West Chester Twp. voters will have some decisions on Election Day next Tuesday, with contested races for trustee and fiscal officer.
Incumbent Trustee Ann Becker faces a challenge from David Corfman and Fiscal Officer Bruce Jones is running against Julia Flake, who works in the township’s finance department.
Becker was elected two years ago to replace long-time trustee George Lang who is now a state representative. Corfman was in that race also, which had a field of eight candidates. Lang was appointed to the statehouse in September 2017 when there were still two years left on his term.
Becker said her biggest accomplishment has been approving the $20 million diverging diamond interchange project under construction at Union Centre Boulevard. The price on the project kept escalating this year during a rough bidding season but all three trustees said the project is critical to the township so they agreed to sell $14 million in TIF-backed bonds and pay cash for the rest.
“The building of the Union Centre Boulevard diverging diamond was a huge accomplishment for our township,” Becker told the Journal-News. “It’s going to open up traffic in a very congested area, it will also open up further development in the Union Centre Boulevard area, which will help our tax base and give us new businesses for new jobs and greater economic development.”
Corfman, an IT manager who is active in the community, said he decided to challenge Becker because he believes she cares more about business than the residents. He said he and a group of other residents worked on a bike path plan in the area of Keehner Park and she dismissed the idea quickly.
“I was not seeing that our township residents were getting a fair return on their tax dollar investment,” Corfman said. “Everything I had seen from her was focused on business and not a serious effort on her part to provide amenities, beyond repainting the tennis courts for pickle ball.”
Becker responded that she supports walkability and bike paths but as a trustee she must consider the long-term fiscal impact of any new amenity. She said it not just the cost to build things but also to maintain them for years to come. The proposed bike path plan would require taking land from 13 private properties for one of the paths, another problem for her.
“I’m not supportive of eminent domain,” she said. “I don’t think our residents would want to take other people’s property to put in a recreational bike trail,” she said.
Both candidates responded to the Journal-News voters guide and one of the questions was regarding the challenges the township faces. Becker said roads are the top problem.
“Sixty percent of West Chester’s residential neighborhoods were built in the late 1990s and early 2000s. We have done an excellent job maintaining those roads, replacing a few each year, but the time is coming when many will need to be rebuilt entirely.” she wrote. “The township will have to be careful with spending in the next few years. The road rebuilds will be an expensive investment but needed.”
Corfman reiterated the need for more amenities.
“Surrounding communities are out-competing us to provide greater walkability, better park features, and well-maintained roads,” Corfman wrote. “This can dissuade new residents from moving here and drive out current residents, lowering property values.”
In the fiscal officer race, Jones said he wants voters to know although he doesn’t get to vote on township business, he does have influence and oversight of the finances.
“One of my proudest accomplishments is advocating and getting the board to pursue and purchase adaptation of the OpenGov platform,” he said. “It’s much more transparent that Open Checkbook and it enables us to gather data from the various departments and identify operational efficiencies, which will reduce costs in turn.”
Fike in her response to the voters guide said she has worked with the township’s finances for 22 years and will be a good steward of the taxpayers’ money.
“I am a conservative and believe in smaller government, less taxes, and thereby less spending. I will make sure we don’t spend more than we have,” she wrote. “I will ensure the township financial transactions remain transparent and the office maintains fiscal responsibility. Simply put, being good stewards of the resources we have.”
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