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Franklin Co. Commissioners candidates sound off as election nears

November 01, 2007|By DON AINES

Editor's note: This is the second of two articles previewing the Franklin County Commissioners race. Two Democrats and two Republicans are seeking the three open seats in Tuesday's general election.




CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - The Herald-Mail asked the four candidates for the Franklin County Board of Commissioners - three-term Republican incumbent Bob Thomas, Republican David S. Keller and Democrats Cheryl Stearn and Bob Ziobrowski - to pose questions that they and the other candidates should answer.

Each candidate asked a question which they and the others were to answer in approximately 50 words. The candidate posing the question provides the first response, followed by the rest of the field.

On Tuesday, the 83,930 registered voters in the county can vote for two of the candidates to serve four-year terms. The top three vote-getters will form the new board in 2008.

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The board will have at least two new members. Republican G. Warren Elliott and Democrat Cheryl Plummer did not seek re-election to a fourth term.

1) While all the candidates agree farmland preservation is important to maintain the character and economics of agriculture in Franklin County, other counties in Pennsylvania are beginning to realize with increasing land prices it may be impossible to maintain the same level of farmland preservation funding.

With the county's multimillion debt level increasing ($0 to $50 million in 12 years) how would you solve this problem?

Stearn: Besides farmland preservation, additional options to preserve the county's rural nature are needed. Used in Adams County, private land trusts are more flexible in preserving land and providing landowner benefits. Performing audits like an energy audit and finding operational savings will provide more county funds for programs and the opportunity to reduce debt.

Keller: The county's current debt is due mostly to the cost to build the new county jail, and hats off to our commissioners for doing so. Building the new jail will save taxpayers money in the long run.

As for farmland preservation, I will continue to support the current pace of farmland preservation. If it is necessary to borrow funds and pay back over time, I believe farmland preservation is important enough to do so.

Ziobrowski: Other options to preserve farmland without using county tax money include a non-profit farmland trust, transfers of development rights, and township purchases of agricultural easements. I will support these options with enthusiasm.

Thomas: Franklin County government is financially very strong and the current bond issue ($46.5 M) was necessary for construction of the jail, 911 improvements and yes, $5 million for farmland preservation. All were necessary capital improvements that would have been irresponsible to ignore. Future funding for this program will come from participating townships and other revenues determined by a consensus of the future board of commissioners.

2) What services not currently provided by Franklin County should the county government consider taking on in the future?

Keller: Continued growth will put pressure on neighborhoods, school districts, boroughs and townships to maintain and expand recreational facilities and set aside additional green spaces for such purposes. In some cases, county municipalities may benefit from sharing the cost of expanding and maintaining recreational spaces. The county may be able to provide assistance in this area, although I see the county's role as being one more of leadership and planning than funding.

Ziobrowski: An upgrade of the county Internet Web site is a high priority. Cumberland County, Pa., has an award-winning Web site with easy to read, detailed information about the county budget and all county operations. I would use it as a model. Transparency is necessary for effective government.

Thomas: Franklin County provides an Information and Referral telephone service to help guide consumers in need of Human Services. I believe a similar program with an interactive Web site would be a great tool to guide citizens with questions involving services of county, municipal and state governments.

Stearn: Franklin County should provide more public access to records, preferably on the Franklin County Web site. Meeting minutes, agendas, the county budget and forms should be posted for easy access by residents of the county. This is a service that might actually save money and keep residents better informed about county matters. 3) Do you favor countywide reassessment? Why or why not?

Ziobrowski: No. It would cost $5 million as a temporary fix. Until a 1991 court decision, the county adjusted assessments systematically based on sales price. This self-correcting system has been proposed for legal reinstatement through state legislation. I will lobby the legislature for this cost-effective and equitable method of assessment.

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