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Ford City hires firm to end fees associated with water plant delay

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014, 12:41 a.m.

Ford City Council is hoping the decision last month to fire the borough engineer and hire a new engineering firm to oversee construction of a water plant will halt the flow of daily fines being levied against the borough.

Before he was fired on April 28, Jim Garvin of Garvin Engineering told council he had that day hand-delivered the water plant permit application to the Department of Environmental Protection.

That action, council hoped, would finally put an end to the $250 daily fines that have been amassing against the borough because of its delays in providing DEP with the permit application.

But it seems that is not the case.

“The water plant application that was submitted was rejected,” said Councilman Josh Abernathy. “It was not signed, sealed or notarized.”

Borough Solicitor Anthony Vigilante said even if it had the proper signatures and seals, there is still no guarantee it would have been accepted.

A May 8 letter to council from the DEP noted the application was incomplete and DEP could not determine if other technical issues existed with the planned facility.

Garvin, who was not at the meeting, said Monday night he had not been told by DEP the application was rejected but heard about it through an email sent by Councilwoman Vickie Schaub.

The application is now at least 55 days late.

“Not all of that was on the engineer because we held the meeting late,” Abernathy said, referring to council's March 24 decision to build the plant which delayed the final permit application.

But, he said, council had it in good faith that Garvin would take care of all the requirements and get all the necessary paperwork in right away.

Gibson-Thomas Engineering, the firm newly hired by council to oversee the water project, will have to step up to set things right.

The company is working with DEP to make sure everything will be accepted, Vigilante said.

Attorney: Engineer hired properly

The solicitor said he took issue with recent speculation surrounding council's decision to hire Gibson-Thomas.

Without any prior public discussion and following an executive session, council voted 5-0 to hire the firm at its April 28 meeting.

Vigilante said the suggestion that council did something illegal was not the case.

Council is allowed to have meetings to listen to someone giving a presentation as long as there is no deliberation or action taken, he said.

He advised council to be diligent in the future about the manner in which it conducts discussions to avoid any further speculation. He reminded council that all discussions should take place in public, barring the few exceptions allowed under the state Sunshine Act.

Bartuccio said council's vote was based on information they had all individually read beforehand.

“We just didn't vote on an engineer without knowing anything. We all had information to read on it,” she said.

On another matter, two separate bills — one for $1,000 and one for $1,495 –—owed to Garvin for borough-related projects will go unpaid.

Council voted 6-0 to pay all borough bills due except those owed to Garvin Engineering.

According to Garvin, the borough still owes him between $12,000 and $13,000 for his services.

Nevertheless, he said: “I wish them the best.”

Councilman Eugene Banks said he hoped council might soon set its sights on other issues facing the town.

“We have a viable water engineering firm now,” he said. “Can we now focus our efforts on development and trying to get something here? Let's bring some money to this town instead of spending it.”

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

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