COOS COUNTY — In the final weeks leading up to Election Day, The World caught up with county commissioner incumbent John Sweet and challenger Katy Eymann to discuss their campaigns and why they should be elected for Coos County Commissioner, Position No. 2.

From the start of his campaign, Sweet pledged his commitment to expanding the county’s revenue and creating new jobs. The Bandon native, who has served as commissioner for the last five years, said he wants to see the county continue on its path to investing into a more diversified economy.

While Sweet highlighted the contributions from the county’s longstanding timber and fishing industries, he also pointed out the county’s emerging tourism sector and future business developments as substantial sources of revenue.

In particular, he mentioned the incoming GMA Garnet processing plant, which is currently under construction in Coos Bay, at the former Oregon Resources Corporation facility. The Australian-based company, with an American subsidiary, produces and ships industrial garnet to waterjet cutting and protective coating industries.

“We can set the table, but it takes private investment to make this work,” Sweet said. “I’m not just interested in having new companies come in here or big corporations. It’s important to also expand our local economy and see local businesses here thriving.”

Sweet said the new company has about 100 people right now updating the plant and believes the initial workforce to be about 20 new employees. Sweet has also been an avid supporter of the Jordan Cove Energy Project and stated the company will add more high paying jobs to the area.

However, challenger Eymann sees it much differently. The attorney, who worked as a Coos County Public Defender, said the jobs issued by the Jordan Cove Energy Project are short-term positions which would be filled mainly by out-of-town union workers. Eymann said she’s already heard from local mill owners about concerns of being able to compete and retain their current union employees.

“They say 250 full-time workers at the terminal, however we looked at full-time terminal operations around the county and they take about 80 to 100 workers,” Eymann said. “First they said 150, then 180, now 250. It doesn’t sound like good information from the company.”

Along with the accuracy of jobs the project is said to bring, Eymann also spoke of the safety concerns that she has in regards to its installation.

Eymann points to a Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators publication, which states that an LNG terminal should be placed remotely away from a population center and away from any geological hazardous areas.

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She warned if an explosion were to happen, nearby buildings would disintegrate and those outside would suffer second degree burns within 30 seconds.

On the other spectrum, Sweet said he believes the engineering and design of the LNG terminal will be built to withstand any natural disaster.

“Some of the fears that I think are unfounded about Jordan Cove,” Sweet said. “The explosion hazard has been grossly overstated.”

For Eymann, much of her campaign has been focused on opposition to the Jordan Cove LNG Project. From its safety concerns to its potential environmental impact, Eymann has stated numerous reasons the project should be stopped.

In addition to her Jordan Cove stance, Eymann has also shifted her focus to addressing the housing crisis in Coos County and creating more jobs. If elected, Eymann said she would look to the 2018 Coos County Housing Analysis and Action Plan completed in the spring for direction on how to tackle the housing issue in town.

“The study says we don’t have a housing affordability problem, we have a housing market that is stuck,” Eymann said. “It means prices are too high and the quality of housing that is available is too low. We need to interrupt that market.”

Eymann also talked about developing the county’s workforce through a series of community based workshops and training. As part of her campaign, Eymann said she is also interested in protecting jobs within the fishing industry and ensuring its future in the county’s economy.

“I want the best for the people living here,” Eymann said.

The League of Women Voters of Coos County will be hosting a candidate forum Oct. 23 at Coos Bay City Hall featuring both Sweet and Eymann. The candidates for Coos County Sheriff, M.A. Kinnaird and Sheriff Craig Zanni, will also be in attendance.

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