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Correspondent

GROTON — Faced with another difficult budget, the Board of Selectmen voted to cancel insurance benefits for the last elected official still receiving them.

With little discussion, the board voted on Jan. 7 to eliminate health insurance coverage for assessor Hugh McLaughlin. His benefits had been “grandfathered” in 2004 when the original decision was made to end public-sponsored insurance for elected officials.

According to McLaughlin, he is the only member of the Board of Assessors to receive the insurance benefit because fellow members Rena Swezey and Sylvia Sangiolo are either employed by the town or retired.

Though he expressed disappointment that the issue did not inspire much discussion among selectmen, McLaughlin took Monday’s decision in stride.

“I don’t disagree with (Monday’s) decision,” McLaughlin said. “But it was one that should have occurred in 2004. I feel that this was a discussion that should have occurred then because, in my opinion, its impact is to curtail the gene pool of individuals who otherwise might have chosen to participate in local government.”

Town administrative officer Jeffrey Ritter acknowledged that the action came as a result of an increasingly dire budget forecast for fiscal year 2009, one that the board has been warned will make even current levels of spending difficult to maintain.

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