By CHELSEY POLLOCK
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- A preliminary hearing to reinstate Derry’s Charter Commission has been scheduled, as town officials are hoping to get a new version of the charter on the March ballot.
In a recent decision, Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara granted the request for a hearing, to be held at 10 a.m. on Jan. 19 at the Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord.
The joint request was submitted by the town of Derry and the state Attorney General’s Office, according to the petition.
Derry voters were set to deliberate on proposed charter changes during the primary elections, but town officials pulled the question from the ballot after last-minute objections from the state. The Charter Commission had forwarded its proposed changes to the state Attorney General’s Office in January, according to Derry Town Clerk Denise Neale. But the town never heard back from the state within the allotted 30-day timeline, she said, and officials assumed the changes were acceptable.
Due to “accident, mistake or misfortune,” the Derry charter changes were not properly filed at the state level, according to the petition. A letter outlining state objections was not sent to the town until Sept. 7, just one week before the primary election. Now in order to get the charter changes back on the ballot for March, the Charter Commission must be allowed to reconvene, make the necessary changes and have those adjustments approved again by the state. Neale said the new version would need to be finalized by Feb. 1 in order to make it onto the March ballot. Derry Town Administrator John Anderson said he is optimistic things will move more quickly as soon as an updated final report is filed.
“We’ve certainly got their attention,” Anderson said in an interview last month. “There had been a comedy of errors, but we’re not placing blame. Now it’s just about how to move forward.”
State Rep. Phyllis Katsakiores, R-Derry, said she hopes legislation she is putting forth next year will prevent such confusion down the line.
Under her proposal, which will soon be filed, Katsakiores said the state would be required to send a formal letter of receipt to the chairman of a municipal charter commission within 14 days of receiving proposed changes.