John K. Manna
New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
Six Democratic candidates are seeking their party’s nominations for three seats in Tuesday’s primary.
Voters will nominate two candidates on both Republican and Democratic ballots for four-year terms and one candidate for a two-year term.
Only two candidates, William Schafer and Rosemary Henderson, are seeking the Republican nomination. Schafer is seeking a two-year term while Henderson is running for both terms.
On the Democratic side, council president MaryAnne Gavrile, Councilman Thomas Smith and Anthony Adamo are seeking the four- and two-year terms. Former mayor Tim Fulkerson, Jim Lombardo and Michael Caruso are running for the four-year term.
If a candidate wins nomination to both terms, he or she will be on the November ballot running for both terms of office. If the candidate wins election to both seats, he or she will have to declare for one of them. Council would then fill the other seat after the new terms of office begin in January.
MaryAnne Gavrile said she is running for re-election “because we have made a lot of progress in the city and I want to continue on that.”
Gavrile, 59, a victim advocate for the Crisis Shelter of Lawrence County, said she believes the council race is about progress.
She said that has been made since she has been in office includes the city budget ending in the black the last four years and city officials enabling Refresh Dental to relocate its corporate offices to the Riverplex building downtown.
The company is negotiating with businesses to locate at the Riverplex, she said, adding other storefronts are being occupied downtown. Plus, new industries are locating here, but more needs to be done to market the city. Crime also has diminished.
One of her achievements she pointed to was leading the way to grant gas leasing rights to a company, resulting in $1.8 million dollars for the city’s coffers.
Gavrile said the city needs to clean up the neighborhoods and stabilize them. The city is going to “pick a target area” for demolition and “move people out that are a nuisance,” she said.
She said she would like the city to offer people tax incentives to buy single family dwellings and to convert duplexes into single family housing.
She also would like the city adopt a strategic plan covering neighborhoods, the business district, sustainable areas and public safety.
Now, she said, “the city acts by the seat of its pants.”
Gavrile said she also wants to continue the transparency “that started with this administration and council.”
Anthony Adamo, 45, has worked in law enforcement for 16 years and is employed at the Lawrence County jail. He previously worked for an insurance company.
His reason for seeking a council seat?
“I believe it’s time for people of my generation to get involved.”
Adamo is not too critical of the city’s current situation, saying “there’s a lot of good things happening in the city.”
Touting his experience in heading a crime watch program in Mahoningtown, he wants to take some of his organizational skills to city hall.
His top priorities are to attract new businesses, working with groups to cut the crime rate and see the city out of Act 47 in four years. Adamo calls Act 47 “a necessary evil,” saying the city is now spending less “than we’re taking in.”
Also, he would like to see neighborhoods with playgrounds that are safe.
“We have to come up with innovative ways to have people keep neighborhoods safe, drug free,” adding that he would like the city to develop programs to deter crime.
“We want people to come here, buy a home, respect it, and be a part of the community.”
Adamo recommends that the city develop links to its website for residents to report problems. He said there needs to be “an easier, streamlined way for quick and easy access” so that people can contact the right departments.
He also suggested that when the city mails tax statements that information be provided on how to contact departments and things that are happening or available in the city.
Fulkerson served two terms as mayor from 1996 through 2003 and ran unsuccessfully for mayor two years ago.
Fulkerson, 61, is currently a sales consultant for xpedx, the largest supplier of paper products in the country. He previously worked with Costars, the state’s piggyback program, a cooperative purchasing program used by municipalities.
He wants to use experience with that program for the city, especially when it comes to purchasing of vehicles.
His top priority, he said, is neighborhoods, saying the city needs to take advantage of the federal HOME program that provides money for housing rehabilitation.
Fulkerson contends abandoned houses do not have to be demolished but could be offered to contractors, giving them six months to bring them up to code.
“Let’s offer these houses for nothing. We need to put up a housing program and I have the knowledge to do that. I’ve been involved in construction all my life.”
