Q&A: Candidates for Baldwin Township Board of Commissioners
Four candidates—Bob Downey, Gary Moeller, Nick Pellegrino and Susan Snyder—vie for three board seats.
The Baldwin-Whitehall area will see races for school board and borough/township positions in Nov. 8 general elections.
One of those positions is Baldwin Township commissioner, of which three four-year seats will be open. Four candidates—Bob Downey, Gary J. Moeller, Nick Pellegrino and Susan V. Snyder—will compete for those seats.
Get to know those candidates with these biographies seen below, as well as a question-and-answer section. (Not every candidate felt it necessary to answer every question.)
Incumbent Bob Downey, a 54-year-old Democrat, lives on Crestline Drive in Baldwin Township but was born and raised in Pittsburgh’s North Side area. For over 20 years, he lived in Pittsburgh’s Brookline neighborhood. Downey graduated from North Catholic High School in 1974 and earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from La Roche College in 2001 and a master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati in 2006. He has worked in law enforcement for over 30 years, having served in various capacities for the Allegheny County police until his retirement in 2008. He served as Chief of Police at Slippery Rock University from August 2008 to August 2010 and is now in that same position at California University of Pennsylvania.
Gary J. Moeller, a 64-year-old Republican, has lived on Highview Road in Baldwin Township for 34 years. He graduated from St. Wendelin High School in 1965 and has two years of post-secondary education from Dean Institute of Technology. He served in the U.S. Navy for three years and is retired from US Airways.
Incumbent Nick Pellegrino, a 49-year-old Republican, lives on Dewalt Drive in Baldwin Township but is originally from Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood. Pellegrino has a degree from Duquesne University and has worked for approximately 20 years in the health care finance, billing and consulting industry.
Susan V. Snyder, a 56-year-old Democrat originally from Scott Township, has lived on Newport Drive in Baldwin Township for the past 31 years. Snyder graduated from Chartiers Valley High School in 1973 and now works as a manager for Giant Eagle.
- Baldwin-Whitehall Patch: What makes Baldwin Township attractive to new homebuyers and businesses? What does Baldwin Township offer that makes it a better place to live and run a company than other municipalities?
Bob Downey: The quality of life makes our community attractive. The services that we offer are first-rate. Our public works department keeps our roads the cleanest in the area during the winter. Our police officers do a fantastic job of keeping the community safe and secure through their efforts and dedication. We have a great locale, as we are in close proximity to the city and some outstanding shopping within a short drive.
Nick Pellegrino: The smaller size of the community and the proximity to the city and other southern communities is a huge plus for Baldwin Township. The township offers easy access to major South Hills roadways, which allows our businesses to draw customers from all over the South Hills.
Susan Snyder: Baldwin Township is a unique and friendly community. It provides families and young couples an opportunity to own an affordable home. With our community being a bit smaller than other surrounding areas, it allows neighbors to get to know each other and help our community grow as a whole. I also believe that our neighborhood is safe to raise a family (in) and to grow old (in) with the friends that we make while living in the area. Also, by living in Baldwin Township, you get the opportunity to send your children to the Baldwin-Whitehall School District, where the education taught within this district is well-received.
- BWP: What qualifies you to be on the Baldwin Township Board of Commissioners?
BD: I think it is my common-sense approach and my lifelong commitment to public service (that qualifies me). Having worked in the public sector, I believe that I have an understanding of the issues that face not only our community but the area as a whole. I also think my education contributes to my qualifications for this position.
NP: I have spent the past few years as a member of the Board of Commissioners and have been able to use my health care, negotiating and management experience in many ways. The health care and negotiating skills came in handy while we recently negotiated a contract with our police officers. My management skills come into play when dealing with our public works department.
SS: I have lived in Baldwin Township for 31 years. My sister even lived in this township prior to my husband and I moving to the area. I have seen this area grow into a thriving community where families come to live and see their children grow. My husband and I have both been active for many years in this community from participating in the Halloween parades (and) Community Days (to) volunteering to help our fire department. I have participated in the township meetings and have voiced my opinions when necessary. I know what is best for our community, and I only plan to make it a better place for more families to come and enjoy this community that my family has enjoyed for many years.
