Indiana, PA - Indiana County

CANDIDATE: Larry DeChurch

by RANDY WELLS rwells@indianagazette.net on October 29, 2013 10:00 AM

Larry DeChurch today has a seat at the Indiana Borough council table through an unusual series of events.

He finished third in the primary election for two available nominations, but two weeks later was elected by council members — with a rare tie-breaking vote from Mayor George Hood — to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of William Simmons.

Thus, DeChurch made it onto council ahead of the two candidates who defeated him in the spring election.

DeChurch said he was surprised at first by that turn of events.

“I think a lot of the council looked at me as a hometown boy” even though he was born in Homer City, DeChurch said.

He spent much of his time as a teen in Indiana and during the years he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

And he feels the fact that he’s retired helped his candidacy.

“I have the time to spend. It requires a lot of time. You just can’t go once a month” to the council meetings and keep up with the issues under discussion, he said.

“I’m the type of person who wants to see something from its introduction and follow it through” so he can make an informed and intelligent decision, DeChurch said. So, since he was sworn in in July he has attended borough planning commission meetings and Public Safety and Administration committee meetings in addition to the meetings of the Public Works Committee he’s assigned to.

He has also asked more questions at the meetings, probably, than any other member.

“If I don’t understand, I don’t have a problem asking questions,” he said.

DeChurch commented at September’s meeting that some of his constituents feel Indiana’s downtown business district “is getting all the goodies,” including the borough’s Community Development Block Grant money for many years. He feels it’s time to shift some of the borough’s discretionary dollars to the neighborhoods.

“People in my ward have said they do not feel they’re getting a good return for their tax dollar,” DeChurch said, adding he’d like to see some financial resources devoted to infrastructure improvements and flood control in the residential areas.

In his short time on council DeChurch voted with other council members to repeal the borough’s traditional neighborhood development overlay ordinance.

The TND ordinance was “well-intended” originally, DeChurch said, but he believes too many exceptions were allowed and it contributed to making the student housing situation worse, in his opinion.

“We need to tighten up some of the zoning code and put a stop to the student housing sprawl” across the borough, he said.

It will be equally important to maintain fiscal accountability in the borough and ensure council does not take on more debt than the borough can handle. DeChurch said he saw that happen in some Pittsburgh suburbs.

Indiana’s fiscal ledger is in the black.

“I want to make sure we stay that way,” he said.

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