Penn Hills candidates square off, look to future
Penn Hills Republican mayoral nominee Bob Sevcik believes that his opponent is falling back on allegations of "negative campaigning" to avoid talking about substantive issues.
Democratic mayoral nominee Anthony DeLuca Jr. counters that Sevcik spends too much time attacking his father, state Rep. Tony DeLuca Sr., to focus on the issues facing the community.
But each candidate maintains that his plan will revive what is still the second largest municipality in Allegheny County behind Pittsburgh.
The closest the two will get to a public debate will be at a "Meet the Candidates" night tonight in the Penn Hills Administrative Center. The event is sponsored by the Penn Hills PTA council.
In addition to "running on his dad's name," Sevcik accuses DeLuca of campaigning on what he thinks are "insignificant political issues" involving personnel matters and tax collectors.
DeLuca believes that Sevcik's proposal to create a new sewer authority will "just add another layer of government" in Penn Hills. Sevcik sees it as an opportunity to reduce sewage rates as well as raise $8 million to $10 million.
"It would allow us to refinance the debt over a longer term at the best interest rates in 40 years," Sevcik said, adding that a sewer authority should have been established in 1980. "And this would provide cash flow for the other parts of my four-point plan."
DeLuca believes residents are better off if Penn Hills council has the vote on sewer rates. He also pointed to financial problems the city of Pittsburgh is experiencing that can be attributed in part to refinancing of its debt.
"The fact is that once you borrow the money, you're going to have to pay it back," DeLuca said.
Sevcik said the refinancing would be a one-time only deal.
"The Democrats run into problems when they go back and refinance their debt again and again, which is what happened in Pittsburgh," Sevcik said.
With the cash flow generated from the refinancing the sewer debt, Sevcik said he would allocate an initial $2 million to hire a team of professional economic development specialists.
"The complete loss of our commercial district is threatening the very survival of Penn Hills," Sevcik said. "We can't wait four or five years for the state and county. We need to bring in professionals."
With the loss of two anchor tenants in the Penn Hills Center, DeLuca said he also is concerned with the economic well-being of the community.
"We need to fill the slots for Ames and Phar-Mor," DeLuca said. "We don't want the Penn Hills Center ending up like the East Hills Shopping Center. We need to support the effort to bring that back also."
Having heard a recommendation for a Walgreen's store to be across Frankstown Road on the site where Burger King closed, DeLuca said he would favor a Walgreen's at the Penn Hills Center.
"And I still have people in the business community saying they don't see how we can be running an efficient government with two tax collectors," DeLuca said of the situation with the school district collecting its own taxes, while the municipality contracts with the Central Tax Bureau.
"There's no company out there that operates with two collection departments -- they only have one," DeLuca said.
The other two parts of Sevcik's four-point plan focus on strengthening neighborhoods, primarily through code enforcement, as well as stepping up community safety efforts.
"Strong neighborhoods are only maintained when the building codes are maintained," Sevcik said. "That's the reason why Section 8 (rental) homes are so prevalent in Penn Hills.
With the $8 million to $10 million realized from refinancing the sewer debt, Sevcik would also use some of the money to replace outdated safety equipment.
DeLuca still believes that the $1 million a year spent to pay overtime to police officers must be curtailed, possibly by hiring more officers.
"I want to put more police officers on the street," DeLuca said, adding that he would still like to eliminate the position of assistant police chief created last year and filled by Jack McCrory to handle administrative duties.
"There's no need for it," DeLuca said. "He's basically doing the same job he did as a lieutenant."
DeLuca continues to advocate a switch to a full-time solicitor, rather than continuing to pay by the hour.
"My goal is still to eliminate wasteful government spending," DeLuca said.
Anthony DeLuca Jr.