N.H. town wants tolls paid in cents

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MERRIMACK, N.H. (AP) – Town leaders are asking residents to pay their tolls one penny at a time.

Officials want residents to pay tolls on the F.E. Everett Turnpike in pennies one day next month to protest the failure of a toll-relief plan.

The Town Council voted unanimously this week for a “Toll Revolt Day” on Aug. 27.

Chairman Dave McCray says residents’ burden of paying tolls to get around town is being ignored by lawmakers. The protest will call attention to the situation, he said.

McCray says lawmakers from other towns are “useless blowhards,” who could “count the pennies in their spare time, because Lord knows they have enough of it.”

The council approved the protest after the failure of Executive Councilor Debora Pignatelli’s plan to offer Merrimack residents with E-ZPass transponders two, free daily passes.

Pignatelli said she took the idea to Gov. John Lynch and his legal team, the state transportation commissioner and the state attorney general’s office.

Lynch’s legal team told her the Legislature, not the council, has had the power to grant toll discounts since a law change two years ago.

Pignatelli said she thought her plan might work because she didn’t consider her proposal a discount, but “relief” or “equity.” State officials did not agree.

“New laws have been passed by legislators that stop our ability to give discounts, and this power grab by the Legislature is disheartening,” she said.

Since the tolls were installed in the late 1980s to provide the town access to the turnpike, Merrimack has been virtually landlocked by them.

“I think this is out of frustration,” Pignatelli said of the protest. “I think it’s understandable. I’m frustrated and angry, and I don’t even live in Merrimack.”

“You people in Concord,” McCray said. “You son of a gun. I am going to Sovereign Bank to get myself a roll of pennies.”

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