Four vie for three commisioner seats in Franklin County

October 23, 2003|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Three incumbents and a challenger make up the field in the race for the three seats on the Franklin County Board of Commissioners that will be decided in the Nov. 4 general election.

Republicans G. Warren Elliott and Bob Thomas and Democrat Cheryl Plummer are running for their third four-year terms on the board, while Democrat Don Richards, chairman of the county's Democratic committee, says he can bring "a new style of management."

The top three vote-getters will make up the board, which guarantees representation by both parties. The GOP, however, has maintained a majority on the board for decades and has a 2-to-1 advantage in registered voters.


Commissioners are paid $55,303 this year.

Cheryl Plummer

"I think we've strengthened not only the geographical, but the human infrastructure of the county," said Plummer, 54, of 3596-A Eagle Drive, Chambersburg. The longest serving commissioner, she was appointed to office in 1994, following the death of Dennis Zeger.

Through state Community Development Block Grant funds and the county's Housing Trust Fund, Plummer said the board has helped "support and rehabilitate the small rural communities that make up the majority of the county" through sewer and water projects and affordable housing programs.

"We've leveraged every dollar we could possibly leverage in state and federal funding to help residents," she said.

In the area of human services, Plummer said the county has built or renovated five or its eight senior centers during her tenure. Programs for juvenile delinquents, and battered spouses also have been improved, she said.

G. Warren Elliott

Elliott, 48, of 822 Shatzers Orchard Road, Chambersburg, has chaired the board for the past eight years, and served an interim term as commissioner in 1987 after the retirement of Fred Rock. "The ability to work cooperatively with all levels of government on issues that affect the quality of life in Franklin County" is one area in which Elliott said the county has made great strides.

The Franklin County Public Safety Training Center, maintaining low taxes and low unemployment, and the preservation of 7,000 acres of prime farmland are among the board's accomplishments, Elliott said. "I hope we can build on that record of achievement in the next four years."

That includes accelerating preservation of farmland, streamlining the court system, seeking more efficiency in county government and creating a good climate for "higher paying jobs, family-sustaining jobs."

"We do have a good economy, but along with that comes the challenge of getting a handle on and managing growth," he said.

Bob Thomas

A Chambersburg councilman and broadcaster before being elected commissioner in 1995, Thomas, 48, of 171 Lincoln Road, said being on the board "has enabled me to be more effective in other community roles."

Thomas cited the Council of Governments, which he chairs, as an example of how he has helped foster cooperation between the county and municipal governments. The public safety training center and a revived county drug task force are other examples of how local governments banded together for a common purpose, he said.

"Communications between the municipalities and the county is better than it has ever been," he said. Local, county and state governments must work with state and federal representatives to preserve jobs at Letterkenny Army Depot, which could face more cuts in 2005 when the Base Realignment and Closure Commission meets again.

"We live in difficult times for counties ... but even in difficult times we've been able to retain one of the lowest, if not the lowest, tax rate in the state," Thomas said.

"Pull out your tax bill from 1995 and look at the one for this year ... you'll see a big difference," said Richards, 52, of 12301 Nancy Ave., Greencastle, Pa. He said county real estate taxes have skyrocketed in the past eight years.

"Being in manufacturing, we've learned to do more with less," said Richards, a laser programmer with a Frederick, Md., company. He said that knowledge will help him "spend money more wisely and save tax dollars."

Richards said he wants to improve the quality of life, saying "this last year, it really took a hit." He said a proposed quarry in St. Thomas, Pa., a bid to build a bypass in Washington Township and the use of sewage sludge on farmland are examples of a deteriorating quality of life.

"I'd like to provide the leadership to get the state to do something about it," said Richards, noting that local officials need more authority to control development.

"You have to focus on what kind of businesses you don't want in an area," he said.

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