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Candidates for Youngwood council ponder police protection, Route 119 corridor

Jacob Tierney
| Monday, Oct. 30, 2017, 2:00 p.m.

Candidates for Youngwood Borough Council in the Nov. 7 general election see both opportunities and problems in the community they hope to represent.

The busy Route 119 corridor, which splits into Third and Fourth streets as it passes through Youngwood, is about to undergo a major reconstruction, the borough is working to implement its new community plan , and the perennial debate over whether Youngwood should reform its long-disbanded police force is again in full swing.

Billy Cowherd, John Hajdukiewicz, Charles Lutz, Paula Mazurek, Rita Naugle and Timothy Vastell are vying for five vacant council seats.

Charles Lutz, who is on the Democratic ballot, and Paula Mazurek, who is on the GOP ticket, are seeking to a two-year term that resulted when former councilman Kris Long was appointed mayor last year.

All six candidates are on the ballot for the other four seats, which carry four-year terms.

Lutz and Timothy Vastell are on both party ballots. Mazurek and Rita Naugle are on the Republican ballot, while Billy Cowherd and John Hajdukiewicz are running on the Democratic side.

Here's how they see the challenges ahead:

Question: What should the future of Youngwood look like?

Cowherd: “Green. It should be green, and it should be attractive. We should be making better use of the green spaces that we have, less concrete parks and more green parks to make it more attractive for people to come here.”

Hajdukiewicz: “Little mom-and-pop shops on Third and Fourth streets. People stopping, antiquing, and walking around. Little things going on on the weekend, maybe a band in the park occasionally.”

Lutz: “A friendly, growing community. Just to have an interaction with neighbors and the church community, those are ways of interacting, because our society is not as social as it used to be.”

Mazurek: “Better streets, and safer roads. Not high taxes, neighbor-friendly, and a sense of community, as opposed to just being there. Neighbors knowing neighbors.

Naugle: “The future of Youngwood would be moving forward into the 21st century. I would like to see growth. Not only in our business area, the industrial park and stuff, I'd also like to see growth in the family dwellings in Youngwood.”

Vastell: “Obviously we want to improve the looks, our main streets, 119, Third and Fourth streets; we want to continue the growth on those and brighten the area up, get the blight out.”

Question: What are your thoughts on police coverage in Youngwood?

Cowherd: “We have to take it to the people. We have to take it to the residents who are actually paying for it. Give them an idea of how much it would cost. If they vote yes for it, then I'm on board. ... If everybody doesn't buy in, we'll be in the same position we're in now, where people abandon the police department like they did before.”

Hajdukiewicz: “I would like to see a cop on a bicycle, where he could cover Third and Fourth streets and the bike trail. ... You would catch more people doing wrong if you had one or two well-trained bicycle or motorcycle policemen in this town. You don't need to spend a lot of money. ... You give a mill to the fire department, why not give a mill to a police department?:

Lutz: “We have state police now, but they're stretched thin. I support police coverage, but what I also need to be aware of is we have a large community, including myself now, who are on fixed income. So when we think we're going to raise taxes this way or that way, we have to be aware of what our base is.”

Mazurek: “The people will decide that. Hopefully there will be a referendum, if it comes about. There are a lot of cities that have police departments that still have a problem with crime.”

Naugle: “We're circulating a survey right now, and that is going to be something we're going to really dig into and get the residents' feedback on, and also we would like to see that be put forward to a vote.”

Vastell: “I support the police, but my thoughts are if we are going to go with a police department I would rather do a Youngwood Borough police department like we've had in the past rather than go with a (regional) police department where multiple boroughs are involved.”

Question: With major renovations on the way, what can the borough do to shape development on the Route 119 corridor?

Cowherd: “We need to be on board with that committee, because they have a committee already formed, so we need to be working with them to make sure they have a plan.”

Hajdukiewicz: “Let's put our money where our mouth is. Let's put good sidewalks in where people who are older can walk down to the Shop ‘n Save, can walk to the Subway. ... But for goodness sake, if you're going to do the project, do it right, make the sidewalks accessible for everyone.”

Lutz: “They can interact with PennDOT in providing information on what is needed in slowing traffic down, especially helping out with the safety factors. The speeding is outrageous. I've seen so many accidents on Third and Fourth streets because of the speed.”

Mazurek: “Monies will be the restraining factor on that, but I know we've been looking into what we can do to improve the sidewalks in that area. Utilities, accessibility, the speed limit, the truck routing. We can meet with PennDOT, we can make suggestions, but because those are state roads, what will be implemented will be their choice with our input.”

Naugle: “We would like to redo our traffic calming. Make our sidewalks and our streets more cosmetically pleasing. That would be the first thing somebody would see as they're driving through, that they would want to stop and visit the shops, or go down to the railroad museum, or walk the trail.”

Vastell: “We can make our suggestions. We have a committee put together that works with the development team. ... As far as council itself, all we can do is suggest stuff.”

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646, jtierney@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Soolseem.

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