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December 8, 2013

Sewer board squabble: Residency issue raised as qualification to fill vacancy

— Controversies surrounding Johnstown Redevelopment Authority’s sewer projects and its embattled former director have heightened interest in a seat on the board that opens Jan 1.

Well-known businessman Mark Pasquerilla is seeking the appointment to replace radio station manager Brian Vuletich when his five-year term ends Dec. 31.

“I think I can make a difference here,” Pasquerilla said, citing his role in bringing a major retail development to downtown Philadelphia as board member for Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust. The investment group specializes in retail shopping malls, its website says.

“I think I can bring something to the table,” Pasquerilla said. “We have this great, modern sewage system here. Now we have to get something to connect to the sewage system.”

Several prominent business leaders are supporting Pasquerilla’s request.

But Vuletich said he would like to remain on the authority board and may ask to be reappointed for another five years.

He points out that Pasquerilla’s appointment could create issues under a state law that requires a majority of the five-member board to be Johnstown residents.

“Mark is not a resident in the city,” Vuletich said. “I am a resident.”

Pasquerilla lives in Southmont Borough and says he does not claim to be a Johnstown resident, but says it is clear he owns businesses in Johnstown.

Authority Solicitor William G. Barbin confirms that the state law covering redevelopment authorities for third class cities requires that a majority of board members live within the host municipality – in this case, Johnstown. A minority may live outside the city, but must own businesses within the city.

Current board members include Vuletich, Mayor Tom Trigona, Monsignor Raymond Balta, M. John Mavrodis and Karen Varga.

Vuletich lives on Market Street, Trigona on Hershberger Road and Balta in the St. Mary’s  Byzantine Catholic Church rectory on Power Street.

All are within Johnstown city limits.

Varga lives on Winchester Drive in Upper Yoder Township and Mavrodis has a home on Oak Eden Drive in Richland Township. Both own rental properties in Johnstown, which Barbin said would, in his opinion, qualify as city businesses.

“They are making money,” he said.

But Barbin also notes Pennsylvania’s requirements for residency are “pretty loose.” People have been considered residents of a municipality if they declare themselves to be a resident and show they have possessions in a suitable dwelling that they own or rent and is not otherwise occupied.

Mavrodis maintains a mailing address in a Walnut Street multiunit residential property he owns. He is registered to vote in Johnstown, the Cambria County election office confirmed. The election office did not have a voter registration for Varga.

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