Easton’s measurers of wood fill bizarre, unused town role

Serving as a measurer of wood in Easton may not be a time-consuming task but it sure is an unusual one — with a pretty cool title to boot.

Based on an 1834 state law, each municipality in Connecticut may appoint two individuals to measure cords of wood being offered for sale in the town. Few towns appear to make the appointments, but Easton has traditionally filled the positions.

The current measurers of wood are Michael Sabia Sr. and Irving Snow. Both said they’ve never been asked to actually measure a cord — or any other quantity — of firewood.

“To be honest, no one has ever called,” Sabia said with a laugh. “It’s more of an honorary position these days. Perhaps in earlier times it was a little more significant.”

Snow’s term technically just expired and he doesn’t want to be re-appointed to another one-year term. Snow was a measurer of wood for a number of years and was never called upon to measure any wood by individuals, town officials or police representatives during that time, he said.

First Selectman Adam Dunsby said he hasn’t received any requests from the public or wood sellers to have wood measured. “No one ever called me to send out the measurer of wood,” he said.

Dunsby said the position should be considered “a town resource available to the public to come out and measure amounts of wood.”

Police Capt. Richard Doyle also got a chuckle out of being asked about the position and any wood quantity complaints to the Easton Police Department. “I’ve been here 30 years, and to the best of my recollection, we’ve never had a complaint that someone got shorted,” he said.

If the police did receive a complaint involving the amount of wood in a private transaction, Doyle said, the matter would be investigated and perhaps a call even made to one of the town’s measurers of wood. “We might consider it a larceny if someone paid $200 for a cord of wood and only received $150 worth of wood,” he said.

Doyle also theorized on the background story behind the position. “It’s historical, probably something that we’ve had for a hundred years and just keep going with,” he said.

Sabia said he agreed to serve in the position about a year and a half ago out of civic duty. He’d previously served on the Conservation Commission. “I like to give back to the community,” he said.

He’s ready to assist anyone with a concern about a firewood sale. “It would be interesting if I got a call,” he said. “I’d be more than happy to go out and look at it.”

Sabia said he knows something about firewood because he was in the landscaping business for years and his son now runs the family tree farm and sells firewood.

Sabia was appointed to fill the vacancy created when Joseph Silhavy died in 2015. Silhavy had been in the position for many years and also was an Easton police sergeant, selectman, and Parks and Recreation Commission chairman. His obituary noted that his voluntary service to the town included being a measurer of wood.

The old law

The enabling legislation is part of state statute Title 43, Chapter 752, which covers “Weight and Measurement of Various Articles.” The state Consumer Protection Department oversees wood sale transactions.

Some of the firewood rules date back to 1834, a time when most homes were heated by wood (coal grew in popularity in the mid to late 1800s).

The statute has a specific section on firewood, which includes legal definitions of “fuel wood” (kindling, logs, boards, timbers, or chips), “seasoned wood” (must be cut and then air-dried for at least six months) and “commercial dealer” (anyone who sells more than 25 cords or 65 tons of fuel wood annually).

It includes requirements that don’t appear to be followed anymore, especially when it comes to selling wood by weight. For instance, commercial dealers are to have wood weighed by a “licensed public weigher” and attach a ticket with detailed information to each delivery.

The subsection on the measurer of wood position reads as follows:

“The appointing authority of each town may appoint annually, and more often if necessary, two or more of its inhabitants to be measurers of wood offered for sale within the town, who shall be sworn and shall receive such compensation for their services as the town may prescribe.

“Any such measurer, on request of the owner of any wood so offered for sale, shall, without delay, measure it and sign and give such owner a certificate of its quantity,” the statute continues. “All fuel wood shall be sold by the standard cord containing 128 cubic feet of compactly piled wood or fractional part of a cord or on the basis of cubic volume, or by weight according to the provisions of subsection (c) of this section.

“The terms ‘face cord,’ ‘rack,’ ‘pile,’ ‘truckload’ or terms of similar import shall not be used when advertising, offering for sale, or selling fuel wood,” according to the law.

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