By Jennifer Solis
---- — WEST NEWBURY — The impact of the aging baby boomer population may be a factor in the increased demands made on the Council on Aging van.
COA Director Theresa Poore told selectmen on Wednesday she anticipates the need for services will only grow as the number of senior citizens in town increases. She plans to ask for an additional five hours for her van driver, Henry Cross, in the upcoming budget, raising his total weekly hours to 15.
Over all, Poore said the van program, which allows seniors to schedule rides to area doctors’ appointments and shopping, has generally run smoothly, although the lack of easy access to Merrimac due to the closed Rocks Village Bridge has slowed things down a little.
She’s been working with residents to coordinate schedules for rides — sometimes asking them to leave a littler earlier or wait a bit once their appointment is over in order to create more car-pooling opportunities.
The third Friday of the month the van typically makes a trip to Newburyport so seniors can do grocery shopping. Shoppers are asked to prepare a list ahead of time and only purchase what they can carry inside their homes themselves, since the driver is legally not allowed to assist them.
When a request can’t be accommodated, Poore suggests other ride programs, such as the Merrimack Valley Regional Ring and Ride program.
“It sounds like you’ve got it covered,” said Selectman Glenn Kemper, who had asked last month for a review on how the ride program was working.
At the end of the discussion Kemper playfully turned to the van driver and asked, “Do you ever take (the seniors) out to the casino?” Cross answered that he has, but added that he never gambles himself, to which Selectman Dick Cushing quipped, “Yes, if someone loses their pants there, you’ll have to get them into the van in a hurry!”
Turning to other business, the board approved a plan for Eagle Scout candidate Drew Coulter to paint the Mill Pond Building and build picnic tables on the grounds nearby. The Scout has included a handicapped accessible picnic table in his plans.
A public hearing conducted by National Grid is slated for Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. for the installation of conduit along portions of Crane Neck Street, Crescent Drive, Hill Top Circle, Robin Road and Woodcrest Drive. Selectmen agreed National Grid must cover all costs associated with notifying the 60 abutters as well as post a $20,000 bond to ensure the electric company returns town roads to their original state once the work is completed.
The Planning Board has scheduled a Public Hearing for Zoning Bylaw Amendments on Feb. 5 at 7:30 p.m. in its second floor office at the 1910 Town Office Building. Byfield Water District is requesting the town amend its Groundwater Protection Overlay District to protect the neighboring town’s well field. Amending the GPOD map requires approval at Town Meeting.
Salary for the new chief assessor, Lauren Woekel, was approved at $75,000. Woekel is entitled to all benefits prescribed in the Personnel Policy except she is eligible for three weeks paid vacation her first year on an accrued basis. She beings her tenure on Feb. 11.
Before supporting any funding requests for improvements on the Garden Street fire station, Selectmen want to have a discussion with the Board of Fire Engineers about whether it’s necessary to continue maintaining two fire stations in town.
Selectmen received a copy of a letter that resident Judy Adolphson sent to police Chief Lisa Holmes commending the highly professional service she received from police officers Michael Dwyer and Rick Merrill when she recently locked her keys in the car with her dog inside. A resident for 31 years, Adolphson stated that the two officers gave her “great peace of mind” during a stressful situation and conveyed to the police chief that she has “always had a great sense of confidence that should I ever need help, I could call you and you would come to my aid.”