Bentley Herget accepted as Groton’s building inspector

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GROTON — Bentley Herget will become the town’s new building inspector and zoning enforcement officer, with negotiations now underway on his contract.

Selectmen on Monday night voted unanimously to authorize administrative officer Jeffrey Ritter to enter negotiations with Herget. The decision on Oct. 15 came after a brief interview with Herget by the full membership.

When an employment agreement is reached with Herget, and he has given his required notice to the town of Clinton, where he currently works, the new building inspector is expected to assume his duties within a few weeks. Herget will replace former building inspector Michael Tusino, whose last day on the job was Sept. 10.

Tusino had served as town’s building inspector for nearly 10 years and decided to move on to a similar position in the town of Framingham.

The town’s building inspector/zoning enforcement officer is responsible for reviewing and issuing building permits for all construction projects and for enforcing the town’s zoning bylaws. The building inspector is also expected to attend various board and committee meetings to explain his decisions and defend the bylaws against appeals.

Herget, who had been chosen from among a number of applications received by personnel manager Elizabeth Currier, is no stranger to the town of Groton, having served as an assistant inspector under Tusino for several years before taking the Clinton assignment.

In his interview with selectmen Monday night, Herget fielded questions relating to state zoning laws, how he would handle irate property owners, how he would handle the discovery of a property owner who had gone ahead and constructed a non-conforming structure without a permit, and how he saw his role as an advisor to the town’s various land-use boards.

When asked how he would interpret the town’s zoning bylaws, Herget said he intended to stick to the letter of the law.

“Either you meet the requirements or you don’t,” he said. “They’re in black and white.”

Herget assured selectmen that he would have no problem holding both the building inspector and zoning enforcement officer positions at the same time.

“I enjoy working with people,” Herget said, promising the board a “very smooth” transition from the Tusino era to his own.

Satisfied with the candidate, the board voted 5-0 to authorize Ritter to negotiate a contract with Herget.

In other business, selectmen on Monday night also voted to authorize Currier and town clerk Onorina Maloney to prepare a needs assessment for two positions that have recently opened up in the town clerk’s office.

According to Maloney, both assistant town clerk Nancy Bogar and clerical assistant Sheila Nash have decided to leave their positions. The town clerk went before the board seeking to begin a search for their replacements.

However, in the interests of saving the town money, in a year that is widely expected to be a difficult one, selectmen wondered if the two positions might be combined into one.

Maloney explained that two people were needed to guarantee coverage at the office in case one became sick. However, she offered no objection to working with Currier on a needs assessment for the open positions.

Currier agreed that conducting a needs assessment was a good idea, considering the town’s “budget challenge.”

The two women are expected to report back at the board’s Nov. 5 meeting with their findings.

Also Monday night, selectmen:

* Voted to grant the Board of Assessors access to the town’s legal counsel — for a cost not in excess of $4,000 — to assist them with a formal abatement hearing requested by a local taxpayer. Assessor Hugh McLaughlin told selectmen that no information could be released about the case because it was confidential. Fellow assessor Sylvia Sangiolo characterized the formal hearing as a rare event, different from the informal abatements frequently handled by the board without the assistance of legal counsel.

* Voted to accept a 0.17-acre parcel of land off Boathouse Road, offered to the town by homeowner Haig Bedigian. Conservation assistant Barbara Ganem described the parcel as an ecologically sensitive “bog” whose donation was supported by the Conservation Commission and that would see better protection under the town’s care.

* Heard from Highway Surveyor Thomas Delaney on the status of plans to repair the Squannacook River Dam, which Groton co-owns with the town of Shirley. Delaney said he had received a state grant of $125,000 to cover the cost of the upgrades and expected to begin work in the spring. Barring any delays, work on the dam is expected to be concluded by June 30, 2008. Although the dam is the joint responsibility of both Shirley and Groton, it is Groton that has taken the lead in repairing the structure and Delaney said he intended to keep the other town informed as the project progresses.