The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 18, 2013

Southmont opts for withdrawal

Randy Griffith

JOHNSTOWN — Despite an impassioned plea from Westmont Hilltop Recreation Commission’s director, Southmont Borough Council on Monday confirmed its decision to withdraw from the 47-year-old municipal agency.

“I am asking – begging, whatever – hopefully, that you will reconsider,” Director Fran Lustig Sivi said at Monday’s council meeting.

Sivi told council that recreation commission board on Oct. 28 agreed to pay for an audit of the organization’s 2012 financial operation. Southmont requested the audit in February as a condition of its continued participation in the commission.

But the audit may not be done until late December, she added.

Southmont’s representatives on the recreation commission board supported Sivi’s request.

“I would like to stay (in the commission),” Councilman Herb Ewald said. “I think we owe it to the residents. It is not going to fly without us, I can assure you.”

Ewald believes council acted on incomplete information after a workshop meeting with former Upper Yoder Township Supervisor Joseph Veranese, the commission’s chairman.

“We voted on a statement made at a workshop by Mr. Veranese that there would be no audit,” Ewald said. “We voted on one man’s comment. Our commission (board) never, never, never voted not to have one.”

Fellow commission member and Councilman William Kory stressed the benefits to Southmont families.

The commission’s decision to complete the 2012 audit should address council’s concerns, Kory said.

“I don’t know if there are other reasons that we are not staying on,” he said. “If there are, I’d like to hear about it.”

Sivi said misunderstandings and miscommunication started soon after Southmont’s February request for a 2012 audit.

“It seemed like we snowballed out of control,” Sivi said. “I want to apologize for the events of the past few months. I wish we had handled everything differently.”

She went on to point out that 500 children participated in commission soccer programs, and that many basketball tournaments and other events bring visitors to West Hills area businesses.

By a 2-4 vote, council defeated a motion to rescind its previous decision to drop out.

Kory and Ewald supported the reconsideration. Council members Richard Rodgers, Robert Morgan, Kevin Pile and President Edward Danyluk voted against it.

Councilman Thomas Strittmatter was absent.

Randy Griffith covers Southmont for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at