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July 18. 2013 8:45PM

Franklin mayor says Northern Pass would solve problems

FRANKLIN — When the school board and the city council met with a mediator Wednesday night to attempt to hammer out their differences in the interests of better city government, the city's mayor made a suggestion that intimated that all of their problems could be solved if one thing happens: Northern Pass.

"Any conflicts we have always go back to dollars, it's really hard to raise dollars in this city, so I think this is all about how do we raise more revenue," Mayor Ken Merrifield said.

A smile crossed his face. "Northern Pass," he said. "That will bring us $6.2 million in tax revenue a year in a city where we only raise $10 million a year ourselves."

"It will change everything," he said.

If the controversial Northern Pass project comes through the state, plans call for a converter station to be built in Franklin, which would bring a more than $6 million contribution to the city's tax rolls, Merrifield said.

The rest of the meeting was mostly positive, with moderator Don Jutton leading the attending council and school board members to find the many positive goals they share for the city.

School Board chair Ray Yonaitis said when prodded by Jutton, "I think we can get this done if we all work together."

A battle continues between the school board and some residents who have filed 100-signature petitions seeking to have Yonaitis and SAU 13 School Board chair Kathleen Russo removed from office over the firing of former football coach Greg Husband.Yonaitis confirmed Thursday that the school board is still seeking a court order to legally prohibit their removal. That order would be based on several factors, among them that school board members are elected officials."It's as we've discussed previously," Yonaitis said, saying there was no new information on the board's case.

The city council is playing an administrative role in that matter, and the council met Thursday with the city's attorney as to how to proceed with a required hearing for the petitions.

But the "retreat" as Yonaitis called it seemed to work. School board and council members left the council chambers with positive feelings, many said, and they agreed to have another session to ensure good communication."I am pleased the city council is willing to work with us, the elected school board, and hopefully continue the good work this board has accomplished over the past three years," Yonaitis said."The legal action we are taking (regarding the petitions) is a principle of law and not a reflection of personalities as we have discussed previously," he said.

Merrifield was similarly pleased.

"At the end of the joint meeting, I asked for a show of hands for who would be interested in doing this again. Every hand went up," the mayor said. "I found that very encouraging."

dseufert@newstote.com


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