Four candidates are seeking two seats on the West Manheim Township board of supervisors in the Nov. 5 general election.
Five Republicans ran in the primary. Jeremy Ault and Brian Blettner prevailed in that election.
They will now square off against a pair of Democrats, David Barber and Andrea Reca.
Any of the four would be newcomers to the board of supervisors because the incumbents, Carl Gobrecht and Nils Parr, opted not to seek re-election.
Jeremy Ault (R)
David Barber (D)
Age and address:
Family: Engaged to be married to Andrea Reca.
Occupation: Owner and President of Barber Electronics Inc. Electronics engineer, manufacturing, sales and distribution.
Community organizations with which you are active:
Brian A. Blettner (R)
Age and address: 53, of 1121 Frogtown Road
Family: Two sons, ages 17 and 14, attending South Western High School
Occupation: Self Employed
Education: Graduate of South Western High School
Community organizations with which you are active: None
Andrea Reca (D)
Age/address: 30, of West Manheim Township
Family: Fiancé, David Barber, who is also running for township supervisor, 3 cats and 1 dog
Occupation: Mental health therapist currently working in the drug and alcohol dependency field, I have also worked with victimized children and teenagers.
Education: Master's degree in counseling psychology, and I am continuing my education to become a licensed professional counselor in Pennsylvania.
Community organizations with which you are active: I have volunteered with the West Manheim Park to help build trails, plant trees, and run events.
Questions and answers:
1. If you could make one change to improve the quality of life for residents in West Manheim Township, what change would you make? Explain your choice.
Barber: West Manheim Township is comprised of a wide spectrum of residents, businesses and their unique needs. We encompass farmland to developed-communities, large-scale retail shopping to home-occupations. We have a great balance of youth, hard working adults, parents both married and single, and our senior citizens operating on fixed incomes. Each group has its own specific needs while sharing a common thread in the need to trust their local government to give them a voice. Trust, this is one area where we can always improve our relationship with the everyday lives of our community. The Township government should strive for greater transparency, keeping government footprint as small as possible while providing a safe living and working environment for our diverse residents.
Blettner: While it's probably too late in the process, because many of the developments were approved in the early 2000s during the construction boom, I would look to curb residential development. The increase in residential development affects the quality of life for everyone in the township. Quality of life issues such as: traffic congestion, school overcrowding, the additional strains on the volunteer fire company, EMS services and our police department will be issues the Board of Supervisors will need to address for many years to come.
Reca: "Change" can be seen as a subjective word, based on each candidate's values and views on public service. I believe that a major role of township supervisor is to continue to evaluate the laws, regulations, and current or future plans that impact all of the residents. As township supervisor, it's imperative that we listen to all members of the township, to determine how the Township can best serve the people. As supervisor, I will remove my own personal views of each issue brought before me, while looking at how that issue will impact the Township as a whole. In doing so, this will lead to positive changes in the Township that are inclusive to all of the residents.
2. What will your other priorities be if elected as a township supervisor? Explain why those are your priorities.
Barber: Consolidation of township resources will be vital in order to recapture the value of underused township property. The savings we reap can be reallocated to offset funding road projects that would otherwise adversely affect the township millage. Another important goal of consolidation and divestment would be reducing township debt, which has doubled to 6 million dollars during current leadership. The township still owns the old township building and another few acres for public works. The old township building should be sold and we should centralize public works as much as possible. Space in the new township building not used for government should continue to be made available to the residents for community purposes.
Blettner: To improve on the township infrastructure such as roads, police department, fire department, emergency medical services and try to operate on the lowest tax base possible for our residents.
Reca: Continuing to listen to the township residents will remain one of my top priorities. This will ensure that the residents are satisfied in knowing that their elected officials are working for them. Another priority is examining how well our tax dollars are being utilized, as many residents are understandably concerned about this issue. Also, given that I have extensive experience that focuses on the safety and wellbeing of others, I would like to see the township building be used to provide community education. I would give my time and attention to help develop and present these programs that would provide education and awareness on various emerging threats to our community.
3. West Manheim Township has a tax rate of 3 mills. How would you rate the township's job of controlling costs and its tax rate? Why?
