Former Monroe County commission chairman Mike Bilderback has an ad in this week’s Reporter encouraging a “no” vote on the road tax referendum set for Nov. 5, and announcing he’ll challenge current chairman Greg Tapley for his old seat.

Bilderback said as chairman he would never have supported putting such an important issue before voters when there will be such low turnout. Bilderback went on to say that he’s been disappointed at the amount of spending the county is doing, and said he’ll challenge Tapley in 2020. If passed, the referendum would raise Monroe County sales taxes from 7 to 8 percent to fund road improvements. See ad on page 5A.

It will be the third time the rivals have faced off. Bilderback beat Tapley for the District 3 commission post in 2006, but Tapley unseated Bilderback as chairman in 2016.

For his part, Tapley said Bilderback is welcome to run for chairman but that he disagrees on the sales tax.

“I beat him last time because people understood he wasn’t what we needed and wasn’t the leader we needed,” said Tapley. Tapley said many people are much happier with how things are run and morale is much higher than under Bilderback’s leadership.

And Tapley said the tax is the best way to get the county’s roads up to speed. 

“There’s been a lot of neglect of our roads for so many years,” said Tapley, “and the cost of repairing and replacing roads is exponentially higher than it used to be.” Tapley said the sales tax takes the burden off property taxpayers and allows travelers coming through the county to help fund roads.

Thus far, only 371 out of 19,662 registered voters have cast ballots in early voting in the referendum, said Monroe County elections superintendent Kaye Warren. Also 115 absentee ballots have been turned in. Early voting ends this Friday at 4:30 p.m. and final voting will take place from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5. Holding a county-wide election for just one ballot question at the county’s 14 precincts is costing taxpayers about $5,600, Warren said.

Warren noted that the number of registered voters in Monroe County is up by about 19 percent in the past two years, from about 16,000 to about 19,000, since the state started automatically automatically registering people to vote when they get their driver’s license. 

City voters will elect two council members, with Walter Goodson challenging councilman John Howard on Post 1 and Rosemary Walker challenging councilman Melvin Lawrence for Post 3.