Who will lead Wellsville? Four vie for mayor
WELLSVILLE — Back in spring, village voters weren’t expecting they would be electing a new mayor on the November general election. However, its then sitting mayor passed away midterm.
Randy Allmon, the Republican nominee for the office, succeeded Nancy Murray to the post in July. However, shortly after he announced his intent to seek the seat permanently, three other candidates also tossed their hats in the ring.
Two of those candidates, Democrat Bob Boley and write-in Jack Cataldo, are former Wellsville councilmen, while Bradley Elliott, a relative newcomer, is seeking the post as an independent.
Cataldo, a former steelworker who had served as a Wellsville councilman for 16 years, was unable to respond to an issue-related questionnaire for this article due to technological issues. However, he also is a past member of the zoning board; was involved in the Wellsville Memorial Wall, Imagination Park and submitted the village’s first D.A.R.E. and initial marina grants.
In recent months, the village’s police department, its funding and overall staffing has been a major focus of this election. Allmon, who served as Wellsville’s council president pro tem before becoming mayor, said that in his experience, the village’s drug situation is the largest focus for police, like it is with many other municipalities. He hopes to continue Murray’s support of law enforcement efforts with addition of new cruisers.
“The chief of police has done a good job, keeping up with our equipment needs within the limits of the department’s budget. If elected, I would like to (place) body cameras on our officers, (which) would record all their activities whether it be answering a call on a complaint or a traffic violation,” Allmon said before adding that he would like to “do whatever (possible) to find the funds to offer more competitive wages – (except property tax increases.)”
Boley agrees that officer wages need to be a top priority. “Compared to other area departments, the wages paid (in Wellsville) doesn’t even come close to what they are being offered from other departments,” he said, adding that enrollment for future police officers have dropped drastically.
Elliott argues that officials “need to find a way to close the wage gap between Wellsville and surrounding departments.” He also points to the police officers’ uniform allowances as being insufficient. For example, full-time officers only get $300 per year, while part-time officers receive none. “Officers are responsible for purchasing a majority of their equipment and all their uniforms including badges. I believe this is an unfair financial burden on officers,” he explained.
All three responding candidates seemed reluctant to send their non-felony cases to East Liverpool instead of continuing use of a Wellsville Magistrate Court.
“Wellsville is just now recovering from the recent fiscal emergency, and I don’t want to give up revenue (that) we need to fund our essential services,” Allmon explained.
Elliott agreed with Allmon but added that the village needs “to do a better job of collecting monies owed from fines. “By issuing and executing warrants for outstanding fines, the village would be able to set a precedent that not paying fines is not an option.”
Citing a potential increase in police overtime costs, wear and tear on cruisers associated with moving the court out of village hall, where the police station is located down the hall, and lost revenue as concerns, Boley said that he would consult with village solicitor John Gamble before making a move.
The safety of residents is a major concern of candidates, and earlier this spring, Wellsville received possession of two new fire trucks. However, upon delivery, officials discovered that their $700,000-plus ladder truck was unable to clear the fire station door, so it has to be parked outside for the last several months in the adjacent lot.
With the goal to get the truck garaged before winter struck, protecting it from the elements, Allmon inherited the task of finding a solution when he assumed the mayorship.
Elliott believes that the issue could have been prevented in the first place. After all, the fire station is an older building that was not designed to fit today’s larger fire trucks. “Better research and planning needs to be done by the administration and department heads to ensure taxpayer dollars are maximized for the benefit of Wellsville,” he explained
Boley didn’t disagree; however, he put the responsibility for the oversight firmly on the shoulders of the company that sold the truck. If the firm would have done its due diligence to make sure it would fit, the problem would have been detected early. “I feel they should have been held accountable for the problem and the monies that have now been spent to house the new truck.”
Allmon, council and the fire department worked to resolve the issue. He explained, “in the short term we have an agreement in place to house the new truck next door at the LifeTeam ambulance building, (where they still will have 24/7 access). Additionally, we are expanding the firehouse door with the funds coming out of the fire department’s budget in the amount of $37,000. This was a hard lesson for all parties concerned. When making a major purchase like this, we have to plan carefully, and we will do just that.”
Part of the annoyance with the fire truck issue was that this was hot on the tail of the village finally being removed off Fiscal Emergency by the state auditor’s officer, a major accomplishment considering that they had ended up in fiscal distress after previous removal.
