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Dean Moorhouse, left, and Jeff Eversole are seen in this combination photo.

The two Ooltewah Republicans running for the Hamilton County Commission's newly created District 10 seat had their first opportunity Monday to lay out their platforms to voters.

At a debate hosted by the Hamilton County Pachyderm Club, candidates Dean Moorhouse and Jeff Eversole at times displayed key differences when discussing mask mandates, disaster relief and the possibility of bringing back discretionary funds for commissioners to distribute.

"To me, there's no difference between discretionary funding to a commissioner who knows the needs within the community versus going into the general fund, because after all, over a certain amount it has to be approved anyway," Moorhouse said.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga City Council to vote on replacement for former councilman Anthony Byrd)

Beginning in the early 2000s, the commission allotted $100,000 to be spent by each of the county's nine commissioners per year. The funds were largely used to benefit local nonprofit groups but were criticized as a way for commissioners to curry favor with community groups. The discretionary funds were first removed in 2014 by Mayor Jim Coppinger.

Moorhouse said he supports reinstating the funds, while saying the $100,000 figure may be excessive.

Eversole, who opposes reinstating the funds, said they are problematic because it's hard to ensure the funds are properly allocated.

"Everybody gets an opportunity to receive [the funds]," Eversole said. "It becomes a popularity contest. I think that's wrong."

(READ MORE: Dean Moorhouse enters race for new Hamilton County District 10 commission seat)

The candidates were also asked about their positions on mask mandates and their vaccination status, the latter of which prompted pushback from audience members who said that was a private matter.

"First of all, it has not been proven with any scientific evidence that masks will prevent you from getting COVID, especially in school-aged kids," said Moorhouse, adding he has been vaccinated but saying it's also a personal choice that shouldn't be mandated.

Eversole agreed, but he stated he has not been vaccinated and has no plans to do so in the future.

"If you want to wear a mask, wear it, that's your choice," Eversole said. "I don't think government needs to mandate you to wear a mask. Your health is between you and your doctor, and that's the best decision you can make."

In an area that has in the past been hit hard by tornadoes, another issue discussed by the two candidates was how to improve disaster relief.

Eversole, noting an increase in tornadoes and hurricanes over the past 15 years, said it is imperative for commissioners to ensure that communities are prepared for future weather events.

"It is becoming a serious issue," Eversole said. "A commissioner needs to focus on ensuring that we're ready for upcoming disasters, but we need to make sure that we're funding in the right places."

Not only does the county need to adequately fund volunteer fire departments, he said, but it also must invest in communities to help them rebuild after storms take their toll.

(READ MORE: Jeff Eversole now running in new District 10 for Hamilton County Commission)

Moorhouse agreed the county needs to properly fund first responders but he said officials need to start "thinking outside the box."

"Should we subsidize the volunteer fire departments? I think yes," he said. "The county commission does [subsidize] some of them, but not enough."

District 10 was created after commissioners voted in November to increase the previous nine districts for electing commissioners to 11 districts using data from the 2020 census, a process that's required every decade.

The new District 10 sprawls along the eastern border of the county, including Collegedale and Georgetown. It also includes the areas surrounding Ooltewah's elementary, middle and high schools.

The voter registration deadline for the May 3 primary election is April 4.

Early voting will take place between April 13 and April 28, and the deadline to request an absentee ballot is April 26.

The general election will be in August.

Contact Logan Hullinger at lhullinger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416. Follow him on Twitter @LoganHullinger.

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