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Democratic hopefuls have their say in Pa. forum

April 17, 2007|by DON AINES

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - The five Democratic candidates for the Franklin County Board of Commissioners Monday night discussed qualifications, quality of life and issues before a group of about 40 people, including two Republican candidates, in a forum hosted by the Greencastle-Antrim Democratic Club.

On May 15, Democrats will choose two nominees from among Bob Ziobrowski, James Zeger, Cheryl Stearn, Don Richards and Clint Barkdoll to run in November. Republicans will choose two from a field of seven candidates.

The county budget and spending were top concerns of Barkdoll, an attorney and former Waynesboro, Pa., councilman. The budget has more than tripled from $40 million for $127 million since 1995, while real estate taxes more than doubled between 2001 and 2006, he said.

"I feel like there are a lot of social programs and policy issues that have been ignored in the past 12 years," said Barkdoll. He proposed a range of initiatives ranging from a court system for mentally ill criminal offenders and encouraging home ownership, to replacing county vehicles with a hybrid and biodiesel fleet.

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"We have a lot of jobs in the county. A lot of them don't pay very much," said Richards, who was a Democratic nominees in 2003. "About all we're getting are warehouse jobs."

Richards said the county could attract better-paying industries with tax incentives; encourage developers to build more affordable housing; have public transportation for seniors citizens and the disabled; and retain county employees with better wages.

"What all of us enjoy here is the quality of life in Franklin County," said Stearn, a Chambersburg businesswoman and member of the Chambersburg Hospital Board of Directors. "It means safe communities, affordable homes, good schools, recreation, good medical facilities and accessible and affordable social services."

Unless the county works with local governments to manage growth, it "could cost more than the revenues it generates ... and could actually act as a drag on the local economy," she said.

"Service to humanity is the best work of life," said Zeger, the mayor of Mercersburg, Pa., and a former Tuscarora School Board member. "I see the commissioners job as providing services to human beings."

"I can crunch numbers," Zeger said of his experience with budgets, but the job requires more. "If you do the right thing for people, you get the right answers."

Ziobrowski, a former Chambersburg School Board president, touted his experience with budgets in local government, businesses and institutions. He said he offers knowledge, experience and leadership with the school board, Franklin County Area Development Corp., Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority and Chambersburg Hospital Board of Directors.

"We have the lowest taxes in Southcentral Pennsylvania," Ziobrowski said. "I'll work hard to keep that tax low."

"As a Republican, I have no dog in this fight," said GOP candidate Carl Barton. "I came primarily to see what issues people are talking about."

Republican candidate Douglas Tengler also attended the forum.

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