After six months, they can either rent or sell it, he said, adding that the city could find families under the state’s first–time home buyer program. “There’s contractors out there that will do this.”
“If we can restore houses, you’ll see people coming back.”
If elected to council, Fulkerson said he would not be there to harass the mayor.
“I know where all the money is in Harrisburg. I want New Castle to be in the forefront of the governor’s desk. Nobody wins if the mayor and city council cannot agree.
“If anything, I’m going to be a help to the mayor.”
Jim Lombardo, 61, served as a police officer in Hickory Township and has been with T. Bruce Campbell of West Middlesex for 41 years. He is a crane operator and is looking forward toward retirement in June.
Lombardo also plays tenor sax as a member of The Dorals.
A former board member of the New Castle Area Transit Authority for 18 years, Lombardo gave his reason for running for council”
“I can’t sit back. I’m the type of person to step forward.”
Referring to his years on the transit board, Lombardo said the members worked together, and believes that is missing from council.
“When somebody has an idea, don’t shut them out,” he said. “Let’s work together as a whole, not as individuals.”
The neighborhoods have to be cleaned up, and money is available to do it, he said.
“There’s money out there, but nobody wants to go after it. You need to be persistent. Go back again and again. That’s the way I used to get things done.”
He said he has done a lot of legwork as a transit authority member.
“If I believe in something, I’m going to tell somebody the way it is. It’s not a political game where you have to exchange favors.”
He and Fulkerson are running as a team, but Lombardo said people should not expect the two to vote the same way on everything.
“We have our differences,” he said, but Lombardo believes the two will be able to join forces on projects such as obtaining grants.
“He’s very sharp on how to get money.”
Thomas Smith, 42, was appointed to council in March 2012 to fill a vacancy.
He said he initially did not consider seeking election, but after some thinking he decided he wants “to be part of the solution.”
Smith’s full–time job is borough manager of Seven Fields in Butler County.
One of his priorities is finding additional revenue sources — other than taxes — and stabilizing the neighborhoods.
To lure new businesses, the city needs to provide housing and amenities such as parks and roads.
“We have many deficiencies that need to be addressed.”
“We need to get into those areas that have blight and we need to knock down homes that can’t be refurbished, so that we don’t have the drugs and the blight that decrease property values.”
Smith was instrumental in placing additional money in this year’s budget for demolition.
“I’m not saying demolish everything. But we have some that need to be demolished.”
It’s the way to begin to attract businesses and people to the community, he said.
“Small positive gains will ultimately turn into larger gains. We just can’t continue to push things back. Taxpayers want results.
“You need to get people back in the city so that they’re buying homes and paying taxes. You have to make the city a more desirable place. That’s such a key component to economic development.”
Smith said the city needs to be “innovative, be smart.”
He asks, “Are we being as efficient and effective as we can in delivering services?”
Michael Caruso, 61, is retired after working in sales for a tobacco company for 30 years.
“You either stand on the sidelines and let things happen or get involved,” he gave as his reason for running for council.
He said city government needs to be a little more transparent, adding that people need to know more of what’s going on and maybe they will get involved.
Caruso believes it is good for the city to be under Act 47.
“They make us spend our money more wisely.”
One of his priorities is to have playgrounds in all sections of the city similar to when he was a youngster. It would be at minimal cost with students from Westminster College or Slippery Rock University serving as supervisors, he said.
Youngsters, he said, need interaction.
Dilapidated houses need to be demolished, but others could be rehabilitated by Habitat for Humanity, he said, and perhaps have public housing residents move into these homes to transition them from public housing. It would also be a way to attract people to the city, he said.
Noting that he negotiated million-dollar contracts with large retail outlets, Caruso said, “You have to learn how to give and take.”
Caruso lived out of town for several years but came back and bought his parents’ house on the East Side.
When asked how much influence in promoting ideas in a “strong mayor” form of government, Caruso said, “If nobody brings it up, it will never get done. If you come up with a plan, why would he say no?”