The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


June 18, 2014

High praise for council | Acted on uproar over pressure testing

JOHNSTOWN — It took them some time to understand their roles, but City Council has finally listened to the will of their constituents.

On June 11, council temporarily suspended the pressure-test mandate associated with its ongoing sewer project.

That pressure testing was embraced by residents is akin to saying it never floods in Johnstown.

The topic was just about the only thing that Johns-towners talked about. Many letters to our Readers’ Forum section on this page dealt with the mandate. And the majority of letter writers were against the costly action.

By most estimates, it would cost residents thousands of dollars for excavation, installation and possible remodeling.

So at its latest meeting, in a move that astounded just about everyone in Johnstown, City Council unanimously voted to repeal the requirement for property owners. The about-face was prompted by a petition drive led by former councilman Jack Williams and Roxbury resident Charlene Stanton.

However, that doesn’t mean that pressure testing will go away.

According to the city charter, an ordinance must have two public readings. The first reading was at the June 11 council meeting. A second reading will occur most likely at council’s July meeting.

Here’s the rub. In order for Bill 13 of 2014 to become a law, a majority of council members must vote in favor of the measure at the second reading. Although the first reading was approved unanimously, it is not a guarantee that a majority of council members will cast “aye” votes in July.

Should council vote down the bill, the matter could be included as a referendum on the 2015 primary ballot.

And council made sure it did not back itself into a corner. Council also voted unanimously in support of Bill 14 of 2014. That measure would give council the right to reinstate the pressure test if the city remains out of compliance with the Department of Environmental Protection order to eliminate all sanitary sewer overflows into the Dornick Point treatment facility.

To muddy the water though, any property would have to pass a pressure test before it could be sold, according to city solicitor David P. Andrews.

“Transfers would still be subject to it,” Andrews said.

Williams said the property transfer mandate would be the second prong of his attack.

“If this is approved (second reading), I’m going to start another petition to stop that (requirement), he said.

But for this council to finally take action that reflects the will of the people is an accomplishment.

The complaint most heard from residents is that City Council is out of touch with the residents of Johnstown. At long last, residents can say that their elected officials have listened to their uproar concerning the sewer project.

All too often we have criticized City Council on this very page for ignoring the people it is charged to serve. This time, we are able to praise Nunzio Johncola, Frederick Mickel, Marie Mock, Pete Vizza, David Vitovich, William Gentile and Mayor Frank Janakovic.

Let’s hope we will be able to heap more accolades on them after they all aprove the second reading.

We will be watching, and reporting.

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