LYNN — Lloyd “Butchie” Barnes retires on Feb. 28 as a city associate Public Works commissioner and with him goes his day-to-day title of amateur City Hall historian and all-around Mr. Fix-It.
Nicknamed by an aunt, Barnes is a Highlands native who lives on Woodbury Avenue near longtime friend David Solimine Sr. Barnes plans to spend part of his time after he retires maintaining an art studio in Boston owned by a friend.
The 73-year-old veteran made a living framing houses, repairing roofs and boilers before he was hired as a city maintenance man 25 years ago. His skills pushed him into a supervisory job as city facilities manager with primary responsibility for overseeing City Hall with its 1940s-era office space and electrical system that needed to be updated for the computer age.
He helped oversee planning for energy efficiency systems installed in the hall and rushed out of his basement office on more than one occasion with a wrench to make a minor repair.
“There was always a new project coming up and the work was never the same,” he said.
Former Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy recruited Barnes to be the city’s snow general in the depths of the 2015 winter. For 17 nights, an army of heavy trucks and other equipment under Barnes’ direction hauled snow off streets and dumped it on vacant land off the Lynnway.
“We put 12 to 15 feet of snow on 12 acres. We’d go from 8 p.m. to 6 in the morning,” he said.
Barnes’ efforts to organize the snow-clearing job still wins him praise from city Public Works Commissioner Andrew Hall.
“He did that job admirably,” Hall said.
Fixing or overseeing repairs in every corner of City Hall from the rooftop heating and ventilation system to the framework under the front steps acquainted Barnes with the building’s history and oddities.
The basement records room shelves once held rows and rows of X-rays processed when city residents were routinely screened for tuberculosis. Hand-painted metal storage boxes date back to 1840 and stacks of record books date back to when clerks used quill pens and inkwells to record information.
“There’s every dime ever spent by the city in those books,” he said.
A hulking diesel generator the size of a compact car sits in one of the basement rooms and two Peerless Simplex movie projectors loom over Veterans Memorial Auditorium’s seats like monsters from a bygone era.
The former congressman’s office phone was equipped with an anti-bugging device and the former Civil Defense room held barrels of water and Geiger counters for measuring radiation exposure at the height of the Cold War.
Barnes knows his way around crawl spaces above the auditorium ceiling and he admits that age makes him more cautious about climbing the five-story, cast-iron spiral staircase rising into the darkness above the auditorium stage.
He said leaving city employment means starting a “new adventure in life” with his wife, Donna.
“The city has been very good to me. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some terrific people,” he said.