One election day or two?
That was the question Merrimac selectmen pondered this week, as Town Clerk Pat True made her case for keeping the April 30 primary election separate from the May 6 town elections. The primary election will determine candidates for the Senate seat formerly occupied by John Kerry, who left to become secretary of state.
“I just think it would be a lot to handle if we combined them,” said True, “and I’d like to keep them separate.”
True noted that Merrimac was reimbursed for the cost of the 2010 interim election that sent Scott Brown to Washington, speculating that such reimbursement might be jeopardized this time around if the elections were combined.
“We’d need more cops, plus eight election workers instead of four, and another clerk if we combined the elections, not to mention the cost of food to feed the election workers,” said True.
“Besides, some people don’t like to vote in primaries, and if there’s a political party designation after your name, you can’t vote in the primary.” True explained that combining the elections would make collecting and processing ballots more complicated.
With the town clerk’s impassioned pleas ringing in their ears, selectmen voted unanimously for the two elections to keep their distance — six days apart.
While Merrimac and Groveland have signed their new leases for the Pentucket region schools, West Newbury has thrown the district a curve by submitting draft changes regarding emergency building repairs.
“The language in all of the leases must be identical,” said Selectman Rick Pinciaro. “Besides, that boat sailed a long time ago, and the School Committee did everyone a disservice by allowing West Newbury to change the agreement.”
Jennifer Sforza of Newton, N.H., has been hired as administrative assistant to Merrimac police Chief Eric M. Shears at the rate of $18 per hour for an 18-hour week with no benefits. She was selected after more than 20 of the 65 applicants were interviewed for the position.
A regional veterans agent serving area towns, including Newburyport, Merrimac, Amesbury and Newbury, could replace individual veterans agents. The financial contribution by participating towns would be determined by the caseload in each community.
On June 1, there will be a public hearing on the closure of River Road, which has been undermined by the forces of nature, inadequate construction and the mighty Merrimack River, and is no longer safe for travel. The River Road abutters had 30 days to respond to the proposed closure, and they have received a 90-day extension.
The Merrimac Finance Committee is looking for a few good men — or women. According to Selectman Earl Baumgardner, “serving on the Finance Committee is a great way to start a town government career.”
Would-be politicos interested in one of the two positions currently available should call town moderator Bob Bender at 978-346-4529.
A public hearing is scheduled for March 11 at 7 p.m. at Merrimac Town Hall on the proposed water and sewer rates.
The proposed base rate for water service in Merrimac is set to rise to $15 per quarter, up from the current $11 per quarter, for a 36 percent increase. The rate per gallon will also go up, rising to 80 cents from the current rate of 68 cents per gallon, which is a 17.5 percent increase.
Water usage in Merrimac is 17,000 gallons per year for the average home. When the new water rates go into effect next spring, the typical Merrimac household will pay $544 per year for water, which is up from the current $462. The resulting $164,000 in additional revenue generated by the price increases is intended to offset the cost of the town’s forthcoming water main improvements.
In recognition of Presidents Day, there will be no meeting of the Merrimac Board of Selectmen on Feb. 18, and Town Hall will be closed all day. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m., and it is open to the public.
Warren P. Russo covers Merrimac for The Daily News. He can be contacted at email@example.com.