BILLERICA -- A year after selectmen were bitterly divided over his contract, Town Manager John Curran received moderately high marks in his performance appraisal, while two members of the board clashed over how the governing body is paid.
As the meeting marched into its third hour Monday, the board discussed questions raised by Town Meeting regarding its compensation. Currently, Billerica pays selectmen a stipend of $1,800, and its chairman, $2,000.
Curran had compiled a report comparing Billerica to 80 other towns in Massachusetts, arriving at Plymouth and Arlington as the most equitable matches. Selectman John Piscatelli noted both towns pay stipends that are considerably less than Billerica's.
"My concern really is the opinion the public has of politicians and the lack of desire by people in general to seek public office," said Curran. "I would recommend that you do anything that further diminishes the profile of seeking public office.
"And that includes reducing pay or reducing any other benefits that the position has," said Curran.
Vice Chairman George Simolaris, Jr., said any attempt by Town Meeting to touch the board's stipends or benefits would be "elitist," "petty and political" and a "slap in the face," showing the "pettiness of Town Meeting."
"What it would show me is that the Town Meeting no longer works for the people of Billerica. I think maybe we should have city councilors and a mayor.
Piscatelli voiced his support for increasing the board's stipend without exceeding $5,000, as well as extending one to the School Committee. He questioned the need for medical benefits, however.
"I would have a very frank conversation about whether or not we want to continue to have medical access because, for something intended to cost the town $1,800, it cost us a factor of four or five or six of that," said Piscatelli.
This seemed to strike a nerve with Simolaris.
"If somebody works at a good company, as Mr. Piscatelli or whoever, doesn't matter who, and they have the option to buy health insurance, they don't really have to worry about it," said Simolaris.
Meanwhile, Curran's performance was evaluated using 10 criteria, including "personal characteristics," "community leadership" and "financial management."
A year after Chairman Mike Rosa suggested Curran enroll in anger-management classes, Curran received a composite score of 3.64 out of 5, notching a 4.5 in "professionalism."
Follow Kyle Clauss on Twitter (@KyleClauss) and on Tout (@kclauss).