Five choices for Mount Carmel borough council
MOUNT CARMEL - Voters have five candidates to chose from in the Mount Carmel borough council election race Tuesday.
On the Democratic side, voters have incumbents Tony Matulewicz and Robert Shirmer and newcomers Dave Fantini and Ed Fegley. On the Republican side, voters have incumbent Clem Plisiewicz.
Even if the incumbents are re-elected, there will be at least one new face: incumbent Robert Barrett decided not to run for re-election this year.
Each candidate was asked their final thoughts as the election draws near and what the most important issue facing borough residents is in the coming year.
As a longtime borough resident, Fegley said via e-mail the town is not what it was 20 years ago. But Fegley, a former borough code enforcement officer, said progress was made, but has since become stagnant.
"Within the last four to five years, it seems like we are at a stand still, or in some cases moving backward," he said. "Although I commend the current council for their volunteer service, I feel that my 15 years of experience as a public servant will bring past knowledge and fresh ideas to the council."
Fegley said the most important issues in the borough are addressing the deterioration of the housing stock and general property maintenance concerns; attracting more owner-occupied housing opportunities by improving the overall appearance of the borough, attracting new businesses, improving the conditions of the streets and bringing recreation for all residents of the borough; and establishing better communication, such as a website and social media, between the council and the public and religious/civic organizations.
He said he would be most helpful in the code enforcement office where he would step up the enforcement of the nuisance violations, such as garbage accumulations, abandoned vehicles and unsanitary conditions.
Also, Fegley said, "Although our police department is under excellent leadership and seems to be well-staffed, I believe that council (working with the mayor) can do more."
Fantini, a borough landlord of 13 properties for 40 years, said in an e-mail his main interests are code enforcement and the blight issues.
"I feel council has come a long way with the quality of life ordinance, but I feel there is still room for improvement. I have some ideas that I think may help," he said.
If elected, he would work with council and Code Enforcement Officer Robin Williams to "help make things even better in Mount Carmel."
Shirmer, seeking his second term, said in a telephone interview that council has done a good job in the last four years.
He plans to work on the same issues: blight, paving roads, cleaning up the town and putting more effort into the quality of life ordinance, he said.
Although the council has faced its challenges, Shirmer said the community is in a better place.
"I'm basically going to continue doing what I did the first four years," he said. "We just got done paving 22 roads. We're out of the hole. We have no debt service except for the pension, and we're straightening that out."
Matulewicz, seeking his third term, said via e-mail he will continue to concentrate on balancing the budget and not raising taxes if re-elected - the main issue brought to his attention by residents while campaigning.
He said the police and non-uniformed pension funds are "looming large on the fiscal horizon and poised to absorb more and more of our flat tax revenue. Tackling that issue will be a top priority."
Without a healthy balance sheet and strong cash flow, Matulewicz said the borough will quickly enter a downward fiscal spiral.
Also, "Everyone has good ideas about blight and revitalization, but the reality is that everything costs money to do. We are challenged as council members each year as costs continue to rise and our tax base remains stagnant and state contributions decrease," he said.
Council must make difficult financial decisions, he said.
"However, when you constantly put the people's interests first and foremost the right choice is always crystal clear," he said. "I enjoy the challenge of making ends meet in a less than ideal financial situation without taking the easy route of raising taxes."
Matulewicz said he is committed to make the borough a better and more prosperous place to live and will use "dedication, education and desire to make it happen."
Plisiewicz, seeking a second term, said by telephone he has enjoyed his last four years on borough council and he's learned much about the inner workings of the borough.
"As the lone Republican, that hasn't played any part of the politics," he said. "There's been no politics with present members and if new members were voted in, I don't think there would be any politics."
Regardless of who is elected, council will work toward the good of the borough, he said.
The biggest issues of the borough are high pension costs and blight, Plisiewicz said.
"I want to continue to work on all the problems and make Mount Carmel a better place to live," he said.
Mayor, tax collector
Democrat Philip "Bing" Cimino is only mayoral candidate on both the Democratic and Republican ballot. He won both party tickets in the primary election over Republicans Jason R. Bower and Cynthia Clayton.
Democrat Deborah M. Kaleta is running unopposed for borough tax collector.
Mayoral candidate Bernard Novakoski is the only name on both the Republican and Democratic ballots.
He won the Democratic nomination, and also the Republican nomination when he won a tie-breaker over Nicholas Goretski after the primary election.
For the four open borough council seats, the four incumbents, Clarence Deitrick, Stephen Motyka, Bruno R. Varano and Joseph A. Winhofer, are the only names on the ballot.
Linda M. Nolter is running unopposed as borough tax collector.