By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – A newly formed Downtown Committee is asking the town to consider making parking a priority.
During a March 4 meeting, Acting Library Director Diane Arrato Gavrish told the committee that the owner of the Shugrue property, located next to the library, wanted to know if the town was interested in buying the place, knowing there has long been a need for extra parking there.
The committee agreed that if there were a way to do so, buying the land would make it possible to supplement the library's existing 13 spaces and two handicapped spaces. Committee chair Mike Gendron notified Town Administrator Gary Stenhouse, who had Public Works Director Mike Fowler work up some figures to determine how many parking spaces could be drawn from the property. Fowler said the lot would sustain 18 to 20 additional spots.
During Tuesday's council meeting, Gendron and library trustee Elizabeth Ives appealed to the council to consider the purchase, but were quickly advised that further discussion would have to go on the next agenda as a non-public session, because it involved the purchase of a property.
Ives was allowed to outline why the library felt it was urgent for the town to act on this land deal, which is a time-sensitive offer. The owner has said she will opt to renovate and rent the space if the town is unable or uninterested in buying the property, assessed at $189,000.
Most obvious, Ives said, was the lack of parking at the library. Many families with young children, and elderly patrons have expressed concern over difficulty in getting to and from the library, particularly in bad weather. Although there is a municipal lot a block away, Ives said that lot is used by employees of other nearby businesses. She also said that with recent library programs drawing 75 or more participants, the need for parking is evident.
Patrons have been towed from the two-hour street parking spots, which can also feel unsafe to families unloading young children with armloads of books. And although the Masonic Temple allows patrons to park in their spaces, there are times where none are available.
Strategic options weighed by the Downtown Committee included having the town buy the property in two installments over two years at a cost of $90,000 per year, or for the library to use $40,000 from its capital reserve fund, with the town paying the balance.
Gendron said the committee is not going to make a habit of asking for money, but in this case, timing is everything.
“We don't want to be going to the well too often, so we want to go to the town with only the most important things we think are necessary. As a committee, our main goals are getting parking on the east and west ends of Broadway,” Gendron said. “Spending money is not high on the town's list, but it's our personal opinion that it's probably the best time to invest in our town – the labor cheaper and materials cost less.”
When asked, Stenhouse was sympathetic to the group, but realistic about the upcoming budget process.
“People want to save Pinkerton Tavern, they want parking next to the Adams Memorial building and the library. We have a $1.5 million budget hole, my friend. It's easy to advocate for library parking. I think it's important. But is it more important than parking for the Adams building? It's really not a question of timing; it's a question of resources,” Stenhouse said.
“The Council has to decide, and I don't envy them having to set priorities. These various groups come and do a shotgun approach – this is important, that is important. But it can't all be important at once when you only have X number of dollars,” Stenhouse said. “The wish list is growing.”