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January 31, 2014

10 candidates interviewed for City Council vacancy

JOHNSTOWN — Ten candidates are being considered to fill the current vacancy on Johnstown City Council.

Recently, the board’s six members met with applicants interested in assuming the position that opened on Jan. 6 when Frank Janakovic resigned his former role as a regular councilman to become the city’s new mayor.

Eleven residents applied. Ten showed up for their scheduled interviews, according to information obtained from City Hall. They were Charles Arnone, Charles DiFalco, Rose Howarth, Homer Mattes, Katherine Anne McCloskey-Ross, Pam Renowden, Andrea Ryan, Joe Taranto, Gary Tokar and David Wainwright.

“It was a very diverse group, which was good,” said Councilwoman Marie Mock.

A vote to fill the position is scheduled for Feb. 5.

“In my case, I’m still looking at the notes that I wrote down about each person, so I’m currently undecided,” said Councilman Pete Vizza.

Council has 45 days from the time the position opened to fill the vacancy. If they cannot select somebody by that deadline, then a group of citizens can petition the Cambria County court system to appoint somebody. A similar situation occurred last year when council twice deadlocked 3-3 when voting to fill the spot left open by the death of Ann Wilson. A three-judge panel eventually appointed Taranto, whose term expired last month.

“I feel my previous experience on council is valuable, but more so is what I did in the little time I was there,” said Taranto. “I believe my appointment may have been a component in a surge of interest and hope for the revitalization of the city.”

Like Taranto, Howarth previously served on council before she lost a re-election bid last year.

At least one other resident, Charlene Stanton, expressed interest in being considered.

City officials first advertised the opening on Jan. 10. The application deadline was originally set for Jan. 20 but was extended a day because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Stanton said she started trying to fax her application to City Manager Kristen Denne’s office at 3:49 p.m. on Jan. 21, but could not get the transmission through. Stanton said her husband attempted to call the following day but could not talk to anybody because of phone problems in the manager’s office.

Later in the day, he personally dropped off her paperwork.

Council decided to not interview Stanton because her application was received after the deadline.

“Her application came in late,” said Mock. “Kristen presented it to council and it was council’s decision. It was an executive session, so I can’t say who voted or why they voted.”

Vizza added, “The consensus was she missed the deadline.”

Stanton blamed the city for her application not being received on time.

“Why should I be punished for City Hall’s technical problems?” Stanton asked.

Stanton has been an outspoken critic of the city’s sewer improvement project that started in 2010.

Council’s plan requires all customers to make sure their personal sewer system can pass a pressure test. In order to meet the standard, many property owners will need to install new lines, which can cost anywhere between a few hundred dollars to in excess of $10,000, depending on the amount of excavation, installation and remodeling needed.

The Roxbury resident ran a write-in campaign during the 2013 City Council election when she made opposition to the sewer plan, especially the pressure testing requirement, her single issue. She circulated a petition against the project, filed several right-to-know requests and legally fought the city’s ongoing attempt to condemn part of her property because she would not sign an easement.

“It just makes me wonder, and that’s why I question bias,” said Stanton.

Mock countered by saying, “That wasn’t even part of the consideration.”

If council does not pick a new member before the 45-day deadline, Stanton would be eligible to apply if a panel of judges is asked to make the selection, like in 2013.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.

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