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Southampton seeks temporary appointment after both town clerks out with health issues

Town Clerk Eileen Couture, 73, was out this week due to health issues and Assistant Town Clerk Ruth Bernier, 70, was filling in, according to Select Board Chairman Michael J. Phelan Jr. Bernier was then unable to open the office for Tuesday night office hours due to her health, he said at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Select Board member and Highway Superintendent Edward J. Cauley said the clerks were dealing with “major” health issues and he expected them to be out of work for at least several weeks. He said he couldn’t reveal the nature of the health issues because of privacy laws.

He said the board discussed temporarily hiring part-time Chesterfield Town Clerk Sandra Wickland to staff the Southampton office so it could be open at least a few hours a day. Cauley said the board is set to interview Wickland Tuesday night. At that point, he said, “We could do an emergency appointment.”

Phelan said at the March 5 meeting that Couture and Bernier recommended Wickland as a temporary replacement.

Cauley said it’s important to keep the office open to serve residents. He also said the town needs a clerk to oversee its March 18 special town election.

At that vote, residents are being asked to approve a debt exclusion for $1.8 million to replace the William E. Norris School’s leaky roof in a ballot vote because it requires borrowing. They overwhelmingly approved it at a Feb. 5 special Town Meeting.

Because the project is part of the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s accelerated repair program, repairs must be completed by Aug. 30 in order to qualify for a 55 percent reimbursement from the state agency. That deadline is the reason the vote can’t wait until the annual town election in May, Cauley said.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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