Merrimac voters OK tax override, recreational pot | News

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MERRIMAC — A $470,000 Proposition 2½ override to fund the town’s Pentucket Regional School District assessment was adopted by Town Meeting voters, who also gave their approval Monday night to recreational marijuana establishments.

The override will now need to be approved in the town election May 2.

Merrimac, West Newbury and Groveland comprise the school district. West Newbury has already indicated it will support the district’s proposed $49.2 million operating budget.

Pentucket Superintendent Justin Bartholomew told the overflow crowd at Dr. Frederick N. Sweetsir Elementary School on Monday night that the state has only given the district an extra $30 per student this year.

“We cannot function on that,” he said.

Merrimac needed to approve the override at Town Meeting before also adopting it in the town election next week. The measure was approved handily.

Voters were also asked to approve amended zoning bylaws to allow the operation of adult-use marijuana establishments.

Although similar measures did not receive approval at Town Meetings in 2017 and 2019, voters gave the measure their overwhelming support Monday night.

Freedom Way resident Sandra Olivera spoke in favor of the proposal.

“This is a no-brainer, we need to get income somehow and we can start with this,” she said.

A request for $100,000 to perform additional closure work at the Battis Road landfill was approved as was a $75,000 request to perform testing at the former Coastal Metals site.

Voters also supported: a request for $10,000 to eliminate the current debt in the tax title revolving account; $5,000 to perform an actuarial study of other post-employment benefits; $2,500 for employee retirement accrual payments; $3,000 to perform tree work on town-managed trails; $5,000 for the management of invasive weeds and water quality at Lake Attitash; $10,000 to hire a town planner on a consultant basis; $50,000 to reduce a projected health insurance deficit; and $28,000 to reduce a projected snow and ice deficit.

Replacement of the Mill Street culvert, which carries Mill Street over Cobbler’s Brook, can get underway after voters approved a $100,000 request.

New election ballot tabulator machines will be purchased thanks to a $22,300 request approved at Town Meeting.

A request for $40,000 to resurface and paint the parking lot for Merrimac Public Library and the Council on Aging was also approved as was a $150,000 request to install boilers and hot water heaters at the town’s two elementary schools.

A $25,000 request to repair the roof awning at Sweetsir School also received voters’ support.

The Public Works Department will be able to perform Americans with Disabilities Act compliance work on town sidewalks thanks to approval of a $45,000 request.

The Police Department will receive a new patrol vehicle thanks to a successful $57,000 request and an additional $15,000 for firearms and training. 

The Fire Department will receive a new rooftop heating unit with the approval of its $65,000 request.

Voters also approved $10,000 to upgrade older water meters and $1,563 to fund the cost of an other post-employment benefits retiree health benefits trust; $40,000 to begin replacing aging gravel pack wells; $25,000 to repair a town driveway and other building maintenance; $170,000 to replace and upgrade water infrastructure; $150,000 to replace and upgrade old equipment at the wastewater plant; $60,000 to replace wastewater pumps at the River Road pump station; and $157,736 for townwide sewer repairs.

Voters also approved a $19.9 million town operating budget for fiscal 2023 and placed limitations on expenditures for revolving funds.

Requests for $1.2 million and $1.1 million were approved to operate the Wastewater Department enterprise fund. The transfer of an unknown sum from the electric light operating balance to be used by the assessor’s office to reduce the tax rate for fiscal 2023 was also approved.

Cemetery trustees received $1,000 to care for and improve town cemeteries; a $185,000 request to make necessary repairs to town roadways was also OK’d as was $280,000 for solid waste collection and disposal and recycling collection. The town received authorization to accept a state Chapter 90 highway fund grant for an unknown amount.

The town’s zoning bylaws will be amended to allow for the construction and use of self-storage service facilities in the Village Center District, as well as in the Office/Light Industrial District after receiving approval. 

Voters approved the conversion of single-family dwellings and the addition of accessory dwelling units for affordable and elderly family member housing. Single-family units were also approved in the Rural Highway District.

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