April 9, 2011
Light plant workers top salary list
Retroactive contract payments give big boost
By Jesse Roman
PEABODY — The four highest-paid employees at the Municipal Light Plant were also the highest-paid employees in the entire city last year.
Light Plant Manager William Waters again had the distinction of earning the city's top salary, taking home $174,000 in total compensation, a bit more than light plant colleagues Michael Conwell ($150,662), Ronald D'Andrea ($150,444) and Russell Dunn ($148,129).
Apparently, the economic woes plaguing the nation have spared top management at the light plant, where collectively the four highest earners made $92,400 more than they did in 2009. Waters' earnings rose by $8,400, or 5 percent over last year, when he made a shade under $166,000.
The pay hikes for the other three light plant staffers are a result of big, one-time payments made to union employees as a result of a retroactive pay increase that went into effect after union officials signed a new labor contract with the light plant in 2010. The negotiated pay increases were retroactive to June 2007, when the union contract expired.
D'Andrea alone saw a 41 percent jump in pay over the previous year, while Conwell got 28 percent more, and Dunn had a more modest 5 percent increase.
Light plant worker James Millea had the most staggering increase — from $33,000 in 2009 to almost $135,000 last year, or a 307 percent increase.
C. Milton Burnett, who had been the city's second-highest-paid employee for several years, was eclipsed by the three light workers, in part because his pay actually dropped almost $8,000 from last year, to about $141,500. So did the earnings of Police Chief Robert Champagne, the sixth-highest-paid employee, whose pay dropped from $145,400 in 2009 to $138,000 last year.
The drops in salary aren't because of pay cuts — most public employees have negotiated annual pay increases — but are probably due to the fact that there was one less pay period in 2010 than the year before, said Patricia Schaffer, the city's director of finance.
After Burnett, nine police officers and five light plant employees make up the next 14 highest-paid city employees in the city.
Deputy Fire Chief Richard Nelson (No. 20) was the highest-paid firefighter at $114,667, eclipsing Chief Steven Pasdon (No. 27) who earned $110,045.
Mayor Michael Bonfanti did not make the list of the city's top 50 earners. The mayor was paid $95,233 last year, which was good for only 53rd on the list.