- BWP: What made you want to run for a spot on the Baldwin Township Board of Commissioners?
BD: I was approached to seek a spot on the board after I spoke out during the township’s fight to keep (a) Mercy Behavioral Health center out of our community.
NP: I enjoy being able to help my community be a vital part of the South Hills and felt this was the best way to do so.
Gary Moeller: It is a privilege to be a candidate for (a) commissioner of Baldwin Township. This community has been home to my family and me for 37 years. When I am elected, I promise to work hard to increase accountability in all areas of township government, and I will work in tandem with the entire Board of Commissioners for the betterment of all township residents.
SS: I want to give back to a community where I have lived and raised a family, and I hope to keep this community safe and an affordable place to live.
- BWP: What would you make your No. 1 priority as a commissioner?
BD: Maintain(ing) our quality of life in the township by keeping our community affordable to young families and our senior citizens (would be my No. 1 priority).
NP: Keeping our tax rate at or below the current rate by keeping our budget under control (would be my No. 1 priority).
GM: The biggest issues in Baldwin Township right now are public safety, the tax base and the (township) infrastructure. I will enhance and support our police department. They are an important part of the community. I will work hard to maintain the current tax base—a vital issue for all of our residents regardless of age or economic status. I will maintain and enhance the beauty of our township by upgrading and enforcing zoning and safety codes. I plan to commit my time and energy to achieving the above goals as well as addressing all issues that arise during my term. Baldwin Township is a wonderful community in which to live. I have received many benefits as a resident here, and now, I want to give back.
SS: Taxes! We need to keep our township affordable and competitive.
- BWP: What is the Baldwin Township Board of Commissioners currently doing that you would like it to continue to do? And why?
BD: The current board is committed to the township, and there are no personal agendas from any of the commissioners. From what I see, none of the current commissioners want to use this position as a political stepping stone to run for any higher offices, and each is dedicated to our community. I want to keep the politics out of our township and continue to do what is right for the community.
SS: I would like to continue to see a high standard of government. We are a special and unique township, and we need to work hard to maintain Baldwin Township as a thriving community.
- BWP: What is the Baldwin Township Board of Commissioners currently doing that you would like it to stop doing? And why?
BD: I think we have our priorities in line with the best interests of the entire community, and from that regard, I don’t think there are any major changes that need to take place.
SS: At this time, I believe that the board has a well-rounded group of individuals that only look out for the best interest of our community. I am happy with the results they have produced so far, and I only hope to become a part of this group to make this area thrive even more.
- BWP: What new topics would you like the Baldwin Township Board of Commissioners to explore? And why?
BD: Work(ing) closer with the Baldwin-Whitehall School Board in attempts to keep our taxes at the lowest possible rates (is one, and) closely monitor(ing) the proposed athletic fields that Mt. Lebanon is considering for the old Rooney property located just off McNeilly Road (is another). This issue has the potential to have a dramatic affect on the residents of our community and may ultimately result in additional expenses (for) our community.
SS: I believe we should try to explore how we can attempt to bring more businesses to this area to attempt to bring more tax revenue into the community. I know that our area is not very big and available to additional businesses, but it may be something to consider to help expand our area.
- BWP: Given the economic climate, is an increase in property taxes something that you would consider? Would you support an increase?
BD: The state budget will have much more adverse effects on the (Baldwin-Whitehall) School District, and (it) will not result in a township increase in a homeowner’s property tax. At this point, I am not in favor of increasing property taxes and would vote against any such increase unless our quality of life in the community would be compromised.
NP: In these trying economic times, prudent fiscal budgeting is a must and is something myself and the other (Baldwin Township) commissioners have been able to do for the past few years. This has allowed the township to maintain the same tax rates while continuing to provide the excellent services our residents expect. So, no, I would not support or consider a property tax increase!
SS: I would not support an increase in property taxes. We are still dealing with hard economic times, and I believe our residents do not want to pay higher taxes.
- BWP: What are your feelings on Marcellus Shale drilling in Baldwin Township? Allowing? Banning? Restricting? And why?
