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In District 1:?Belgard, Toland in a rematch

October 16, 2012
Jenn Brookens - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - If the race seems familiar, it's because the two candidates were running for District 1 commissioner earlier this year in a special election.

"It was a 50-vote difference with only 20 percent turnout," said Bob Toland, who lost to Elliot Belgard in February. "I felt that was pretty close, so I wanted to try again, and some asked me to run again, and it's where my interest is."

Toland, who lives in Nashville Township and serves as the Winnebago police chief, said he is making plans to retire in order to concentrate on Martin County.

Article Photos

Elliot Belgard

"If I win, I would be retired by January, but I am already planning to retire within the next year," he said. "I want to set my direction and stay involved. I can use my experience to take care of District 1."

Meanwhile, Elliot Belgard is learning the ropes as a commissioner.

"It was an easy transformation," Belgard said. "The regular board part was pretty simple. Human Services is a little more complex, but everyone's worked real good with me."

He admits there is a lot more for him to learn as a commissioner.

"I'd still like to learn more about the county budget. It's a little overwhelming," he said. "I've dealt with city budgets before, and this is bigger, but on a different scale. Most of the fat from the budget was cut years ago from these things. ... Public safety will always be important to me, and that's been cut to the bone. I'm not into cutting roads and infrastructure. You cut that too much and it'll turn around and bite you."

Another concern is the ARMER communications radio system.

"We never did get that grant, and on Jan. 1, it's happening whether we're ready or not," Belgard said.

"It's nothing new; we've known about it for over a decade but there was no movement forward," Toland said in regard to the ARMER radio system. "It wasn't budgeted for because they were told a grant would be there for them, and then they didn't get it. We need to start running the county like a business, and learn how to move forward with budgeting."

While current commissioners have shelved ideas for a new or upgraded jail, Belgard and Toland say the issue eventually must be addressed.

"When they talked about remodeling the LEC building, I was still confused with the problems we had when the jail was inspected. Will any remodeling they're talking about go toward that?" Toland asked. "The jail will need to be re-addressed, but there are avenues to get that done without going through another expensive study."

District 1 consists of eastern Martin County, including Truman, Granada, East Chain and the northeastern portion of Fairmont.

"I've lived in the first district my entire life," Belgard said. "I have a history of working and volunteering with civil and city duties, and now I have some experience at the county level. I would like to continue working on the current issues of the ARMER system, roads and infrastructure. We can't cut public safety."

"I want to be open to constitutes, and be open to those who have a problem," Toland said. "I want to be able to sit down and talk about it. ... I've given out my home phone and cell phone numbers and my email address to people already. I have over 30 years of working with the public; I have a skill set I can offer to the county, and I will give 110 percent of my effort to the county because it will be my No. 1 priority."



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