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PWSA director resigns as frustrations mount over erroneous water bills

Bob Bauder
| Thursday, March 3, 2016, 4:15 p.m.
Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority interim Executive Director Jim Good displays clothing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, that company workers should be wearing when they call on customers.
Bill Vidonic | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority interim Executive Director Jim Good displays clothing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, that company workers should be wearing when they call on customers.
Jim Good, 52, was signed to a three-year contract as executive director of the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority on Friday, May 15, 2015. He resigned Thursday, March 3, 2016.
Jim Good, 52, was signed to a three-year contract as executive director of the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority on Friday, May 15, 2015. He resigned Thursday, March 3, 2016.

The executive director of the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority resigned Thursday amid mounting customer complaints about overbilling and poor customer service.

The authority's board accepted Jim Good's resignation immediately and began a nationwide search for his replacement.

In the interim, the board appointed former Allegheny Regional Asset District Director David Donahoe as Good's replacement. Donahoe will be paid $10,000 a month, the equivalent of his salary at RAD.

Good resigned two days after the Tribune-Review reported that PWSA had amassed $32.3 million in unpaid water and sewer bills.

City officials said Good's resignation was voluntary, but they expressed concerns about the authority's response to billing and customer service complaints.

“We were dissatisfied with the measures that had been taken so far, and we really wanted to see a better outcome,” said City Councilwoman Deb Gross of Highland Park, who is on the PWSA board.

She noted that her office has received “dozens and dozens” of complaints this year.

“We had higher expectations for service for our constituents,” she said.

Good, 52, who was hired in May at an annual salary of $240,000, issued a statement saying PWSA evolved under his leadership into a “performance-based organization focused on stakeholder needs.” He said he was proud of his accomplishments and praised PWSA employees for a job well done.

“Everything the PWSA needs to be a great water utility is in place,” he said. “I wish my colleagues and friends at the authority, its board and the administration nothing but the best in their efforts to build on this legacy and ensure its transformation is successfully completed.”

Good served three years on an interim basis as an employee of Veolia North America, which was hired by PWSA in 2012 to help improve the authority's performance. PWSA board Chairman Alex W. Thomson in May called Good's permanent hiring “the most important decision this board has made in its tenure.”

Thomson said Thursday that the authority has improved its internal operations, capital planning and construction coordination, but still has many challenges.

“With the support of Mayor William Peduto, this board has dedicated itself to tackling the tough decisions to get the authority heading in the right direction,” Thomson wrote in a statement. “The board thanks Jim Good for his efforts in this regard. However, we are keenly aware of the frustration some customers have with the continued billing and customer service problems. We understand that much work still needs to be done. We are determined as a board to fix these problems and gain back the trust of all our customers as quickly as possible.”

Before Good's permanent hiring, PWSA had operated with temporary directors since 2010, when Michael Kenney resigned during a scandal over a water line insurance program. The authority has since been criticized for risky bond investments, high debt, poor customer service and neglected infrastructure.

“This has been 20 years or more of insufficient investment and management,” Peduto said. “You can't put this all on the shoulders of Mr. Good and previous managers.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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