The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 27, 2013

Council wants to meet authority

JOHNSTOWN — An increasingly frustrated Johns­town City Council took the step of passing a motion Wednesday, spelling out its desire for a face-to-face meeting with members of the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority.

Since fall, council has been asking authority representatives for a get-together. Council wants to discuss concerns about sewage billing, possibly contractually improper job transfers, reports of federal and state investigations into the authority and other matters with the JRA members.

On Monday, the authority fired its executive director, Ronald Repak, for reportedly accepting more than $130,000 in outside consulting fees, thus violating an agreement with the organization.

A closed-door briefing between the two groups was planned for Feb. 20.

However, City Manager Kristen Denne and solicitor David Andrews could not attend.

Plus, there was some concern the meeting, as planned, would not comply with Sunshine Laws because it was not advertised in advance.

In response, Councilman Pete Vizza, the liaison to the authority, called for the motion. It passed unanimously. The measure asks Andrews and the authority’s solicitor, William G. Barbin, to arrange a meeting between council and the JRA.

“I believe it is imperative that all members of both parties be in attendance at any meeting scheduled,” said Vizza.

Councilman Frank Janakovic added, “A number of us on council, myself included, have several unanswered questions that have been out there for months.”

Council wants the meeting to be open to the public.

Marie Mock, one of council’s most outspoken critics of the authority, mentioned other possible legal action.

“I know that, according to the home rule charter, it does mention that we can subpoena them if they don’t comply. ... That’s going to hang out there. If they have to be subpoenaed, if they want to play that way, we’ll play that way,” Mock said.

Earlier in the meeting, three of the region’s most prominent CEOs, Bill Polacek (JWF Industries), Edward Sheehan (Concurrent Technologies Corp.) and Glenn Wilson (AmeriServ Financial), asked council what they could do to help the Redevelopment Authority improve the city, offering expertise and possibly even financial assistance. “We’re not here to point a finger; we’re here to lend a hand,” Polacek said.

Polacek, speaking for the three business leaders, asked to see a copy of the Redevelopment Authority’s master plan.

Denne replied: “The city does have its own master plan. ... As far as the Redevelopment Authority goes, they’re a separate body. You’d really have to address their board.”

Pennsylvania Office of Open Records told The Tribune-Democrat, following “a reasonable review,” no Redevelopment Authority documents, labeled as master plan, five-year plan, 10-year plan or strategic plan, were found.

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