Authority manager planning to resign

BLANDBURG – Animosity from residents and a possible lawsuit have seemingly forced out Reade Township Municipal Authority Manager Jim Scott, who also serves as the

township’s manager-treasurer-secretary.

Scott announced Friday his plans to resign from all posts.

However, the municipal authority – which serves fewer than 500 residents in a township of fewer than 2,000 people – isn’t ready to accept his resignation.

Speaking after a workshop session Monday, board member Barb Rickard said the organization has not received an official resignation letter from Scott, and members plan to talk with him in the hopes he will stay.

Scott was hired by the municipal authority three months ago to manage RTMA before the township appointed him to the combined township manager-treasurer-secretary position at January’s reorganization meeting.

Scott said Monday he intended for his resignation to be immediate, but with rumors circulating that RTMA will be sold – rumors board members deny – he agreed to stay until the authority finds a buyer.

“I’m going to hang in there with them,” he said. “I can’t leave them high and dry.”

He said accusations from residents over corruption and misconduct, as well as Mirror inquiries into a possible class-action lawsuit against the authority, was too much to handle.

A group of township residents have said they plan to file suit against RTMA for property damage they believe was caused by uncontrolled high-water pressure and mismanagement by the authority.

Bob March of Fallentimber said problems with his hot-water tank began one morning early in December 2012, when he said he noticed the tank was overflowing.

“I thought it was just mine, but it was only a 4-month-old water tank. I took it back, but then” neighbors said they were experiencing similar problems, he said.

March said residents believed they traced the pressure problem to a vault in Hollentown but were told by RTMA and the state Department of Environmental Protection that the pressure problem was not connected to the authority.

“Jamie [Estep, of DEP] said she took pictures of the vaults and said no

one worked on them,” he said.

DEP spokesman John Poister was unavailable for comment Monday to discuss DEP’s role in investigating the water-pressure problems. March also said he obtained copies of invoices from the authority

showing work was done on the lines.

Those documents could not be independently verified by the Mirror.

Tom Hollis, chairman of Reade Township’s supervisors’ board, has not responded to right-to-know requests submitted Feb. 5 by the Mirror.

When asked about the request Monday, Hollis demanded a $100 upfront payment from a reporter for the documents, then stated he was no longer in charge of right-to-know requests and left the municipal building. Rickard said she would be able to provide the documents to the Mirror in a few days.

In a previous conversation with the Mirror, Hollis explained the reason why some residents might have experienced high water pressure.

“When the system was built approximately 20 years ago … the main line had a little higher pressure,” he said, noting that the main line runs from Cambria Mills Road to Blandburg and down to Flinton.

“When, of course, there’s a little higher pressure than you use in your house … the authority supplied the first pressure-reducing valve. PRVs are not made to last forever,” he said.

Hollis said residents might not have known that the valves were only made to last five to seven years (other board members suggested the valves could last 10 to 15 years) and noted that many residents may be using valves as old as the municipal authority itself – valves the authority is not bound to replace.

“If your PRV goes bad in your house or in the vault outside, you will possibly, maybe get as high as the main line pressure [90 to 120 pounds],” he said at the time. “If your pressure-reducing valve goes bad … anything mechanical will go bad, eventually.”

Hollis said people should have known about the valves from being told years ago but admitted that RTMA could have done a better job of reminding residents when a few began having pressure problems.

If Scott cannot be persuaded to stay on as manager, it’s unclear who will take the job.

“[But] we’re not sure we have to replace him yet,” Rickard said. “We hope he changes his mind.”

Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.