The debate between the two candidates for Hunt County Judge was the highlight of Monday’s political forum sponsored by the Herald-Banner.

A standing room only crowd filled the Old Greenville Post Office building and most of them apparently were on hand for the face-off between incumbent County Judge Joe Bobbitt and John Horn, his challenger in the Republican primary. The race is expected to be decided in the primary, as there are no Democratic, third party or independent candidates for the position.

Bobbitt and Horn clashed from the beginning, primarily over money for the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office and problems with the foundation at the Hunt County Criminal Justice Center.

In responding to a question regarding whether the sheriff’s office has received adequate funding, Bobbitt produced a graph which indicated that during the past 10 years, the sheriff’s department annual budget had increased from $1.9 million to nearly $6 million.

“I certainly don’t expect to see that incremental growth stop,” Bobbitt said. “The Commissioners Court has always been open to working with the sheriff when he has specific needs. So, yes, in the Commissioner Court’s opinion, it is being adequately funded. And, also in our opinion it is not a matter of funding, it could be a matter of management.”

Horn, who works at the sheriff’s office, said just the opposite was true.

“It’s not enough,” Horn said, noting how the increased numbers to which Bobbitt referred were based on a combination of both the budgets for law enforcement and operating the county jail.

“It is going to change the numbers,” Horn said.

Horn quoted figures from the Texas Municipal Police Association (TMPA), which indicated Hunt County only has 65 percent of the recommended minimum number of officers on the street for a county of similar size and population.

“If it means taking some of the 10 percent surplus in the county budget and redirecting that so we can have safe , efficient and effective law enforcement in this county ... we need to get it done and we need to stop looking good at any price,” Horn said. “The fact of the matter is, we have a problem.”

The two candidates also differed on the difficulties with the Criminal Justice Center facility, which has continually experienced problems with its foundation.

Horn placed the blame squarely on Bobbitt, claiming the county should have hired individuals who were accountable and knew what they were doing in building the center.

“You hire architects, you hire contractors, you hire civil engineers, construction engineers ... to do all the research, to do all the site preparation, to make every effort that when that thing goes in that you have a good, solid foundation,” Horn said. “They should have done it right in the beginning.”

Bobbitt responded by noting how an architect, approved by the State of Texas, was hired, who drew up plans which also received state approval.

“We had geotechnical studies done,” Bobbitt said. “The Commissioners Court and myself certainly went into this project with the belief we were putting in a good, solid foundation on that building.”

Bobbitt said testings and excavations been underway since 2003 to determine the source of water which keeps infiltrating the foundation.

“I am as frustrated as anyone on the fact that we’re having a problem with that foundation,” Bobbitt said. “We did not build that building knowing it had a water source under its foundation.”