Johnstown Water Board takes no action on superintendent position

JOHNSTOWN — The Johnstown Water Board and city leaders remain at odds over a full-time superintendent position.

While Water Board President Michael Capparello calls the $70,000-a-year position, plus benefits, a necessity, members of the Common Council, as well as Mayor Vernon Jackson and Mayor-elect Amy Praught, say the job can be taken care of by delegating the duties to City Engineer Christopher Vose and his deputy for $15,000 stipends each. The disagreement is threatening the city’s Dec. 1 deadline to pass a budget.

While the Water Board passes its own budget, that body’s budget gets included in the city’s overall spending plan.

Ensure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out

Capparello said the superintendent role is needed to handle everything from submitting weekly reports to helping with billing issues to writing grants to assisting with crises such as last week’s water main leaks.

“It is a full-time position,” Capparello said after the meeting.

Jackson said the position is not worth the cost, especially since Vose and his deputy have been handling the duties for years.

“It’s going to skew the budget,” Jackson said after the meeting. “This is a pretty simple way to save taxpayer money. I just don’t understand it. I really don’t.”

During the meeting, Praught laid out a plan that called for trying the stipend idea temporarily. In Praught’s proposal, Vose and his deputy would provide weekly reports to the Water Board but would remain city employees.

“Let’s do it for a year and see how it works out and how we all work together,” Praught said. “It doesn’t have to be a permanent thing.”

Capparello said the Water Board would consider a written proposal, which was not presented Monday. But such a process could delay the city’s progress toward passing a budget. It’s likely that a special session to allow for public comment will now have to be scheduled if the city hopes to pass a budget on time, Jackson said.

John Swierzowski, a former Water Board president, spoke in support of the full-time position, arguing that having someone in the role, rather than tasking already busy city employees with its duties, will be cost saving.

“I think you’ll get a tremendous amount of bang for your buck,” he said. “You’ll have a professional person in here doing the job that needs to be done for the community.”

The city and the Water Board have a contentious history that includes legal battles and fights over control over the Water Board’s finances.

Praught called for unity.

“It’d be great if the two sides could work out an agreement,” she said.

The next Common Council meeting is slated for Monday, Nov. 15 at 6 p.m.

Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] or 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite. 

Ensure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out

By Andrew Waite

Leave a Reply