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Candidates for county commissioner talk the issues to local Rotary

Four Lycoming County Commissioner candidates faced members of the Williamsport Rotary Club to explain why they would be the best person to be elected to office in the general election.

Democrats Rick Mirabito and Elliott Weiss, along with Republicans Jack McKernan and Scott Metzger, each took turns speaking to the different issues regarding county government.

Tony Mussare, an incumbent Republican, seeking office as well, was unable to attend the forum.

Weiss, who spoke first, noted his past experience as an attorney and as a Williamsport City Councilman as well as his volunteerism in the community.

“I feel well-suited for county government,” he said.

He said as a commissioner he would strive to control spending and balance the budget without raising taxes.

Right now, the county is in financial trouble, according to Weiss, who said taxes have gone up 37% in the past four years.

He said commissioners delegate spending to the county’s chief clerk.

He called for growing the local economy through tourism and development of county resources that include properties near the landfill, the White Deer Golf Course and the county farm.

Flood control programs for the municipalities of Jersey Shore and Muncy must also be a priority, he added.

McKernan, an incumbent running as a write-in candidate, noted his four years as a commissioner serving as chairman.

He disputed Weiss’ county tax hike figures, noting that taxes have gone up 34% across the past 10 years.

McKernan said during his time in office progress has been made with cutting spending, reducing the size of government, stabilizing the tax base, and building up county resources.

He said he did not promise when he first ran for office four years ago to never raise taxes.

“I said raising taxes should be a last resort,” he said.

McKernan said he’s a voice for all the people.

And, as a commissioner, he knows what’s going on in county government, he added.

Metzger pointed to his community volunteerism and business experience as well as his 32-year career in the county adult probation office.

“Our county budget is out of control,” he said.

He called for growing the local economy, including the many small businesses that make up the county.

The said the county is headed in the right direction with the White Deer Golf Course.

The par-three course needs to be sold with the possibility of housing brought there.

Metzger criticized the county’s employee health insurance plan.

“The county should not be self-insured,” he said.

He questioned why so many county employees have quit their jobs.

“Sixty-one percent of county employees have left in the last three years,” he said. “The majority have left because it’s a toxic work environment.”

Mirabito quickly defended the loss of county employees, noting that they might have left for different reasons.

“If people are leaving, part of the reason is because we are changing things,” he said.

Regarding the golf course, he said, the county hotel tax should be used to help fund it.

He added, “We have to ask ourselves, “Do we want a public golf course?’ ”

Mirabito noted his experience as a three-term state representative serving on such committees as local government, finance, commerce, and agriculture and rural affairs.

During his time in office, he sponsored legislation to put state spending online. And, he noted his recent vote as a commissioner to include all county spending on the internet.

In the past four years, the county has successfully worked to shrink government, eliminating more than a dozen jobs, according to Mirabito.

“I don’t believe we need 550 employees,” he said. “I have a track record of fiscal responsibility and transparency.”

His job as an elected official, he said, is to analyze problems and find solutions.

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