, Salem, MA

January 30, 2013

Building commissioner doing triple duty

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — There’s no place like home for Salem Building Commissioner Tom St. Pierre.

He works in Salem, and he works in Peabody. In both cases, he’s working for his hometown. He also works in Swampscott, but that’s another story.

St. Pierre, 51, was confirmed Thursday as building commissioner in Peabody, which has been without one.

“This is a temporary measure,” Mayor Ted Bettencourt told the council.

Although the contract, which can be amended, runs until Nov. 30, Bettencourt added that he expects it to last “a few months.”

The new appointment was greeted with skepticism by some on the City Council, despite the vote to take him on.

“I am very concerned,” said Councilor Anne Manning-Martin, who pointed out that the agreement leaves room for extending the arrangement another year.

She noted that St. Pierre, who works full time in Salem, is also being loaned out on a now-and-then basis to Swampscott. She stressed the importance of quickly hiring someone to replace the former inspector, Kevin Goggin, who was dismissed last fall.

“Peabody’s getting the short end of the stick,” Manning-Martin said. “Swampscott’s getting the short end of the stick. He’s going to report to his mother ship — Salem.”

In an interview, St. Pierre credited the captain of the mother ship, Mayor Kim Driscoll, with loaning him out.

“It’s my mayor reaching out to help Peabody’s mayor,” he said.

Peabody’s mayor, however, is also St. Pierre’s mayor. That’s because St. Pierre’s home actually straddles the boundary line between the two communities. He pays taxes to both. His water comes from Peabody. His electricity comes from Salem.

Only a small portion of the St. Pierre home is in Peabody — “a bay window,” he said.

That reflects his division of labor. St. Pierre is primarily employed in Salem. That city earns a $10,000 stipend from Swampscott and will take $12,500 from Peabody, with $6,250 due in June in order to have him on call.

St. Pierre receives $5,000 from the Swampscott stipend and expects to get a similar sum from Peabody.

Each community needs an inspector qualified as a commissioner for special matters. Otherwise, building inspectors in both communities — Peabody has two — can do the lion’s share of the work. St. Pierre, for example, was in Swampscott for a full day last week in the wake of a fire.

As to Peabody’s urgency in getting a permanent chief inspector, St. Pierre said, “That’s OK with me. I have my hands full here.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Peabody has somebody in mind,” he added.

If they do, Bettencourt didn’t mention it at the council meeting.

St. Pierre personally won praise from City Councilor Barry Osborne.

“I know Tommy very well,” he said. “He’s a good guy.”