Rocky Hill council selects Uhrik for vacant seat

Merritt and Griner take oath of office at reorganization meeting

By: Jake Uitti
   ROCKY HILL — With a new year come new faces and new responsibilities for the Borough Council.
   At Monday’s reorganization meeting, the council voted unanimously to appoint Eileen Uhrik to fill the unexpired term of former Councilman George Morren, who is now mayor.
   The vote came after the swearing in of two new councilmen, independent Brad Merritt, who had served on the council from 1990 and 2002, and Republican Brian Griner.
   Ms. Uhrik is now the only female council member, with Peggy Harris and Connie Hallman having completed their terms at the end of 2005.
   "I am very glad to be on council," Ms. Uhrik said. "I ran in the race in November, and only lost by a couple of votes. I have to talk to people in town, and find out what’s going on" with their concerns, she said.
   One of Ms. Uhrik’s major responsibilities in the coming year will be her new role as chair of the Streets and Roads Committee, an important committee given the traffic congestion problems the borough faces.
   Following the appointment of Ms. Uhrik, Richard Batchelder was selected by his colleagues to serve as council president. The vote was 3-1, with Councilman Ed Zimmerman dissenting.
   Mr. Zimmerman said he voted against Mr. Batchelder because he had a "philosophical problem voting to make the leader of the council the person who voted against opening the (Dec. 5) meeting to the public."
   At the Dec. 5 meeting, Mr. Morren was chosen to succeed Brian Nolan as mayor after Mr. Nolan submitted his resignation three days earlier. At that same meeting, the Republican municipal committee nominated three people to fill Mr. Morren’s vacancy — Eileen Uhrik, Thomas Roshetar and Charles Pihokken. Although some council members, including Mr. Batchelder, wanted to go ahead and fill the vacancy that night, but Mr. Zimmerman and Councilman Jared Witt thought it best to wait until the new council would be seated in January. They also argued that a delay would give time for the public to review and comment on the issue.
   No one from the public spoke about the appointment of Ms. Uhrik at Monday’s council session. And Mr. Merritt said he hopes neither Ms. Uhrik’s appointment nor Mr. Batchelder’s election as council president would prove to be a divisive issue.
   "There is no sense in dividing the council," Mr. Merritt said after the meeting. "Mr. Batchelder is a capable person.
   "People from both sides asked me to nominate candidates for the position," he said. "I’m an independent, and I’m going to vote for what’s best for the town."
   Mr. Batchelder said there is a lot on the council’s plate in the coming year. "I think we’ll need to establish what our priorities are for the year," he said. "The next thing I see on the table is the budget."
   As the finance chairman, Mr. Batchelder said he will talk with Mayor Morren about priorities for 2006, and then go through the process of breaking down last year’s budget expenses line by line.
   "We have the responsibility of this year’s budget," Mr. Batchelder continued. "But we also have to be looking at long-term expenditures."
   Mr. Zimmerman said he took issue with the appointments that he and other members were given.
   "I was taken off the Van Horne Park project," he complained, "even though I have been pretty active in that for the past two years."
   Other new appointments by Mayor Morren include Mr. Witt as chair of Administration and Records, and the council representative to the Board of Education; Mr. Zimmerman as chairman of Buildings and Grounds and the council representative to the Recreation Committee; Mr. Batchelder as chairman of Finance and Insurance and the council representative to the Planning Board; Mr. Griner as chairman of Public Safety and Emergency Services; Ms. Uhrik as chairman of Streets and Roads; and Mr. Merritt as chairman of the Water, Sewer and Environment Committee, and the council representative to the Board of Health.
   Courtney White was also newly appointed to the Recreation Committee, and Maryann Rayner and Gabriele Dietrich were appointed to the Shade Tree Commission.
   "Sometimes, small is beautiful," Mayor Morren said, referring to the borough during his comments to the public after the appointments were made. "We are a community that depends on its volunteers."