That is one of the accomplishments that Allmon expresses the most pride in, as a sitting member of the legislative body that helped Wellsville accomplish that. “I am very proud to say that the village’s financial situation is healthy, and all departments are running in the black. This is a great opportunity, and we have to continue to be financially savvy to take advantage of it. If elected, I will continue to maintain financial responsibility while making smart investments in the village,” he explained.
Boley agreed the village’s fiscal officer Hoi Wah and Murray had done an outstanding job with that, and he didn’t foresee any problems as long as all departments stay within their budgets.
Elliott also credited Murray and village council for the speed in which Wellsville was able to emerge from fiscal emergency – especially amid a pandemic; however, he does continue to see a problem. “I feel that now the village is stuck in crisis mode. It seems like money is being spent to fix problems that are avoidable.”
Voters will have a lot to consider when they cast their ballots during the Nov. 2 general election. In addition to electing a new mayor, they will elect two council people, including William Taft is seeking to return and Maya Amato, who was appointed to fill Allmon’s vacant seat in July. He had to resign that post and his re-election bid when he assumed Murray’s term. Both candidates are uncontested.
Two Wellsville Local School District board members also find themselves on the ballot with no challengers. Both John Morrow and Chris Amato are seeking election to the keep their board seats, after being appointed to replace Tom Brophey and Ed Bauer, who passed away midterm.
In neighboring Yellow Creek Township, Noah Allison also seeks to keep his trustee seat as does his father Mark Allison, and they are being challenged by Elmer McBane, who hopes to oust one of them to nab one of the two seats.
Issue by issue:
Randy Allmon (R)
– DRUG INTERDICTION: Although Wellsville does not have an officer assigned to the Columbiana County Drug Task Force, the village has its own part-time officer doing the job strictly in Wellsville.
– ROADS: “Like many communities, the biggest hurdle for Wellsville is funding. I have deep experience with getting grant money to fund our roads…. Our location in Appalachia actually puts in a great position to get funds… If elected and funding is available, it would be great to have a white line down Main Street.”
– MARINA: “If elected, I plan to dredge the marina, so we can build boat docks and make it a full-service marina. This project can attract new businesses to our village and strengthen our infrastructure.”
– PRIORITIES: They include increasing the village’s tax base through annexation and cleaning up the village. “It’s like they say: when you look good, you feel good. One project I’m very excited about (is that) we are going to paint curbs and crosswalks in October. I also have instituted a program to remove debris and weeds from abandoned properties.”
Bob Boley (D)
– DRUG INTERDICTION: “The village currently does not have an officer assigned, but it is my understanding the department handles drug issues from within. I would ask the citizens if they see suspicious activities going on to call the confidential tip line.”
– ROADS: “There are levies in place from license fees for road maintenance. The biggest hurdle is the conditions of all our roads throughout the village.” Even though two roads were paved earlier this year, he noted that has left the pothole issues on the back burner. “I see unused asphalt and cold patch sitting by the old dog pound that could have and should have been used right away patching pot holes, even if it meant some overtime with the street employees.”
– PRIORITIES: Continue the work of mayor Murray in cleaning up town, attracting new business to town and hiring an outside grant writer to help with road repairs and other projects in town.
Jack Cataldo (no responses received).
– DRUG INTERDICTION: Restated that village doesn’t have an officer assigned to county DTF but handles it within the department. “I believe that there should be an officer assigned to the DTF. There are many more resources that the department would have access to if we participated. Being that drugs are one of the biggest concerns for citizens, I believe that we should utilize every available resource to combat this epidemic that is plaguing our community.”
– ROADS: “The road department is funded by levies. One of the biggest hurdles the village faces is the condition of the roads in Wellsville. There has been some progress made, but there is still a lot left to be done. It is not going to happen overnight. If elected, I look forward to working with the council and the village administrator to develop a long term plan to see that we are working towards getting the streets fixed.”
– PRIORITIES: “My desire is to see Wellsville be able to look ahead and see a prosperous future…. We need new ideas. We need to get away from the self-serving politicians who have put their self-interests ahead of Wellsville’s interests. There needs to be accountability in the village… We need a mayor who will hold the administration accountable. It is time to shake things up.”