Johnstown water board seats filled

JOHNSTOWN — The five-member, elected city Water Board has filled the seats of two members who abruptly resigned last month over disagreements with city government.

The three remaining board members on May 8 appointed Jason Hammer and John Swierzowski, effective that day, city Water Department Clerk Barbara Koehler said Thursday.

The new personnel moves were also announced at Monday’s Common Council meeting at City Hall.

Hammer and Swierzowski are filling the three-year seats of former Johnstown Water Board President Nicholas Cannizzo Sr., who resigned in April, and former Vice President John Pradelski, who resigned in March.

“They can serve until the end of this year,” Water Board Vice President George DiMarco said Thursday of the newest members.

But DiMarco said if Hammer and Swierzowski want to serve beyond 2017, they must run this election season.

Fulton County Board of Elections Clerk Cinda Spraker said Thursday that Cannizzo’s seat is up at the end of the year. But she said Pradelski’s seat still has two more years to fill, until 2019, for whoever successfully fills that elected seat this year.

With DiMarco, Hammer and Swierzowski, the Water Board is now filled out by the other members, Anthony Caruso and Scott Jeffers.

DiMarco said the board early this spring put out the word there were two resignations with available seats, and Hammer and Swierzowski showed interest.

He said the board, currently without a president, will have election of officers in an upcoming meeting.

He said it is not necessarily a new beginning with the two new members. But he said the Water Board would like to separate itself from some of the past controversies.

“The last two years have been trying for the board,” DiMarco said.

DiMarco said the body wants a new start with Mayor Vern Jackson and the city.

“We’re trying to get along with the new mayor and all the department heads,” he said.

Cannizzo resigned over what he said was the city continually trying to “control” the Water Board.

Pradelski said after he resigned that he “got tired of fighting City Hall.”

The board has had celebrated troubles with city government the last few 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.

Water Board/city relations were also strained when council members objected to the short-term reappointments of Spraker, a former Water Department clerk. She 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.

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 two months later.

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

By Patricia Older

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