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AYER — Gas prices have risen dramatically over the past year and that trend yielded a $19,000 deficit in the town’s budget for fuel purchases in fiscal year 2006.

The issue came to light at the June 20 Board of Selectmen meeting, when Superintendent of Public Works Michael Madigan gave notice and said it could have been worse.

“I was surprised it was only that,” he said. “Everyday when I was going to work the price was going up.”

The Department of Public Works provides gasoline for itself and the town’s emergency response departments. Madigan said the cost of that commodity has increased sharply over the past year.

“The cost of fuel has gone up from just under $2 last year The last shipment was $2.75 per gallon,” he said.

Madigan was seeking approval for a reserve fund transfer request, which was granted.

Prior to the vote, Selectman Gary Luca inquired about controls for gas consumption, which Madigan said were in place.

Selectman Pauline Conley elaborated, saying the Police and Fire departments log all fill-ups and miles traveled.

The request will now be forwarded to the Finance Committee for consideration.

Madigan also asked that the board rescind a contract for a guardrail installation that was granted at the previous meeting as he accidentally presented a contract with the wrong company name.

The board complied with minimal discussion and quickly re-granted that contract to the DeLuca Fence Co. The contract is to install guardrails in several areas around town. Its total value is $19,522.

Finally, Madigan took exception to a selectman saying his feet needed to be “held to the fire” to get results at a previous meeting.

“I strongly resent this and take objection to it,” he said. “I’m just doing my job.”

The comment was made by Selectman Pauline Conley, who was advocating for the board to order Madigan to finish paving West Main Street near its junction with Park Street.

Madigan had been holding off on that job out of concern that further digging would be required to install equipment for the new fire station, but the fire chief had informed the board later that evening that he had no such plans.

Conley had argued that Madigan should be instructed to finish the paving as soon as possible, but she was in the minority, with a majority of board members preferring to leave the timing to Madigan’s discretion.

At the June 20 meeting, Selectman Cornelius “Connie” Sullivan noted that he’d spoken up in defense of Madigan when Conley made the comment in question.

Conley wanted to respond, but board Chairman Frank Maxant said a majority of the board did not share her sentiments, and there was no need to do so.

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