The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 4, 2012

Three city employees relocated

Positions replaced as part of new sewer billing system

Randy Griffith

JOHNSTOWN — Three longtime city employees’ jobs are in jeopardy as part of the controversial billing changes for Johnstown Regional Sewage customers.

The city workers were handling billing data input at the Johnstown Regional Sewage office at 410 Main St., said Monsignor Raymond Balta, chairman of Johnstown Redevelopment Authority, which oversees the sewer system.

Those jobs have been replaced by three new employees hired by Software Systems Inc. of Gibsonia. Software Systems’ manages the billing and tracks sewage flow rates with its Ubillity software, under a contract the redevelopment authority approved earlier this year. Previously, RDM-Johnstown handled the billing.

The city employees were working under a different contract between the authority and the city.

They moved to the redevelopment authority-owned sewage treatment plant office, where they are handling different clerical work, Balta said.

Balta referred questions about the move to Frank D’Ettorre of the authority staff, but the person answering the phone at the authority office said D’Ettorre is out of town until Thursday. D’Ettorre has been authorized to handle the day-to-day management of the sewer operation.

The decision to move the workers out of the office space rented by the redevelopment authority was not made at an official public meeting, authority member Brian Vuletich said.

“We were not privy to that information,” Vuletich said Tuesday.

A special meeting has been called for 4 p.m. today in the authority board room at the Public Safety Building on Washington Street.

“We are all going to be updated on this,” Vuletich said. “I just know there were some employees displaced.”

Vuletich expects to finalize action on the moves because the moves came between official meetings.

“That’s why the board has to take official action (today),” he said.

Johnstown Mayor Tom Trigona, who is also an authority board member, said he was surprised by the move.

“Nothing was said at the meetings,” Trigona said. “It was news to me.”

The authority’s solicitor, Johnstown lawyer Bill Barbin, said the meeting could include discussion of changes to the contract under which the city employees have been doing work for the authority.

“The redevelopment authority could not take employment action against the workers because they are city employees,” Barbin said. “The redevelopment authority could revise the contract with the city.”

Balta stressed that the new employees assigned the city workers’ duties were hired locally by Software Systems.

“Ubillity hired three local girls in that office,” Balta said.

The three city employees have been on the job since Johnstown Redevelopment Authority purchased Johnstown Regional Sewage in 2003, Balta said.

“These relocated employees wanted to remain municipal employees,” Balta said, speculating that city benefits may have been a factor.

Balta does not expect today’s meeting to address the contract with the city that covers the three workers.

Asked if the contract may be renegotiated, Balta said, “Not that I know of; unless somebody brings it up.”

City Manager Kristen Denne did not accept a call for her response to the move.

“She said she has no comment,” an office staffer said.