Bucks County’s Republican commissioners laid out the platform for their re-election campaigns Monday at the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center of Bucks County in Doylestown.
Commissioners Charley Martin and Rob Loughery focused on what they called “Building on a Strong Foundation,” which includes job creation, bridge repair, communications renovation and making use of the old courthouse. The two incumbents are running against Andy Warren and Jay Russell in this month's primary for the two Republican spots on the November ballot.
“We believe we have good reason to say we’re building on a strong foundation,” Loughery said. The federal government is confronted with trillion-dollar annual deficits and a $14 trillion debt. The state is facing a $4.2 billion deficit.
“Bucks County has kept its financial house in order,” Loughery said, despite the deficits the federal and state government are facing. Loughery said that Bucks County has a fully funded “rainy day fund” that is greater than 10 percent of its annual budget.
“For the past five years, Republican leadership has provided the highest quality services to our residents and balanced our annual budgets without a single county tax raise,” Loughery said.
It is this strong financial foundation that Loughery said will allow them to continue current initiatives and pursue new ones.
This year, Martin said the county will begin construction of a new justice center that will meet the judges’ and court system needs, but also create more than 1,500 “direct construction-related jobs.” This, he said, will give “a shot in the arm to our neighbors who work in the hard hit construction industry.”
They also plan to utilize the country strong financial position to “secure the millions of dollars needed by our police and fire departments” in order to meet the new federally mandated telecommunications standards and to ensure “that our police, fire and first responders remain one of the best equipped and best prepared in the nation,” Martin said.
Finally, Martin said they will secure funding to maintain, repair, improve and rebuild, where necessary, more than 100 county-owned bridges. They also plan to maintain the group of seven covered bridges.
The commissioners also discussed economic development cabinet that was established last week. This cabinet will pursue and promote job-creating initiatives beginning in June, Loughery said.
“I can share with you that one of their very first undertakings will be to identify three underutilized, abandoned or brownfield sites located throughout the county that can be successfully redeveloped as sites for new and expanding businesses to locate here in Bucks County,” Loughery said.
In addition, Loughery said they will soon announce a “parallel initiative,” to pursuer the reuse of the existing courthouse. This presents the county with a “chance to consolidate operations in various buildings, reduce the footprint of operations and potentially reduce operating costs,” he said.
To improve the quality of life for Bucks County residents, Martin presented three initiatives the commissioners are “committed to pursuing,” he said.
One, called “Value for Vets,” is to secure discounts for goods and services for veterans. Martin said the director of veteran affairs has been charged with developing this program and they plan to launch it in the coming months. The county will administer the program and issue cards to veterans that he hopes can be used throughout the county.
“I think this will be a well-received and well-appreciated initiative,” Martin said.
The second is to “promote improved revenue from tourism,” which Martin referred to as one of the county’s “fastest growing enterprises.” The $7 million set aside from the voter-approved bond issue for historic preservation and making use of the Delaware Riverfront will play a role in this initiative, he said.
The third initiative Loughery called “Live, Work and Play in Bucks County” is designed to address the growing problem that an increasing number of young people are moving away from Bucks County.
“The decline in the age group of 17 to 34, where we’ve lost 27,000 people between 1990 and 2000, despite an overall increase in total population of more than 10 percent, must be reversed,” Loughery said. Some of the problems that confront this age group include a lack of affordable housing, good quality rental properties, a nurturing environment for entrepreneurs, affordable financing and venture capital to help underwrite new start up ventures, he said.
They plan to reach out to young people through social media to find out what it is that they want to get them to “Live, Work and Play” in Bucks County, Loughery said.