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City council candidates in Latrobe know finances pose challenge for municipality

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Gerald M. Baldonieri Sr., Latrobe City Council Democratic candidate
Kenneth A. Baldonieri, Candidate for Latrobe city council
Latrobe City Council Republican candidate Julie Bisi
Latrobe Council candidate Trisha Caldwell Cravener
Richard L Jim, Attorney at Law, running for Latrobe city council re-election

With the possibility of a tight budget looming for next year, Latrobe city council may have to make difficult financial decisions.

Five candidates, including two incumbents and three newcomers, hope to take one of the three four-year terms in the November general election and take on the task of increasing the city's revenues while cutting spending.

Democrat Gerald Baldonieri, who is seeking elected office for the first time, said council needs to find a way to increase revenue without raising taxes.

Instead, he said the city should find a way to market the trash transfer station at 696 Mission Road to neighboring communities, since it was touted by financial consultants as a viable source of income.

“I think we have to make it competitive,” he said.

Stricter code enforcement and enacting a rental registration requirement could help improve available real estate in the city, which could attract new businesses as sources of revenue, Baldonieri said.

Democrat Kenneth Baldonieri, seeking his third term on council, said that in order to save money and uniformly enforce code, the full-time position held by Ann Powell should be eliminated and enforcement should be contracted to an outside agency.

He said the process should remain revenue-neutral and enforced without favoritism.

“We can't incur any additional costs,” he said. “It's something we're going to have to take a long, hard look at.”

To attract more businesses, Kenneth Baldonieri said planning something like a city-wide open house could showcase vacant properties ready for rent.

Newcomer Julie Bisi, a Republican, said other incentives for commercial development should be offered to business owners, such as assistance with landlords or connections with the Latrobe Area Chamber of Commerce and Latrobe Community Revitalization Program.

“Anything we can do to get people down here would be great,” Bisi said.

Newcomer Trisha Caldwell Cravener, a Republican, said council should try to work together and listen to the public when it comes to cost-saving measures.

“Kicking the can, it doesn't really work if you just keep kicking it from one side to the other,” she said.

The city should try to continue to obtain grant money, she said, noting no tax dollars are used to pay the salary of Community Engagement and Sustainability Coordinator Jarod Trunzo.

Democrat Richard Jim, running for his second term on council, hopes to implement better financial software that can help council review all the departments and assess their costs.

Jim said contracting the transfer station, discussed earlier this year, could keep it viable.

“The idea was never to lay anybody off,” he said. “Our consultants confirmed this, that the numbers just don't add up.”

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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