AMESBURY — The city’s director of energy and environmental affairs has been let go and he is not happy about the situation.
Tom Barrasso, a 58-year-old Amesbury resident, served on the Lower Millyard Committee and was initially hired as an energy manager by former Mayor Ken Gray in late 2014.
Barrasso said he was told by Mayor Kassandra Gove on Sept. 4 that funding for his job had been cut from the fiscal 2021 budget.
He said he was unhappy with the decision but he was able to procure a one-week extension to wrap up his projects, including the installation of eight electric vehicle charging stations, and the acceptance of an $84,000 Massachusetts Green Communities grant for the city which ran out Friday.
Barrasso said he made about $82,000 a year at the end of his term.
“I have brought in the vicinity of $750,000 to $800,000 in the course of my tenure,” Barrasso said.
He said converting street light bulbs to LEDs yielded $180,000 per year in savings, “So you could say that the job paid for itself and there was probably more on the horizon.”
Barrasso posted a message on his LinkedIn page Monday morning, thanking the people he has worked with over the years. In the message, he also cited “the shortsightedness of the current administration” in ending his position Friday.
“I asked (Gove) who was going to do this work. She said, ‘Other people,’” Barrasso said.
Barrasso’s LinkedIn post was also shared on local Facebook groups Monday.
“I don’t do the social media thing but a lot of my friends in town do,” he said. “This wasn’t any sort of a hidden comment. If it is out there, so be it.”
In an email, Gove stated that she “truly” appreciated Barrasso’s hard work for the city but added, “We had to make some really tough decisions about the FY21 budget.”
The mayor said she had spent a long time looking at all of the city departments and considering how the city could make services and processes more efficient.
“As I looked at other communities, very few our size have a full-time director of energy and environmental affairs,” Gove said. “That isn’t to say that the role isn’t important but there are other resources that can utilized to perform those duties.”
Barrasso’s duties will be covered and expanded by current staff members led by Community and Economic Development Director Angela Cleveland, Gove said.
“I am not at all worried about losing progress in regard to Amesbury’s dedication to being a green and sustainable community,” Gove said. “We will continue all of this work through local, regional and state partnerships which are more cost-effective and are currently being utilized anyway.”
Getting the former Microfab facility on Route 110 listed as a federal Superfund site was one of Barrasso’s top accomplishments as director of energy and environmental affairs, he said.
“No one acknowledged that it even existed in town,” Barrasso said. “So, moving that forward was big.”
Barrasso also pointed to the installation of a pair of solar fields at the South Hunt Road and Titcomb landfills as another accomplishment.
“Getting those up and running yields about $4 million to the city over 20 years,” Barrasso said.
He has updated his resume and LinkedIn page and said he is now looking for another job in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This has been a phenomenal city to live and work in,” he said. “As an environmental professional, you couldn’t ask for more. From brownfield sites to Superfund sites to wetlands and waterway issues, this has been a great place to provide my expertise and skills and experience in a community that has been phenomenal to work with. From the citizen groups to the Conservation Commission, to the people inside the administration prior to this one.”
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.