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Middleboro Gas & Electric board passes budget

Gas & Electric will spend $2 million less

By Alice C. Elwell
Enterprise correspondent
Dec 15, 2011
Gas & Electric commissioners passed a $46 million budget, $2 million less than last year.

“It seems to me it almost doesn’t have to be gone through ... It’s $2 million less, thank you,” said Commissioner Terrence Murphy when the leaner budget was rolled out.

The reduced budget, which takes effect Jan. 1, reflects a 13 percent drop in revenues resulting from stabilized energy costs and rate reductions.

Rates were cut three times in 2011, and the new year will open with another rate cut for both gas and electric customers. The savings are minor for homeowners. Gas customers will see an average savings of $5 a month, and electric rates will drop an average of 90 cents a month, but General Manager John P. Granahan Jr. said cuts totaling more than $500,000 represents money that will stay in the local economy.

The $46 million budget includes $3.2 million in capital expenses, including $175,000 to paint the South Main Street office, which is a historic home; $26,000 for street light maintenance; $6,000 to cover the after-hours costs to turn on power that has been shut off; $95,000 for postage; $875,000 for health insurance; and $350,000 in uncollected rates.

Commissioner Michael Solimini questioned why the general manager’s salary was hiked to $194,700 without commissioners’ approval. Granahan said a 3 percent increase was budgeted for all salaries, pending contract negotiations. Granahan is paid $188,850, outstripping his peers by thousands of dollars, according to a survey prepared earlier this year by the Municipal Electric Association of Massachusetts.

Solimini also asked the department to consider a rebate program for energy-efficient appliances.

“We elected to fund a $30,000 conservation program to weatherize low-income homes,” said Sandra A. Richter, public communications manager.

The commission attempted to resolve an Open Meeting Law complaint by ratifying a letter sent to the attorney general by Granahan without its consent. The letter addressed a complaint made by Solimini regarding an executive-session discussion in September.

Chairman Donald R. Triner said the letter should not have been sent without the commission’s vote.