By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — Town Councilors sat down with local state representatives last week.
The discussion was designed to hash out ideas and hear what’s ahead at the state level.
The Town Council plans regular meetings with the state group, in an open format to hear what everyone has to say.
“It’s also good to meet the state delegation and put names to faces,” Council Chairman Brad Benson said.
Two new faces are Democrats Betsy Burtis and Mary Till, both were elected last month to two-year terms in Concord. They join eight Republican representatives.
Derry state Sen. Jim Rausch, a Republican, also joined the discussion.
Benson asked what may be happening at the state level that could cost Derry more money as budget season gets closer. That includes a possible downshift of up to $660,000 in retirement costs the town will have to cover.
The school district may have to shoulder an additional $1.6 million in retirement costs.
“It’s a fairly significant number to look at,” Benson said. “It surprised me when I saw it.”
Town Administrator John Anderson also asked the local delegation to work on possibly bringing early voting to Derry to help alleviate future problems handling absentee ballots.
The most recent election had about 1,250 absentee ballots being counted in Derry. Some were mailed from those serving in the military or out of town on voting day. Others — about 70 percent of that total — were just hand delivered to Town Hall.
That’s when it got busy, Anderson said, as town officials had to handle those ballots through many hands until the actual day when votes were counted.
Anderson suggested having a special voting box to handle the absentee ballots.
“We still would have to deal with the mail-ins, but if she (the town clerk) could eliminate that 70 percent of the handling of the ballots, it would make a huge difference and make life a lot simpler for the clerks,” Anderson said. “There would be no totals until election day when the polls close.”
Another issue is the Interstate 93 widening project and how that will affect the town. Rausch said the project will move forward and Exit 4A is on the state’s 10-year highway plan.
Getting the I-93 project done could be a major help to towns like Derry and everyone navigating through the area.
“You all have to find a way to do this,” Benson said. “You have to fix the transportation stream. It is the biggest challenge to Derry and Londonderry, fixing that corridor.”
Something that is not on the state’s radar in the near future is Derry’s Kilrea Road intersection project.
The project had been planned, but funding became an issue.
The town hopes to install a traffic light at the often dangerous intersection.
“We’ve had deaths there,” Rausch said. “(The project’s) been moved back to March 2014. We’ll see if we can get it sooner.”
Councilors thanked the representatives for sharing their thoughts. Representatives were scheduled to be sworn in last week.