SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 21, 2013

Ipswich voters to decide on debt exclusion

No contested races in election today

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff writer

---- — IPSWICH — A familiar name will not appear on today’s town election ballot — School Committee member Jeff Loeb.

Loeb, who served on the committee for the past 18 years, decided during his 2010 campaign for re-election that his sixth term would be his last. As of last June, all his kids have graduated from the school system.

“Not having the personal connection, it was time to move on,” he said yesterday. School Committee member Sean Gresh is running for re-election, and Mile Lane resident Sarah Player is the only candidate for the open seat on the committee.

Polls will be open today from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., with all precincts voting at the YMCA, 110 County Road.

While there are no contested races in today’s election, voters will have to decide whether to approve a Proposition 21/2 debt-exclusion override to cover the anticipated $3 million cost of a plan to repave Linebrook Road and improve bicycle and pedestrian safety near the Doyon Elementary School.

The project was overwhelmingly approved at last week’s Town Meeting, but now requires a majority vote at the town election. The work calls for upgrading sidewalks, repaving, and installing pedestrian and bicycle safety measures along a 3-mile stretch. The school’s parking area will also be upgraded as part of the plan.

Heidi Paek, co-chairwoman of the Planning Board, explained to Town Meeting that the stretch of road between Washington and Howe streets would need signage, crosswalks, sidewalks and improved drainage. The street also needs to be widened in several dangerous areas, she said.

The work will increase the average tax bill on a single-family home by about $42 a year, according to the Finance Committee.

Reflecting on his time on the School Committee yesterday, Loeb said being on the building committee for construction of the new middle/high school was one of his biggest highlights.

“It was very exciting to be involved in the planning and seeing it coming to fruition,” he said.

But he said he enjoyed having a “small part” in helping to improve education for children in town and provide teachers with the resources they need. The toughest part was not being able to provide all those resources because of tough budget seasons, he said, which required a lot of cutting.

“What is amazing is that with all the cuts, the quality of education continued to go up,” Loeb said. “The teachers get all the credit for that. They are able to provide a quality education without all the needed resources.”

Loeb was on the board when Superintendent Rick Korb was hired. Korb will retire June 30 after 15 years with the district.

Korb said yesterday that Loeb is hard-working, “committed and dedicated to education. He provided excellent leadership not only when he served as chairman, but he provided tremendous insight into all issues because of his legal background.”

Whether it was a budget, staffing or a field trip request, Loeb advocated for what was right for the students, Korb said.

“Is it the best thing for the kids? That is the motto he stood by and I always respected that,” he said.

School Committee Chairman Hugh O’Flynn, a 10-year veteran of the board, called Loeb “one of the most outstanding school members I’ve worked with. I think we will miss his leadership and his ability to achieve compromise on the board.”