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Mayor hopefuls square off in chamber debate
Police, pay and boosting the West End jobs market drew the focus of a debate between Mayor Bryon Monohon and Janet Hughes, his challenger in the Nov. 5 election.
“We’ve accomplished quite a lot in the last four years,” Monohon told 50 people at the debate hosted by the Forks Chamber of Commerce at its regular Wednesday noon meeting in Hughes’ candy store, JT’s Sweet Stuffs.
Hughes, though, said city operations can be improved.
“We need to find every bit of waste there is in the city right now and make sure it’s being used,” she said.
Among achievements Monohon cited during his first term in the mayor’s office, he pointed to a rebuilt police department, renovations of key arteries Russell Road and Division Street, the preservation of the West End Thunder drag races and a debt-free city government.
“And my word and my experience can keep City Hall on task,” he said.
Hughes said the city has focused too much on staying free of debt, to the detriment of some of the city’s equipment.
“Being in the black isn’t everything it’s cut out to be,” she said, noting the city may need to incur debt to replace its fleet of police cars in particular.
Monohon noted the city’s patrol fleet is primarily used State Patrol cruisers and the city is eyeing replacing those with more newly retired cars form the State Patrol.
Monohon noted the city was down to two police officers before the city hired current Police Administrator Rick Bart to rebuild the department in the summer of 2012.
“Now, I’m very happy with the level of service being provided,” he said, pointing to the cadet program and police foundation that have formed since Bart took the post.
Hughes, too, noted the turnaround of the department.
“How did we survive with two officers?” she asked.
Hughes said the city needs to do more to help bring in jobs that will keep young people in Forks.
“You look at these kids that take the bus to school in P.A., and that’s a 3½-hour bus ride,” she said.
Monohon said he would rather focus the city’s economic development efforts on growing local businesses.
“We can sit here and wait for some magical large company to come in but those are rare and often require lots of infrastructure and space,” he said.
Both candidates pledged to continue the city’s policy of not paying the mayor.
“We don’t need pay,” Hughes said. “It’s an important thing to do — just to give back.”
Monohon said pay would “cheapen the position,” and he does the job for the “wonderful feeling” he gets from solving problems.
As for having enough time to devote to the position, Monohon said he gave up his full-time job more than a year ago and went back to substitute teaching to have the time to attend conferences and regional meetings.
Hughes said she has a staff of trusted employees that could cover for her at her candy store and bakery if she needed to leave town for meetings.
The county Auditor’s Office was scheduled to mail ballots for the Nov. 5 election Wednesday, Oct. 16.