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February 3, 2013

Salem residents fight for social service agencies

SALEM — It wasn’t the bridge projects or even the millions of dollars in road work that spurred debate among voters at yesterday’s deliberative session, it was concern for their neighbors.

Much of the three-hour meeting at Salem High School focused on providing for the town’s needy residents. Several of the 125 voters objected to an amendment proposed by selectmen to remove $73,153 for social services agencies from the proposed $37.5 million operating budget.

Another warrant article would have provided $58,153 for most of these agencies, so selectmen decided keeping the money in the operating budget was not necessary.

The board concluded that voters should have the option of deciding whether the agencies should receive money. The organizations had been funded through the operating budget in the past.

But residents such as Paul Huard were concerned the needs of many Salem residents wouldn’t be met if the money were removed from the operating budget and the separate article to fund eight agencies was defeated.

“I’m very, very upset with this,” said Huard, a member of the town’s Budget Committee. “We need to take care of our people who need help.”

Budget Committee Chairman Russell Frydryck agreed.

“This town voted yes for each one of these outside services for three years in a row,” he said. “I believe they should be in the budget. These are services that are beneficial to people in our town.”

The $73,153 included $15,000 for the Rockingham Community Action Program. Selectman Stephen Campbell said there was no reason for the town to contribute to the agency because it already receives substantial federal and state funding.

Money for the organization wasn’t included in the separate warrant article.

“We are paying for something we don’t have to pay and we have already paid for,” Campbell said. “Why should the groups be placed in the operating budget when we have had to make some very tough (spending) decisions over the past few years.”

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