The four candidates vying for three Fayette County commissioners seats fielded questions during a forum hosted by the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce.
As part of the Wednesday forum, Republicans Dave Lohr and Scott Dunn and Democrats Vincent Vicites and Kevin Jones were each given a randomly selected question, gathered from a survey of over 600 members of the chamber.
Vicites, an incumbent from South Union Township, was asked how he feels about the current infrastructure of the county.
“We are better than most, but not where we should be,” he said, specifically noting continued efforts to bring high-speed broadband to rural areas. Calling it “the infrastructure of the future,” Vicites said he’s made increasing reliable broadband access a priority.
Not having high speed internet access 3 miles out of Uniontown or Georges Township is unacceptable, he said.
“We have to fill the gaps where the broadband providers don’t want to go,” Vicites said. “We have to continue to build Fayette County’s infrastructure.”
Lohr, also an incumbent, was asked about a unique workforce issue. While the unemployment rate in Fayette is a little over 5%, the county’s employers also have about 1,738 job openings. What, Lohr was asked, can be done to get people into those roles?
Lohr, of South Connellsville, said the workforce and economic development programs offered by the Private Industry Council of Westmoreland/Fayette Inc. have been a great source of work and training programs.
However, he added, the county is also facing a population decline, suggesting programming in the jail system so that prisoners can be trained and come out with a different mentality to fill in-demand jobs.
Jones, of Fairchance, was asked about a recent survey that showed that a majority of students in the county don’t know what the county’s unemployment rate is, believing it’s nearly four times as high as the real number.
Jones, who has background in education, said it would be important to elect a commissioner who has worked with schools and would get in touch with the district superintendents to educate the students on the current condition of the county, even saying he can go into the schools to speak with students.
In a different question on growing the business community, Jones said career services data from local colleges can be researched to see what kind of workers the colleges are producing. That information can be shared with businesses county officials hope to attract.
Dunn, of Dunbar, was asked what policies he would put into place to help make businesses grow. He said that politicians aren’t the ones responsible for creating new businesses; business owners are.
However, he also said county officials can attract business owners to the area by having the infrastructure available for them to succeed. Dunn also spoke of the importance of increased communication and better outreach to prospective businesses, as well as a focus on improving the quality of life in the county to make locating here more attractive to businesses.
“It’s all interwoven and a lot of work,” Dunn said, noting one of the hardest thing to do is change attitudes.
The general election will be held Nov. 5.