A major change came to the organization that oversees Johnstown’s public housing on Wednesday.
City Council voted to appoint Dr. Joseph Taranto to the Johnstown Housing Authority. Five other individuals, including the JHA’s current chairman, Brian Vuletich, applied for the position. Only Vuletich and Taranto were nominated for the final vote. Taranto, a member of City Council, voted for himself, as did his colleagues Frank Janakovic, Rose Howarth and Marie Mock. Mayor Thomas Trigona, William Gentile Jr. and Pete Vizza supported Vuletich.
Taranto is scheduled to start his new term at the next JHA meeting.
“I’m happy that I was (appointed),” said Taranto, whose City Council term is set to expire in January. “We’ll see how it goes from here.”
Vuletich joined the authority in August 2008. He served one five-year term before being denied a second. Tension grew between him and some members of council concerning how JHA should operate over the past year.
“I’m disappointed, but it’s not unexpected,” said Vuletich. “I’m disappointed because I’ve worked hard for the past five years to keep residents safe in their housing.”
Vuletich said he plans to seek legal advice and possibly challenge the decision. He raised concerns about Taranto voting for himself. He also felt Howarth should have recused herself because she works for Johnstown Lease Housing, which is located in the same building as the housing authority. Dan Kanuch is director of both organizations. However, they have their own boards and deal with different types of housing issues.
“They’re two separate entities,” said Howarth.
The Johnstown Housing Authority operates 1,700 units between public housing and Section 8 vouchers, a rental program designed to help low-income individuals obtain living accommodations.
Taranto hopes to help address issues of blight, crime and nuisance residents while serving as a link between the board and council. “I think the housing authority and the city, if they work together, have a better chance of accomplishing some of those goals,” Taranto said.
Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.