Williamsport candidates discuss issues

February 26, 2009

Three vie for two council seats

Business development, including how to boost tourism, and ways to help Williamsport residents endure the current economic conditions are among the issues being discussed among two candidates for mayor and two candidates for assistant mayor. Mayor James McCleaf II will face Jeffrey A. Cline in the mayoral race in Monday's election, and Anthony T. Drury and Earle R. Pereschuk will run for assistant mayor. Terms for the offices are four years. The mayor is paid $3,500 a year and the assistant mayor receives $3,000 a year, McCleaf said.

James McCleaf II

Ticket: Independent

Age: 38

Address: 121 W. Potomac St., Williamsport

Years in town: 11

Occupation: Shop manager at Hopewell Manufacturing

Previous town positions and years: Town Council member, 2001-2005; town zoning appeals board, 1999-2000.

Priorities for the town: Continue to push for improvements to the C&O Canal and related tourism. The C&O Canal was a shipping canal and is now a national park attracting bicyclists and other tourists. In Williamsport, the old canal includes a warehouse, lock house and an aqueduct, which will be "re-watered," McCleaf said. The improvements to the park are expected to bring 200,000 more visitors to the area annually with a $7.4 million impact, McCleaf said. MCleaf said he wants the town to explore raising money for more improvements to the park, saying new revenues from the park will save the town from having to go to residents to help pay for increased costs of operations.


McCleaf's second priority is ensuring that the town stays financially stable. Four years ago, the town was in financial trouble with a threat of its charter being pulled, McCleaf said. Today, the town has a positive cash flow and has received more than $1.3 million in grants, McCleaf said.

Jeffrey A. Cline

Ticket: Citizens First

Age: 52

Address: 13 S. Artizan St., Williamsport

Years in town: Lifelong resident

Occupation: Agent with Roger Fairbourn Real Estate

Previous town positions and years: Town Council member, 2005-2009.

Priorities for the town: To take a line-by-line review of the town budget in an attempt to find extra revenue and pass it on to town residents in the form of reduced fees like water, sewer or garbage fees. Cline said he believes it is important to help residents with bills because they are having a tough time dealing with their expenses in the struggling economy.

Cline's second priority is to help clean up the town by offering a free bulk trash pick-up on a consistent basis. Such a service once was offered in town but has not been offered on a regular basis, Cline said.

Cline said he wants the town to offer two free bulk trash pick-ups a year, an effort he hopes will keep debris out of neighborhoods.

The town has a weekly bulk trash pick-up that costs $15 per end loader scoop. Cline wants to reduce that to $10 a scoop and $5 for seniors and those on limited incomes.

Earle R. Pereschuk

Ticket: Citizens First

Age: 56

Address: 129 Sunset Ave., Williamsport

Years in town: About 23

Occupation: Employee of the Washington County Building, Grounds and Parks Department

Previous town positions and years: Served on Town Council for 12 years except for a two-year period when he ran for mayor.

Priorities for the town: Pereschuk said he has been talking to town residents and many of them are having trouble dealing with a combination of rising utility bills and their work hours being cut back. To help residents, Pereschuk said he wants to review the budget to look for possible areas to cut spending. Pereschuk said the town is anticipating rate increases for public water from the City of Hagerstown and sewer treatment from Washington County government. Hopefully, some extra money can be found in the town budget to help offset those anticipated utility rate increases to help residents, Pereschuk said.

Pereschuk said his second priority would be helping to strengthen downtown business and tourism on the C&O Canal towpath. Pereschuk said he supports seeking grants to strengthen both areas.

Anthony T. Drury

Ticket: Independent

Age: 43

Address: 33 E. Potomac St., Williamsport

Years in town: More than 30

Occupation: Financial representative for New England Financial

Previous town positions and years: Town Council member, 2007-2009.

Priorities for the town: Wants to continue the fiscal responsibility that has been shown over the last four years with the mayor and council. In the current economic times, close examination will have to be made of the "already lean budget" to make some "tough decisions" on where cuts can be made. But Drury does not want to reduce the town's labor force or reduce the amount of money the town gives to charities.

Second priority is to make the town more attractive to new businesses and tourists. Toward that end, Drury will look at the town's current laws and work on passing new ones to give the town more control over what happens in town limits.

If you go ...

What: Williamsport municipal election

When: Monday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: Williamsport Town Hall

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