The former county nursing home and economic
development are their top priorities.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA BUREAU
MERCER, Pa. — With only one incumbent seeking re-election, Mercer County voters have much to consider Election Day when voting for county commissioners.
Two Democrats and two Republicans will be on the ballot, and the top three vote-getters will win the four-year terms.
Democrat Brian Beader is seeking his second term in office and counts recouping money the county loaned to Woodland Place, the former county nursing facility operated by a nonprofit, as his first priority if re-elected.
“We do have some very good people on the board of directors now and they have made personnel changes. I believe we will get paid back,” he said.
The other Democratic nominee, Kenneth Ammann, however said he would consider having the county assume control of the home or facilitate a sale.
“It needs to be done quickly. In the last three years, the county has made payments on the $8.8 million bond totaling about $2 million with about $600,000 paid on the principal and the rest being interest,” he said.
Ammann and Beader do agree that the recently built county jail is not large enough and that other solutions must be considered for housing prisoners.
Ammann said he wants to work with the district attorney and judges to find alternative methods of punishment for nonviolent offenders.
Beader said he would like to see an off-site work release center that would not need the extensive amount of security required in the current jail and would free beds for other offenders.
Ammann said he also wants to look at county government costs and determine if there are any savings, as well as lobby the legislature for property tax reform and work on economic development.
Lewis McEwen, Republican nominee, counts economic development as his top priority.
McEwen said he sees the best spots for future county development as those areas around the exits off the numerous major highways that run through the county, such as Interstates 80, 79 and 60.
He’s also interested in changing the daily operation of county government.
“I want to bring a professional attitude to the courthouse and do it in an open manner. Over the last four years there have been times when the meetings haven’t been run very professionally,” he said.
He said there should be a strong county administrator to handle the daily county operations so commissioners can focus on long-term issues such as attracting new business to the county.
Republican nominee John Lechner wants to go after new business aggressively and promote economic development in the county. He said he thinks there should be a long-term goal of up to 15 to 20 years that the county can follow.
“I don’t think we should sit back and wait for business to come to us. We need to market ourselves,” he said.
Lechner also counts Woodland Place as one of his priorities if elected. Lechner said he has some ideas on how to turn the financial situation around, but he did not want to reveal them before the election.
He does favor keeping the facility open.
“The only real option I see is keeping it open and getting it to the point where it can pay for itself,” he said.