HomeTop StoriesThe operator's departure will require greater outside oversight of the water plant;...

The operator’s departure will require greater outside oversight of the water plant; Somerset County adds 911 dispatcher

SOMERSET, Pa. – Somerset County commissioners filled their 911 dispatcher vacancy Tuesday.

But a departure from the county’s Jenner Township water plant creates a vacancy that will force the county to rely more on an outside agency — at least for now, Somerset commissioners said.

Terry Stutzman was the only remaining certified master operator employed by the county who was approved by the state to operate the facility, which serves Somerset General Authority customers throughout the region.

His resignation took effect on May 17, the board said.

“(Terry) felt for his personal life that it was time to move on,” Somerset Commissioner Irv Kimmel Jr. said.

Stutzman was not present at Tuesday’s meeting and could not be reached for comment.

Plant oversight and the cost of overtime to perform this role has been a hot topic at times over the past year – at one point, previous and current boards continued to look for an additional plant operator to share the 24/7 workload.

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For now, Maryland-based Apex Cos., which has an office in Somerset, will continue to provide management support at a rate of $92 per hour per day – for up to 20 hours per week and $110 per hour for evening issues. when they occur, Kimmel said.

Kimmel and Chief Executive Brian Fochtman said this move wasn’t ideal, but given the mandates needed to safely operate and monitor a 24/7 water plant, it was a step that had to be taken.

Fochtman and Kimmel said two full-time county-level operators are currently serving as apprentices, as required by state law, to gain approval to perform the duties of the chief operator.

The state essentially requires three years of internship before someone can become a top treatment facility operator, Fochtman said.

The goal is for both to eventually get the certifications and training to do the job — and if either of them, who operated a water treatment plant as a U.S. Marine several years ago, is able to get that work history credited by the State Department of the US. Environmentalist, he could be promoted for the role soon, they said.

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“They will now essentially (learn) under Apex’s supervision,” Kimmel said.

Apex has been providing necessary support at the facility for about a year, Kimmel added.

It’s likely they will do more for now, he added.

Apex crews can handle much of that through monitoring software and laptops, which can save after-hours travel to the facility and time, Kimmel said.

Doing so will also help control costs, he added.

“Unfortunately,” Kimmel said, “every other water plant in the area is in the same boat with an operator (for hire). It’s just one of those fields that no one wants to enter right now.”

911 addition

A former operations manager for Somerset Area Ambulance has been hired to serve as the county’s next 911 dispatcher.

Shawn Ware, who has more than 30 years of experience in operations, was approved 2-0 for the $50,000 post.

Kimmel and Fochtman approved the lease.

Commissioner Pamela Tokar-Ickes was not present because she is attending a County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania meeting in Harrisburg, the board said.

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Kimmel said Ware will oversee the handling of 911 calls, as well as the staff who respond to those calls, while Craig Hollis-Nicholson will continue to serve on an equal management level as operations manager.

“Shawn is a highly respected individual in the first responder community,” Kimmel said, noting that he also brings knowledge of the county’s system.

He and Fochtman said they are confident he will be a “great asset” to the department.

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