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Union contract approved

| Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP - The municipal authority board Tuesday approved a five-year contract for its union employees.

Solicitor Michael Witherel said the agreement, which will be retroactive to Nov. 1 and run through Oct. 31, 2012, provides a $1-per-hour raise to full-time employees and a 50-cent hourly raise for part-time employees.

Witherel said the contract adds five sick days and two personal days and allows employees to bank up to 10 sick days, for which they will be paid if not used.

Witherel said the union agreed to drop unfair labor practice claims and grievances against the authority in exchange for the contract - except for a case involving former employee Michael Latkanich, which is scheduled for arbitration.

Latkanich, the son of township supervisor Joanne Latkanich, assaulted Supervisor Chuck Yusko on Oct. 13, 2005, outside of the township fire hall.

A jury convicted Michael Latkanich July 12 of a third-degree misdemeanor count of simple assault, but found him not guilty of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and terroristic threats.

At the time of the incident, Yusko, also an authority employee, was campaigning for a seat on the township board of supervisors.

Michael Latkanich was suspended after the incident, but the board did not stop his insurance and hospitalization benefits until January, roughly 15 months after the incident.

Board Chairman Melvin Weiss admitted during a March board meeting that the benefits should have been suspended after nine months.

The board later fired Michael Latkanich and he appealed the action.

As part of the union contract, the authority board agreed to rehire part-time plant employee Ryan Martin.

Martin agreed to drop an unfair labor practice claim and a grievance he filed against the authority, Witherel said.

In August, the authority board fired Martin because he refused to submit to a drug and alcohol test.

Martin argued at a public meeting that he did not refuse a test and that he attempted to present to the board results from a test administered at a later date.

The board would not accept the results because the test was not conducted according to authority guidelines.

In an unrelated matter, board member Dee Fisher said she, the supervisors and other authority board members this month have engaged in talks with local water companies interested in buying Washington Township's water system.

The supervisors began to entertain offers after news broke that the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Co. could close its Allenport plant.

The plant accounts for about 40 percent of authority revenue.

Fisher said Pennsylvania-American Water Co. and the Municipal Authority of the Borough of Charleroi have expressed interest in a purchase.

She said a third company will meet today with authority board members and the supervisors.

Fisher emphasized the talks are preliminary and do not mean that the water company will be sold.

"They're just coming in to give general info," Fisher said. "There's been no decision. It's just, let's have a backup plan in case we need one."

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