Common Council leaves $13.6M bonding resolution on the table

Johnstown Fire Chief Bruce Heberer speaks at a Johnstown Common Council at City Hall on July, 21, 2021. (FIle Photo)

JOHNSTOWN — The Common Council on Monday night tabled a $13.6 million bonding resolution, vowing to bring it back on the floor soon in the wake of other city officials urging quick action.

Officials representing city government departments implored the council to take action because of the need for a fire truck, ambulance, police cars and needed Water Department improvements.

The council initiated resolution action at City Hall by tabling the $13.6 million bonding resolution,which pays for various projects and vehicles for city government. The bonding measure is one of the largest pieces of borrowing the city has ever undertaken.

For example, city Fire Chief Bruce Heberer requested the city acquire a $635,000 fire truck and $235,000 ambulance; the bonding package earmarks $270,000 for police vehicles; and the city Water Board in May requested $7.2 million in bonding to cover some large projects and improvements.

Other items in the bonding package include: Acquire and install LED street lights for Johnstown — $1 million; HVAC improvements at City Hall — $775,000; window replacement at City Hall — $215,000; acquisition of two plow trucks — $400,000; parking lot improvements — $325,000; construction of a salt bin — $370,000; and reconstruction of the Department of Public Works roof—- $1.1 million.

First Ward Councilman Bradley Hayner said the council only tabled the bonding resolution because it has various questions about the package. He expressed a hope a special council meeting could be scheduled sooner than later to finally consider approval of the bonding.

“There’s a lot of unanswered questions,” Hayner said.

The councilman said the bonding information from City Treasurer Michael Gifford had “numbers and no explanation of anything else.”

Second Ward Councilwoman Kathi Iannotti said it was a “shame” Gifford didn’t attend Monday night’s meeting.

Meanwhile, a few officials let the council know they weren’t happy with inaction on bonding Monday night.

Heberer said “bubble gum and bandaids” weren’t going to repair his aging fire truck fleet anymore. He said his department desperately needs the new pumper.

“We’re approaching $200,000 in increased costs by not buying this truck the past five years,” the fire chief said.

Heberer said the fire department’s Fire EMS Unit also needs a second, new ambulance – a situation in “dire straits.” He said there have been times where GAVAC has not been able to provide back up for the Johnstown ambulance calls. He said the first pre-owned ambulance – bought three years ago by the city for $35,000 – is now experiencing various repair issues. Heberer said they include the need for a transmission flush.

Police Chief David Gilbo said he was requesting two vehicles, which were originally pulled from his proposed budget and put into the bond package. He said there was misinformation that he was asking for five vehicles, with the other three in question either budgeted for or reimbursed by insurance. But now he said he may not be able to acquire the two vehicles he wants unless the council takes swift action on the bonding.

“Everybody in the state is looking for these vehicles,” the police chief said.

Water Board President Michael Capparello told the council, “We really need this bond passed. It needs to be done as quickly as possible.”

He said 75 percent or more of the water infrastructure improvements being requested through bonding are state mandated.

Johnstown’s bond resolution is due to take effect immediately after passage,. City Clerk Carrie Allen will be authorized and directed to publish the foregoing resolution, in summary, together with a notice attached in substantially the form prescribed by law in the city’s official newspaper, The Leader-Herald.