With Election Day quickly approaching, candidates for Mayor and three council seats gathered at a round table to answer some tough questions. The gathering at Milford Borough Hall was organized by The Pike County Courier whose editorial board were the ones asking the questions, some of which were gathered from the public before the discussion.
On the ballot for a four year term as Mayor are incumbent Democrat Sean Strub, and Republican challenger Nick May. Incumbents Republican Rob Ciervo, Democrat Frank Tarquinio and newly appointed councilman Republican Aaron May along with challenger Democrat Kim Reno are vying for three seats on council for four-year terms. Should Aaron May become elected, his appointed seat will become vacant and another appointment would be forthcoming.
The issues:Music festivals - and the associated rising decibel levels in the historically quiet borough. Seemingly all were in agreement that a balance needs to be achieved leveraging the business community and the commerce that these festivals bring with those who have residences who feel their entitlement to undisrupted peace and quality of life. Monitoring sound levels with a decibel measuring device and training the police to use it was proposed by Tarquinio. Reno would like to see more usage of Ann Street Park for the festivals.
Jobs and New Businesses - Tarquinio thinks that improving the infrastructure including central sewer and updating electric and phone service would entice business to locate here. Ciervo views the key as encouraging mom & pop businesses which could also lead to job creation but noted that getting qualified workers is a problem both locally and nationally. Strub offered that he has been proactive soliciting potential buyers for the Milford Theater and that the microbrewery currently in development will be a great addition to the Borough.
Opioid crisis - Reno thinks there is nothing for teens to do in Milford and she would bring programs to the borough, like job shadowing. She said that the time to be proactive is before an individual has an opportunity to turn to drugs. She also is an advocate of a drug court in Pike County. Tarquinio would like to have neighborhood watches organized. Nick May said “it takes a town to raise a child” and that everyone needs to look out for their neighbors. He also thinks that the borough should reach out to neighboring communities and work together educating children on ways to “say no” and exit themselves from situations that make them uncomfortable. Strub says that the average age of borough residents (59) is higher than that of those in the opioid user range and thinks that the related crime in the borough and employers dealing with addicts are of major concern.
Police preparedness - It was a concurrent theme that there are not enough police on the force to make the town the way it should be. The solution will be based on a financial balancing act. Strub said that a possibility for an earned income tax was possible to raise funds; however it would most likely be a last resort. State legislation is pending which would allow the borough to solicit its police protection to outlying areas. Strub added that volunteer positions might be created to help with a police presence at the festivals in the borough.
Where will the money come from - Strub brought up the fact that there are many properties in the borough that are not being taxed for the use that the afford. He also stated the borough needs a re-assessment which needs to be county-wide. He also said that civic volunteerism would make a difference on the bottom line. Tarquinio suggested applying for more grants. Nick May warned of an upcoming expense of replacing aging drainage pipes under the streets that have been buried out of sight for many years. Reno would look at all the borough contracts to be sure that they are up to date and the borough receiving all it is due mentioning the contract with Blue Ridge Cable that hasn’t been changed in 40+ years. Aaron May and Ciervo both offered that looking at the budget very closely to put money where the priorities exist and trim other expenses where they can.
Access to healthcare - Nick May said that volunteerism needs to grow and that historically many residents used to join the fire company and/or the ambulance crew, but over the past several decades those willing people have declined dramatically nationwide as well as in our area with Pike County going so far as to hire a recruiting firm to try and bolster the ranks. Strub considers the current lack of advanced life support available to the borough and southern Pike County a near crises situation and stated that Councilwoman Annette Haar is the point person from council who is dealing with county commissioners looking to address this issue.
Architectural correctness vs. functionality - Strub was outspoken with his support of maintaining the historic charm of Milford and his displeasure with the construction of the courthouse annex within the historic district stating that “I can’t look at it without cringing” drawing large applause from the audience. Strub says the borough needs the leadership to stand up to the threats that will continue to pressure Milford to commit to growth that detracts from the historic charm of the borough. Ciervo, agrees with the Architectural Review Boards mission and thinks that it is working and that businesses will find a way to work with the ARB going forward. Aaron May thinks that the signage in the commercial district should allow modern materials such as vinyl lettering which will last longer for a reduced investment while maintaining the historic look of the borough. Tarquinio mentioned that since there isn’t any buildable property in the commercial historic district, the ARB would play a key roll the demolition of any unsafe buildings and the reconstruction of new buildings.
The election will be held on Tuesday, November 7, with polls opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 8 p.m.