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SHARON MAYOR Cleanup, finances rank as key issues

By Harold Gwin

Monday, October 29, 2001

The two have differing approaches to city debt.
SHARON, Pa. -- The two men vying for the office of city mayor both advocate turning the city around fiscally and cleaning up residential neighborhoods.
They differ, however, in how they would achieve those goals.
City Controller David O. Ryan, the former Sharon police chief, will face off against Councilman Louis Rotunno for the $49,000-a-year post in the Nov. 6 election.
Both men are Democrats, but Rotunno entered the race too late to get his name listed on the May primary ballot. He subsequently launched a write-in campaign on the Republican ticket, which had no candidates, and received more than the required 100 votes to win the nomination.
The incumbent mayor, Democrat Robert T. Price, was expected to seek re-election to add to his 24 years in office but decided after filing his nominating petitions that health concerns would prevent him from running again.
Financial focus: Fiscal responsibility is still the top issue on Ryan's agenda. He said the city must reduce its debts, pointing out that money spent on interest on loans is wasted taxpayer funds.
Ryan said he will present an annual budget that accurately reflects the city's revenues and expenditures for the next calendar year and that he will stop the city from operating on a "financial crisis basis."
He will also put an end to late payment fees on city purchases, something that hurt the city's credit in recent years when it failed to pay its bills on time.
Cleanup: Rotunno said the cleanup of some of the city's deteriorating residential neighborhoods is at the top of his list right now. Fiscal improvements are right behind that, he said.
Rather than pay off all the old debt of $4 million, Rotunno has a plan to refinance it at lower interest rates that will allow Sharon to borrow an additional $1.5 million without increasing the annual debt service payments.
However, the debt service would have to be extended seven years beyond the current 2014 expiration date, he said.
The $1.5 million in additional bond money could then be used for a variety of improvements, such as rebuilding sidewalks and repaving streets.
Part of Rotunno's fiscal plan also involves going after people who fail to pay their sewer bills and property taxes on time.
Ryan said he will launch a strong campaign to clean up deteriorating neighborhoods and enforce city building and safety codes, seeking to restore pride to the residents and city employees alike.
Rotunno plans to get tough with those who fail to maintain their residential properties, vowing to use the fire department as the eyes and ears of the code enforcement office.
Other issues: Ryan said economic development and keeping businesses in the city would be part of his administration.
He also said he will return the municipal recycling program to being city-funded. City council eliminated the program last year, requiring residents to handle their own recycling costs.
Rotunno has a different plan for recycling. He said Mercer County has secured a $900,000 state grant to fund recycling, and he proposes that the county designate Sharon as a depot center where people can drop off recyclable items at no charge.
Ryan said he is running to provide the city with a change in leadership. He pointed out his experience as police chief for nine years, administering a budget of $1.4 million a year with 53 employees.
His duties as elected city controller since his retirement from the police force keep him involved in city finances, approving and signing all bills, payrolls and contracts as well as monitoring the budget, he said.
Rotunno said his two terms as a councilman, his chairmanship of the Shenango Valley Community Library endowment fund and his involvement in community and youth programs make him a good candidate for the mayor's post.