8 Democrats vie for 4 Verona Council seats
Transparency for Verona's finances and boosting curb appeal are common threads for the slate of eight Democrats running for four borough council seats in the primary.
The sole Republican opponent, thus far, is Merle Balkovec, who will face the Democrat winners in the general election.
Incumbents stressed that parking is a key to the town's revitalization, while some of the newcomers are floating other ideas.
“We need to buy and create more parking to help keep businesses alive,” said William “Tony” Futules, former mayor and councilman of 32 years. “We've had businesses leave because of the parking situation, it's very bad,” he said.
Incumbent council members echoed similar sentiments about the town's parking problems.
Patrick J. McCarthy, Jr., who has been on council for almost four years, said attracting new businesses is key.
“One of our biggest problems is parking, and that issue has been around long before I started and will be around long after I'm gone,” he said.
Nevertheless, McCarthy said council has to try to solve it.
Peggy Suchevich, a councilwoman for 17 years, said the borough needs to keep pursuing grants for revitalization of the business district. And, to help ease the parking problem, the borough needs to promote the use of municipal parking lots to “free up spaces for customers that need short-term parking in front of the businesses.”
For some council candidates, there are other avenues to consider for the town's main street makeover.
“My vision is to also work on beautifying Main Street,” said Sylvia Kresevich Provenza. “We're looking at new lighting for Main Street, new benches, new waste containers and some of the storefronts are being redone.”
Robert J. Brayer, who is making his second bid to win a council seat, wants redevelopment focused on the Allegheny River frontage.
“I think that's where our future revenue increases will be produced,” he said. “They need to address the riverfront itself. It doesn't look attractive and we have to put plans in place to bring in the young people.”
Newcomer Janet M. LoAlbo said the waterfront redevelopment issues are important to make the town a more desirable area for people to reside and visit.
“I would like to make this an area that people would like to come to,” she said. “With the rowing club already there, we have a nice park and we have to keep it nice.”
Rhoda Gemellas Worf, a councilwoman, wants to do more with the town's park on East Railroad Avenue.
“I would like to see a replica of a train station built or some structure that would depict our history as a railroad town,” Worf said.
Newcomer Leo D. Bickert wants rail transportation to return to town and supports the proposed Alle-Kiski Commuter Rail from Lower Burrell to downtown Pittsburgh.
“That would be ideal to provide transportation in the area — to be able to take a train into town,” Bickert said.
For Futules, continuing to secure grant money remains a top priority.
“We get a lot of grant money and Verona is considered distressed. We have close relations with the people who supply the grants and if you get the wrong people in there, you‘re going to lose it,” he said.
Brayer wants a more transparent budget process so “citizens can go in and see how their money is being spent.” While Brayer acknowledges that the borough is addressing this issue with a new accountant, he said he doesn't want council to let up on it.
Worf wants to increase the integrity of all levels of government.
“I want to see more accountability as far as finances go,” she said. “Right now, we hired a company to start giving us treasury reports. I want to see the money coming in and money that goes to pay bills. I don't want a deficit just like we have had since I've been on council.”
The budget is an issue for LoAlbo, who said she wants to make sure the borough has the money it needs.
“We want to keep the lower tax rate and to continue to acquire the appropriate grant monies available to keep the community updated with equipment as needed.”
Suchevich is concerned about the borough's sewage system and the cost of the continuous upgrades.
“It isn't over yet, and the state and federal government could mandate a holding tank for storm water and other work that could cost millions,” she said.
“We need to have a close working relationship with federal, state and county elected officials to go after that grant money,” Suchevich said.
Bickert would like better communication in the town. He videotapes the council meetings and posts them on the Internet. “If people can't come to the council meetings, we can bring it to them,” he said.
“For as long as I've been living in this town, I feel that the town is not in the 21st century,” he said.
McCarthy, a councilman who is chair of the police and fire committee said that those departments have to be maintained up to standards.
“The people of the community have to feel safe with what is being provided to them with their tax dollars. And we have to look at the totality of the circumstances — you can't just say ‘we're cutting this.'”
Provenza takes issue with absentee landlords.
“We're making them more accountable for the upkeep of their properties,” she said. If there is continued neglect of neighboring properties, the values of other properties decline, she said.
Mary Ann Thomas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or firstname.lastname@example.org.