I find it difficult to comprehend how and why Johnstown City Council has the legal and moral authority to force its citizens to spend thousands of dollars on sewage upgrades that are not required by the state Department of Environmental Protection or state government.
With more than 40 percent of Johnstown residents at or below the poverty line (source, citydata.com), council’s ill-conceived and unnecessary sewage line pressure-test mandate will destroy the city and bankrupt its residents.
The punishment and penalties to the homeowner for noncompliance are staggering: $600 per day fine, water and sewage shut off, condemnation of property, eviction and possible incarceration.
Once again, the most vulnerable in our society – the elderly, disabled, underemployed and those with the least amount of financial resources – will suffer the greatest impact and pay the highest cost.
City Council has set into motion a tragic, unnecessary situation, for the only law ultimately violated by the majority of city residents is that they are poor.
Council should all be ashamed for such an abuse of power and betrayal of public trust. We will remember all of you at election time.
Council should admit it made a mistake
With the sewer fiasco, council now finds itself in a bind of its own making. Either council was persuaded that the state had mandated pressure tests or it believed it was the best thing to do, but then acted without carefully considering the impact on homeowners.
In either case, council did not do due diligence and now has a rebellion. The sticking point seems to be that some people have paid for the city-mandated pressure test and resultant expenses. If the requirement is changed to what the state actually mandated, the city would probably be liable for compensation to property owners who’ve already complied.
Can it be fair to have done an injustice to them and not do the same injustice to everyone else?
This logic, if applied to a business, would say that if it cheated 10 customers, it has to cheat everyone. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fair.
Johnstown is a distressed municipality in more ways than one. Nearly 50 percent of its real estate is out of taxation. About 30 percent of its citizens fall under the federal poverty definition and more would qualify if present-day reality was taken into account.
Even more of us live on fixed incomes, and, in the tradition around here of hard work and independence, we manage.
When did it happen that elected officials and government employees became exempt from the basic rule the rest of us try to live by, of admitting mistakes and trying to make them right?