|By G. Michael Dobbs|
AGAWAM Mayor Richard Cohen initiated a purchasing freeze in "all major departments," on Sept. 6, but he assured residents that the city is not in "any financial difficulty."
Cohen explained to Reminder Publications that he is aware of the increasing costs of fuel, insurance and other expenditures and took this step to be "prudent."
He said that all purchases would be examined on a case-by-case basis and that he is not stopping purchases that are already in progress.
In his memo to department heads, he wrote, "In light of rapidly rising energy costs as well as the economic uncertainty, I am placing a freeze, effective immediately, on all major purchases for every department.
"Prior to any purchase being considered, you are to contact my office for review and approval.
"Further, effective immediately, any vacant positions are to remain unfilled until further notice from my office."
Cohen said that 54 percent of the FY06 budget is for energy costs and in light of events this year, he is not sure if that will be enough. Some projects and purchases may be off until the next fiscal year in order to compensate for energy costs.
He said he would insist that town employees use energy wisely and take measures such as turning off lights in areas not being used. He also will ask police officers on patrol not to sit with their cars idling as gasoline is a major expense in the department's budget.