, Newburyport, MA

January 16, 2013

Assessor's clerk becomes town's latest departure

By Jennifer Solis

---- — WEST NEWBURY — Selectmen have accepted the resignation of Ellen Jameson as clerk in the town assessor’s office, effective Jan. 4.

In her letter of resignation, Jameson did not cite any reasons for leaving her post.

Her former boss, Karen Rassais, however, resigned as chief assessor in November, citing weariness over a difficult political climate in town in recent years. Rassais’ departure followed changes in the town’s finance director and assistant treasurer positions over the past 18 months.

When reached for comment, Finance Director Warren Sproul, who replaced Tracy Blais after a controversial decision not to renew her contract in 2011, said he didn’t agree that the numerous personnel changes were “attributable to a political climate.”

Sproul acknowledged that there is always going to be politics in the workplace and admitted he was “disheartened to see any change in personnel.” Still, he said he believes the turnover is not beyond what is a normal occurrence in any workplace.

“I myself have changed jobs,” he said, adding he believes that in each case, the individual departing “was able to improve their lot in their own best interest.”

Also at last week’s selectmen’s meeting, after a lengthy review, selectmen approved wording for a new lease agreement with the Pentucket Regional School District for the Dr. John C. Page Elementary School. The lease is due to expire in June.

West Newbury is the only district town to currently hold a lease for its elementary school with Pentucket. Merrimac and Groveland have agreed to wording, but have not yet formalized their agreements with the district.

The board OK’d a street opening permit for a driveway at 18 Pleasant St and use of the Town Annex for a teen birthday party on Jan. 26 from 6 to 9 p.m. The annual Winter Carnival at Mill Pond will be on Feb. 3 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., weather permitting.

At the end of the open session, the board went behind closed doors with Town Counsel Michael McCarron, Sproul and John Cena of the Board of Assessors to discuss a salary proposal for a new chief assessor. The salary range was advertised at $75,000 to $86,681. Selectmen Chairman Bert Knowles said his board was not yet ready to announce the name of a new assessor, but that the board would deliberate the appointment publicly at a later date.

The board is planning regular meetings on Wednesdays, Jan. 23 and Feb. 6 and 27, at 7 p.m. in the first-floor hearing room of the 1910 Town Office Building.

Selectmen’s meetings are now rebroadcast daily at 3 and 7 p.m. on Comcast Channel 9 and Verizon Channel 42.