The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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April 20, 2013

Redevelopment authority leader reaching out to others

JOHNSTOWN — Johnstown Redevelopment Authority’s new leader is ready to reach out and coordinate economic development and renewal work with the full spectrum of organizations and agencies in the region.

Acting director Frank D’Ettorre has put together an outline for development of a strategic plan for the organization.

He presented the document to authority members at last week’s meeting and asked for a workshop to formalize the plan before talking to the community.

“What I want to do is sit down with these other groups so we are not duplicating,” D’Ettorre said after the meeting. “We all need to be on the same page.”

The first place D’Ettorre wants to take the outline is to a group of business leaders who approached Johnstown City Council in February with an offer to help the Redevelopment Authority improve the city. The three CEOs, Bill Polacek (JWF Industries), Edward Sheehan (Concurrent Technologies Corp.) and Glenn Wilson (AmeriServ Financial), said they would like to see a more defined plan for bringing economic development to Johnstown.

The February 27 council meeting came two days after the authority fired its longtime executive director, Ronald Repak, and a week before D’Ettorre and authority Solicitor William G. Barbin faced City Council members in a long-awaited discussion of sewer billing changes and authority operations.

Repak was axed for reportedly accepting more than $130,000 in outside consulting fees in violation of his contract.

D’Ettorre says he’s ready for the authority to move ahead. The outline presented to authority members last week starts with suggestions for  “community stakeholders’ roundtable meetings” with city staff, community and business leaders, other development agencies, education leaders, and neighborhood and civic groups.

The goal, he says, is to improve effective use of resources by identifying areas of duplication and additional areas of need.

D’Ettorre’s outline goes on to suggest a thorough review of all authority-owned property to identify which provide opportunities for development. The other property should be sold and returned to the tax rolls, he wrote.

The outline identifies dozens of potential properties, including virtually every city neighborhood.

It wraps up with sections on authority-owned Johnstown Regional Sewage and flood protection projects.

“These are all things we work on,” D’Ettorre said after the meeting. “This is just a planning document so we can sit down and talk as a board.”

A more formalized document may be ready for another workshop meeting with council to be scheduled before June 30.

At the March 6 meeting with D’Ettorre and Barbin, council members said they were disappointed that the authority board was not represented. Board member Brian Vuletich was the only one in attendance, and he did not participate. At that meeting, council asked the authority to meet every quarter to update the city on its operations.

Asked if any board members would participate in the next quarterly meeting, authority member M. John Mavrodis said, “I wouldn’t have any problem with that.”

Msgr. Raymond Balta, board chairman, said it would depend on when the meeting is scheduled.

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