Farnsworth retires as Northborough’s Building Inspector
By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Northborough – For the past two decades, William “Bill” Farnsworth Jr. has overseen the construction of thousands of projects in Northborough as the town’s Inspector of Buildings and Zoning Enforcement Officer. But the time has come now, he said, to move onto the next stage of his life – retirement.
Farnsworth grew up in Shirley, MA where he got “hands-on” experience watching his father, who was a carpenter, work. He holds a degree in architecture from Wentworth Institute of Technology and a degree in civil engineering from the University of Lowell. He also served a stint in the Navy from 1966-1969 as a Seabee working in a mobile construction battalion.
Prior to coming to Northborough he had worked as a Building Inspector in another town and had owned his own construction company.
Clearly, construction, in one shape or form, he said, has always been part of his life.
During the early part of the 1990s, Farnsworth also served in another capacity in Northborough while he was the Building Inspector – as a Fire Marshall/Inspector and Emergency Medical Technician.
He explained that at the time, there was not nearly amount of construction in progress as there has been over the last decade and the Fire Department was not as fully staffed as it currently is.
“It made sense for me [to join the Fire Department],” he said. “It gave me a better understanding of how building codes relate to fire safety and it gave [the fire department] a better understanding of building codes, too. We played to each other’s strengths.”
Fire Chief David Durgin agreed with Farnsworth’s view.
“Bill was an integral part of the [fire] department,” he said. “It’s been a productive mutual sharing of information and made both departments stronger which made for superior services for the town.”
“He’s a pretty well-rounded individual and mentored a lot of people,” Durgin added. “He’s a highly motivated dedicated professional who always stayed cutting edge.”
Over the past few years, as construction projects increased and the Fire Department added additional staff, Farnsworth’s time was devoted more to the Building Department part of his job than the Fire Department.
Local and state building codes – understanding, implementing and ensuring that they are followed – consume much of a Building Inspector’s time, Farnsworth noted. They are required to stay up-to-date by taking continuing education courses and to be recertified by the state every three years.
“Everything changes – there’s so much creativity in engineering and design now,” he added.
“Things that you think will happen will many times change.”
During a “normal” year, the Building Department issues 350 permits, ranging from additions, garages, single family homes and businesses, he said. Thus far this year, Northborough has issued 400.
“There’s still a lot of activity going on in sub-divisions,” he said.
By far the biggest projects during his tenure were the Avalon Northborough housing complex and the Northborough Crossing. Originally the projects were to start at the same time so the town hired consultants to work with Farnsworth and his department. As it turned out, Avalon actually was completed just as Northborough Crossing was starting, Farnsworth said, so the town decided the department could handle the work load without additional resources.
The decision to retire now is “the right one at the right time,” he said, especially as his wife, Nancy has also just retired.
“We want to enjoy ourselves while we are still healthy and do some traveling and maybe play some golf,” he said.
Farnsworth praised those whose paths he had crossed while working for the town.
“Town government here is great. I really appreciate all of the hard work of all of the staff, committees, and Fire Department. I want to thank all the businesses and residents, too,” he added. “It’s been very rewarding and satisfying.”
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