FACTORYVILLE — Members of Factoryville Borough Council have begun the process of hiring a permanent sewer plant operator.
Two candidates were interviewed Feb. 9 by president Chuck Wrobel, vice president Bill Edwards, and Dan Engler, chairperson of the Factoryville Borough and Clinton Township Joint Municipal Sewer Authority, who also serves on council.
The vacancy opened when Steve Swift, the borough’s maintenance manager and sewer plant operator, passed away last month.
Swift, 43, was operating heavy equipment while conducting a controlled burn at approximately 6:30 p.m. Jan. 30 at a Factoryville Borough shed when an explosion occurred, resulting in his death, according to a Pennsylvania State Police report.
During a Feb. 8 sewer meeting, members of the council approved a motion authorizing borough manager Mary Ellen Buckbee to employ a temporary operator.
Buckbee announced Shaun Fortney took over as the temporary operator following Swift’s death.
“The plant is running well, thanks to the backup operator stepping in,” Buckbee said.
She added the borough doesn’t have immediate plans to hire a new maintenance manager.
Factoryville mayor Gary Evans stressed during a Feb. 8 council meeting it will be very difficult to find someone who will embrace the job and community as much as Swift.
“You can pay anybody to do the work, but you can’t pay somebody enough to pay attention the way he did,” Evans said.
Since his passing, Swift’s absence has been evident to other members of the council.
“There’s been a hundred things, just in the past three days, that he always did,” Edwards said. “Steve was like three guys; he was always running around. It’s going to be hard to find somebody like him, period. We’ll never be able to replace him as a friend or an employee; we’re just going to have to do our best.”
According to Edwards, Swift went above and beyond his job requirements to assist anyone in need.
“He would be driving down the road and stop to help someone drag a garbage can back to their house,” Edwards said. “Gary is the official mayor, but ‘Swifty’ was the unofficial mayor.”
Buckbee believes Swift’s death has brought the community closer together.
“As rough as the week has been, the outpouring of support shows you how wonderful Steve Swift was to all of us,” she said. “It was a huge loss, but people have been offering help in any way, shape or form.
“We’re heartbroken, but we’re also buoyed by the support from everybody.”
Edwards commended Keystone College for hosting a luncheon following Swift’s funeral.
Edwards added many neighboring municipalities, including Clinton Township, Dalton, Newton Township and Nicholson, along with private citizens, have volunteered to help with snow removal and other tasks.
Buckbee commented that members of the borough have offered suggestions for ways to honor Swift.
“Several people would like to rename the (Clinton Township-Factoryville Borough Joint Municipal) park for Steve because everybody knows his heart was in the park, and they know all the blood, sweat and tears he put into it between the playground and concession stand,” she said.
Swift was appointed to a four-year term on the Clinton Township and Factoryville Borough Joint Municipal Park Board during a meeting in December 2016. Borough officials are now responsible for appointing a replacement and councilman Gregg Yunko volunteered to attend the next board meeting.
In other business:
• Members of council approved a motion for the borough to grant an easement to the Countryside Conservancy to extend the Trolley Trail into Factoryville at Riverside Drive.
• Equipment for a toddler playground at the Clinton Township and Factoryville Borough Joint Municipal Park has been ordered and volunteers will be needed for a building project June 10.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.