Council hopefuls weigh in on Ford City goals

| Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, 1:21 a.m.

Four candidates are vying for three seats in Ford City Council's second ward during the Nov. 5 election.

The race features Democrats Joshua Abernathy, 34, and incumbent Lou Vergari, 68; Republican Scott Gaiser, 47; and independent Kathy Bartuccio, 55, who received 67 Democratic and 56 Republican write-in votes during the primary election.

Republican incumbents Paul Harmon, 55, and Robert Mohney, 54, whose terms expire on Jan. 1, are not seeking re-election.

Abernathy, a former Ford City police officer who has never held an elected position, said council needs to be fiscally responsible and develop a long-term plan for the borough, which should be reviewed and voted on by the public.

“I'd like to see us establish a five- or 10-year plan, which we could get approval from voters through a referendum,” Abernathy said. “Ford City has always operated on a day-to-day basis, so a long-term plan would help us look forward.

“We're going to be losing a lot of tax dollars when we lose Ford City High School, and with businesses like Sheetz moving to Manor, there will be a lot of hard decisions to be made.”

Abernathy suggested looking into consolidation plans and sharing resources — ranging from fire departments to a borough street sweeper — with neighboring communities, in an attempt to cut costs.

But council will never be able to reach its goals if the bickering and fighting continue, he said. Abernathy hopes new council members can work toward silencing the current council's disagreements and arguing, he added.

“We're going to have a mix of old and new council members, so there could be more cooperation,” Abernathy said.

Bartuccio, who is a member of the Ford City Library Board, said council needs to be held more accountable to the public, financially and in its discussions of borough issues. Fighting and arguing could be hampering its ability to perform duties, she added.

“Council needs to work together to move forward and be positive for the town and its taxpayers,” Bartuccio said. “They don't like each other, and that's fine, but elected officials have to put their differences aside for the betterment of the town.”

Bartuccio suggested Ford City officials look into hiring a manager, who could run the borough's day-to-day functions. The manager could help keep borough business organized, seek bids and make sure all issues are handled smoothly, she added.

In addition, Bartuccio said she would like to see more issues discussed in a public forum to allow residents to take a more active role in discussions, especially when it pertains to how tax dollars are spent.

“Residents of this town need to be aware of what's going on,” Bartuccio said. “Things are always a big secret, and council is using taxpayers' money. They have a right to know what's going on.”

Council needs to work to attract business and industry to Ford City in order for the community to grow and move forward, Gaiser said.

Gaiser, who is the chief of the Ford City Fire Department, said he thinks the town should work with developers to possibly sell the brownfield and former PPG location, which may jumpstart development.

“The borough has been sitting on the brownfield and old PPG site for I don't know how long,” he said. “The borough doesn't have the money to develop it, but it could be sold to someone who does.

“We need to get industry in this town and get a tax base started, or else we're going to become an old town full of retired people.”

Gaiser said council should work to quell fighting and make sure council meetings are more productive. In addition, council should meet more often to discuss and develop its plans, he said.

“With more meetings, we can accept a lot more public input,” Gaiser said. “Everyone needs to be together discussing their ideas and issues, and when we hold a meeting, we should be able to supply the answers to the public.”

Despite several attempts, Vergari did not return calls seeking comments for this story.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303.

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