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Charles Miller: Praise for service of Northampton’s building commissioner

To the editor:

Building departments are often obscure parts of our city government. Most folks aren’t aware of the services they provide to their city. It is their mandate to provide for public safety in the building field.

Unlike the police who parade the streets in uniform on foot, bicycles and cruisers, the building officials crawl through basements, attics and construction sites to assist builders and homeowners in meeting the requirements of the Massachusetts state building codes. Building officials are also often burdened with the requirement of upholding the zoning bylaws for the town or city. This often thankless job plays an important part in maintaining our city’s character and upholding Planning Department rulings.

Northampton has a hardworking, dedicated building commissioner, Louis Hasbrouck. His passion for his work and the city is unending, relentlessly working into evenings and often through the weekends to provide services that are helpful, fair and consistent with Northampton goals in a timely fashion.

In a town where building, zoning and political demands are overwhelming, Northampton cannot survive without the dedication that Hasbrouck provides. Northampton, like other towns and cities in Massachusetts, are threatened with new financial burdens, reduced state and federal support and struggle to attract and retain key personnel. It must be disheartening for Hasbrouck to be handcuffed by the city’s financial restraints while trying to attract competent personnel to the building department that may one day need to step into his shoes should he decide give up the battle.

Heaven forbid Hasbrouck himself be lured by the substantially greater wages provided by surrounding towns. I have to wonder which straw will break the commissioner’s back.

We all know the old adage, “You never know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Well I pray this will never apply to Hasbrouck.

Charles Miller


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