Three Worcester District candidates weigh in on the issues | News

Republican candidates seeking representation from Worcester County’s District 3 participated in a forum at South Point’s Ocean City Golf and Yacht Club on Tuesday, giving residents and members of the South Point Association a sense of where they stand on the issues. representing the county.

Commissioner Bud Church currently represents the district at the county level, although he is choosing not to seek re-election in November.

Instead, Eric Fiori, Thomas Gulyas, Shawn Kotwica and Tim Vanvonno threw their hats into the ring to take charge of a district that includes most of Berlin and West Ocean City down to South Point.

The forum drew a good crowd of more than 50 voters seated at tables covered with white tablecloths and a handful of American flags.

Steve Katsanos moderated the discussion and posed more than 10 questions to candidates on topics such as development along Highway 50, the proposed sports complex near Stephen Decatur High School, teaching about gender identity in schools and development of areas south of the Buck convenience store on Highway 611. .

Each candidate was given time at the start to introduce themselves and drew short straws to see who would go first.

Tim Vanvonno, a businessman whose family was present, drew the shortest straw and left first.

“It’s a bad omen,” we heard just before getting on the podium.

Vanvonno has a background in construction and real estate and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and an MBA.

He raised four children in Worcester County and said: “It was one of the best experiences raising a family here.”

Vanvonno also said he would like to focus on education because most of the county’s budget goes to the public school system.

While reviewing the education portion of the budget, Vanvonno said the county should be more involved in finding a way to pay bus drivers more money.

Gulyas said adding bus drivers as employees was not the solution, and rather than pleading with the county, the drivers should have approached the school board to find a solution to get more money. salary to help cover costs.

Kotwica said becoming a bus driver was a risk taken by each of the operators. While giving them more pay might not be the answer, he suggested finding a way to get tax credits or driver supplements to help them.

Fiore, who has experience selling rental equipment and is a long-time entrepreneur, said it would be easier to increase income and reduce spending on education, suggesting that there was a solution that could be found for the drivers.

Fiore, who has three children in the school system, grew up in Anne Arundel County and by the age of 10 was in business for himself selling soft-shell crabs. Later he continued to deliver newspapers, and by the age of 17 he was operating a four-bay gas station. When he moved to the Atlantic coast, he opened several businesses and learned a lot about mixed-use commercial zoning.

“I want to see people work hard and grow in this county,” he said, emphasizing the residents.

One of Fiore’s philosophies is that research should be done before making major purchases like bringing the Black-eyed Susan pedal boat to Snow Hill.

Although he thinks bringing attractions like the boat to the area is great for tourism, several things were missed while researching the purchase that led to a failed inspection. Likewise, Fiore said, the same is happening with the purchase of property north of Stephen Decatur High School for over $7 million for a sports complex site.

Big purchases and expensive projects, he explained, need to be thought through, and he promised to listen to both sides, show respect and do his own research.

Vanvonno said he was opposed to the sports complex because the land was expensive and he was worried about traffic problems.

All candidates except Kotwica were against the sports complex.

Kotwica is a 20-year Worcester County resident who rose through the ranks in restaurant management and is now a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker.

As a big proponent of development, Kotwica supports setting up infrastructure to be able to handle the expected growth in places like Berlin and Ocean City.

“Now is the time to move forward,” he said. “We don’t want to be late.

Kotwica said Somerset County was a prime example of an area that built many homes without infrastructure.

When it comes to the sports complex, Kotwica admitted to possibly being the only contender for it, as the facility will practically scream family-friendly for people coming to the area.

A public hearing on the sports complex was held in April at Stephen Decatur High School, at which time Gulyas, a former Berlin board member, declined to comment.

Gulyas said he was frustrated with the audience because none of the commissioners answered questions posed to them about the installation or the purchase. Someone in the audience asked if Gulyas was going to speak and he said no. On Tuesday, he explained, the deal had already been signed before it took place and accused County Commissioner Joe Mitrecic of signing the deal.

Gulyas owns Ace Printing and Mailing in Berlin and has a 40-year career in local politics.

He, like the other three candidates, opposes more development south of Buck’s and said a $200,000 feasibility study on adding a traffic light at the intersection of Routes 611 and 357 is a waste of money. Gulyas added that the county could pay anyone $10,000 to sit at the intersection on weekends to see the need for a light.

All four candidates oppose the construction of a wind farm off Ocean City, with Gulyas saying anyone who thinks they will see a reduction in their electricity bill is “selling themselves a bill of goods”.

Applicants were asked about adding workforce housing in District Three, and Kotwica said there was real estate available in the area that could be secured for housing.

Vanvonno suggested that if more affordable housing was available, more commercial development should be implemented to maintain it year-round. Although Gulyas is not opposed to labor housing, he said the government had no place in its creation. Instead, developers should buy the properties themselves and create the homes.

Fiore also weighed in, saying that when he used to go to Ocean City to live and work in the summer, he stood in line at the 40th Street Convention Center and handed out resumes during the trade show. job. Now businesses are struggling to find workers, and Fiore said the county needs to find out why the workforce has left first, never mentioning the high cost of rentals or AirBNB-converted homes.

Voters will be able to vote for the Republican candidate they want to serve as commissioner of District Three in the primary election on July 19.

This story appears in the print version of Ocean City Today on May 27, 2022.

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