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Commission candidates air their views // DISTRICT 5

In the race for the District 5 County Commission seat, Republican incumbent Brad Thorpe is facing Democrat Joe Cino.

Not long ago, Thorpe was a Democrat and Cino was a Republican.

Their decisions to change parties do not represent any significant ideological shifts _ only modified views of where each man said he fit in best.

In the 1992 election, Cino, then an independent, was facing Thorpe, then a Democrat. Thorpe won.

Meanwhile, in 1994, Cino took a stab at the District 4 seat as a Republican. Jim Fowler emerged the victor in the race.

Now Cino has come back as a Democrat.

Thorpe had switched his party affiliation to the GOP in May 1995, a decision that he attributed to a disagreement with the county's Democratic Executive Committee on the issue of privatization. Thorpe supported turning over the county's ambulance service to a private company, while the committee opposed the idea.

Cino said his decisions had little to do with outside forces.

"I was a soul searching for a place to belong," he said recently. A self-described fiscal conservative, Cino says he "believes people count" and decided he was a Democrat at heart.

Cino and Thorpe disagree on a wide range of issues, including privatization of public services, county donations to charitable organizations and plans for the county landfill.

Thorpe says commissioners have made the right decision by continuing to expand the Lecanto landfill. He says it will take about five years for the county to pay off outstanding debt on the facility and contends that landfills are the cheapest trash option.

"You just can't shut the gate and walk away," Thorpe told Citrus business leaders at a meeting last week. "So the landfill will be there for a while."

Cino argues the county should stop burying garbage because leaks in the landfill liner might endanger the water supply. Instead, he says, the county should consider building a recycling and composting facility like the one used in Sumter County.

In such a facility, recyclables are mechanically sorted out of trash, while the remainder is composted and transformed into material that can be reused in agriculture.

"Everything is used or sold," Cino said in a recent interview. "We've got to be self-sufficient and self-reliant."

Funding for the project could come from a countywide assessment, Cino suggests.

Thorpe argues that turning to recycling would only put the county in deeper debt. "The longer the landfill runs, the more cost effective it gets," he said.

Thorpe, who now serves as commission chairman, says he is proud that during his term the board has begun a number of projects, including purchasing land for a sewer plant in the southwest region, reorganizing county government and beginning construction of the new Lecanto Government Building.

"The experience of the last four years gives me, I think, a good reason to transition to another four years to try to complete some of these projects," Thorpe said.

Cino says he wants to take the county in a different direction, working to bring the now-privatized county jail and county ambulance service back under county control.

Cino also disagrees with Thorpe on whether commissioners should put major issues before voters on the ballot. Cino favors non-binding referendums as a way to gauge public opinion. Thorpe opposes them, saying he was elected to make decisions for his constituents.

Cino criticizes the county government as having a top-heavy administration, with supervisory positions that could be cut.

In specific, Cino suggested: "We could eliminate (county Public Safety Director) Tad Stone's job, which I would do personally, because I don't think he has a job here."

Thorpe disagrees, saying that the county has already saved more than $100,000 through its recent internal reorganization and that Stone performs a number of vital duties, including monitoring the county's contracts with Florida Regional Emergency Medical Services and Corrections Corporation of America.

Thorpe also stands by the commissioners' decision this year to fund only the Key Training Center and the Citrus County Abuse Shelter Association, groups that have historically received county support.

Cino says commissioners should not deny funding to groups like the Boys & Girls Club of Citrus County. He supports creating an advisory panel that would decide which organizations deserve funding based on set criteria.

Cino, who manages Hudson Tire Center in Homosassa, also says if elected he would decline to accept county health and retirement benefits.

Thorpe has not mentioned any such plans.

County Commision, District 5

Where the candidates stand

Issue: Proposed Suncoast Parkway extension through Citrus County

BRAD THORPE (R)

Supports construction of the road if it is built to the county's southern border.

JOE CINO (D)

Says he opposes the toll road, but supports a referendum on the issue. If voters support the road, he says he would also.

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

BRAD THORPE (R)

Says he believes Florida Regional and CCA are providing services that are equal to or better than those offered under the county, at substantial savings.

JOE CINO (D)

Says he thinks Florida Regional's service is poor and the jail has become unsafe. He favors terminating the EMS contract and working to bring the ambulance service back under county control.

Issue: How to improve the county's water quality

BRAD THORPE (R)

Favors expanding central water and sewer in the county by placing a 1 percent sales tax on a countywide ballot.

JOE CINO (D)

Says the county should first seek out grants and loans to help pay for central water and sewer systems. Says other funding should come from a low-interest loan that would be paid off with user fees.

Sources: The candidates

_ Information from Times files was used in this report.

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