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Newcomer among three O'Hara council hopefuls

Tawnya Panizzi
| Monday, May 9, 2011

Three Republican candidates will seek their party's nomination for township council on May 17.

Newcomer Cindy Harris will take on incumbents Bob Smith and Bart Bodkin.

The top two vote-getters will advance to the general election this fall, competing against Democrat Shannon Barkley for the two seats available.

The candidates are seeking the township's two at-large seats. Five other positions that represent specific wards are not up for election.

Harris could not reached for comment. Her online blog, called informedohara.com, says Harris has been a resident of the township since 2001 and lives in Ward 2. It explains why she decided to run:

"After council passed one too many ordinances regulating (or over-regulating or over-permitting) controversial and important topics and twice appointed individuals who had not attended a council meeting (that I am aware of) in the last two years to fill an open seat, I decided that I'd had enough," she wrote. "Win or lose, I will continue to attend council meetings and report here on the issues being considered.

"My goal is to quadruple average resident attendance at council meetings by the end of 2010."

Average attendance during the past year has been about two or three residents per meeting, she wrote.

Smith is making another bid because, he said, he has provided strong leadership that meets the desires of the people.

"In the 12 years I've been on, we've never raised taxes," he said. "I want to preserve our financial stability. We live within our means here."

The assistant manager of Fox Chapel Borough, Smith said there are two significant and expensive issues facing council in the next couple years: construction of a $6 million community center and completion of a $3.5 million sewage project in the Saxonburg Boulevard area.

"Now that the library is scheduled to open, fundraising is turning to the community center, and I think that's a valuable asset to the township and overall area," Smith said. "I'd like to see it built on the existing site."

The sewage project, which Smith said has been on the books for more than a dozen years, is expected to begin this year. It's something he's anxious to usher in.

A proposal to replace three failing pump stations with a single unit will ensure that township residents in that area won't have to rely on septic systems any longer. Once complete, all property owners will be required to hook into the new line.

"That's going to open up that area for development and increase the tax base," he said.

Bodkin, too, would like to see the sewage work finally initiated. But he said he's eager to hear residents' input during two scheduled public workshops in coming weeks.

Appointed to council in January, Bodkin is completing a vacated term that runs through Jan. 2.

He decided before seeking the appointment that he would run for a full term.

"I would only (seek the appointment) if I were willing to run for four years, in order to keep stability to that position," he said.

Bodkin, a lawyer who has lived in the township for 20 years, previously served on the township's Republican Committee.

While he said the township runs smoothly, he said a priority over the next several years will be planning for the new community center complex.

Bodkin cited initial feedback that shows the new facility will be well-received, but he worries that means inherent problems with traffic and parking.

"There is a lot of potential there for good things, but I think we need to pay attention to the details to adequately plan for growth," he said.

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