The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

April 25, 2014

City looking in wrong spot for sewer help | Redevelopment group doesn't lend credibility

JOHNSTOWN — The city of Johnstown is looking to spread the “true” facts about the quagmire that is the city’s sewer improvement project.

We support that wholeheartedly. But we don’t think a list of “Fun Facts” is going to make city residents any more supportive of spending thousands of their hard-earned dollars on an upgrade that might not have been necessary if the city hadn’t mandated a stringent pressure test that goes above and beyond what the state Department of Environmental Protection requires.

There is some evidence to support the notion that the city could not meet the state’s standard without lines that will pass the pressure test. Of course, informing residents about discussions regarding possible alternatives would have been nice as well.

But what really gets us is that the city is enlisting the help of the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority, which owns the sewer mains and the treatment plant, in order to get out the truth.

You know, the same authority that has been mired in scandal.

Yes, the same board whose former director, Ronald W. Repak, is facing six federal extortion and bribery charges, is going to help get the truth out to the people of Johnstown.

That’s an admirable goal, but we wish that Monsignor Raymond Balta, the authority’s current chairman, was so active in getting the truth out about his own organization.

We’re still waiting for the forensic audit of the Johns-town Redevelopment Authority that we called for three months ago. That certainly would help get the truth out about what’s happening with the redevelopment authority.

We’re also not holding our breath on the resignations of Balta and M. John Mavrodis, which we also called for in that Jan. 19 editorial. They are the two remaining authority members who served alongside Repak at the time of his alleged crimes. Their voluntary exits certainly would help ease

our – and we’re guessing a lot of the city’s residents’ – concerns about who knew what and when regarding Repak’s alleged misdeeds.

So excuse us if we’re dubious about the ability of the redevelopment authority to earn the complete trust of the people of Johnstown when it comes to the sewer issue.

We do, however, understand why the city is looking for some help when it comes to credibility. After all, the city is facing a vigorous and unrelenting campaign from Johnstown residents to stop the pressure testing.

That campaign, spearheaded by Charlene Stanton, has led to more headaches for the city. Stanton and former Councilman Jack Williams have each filed civil suits against the city for failing to comply with the open records laws regarding the sewer situation.

Judge Norman Krumenacker will hear those complaints on Wednesday.

Those issues were, somehow, left out of the fun facts regarding the controversial sewer issue.

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