BD: This is a non-issue in our community, essentially because we do not have the land tracts that would attract a drilling operation. If it would (a drilling operation was attracted), I would be in favor of a permitted use where we can maintain control of the activities of the company, provided there is sufficient space that would not affect the quality of life of any of our residents.
NP: I would consider allowing (Marcellus Shale) drilling under certain circumstances and with some restrictions. Considering that the township has very limited undeveloped space, I don’t see this being an issue we will have to deal with anytime soon.
GM: (This is) most likely not an issue for Baldwin Township; however, I support drilling and energy independence as long as the environment is preserved.
SS: I do not feel that Marcellus Shale (workers) should be allowed to drill in Baldwin Township. Therefore, my vote would be to ban the same. I believe there are too many potential problems that could come with the drilling. Our township is small compared to all of the other surrounding communities. I have lived in this township for many years, and I know my fellow neighbors would not be too accepting of the drilling.
- BWP: How closely are you paying attention to the Young Scholars of Western Pennsylvania Charter School in Baldwin Township?
BD: I look at that site everyday out my back door, so I would monitor the facility. And if we got any reports that there were violations of their zoning (restrictions), (the township’s commissioners) would address them immediately.
NP: I have followed the school since they first approached the township with the idea for the school. I have not heard of any parent complaints regarding the staff or the curriculum and have found the staff to be very accomodating when speaking (and/or) dealing with them.
GM: I appreciate their (school officials’) willingness to involve the community, but at this time, I am cautiously observing and reserving any opinions.
SS: I was happy to see a school back in our community. The one reason we moved into this township was the (former) school (at that site). I hope it thrives and becomes an important part of our community.
- BWP: What are your thoughts on Mt. Lebanon’s McNeilly Park and how it may or may not affect Baldwin Township residents?
BD: There has to be much more input from the citizens of Baldwin Township since this propsed athletic facility will have a tremendous impact on our residents and the residents of Brookline and will have very little impact on Mt. Lebanon residents. This project will place athletic fields within 120 feet of residents’ backyards and will disrupt their privacy and the semi-seclusion that they have enjoyed for decades. This issue will have a financial impact on our residents. With the complex less than one-half mile from our municipal building, our police will most assuredly be the first responders to arrive once an emergency call is placed. It is doubtful that Mt. Lebanon can have a consistent response of less than five minutes, so it will cost our citizens patrol time from our streets. Another area that will be impacted is the stormwater run-off to the McNeilly (Road) corridor. McNeilly has been the location of several floods over the years. Once this facility is paved and has a road that leads directly to McNeilly, the water run-off will cause even more headaches for our township, the residents and the businesses in our community. Their (Mt. Lebanon officials’) proposal has the fields adding almost 30 feet of fill on top of the existing sewer lines with insufficient funding. In the event of a failure or damage to the line, it will cost our residents significant funding when the need arises and, most assuredly, will require a tax increase. This adversely affects the citizens of Baldwin Township and will cost us money!
NP: I have many concerns with this project based on the proposals recently talked about by the Mt. Lebanon officials. The first concern would be the stormwater management associated with the project. I am not sure that this has been adequately addressed when we already have issues with stormwater overflow on McNeilly Road during certain storm conditions. Another concern is the increased traffic on McNeilly Road as well as the township roads being used as “cut-throughs” to get to the fields. One other major concern is how Mt. Lebanon will address the need for a police presence, as well as other first responders, with this complex being so far from the majority of the rest of their community.
GM: I have concerns as to the effect on Baldwin Township regarding traffic, noise, police presence as first responders and severe weather causing more severe flooding.
SS: One of my main concerns would be the increase in traffic. We still have a lot of young kids living in our area, and having the park built would increase the traffic flow through the community, which would cause potential danger. I also believe that, if this park is built, a lot of lights would have to be installed to light the park, which could affect the neighbors in the area. It could also affect the privacy of the neighbors in that area. As I do believe that adding an additional facility for children to utilize would be good for Mt. Lebanon’s community, it does cause some concerns for our community.