Less than half of the running candidates attended yesterday evening’s Meet the Candidate Night, hosted by the Ellwood City Kitchen Cabinet.
Four candidates, three of which are current members of council running for reelection, attended the public event.
Democratic incumbent, Michele Lamenza, and newcomer, Caleb Cragle attended – their challengers, former councilman James Barry, and newcomers Bryan Vincent and John Pansera were not present.
Republic incumbents, David DeCaria and Connie MacDonald were present while their republican challengers Rob Brough, John Cress, Brandon Fisher and Lisa Guerrera were absent.
Brough, Cress, Fisher, and Guerrera released a joint statement Thursday morning saying they would not be attending the event and instead chose to continue pursuing door-to-door campaigning.
“Our team is getting to know Ellwood City residents personally, by talking to them one-on-one at their doors,” the statement said.
The attending candidates answered and discussed dozens of submitted questions, with a reoccurring topic of how council can cut spending.
In regards to cutting spending, the police contract, electric department, and revitalization project were brought up.
DeCaria reminded that the police contract was inherited and the mayor is the one in charge of the police department and controls overtime.
MacDonald reminded that the electric department performs “outstanding and almost unheard of” services – he mentioned that while most electric departments experience outages upwards of 12 hours, “Ellwood City rarely sees an outage over two hours,” he also stated they do an excellent job with power line upkeep and are always compliant and timely with providing information and services.
The purpose of the revitalization project is to not only attract homeowners, but to also attract businesses to the community.
Cragle said he hopes to see a better parking arrangement for businesses on main street, he exemplified that it’s unappealing for businesses and customers alike when situations happen such as when he’s getting his hair cut and half way through the barber has to run out and put money in the meter.
DeCaria said after a parking study was completed and came back positive, he believes there is a problem with perception, not parking.
“If you keep saying there is a problem over and over eventually people are going to start believing it,” he said.
MacDonald agreed that the parking study showed there is sufficient parking in downtown Ellwood.
The Borough Manager’s residential requirement was also brought up, which each of the candidates had a say in.
DeCaria stated that not only was he the one that called to suspend the ordinance, but he did so because the Borough Manger was hired before the current council was in place and he believes the ordinance is out of date.
MacDonald added that state laws regarding Borough Manager contracts have changed and the current contracts are only for a two-year period of time. He said it would be unfair for the manager to be forced to move into the Borough for such a short contract.
Cragle defended the current manager, “sometimes I take walks and drive around town in the evening, and I can vouch that I often see his car parked after hours at the municipal building – I have also got emails from him at 2:30a.m. on a Sunday. He’s always approachable and respectable and shows impeccable dedication to the Borough despite not living here.”
Cragle, a teacher and community member of over 35 years hopes that his candidness will be a refreshing quality that will work in his favor.
“I do believe we consistently vote in the same individuals time and time again, which leads to the recycling of the same ideas,” his bio states.
The three incumbents trust that their previous experience and achievements on council will be a desired trait for voters.
Previous Councilman James Barry was unable to attend but did write a bio which is included with the other four candidate’s bios below: