EBENSBURG – Cambria County Commissioners Tom Chernisky and William “B.J.” Smith have officially announced their plans to seek re-election in this year’s election. 

Both Democrat commissioners filed petitions earlier this month to place them on the ballot in the fall, since no one had filed a petition for the primary on the Democratic side. 

Six Republican candidates are seeking two nominations in the spring primary – Jerry Carnicella, Karen Esaias, Ray Guzic, Scott Hunt, Paul Seitz and Howard Terndrup. 

Chernisky and Smith say their biggest accomplishment in office was eliminating an inherited $8.6 million general fund deficit. 

“We committed to make every day a budget day,” said Chernisky, who voted against prior budgets during his last term as the only Democrat on the board. 

“We immediately started using realistic numbers to project our revenue and we stopped using fictitious grant dollars to balance the general fund.” 

Chernisky and Smith also pointed out the cuts made to the county’s budget to attack the deficit. 

“Tom and I stopped paying the mortgage with a credit card,” Smith said. 

“We cut $1.1 million from the budget, and we closed the juvenile detention center that is saving the taxpayers a minimum of $900,000 per year.” 

Both commissioners say teamwork and collaboration have been a priority during their term, working with businesses, nonprofit organizations and agencies. 

Chernisky and Smith noted the repurposing of the county juvenile detention center, which was renovated and now operated by Adelphoi Village.

“It was a positive sign when a large nonprofit like Adelphoi Village wants to make a commitment to our county,” Chernisky.

“Adelphoi made an $1.8 million investment to upgrade the building at no cost to taxpayers, and 30 new jobs were created.”

In addition, the commissioners adopted Act 89 to replace and repair 11 structurally deficient county-owned bridges through a $5 fee on vehicle registration and enacted Act 152 to create a demolition fund that addresses blight by adding a $15 fee to certain deeds and mortgages filed in the county. 

“By working together Republicans and Democrats, the Red Mill Bridge will reopen and the 10 structurally deficient bridges are being repaired,” Smith said. 

Chernisky and Smith say they’re running for re-election to continue to move Cambria County forward.

The commissioners also say they worked hard to fulfill campaign promises, including the restoration of funding to Pennsylvania Highlands Community College and reopening the Nanty Glo Senior Center.  

“B.J. and I are working for the people,” Chernisky said.

“Cambria County’s financial outlook was upgraded from negative to stable and we govern by knowing that people are more important than party. There has been a spirit of collaboration in the county and we want to keep it going.”

Smith said although the commissioners voted to raise taxes in 2016, “talk has turned into action” because they’ve reduced taxes by a half mill in 2017 and 2018. The county’s budget is balanced, there’s a surplus for the first time since 2011 and its overall debt is at its lowest since 1997, Smith added. 

“I am running again to continue to do the good work that has been done the past three years,” Smith said. 

​Jocelyn Brumbaugh is a reporter for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter @JBrumbaughTD.

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