Six Democrats seek party nods for Donora council
By Chris Buckley
Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 12:46 a.m.
The primary election ballot in Donora is crowded with Democrats seeking four seats on Donora borough council.
The list comprises three incumbents – Karen Polkabla, Bill Hevia and Jason V. Menendez – and three newcomers – Dale C. Shawley Jr., Jimmie B. Coulter and Jamie M. Dickie.
No Republicans are on the ballot.
Councilwoman Denylle Pucel is not seeking re-election.
Polkabla, the council president, has served on the panel since the mid-1980s. She began her public career as a borough auditor.
“I got pulled in by Mr. Lignelli, and I've continue to do public service,” Polkabla said of longtime Mayor John Lignelli.
Polkabla said she is most proud that council has been able to maintain balanced budgets and hold the line on taxes.
She pointed to other accomplishments:
• Development of Palmer Park: “We've created a recreational area for the borough as well as others who are able use our facility,” she said.
•The recent expansion of sewer lines into several neighborhoods.
Polkabla said the borough faces challenges, such as the impending demolition of the Donora-Webster Bridge.
Polkabla said that – working with the mayor – she hopes council will be able to attract a financial institution – a bank or credit union – to the borough. Since October, Citizens Bank, PNC Bank and First Federal Savings Bank have closed their Donora branches.
Polkabla said Social Security direct deposit and the bridge closure contributed to the decline in banking at the Donora branches.
“We met with people from PNC, and they said there's just not the number of people coming to the bank for services,” Polkabla said.
Polkabla sought to squelch rumors she will resign shortly after being re-elected.
“Anyone who knows me, knows I'm a committed person,” Polkabla said. “If I put my name on ballot, that's because I'm going to be there for the four years.”
Menendez is seeking a third term, having originally been elected in 2005.
“I was born and raised in Donora and raised with a sense of public responsibility – to give back to the town that gave me so much,” Menendez said. “I've always had an interest in civic duty.”
Menendez, too, pointed to completion this year of the $4 million sewer extension project.
“Now we have the ability to expand,” Menendez said. “We're seeing some new houses in the Place Plan.
“Now is the time to get the downtown straightened out and get some businesses into town. We've worked to demolish blighted properties. The downtown has to be our focus for the near future.”
Menendez said he has experience and has worked hard to maintain a balanced budget.
“I am invested in Donora,” Menendez said. “I am Donora.”
Hevia was first elected in 1983 and served for 18 years before stepping down. After eight years away, he returned to council in 2009.
“I came back, because I wanted to see Donora keep on growing like when I was on council,” Hevia said. “Donora has a lot of potential I wanted to see fulfilled.”
Hevia said he wants to see more residential construction now that the sewer extension project is completed and to “bring back some of the businesses we lost.”
“I think that will be challenging in of itself,” Hevia said. “I've put my heart and soul into the last four years.
“As chairman of public safety, I've worked to make sure our police and fire (departments) have the proper equipment. I've always been there to try to help people who've called me.
“I'm looking forward to four more years. I think there's a lot of potential in Donora. We just have to go out and grab it.”
Shawley said he wants “to be a part of what's happening and improve the town.”
“We need to make the whole town look better and try to get some businesses to come in,” Shawley said.
“I know the council there has tried hard to bring businesses in. It's not an easy job.”
Coulter links the performance of the current administration to the loss of the banks, the closing of the Donora-Webster Bridge and the lack of a gas station or supermarket in the borough.
At a council meeting last week, Lignelli took exception to claims listed in a flier distributed by Coulter in recent weeks.
He challenged Coulter to a debate. Lignelli is running unopposed for mayor.
“I don't pretend to have all of the answers, but I certainly am not satisfied that our present borough administration has let this happen with little fuss,” Coulter, a former Ringgold school director, contended in the flier.
“Can we let the town that produced such famous people as Judge Reggie Walton, athletes Ulice Payne, the Griffeys, Stan “The Man” Musial, Deacon Dan Towler and Arnold “Pope” Galiffa, to name just a few, continue to die without a fight? What's going to happen to our few remaining businesses as the population continues to decrease due to inaction of our present council?
“Every year, the town is going down and down. People have a lot of pride in this community. I do not think its time to bury this community.
“It's time to bring it back to life.”
Dickie did not return calls seeking comment.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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