Around the Towns:

Rotary club to host candidate forum in Hollis

The Hollis Brookline Rotary Club is hosting a forum for local state representative (District 5) and state senate (District 12) candidates from 1-3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26, in the Community Room at the Hollis Town Hall.

Each candidate will be asked to give a brief introductory statement and then will be asked to respond to questions from the moderator and the audience.

The forum will also be televised on local access channels and viewers at home can call in with questions, as well.

For more information on the forum, e-mail bharrisjr@

National recognition

State legislator Melanie Levesque, a Brookline resident who is running for re-election to the state House of Representatives, was the subject of an article in the New York Times on Tuesday.

The national notice was so prominent, in fact, that it led members of a local online community news group to discuss the piece.

“Article in NYT focuses on Brookline’s own Melanie Levesque,” a local blogger wrote.

The Times piece was filed from Brookline during a recent fall festival.

“Blacks account for less than 1 percent of the population in this small suburban district near the Massachusetts border,” reporter Rachel L. Swarns wrote in her opening, observing the warm reception Levesque received at the fall festival.

Using Levesque as an example of a national trend, Swarns noted that the black lawmaker was expected to win a race, “where she represents one of the whitest districts in one of the whitest states in the nation.”

Levesque is one of eight candidates vying for four seats in District 5, representing Hollis, Brookline and Mason.

Indeed, the Times article characterized Levesque as part of a new generation of black elected officials who are winning local elections in white districts nationwide.

Over the past decade, the Times reported, roughly 200 black politicians have won positions formerly held by whites in legislatures and local governments in New Hampshire, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Levesque is among an estimated 30 percent of the nation’s 622 black state legislators who represented predominantly white districts in 2007, according to the Times.

The lawmaker said that when she worried that voters might be put off by her color, white friends suggested that she consider a more positive reaction.

“You’ll stand out,” Levesque said friends encouraged her.

“People are always going to remember you.”

Open house at Peabody Mill

The addition at the Peabody Mill Environmental Center in Amherst has already allowed the organization to hold many more classes this year and nearly double its enrollment.

To celebrate and show off the addition, the center will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony Sunday from 2-4 p.m. The center is at 66 Brook Road.

Because of the limited parking at the center, visitors are to park at the Meeting Place plaza on Route 101. A shuttle will ferry people in from 1-2:15 p.m. and will shuttle people out from 3-4:30 p.m.

For more information on the event or the center, visit

Hydro future?

Milford selectmen were cool to a proposal Monday night from Ken Clarke from Clarke Renewable Energy to consider an electric power installation at the McLane Dam, near the Swing Bridge.

Eventually, the dam will need work, so it might be “better for the town to lease it out,” said Clarke.

Selectman Jim Dannis said the board shouldn’t spend much time until Clarke comes back and says the project is “taxpayer positive.” For example, if he could tell the town how much it would have to eventually spend on maintenance of the dam.

About 20 years ago a company that planned a hydroelectric project for the dam went bankrupt.

Diane Fitzpatrick of the conservation commission noted that the Merrimack Village Dam was removed this year and the McLane Dam, the next one upstream, might be the target of removal efforts.

Budget preview

Town services in Amherst may be reduced next year if the economy continues to worsen, according to a written report filed by the town administrator.

Town Administrator Gary MacGuire made the statement in his department review, which was filed with selectmen.

“In today’s difficult economic climate the immediate goal of administration will be to manage increasing costs in areas of legal, insurance, and welfare in a manner that does not increase the tax burden on the citizens,” wrote MacGuire. “Ultimately, this could lead to a decrease in the level of service delivered if other economies cannot be found.”

MacGuire wasn’t the only official to write about the troubled economy in department reviews.

Tax collector Gail Stout wrote she has seen an increase in bankruptcies and foreclosures.

Town Clerk Nancy Demers wrote with the bad economy she has seen a decrease in motor vehicle receipts. She also noticed that fewer new vehicles are being registered. However, the number of smaller, more economical vehicles being purchased has gone up.

Back on the ballot

Additions and renovations to the Florence Rideout Elementary School in Wilton will be on the ballot again in March and this time members of the building committee want everyone to know all the options.

A proposed $8.3 million plan was rejected last March, falling 22 votes short of the required two-thirds needed for approval. The defeat was attributed in part to the cost and in part to lack of support by the budget committee, which questioned the need for so large an addition. Budget committee members said they hadn’t seen all the options and their costs.

On Saturday, Oct. 18, from 2-6 p.m., the building committee will hold a public forum at the school. Self-guided tours of the buildings will be offered from 2-4 p.m., with committee members situated throughout the complex to answer questions and provide information.

Beginning at 4 p.m., the committee will hold an open forum to discuss the three options currently under discussion.

Spooktacular walk

The 16th annual “Halloween Haunted Walk” will be held at Wasserman Park in Merrimack on Oct. 25 from 6:30-9 p.m.

The free event, sponsored by the town’s parks and recreation department and committee, will feature a haunted field, haunted house, children’s games and the opportunity to support local nonprofit groups. Refreshments will be available.

For more information, contact the Merrimack Parks and Recreation Department at 882-1046 or by e-mail at