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Maple, Vukelic Seek Commission Post

October 21, 2012
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Both David Maple and Robert Steve Vukelic agree that Jefferson County needs to do more to entice business to the area.

Maple, the incumbent commissioner, faces a challenge from Vukelic for his Jefferson County Commission seat. Maple is a Republican while Vukelic won a tight primary race in May to be the Democrat party's nominee.

Maple said when he took office, "the industrial park really had an empty spec building and one tenant."

"We've seen it grow in the last few years, had good growth both in the industrial park and the airpark," Maple said.

Maple said the commission is always looking at ways to maximize opportunities, even though the development climate has not been good in recent years

"We do offer incentives, up to and including free property to businesses that create jobs in our county," Maple said. "We will continue to try and offer incentives to locate in our county."

Vukelic, though, said the county needs to be "more involved in enticing companies to come here, and utilize our rail and river."

"I think people see the industrial park is vacant, there's a very, very sparse population growing there," he said, promising to "assist businesses interested in coming" to Jefferson County.

But he questioned giving local businesses tax breaks, saying if you "give one local business tax breaks, don't you think everybody should get tax breaks, free property and free grants and whatever else goes free?"

The main issue in this race is what happens if Vukelic wins. Vukelic was sentenced to six months in a federal prison in April 2001 after pleading guilty to having knowledge of a felony and not reporting it to authorities.

Vukelic was charged in connection with other federal indictments against employees and officials of the former North Ohio Valley Air Authority. Three former members of NOVAA pleaded guilty in federal court to charges they conspired to accept improper payments totaling about $170,000 from Vukelic to get a license for the demolition landfill and then hid the income from the Internal Revenue Service.

It was Vukelic himself who raised questions about his criminal record, acknowledging he made mistakes in the past, "and I apologize for my mistakes."

"I owe taxes, I pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes in this county," he said. "I'm on a tax agreement with the treasurer and auditor, I will pay my taxes in full."

Later, in response to questions from the panel, he said that, in order for him to serve, he first must win the election.

If that were to happen, "I will take that winning vote to the judges of Jefferson County," he said. "Both of them have sealed the records of individuals for more severe crimes than me failing to report taxes. I cannot serve unless I win."

Maple said the issue of his opponent's past conviction has not been a part of his campaign.

"If you read any of my literature, watch any of my commercials or listen to my radio spots, I have not mentioned the challenges Mr. Vukelic spoke about because of (his record). I have not. There are other folks who want to say that about him, but I have not."

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