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May 21 primary will include open city council and school board seats

Mary Pickels
| Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 5:40 p.m.

Two Connellsville City Council seats, the positions of mayor and controller, and four Connellsville Area School Board seats will be on the ballot in the May 21 primary election.

On Feb. 19, potential candidates can begin to circulate nomination petitions, said Larry Blosser, director of the Fayette County Election Bureau.

Petitions must be filed with the election office by 4:30 p.m. March 12, Blosser said, with the correct number of signatures and all fees paid.

The four-year terms held by city council members Tom Karpiak and Marilyn Weaver, Mayor Charles Matthew and Controller Bobby Mulnix will expire on Jan. 1, 2014.

Weaver has opted not to seek re-election. Matthews and Karpiak will seek second terms.

“I was asked by a number of people to consider running (for a first term). I decided if I had the beliefs, I had I was going to give it a shot,” said Weaver, 71, and a Democrat. “It's been a very good four years. … My heart is with the Wesley Church Health Center,”

Weaver serves as the center's volunteer director and treasurer.

Karpiak, 57, is a Democrat and is employed by Special T Metals in Dunbar Township.

He has served as the director of public works while on council the last four years.

He believes over the last four years, council has made several accomplishments.

Karpiak pointed to the city “breaking even” from incurring substantial clean-up costs from 2010 snowstorms. He noted area municipalities sought state of emergency status to pursue state reimbursement for storm-related costs.

He referenced the city's sale of the former National Guard Armory last year and its placement on the tax rolls as an accomplishment on council's part.

In his tenure, Karpiak said he worked on the administration's guidelines for emergency demolitions.

He noted that the board has saved money by working with the municipalities of South Connellsville and Connellsville Township.

“We decided we could do bigger jobs if we all worked together. That's been talked about in the past, but we did it,” he said.

Projects have included paving and tarring and traffic control during the city's annual triathlon.

Matthews, 61, a Democrat, served on council before being elected mayor four years ago.

“I have always been involved with the city and volunteering. I have lived here all of my life. I care about this town,” the retired police chief said.

“We have reduced the size of the fire department and saved a lot of money. I don't know how the city would have made out if we did not get that accomplished,” Matthews said.

“We have been more aggressive on code enforcement,” he said.

“Probably one of the biggest things we have done is getting that (new) zoning ordinance (adopted),” he said.

“I hope to get the Aaron's building down or sold this year,” Matthews said.

Second-term goals include clearing up the city's tax collection situation and turning around the Connellsville Area Community Center.

Mercantile, business privilege and local services taxes are still owed to the city, following Centax going out of business.

The city took over community center operations and council created an advisory board in September.

Mulnix could not be reached for comment.

School board

School board directors up for re-election include P.J. Carte, Thomas Dolde, Dr. Paul Means and Gary Wandel. Carte, Means and Wandel have opted to seek second terms. Dolde has decided to not run.

“We got the renovation going. That's a good thing, I think,” said Dolde, 74, a retired district teacher and graduate.

Wandel, 62, is a retired district teacher. He has five grandchildren enrolled in district schools.

“I want to make sure we provide the best education possible,” Wandel said.

Over the past four years, he said, the board has overseen renovations at several schools, as well as the blending of Junior Highs East and West.

The controversial move offers students more academic consistency and more opportunities, he said.

The board has initiated some new hiring policies, Wandel said, including requiring teaching candidates to present a lesson plan.

The board has not raised taxes in four years, has avoided layoffs and maintained small class sizes, Wandel said.

Wandel said he was instrumental in bringing the ROTC program to the district this school year.

“Are there things that still need to be done? Absolutely. I'm proud of the headway we've made over the last four years,” he said.

Means, 43, is seeking a second term, citing ongoing infrastructure improvements and increased technology opportunities as among his goals.

He became politically involved when a previous board began school consolidation and closing discussions.

“I have four children in the district now,” Means said.

“I want to move forward and come up with other things to help bolster education, but save taxpayers money and stay within our budget,” he said.

Determining methods to increase academic scores is a priority, as well as evaluating facility upgrades, he said.

“All of our facilities are reaching that 40-year mark,” said Means, building and grounds committee chairman.

Carte, 45, is a retired hospital administrator and business owner.

While serving on the board Carte has been the chairman of the personnel and review committee. Carte said during the last four years the board has made many accomplishments. “We changed the hiring process and developed hiring guidelines to make sure that the best candidates are chosen for job openings. When candidates apply for a teaching job, they are now required to teach a lesson to a class of students as part of the interview process. We also implemented an evaluation system for the superintendent; each year, the board does an annual evaluation on the superintendent and his job performance,” Carte said.

Carte has also served as chairman of the liaison committee. Through this committee, the board and the teachers work on projects and issues.

“We are always working on ways to make improvements and develop new programs for our students. For example, we worked together to develop a summer academy for elementary students to take classes for fun in the summer. Some of the classes included robotics, art, culinary skills, and volleyball,” he said.

He said the board's technology committee has worked to improve the district website so it looks more modern and user-friendly.

“Many improvements have been made in technology across the district. Computers have been placed in the computer labs, and they are now being replaced on a regular cycle so that our students can learn the skills that they need to be competitive in the twenty-first century,” Carte said.

“On another note, we are in the middle of renovating the high school. We have continued to maintain fiscal responsibility and balance the budget each year without raising taxes. The high school test scores have dramatically improved; they are now making Adequate Yearly Progress. As a whole, the school district met 95 percent of the goals under No Child Left Behind and under the AYP guidelines for two consecutive years. The curriculum has been updated throughout the district. A new Comprehensive District Level Plan was developed. We are constantly looking for opportunities to improve,” said Carte.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or

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