Mayoral rivals vie for nomination in Montgomery

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Today the Williamsport Sun-Gazette continues its look at the key contests for municipal, township and school board nominations in the May 21 primary election. Installments each day through Saturday will focus on a different race.)

Andrew Onufrak II is running for his fourth term as Montgomery’s mayor. He says he wants to be re-elected because “the work’s not done” in the borough.

“Plain and simple, there’s so much more to be done, that will be done,” he said. “Relations build over time – we work well with the county, great with state, even decent with the federals.”

Terry Turner is challenging Onufrak in the May 18 Republican primary because, he says, it’s “time for a little change.”

“The police are locked in a mindset that’s not proactive. They’re three steps behind. It’s all reactive,” said the challenger. “It’s time to step up and bring a new breath, a new dimension. Nobody ran against (Onufrak) last time – it’s locked in on the same old, same old.”

The winner will face Perry Shoemaker, who is running unopposed to be the Democrats’ candidate for mayor, in the general election.

Onufrak said that during his fourth term, he wants to see security cameras installed on Main Street and in the park, and to work with the state Department of Transportation to put in a roundabout at Main and Montgomery streets.

“The population has changed, the demographics have changed. There’s so many incredible positives in Montgomery,” Onufrak said. “The only thing to do is grow. We can’t just become stagnant. I like to drive around and see what other towns do. It’s the people who make everything work, not me.”

Onufrak said the local “visioning committee” that now numbers around 15 regular participants is an example of what cooperation at the local level with county planning can do.

Turner believes that police scheduling is an issue that needs to be addressed, and by someone other than the current mayor.

“There’s no reason the police department should go home before the bars close,” he said. “There’s too many sticky things. Something is really stacking stupid when that happens.”

The challenger said the police don’t patrol enough.

“They’re averaging about 97 miles a day. I know they go to Wendy’s (in Muncy) and McDonald’s. I’ve seen them there. Take that 20 miles round-trip off, and that’s 75 miles a day. That’s not a lot of patroling if you’re in service 18 or 19 hours a day.”

Onufrak denies the police ever take off before the bars close.

“We don’t publish schedules for their own safety, but they’re on ’til 3 or 4 in the morning. Do they have room to improve? They better, but I am proud of them. We’ve added three new cops, and we’re very aggressive anymore. Considering the borough’s not even a square mile, and we share coverage with Brady Township, I don’t know how many miles you say is enough to patrol.”

Turner thinks illegal drug use is “on the rise in the borough” and that the mayor is permissive about the pernicious, perceived trend.

“When they did a lot of remodeling in Williamsport, a lot of drug dealers went over the mountain. That’s progress. I saw my neighbor dealing drugs, and (Onufrak) told me to get used to it, because everyone’s doing it,” Turner said.

Onufrak responded:

“Drugs are everywhere, a huge issue everywhere. We have had drug arrests. All information on drugs goes to the county Drug Task Force. (Turner) accused me of being the biggest drug dealer in town. He said in a public meeting he saw drug deals go down, and I asked, ‘Did you call 911?’ No. Don’t complain two weeks after that when you didn’t do anything.”

Onufrak, 50, has two children and three grandchildren and attends Revival Tabernacle in Watsontown. He moved from Loyalsock Township to Montgomery in the early 1990s and served on the school board and borough council before his election as mayor.

Turner, 56, is a Bakersfield, Calif., native and retired chef who has lived with wife, Tina, in the borough for 12 years. They have one daughter in Ohio and two who live in Pennsylvania.

The two men, who both live in the Bower Street Development, don’t have particularly kind words for the other.

“I see him walking the railroad tracks every day,” Turner said. “I see these fifth- or sixth-graders doing it and asked them, ‘Do you know you can get a fine for that?’ They said, ‘It’s OK, Andy does it.’ He’s backing off his activity now. After the election, he’ll go back to it. That’s the way he rolls.”

“To me (Turner) is irrelevant,” Onufrak said. “If you complain and complain and do nothing about it, what good are you? I’m proud of every damn person in this area. If you don’t like it here, you have an option.”