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Select Board tackles energy cost issues at meeting

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

LONGMEADOW The $90,000 budget cut approved of by town voters at the April 29 Annual Town Meeting may not have as large of an impact on the town as previously thought. At the Select Board's meeting on Aug. 18, it was announced that at least some of the money that was slashed could be returned to the fiscal year 2009 budget.

The Select Board stated at the meeting that there "have been some savings but also anticipated shortfalls." Those shortfalls include skyrocketing fuel and energy costs.

Select Board member Robert Barkett suggested that the funds from the savings be addressed in a warrant article in an upcoming town meeting. Town Manager Robin Crosbie, however, suggested using the money for an Energy Reserve Fund.

"It's worked well in the past. There is precedence for it," she told the board.

She added that the money could also be saved as free cash for the next fiscal year, or, as Barkett suggested, it could be moved around through a lot of transfers at a town meeting.

"We need the energy line item to pan out first," Select Board Chair Paul Santaniello said.

Select Board member Brian Ashe said, "I believe the right thing to do is put the money back [in the budget]."

Visitors to the meeting stated that they thought they deserved some more funding, however. Anthony Curto, who has been serving as the town's plumbing inspector for 35 years, and Walter Clune, who has been serving as electrical inspector for 40 years, came before the board to discuss their pay rates. Neither of the inspectors has received any sort of raise in the past two years, despite the rising cost of gasoline. Both men drive between 3,300 and 3,500 miles a year for their jobs duties.

"We're upset because our requests for pay increases seem to be falling on deaf ears," Curto said. "This is the second year we've requested raises for gas or inspection fees. These are not increases in pay, we're just asking to be held whole."

Curto gets paid $20.66 per inspection in the town of Longmeadow and performs between 600 and 700 inspections a year, which averages out a salary of between $12,000 and $14,000 a year after expenses.

The plumbing inspector is also a part-time employee for East Longmeadow and gets paid $21.20 per inspection. He said he is "satisfied with the East Longmeadow arrangement."

When they searched for reasons they were not receiving higher allowances for travel expenses, Curto said they were told that town employees were not getting raises.

"We're not town employees," he explained. "We're subcontractors."

When told the town doesn't have the funds for their requests, Curto pointed out the building department brings in more than $190,000 a year in fees but uses approximately $130,000.

Board member William Scibelli explained that the $60,000 remaining goes toward other parts of the budget.

"We definitely appreciate the job you do but unfortunately sometimes workers like you get overlooked," Ashe said. "I can't definitely say yes, that we'll give you a raise, but we will definitely listen to you."

"We're hurt and we're looking for some relief," Clune concluded.