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DEP halts some fines against Ford City

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 12:46 a.m.
 

As Ford City Council members prepare for a special meeting on Monday to discuss monthly bills — they can do so knowing that at least one daily fine levied against the borough has ceased.

However, even as one batch of fines related to its aging water plant cease, new penalties accumulate.

The daily $250 penalty levied by the Department of Environmental Protection for failing to make a decision by Feb. 2 about how it would provide water to residents has stopped adding up.

Council voted to build a water plant after a public forum on March 24. An official letter, signed by council President Kathy Bartuccio, was sent to the DEP the following day.

The vote was tied, 2-2, with Mayor Marc Mantini tipping the balance in favor of building the plant. Councilwoman Vickie Schaub and Councilman Gene Banks voted to build. Councilman Josh Abernathy and Bartuccio voted no.

Councilman Jerry Miklos abstained, and Councilman Scott Gaiser was absent.

But, as late as last week, DEP officials could not verify if the fines associated with council's late decision had stopped until they received clarification from borough Solicitor Anthony Vigilante that the mayor's tie-break vote was valid.

Vigilante said on Tuesday that he has spoken with Gail Guenther, assistant counsel of the southwest regional office for the DEP, and referred to the state borough code, which says a mayor can break a tie vote.

“She is satisfied — it's my understanding that the fine is no longer applicable after the March 24 vote,” Vigilante said.

The borough had originally amassed $21,000 in penalties — calculated through March 31, said John Poister, community relations coordinator for the DEP's southeast office.

That amount was reduced when the official notification from Ford City was received by the DEP.

“Those fines stopped, and based on that, the borough owes $19,500,” he said.

But, a $250 daily fine continues to add up against the borough because of a permit application delay.

As of Tuesday, the DEP had not received a permit application regarding the new water plant, and the borough will be responsible for whatever accumulates per day from April 1 through 31. Those fines amount to $5,250 and are due by May 15.

Borough Engineer Jim Garvin confirmed on Tuesday that he had not completed the permit application last week as expected.

“Some unforeseen minor modifications had to be added to it,” Garvin said.

He plans to have it hand-delivered to the DEP by Friday.

Although council members last week said they wanted to meet with DEP officials to negotiate a reduction in fines, no meeting has been scheduled.

“At this point, we're going to let Mr. Vigilante take the lead on it rather than individual members of council,” Miklos said.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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