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GOP just a label in Verona Council race

| Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 1:31 a.m.
RHODA GEMELLAS WORF--Verona council
LEO BICKERT--Verona council
Tony Futules--Verona council
ROBERT J. BRAYER--Verona council
PAT McCARTHY--Verona council
SYLVIA PROVENZA--Verona council
Janet LoAlbo--Verona council

Although the ballot may read otherwise, in the election for Verona Council, there are no Republicans running.

There are endorsed Democrats and unendorsed Democrats clad in Republican labels vying for the four open council seats.

The latter is a product of a primary election in which four candidates not endorsed by the local Democratic committee sought and won nominations from Republican voters. They include Robert J. Brayer, Leo D. Bickert, Sylvia Kresevich Provenza and incumbent Rhoda Gemellas Worf, an incumbent who is the only candidate with both the Democratic and Republican nominations. They said they are running as a team.

“I think we are trying to bring more transparency into council,” Worf said.

The endorsed candidates are incumbents William “Tony” Futules and Patrick J. McCarthy Jr., and first-time candidate Janet LoAlbo.

All the candidates were asked what they proposed to do to bring business into the borough and whether they favored something like a tax abatement program as a lure. Almost all of them referred to the revitalization program in the business district, which includes painting storefronts, planting trees and new street lighting, as being a major boost.

“I have opened up a gallery, trying to draw the arts into the area,” Worf said. “I have a friend who is also opening up a gallery and another couple is opening up a music store. I think bringing the arts, more culture, into the area is going to be wonderful for Verona. With my gallery and other artists coming in, I think that will introduce more retail.”

She said a tax abatement program is something that “would have to be investigated and discussed.”

Futules said, “We've been attracting businesses for quite a few years. We certainly can't give them tax breaks but we try to accommodate them. I have two storefronts down there and they're always filled.”

“There has to be things done to make it appealing for businesses to come to Verona,” Bickert said. “My offering of what I can do is any type of communication process, setting up a website, anything to promote the town. I'm in charge of the website for Verona Chamber of Commerce. I think we have to put our heads together and see how we can build around that.”

As for tax abatement, he said, “If that is one way to bring business into the town, I would certainly work on that.”

“Working on parking is maybe another way to get businesses interested. “ LoAlbo said, adding that she supports building a parking lot in the business district. She said offering a tax incentive could be a way to keep more businesses in town.

Provenza said that the current revitalization activities now being done “are things that entice businesses to come into the community.”

She said she was interested in a tax abatement program to make the borough more attractive. “I don't know that we have ever done that,” she said. “I think any time that you can help somebody with taxes, help them get on their feet, get a good start in business, I think that's a wonderful idea.”

McCarthy said “The biggest problem we have is parking. In talking with business owners the biggest complaint we get from them is parking. There is the old Futules Restaurant, we are looking a doing something with that and there is a possibility that if we could tear that down we could put in a parking lot there that would be visible and give people easy access to the main street. But that is in the courts right now.”

Regarding a tax abatement program, he said, “I wouldn't rule it out, but that is not in the future that I can see.”

Brayer said, “I'm more in favor of promoting the businesses that are there, but that's not to say I don't want new businesses in. If you present a good appearance, the businesses will come in because the rents here are very reasonable and parking is available.”

He said he would be in favor of tax abatement, especially in trying to develop housing along the river as Oakmont is now doing with the Edgewater developments that will extend toward the Verona border.

“That (Edgewater) is creeping down toward Verona and I would like to take advantage of that,” he said. “There's an old scrap yard in between and I would like to get rid of that and see that development expand down here. If they can do it in Oakmont, why not here?”

The candidates also were asked about the future of the police department, which accounts for about 40 percent of the borough's budget.

All of them said they favored keeping the department as it is now rather than merging with a neighboring municipality such as Oakmont or contracting with another department for police services.

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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