Eichelberger seeks third term as Blair County Commissioner

With his second term as a Blair County Commissioner nearly complete, John Eichelberger is seeking another four years in office because he believes that there is still quite a bit to get accomplished.
“We still have a lot to get done,” said Eichelberger. “We’re still not where we want to be with the airport. There were a lot of cuts in the state budget that need worked through that could have long term effects on the county. We need someone with experience dealing with these issues. That is why I want to continue serving as a commissioner.”
Job creation is the most important issue facing the county.
“Jobs are the lifeblood of a community,” said Eichelberger. “We have done much better than the surrounding counties with the exception of Centre County. We diversified our economy years before Cambria County did and we are reaping the benefits. We have been talking with the local industries and see some investment in our area coming in the near future.”
One of the areas that could see investment in the near future is the vacant Westvaco plant in Tyrone.
“The KOEZ (Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone) application that has been applied for looks great from the county’s perspective,” said Eichelberger. “There are some issues that could be decided quickly that could get the doors open again in Tyrone.”
What those issues were, Eichelberger would not discuss on the record.
The completion of Interstate 99 will help spur growth in Blair County.
“With I-99 being completed, I can see a lot of growth in the Northern end of the county,” said Eichelberger. “There should be a significant growth in residential development. We are hopeful that our service sector will get use from the people in Centre County. We have stronger markets here in Blair County than they have in State College. We also hope to see some hi-tech development with the completion of I-99.”
Eichelberger helped privatize the Altoona-Blair County Airport and turned it from a deeply in debt organization to a profitable partnership. Eichelberger also was instrumental in obtaining the Altoona Curve and the building of Blair County Ball Park.
One of the current issues that has floated the trial balloon is property reassessment.
“It needs done and the taxes are not equitable,” said Eichelberger. “It is inherently a regressive tax that is not fair to the seniors. The problem is the cost to reassess is between $1 and 3 million depending on who you talk to. That would mandate us increasing taxes to pay for the reassessment and I am not in favor of that.”
In the eight budgets Eichelberger has voted on, two have had tax increases.
“We raised taxes twice for the purpose of debt service,” said Eichelberger. “We used that money to improve the Valley View Home and to expand the Blair County Prison. We have done very well to keep tax increases in the general fund budget without an increase.”
Another large problem in Blair County is the increase in drug usage, arrests and crime because of drugs.
“We are doing our best to work with the courts to help curb the problem,” said Eichelberger. “The drug and alcohol treatment programs are run through the county. This year we are facing a 52 percent cut in state funding. We will manage the best that we can, but without the funding for rehabilitation it will mean more offenders back on the street.
“The county will have a drug court in place by the end of the year,” said Eichelberger. “This court will provide alternatives to jail for first time offenders. We hope that this will get people help so they don’t return to the court system.”
Eichelberger is on the Republican ticket for Blair County Commissioner in the May primary.