NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

March 15, 2013

Salary survey finds many were underpaid

Merrimac Notebook
Warren P. Russo

---- — Some Merrimac employees may soon enjoy a whopping 38 percent salary increase, according to Finance Committee member Richard Lesavoy’s review of a $10,000 salary survey currently under way. Part of the survey involves an internal equity assessment by town officials to determine whether such increases actually make sense for the town.

“Once we agree,” said Finance Director Carol McLeod at Monday’s selectmen’s meeting, “the consultant will prepare job descriptions for town employees, which we’ve never had before.”

Concern was expressed over the potential problem of finding replacements for experienced town employees fleeing to the private sector if their compensation is not made comparable to those in other towns. “It can take a year for a new person to get up to speed on the job,” said Selectman Laura Mailman, “and that’s a lot of time and money lost.”

Chairman Earl Baumgardner agreed, noting that “we’ve spent a lot of time and money on this [survey] and have underpaid some people for years, so we should move forward on it now.”

After discussing the salary survey report in open session, selectmen declined to release a copy of the report to the press, citing the preliminary nature of the report.

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Since no residents voiced any objections to the proposed new water and sewer rates, Merrimac’s Board of Selectmen passed them instantly, unanimously and without comment.

Starting July 1, the base rate for water will rise to $15 from $11 per quarter, and the per-gallon charge will rise to 80 cents from 68 cents per 100 gallons.

The sewer charge base rate, however, will be reduced to $68 from the current $78 for the first 7,500 gallons per quarter. Sewer-only customers will see a rate increase of $7.50 per quarter, while the rate for seasonal users increases to $68, instead of $25 per quarter.

Other related services will also see marginal increases, including meter installation, unscheduled readings and final readings.

An average household’s annual water expense will rise $97.60 to a total of $604 from $506.40, countered by a sewer charge decline of $40, to $520 from $560.

The new rates are intended to pay for the state-decreed unfunded mandate to update the town’s water and sewer systems, which will cost Merrimac taxpayers an estimated $3 to $5 million.

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As an example of municipal efficiency, road sand mixed with fallen leaves is being used to cap the town’s landfill sites, saving an estimated $7,000 per year.

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The bills from SGC Engineering for John Riordan’s professional services in relation to the Attitash Wastewater Pump Rehab Project keep rolling in. Invoices for September, October, November and December total $17,389.15 for overseeing the work.

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The Light Department, which is on a quest to harness the sun, will meet with selectmen on April 8 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall to discuss their plans, hopes and dreams for a solar-powered Merrimac.

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The Council on Aging is doing more with less and making the most of what it has. Their van driver does double duty as a tech support person, providing computer instruction and repairing equipment.

The COA has also received a grant enabling it to extend the hours of the kitchen staff, and thanks to that increased presence, recently avoided losing thousands of dollars of food when a refrigerator failed.

Senior Center director Laura Mailman is forming a committee to determine the future of the facility, which she says is “much more than just a senior center.” She noted that residents of any age are welcome at any of the center’s classes, “without being a senior.”

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Articles intended for inclusion on the annual Town Meeting warrant will be discussed and voted upon at the April 1 selectmen’s meeting.

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Opening day at the Yard Waste Site on Broad Street is April 13, and the site will be open every other Saturday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The site is open to Merrimac residents only, and the required sticker may be purchased at the selectmen’s office at Town Hall.

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Warren P. Russo covers Merrimac for The Daily News. He can be contacted at warrenrusso@live.com.