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Latrobe council hopes for lower fine from DEP

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Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Latrobe Council rejected an agreement to incur a penalty for allowing the trash-transfer station license to elapse, hoping instead to negotiate a lesser penalty than the $7,000 levied by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The 10-year permit for the transfer station at 696 Mission Road expired in April, said City Manager Alex Graziani.

He did not complete the proper reapplication for the permit in time, so the DEP levied a penalty against the city, he said.

The permit has since been renewed. DEP initially levied a $12,000 fine but the city negotiated with special counsel to decrease it to $9,000 and then $7,000. But council voted on Monday night to reject the $7,000 agreement with the state.

Latrobe staff has been working with state Rep. Joe Petrarca, D-Washington Township, to mediate with the department, Graziani said.

“He feels the DEP is still excessive in their ask,” Graziani said.

The transfer station was inspected last fall, but the department did not notify the city that the permit was about to expire, Deputy Mayor Ken Baldonieri said.

“Let's let this one ride a bit and see what happens,” he said.

The DEP is considering better ways to notify municipalities of permit lapses, city solicitor Jim Kelley said.

“I think they recognized they could have done more to help this from happening,” he said.

The proposed agreement was rejected 1-6, with Baldonieri casting the lone affirmative vote.

In other business, council gave Graziani approval to develop a drug-testing policy for elected officials and staff.

After the urging of former Latrobe mayor Jim Gebicki during public comment, council members added the measure to the agenda to have Graziani prepare and present a policy to them in November.

Graziani explained that drug testing is part of the bargaining agreement for Latrobe workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Federal Employees as a part of commercial drivers' license provisions.

Under the city's agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police Westmoreland Lodge No. 23, which represents 11 officers, Latrobe police are not required to complete routine drug testing, he said.

The testing policy would need to include penalties to be effective, Councilwoman Rosie Wolford said.

“We'd have to devise a policy first, I believe, that would determine what we'd do if someone tested positive,” she said. “What's the point of testing if there's nothing that happens?”

Baldonieri said he “adamantly” opposed the measure, citing constitutional rights and court cases that held that political candidates and elected officials did not have to be subjected to drug testing.

“It serves no real purpose,” he said after the meeting.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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