Candidates vie for 2 Ligonier Township positions
By Jewels Phraner
Published: Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
In Ligonier Township, two supervisor positions are open; one with a six-year term and the other with a two-year term.
Scott Matson is running for the Republican nomination for the six-year position. Former Supervisor Keith Whipkey's name will be on the primary election ballot for the same seat, but since resigning last week from the township position for personal reasons, Whipkey, 57, has asked residents to vote for Matson.
No Democrats have filed for the seat.
Matson, 45, said the township needs to focus on fiscal responsibility.
“They need to downsize, just like everyone else, and look at more economical alternatives to take the burden off the taxpayers,” Matson said. “They've been running things the same way year after year, and they don't seem to be open to any other changes.”
Matson said employees should not be replaced as they retire and more work should be subbed out to reduce costs, if it's cost-effective.
“I think the township trucks should have GPS, as well,” to hold employees accountable and for safety, he said.
Matson said the township zoning ordinance needs to be fairly enforced.
“I'm all for zoning, but Ligonier Township zoning is like a Cracker Jack box. You never know what you're going to get. There's a lot of picking and choosing when it comes to enforcement,” he said.
If elected, Matson said, he would not work as a township roadmaster.
For the past 16 years, two supervisors have served the township as roadmasters, but Supervisor Tim Komar has been the sole roadmaster since the retirement of former supervisor Carl Penrod in January. Roadmasters make about $25 per hour.
Matson owns Laurel Mountain Tree Removal. He previously served on the township planning commission, but resigned earlier this year to focus on his campaign, he said.
He has one daughter and four sons.
If Whipkey wins the nomination, he will have until Aug. 12 to withdraw from the general election. Montini said the seat then would be declared vacant, and the election bureau would accept substitute nominations from the county Republican Committee.
Paul Knupp and Gary Thistlethwaite are vying for the Republican nomination for the two-year seat.
Again, no Democrats have filed.
Despite commending the accomplishments of the board, Knupp has a lengthy list of goals, including the expansion of water service in the township, a method to aid senior citizens with the cost of tap-in fees to the municipal authority's expanded sewer system and avoiding a tax increase.
He said he favors a more streamlined zoning ordinance.
“It might need touched on and updated, so everyone can go through the proper channels without problems,” he said.
He would also like to look into enforcing regulations of the Uniform Construction Code locally.
The Supervisors previously opted out of involvement in the building inspection process, which confuses developers and slows down the process, Knupp said.
“From what I understand that process can be very slow, so I'd like to investigate and research ways we can speed that up for business owners and neighbors in the township,” he said.
He said he plans to attend the meetings of the appointed boards such as the planning commission, recreation board, municipal authority and zoning hearing board.
“I'd like to see better communication between the boards and the supervisors and between the supervisors and the public, even if that means I'm the one that has to attend the meetings,” he said. “It's important that everyone is on the same page.”
Knupp said he would work as a roadmaster if elected.
Thistlethwaite, 66, said he wants to improve police protection.
“I want to try to work with what we have (financially), but see if money can be shifted around to provide more funding for the police department,” he said.
Ideally, two police officers would cover each shift, he said.
He said he would seek grants to provide educational opportunities for officers, such as a truck safety inspection course or accident investigation seminars.
He agrees the zoning process should be more streamlined to “alleviate some of the red tape that residents encounter when they're trying to develop their properties,” he said.
Knupp has served for 15 years as the manager for the Ligonier Township Municipal Authority and worked for 12 years at the family-owned Hoffer-Knupp Construction before moving to public service.
Knupp said he's worked side-by-side with the supervisors and would like to see “a continued cooperative relationship.”
Knupp is a 20-year trustee for the Ligonier First Church of the Brethren. He is a member of the Ligonier Township Sportsmen Club and the Laughlintown Protective Association. He has volunteered with the Ligonier Valley Football Boosters and for the township's Dumpster Days.
He and his wife, Stacey, have two grown children.
A retired state trooper, Thistlethwaite works as a safety consultant in transportation and facilities.
“I feel that my background allows me to work with the township and the police department,” he said. “I have a background working with people and working with other agencies and institutions.”
Thistlethwaite was appointed by a county judge in 1996 to complete the term of a supervisor Leon Smithley, who died suddenly of cancer.
He is a Vietnam War veteran and a member of the Ligonier Veterans of Foreign War Post 734. He serves on the board of directors of the Loyalhanna Watershed Association.
Thistlethwaite and his wife, JoAnn, have two grown sons and two granddaughters.
Jewels Phraner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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