Barber: The township has done an inadequate job of controlling the tax rate. I would work to reduce the millage over my 6-year term. The lack of a capital fund for road projects led to compounded debt service. In order to repair the road problems that have cascaded from board to board, the Supervisors used a heavy-handed approach to repairing roads by raising the tax rate 25.5 percent. This increase raised our taxes to 3 mills, the highest rate in the Township's history. The current higher millage is also used to pay for the over-leveraged township building. We have to pay down our debt in order to reduce the millage. We can develop a path to future road projects that don't require deep debt and costs that are magnified by paying interest if we properly develop and manage our funds.
Blettner: It seems to me that the present 3 mill tax base was partly due to a three million dollar bond to improve our roads. Once this bond can be paid for, which is a five year commitment, it would be in the best interest of township supervisors to try and lower the taxes of the township residents which I will help to do.
Reca: The millage was raised about a year and half ago, from 2.39 to 3 mils. The township saw road projects throughout various areas of the township, and not all residents directly benefited from these projects. This suggests that our tax dollars are not being used as effectively as they should be. The answer is not always in raising the taxes, but in determining how our taxes are being used, and where our efforts and attention can be better spent.
4. West Manheim Township relies on its own police department for police protection. Is that sufficient? Should the township explore a regional policing option? Why or why not?
Barber: West Manheim petitioned to have a full-time township police department in 1988. We have invested in creating a quality law enforcement department. We currently have less than the 2.2 officers per 1,000 residents that the Department of Justice states as the national average. We spend roughly 13 percent of our total budget on our police department. This remains a good value compared to other townships, but we have also seen a rise in service calls and increased cost equipment. I believe it's time to take a serious look at regionalization. The renewal of the police contract will take place during this term and a few familiar faces in our local force are retiring. Regionalization cuts down on redundancy, improves overall depth of resources and can provide quality service and lower cost in the long run.
Blettner: The police department is a vital part of our township. At the present , I believe it is sufficient. As growth continues to come to the township I believe it is inevitable that we will have to look into expanding this department. Other townships have approached this option (regional policing) with varying results. I think it is very important to have our own officers and police force who more than know our roads, our residents and our business. As residents, we rely on them for protection.
Reca: Currently, our police department is comprised of a total of 8 officers, who are committed to providing protection and service to our community. I understand that there are differing views regarding the number of officers on staff, some feel that our police force is too large for our community and others feel that added officers are needed to continue to ensure our safety. I think that moving to a regional option puts our residents at risk for calls not being answered in a timely fashion, as well as jeopardizing the employment of our officers. I see this issue as being directly related to how well our tax dollars are being utilized. If elected, I will explore the resources available to our officers and invite an open dialogue between the residents, the supervisors, and the police department to determine how all of our needs can best be met.
5. Why did you decide to run for township supervisor? Why should people support your candidacy for township supervisor?
Barber: As township supervisor, I will bring my two years of experience as chairman of the auditors board, and three years of experience on the West Manheim park board to the township supervisors board. Through my past involvement with the township, I have saved the township thousands of dollars. I have put my own money and time into the township's park each year. My township involvement shows my concrete history of selfless commitment to public service and to the West Manheim community. I've owned a small successful business with worldwide distribution for 17 years, which provides me with the strong understanding of business that I bring to our township. My honesty, fairness, township experience and commitment to the residents will be strong assets when I am elected supervisor. I'll be an ardent listener and an effective voice for the people.
Blettner: The township is losing two supervisors and with these positions coming open I was urged by friends and family and taxpayers of the township to try and pursue one of these positions. The people should support me because I am a resident and own my business in the township for 15 years. I believe I am a very qualified candidate and the best one for the job. Please vote for Brian Blettner.
Reca: Township supervisor is not a position that is to be taken lightly, it requires dedication of both time and personal effort. Each supervisor should be willing and able to place aside their own personal interests in order to best serve their community. I decided to run as I feel that I possess this ability, and that is what the board needs in order to be effective. I also have extensive experience working with a wide range of people from various backgrounds, and I believe this to be a skill that would bring greater diplomacy to our board. The citizens of West Manheim should support me if they are looking for a fair candidate, who is able to explore both sides of every issue, dedicate her time to improving the quality of life for all residents, and continue to educate herself on various issues brought forth by the residents.