By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY — Mayor Ken Gray has announced the time and place of his first weekly office hour: Wednesday, Jan. 15, from 1 to 2 p.m. in the Amesbury Public Library’s Main Reading Room.
The office hour, which Gray announced during his inaugural address on Tuesday night, will serve as a time when any resident can sit down with the mayor and share their thoughts or concerns. Gray said he came up with the idea to help make himself more accessible to residents, and he encouraged residents to stop by and tell him how they feel.
“I will invite any resident to come share his or her thoughts with me,” Gray said on Tuesday night. “Comments, congratulations, or criticism, I will be available, and I will listen.”
Gray also announced that he has officially instituted a temporary hold on all discretionary spending in Amesbury, which will remain in place until Gray’s office has completed its review on the city’s spending.
In a memo sent out to all department heads on Tuesday morning, Gray wrote that the hold would be implemented “effective immediately and continuing until further notice,” and that the hold would include all new or replacement hires, all capital purchases that are not already contractually committed, and any other planned discretionary spending.
Gray said in the memo some examples of discretionary spending include new or renewal service contracts, travel and new contract employees. He added that the holds are not intended to be permanent, and will be released on an item-by-item basis after review.
Interim Chief of Staff Evan Kenney noted that emergency expenses and maintenance are also exempt from the hold, and that the measure is not an outright spending freeze. He added that the DPW will be patching potholes over the next few days, and the library will still be ordering books.
“The hold is not going to interfere with the regular operations of the city,” Kenney said. “The purpose of the hold is to allow the mayor to examine discretionary spending on an item-by-item basis. City money is taxpayer money, and the mayor believes that every cent of taxpayer money deserves this kind of attention to detail.”
By implementing the hold on spending, Gray made good on one of his most prominent campaign promises. During last fall’s campaign, Gray consistently cited reining in Amesbury’s spending as one of his top priorities on the campaign trail, and during the Oct. 9 debate with former Mayor Thatcher Kezer, he said that if elected he would institute a hold on discretionary spending on his first day in office.