CLEARFIELD – Customers of the Clearfield Municipal Authority attended yesterday’s meeting. They were upset about a recent pay raise for Manager John Williams and again questioning their rates.
A conflict of interest was also raised by some residents at the meeting, which was held at the Montgomery Run water treatment facility.
During last month’s meeting the board voted to raise Williams’ annual salary from $50,000 to $60,000 per year. Residents questioned the need to pay him this amount and asked if their rates would go up because of this.
Responses from the board members present included that the amount was budgeted and that the increase was due to his being promoted to manager in October, but they did not change his pay rate at that time, waiting until the union contract with employees was finalized.
Engineer Jim Balliet of Gwin, Dobson and Foreman Inc. of Altoona noted that other authorities of similar size offer a pay rate on average of nearly $82,000.
Board members said $100,000 was budgeted for management and the remaining $40,000 can now be used elsewhere in the budget.
According to information made available to the press, the average expenditure for management over the past seven years, 2010 to 2016 was $109,116.29.
At that time CMA was paying three employees in management: Jeff Williams, Kevin Shifter and John Williams.
During that time, Jeff Williams retired and served as a consultant for a few years and Shifter became manager with John Williams as IT director and assistant manager.
Jeff Williams’ salary before retirement was $78,045 annually, and the authority paid him a little over $15,000 per year as a consultant.
Currently, the authority does not employ a consultant or an assistant manager. John Williams was appointed as interim manager in June of 2016 and promoted to manager in October of 2016. Other candidates also applied for the manager position.
Additionally, John Williams has a Bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology, allowing him to troubleshoot and operate the computer systems at the two water treatment facilities and the sewage treatment facility. He also has certifications in operations of both the water treatment and sewage treatment facilities.
Another issue raised by the public was the relation of one board member with John Williams. According to one resident, the daughter of board member, Chris Stott, lives with and is engaged to Williams, which Stott agreed was true.
The residents then asked why Stott didn’t abstain from the vote last month, as it appeared to be a conflict of interest.
Stott disagreed, saying at the time the couple was not engaged, and it would not have made a difference since the vote was unanimous, 7-0.
Residents argued that it was the appearance of the matter and asked if he would abstain from similar votes in the future if and when the couple was married, and Stott said he would decide at that time.
The rates charged by the authority were also questioned, with residents noting that in an area with fixed incomes and many young people not getting paid good wages, the rates are difficult to pay.
Board members said they sympathized, but they do try to keep the rates as low as possible.
However, the state Department of Environmental Protection and federal Environmental Protection Agency have been placing mandates on sewer and water authorities resulting in a need to borrow money and, ultimately, raise rates.
Williams added that various agencies also can help with paying the rates and that the office personnel and he himself try to help people as much as possible with payments and also steering them to these various agencies.
The authority has been forced to upgrade equipment and, due to Chesapeake Bay regulations, upgrade to a new sewage treatment plant.
Chairman Russ Triponey added that DEP has now begun talking about making CMA take Montgomery Water Treatment facility off line for upgrades, and he said they will need to decide how to supply water to customers as Moose Creek Reservoir only supplies about one-third of the needed water.
Triponey said there are ways residents can help them. First, he encourages residents to come to all meetings, not just when they are angry. He also asked them to consider serving on the board when a seat is advertised as being open.
He asked people to get involved and ask questions and research rates in other municipalities.
“I appreciate your coming in. I really do,” he said. He added if people can think of ways for CMA to save money, they should come to the board and discuss options.
No other action was taken during the meeting as there was not a quorum of board members. The meeting will be rescheduled to a later date.