ATTLEBORO — A request for two new boilers for city hall got put on the back burner by the city council this week, which left the mayor steaming and could leave employees shivering.
Mayor Paul Heroux asked councilors to expedite the approval of a $35,000 appropriation to pay for the equipment by declaring the request an emergency, but councilors declined on 7-4 vote.
Those opposed argued that the request was not an emergency and that Heroux should have sent it sooner, noting that a recommendation for new boilers was made by a city contractor on Sept. 12.
However Heroux said he didn’t get the last of three necessary estimates for the work until Sept. 30, which held up the process.
In addition, he said he notified the council on Sept. 26 that an emergency measure would be coming on Oct.1, but none of them inquired about it.
So with the city in the midst of election season, Heroux said the rejection was ignited by politics.
“This was political,” he said in emailed comments to The Sun Chronicle. “Some people on the council want to make it look like I wasn’t doing my job.”
He did not point fingers.
Heroux is facing off against council Vice President Heather Porreca on Nov. 5 for the mayor’s job.
Meanwhile, the vote could mean a cold start to the heating season, the mayor said.
“The consequence of the council’s inaction last night will mean that city hall will not have any heat until the second half of October,” Heroux said.
An emergency declaration allows the council to vote an appropriation without going through the committee process, which accelerates the process by two weeks.
Heroux sent a request for the estimated $35,420 bill to the council on Tuesday and requested the declaration “to move the process along” in the face of advancing cold weather.
He said a final price had not been determined, but that the expenditure is needed.
Both boilers are more than 20 years old and are leaking water.
One is leaking combustion exhaust, according to a report from SS Service Corp. from Taunton.
The company recommended replacing both.
However, property committee chairwoman Sara Lynn Reynolds argued that the situation is not an emergency, citing the date of the original work order and the fact that the actual cost is not yet known.
“I don’t think this is an emergency, it came out on the 12th, 20 days ago,” she said. “Let’s get a price so we’ll know what we have to pay for it.”
Council President Mark Cooper said there was no indication in back-up material provided by the mayor that the boilers can’t be used if cold weather does set in before the new ones are installed.
Others, including Peter Blais, said more information was needed.
Those voting against the emergency declaration were Porreca, Reynolds, Cooper, Blais, Jay DiLisio, Todd Kobus and Kate Jackson.
As a result, the matter will be taken up next week in committee and voted by the full council in two weeks.
Over the years councilors have more than once questioned whether a request from an administration is an emergency and from time to time have refused them.
This was one of those times, Reynolds said.
“I think we should stop calling everything an emergency,” she said.