Adams weighs salary hike for building commissioner post

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ADAMS — Having recently lost an eighth building commissioner in 15 years, Adams is considering raising the position's salary before it hires a ninth.

Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco recommended to the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday that the town, in its search for a new building commissioner, increase the current salary range of $46,000 to $60,000 to about $55,000 to $72,000. Adams significantly underpays its building commissioner compared to similarly sized towns in Massachusetts, Mazzucco argued.

"What we've been doing just isn't working, because this constant turnover has been a challenge," Mazzucco. "It's a position that we don't want to keep handicapping; it's an area where what few dollars we have we want to invest in what's going to assist us and help us in growing."

The board is expected to make a determination on the salary and advertise the position in January.

The frequent turnover can be an obstacle to commercial development in town, officials say. Selectmen Jeffrey Snoonian said he's spoken with businessmen who expressed concern about working with multiple building commissioners.

"When you're talking about building commissioners, you need a business-minded guy; you don't just need a policeman going out there and telling you that your studs are too far apart or too close," he said. "You need a guy who is business-minded, who is development-minded."

The last time the position was posted, only two people remotely qualified applied, according to town officials.

"If we had not had this kind of turnover, I would say 'Fine, that's what the salary is,' but [eight] people in 15 years is absurd," Mazzucco said.

Community Development Director Donna Cesan recommended that the town revise its fee schedule, which has not been updated since 2004, for the building commissioner's services.

At the time, Cesan said, the Board of Selectmen had intended to revisit the fee schedule every year. But because it the fee schedule is written as an ordinance, any increases would require the approval of town meeting, which "handicaps" the board's ability to adjust them, Cesan said.

"I really think we should try to address that and then keep the fees current," she said. "I can tell you right now we're way behind other communities in terms of what we're charging, and that would help a little bit with the salary [increase]."

Selectmen Joseph Nowak suggested that Mazzucco's salary comparisons were misleading because Adams was being compared to towns in Eastern Massachusetts, not towns in Berkshire County. Compared to local towns, Nowak argued, Adams' salary is more competitive.

"You've got to sometimes look outside Berkshire County," Mazzucco replied. "The complexity of our operation is similar to towns our size, smaller, or larger, whether or not it's Berkshire County."

Mazzucco said the town had explored regionalizing its building inspection services with North Adams, but was unable to work out an agreement in time.

Adams will, however, be open to folding smaller nearby towns into its building commissioner's services, according to Mazzucco.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.


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