November 5, 2010

Anderson, Council Aim for Cohesion

Union Leader Correspondent

DERRY -- Improved communication and a focus on economic development were among the goals laid out for Derry’s new town manager at a workshop meeting with councilors on Wednesday night.
“We’re the fourth largest community in the state, and we seem to wind up at the bottom of the barrel sometimes at the state level,” Councilor Neil Wetherbee said. “I think we’ve fallen short with communication within Town Hall itself and with the citizens.”
John Anderson, who completes his second week on the job today, told councilors he hopes to improve discussions with state representatives, school district staff and town residents.
“That’s all part of being on the same team,” Anderson said. “We’re all one town, and we should all be moving similarly in the same direction.”
Councilor David Milz said he also hopes Anderson could facilitate communication between the various groups working to improve Derry’s downtown, like the Moving Derry Forward and Downtown Derry committees and the recently formed Derry Business Association.
“It’s getting a little confusing,” Milz said. “...There’s a lot of great ideas down there, and I’d like to task John with meeting with those groups and touching the high points on their plans and bring back his own goals to us.”
Under Anderson’s three-year contract, he is expected to come up with several measurable goals to achieve by October 2011. After that, Anderson said he will likely put together annual goals to align with each year’s budget.
“It’s not a document that is set in stone,” said Anderson on Thursday, of the goals list. “It’s fluid, as you need to be able to react to situations and events that come up.”
Other ideas put forward Wednesday were a study of town public safety systems, improvements to the Abbott Court parking lot, an increase in the open space in West Derry and a decision about plans for a senior center.
Anderson said that after a tour of the town, he hoped some improvements could be made to the town transfer station.
“It just blew my mind that they do as much as they do in such a confined space,” Anderson said. “...That’s one that we might want to start looking at where does it fit in the bigger picture.”
Anderson said he will look over council suggestions and return with a final list for approval at the board’s next meeting on Nov. 16.
But councilors said they hope to narrow the larger list to between three and five specific goals for Anderson to focus on.
“You just got here and you don’t know the history of the town and what has gone on. You’re going to have to decide the issues that you want to tackle and some of the priorities that you want to set,” Wetherbee said. “I’m not trying to ask you to solve all the town’s ills of the past many years overnight,” he said.

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