The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

February 19, 2014

Portage Twp. brings back ex-board member

PORTAGE TOWNSHIP — A longtime Portage Township supervisor is out, and the man appointed in 2012 to finish the late Supervisor James Kovach’s term is back in.

Because a decision to appoint a replacement for former Supervisor Ben Selapack could not be reached within 30 days of the vacancy’s advertisement, the township’s appointment committee pushed Jeffrey Kostan, who completed Kovach’s term, into the seat Selapack held for eight years.

Although Selapack had approached the board with application in hand and the backing of newest board member Bill Cooper during the January reorganization meeting, veteran Supervisor Rick Olshavsky disagreed on the prospect.

“(Selapack’s) not coming unless a judge appoints him,” Olshavsky said during that meeting, instead urging the board to wait for more letters of interest from the community.

The township appointment committee’s Rick Bowman seconded Olshavsky’s motion to reinstate Kostan during the Feb. 10 meeting. Cooper’s motion for Selapack died without a second, according to Olshavsky.

“(Kostan) seems to be more independent,” Olshavsky told The Tribune-Democrat on  Wednesday. “He doesn’t depend on this for a job.

“Maybe (this will) get us out of this ‘arguing’ mode and get us down to making decisions for the township instead of personally.”

But Selapack, who clashed with Olshavsky over plans to build a new township garage throughout last year – plans that Cooper has stated he will continue to push – said losing the seat doesn’t bother him much.

“You just move on with your life,” he said. “I’ll just watch what’s going on, make sure things are being done right. So far, I don’t think they’re really on the right track.”

For one thing, Selapack said, a permanent roadmaster needs to be named soon.

Placeholder Rick Shaffer, who Selapack said has some experience in the role, could be made permanent, according to Olshavsky.

Olshavsky once held the position, but was voted out by Selapack. He said he’d take it back if it was offered, but he isn’t holding his breath.

“I don’t think Rick should have that job because he is a supervisor,” said Cooper, who said he feels board politics should be removed from that role.

The roadmaster is in charge of digging the township out of the snow and ice during one of the worst winter seasons in recent years. Olshavsky said the precipitation has been keeping the supervisors busy.

“That’s Mother Nature, bud. You just gotta’ grin and bear it,” he said.

Justin Dennis covers Portage Township for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at­tinDennis.

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