ROWLEY – While the finite details of the events surrounding the alleged butchering of deer at Well #3 on Boxford Road by water department employees remain unclear, what is certain is that the residents of the town are going to pay for the “egregious and atrocious actions” of the two perpetrators.
Residents will decide via an article on the town warrant at the May 6 Town Meeting whether to approve the transfer of funds from the water enterprise fund to pay for the $15,875 fine from the DEP for two violations related to the incident, which happened late last year.
Both employees resigned during the week of March 11, after being on paid administrative leave while the environmental police investigation was being conducted. According to the 2010 Town Report, the annual salaries for Masse and Kneeland were $89,005 and $75,059, respectively. While these operators were out, said water board commissioner Scott Martin, the town had to hire representatives of Weston & Sampson, the engineering firm that is working with the town on the new water treatment plant, to cover for the staffing regulations in the water department.
“I am horrified and disgusted that our own primary and secondary water operators would do what has been alleged,” said Martin. “It is just inconceivable. I didn’t have any part in the incident, yet I feel ashamed being associated as a board member. I hope the DEP revokes their licenses. They should never work in water management again.”
As for Masse and Kneeland, who could not be reached for comment, according to the Division of Professional Licensure, they still hold licenses to be operators for a water department. When asked about additional charges being filed against Masse and Kneeland, Ed Coletta, a spokesman for Mass. DEP, said that it was possible that the DEP could file a complaint against them once they review all the documentation further. He also said that the town and even the residents could file complaints too.
Selectmen are committed to righting the wrongs in the water department as evidenced by their February order to have the department work side-by-side with town administrator Deborah Eagan to organize its fiscal, procurement and operations management; and by calling for a motion to change the reporting structure of the three-member Board of water Commissioners. Members are elected to three-year terms, with one seat coming up for election each year.
Additionally changes in the water board will come in the May 14 town election as Martin has not filed papers to run again after 12 years of service, and current selectmen Stuart Dalzell is leaving that board to run for the water department. Former selectmen Dave Petersen also has taken out papers to run for the water board.
“As the governing board of the town, it is our job to give direction and correct the problems at the water department,” said Snow at the March 25 selectmen’s meeting when requesting the motion to change the water board from elected to appointed officials.
“There are some members of the commission that I trust but we need to move this forward and bring this under the authority of the Board of Selectmen.”
Selectmen also are awaiting response from the attorney general regarding the recent water department overexpenditure involving using expense line monies for capital expenses in excess of $40,000 for the completion of the addition at the department’s 401 Central Street location.