By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER – The two men and two women who represent North Andover in the state legislature are evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, but they agree on one thing: They want the state to increase aid to cities and towns.
Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester; Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport; Reps. James Lyons, R-Andover: and Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, visited the selectmen last night and said they intend to work as a team to promote North Andover’s interests.
Tarr, the senior member of the delegation who has represented part of the town in the Senate since 1995, noted that Gov. Deval Patrick has called for more Chapter 70 aid to schools, but also pointed out that unrestricted help from the state has not increased during the last few years.
Tarr told the selectmen they and their counterparts in other communities can be powerful allies in efforts to make local government less costly. For example, municipal health insurance reform was “not thought possible” a few years ago, he said.
Cities and towns can now enroll their employees in the state Group Insurance Commission and save thousands of dollars in premiums. North Andover took advantage of this measure last year.
Lyons, whose district includes Precincts 6, 7 and 8 in North Andover, said he and other Republican legislators have sponsored legislation that would guarantee each community 17.5 percent of its “foundation” education budget.
Ives and DiZoglio, the newest members of the delegation, having been elected last Nov. 6, indicated they support more aid for cities and towns.
Ives, who served on the Newburyport City Council before her election to the Senate, said she knows from her experience in city government the importance of state assistance.
DiZoglio, whose district encompasses Precincts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, said she is eager to help the town “fill the void” left by the departure of Converse, slated to leave for Boston in 2015, and Schneider Electric. Both businesses are on High Street.
Ives, whose district includes Precincts 1, 2, 3 and 4, while Tarr’s territory takes in Precincts 5, 6, 7 and 8, asked the selectmen what legislation they would like to see enacted.
William Gordon, chairman of the board, said he would like help from the state in promoting economic development along Route 125. Both Gordon and Richard Vaillancourt called for safety improvements along Route 114 – “a dangerous road” in Gordon’s view.
Rosemary Connelly Smedile said she wants changes in the prevailing wage law, which forces towns and cities to pay high hourly rates on construction projects.
Tracy Watson called for an end to “unfunded silly mandates,” such as a Department of Public Health rule that requires school nurses to determine which students in kindergarten and fourth, seventh and 10th grade are obese.