Water Board working
In an effort to dispel some of the misinformation that has been in the media over the past months concerning the Johnstown Charter Review Commission and the dissolvent of the Johnstown Water Board, the board members wish to present the following information to the water users and taxpayers of the city of Johnstown.
City voters originally adopted the Johnstown Charter in 2000. Part of the charter set up a Water Board to run independently from the city due to prior financial and maintenance issues. Prior to 2000, each time the separate Water Board had been abolished, over a period of time, the same problems started to exist. The system’s maintenance programs went unattended, money raised from water rents went to pay other city obligations and capital improvements were not projected or completed.
Basically, there was an inadequate administrative structure running the water system. Funds that were meant to keep the system running were put elsewhere and the system began to fail.
Since the current charter’s inception, the Water Board has made it a priority to ensure the city water system is the best it can be. Through comprehensive planning and budgeting, the system is one of the best in the state in regards to water quality. Our employees are properly trained and maintain an excellent working relationship with the state Department of Health and other outside agencies.
The Water Board is not a “government within a government.” When the mayor was first elected, he was asked by the Water Board to come to one of its meetings to see what it does and meet its members. Unlike past administrations, he has never taken the board up on the request. There is also a Common Council member assigned to come to its meetings to ensure he has all the information discussed at the meetings.
Regarding the Water Board’s accountability: We are just as accountable as the mayor and the city council. We are accountable to the city voters who elected us. And much more accountable than three to five “volunteer” members picked by the current administration. When the current administration changes with new and different ideas, the Water Board will remain constant, making sure the water system is functioning at its best. The Water Board members are part of the community and are available “24-7” for all issues concerning the department. Will that be so for the hand-picked “advisory” members picked by the mayor? Will council members go out at 3 a.m. in the middle of winter during a water main break to check on the crew or get them some hot coffee? I doubt it.
As for not turning over a draft document to the mayor, it wasn’t complete and it was just an exploratory matter looking into better ways to supply water to users. The mayor’s liaison knew this and should have made this clear to him. Once it was completed, a copy was given to the mayor and the city council to review.
It was also said there is a problem with the duplication of services by DPW and Water Department personnel. The Water Department employees do one thing, water. And except for assisting during a major break, DPW personnel do what they do. The Water Department has its own equipment, which it shares with DPW. Also, there would not be any savings of money as the city clerk has stated to the commission. Water Department dollars are used to pay our employees and our obligations. The finances are properly taken care of, as both the recent audit by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office and our own independent audit proved. Not so with the treasurer’s office. The $2 million that the mayor says we have is obligated money for projects set out in our five-year plan. Basically, that is money already spent.
There are other issues that have been brought up by the administration, but I do not have room to go over them here.
Water is like electricity; when you turn it on, you expect to have it there. The Water Board will guarantee that to you. The Water Board does this job because its members enjoy it, not because they are paid or are a friend of the current administration. They are here for you and have the experience to do the job.
If you have any questions, please contact the Water Board through the department office or attend one of its monthly meetings, which are held at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of the month.
John Pradelski is a Johnstown Water Board member.