MA: MBTA issues on selectmen's agenda tonight

Feb. 27--NORTH ANDOVER -- The selectmen are scheduled to talk about the proposed increase in train fares — and accompanying slashing of service — tonight.

The board is also expected to discuss a possible change of hours at the town hall. The board will meet at 7 p.m. in the second-floor conference room at Town Hall and discuss collective bargaining with the police and firefighters in executive session.

The rest of the agenda is open to the public.

Citing a $161 million deficit, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority announced several weeks ago it plans to jack up the cost of a train ride into Boston and eliminate Saturday and Sunday service. The proposal would also do away with train trips after 10 p.m.

Despite its 30,000-plus population, North Andover does not have a stop on the commuter rail line, so those who depend on the train must travel to Andover, Lawrence or Haverhill. The current cost of a Haverhill-to-Boston ticket is $7.25, one way. If the MBTA goes through with its plan, that cost will rise to $9.75 or $10.50, depending on how many bus routes in Boston are eliminated.

"I would imagine we will have something to say," Selectman Rosemary Connelly Smedile said. The MBTA's proposal is "troubling," she said, especially since it comes when the cost of gasoline is also climbing.

"They need to take a look at what they're paying employees," she said, noting MBTA workers receive generous wages and benefits.

"This really needs to be looked at," said Selectman Tracy Watson, chairwoman of the board. "The people who need it (train service) most can least afford the increase."

Both Smedile and Watson noted North Andover has not had a stop on the commuter rail line for many years. With considerable help from state Sen. Steven Baddour, D-Methuen, the town tried to get a stop, but that effort fell through, Watson said.

Town Manager Andrew Maylor and the selectmen will be talking about possibly changing the hours at Town Hall, so that it would be open late one night and close early another day, most likely Friday, both Watson and Smedile said.

The town manager and selectmen will also discuss the capital improvement plans for sewers and municipal services. The selectmen voted to accept the capital improvement plans for water and sewers Feb. 6.

Among other things, the plans call for improved sewers on School and Bunkerhill streets, where residents have been plagued by sewage backups, as well as new water mains for Raleigh Tavern Lane.

Besides public transportation, water and sewer service and the budget for the next fiscal year, which will begin July 1, Monday night's session will also be infused with some culture, if only for a minute or two. The selectmen will consider naming Karen Kline as the town's poet laureate. The appointment would take effect July 1 and extend two years.

Kline, a member of the North Andover Cultural Council, has presented poetry workshops to people of all ages.

"Karen Kline is a phenomenal woman," Watson said.

Copyright 2012 - The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

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