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Ford City fires engineer, picks new firm for water plant work

| Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 12:46 a.m.

Ford City Council fired the borough engineer on Monday after a closed-door discussion and voted to hire a new engineering firm to oversee construction of the water plant.

In each instance, the vote was unanimous, with all five council members present voting to fire Jim Garvin and to hire Gibson-Thomas Engineering of Latrobe, pending the solicitor's review of the company's proposal.

The engineering contract with Gibson-Thomas would not involve any borough projects other than the water plant.

Council also voted 5-0 to seek a new borough engineer. Councilman Scott Gaiser was absent.

Garvin arrived late to the meeting, before council's private executive session, using crutches because of a knee injury. He appeared visibly upset as he handed council copies of the water plant permit application he said had been delivered to the Department of Environmental Protection that day.

He told council he had intended to deliver the application last Friday, but a car accident on the way to Pittsburgh delayed his arrival.

He indicated that he knew of council's plan to fire him and said he had been aware that several engineering firms had been consulted.

“I've already notified them that payment is an issue,” he said, referring to the fact that council owed him money for his services.

“I ask that I get paid for the work I've done, so I can pay my employees,” he said. “I've got three kids and four employees I have to take care of.”

“The finance committee is looking into it — it's been two weeks,” said Councilman Jerry Miklos.

Miklos added that Garvin should consider himself lucky because a former engineering firm had not been paid by the borough for work done about three years ago.

When Councilman Gene Banks asked how the payment due to Garvin could be resolved, the discussion escalated into a shouting match between Miklos and Garvin before the executive session was called.

A dozen or so residents stood outside the public library for nearly an hour while council deliberated in the library's children's reading section to determine Garvin's fate as borough engineer.

Garvin did not linger in the rain to hear the outcome.

Before he left, he said the borough owed him $10,000 for his work.

“They won't pay me and won't justify why they won't pay me,” he said.

“I hope they do fire me tonight because they are unprofessional. It's not worth the anxiety in my life. I don't even get paid to be here.”

After the meeting resumed and council voted to fire Garvin, Miklos said Gibson-Thomas was one of six firms contacted by council. The firm has been in communication with DEP, he said.

“They will get us in compliance,” said council President Kathy Bartuccio.

Councilman Josh Abernathy said that in addition to bringing the borough into compliance with DEP, Gibson-Thomas proposed to help council find grants to help fund the plant.

“We don't know what the total cost will be for the plant,” Abernathy said.

Garvin had estimated the construction costs would be about $2.2 million when council voted in March to move ahead and build. The vote was tied, 2-2, with Mayor Marc Mantini tipping the balance in favor of the new plant.

“A lot of us felt those costs weren't realistic,” Abernathy said on Monday.

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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