By Jamie Wiggan
During a single meeting Sept. 14, the McKees Rocks council approved a termination and a resignation, authorized a work contract with an external agency and took steps to hire a new part-time worker.
Council did not publicly discuss the termination of a street department worker– backdated to Aug. 27 – or the separation agreement spelling out the departure of former building inspector John Stahl beginning Sept. 1. However, while presenting replacement options during a caucus meeting the previous evening, President Archie Brinza alluded to problems precipitating Stahl’s departure.
“It was discouraging but also very eye-opening as well...what we weren’t or haven’t been doing,” Brinza said of the borough’s building inspection program.
Council approved the termination unanimously, while Vice President Leslie Walker voiced the sole objection to Stahl’s resignation. Councilmembers Chas Maritz, Sarah Harvey and Liz Delgado were absent.
Reached later, Walker said she felt Stahl was wronged by the process, adding that she was lied to by colleagues about the circumstances leading up to his departure. She declined to disclose further details, citing it as a personnel matter.
Brinza declined to discuss either issue in detail, stating, “we are moving forward.”
“We are losing two employees that we had a couple of years, and we’re hoping to replace them with good employees,” he said.
Both former workers were hired in August 2018, during a meeting where council welcomed a slate of new employees.
Brinza said the process is already underway to bring on a new street department worker, with borough administration currently sifting through nearly 40 applications. To replace Stahl, council moved to contract with third-party building inspection firm Code Enforcement Agency of Jefferson Hills.
Councilman Joe Mixter said the borough had made significant savings since hiring internal building inspection services back in 2018 and urged his colleagues to seek out a replacement to Stahl rather than contracting the position out.
Brinza said council had to first address the urgent need of filling the role.
“This is an emergency,” he said. “I don’t want to close the door on hiring somebody.”
Council approved the move unanimously.
With Borough Manager Ruth Pompey on unpaid sick leave since June, council also moved to hire an additional part-time administrative worker for 25 hours per week at $13 per hour. “We’re swamped in the office right now,” Brinza said. “It’s necessary.”
Borough officials have so far declined to share details on Pompey’s situation, referring to it as a “sensitive” and “personal” matter governed by American Disabilities Act law.
Council is expected to vote on an extension request next month.
To accommodate changes to the Sunshine Act requiring local governments to advertise all action items at least 24 hours in advance of a vote, council amended its meeting schedule to give more space between workshop and business meetings.
Accordingly, council meetings will now take place on the first and second Tuesday of each month, allowing time to post new action item ideas generated during workshop sessions.
Council previously met on consecutive evenings every second Monday and Tuesday of the month.
Council also formed a task force to aid with existing work to fight blight in the square-mile borough.
Brinza said the committee’s main role will be to take on board input from residents as to which vacant homes need the most attention in order to steer resources toward them.
“As the borough we want to go out and address it,” he said.
Mayor Jack Muhr, Brinza, Walker and councilmembers John Malesnick and Chas Maritz have been named as members.
The borough has received more than $1.3 million so far this year to assist with blight remediation and is partnering with a number of private and non-profit stakeholders to tackle the problem.