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Tax revenue, roads, drilling define West Deer race

| Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Jeffrey Fleming, West Deer Supervisor candidate.
Rick Florentine, West Deer Supervisor candidate

The five candidates seeking three available West Deer supervisor seats offer voters a range of political experience.

Democrat Leonard Guerre has served 16 years as supervisor, although he's not an incumbent. As required by the township's home-rule charter, he sat out the last election cycle because he had served two consecutive terms.

Incumbents Jeffrey Fleming and Ricki Florentine round out the Democratic slate. They are completing their first terms in office.

Republicans Richard Bossart and Ian Renter are the political newcomers, although Bossart narrowly lost an election in 2011. They successfully launched write-in campaigns in the primary and appear on Tuesday's Republican ballot along with Guerre, who received enough write-in votes to earn a Republican nomination along with the Democratic nod.

Bossart, 57, said he began asking people to write in his name for the Republican nomination shortly before the primary when he realized no candidates were on the ballot.

“I've lived here all my life. I'm kind of involved now. I go to the meetings, and I know what's going on,” Bossart said. “If I can, I want to sit on the other side and try to help.”

Bossart said trying to fund services with a tax base that is largely residential will continue to be a challenge for supervisors: “Same thing they've been dealing with the last 20 terms.

“Roads are probably the biggest issue in West Deer Township,” he said. “Supervisors do have a good system (for scheduling improvements); they need more money to work with.”

Florentine and Guerre also said maintaining roads will be one of their priorities.

“They have problems getting revenue to do the roads, but people want the roads fixed,” said Guerre, 80.

He voiced frustration that supervisors get knocked for small property tax increases to help fund roads and other services while Deer Lakes School District has a much higher millage rate.

“I want to keep taxes low, improve the township, bring business in,” Guerre said. “It's the same old, same old.”

Florentine, 60, indicated supervisors are doing a good job of upgrading the roads: “It's coming along really nice; everybody seems pleased.”

His next mission will be to deal with vacant and blighted houses. He'd like to work with the school district to forgive tax debts so the houses can be restored.

“I want to try to save these houses,” Florentine said. “I'm working to get something going there so we don't have to have them torn down. You hate to lose that for the tax base.”

Renter, 42, also said he'd like to see something done with dilapidated houses as part of his focus on “bringing the community together.”

He said he's also interested in providing more services for the community's youth.

“Nowadays, families aren't necessarily there for the kids,” he said. “ I don't think it's just a city problem anymore. How we can bring our communities together and make sure our kids have the support they need?”

Deer Lakes Park drilling

The candidates also were asked to weigh in on the possibility of Allegheny County officials permitting drilling under Deer Lakes Park, which is partially in West Deer.

“I don't think there's anybody at this point who could say it's good or bad,” Renter said. He believes the township could benefit from any money derived from the drilling, but acknowledged there are environmental concerns.

“I think there should be more professionals involved, more fact-finding before any decision is made,” he said. “Then the rest will follow. We need to reach a balance.”

“That's a tough situation,” Florentine said. “If you don't (allow) it, they're going to go under you anyway. I'm glad I don't have to make that decision. It's a big game-changer.”

“I have no problem with it,” Bossart said. “They'll be drilling under (the park), not in it.”

“We want to make sure it's done right and safely,” Guerre said. “We'd like to get some revenue out of it, because it's in West Deer. It creates jobs, and I'm always for that.”

Fleming could not be reached for comment.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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