Two resign from water board

PHOTOGRAPHER:
The Johnstown Water Department building on East Main Street in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — Johnstown Water Board President Nicholas Cannizzo Sr. and former Vice President John Pradelski abruptly resigned recently from the board, leaving the five-member elected body with only three members.

Remaining members are current Vice President George DiMarco, Scott Jeffers and Anthony Caruso, still constituting a quorum for business.

The city Water Board has had celebrated troubles with city government the last several years. The Johnstown Charter Review Commission wanted to dissolve the board and transfer its operation to the city engineer’s office. But city voters defeated that idea in a 2015 Election Day referendum.

Cannizzo said Thursday that the city continues to try to control the Water Board.

“They haven’t accepted the fact they lost the [referendum],” Cannizzo said.

He said he also has to watch his health, adding that being on the board is “not good for my family life.”

The 79-year-old Cannizzo, whose board service dates back to 1982, said there has been a spate of city-related issues that have soured him about continuing on the board.

Cannizzo said the city is now demanding the Water Board’s timber money revenue, and never had before. For example, the department must clear timber on watershed property to make available for 20,000 cubic yards of fill for a dam reshaping.

Meanwhile, he said the board continues to make great progress without raising water rates. He said work has included the Bloomingdale waterline project, Maylender reservoir project, oil tanks taken out of Cork Center, and an extensive water meter replacement project throughout the city.

Cannizzo added, “We tried to get our own attorney and they won’t let us.”

He said City Attorney Michael Poulin shouldn’t also serve as board attorney.

According to the Fulton County Board of Elections, DiMarco has an opportunity to appoint replacements for Cannizzo and Pradelski this year. If no appointments are made, someone running this year for Cannizzo’s three-year seat, which expired anyway this fall, will serve until 2020. If someone runs for a seat to replace Pradelski, who was reelected last fall, he or she will serve until 2019.

“I got tired of fighting City Hall,” Pradelski said Thursday. “All we wanted to do was to work for the people, but there was one thing or another.”

The Johnstown Water Board has over the years declared itself autonomous from city government and the Common Council.

Mayor Vern Jackson confirmed Thursday that Pradelski resigned March 31, and Cannizzo resigned Monday night. He said the letters were submitted to the Water Board and not to city government.

“They just said they’re resigning,” Jackson said.

He said the resignation letters were delivered to the board at its meeting Monday night at the city Water Department. He said the only way he knew about the resignations were through City Attorney Michael Poulin and 4th Ward Councilman Timothy Cellary, who were in attendance. Cellary is the Common Council’s liaison to the water board.

“I thank them for what they’ve done for the city,” Jackson said of Cannizzo and Pradelski.

City Water Department Clerk Barbara Koehler declined Thursday to make public copies of the resignation letters. She said DiMarco has to approve the release. He couldn’t be reached Thursday.

Water Board/city relations were strained when council members objected to the short-term reappointments of former Water Department Clerk Cinda Spraker, who later said she felt forced into signing a one-year contract. That led to a controversial $18,000 payout of unused time and a debate over whether she was a Water Department employee or a city employee. She filed a complaint with the state about her employment situation, but lost.

Before being appointed mayor in 2016, then-4th Ward Councilman Jackson said he “personally” did not agree with the board’s decision not to renew Spraker’s contract, but the board ultimately let her go last August.

Cannizzo and Pradelski approached the Common Council in April 2014, saying recommended Water Board members should probably be paid. They said the president and vice president should be paid $75 per board meeting and other members receive $50 per board meeting. The council rejected the compensation request by June 2014.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Patricia Older

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