UPPER ALLEN TOWNSHIP—It was a time for Cumberland County commissioner hopefuls to win some votes as the Upper Allen Woman’s Club hosted a “meet the candidates” forum Tuesday night in the Upper Allen Township municipal building.
“This is part of the cleansing process,” commissioner Gary Eichelberger said, saying public forums like the one held Tuesday are a way to hold public officials accountable and fully vet interested candidates before an election.
There are currently four candidates running for the two Republican slots in the May 19 primary—Eichelberger, incumbent commissioner Barbara Cross, Rick Schin and Vince DiFilippo. Three candidates are seeking the two slots for Democrats—incumbent commissioner Jim Hertzler, Dashell Fittry and Rick Rovegno.
The four candidates chosen in May get to the November ballot, and the top three vote-getters in the November election will serve as county commissioner.
The candidates fielded questions ranging from property taxes to libraries and police funding to infrastructure.
All of the candidates said they supported proposals similar to what Gov. Tom Wolf and the state Legislature have proposed to reduce property taxes by increasing the personal income tax and increasing and expanding the state sales tax. However, most took umbrage with adding personal care services for the elderly as a taxable service.
“That raises a red flag for me,” Rovegno said.
Hertzler defended the new governor without saying he supported the tax expansion on personal care services. “There is no free lunch, but we ought to be able to figure out a way to relieve the pressure of our tax burden especially on our homeowners,” Hertzler said.
The discussion then turned to libraries. The county, like many in the state, has been dealing with the question of how to fund the library system in the future. All of the candidates stated that they supported the library system and highlighted its essential role in the community, but Rovegno showed support for increasing the library tax rate.
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“I’ll say it pretty directly, I think it’s time to increase the millage rate of the library tax,” Rovegno said.
Each candidate was given a chance to weigh in on the county’s infrastructure, namely on the shape of the county’s bridges. Again all of the candidates found consensus that there was a need to invest in the bridges and find ways to maintain the bridges going forward.
“What is depressing for me to see and hear is that over half of the bridges owned by the county are structurally deficient and some have been close as has been mentioned,” Fittry said.
He said that the county should be storing away a little money each year to help with upkeep of the bridges so that problems do not get to the point of closing them in the future.
Later in the evening DiFilippo highlighted the need for farmland preservation as well as business development in the county. He touted his championing of a land preservation program in Silver Spring Township where he currently serves on the board of supervisors.
“I think the residents of Cumberland County want a balance,” he said.
All of the candidates express a desire to make the commissioners more accessible. Cross highlighted the implementation of live streaming of the commissioners meeting saying that was a way to engage residents and was something for which she had pushed.
The primary will be held on May 19 to decide each party’s two candidates.