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Commission candidates air their views // DISTRICT 1

As Republican County Commissioner Frank Schiraldi prepares to leave office, the two candidates vying for his seat are not only debating each other.

They also are debating the policies that Schiraldi and other commissioners have left behind.

Republican Roger Batchelor supports the board's move to privatize the county jail and ambulance service. Democrat Mike Gudis disagrees, saying those services should be run by the county.

Gudis, a vice president of the Boys & Girls Club of Citrus County, says the board was wrong to deny funding to the club this year while donating to the Key Training Center and the Citrus County Abuse Shelter Association. He suggests setting up guidelines for distributing funds to groups based on whether their work helps save taxpayer money in the future.

Batchelor, on the other hand, says commissioners could avoid the dilemma by donating to the United Way, an umbrella organization, and allowing it to divide the funds.

Batchelor says commissioners are on the right track in trying to attract businesses to Citrus though a newly established incentive program that funds infrastructure improvements and other business costs through occupational license revenues. To choose worthy businesses, Batchelor suggests the creation of an economic development council.

Taking a different stance, Gudis says commissioners should do more to make the county business-friendly. He suggests easing the permitting process and offering tax incentives.

Batchelor also favors lowering impact fees to draw business, while Gudis says he has yet to form an opinion on the issue.

The disagreements between Gudis and Batchelor can be explained partly by their different political affiliations.

Gudis, a tax consultant, is chairman of the county's Democratic Executive Committee.

Batchelor, a charter boat captain, served as Commissioner Jim Fowler's campaign manager in 1994 and also worked on the campaign to elect Schiraldi two years earlier.

These involvements have led Gudis to charge that Batchelor is closely aligned with current commissioners. Batchelor, however, says his views are his own.

Batchelor says many of Gudis' proposals would lead to tax increases or the cutting of other services. He also says Gudis is wrong to think the county can run services such as the jail and the ambulance service more effectively that private companies.

"We haven't had an escape since (Corrections Corporation of America) took over," Batchelor said in a recent interview. "We did when (former Sheriff) Charlie Dean had it."

Gudis says he thinks it is the county's responsibility to provide services that "deal directly with people's lives."

Gudis also says he will not raise taxes, but will consider streamlining county government. "I think that there's a lot of waste that goes on in county government," he said.

While Batchelor doesn't use the same tone, he also says commissioners should review county departments to avoid "duplication" of services.

A member of the county's planning and development review board, Batchelor favors eliminating bureaucracy in the county's building and planning divisions and finalizing a "one-stop permitting" process.

Gudis says he will work to preserve the county's "rural atmosphere" by balancing development against zoning requirements. He also says Batchelor is closely aligned with members of the building industry.

Records show Batchelor has received campaign contributions from a number of business people, including developer Jim Eyster, developer Steve Tamposi and real estate broker Alan Bell.

But Batchelor, a former member of the Citrus County Builders Association, says he simply has a number of friends in the building industry.

Gudis, meanwhile, has financed much of his campaign with his own money.

County Commision, District 1

Where the candidates stand

Issue: Proposed Suncoast Parkway extension through Citrus County

ROGER BATCHELOR (R)

Says if the toll road is built to the county's southern border, it should be built through the county to U.S. 19. He does not support a referendum on the issue.

MIKE GUDIS (D)

He agrees that if the road comes, it should come through the county. But he supports holding a parkway referendum.

Issue: The county's jail and ambulance services, which were privatized last year.

ROGER BATCHELOR (R)

Says he is satisfied that Florida Regional Emergency Medical Services and Corrections Corporation of America are living up to their contracts with the county, providing equal or better service at a lower cost.

MIKE GUDIS (D)

Opposes private management of the jail and EMS and says he thinks the county should run the services.

Issue: How to improve the county's water quality

ROGER BATCHELOR (R)

Favors expanding central water and sewer systems by taking out a low-interest bond that would be paid off with user fees. Emphasizes working with the cities of Crystal River and Inverness to reach interlocal agreements.

MIKE GUDIS (D)

Suggests expanding central water and sewer systems in the county with funds from a bond issue that could be paid for through hook-up fees.

Source: the candidates

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