Saugus FinCom focuses on Dept. of Public Works

SAUGUS – The Finance Committee turned its metaphorical magnifying glass on the Department of Public Works spending Wednesday, continuing weeks of fiscal scrutiny leading up to Town Meeting.Public Works Director Joseph Attubato reiterated what committee members and the audience already knew ? the winter of 2010 slammed the region, pushing snow and ice removal costs through the ceiling and causing a record number of water main breaks.Town Manager Andrew Bisignani said the town’s public works resources were further diminished by the tree-clearing required after most of the storms. “It was a bad year. There were big issues with downed trees,” he said. “We had to spent a lot more of our resources.”According to Attubato, water breaks wreaked havoc with his crews and his departmental budget. “There were a tremendous amount of water breaks,” he said.Bisignani confirmed as much. “There were 47 in a single year, and only three people in the department available to fix these breaks,” he said.With the staff stressed, the department was forced to pay for extra help.Asked about potential new hires, Bisignani said the Water Department is responsible for maintenance and repairs and has a greater need than the Highway Department for manpower. The volume of work aimed at the Water Department on some days last winter could have kept a staff of 10 busy, he said, adding that during one particularly foul storm, three water main breaks occurred in the same night. The ordeal left the town employees exhausted but the storm did not cease.The information caused one Finance Committee member to quip that Saugus undoubtedly made the morning TV traffic report.Bisignani said an increase would likely be sought for water service, but how much has not been determined. He noted the town has not had a sewer service increase for three years.The Finance Committee also examined the separate water and sewer enterprise accounts and entertained questions from a resident who supports the $200,000 installation of concrete sidewalks along Hamilton Street rather than asphalt.

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