It’s been a bit of a whirlwind romance lately, but Michael Gray is back to serving the city he loves — just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Latrobe City Council voted on Monday night to hire Gray as city manager, replacing John Antinori, who served at the post for just three months and recently resigned.
Gray himself resigned for personal reasons back in October, but said Latrobe Mayor Rosie Wolford approached him about two weeks ago asking if he was interested in getting his old job back.
“When I left initially, I should have probably just taken a leave of absence,” Gray said, adding that his decision to resign was a mistake.
“I had really no plans other than when I left I didn’t really know what I was going to do. I’m just happy to be back.”
He said the terms of his employment agreement with the city — approved by council Monday night — are the same as they were when he left.
“Same terms, same everything,” he said.
Well, almost everything. This time, he will only have to serve as city manager, rather than take on dual roles as manager and the director of the city’s public works department, as he did before he resigned. Council recently hired Scott Wajdic of Latrobe to fill the public works position, which means that Gray can devote all of his time and attention to his job as city manager.
“My heart’s in the city and it always will be,” he said.
“It’s a great place to work. It was a no-brainer.”
Wolford — who is Antinori’s cousin — offered no comment on his sudden resignation, except to say, “The meeting speaks for itself. It just kind of all fell into place.”
Antinori, who was not present at Monday night’s meeting, could not be reached for comment prior to press time.
Meanwhile, council also voted on Monday to approve rate hikes for the municipal transfer station on Mission Road.
According to figures provided by city officials, the base service rate for processing municipal waste will increase from $107 per ton to $110.30 per ton, with the minimum charge for loads 200 pounds and under to jump from $12.50 to $14. However, the rate per 20 pounds for loads over 200 pounds and up to 2,000 pounds will dip slightly from $1.075 to $1.07. The Pennsylvania landfill surcharge will remain at $4 per ton.
There also will be an adjustment to the rate per 20 pounds for loads over 2,000 pounds, but it was not immediately clear how that rate will change, and city officials could not be reached for clarification prior to press time.
Other rate changes include: Car tires, from $2 to $3 each; car tires with rims, from $3 to $4 each; light truck tires (16-inch), from $3 to $5 each; light truck tires (16-inch) with rims, from $5 to $6 each, and the appliance charge for Freon removal, from $33 to $35 each. The rate for heavy truck tires (20-inch and up) will remain at $12 each.
It’s important to note that this will in no way affect what Latrobe residents pay for their garbage service, as pointed out recently by councilman Ralph Jenko. The rates will impact only services provided at the city-owned transfer station on Mission Road.
In other business:
• Council accepted the resignation of Otto Salguero from the Latrobe Industrial Development Authority (LIDA).
• Gray said the city has received a $122,000 grant that will be used to install flashing speed limit signs on Ligonier and Cedar streets and Lincoln Avenue around the new Latrobe Elementary School. The project likely will get underway later this year, he said.
• Carl “Skip” Bollinger of the Latrobe Municipal Authority (LMA) provided an update on the service line replacement work being completed downtown. He said there are two crews currently working on 12-inch lines and service lines, with a lot of work already completed. He said 11 new fire hydrants also were installed to replace existing ones, attached to new water lines.
• Latrobe Police Chief John Sleasman said that the police department is working with state Rep. Joe Petrarca to apply for a grant which could be used to upgrade patrol cars with computers and in-car cameras, and to provide body cameras for officers. He said the deadline to submit the grant application is the end of March and the department likely won’t find out if it will receive funding until the end of summer or fall.
• Sleasman reported that the recent Coffee & Cocoa With a Cop event held Feb. 5 at the Latrobe Art Center was a “good time” and proved to be a successful community outreach program, so the police department will be hosting two more similar events in the coming weeks. During lunch periods at Latrobe Elementary School on Friday, Feb. 28, Latrobe police officers will be hosting a Lunch With a Cop event where they will visit with students. Another Coffee & Cocoa With a Cop event will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, March 14, at the McDonald’s restaurant on Lincoln Road, Latrobe. Members of the public are invited to the Coffee & Cocoa event, which offers residents an opportunity to meet and get to know their local police officers.
• Wajdic said that the public works department currently is waiting to get no-left-turn and truck route signage that will be installed on Main Street to help ensure that trucks do not turn left from Main Street onto Ligonier Street and instead follow the appropriate truck route through the downtown area. He said his department also is requesting that the city seek bids for lawn care services.
• Wajdic reported that the public works department has done some work on the roads recently as a result of wintry weather conditions. He said crews also have been taking down Christmas decorations and repairing a few traffic signals. He also noted that the fire system at the public works garage recently was upgraded.
• Latrobe Fire Chief John Brasile reportedly recently underwent double knee-replacement surgery, but is doing well and is expected to return to work soon.
• Council approved the installation of a handicapped parking space at 501 Weldon St., Latrobe, directly in front of Excela Health Weldon Family Medicine.
• Councilman Ralph Jenko reported that a committee has been formed by various community organizations and leaders to look at the “continuous improvement” of the city’s downtown Christmas decorations.
• Wolford said council planned to enter an executive session at the end of its regular meeting Monday to discuss personnel matters.