By Don Hopey and Adam Smeltz / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority board decided Friday to table approval of a new contract for its interim director Bernard Lindstrom, further muddling the course forward for the troubled public water supplier.
The PWSA board, which has only four members after the resignation last week of three members, said it wanted to wait until a full board is empaneled to make the hire.
"It would be wiser, before we take action to hire another executive director, to wait until we have some community representatives on the board," said Paul Leger, the board member who made the motion to table the contract approval. “We want to have community input on who leads this organization.”
Mayor Bill Peduto hopes to nominate three new board members early next week, but city council would then need to confirm those appointments before they could be seated on the board.
Deborah Gross, a city councilwoman who serves on the PWSA board, said she raised the option of waiting for a full board to approve Mr. Lindstrom’s contract, and that was discussed during an executive session prior to the board meeting.
“We talked about it and decided that because there is a lot of work the executive director will need to do with the board it will be a good idea to have the consensus of the full board,” Ms. Gross said.
The decision puts on hold a tentative agreement, negotiated by Mr. Peduto, that was set to begin Monday and would have paid Mr. Lindstrom up to $225,000 through Mar. 13, 2019. It contains a provision that allowed its termination with a 30-day notice if a new director is found.
Mr. Lindstrom, a retired U.S. Army colonel, has been working as the authority’s interim executive director since September, under a six-month, $100,000 agreement that ended March 19.
The PWSA, which is facing a raft of problems, including infrastructure failures, customer service problems and elevated lead water levels in some households served through lead pipes, has had four directors since late 2015, not counting Robert Weimar, PWSA’s interim director of construction and engineering, who has been overseeing day-to-day operations.
Kevin Acklin, the mayor’s chief of staff, said Mr. Weimar has the legal authority to hire Mr. Lindstrom as interim director until the board confirms the appointment.
Although Mr. Acklin said continuity is an important consideration for the authority, he said that any action involving Mr. Lindstrom isn’t a long-term solution.
“So this is not a permanent placement,” Mr. Acklin said. “Nor is he [Mr. Lindstrom] approaching it as a permanent placement. We need a permanent executive director at PWSA. That remains an issue.”
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