New staff taking over at Tri-County water authority

July 17, 2014
The headquarters of Tri-County Joint Municipal Authority - Observer-Reporter Order a Print

A new full-time employee is being trained to work in the embattled Tri-County Joint Municipal Water Authority’s business office, with more workers expected to be hired early next week.

The new worker began Monday and will continue training through next week with two part-time employees as the temporary staff that worked in the business office in East Bethlehem Township for nearly five months moves on, interim manager Ann Scott said.

“We got everything under control and up and running,” Scott said of the interim staff. “We’ve done a lot of changes and implemented some new things that needed to be completed. We’ve moved them along and brought them into the new age and into 2014. Things will hopefully move a lot smoother.”

The one full-time worker and two part-timers, who will work only as needed, will be under the management of a contracted company based in Delmont.

They will be paid through that company and won’t be directly managed by the water authority’s board. Scott said an operations manager, who would be paid and supervised by the authority’s board, could be hired during the board’s next meeting Aug. 6.

The authority’s original office staff was fired March 7 as the state Department of Environmental Protection began investigating possible reporting and permitting violations at the East Bethlehem Township water treatment facility.

The authority’s board terminated the three key employees, including general manager Jeff Kovach, just as the DEP launched the investigation into why discharge records and modification permits hadn’t been filed for 47 consecutive months. DEP spokesman John Poister did not immediately return a phone call Thursday seeking comment on the status of the environmental regulator’s investigation into the authority.

The temporary management firm from Pittsburgh was hired to staff the business office so customers could continue to pay bills. Scott and one temporary accountant will be leaving when the new employees are properly trained.

Authority board Chairman Ted Giovanelli and board member Patsy Ricciuti could not be reached for comment.

After the firings, the board hired Canonsburg accounting firm Cypher & Cypher to perform a special audit of its business office.

The water authority serves about 3,500 customers in the Mon Valley.

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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