Pittsburgh City Council plans amendments to PWSA restructuring agreement
Pittsburgh City Council would retain control of Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority governing boards under amendments to an agreement proposed last month by a committee created by Mayor Bill Peduto.
The blue ribbon panel recommended that Pittsburgh should replace the PWSA board with new directors independent of government and politics. The mayor now appoints all board members.
Under the panel’s recommendations, Peduto would appoint a new five-member body called the Board of Nominators to pick PWSA’s directors.
Four council members intend to amend the agreement so one council member retains a seat on PWSA’s board of directors and that the board of nominators would be subject to council confirmation along with directors.
“This maintains the city’s legitimate process of submitting and approving Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority directors,” said Councilman Ricky Burgess. “The blue ribbon panel’s suggestion would have put the board of nominators in charge of the board of directors.”
Burgess, along with Councilman Corey O’Connor of Swisshelm Park, Councilwomen Deb Gross of Highland Park and Darlene Harris of Spring Hill, crafted the amendments. Gross is a PWSA board member.
Burgess said at least seven members would support the agreement that will be submitted during Wednesday’s council meeting.
Dan Gilman, Peduto’s chief of staff, said the mayor would support the changes.
“Mayor Peduto supports very strongly limiting to eliminating the political influence on the PWSA board,” Gilman said, adding that he and the mayor met last week with Burgess, O’Connor and Gross to discuss the changes. “They convinced us of some changes, and I think we convinced them of some changes, and sometimes you compromise. A board can be very independent of politics when eight-ninths of it would be independent.”
Peduto last year empaneled the committee to recommend solutions to PWSA’s chronic problems, including lead contamination in drinking water, water main breaks, billing errors and overwhelming debt.
The committee recommended a complete restructuring of the authority.
Burgess said many of the changes were cosmetic and designed to conform with state law and the city’s Home Rule Charter. For example, the original agreement identified PWSA as a “nonprofit.” The amended version retains its legal status as “instrumentality of the state.”
“We’re grateful for (the committee’s) work, and so we’ve taken, we believe, their idea and framed into a workable way in our governmental structure to achieve their goals,” Burgess said.